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Broadside entitled 'Melancholy Suicide'

Commentary

This report begins: 'MELANCHOLY SUICIDE, COMMITTED BY MISS ANN BENNITT, OF THIS CITY, A YOUNG LADY ONLY SEVENTEEN YEARS OF AGE.' The broadside was published by R. Reynolds of 489 Lawnmarket, Edinburgh. The date of publication is not given.

The event described here is the suicide of a young woman who had been seduced, made pregnant and then abandoned by her fiancÚ, who is alleged to have impregnated another young woman shortly afterwards. Even as late as the twentieth century, pregnancy outside wedlock was considered to be a matter of great shame in some areas of British society, and suicides among women in these circumstances were not uncommon, as this broadside suggests: 'almost every newspaper contains cases of a similar nature'. Reports of such cases tended to use very emotive languge to heighten the sense of tragedy, as in this example: 'she found her suspended by her silken scarf, a lifeless corpse.'

Broadsides are single sheets of paper, printed on one side, to be read unfolded. They carried public information such as proclamations as well as ballads and news of the day. Cheaply available, they were sold on the streets by pedlars and chapmen. Broadsides offer a valuable insight into many aspects of the society they were published in, and the National Library of Scotland holds over 250,000 of them.

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Date of publication: 1853   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.74(243)
Broadside entitled 'Melancholy Suicide'
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