Murder and Madness: The Myth of the Kentucky Tragedy (Google eBook)

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University Press of Kentucky, Nov 13, 2009 - History - 392 pages
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The “Kentucky Tragedy” was early America’s best known true crime story. In 1825, Jereboam O. Beauchamp assassinated Kentucky attorney general Solomon P. Sharp. The murder, trial, conviction, and execution of the killer, as well as the suicide of his wife, Anna Cooke Beauchamp—fascinated Americans. The episode became the basis of dozens of novels and plays composed by some of the country’s most esteemed literary talents, among them Edgar Allan Poe and William Gilmore Simms. In Murder and Madness, Matthew G. Schoenbachler peels away two centuries of myth to provide a more accurate account of the murder. Schoenbachler also reveals how Jereboam and Anna Beauchamp shaped the meaning and memory of the event by manipulating romantic ideals at the heart of early American society. Concocting a story in which Solomon Sharp had seduced and abandoned Anna, the couple transformed a sordid murder—committed because the Beauchamps believed Sharp to be spreading a rumor that Anna had had an affair with a family slave—into a maudlin tale of feminine virtue assailed, honor asserted, and a young rebel’s revenge. Murder and Madness reveals the true story behind the murder and demonstrates enduring influence of Romanticism in early America.
  

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Contents

Introduction
1
1 The Architect of His Own Fortunes
13
2 The Diminutive Fury
43
3 Romance and Delusion
71
4 Politics
101
5 Murder
125
6 The Politics of Murder
137
Photo insert
156
7 The Trial
157
8 Prison and Execution
175
9 Memory and the Invention of a Tragedy
209
10 The Kentucky Tragedy
233
Coda
283
Notes
287
Index
361
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Matthew G. Schoenbachler, associate professor of history at the University of North Alabama, has writings in numerous publications.

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