Sunday, 26 February 2012

Two Ainsworthy murders

Here are two violent murders from Harrison Ainsworth's Jack Sheppard (1839-40). Mrs Wood is murdered in a burglary:
And seizing her by the hair, he pulled back her head, and drew the knife with all his force across her throat. There was a dreadful stifled groan, and she fell heavily upon the landing.
The wealthy Sir Rowland is wrapped around with a sheet and murdered for money:
Jonathan, rushing upon him in front, struck him several quick and violent blows in the face with the bludgeon. The white cloth was instantly dyed with crimson; but, regardless of this, Jonathan continued his murderous assault. The struggles of the wounded man were desperate – so desperate, that in his agony he overset the table, and in the confusion, tore off the cloth, and disclosed a face horribly mutilated, and streaming with blood. So appalling was the sight, that even the murderers – familiar as they were with scenes of slaughter – looked aghast at it.
This second is of a different order of writing, I think:  The first is more shocking; death as disposal. The second is like a sort of malign conjuring-trick, death as unveiling ...

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