Murder by Candlelight: The Gruesome Crimes Behind Our Romance with the Macabre

Murder by Candlelight: The Gruesome Crimes Behind Our Romance with the Macabre

by Michael Knox Beran

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Bringing to life the ghastly ambiance of a vanished epoch, Murder by Candlelight presents a terrifying glimpse of the horror beneath the seeming civility of the Romantic era.

In the early nineteenth century, a series of murders took place in and around London which shocked the whole of England. The appalling nature of the crimes—a brutal slaying in the gambling netherworld, the slaughter of two entire households, and the first of the modern lust-murders—was magnified not only by the lurid atmosphere of an age in which candlelight gave way to gaslight, but also by the efforts of some of the keenest minds of the period to uncover the gruesomest details of the killings.

These slayings all took place against the backdrop of a London in which the splendor of the fashionable world was haunted by the squalor of the slums. Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Thomas De Quincey, Thomas Carlyle, and Percy Bysshe Shelley and others were fascinated by the blood and deviltry of these crimes.

In their contemplations of the most notorious murders of their time, they discerned in the act of killing itself a depth of hideousness that we have lost sight of, now living in an age in which murder has been reduced to a problem of social science and skillful detective work. Interweaving these cultural vignettes alongside criminal history, acclaimed author Michael Beran paints a vivid picture of a time when homicide was thought of as the intrusion of the diabolic into ordinary life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781605988214
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 08/08/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
File size: 618 KB

About the Author

Michael Knox Beran's previous books include Forge of Empires, 1861-1871 and The Last Patrician, a study of Robert Kennedy that was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.  His writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and the National Review.  He lives in Westchester County, New York.

Table of Contents

Romantic Murder xi

Prologue: Horror's Romance: From the Gothic Donjon to the Metropolitan Blood-Sacrifice xv

Part 1 The Murder in the Dark Lane 1

Part 2 The Mystery of the Mutilated Corpse 71

Part 3 The Butler Didn't Do It: A Murder in Mayfair 137

Part 4 Toward the Ripper 183

Epilogue: The Decay of Murder 233

Acknowledgments 241

Notes and Sources 243

Index 257

About the Author 265

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Murder by Candlelight: The Gruesome Crimes Behind Our Romance with the Macabre 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book reads like a thesis. If it were the author would get a lot of credit for research
DarkRavenDH More than 1 year ago
Murder by Candlelight by Michael Knox Beran Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery? There are hundreds of detectives series out there in books, true crime novels, dozens of police procedure shows that solve murders, and any number of motion pictures. But they always say that truth is stranger than fiction. If you want to know where the authors of the books, TV scripts, movie scripts, and stage plays get their ideas, it is that someone somewhere has did something very similar. This book examines real cases that helped inspire authors in the 1800’s. Authors such as Lord Byron, Mary Shelly, Thomas Carlyle, Sir Walter Scott, Thomas de Quincy, Ann Radcliff, and William Beckford wrote gothic and dark murder mysteries based on the crimes being committed. This is an examination of four such murders and the effect they had on sensational literature. The author could have chosen many more, but these four examples easily make his point. “The Murder in the Dark Lane” is an account of the murder of William Weare, a notorious rake and an expert at fleecing unwary young men of their inheritance at games of chance. It is the story of someone who wished to emulate Weare and ended up being robbed of his own money. When Weare’s body is found in a brook, police work backwards from that point to the dark lane where Weare was actually slain. The motives and planning of the murderer are closely examined, and the mistakes that were responsible for the murderer’s hanging explained. The effect this had upon contemporary authors is noted with clarity. “The Mystery of the Mutilated Corpse” tells the story of the murder of Hannah Brown. Brown was found in parts, first a legless, headless torso with the hands and arms intact, then the severed head, and finally the legs. The motive and thinking of the murderer are examined at length, along with the influence the murder had on literature. “The Butler Didn’t Do It: A Mayfair Mystery” is the story of Lord William Russell’s murder in his Mayfair home. His head was nearly severed in his own bed. There was evidence of a break-in, and scattered valuables leading out the front door. In this case, the murderer made mistakes that caused him to go from unsuspected to hanging. This type of murder made its way into literature and is still a mainstay in modern murder mysteries. “Towards the Ripper” is an account of several murders that were never solved. Here we can find the Wapping murders of 1811, Ann Priest murdered in 1827, Emma Jackson’s murder in 1963, the torso murders of 1887 – 1889, some of the victims of Jack the Ripper, suspected victims of Jack the Ripper, and the murders after the Ripper case was officially closed. The horror of these murders effected literature then, and the legacy goes on today. Who needs to make up a murder mystery when there are so many templates already there of murder most foul? This book kept my attention from start to finish. Lovers of true crime will appreciate the four cases, which are traced from before the murder (motive) to the actual act (means) to the arrest and execution of the murderer or the questions of why they were never caught. How authors took these crimes, romanticized them, and wrote stories still read today is interesting. I give the book five stars. Quoth the Raven…