The murder of Sir Theodosius Broughton or maybe the not murder of Sir Theodosius Broughton, since Cooke s speculation that he was a epileptic, b killing himself with quack medicines 18th century cures for syphilis all involve great quantities of mercury , or c both, seems not unreasonable and the question of who did it Did John Donellan kill his 20 year old brother in law, or did Sir Theodosius mother kill him Since everything we ve got is documents from 1780 when neither forensic science nor medical science was even invented yet, all Cooke can do is speculate and I don t buy all of her speculations , but she certainly raises enough reasonable doubt to make it clear that Donellan should not have been convicted and hanged for his brother in law s death. This book was too all over the place Jumping between generations of family that share similar names several generations of Edwards for example left a large chunk of this confusing to follow A lot of the family backgrounds also seemed to be unnecessary and filler content I am a pretty big fan of true crime, but I personally didn t enjoy this one. The sordid underbelly of Georgian England made for very interesting reading The author s research and excellent storytelling kept me engrossed in the aftermath of the mysterious death of a debauched 20 year old aristocrat Unlike most fictional mysteries, the players in this story acted in seemingly contradictory and confusing ways, as real people do There was never a clear villain, but several people with motive and means to do away with Theodosius Boughton The train wreck of a trial was painful to read, but confirms that there was and is nothing new under the sun. A fascinating read for anyone with an interest in history.John Donellan was a former army officer, returned from serving in India, who married the heiress to a title, lands and hall in Warwickshire in the 18th century The case of his accusation and trial was a cause celebre in its day and was debated for many years after.Elizabeth Cooke s book is an entertaining read that could quite easily been buried in dry facts She brings a sense of the times to the events that happened at Lawford Hall during that warm summer of 1780 The young Baronet, a headstrong womaniser, had come down with syphilis and was under the care of the local apothecary What truly happened that day in August is still shrouded in mystery and conjecture.Rumour had it that Theodocius Boughton had been poisoned Whether this was true or not, was less concerning than the rumour Once the rumour was started, the search was on for a poisoner, irrespective of whether a poisoning took place The accused was John Donellan.The book follows the aftermath of the death and the subsequent trial of Donellan, followed by an analysis by the author and the thoughts of others that had looked at the case in the subsequent years.Whilst entertaining, this is not a classic whodunit Unlike fiction, factual events rarely have clear cut and definitive answers, so anyone looking for a simple was Donellan guilty will be disappointed However, the journey is worth the time and provides an entertaining read.The editing is of a high quality with few grammatical errors. Interesting topic and a well written book, but it went on way too long for the information available This is basically a long magazine article that has been stretched into a book. Interesting, but you have to LOVE minutiae I ended up skimming the book, and don t think I missed too much. I read this book due to the poisoning aspect, which takes place in the exact same year as my current WIP, 1781 I didn t learn anything new, so I must have gotten the research right.I came away from this story disgusted by the court system in the case of John Donellan the man never had a chance.When his young brother in law dies suddenly with convulsions, after drinking a draught, Donellan is blamed for the simple fact that he has rinsed out the medicine bottle afterwards, an action that Donellan never explains His BIL, soon to be a baronet, is a dissolute rogue who is already infected with syphilis He would have bankrupted the family His mother also acted in suspicious ways right before the death, but she is treated as beyond reproach Donellan, a boastful, rather self serving man, who married the baronet s sister, was a devoted husband and father, who ran the estate while his BIL brawled in taverns and debauched with women.I felt sorry for Donellan s ordeal, and the way his wife deserts him at the end He wasn t perfect, but did not deserve his fate. This Is A Shocking Tale Of Greed And Family Betrayal In August Sir Theodosius Boughton, A Dissolute Old Etonian Twenty Year Old And Heir To A Warwickshire Fortune, Died In Painful Convulsions After Taking His Medicine The Following Year After An Inquest And Trial Which Became A Cause Celebre, His Brother In Law, Captain John Diamond Donellan, Irish Soldier Of Fortune And Man About Town, Was Tried For His Murder The Trial Was A Shambles Was Donellan Guilty Based On Extensive Research And The Engrossing Trial Transcripts Elizabeth Cooke S Book Shows The Dark And Violent Underside Of The Society Of Mansfield Park The Damnation of John Donellan A Mysterious Case of Death and Scandal in Georgian England takes on the shocking death of Theodosius Boughton, the 20 year old heir to a fortune and baronetcy, in August 1780 Within an hour of taking a physic prescribed by his doctor, Boughton suffered convulsions and died Could he have died of natural causes or accidentally died of poisoning from his medical treatments Was he truly murdered Although there could have been many natural causes of his death or many suspects if he was indeed murdered, Boughton s brother in law John Donellan was tried and executed for murdering Boughton based largely on the fact that he rinsed out the medicine bottle shortly after Boughton s collapse Author Elizabeth Cooke breaks down the evidence from the case and the ensuing trial Readers will see that that Donellan did not receive a fair trial and may have actually died an innocent man Readers who enjoy this title should also try Kate Summerscale s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective. This book is excruciatingly researched My eyes crossed with irritation as I read the minutiae of the legal system in 18th century England If you are outraged by the fact that the aristocracy would always throw the non aristocracy to the wolves, if you love endless genealogies of families who give their first male child the same name in one instance ALL their children , then this book is for you If you aren t excited by interpreting history by today s standards knowledge, forget it This book ads nothing tot the discussion of class structure, nor does it lay to rest the mystery of Donellan s guilt.
Elizabeth McGregor and
- 289 pages
- The Damnation of John Donellan: A Mysterious Case of Death and Scandal in Georgian England
- Elizabeth Cooke
- 14 May 2017 Elizabeth Cooke