Day 1279: Harriet

Cover for HarrietHarriet is a novel written in 1934 based on a true crime that occurred in 1875. As such, it is suitable for the season as well as for the R. I. P. Challenge and the Classics Club Dare.

Harriet is a woman in her 30’s who has her own fortune of £3,000 with prospects of 2,000 more. She is a “natural,” which I take to mean having some sort of mental incapacity. Although her mother, Mrs. Ogilvie, cares about her, she boards her periodically with poorer relatives, allowing them to make a little money and giving herself and her husband a little break from Harriet, who can be difficult.

Mrs. Ogilvy sends Harriet to stay with her cousin, Mrs. Hoppner. Mrs. Hoppner lives with her spoiled daughter, Alice. Visiting her are her older daughter, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s husband, Patrick Oman, an artist. Also visiting is Patrick’s brother, Lewis, a clerk. Patrick and Elizabeth are devoted to Lewis.

Although the charismatic Lewis is courting the delicate and beautiful Alice, he turns his attention to Harriet. He is soon engaged to her and marries her despite Mrs. Ogilvie’s objections. In fact, Mrs. Ogilvie tries to get Harriet made a ward of the court to block the marriage, but this backfires when Lewis finds out and tells Harriet she wants to have her committed. Once they are married, Lewis proceeds to strip Harriet of her money and possessions.

After Harriet has a child, he boards her at his brother’s house and moves into a nearby house with Alice. Up until then, Lewis’s actions are marginally legal if morally repellent. It is after this that the behavior of the two brothers and two sisters becomes criminal.

This novel is chilling in its psychological depictions of the two sisters and brothers. Jenkins was fascinated by the case and uses people’s actual Christian names, imaging the thoughts and activities of the characters. This novel was one of the first fictionalizations of a true crime.

Related Posts

The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer

The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Reveled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime

The Fall of the House of Walworth: A Tale of Madness and Murder in Gilded Age America

8 thoughts on “Day 1279: Harriet

  1. Helen October 30, 2018 / 4:09 pm

    This is such a disturbing book, especially as it was based on real events. A perfect choice for the RIP challenge and the Dare!

    • whatmeread October 30, 2018 / 5:33 pm

      Thanks! Yes, what they did was appalling.

  2. Jane October 31, 2018 / 8:19 am

    This sounds truly horrible but also fascinating!

  3. liviepearl October 31, 2018 / 4:48 pm

    Wow, this really fits the dare. I couldn’t read something like this, after seeing your review, I looked up the real story. nope, nope, nope.

    • whatmeread October 31, 2018 / 5:54 pm

      Oh, I think things like that are fascinating.

  4. Naomi October 31, 2018 / 7:37 pm

    Oh, wow, this sounds horrifying (but good!). You took such a colourful picture of the book, I wasn’t expecting it to sound so disturbing!

    • whatmeread November 1, 2018 / 10:39 am

      The way it’s written, in a sort of deadpan matter-of-fact manner, makes me wonder if Truman Capote ever read it before writing In Cold Blood.

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