By Douglas MacGowan
A new look at the life and 1857 trial of Madeleine Smith, the young Scottish woman accused of poisoning an undesired suitor, this book uses analyses of Smith's correspondence with the victim and her trial testimony to reveal much about Victorian society, Scottish law, and the woman who received the nebulous verdict of "not proven." The verdict "not proven" is unique to Scotland: while allowing a defendant to go free, the verdict often carries a stigma, as it not only indicates that the prosecution failed to prove its case, but also states that the defense failed to convince the jury of the defendant's innocence. Emile L'Angelier, the son of a working-class family from the Channel Islands, and Madeleine Smith, the daughter of a wealthy Glasgow family, were never properly introduced; however, they carried on an illicit affair that would end in tragedy. The absence of a clear verdict in this murder trial rocked Victorian Scotland and England. The story of the young girl who (presumably) poisoned hersecret lover so that she could go forward with a family-arranged marriage would live on in print, on stage, and on the screen throughout the following century and a half.