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Broadside entitled 'Horrid Murder'


This report begins: ' An Account of the Execution of Margaret Henderson, an Interesting Woman of Eighteen years of age, who was Executed at the New Drop, London, on Monday the 15th March, 1824, for the Cruel and Barbarous Murder of her male Bastard Child, by Cutting its Throat, Concealing it in her Bed-room and afterwards Throwing its Mangled Body into the Fire, where it was discovered nearly Burnt to Ashes, by her fellow Servant, and her Body given for Dissection; together with a very Affecting Letter written to her Mother the night before her Execution.' It was published by James Dogherty of Edinburgh in March 1824 and priced at one penny.

As well as the above account of Margaret Henderson's case, this broadside contains cautionary verses allegedly written by the condemned girl, and a letter to her mother written on the eve of her execution. It is unlikely that Margaret Henderson wrote the verses: although the reference to her 'genteel education' indicates she may have been literate, the verses follow a standard formula for moral lamentations that suggests the work of a practised author. The letter may be her own work, perhaps dictated to a churchman attending her.

Reports recounting dark and salacious deeds were popular with the public, and, like today's sensationalist tabloids, sold in large numbers. Crimes could generate sequences of sheets covering descriptive accounts, court proceedings, last words, lamentations and executions as they occurred. As competition was fierce, immediacy was paramount, and these occasions provided an opportunity for printers and patterers to maximise sales.

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Date of publication: 1824   shelfmark: F.3.a.14(13)
Broadside entitled 'Horrid Murder'
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