The Trial of Misella Cross

The Trial of Misella Cross

by Catherine Witek


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Inspired by the writings of Samuel Johnson, The Trial of Misella Cross tells the story of a young woman's decline into a brutal life of prostitution in eighteenth-century England. Misella's ordeal begins when her impoverished mother sells her at the age of twelve to a wealthy predator, Sir Richard Maltby. Taken against her will to his estate, Hawthorn Manor, Misella is tyrannized by his sickly wife, Lady Sarah, and their jealous daughter, Isobel. Eventually discarded on the streets of London, Misella is arrested for murder and confined in London's infamous Newgate prison. The prison's devious Ordinary, William Hunter, coerces her into writing her autobiographical confession which he plans to sell to the crowds at her hanging. Betrayed throughout her young life, Misella must learn to trust Benjamin Turner, the barrister who crafts her defense. Risking his career and reputation, Turner challenges the unjust law that denies legal defense to common felons accused of capital crimes, secures the right to defend Misella, and fights to save her from the gallows.

The novel re-imagines two of Johnson's Rambler essays in which he adopts the persona of the prostitute, Misella. The novel explores not only Misella's descent into prostitution as he did, but also the inner workings of the prison and legal systems in eighteenth-century London. The character of the barrister Benjamin Turner is modeled after Johnson himself, although Johnson was a writer, not a lawyer. Copies of Johnson's original essays are provided in the novel's Appendix.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780615687971
Publisher: Sky Parlour Press
Publication date: 11/14/2012
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.68(d)

About the Author

After twenty years of teaching non-fiction writing and eighteenth-century English literature as well as directing the writing program at St. Xavier University in Chicago, Catherine Witek left the academic world to write her first novel. Her desire to write the novel began when she studied the writings of Samuel Johnson during her doctoral work and read the two brief Rambler essays (1751) upon which the novel is based. In those essays, Johnson adopts the persona of a prostitute, Misella, and tells her story of poverty, seduction, betrayal, and descent into prostitution.

Born poor himself, Samuel Johnson had great compassion for the downtrodden and for the plight of prostitutes. That he "loaned" his pen to one to tell her compelling sory is remarkable since most men at that time cared little about these women whom they so willingly used and abused.

Ms. Witek wanted to tell Misella's story from her own twenty-first century perspective, in a woman's voice, in a postmodern world that mirrors in many ways the eighteenth-century world in which Misella lived: a time of growing materialism and acquisitiveness, when the poor, the weak, the powerless, especially women, were exploited or abused, and compassion was rare.

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