A Book of Remarkable Criminals

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Cosimo, Inc., Dec 1, 2005 - History - 320 pages
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[W]e must be content to study in the microcosm of ordinary crime those instincts, selfish, greedy, brutal which, exploited often by bad men in the so-called cause of nations, have wrought such havoc to the happiness of mankind. It is not too much to say that in every man there dwell the seeds of crime; whether they grow or are stifled in their growth by the good that is in us is a chance mysteriously determined. As children of nature we must not be surprised if our instincts are not all that they should be.-from the IntroductionWriting in the sobering aftermath of World War I, Irving's famed 1918 treatise on some of the most infamous murderers of his day is powerfully fueled by the then newfound recognition that the evil men do is not limited to criminals. But this remains, nevertheless, a hugely entertaining narrative of such villains as Charles Pearce, the "outstanding popular figure in nineteenth-century crime," a professional burglar brought down by a crime of passion; Robert Butler, who "desire[d] to acquire things by a short cut, without taking the trouble to work for them honestly"; the gentleman murderer Professor John W. Webster; and H. H. Holmes, who was "completely insensible to all feelings of humanity." Crime buffs and readers of 19th-century history will find a gruesome delight in these Remarkable Criminals.British author HENRY BRODRIBB IRVING (1870-1919) studied law at Oxford University, but turned to writing about legal matters only after a long, acclaimed career as an actor on the British stage. He also wrote Studies of French Criminals of the Nineteenth Century.
 

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User Review  - RajivC - LibraryThing

This is an excellent book, and very well researched. I like it because it covers the life and crimes of criminals who were all, in a way, small criminals, but each remarkable in his or her own way ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
36
Peace in London
55
His Trial and Execution
81
The Career of Robert Butler
99
The Trial of Butler
110
His Decline and Pall
122
The Trial of Dr Castaing
167
Professor Webster
181
The Wandering Assassin
215
Vitalis and Marie Boyer
261
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Page 14 - Immoral, because the course of natural phenomena being replete with everything which when committed by human beings is most worthy of abhorrence, any one who endeavoured in his actions to imitate the natural course of things would be universally seen and acknowledged to be the wickedest of men.
Page 14 - In sober truth, nearly all the things which men are hanged or imprisoned for doing to one another are Nature's everyday performances.
Page 12 - Greed, love of pleasure, lust, idleness, anger, hatred, revenge; these are the chief causes of crime. These passions and desires are shared by rich and poor alike, by the educated and uneducated. They are inherent in human nature, the germ is in every man.
Page 12 - They are just like other people; in fact, I often think that, but for different opportunities and other accidents, the prisoner and I might very well be in each other's places.
Page vi - For his own violence and hurt tangle every man in their toils, and for the most part fall on the head of him from whom they had their rise, nor is it easy for one who by his act breaks the common pact of peace to lead a calm and quiet life.
Page 13 - If there is anything to be gained by it, we will be honest. If deception is necessary, let us be cheats.
Page 21 - ... criminal of the Holmes type in the pages of Shakespeare." Richard III. espoused " deliberately a career of crime, as deliberately as Peace, Holmes, or Butler." Shakespeare, he thinks, got nearer to the domestic, as opposed to the political, crimes of the historical criminal " when he created lago. In their envy and dislike of their fellow-men, their contempt for humanity in general, their callousness to the ordinary sympathies of human nature, Robert Butler, Lacenaire, Ruloff are witnesses to...
Page 19 - November, 1912, 1920. and sentenced to death. The sentence was afterwards commuted to one of penal servitude for life.

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