Ciudad Real, Wednesday IV.VIII.MMX

Unfair systems, networks and behaviours were, he (Thomas Wakely) and others believed, poisoning all of Great Britain’s institutions.

Wise, S. (MMIV). The Italian Boy.

Does it or does it not ring a deafening bell? The following are two other very true, especially interesting passages from Sarah Wise’s The Italian Boy, winner of the Golden Dagger Award for Non-fiction 2004.

(Joseph Sadler) Thomas felt that he had been humiliated once too often ‘in a neighbourhood where I had been for 20 years with an unpolluted character’; he would, he said, ‘as well have met my death’ than endure the disgrace of suspension. On 22 July 1833 he resigned from the Metropolitan Police, and with his wife and three children moved north, becoming deputy constable of Manchester’s ‘old police’, and being among the first of Manchester’s ‘new’ Borough Police Force, when this Met-style organisation was created in 1839. His salary—600 per annum—was three times his Covent Garden rate of pay.

He did not stay long with the new force, however. His health deteriorated, and for the last two years of his life he was unable to work and was supported by a public subscription—a vote of thanks from many in Manchester who had appreciated his work as a constable. He died in October 1841.

Wise, S. (MMIV). The Italian Boy.

Bravo, Manchester! That’s the way you do it. I’ve always felt this city had a good vibe to it. As for the second (rather long) quotation, I fully agree—for once—with Dickens. Journalists should not make heroes out of criminals. (That goes for you, too, Mr Capote.) Murderers are not role models: there is nothing in their behaviour that is commendable or worthy of being copied.

Furthermore, (Charles) Dickens came to disapprove strongly of newspaper accounts of murderers in the dock, execution scenes, last dying words and official confessions. It is difficult to date with precision this change of heart—the point at which the author of such grand guignol passages as the death of Bill Sikes, the murder of Nancy, and Fagin’s last night alive decided that criminals’ final hours should not be committed to print; but it was certainly felt by 1849. On 17 November of that year Dickens wrote to The Times to explain his disgust at public executions. (He had recently gone to Horsemonger Lane Gaol, Newington, South London, and reported on the dreadful public scenes at the hanging of husband and wife Charles and Maria Manning, condemned to death for killing a former lodger.) ‘I would place every obstacle in the way of his sayings and doings being served up in print on Sunday mornings for the perusal of families,’ wrote Dickens of the executed murderer. Seven years later he expanded on this theme—claiming that the way in which the press reported the final days of murderers made killers appear noteworthy, even admirable—in two articles in his magazine Household Words, ‘The Demeanour of Murderers’ (published 14 June 1856) and ‘The Murdered Person’ (published 11 October 1856).

Wise, S. (MMIV). The Italian Boy.

I wonder what Dickens would have to say about all the violent rubbish we are being served on TV and at the cinema or if he would have gone with the flow and hashed up the script of a videogame for the love of money.


10.07.07. Diary.

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