This Monday, December 14th, Observatory, in conjunction with Proteotypes and Proteus Gowanus Interdisciplinary Gallery and Reading Room, will be presenting a very exciting lecture by author Wendy Walker about the infamous Road Hill House Murder of 1860, in which 15 year old Constance Kent of Somerset was accused of killing her three-year-old half-brother and stuffing his body down the privy.
The story of the Road Hill Murder has many--as you will read in the description below--bizarre and enigmatic elements. It was an important and influential case that captivated the imagination of the times, inspiring the first true-crime novel (The Great Crime of 1860 by Joseph Stapleton), providing the source material for a number of literary works (Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone and Dickens’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood), causing riots in the streets, and marking itself as "a watershed in the history of police investigation, forensic medicine, journalistic practice and and British criminal law."
Author Wendy Walker--who's new book on the life and enigma of Constance Kent, Blue Fire, has just been published--will tell the whole fascinating and bizarre story--with pictures!--on Monday night. Copies of Blue Fire be available for purchase and signing. Hope to see you there!
Full details below:
Constance Kent and the “Great Crime of 1860,” Lecture and Book SigningTo see the entire upcoming schedule, click here. To get on the mailing list, click here. For directions to Observatory, click here. Join Observatory on Facebook by clicking here. You can find out more about Wendy Walker by clicking here.
Wendy Walker, author of Blue Fire
Date: Monday, December 14
Time: 8:00 pm (Doors at 7)
Lecture and book-signing of her book Blue Fire; a Morbid Anatomy event presented in conjunction with Proteotypes and Proteus Gowanus
A talking tour by Wendy Walker, author of Blue Fire, a new work that reexamines the unsolved case of Constance Kent, protagonist at 15 of the Road Hill House Murder. Accused of killing her three-year-old half-brother and stuffing his body down the privy at the family estate in Wiltshire, Constance was cleared at the coroner’s inquest. In the view of many at the time, the boy had been killed by his father and his nurse, surprised in bed. Yet five years later, under the influence of a priest, Constance confessed to the crime. The “Great Crime of 1860” and the trial of Constance Kent constituted a watershed in the history of police investigation, forensic medicine, journalistic practice and and British criminal law. It caused riots in the streets and rocked the Anglican Church. It was the ancestor of the country house murder mystery and directly inspired both Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone and Dickens’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood, as well as the first true-crime book, The Great Crime of 1860 by Joseph Stapleton. It has been novelized, dramatized, televised and filmed, and recounted from various angles, most recently by Kate Summerscale in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (2008).
The enigmatic figure at the center of this story confessed to a crime she did not commit, was condemned to death, spent twenty years in prison, and went on to a career of almost sixty years as a nurse and social activist. This talk with images will trace the three stages of her long life.
Wendy Walker is a core collaborator at Proteus Gowanus and the editor of Proteotypes. Besides Blue Fire, she is the author of The Secret Service, The Sea- Rabbit, or, The Artist of Life, Stories Out of Omarie (all from Sun and Moon Press) and Knots (Aqueduct Press). Her critical fictions have appeared in Conjunctions, Parnassus, 3rd Bed, Fantastic Metropolis, the Green Integer Review and The Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative American Poetry.
Image: "Constance Kent, the murderess."Mark Joseph Allan; Albumen silver carte-de-visite [ca. 1866]; Reproduction rights owned by the State Library of Victoria; Found on the State Library of Victoria Website. Click here to find out more about Wendy Walker's book Blue Fire.