Ramblings & ephemera

In Search of Lost Crime

From Caleb Crain’s “In Search Of Lost Crime” (Legal Affairs: July/August 2002):

… the 1860 Brooklyn divorce case of Beardsley v. Beardsley. …

Richard Busteed, the lawyer for Mrs. Beardsley’s aggrieved husband, denounced her in his closing arguments as “the harlot of the nineteenth century,” and his showy performance brought tears to the eyes of many in the courtroom. In a final flourish, Busteed appealed to whatever yearning the jurors might have had for literary immortality:

If the record of this case shall be preserved in some substantial form, men and women of other generations will recur to it when they tire of Dombey and Copperfield, and drop to sleep over Kenilworth and Ivanhoe. In the glow of this extraordinary drama of real life, the highly wrought pictures of the novelist will pale their intellectual fires. Long after the romance of Bardell against Pickwick shall be musty with forgetfulness, the sad truths of Beardsley against Beardsley will rise up as sorrowing witnesses of the frailty of a woman who deliberately sacrificed the holiest relations of life upon the altar of a roving and unhallowed lust. …

… the popular 1846 trial of Albert John Tirrell … Tirrell’s case was a particularly hot item: A young man from a respectable family, he murdered a prostitute in Boston and set her brothel on fire, but his ingenious lawyer convinced the jury that he had been sleepwalking. …

Consider the prolixly titled 1871 pamphlet Life, Trial and Execution of Edward H. Ruloff, The Perpetrator of Eight Murders, Numerous Burglaries and Other Crimes; Who Was Recently Hanged at Binghamton, N.Y. A Man Shrouded in Mystery! A Learned Ruffian! Was He Man or Fiend, published by E.E. Barclay of Philadelphia.

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