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Gender Roles in the Eighteenth Century Represented in the Story of Mary Blandy

Seminar Paper 2005 16 Pages

American Studies - Literature

Excerpt

Contents

1. Introduction

2. Summary of the Story

3. Analysis of Mary Blandy´ s relationship to her father and to W. Cranstoun
3.1 Relationship to her father
3.2 Relationship to William Cranstoun
3.3 Mary Blandy´s position

4. Gender Roles in Eighteenth Century England
4.1. Ideas of female perfection
4.1.1 Modesty and Restraint
4.1.2 Subjugation
4.1.3 Chastity
4.2. Law, feminine violence and punishment

5. Conclusion

1. Introduction

The Newgate Calendar, first published during the eighteenth century, was one of the books, along with the bible, most likely to be found in any English home at this period. It contains a large number of eighteenth century trials and is based on the remarkable book called The Malefactor´s Register or New Newgate and Tyburn Calendar.

At this time the moving ideas of criminal legislation were retribution and deterrence, and the punishment of every felony was death. In this manner the primary intention of The Newgate Calendar was to inculcate the principles of the right living and to teach the contemporary moral values according to the roles intended for the different sexes.

Particularly the children were encouraged to read it because of the reasons mentioned above.

One of the most extraordinary cases recorded in these volumes is the case of Mary Blandy who was found guilty of parricide and sentenced to death in 1752. Her trial generated enormous public interest with over thirty contemporary pamphlets produced analyzing her character and the trial.[1] The aim of this essay is to show on the basis of the story about Mary Blandy the predefined role of women in the eighteenth-century and to give an overview about gender roles in general at this time. I will examine the relationship between the female accused and the male leading characters of Sir Francis Blandy and Captain William Henry Cranstoun.

This essay is divided into the introduction, a brief summary of the story, an analysis of Mary Blandy´ s relationship to her father and to William Cranstoun, an account of the gender roles in the eighteenth century, whereupon I put the main emphasis on the role of the women, and the conclusion.

The text I am focussing on is the Narrative of the Case of Miss Mary Blandy, who was executed for the murder of her Father; with some particulars respecting CAPTAIN CRANSTOUN in The Newgate Calendar edited and selected by Sir Norman Birkett; anyway there is the quasi legal account in the form of a reported trial narrative – The Trial of Mary Blandy, a compilation of public records by William Roughead. For a better understanding I will briefly retell the story leading up to the trail.

2. Summary of the story

Mary Blandy was hung on April 6th 1752 for murdering her father, a lawyer of Henley upon Thames. She was found guilty of poisoning him with a “love philtre” under the instructions of her lover, Mr. William Henry Cranstoun, who claimed to bring about a positive decision of the father on their marriage. Cranstoun was already married to a Miss Murray in Scotland and had a child, but was apparently attracted by the rumor that Mary´s father would settle a large amount of money on her at marriage. She denied knowing the fact that the “love philtre” was actual arsenic and therefore the reason for her fathers´ death.

At the beginning Mr. Blandy apparently encouraged Cranstoun`s attentions to Mary as he was the son of Lord Cranstoun, of an ancient Scottish family. But as he experienced that Cranstoun was already married and after all had received directly a letter from Cranstoun`s wife of the Commissary Court`s decree in her favour[2] he began to show evident dislike of Captain Cranstoun`s visits.[3] Nevertheless Cranstoun could persuade Mr. Blandy that an appeal to the Court of Session could reverse the judgment against him and the marriage with Miss Murray would be dissolved successfully. After the death of Mrs. Blandy, who had still believed in Cranstoun`s goodness and sincerity and had begged her husband not to refuse him, Francis Blandy ordered Marry to write to him telling him not to come back until he had solved his marital disagreements. Cranstoun whose appeal against the Court of Session had been declined meanwhile was now barred from marrying Mary, but kept this Court´s decision private. He told Mary that he had a method of conciliating her fathers esteem and that he would send her some powders on which he, to prevent suspicion, would write “Powders to clean the Scotch pebbles.” Mary despite doubt and the effect of the powders upon her father`s health mixed some in his tea. Unforeseen her father took some of the tea but not all and two of the maidservants drank the leftover tea and became violently ill. After that Mary did not consider tea the best way of conveying the powders and communicated the fact to Cranstoun, who wrote to her:

"I am sorry there are such occasions to clean your pebbles; you must make use of the powder to them by putting it in anything of substance wherein it will not swim a-top of the water, of which I wrote to you in one of my last. I am afraid it will be too weak to take off their rust, or at least it will take too long a time."[4]

On Monday, the 5th of August, Francis Blandy got some water gruel prepared for him on Mary`s instructions and after ingesting it he got violently ill. On the evening of August the 6th he ate some more gruel and once again one of the maidservants finished the leftover and became ill as well. Concerned over the gruel the maidservants found some grainy white settlement at the bottom of the bowl, sent for Mr. Norton, the apothecary, who took it away for further examination.[5]

According to the testimony of the maidservants Mary was seen throwing letters into the fire, but the maids rescued them. The superscription was "The powder to clean the pebbles with."

It turned out that the remaining powder was the same as at the bottom of the bowl ad it began to be suspected that the reason for Mr. Blandy`s disorder was owing to poison. Dr. Addington, the attending physician, who was called by Mary, confirmed Mr. Norton`s diagnosis of poisoning and warned Mary that if her father died she would be in serious trouble.

According to the prosecution, Mary response was to write Cranstoun the following letter on August the 11th:

Dear Willy,—My father is so bad, that I have only time to tell you, that if you do not hear from me

soon again, don't be frightened. I am better myself. Lest any accident should happen to your letters,

take care what you write. My sincere compliments. I am ever yours.[6]

Mr. Norton got hold of this letter and showed it to Mr. Blandy who cried out:

“Poor love-sick girl! What will not a woman do for the man she loves?”[7]

Confronted with the evidence Mary begged for her father`s forgiveness, although asserting her innocence.

Mr. Blandy died on August 14th and Mary Blandy pleaded guilty of parricide and sentenced to death. She was hung in Oxford on April 6th , 1752. Cranstoun fled to France, where he died in December 1752.

3. Analysis of Mary Blandy´ s relationship to her father and to W. Cranstoun

At this point I would like to examine the relationship between Mary Blandy and the both male leading characters Francis Blandy and William Cranstoun, who - in a certain manner - act as opponents. Who influenced her in what way and what was her position concerning her role as eighteenth century woman? To what extent could one allude to a dialectics in whose centre she stands?

[...]


[1] Heinzelman, Susan Sage, Representing women: Law, literature and feminism (1994), Duke University Press

[2] Roughead, William, The Trial of Mary Blandy (1914), 9.

[3] Birkett, Sir Norman, The Newgate Calendar (1951), The Folio Society St. James, London, 139.

[4] Roughead, William, 12.

[5] Roughead, William, 40.

[6] Roughead, William, 35.

[7] Roughead, William, 34.

Details

Pages
16
Year
2005
ISBN (eBook)
9783638467919
File size
464 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v50597
Institution / College
University of Passau
Grade
2,3
Tags
Gender Roles Eighteenth Century Represented Story Mary Blandy

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Title: Gender Roles in the Eighteenth Century Represented in the Story of Mary Blandy