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Madeleine Smith: The Scottish Murderess


I was browsing the internet a while back, reading about serial killers, as y'do, when I came across the Scottish "Bible John." In his article was a little paragraph discussing other Scottish killers. Among them was Madeleine Smith, who possibly (almost definitely) poisoned her ex-fiancé with arsenic in 1857 after he threatened to expose the letters she had written to him. According to the article, the letters, "when read aloud, caused a scandal in the Victorian courtroom."

How do you not then look those up?

After quite a bit of questing, but with my end goal in sight (i.e. pervy letters), I found them on a Harvard archive, located here. There are 149 of them, and DISAPPOINTMENT, very little raciness. Damn you, Victorians, and your easily shocked sensibilities.

"This is my couch I need for fainting. It is definitely not because I like lying down"

What I found from wading through almost all of the letters – for I will put up with much to read Victorians writing about sex – was that the sentiment was overly effusive and generally disgusting. I mean, I knew that this was the Victorian era's style, but as only the best novelists have been filtered down to us, I've almost never experienced it in all its flowery grossness. Example:

Emile, I wish I could convince you that I live, but for you alone. In whatever recreation I am employed, my thoughts are of my own Emile. I am thoughtless, but believe me, I never forget you, my own, my only love. Yes, my only love — you are the only man I love, or can ever love. Whatever your lot may be, I shall be thine, and however humble your home shall be mine. I shall share your couch, no matter where. I have thought well of all this, and I shall never repine though my husband is poor — no, it shall be my duty to make him happy, make him forget all the sorrows of the past, and look to a bright and happy future. Emile, nothing shall change me, nothing tempt me ever to prove untrue to you. No wealth shall ever cause me to forget that I am the wife of my own, my ever darling Emile. I swear to you that no man shall ever love me but you. Emile, I dote on you. I adore you with my heart and soul.

Remember, this is to the guy whom she later dumps for someone richer, and then poisons. So I feel like she was maybe not being COMPLETELY sincere. 

Here's the extent of the raciness: 1) they write about how she didn't bleed after doin' it, and how whoa, that was weird, but there must be some explanation, 2) they talk about how BAD they feel about having done it. 

The following is probably the part that caused the Victorian courtroom to have apoplexy (from her to him, Victorian spelling intact -- keep in mind "love" here = "sex me up"):

Would you were beside me and I would fall asleep on your bosom dearest love. What would I not give to place my head on your breast, kiss and fondel you – and then I am sure you would kindly love me – but some night I hope soon we may enjoy each other – what delightful happiness to be loved by a dear sweet husband – our love then shall be more than we shall be able to express.

Bow chicka bow wow. She does seem like a pretty terrible person from her letters. But at her trial she got let off with 'Not Proven,' which basically means "We're pretty sure you did it, but no one can prove you were around him when he got poisoned, so we can't convict you. But still. Totally probably did it."

I do want to say that there were precisely two sentences that made me have either one of those 'oh, what a lovely sentence' or 'connections across Time!' moments. They are:  

1. I often wish I could get a peep into futurity 

2. This is such a cold horrid night -- the wind is howling -- and rain -- it makes me feel so sad.

That latter sentence makes me like her the slightest bit. Weather does suck sometimes, Madeleine. You're right. But she poisoned a guy and that's not okay. 

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