Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: F. Tennyson Jesse's Murder and Its Motives (1924).

Most criminals are great egoists and inordinately vain, but these two qualities are found to excess in murderers.
—F. Tennyson Jesse, Murder and Its Motives 11
In Murder and Its Motives F. Tennyson Jesse classifies murders into six categories (murder for gain, murder for revenge, murder for elimination, murder for jealousy, murder for the lust of killing, and murder from conviction). She then provides case studies by type: William Palmer (murder for gain, some 15 murders, 1850s), Constance Kent (murder for revenge, 1860; most recently covered in Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher), the Querangals (murder for elimination, brother and sister disposal of spouses, 1881), Mary Eleanor Wheeler (murder for jealousy, killing of her lover's spouse and baby, 1890), Neill Cream (murder for lust of killing, numerous killings, 1892), and Orsini (murder for conviction, tried for an attempt on Emperor Napoleon III, 1858).

This lucid and perceptive book is a must for anyone who wishes to construct convincing criminals in their fiction. Sadly, it is out of print. The 1952 edition is dedicated to three people, one of whom is Algonquin Round Table member Alexander Woollcott.

F. Tennyson Jesse, from
the Bookman, June 1914
World War I correspondent, playwright, screenwriter, and novelist F. Tennyson Jesse (1888–1958), the great-niece of Alfred Lord Tennyson, is probably best known for her books in the Notable British Trials series such as that on Madeleine Smith (the subject of David Lean's film Madeleine, 1949) and A Pin to See the Peepshow (1934), which was based on the Thompson-Bywaters murder case. Her work and troubled life are discussed in A Portrait of Fryn: A Biography of F. Tennyson Jesse (1984) by Joanna Colenbrander, Jesse's secretary.


Kerrie said...

Thanks Elizabeth. Your contribution to FFB has now been listed on MYSTERIES in PARADISE

Martin Edwards said...

A fascinating book, as is the slightly strange biography you mention.

Elizabeth Foxwell said...

Thanks, Martin. She was an interesting writer; I also listened to the BBC adaptation of _A Pin to See the Peepshow_, which was also very good.