So I received an interesting note the other day as I often do. This correspondent found something amazing in a book shop.
You know the case of Madeline Smith, right? She was the Scottish beauty who was famously acquitted of poisoning her lover in that land's "Not Proven" tradition. She was also the subject of what this reader ranks as the second best true crime masterpiece of all time, William Roughead's To Meet Miss Madeline Smith.
Madeline Hamiliton Smith was also the subject of one of the Notable British Trials books, The Trial of Madeline Smith. A full view copy of this book is available on Google Books. It's a great edition; the introduction was written by F. Tennyson Jesse. And Google scanned the book that so happens to have been the personal copy owned by Edmund L. Pearson. His signature and library stamp appear inside the Google copy.
Anyway, my correspondent tells me: "I found the Madeleine Smith transcript (broadside) without covers at the bottom of a junk pile in an old bookstore and had it bound. Curiously, it's covered with penciled notes in old-fashioned writing and has a drawing of the floor-plan of the house. It was Henry James' favorite story--perhaps it was his?"
Naturally I am dying to know (a) where she shops! and (b) where that transcript came from originally. I'm not sure if the Smith transcript is something that is known and around and archived in the British Museum or if this is something rare and extraordinary. Either way I'd love to see it, and I'd enjoy spending an afternoon poking around that bookstore, and this hint may suffice to inveigle the shop name from our informer.
Meanwhile, I leave you today with a bit of To Meet Miss Madeline Smith by the UK's greatest ever true crime writer.
It is hard to account for the spell which even unto this day Madeline Smith unquestionably casts upon her votaries. Hers was an unlovely nature: false, self-centered, wholly regardless of the rights and feelings of others, so far as these conflicted with her own desires; and her treatment of her blameless suitor, Mr. Minnoch, was flagrantly perfidious. Miss Tennyson Jesse, to whose recondite knowledge of the mysteries of her sex I respectfully take off my hat, has sought to excuse these shortcomings on the ground of the sex-suppressions by which Victorian virgins were cabined and confined. But it humbly appears to me that Madeline was essentially, in the phrase of Andrew Lang, "other than a good one"; and that even in the wider freedom offered by this golden age of lipstick, cocktails, and nightclubs, she would infallibly have gone wrong.