Murder and morality in Victorian Britain: The story of Madeleine Smith

Murder and morality in Victorian Britain: The story of Madeleine Smith

by Eleanor Gordon, Gwyneth Nair


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This book explores the life of Madeleine Smith, who in 1857 was tried for poisoning her secret lover. As well as charting the course of this illicit relationship and Madeleine's subsequent trial, the authors draw on a wide range of sources to pursue themes such as the nature of gender relations and the extent of women's social and commercial activities, and to bring vividly to life the world of the mid-Victorian middle class. In particular, Madeleine's letters, full of gossip and passion as well as the details of her daily life, offer unique insights not only into her relationship with her lover, L'Angelier, but also into the life of her social circle, filled with partying, flirting and shopping. Her trial and the press response to it reveal much about contemporary views on sexual morality, parenting and the essence of 'Britishness'. The authors analyse the ways in which the case has been written about by subsequent authors and demonstrate how the concerns of the present shape the telling of the past.

New discoveries are revealed about Madeleine's long and colourful life after the trial which confirm the view that it is only in fiction that the bad end unhappily.

The book will be of interest to academic social historians, but the fascination of its subject matter, and the way in which much rich material is used to evoke a vivid sense of time and place, will also promote a wider interest among a more general readership.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780719080692
Publisher: Manchester University Press
Publication date: 03/15/2010
Series: Gender in History
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Eleanor Gordon is Professor of Social and Gender History at the University of Glasgow

Gwyneth Nair is Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of the West of Scotland

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vi

Acknowlegements vii

Introduction 1

1 Papa's house 11

2 My own beloved darling husband 37

3 Too much waltzing 75

4 A great many things 96

5 This unparalleled case 120

6 Stories of Madeleine Smith 153

7 Afterwords 174

Bibliography 194

Index 200

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