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Broadside entitled 'Letter'


This report concerning a convicted murderer begins: 'A Copy of a Letter regarding that unfortunate man, John M'Court, who is to be executed on Monday week, for the murder of his wife. Janet M'Lauchlane or M'Court; together with a melancholy Lamentation on the occasion, in which you have a serious warning to both husbands and wives. to beware of Drunkenness and inordinate passions.' This was published in Edinburgh by Forbes & Co.

The tone of broadsides could vary greatly, from brief and sober to highly sensationalist. One of the most notable aspects of this particular example is the moralising tone assumed by its author. Cautionary verses written as if from the point of view of a murderer or victim were not uncommon, and the 'Lamentation' at the foot of this broadside is a good example. The letter reprinted here also reflects much about the moral attitudes of the male-dominated Scotish society in which it originated: Janet McLauchlane is pilloried as a drunkard and child-beater, and it is implied that her husband had little choice but to murder her. Such attitudes are another recurring feature of broadsides.

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: 1832-1833   shelfmark: F.3.a.13(71)
Broadside entitled 'Letter'
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