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Broadside entitled 'Awful Judgment'


This broadside story begins: 'A Full and Particular Account of the Dreadful Punishment inflicted on Mr JOHN SYM, a Respectable Gentleman in Hampstead, who was in a moment struck Blind by Lightning, for giving False Evidence against his own Servant Maid, by which she was condemned to Death, but was afterwards providentially saved by his voluntary Confession at the place of Execution.' The sheet was published in 1834 and cost one penny.

Although this broadside claims to be a factual report featuring real people, it is most likely a fictional story composed to encourage people to improve their moral conduct. The story tells of how a wicked master, after having his advances rejected by a pretty servant girl, tries to incriminate her as a thief. The day of the girl's execution turns out to be a day of judgement for the master, however, as he is blinded by a bolt of lightning, after refusing to save the girl from the gallows by admitting his guilt. As many masters abused their positions of power, the sheet is very much a powerful reminder that God is an omniscient judge who does not bear false witness.

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: 1834   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.74(157)
Broadside entitled 'Awful Judgment'
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