THE THURTELL-HUNT MURDER CASE: Dark Mirror to Regency England by Albert I. Borowitz

THE THURTELL-HUNT MURDER CASE: Dark Mirror to Regency England

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A true-crime narrative that proves woefully thin despite the author's attempts to invest violence with gothic color and literary and judicial significance. Despite Borowitz's claims, this tale of a Regency rake's murder of a cardsharp who swindled him is no classic puzzler, but a lackluster case, drily reported. John Thurtell, a ne'er-do-well denizen of London's boxing and gambling worlds, and his accomplices, Joe Hunt and William Probert, were possibly three of the most inept murderers ever to draw blood. Having done in one William Weare on a dark October night in 1823, they kept returning to the scene of the crime and allowed themselves to be observed, bespattered with gore, by just about every yokel in Hertfordshire. Apprehended almost immediately, the accused soon saw their feebly contrived stories collapse during the preliminary hearings. Fearing advance publicity would jeopardize the case (in which Thurtell and Probert were eventually sentenced to hanging, Hunt to transportation to Australia), the presiding magistrate attempted to ban journalists. His efforts proved fruitless. The case degenerated into a feast for both the moralists and the sensation-mongers of the time. According to Borowitz, this was the first confrontation between principles that still remain in conflict: the right of the accused to a fair trial, and freedom of the press. Borowitz pursues this thesis as doggedly as a police inspector, but ultimately his findings prove flimsy. Another of the author's overworked themes is the fascination this case held for writers such as Browning, Walter Scott, Dickens, and Walter de la Mare. From Borowitz's retelling of the story, it's difficult to see just what it was that piqued their interest.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1987
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press