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The Maybrick Case., Issue 8021, 25 September 1889
The Maybrick Case.
Mover, in my time, (writes the 'Argus' London correspondent), has there been such an outburst of popular emotion ay that which is now raging and rising in Mrs Maybrick's case. The verdict of the Liverpool jury came to London about six o'clock. At that time I happened to enter the hall of a great political club. It was full of dumb men staring blankly at one another, as I had seen them on the same spot some years before when the news came of the murders in the Phu-nix Park. After that I went to see the funniest farce which has been seen in London for many a day—' Aunt Jack ' at the Court Theatre. There was not a laugh in the house. Mrs John Wood screamed .and shouted aud threw herself about—in strange unartistic fashion—as if to compel mirth—but it name notat her bidding. Near me sat Sir Henry James, chaperoning two Dieces, who in these latter days have arisen to brighten his bachelor life. He was grave to sadness, but it is said of him that he feels the shock of the thing more than others. After the farce had come to its appointed end, I went on to the Criterion Theatre, where Mr Charles Wyndham had bidden his friends to assemble and say farewell before his journey to America. When I joined them I found that they were talking of what they viewed as the impending murder of an innocent and beautiful woman. Spying among the throng a leader-writer of the ' Daily Telegraph,' I asked him if the paper was going for the rescue of the woman, for ever since the Smithurst case, thirty years ago, the 'Telegraph' has had the lead in the business of unloosening the halter from the human neck. " I don't know yet, my dear friend," was his reply, "for to-morrow Lady Lawson has called a conference of the staff to decide what line the paper shall take, and in the meantime we are going on the non-committal dodge." The paper, by the way, is still sitting on the fence. It is not to be supposed that all classes of the population are equally in favor of the fair convict. At Liverpool the populace are almost in a state of rebellion tor grief and rage at hor sentence ; and in other parts the populace, although in a less marked degree, have pronounced for her. "Society," too, in all its branches and aspects, is intensely with her, as are also the bar and medicine; but the great middle class, which thinks marriage a solemn thing, which regards the wealthy bachelor-broker Brierley as an arch-nuisance and pest, which half Buspects its own young wife of a latent desire to put a white powder in its meat juice—the great middle class is inclined to regard Mrs Maybrick's condemnation as optimi exempli. And the hard, solid, practical view of the great middle class found expression yesterday in the leading columns of the British Press. Not, indeed, that the Press is unanimous for the verdict. Mis Maybriek haß many partisans already among the papers, and -will have more as the days go on. It is impossible to discover the reason of the cleavage in newspaper opinion upon the subject. There is nothing distinctly political in it, for Mr John Walters's paper, 'The Timeß,' and Mr T. P. O'Connor'B paper, the 'Star,' are practically at one in crticising the verdict, whilst the ' Daily News' and the ' Standard' are equally at one in accepting it. The only thing that can be pretty confidently recognised is that in all towns where there are two opposing papers, they have differed on the subject. But even among those who unhesitatingly accept the theory of guilt, and regard the death penalty as justly due, there is a general consensus of opinion that its exaction would too deeply shock the sentiments of their fellow-citizens; and the cable will probably long before this have brought you news of a reprieve. One reason why the middle class appears to favor a conclusion which is at present accepted neither by lawyers, men of "intellect," nor the populace, is that there is a grim belief among the classes where Mrs Grundy rules supreme that domestic poisoning is far more common than anyone dare openly assert. It is a real terror to many modern Englishmen, who are unable to console themselves by the reflection that their tempers and dispositions endear them to those of their own household. There is something of the ferocity of panic in the action of the twelve gloomy, bald-headed Lancashire men who have found the verdict. That the terror of poison is a growing one is apparent from the fact that Mrs Maybriek is the first of a long line of women similarly accused who has failed to find mercy at the hands of her judges. I was speaking about
the dread of poisoning to a young doctor a short time ago, and saying that I had heard the practice was on the increase. " Yes," he observed, ''and owing to the terrible competition for patients among ua so many of us feel we dare not gn'e expression to our suspicions when a cise of the kind occurs, for we don't know what other housos might then be shut against us." In the view of this nervous and ingenious youth, the poisoners are numerous enough to organise a boycott! In classes other than the middle class, when the bondage of marriage becomes intolerable, it is broken or mitigated in some nonhomicidal manner; but when Mrs Grundy reigns supreme, those who feel that bondage actually seem to know of no better solvent than "fly-papers" and "white powder." It is a notable feature about the ladies who are accused of doing away with their husbands that they always prove in after life to be most devoted wives and exemplary characters generally, Madeline Smith lives to this day in Bloomsbury, a most reputable and kindly matron of absolutely unblemished life. I met recently (or at least I saw) a lady of rank who was accused some years ago of "doing for" a first husband whom she detested. There was never any trial about the matter, because it was not certain in the minds of her enemies whether she had used any deadly potion, or had merely effected her purpose by her hands, which were certainly not of a character to assuage tho sufferings of a dying man. " Die, devil, die !" she exclaimed, standing at the foot of the sufferer's bed, " in order that I may be happy with my Walter." He did die accordingly, and she was happy with her Walter—but not very much so, because her Walter was shortly afterwards drummed out of society for cheating. The odd thing about the case is that, whilst the world shows no inclination of relaxing its long ostracism of Walter, who was merely a cheat, it is showing signs of relenting towards his wife, whom it firmly believes to ha\ve done for her unhappy "first."
The Maybrick Case., Issue 8021, 25 September 1889
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