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Trial of Mary Blandy   By: (1870-1952)

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Edited By


Author of "Twelve Scots Trials," "The Riddle of the Ruthvens," "Glengarry's Way," &c.



[Illustration: Miss Blandy in her cell in Oxford Castle. ( From an unpublished Sepia Drawing in the Collection of Mr. Horace Bleackley .)]




In undertaking to prepare an account of this celebrated trial, the Editor at the outset fondly trusted that the conviction of "the unfortunate Miss Blandy" might, upon due inquiry, be found to have been, as the phrase is, a miscarriage of justice. To the entertainment of this chivalrous if unlively hope he was moved as well by the youth, the sex, and the traditional charms of that lady, as by the doubts expressed by divers wiseacres concerning her guilt; but a more intimate knowledge of the facts upon which the adverse verdict rested, speedily disposed of his inconfident expectation.

Though the evidence sheds but a partial light upon the hidden springs of the dark business in which she was engaged, and much that should be known in order perfectly to appreciate her symbolic value remains obscure, we can rest assured that Mary Blandy, whatever she may have been, was no victim of judicial error. We watch, perforce, the tragedy from the front; never, despite the excellence of the official "book," do we get a glimpse of what is going on behind the scenes, nor see beneath the immobile and formal mask, the living face; but, when the spectacle of The Fair Parricide is over, we at least are satisfied that justice, legal and poetic, has been done.

Few cases in our criminal annals have occasioned a literature so extensive. The bibliography, compiled by Mr. Horace Bleackley in connection with his striking study, "The Love Philtre" ( Some Distinguished Victims of the Scaffold , London, 1905), which, by his courteous permission, is reprinted in the Appendix, enumerates no fewer than thirty contemporary tracts, while the references to the case by later writers would of themselves form a considerable list.

To this substantial cairn a further stone or two are here contributed. There will be found in the Appendix copies of original MSS. in the British Museum and the Public Record Office, not hitherto published, relating to the case. These comprise the correspondence of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, Mr. Secretary Newcastle, the Solicitor to the Treasury, and other Government officials, regarding the conduct of the prosecution and the steps taken for the apprehension of Miss Blandy's accomplice, the Hon. William Henry Cranstoun; a petition of "The Noblemen and Gentlemen in the Neighbourhood of Henley upon Thames" as to the issuing of a proclamation for his arrest, with the opinion thereon of the Attorney General, Sir Dudley Ryder; and the deposition of the person by whose means Cranstoun's flight from justice was successfully effected. This deposition is important as disclosing the true story of his escape, of which the published accounts are, as appears, erroneous. Among other matter now printed for the first time may be mentioned a letter from the War Office to the Paymaster General, directing Cranstoun's name to be struck off the half pay list; and a letter from John Riddell, the Scots genealogist, to James Maidment, giving some account of the descendants of Cranstoun. For permission to publish these documents the Editor is indebted to the courtesy of Mr. A.M. Broadley and Mr. John A. Fairley, the respective owners.

The iconography of Mary Blandy has been made a feature of the present volume, all the portraits of her known to the Editor being reproduced. A description of the curious satirical print, "The Scotch Triumvirate," will be found in the Appendix.

Of special interest is the facsimile of Miss Blandy's last letter to Captain Cranstoun, of which the interception, like that of Mrs... Continue reading book >>

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