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Murderous Extremes

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Author Charles Dickens
Genres Prose: Essay i
Prose: Leading Article i
Prose: Political Commentary i
Subjects Great Britain—Politics and Government
Law; Lawyers; Justice; Courts; Trials
Police; Detectives; Mystery and Detective Stories; Mystery; Mystery Fiction; Forensic Sciences
Details
Index
Other Details
Printed : 3/1/1857
Journal : Household Words
Volume : Volume XV
Magazine : No. 354
Office Book Notes
Memo-
Columns3.75
Payment-
Views : 788

In this piece Dickens recalls two recent celebrated London murders, in both cases somewhat misrepresenting the facts to help him make his point.


'The Parliament Street Murder' took place on 20 October 1856, when a thirty-nine-year-old ticket-of-leave man called Jenkins, alias Marley, assaulted a jeweller's assistant in a Parliament Street shop so severly that the man later died of his injuries. The 'by-standers looking on' from the street were, in fact, accomplices who quickly made themselves scarce after a milliner's porter called George Lerige had intervened; he had heard groans from the shop as he was passing and was assured by the watching men that what was happening was merely a domestic quarrel. Unconvinced, Lerige turned back and went into the shop, where he saw Jenkins hitting his victim with a life-preserver. He appealed to some passers-by to help him stop Jenkins sauntering out of the shop but they did not respond, so he ran after Jenkins alone, calling out 'Stop him!', until a waterman secured the fugitive. Jenkins was convicted and executed (report of trial in The Times, 28 November 1856) and the judge commended Lerige (who had lost his job as a result of having to attend police coroner's courts), remarking that 'if every one were to exert himself to detect crime and bring offenders to justice in the same manner it would have a most beneficial effect'. The Warren Street murder had occurred on 8 December 1854, when a thirty-two-year-old Frenchman, Emmanuel Barthélémy, described in The Times report of his trial (5 January 1855) as 'a most ferocious, repulsive-looking man', having murdered an elderly manufacturer called Moore at his home in Warren Street, was intercepted in his attempt to escape by a neighbour called Charles Collard and some others. Barthélémy shot Collard, wounding him so badly that he subsequently died, and was tried for his murder. Barthélémy's counsel argued that he should have been tried for killing Moore rather than Collard. Moore's death had probably been an unfortunate accident and Barthélémy might have been convicted only of manslaughter; moreover, there was 'nothing to show that the prisoner had deliberately fired at the unfortunate man Collard ... he was laid hold of by three or four men ... there was nothing more likley than that the pistol went off by accident'.

Literary allusions

  • 'Morier's Persian hero': allusion to James Morier's immensely popular novel The Adventures of Haji Baba of Ispahan in England (1824).

 

Author: Michael Slater; © J. M. Dent/Orion Publishing Group, Dickens' Journalism Volume III: 'Gone Astray' and Other Papers from Household Words, 1851-1859, 1998.

DJO gratefully acknowledges permission to reproduce this material.

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