The genesis of this post lies in research that led me to the Law Library stacks and into one of my favorite locations: the section containing English trials. Long before the arrival of soap operas and reality television programs, people (well, us Brits, anyway) used to be titillated by sordid criminal trials. I suppose to a certain degree that is still the case today, but at least there are no longer public executions in the square attended by the masses.
The part of the stacks that I made my early morning visit to houses books that cover a variety of English trials spanning centuries – from the trial of King Charles I, to Oscar Wilde, to General Pinochet. The titles of the books are often interesting in themselves and the content even more so. The terminology in some of the older materials has broadened my vocabulary considerably although, despite valiant efforts, I have yet been unable to incorporate the term ‘wicked strumpet‘ into daily use. Here are some examples of what I find to be interesting titles:
- A.W.B. Simpson, Cannibalism and the common law : the story of the tragic last voyage of the Mignonette and the strange legal proceedings to which it gave rise (1984);
- Mary Bateman, Interesting memoirs of Mary Bateman : including her parentage, early thefts, and pretensions to witchcraft, her trial for, and conviction of, the wilful murder of Rebecca Perigo, at the York Assizes, 1809, and her execution for same (1810);
- Thomas Gordon, Francis, Lord Bacon, or, The case of private and national corruption and bribery impartially consider’d : addressed to all South-Sea Directors, Members of Parliament, ministers of state, and church-dignitaries / by an Englishman, (1721);
- J. Davenport, The trial of Mr. Benjamin Boddington for adultery with his cousin, the wife of Mr. Samuel Boddington, before Joseph Burchell, Esq. and a special jury, at the Sessions House (1797); and
- C. Dunne, Brand’s lunacy case. A full report of this most interesting and extraordinary investigation; including copious animadversions on the principal actors in the drama (1830).