De Quincey then takes the story of the Marr and Williamson murders and himself turns them into art. The main figures are given psychological depth, and a motive is imagined. Most importantly, Williams is turned, as one literary critic observes, into 'a sort of Miltonic, ruined God', with a glamorized physical description to match his inward corruption of spirit. A sandy, undistinguished-looking man in life, in art Williams has a 'bloodless, ghastly pallor', and hair of 'the most extraordinary and vivid colour something between an orange and a lemon colour'. His clothes, too, undergo a metamorphosis. He no longer wears the rough dress of a sailor. Instead de Quincey imagines a dandified being, dressing for an evening's slaughter in black silk stockings and pumps and with a long blue coat of 'the very finest cloth richly lined in silk'. The murderer is now more vampire than cash-strapped sailor, more great actor than street thug.
In reality, there were few of de Quincey's type of murderer. Yet, as his imaginary lecturer knows, 'the world in general are very bloody-minded; and all they want in a murder is a copious effusion of blood'. How this desire was transformed over the nineteenth century, and how it, in turn, transformed that century, is my subject.
From Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders. Copyright © 2013 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Press, LLC
Become a Member
and discover your next great read!
Win the book & DVD
Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.
Solve this clue:
and be entered to win..
Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.
Your guide toexceptional books
BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.