Love and Madness: The Murder of Martha Ray, Mistress of the Fourth Earl of Sandwich

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9780060559755: Love and Madness: The Murder of Martha Ray, Mistress of the Fourth Earl of Sandwich
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On a spring evening in 1779, as she emerged from London's Covent Garden Theatre, a beautiful young woman was shot in the head at point-blank range by a man in a black suit. The brutal murder was even more shocking because of the victim's identity -- she was Martha Ray, live-in mistress to the Earl of Sandwich and devotee of the arts. The man accused of her murder was none other than James Hackman, a respected Anglican minister and Ray's former lover. The aftermath of the crime created an uproar in London high society, as aristocrats debated Hackman's motives. Had he intended to commit suicide, as he later claimed, but, in a moment of weakness, turned his gun on Ray instead? This riveting tale of a crime of passion re-creates the slaying and the clergyman's trial, which was the unrivaled media sensation of its time.

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About the Author:

Martin Levy is a respected historical researcher who has written for the Oxford University Press. He makes his home in England.

From Publishers Weekly:

Though the 1779 affair between Ray, Sandwich's mistress, and her lover James Hackman ends with Hackman dangling from a noose for shooting Ray, it is not as enthralling as it sounds. The details of the affair consist mostly of a couple of passionate yet trite letters from Hackman and speculation and hearsay from those who knew each of them. Thankfully, Levy's book is able to plump up Ray and Hackman's woeful tale by using it as a jumping-off point for exploring the historical and sociological circumstances that surrounded the relationship. Levy, a historical researcher, does a fine job conjuring up the atmosphere of 18th-century London through the use of newspaper accounts and personal letters, and some investigation into the background of the writers of those works. He is particularly astute at capturing the inner workings of England's civil institutions, such as its legal and prison systems. By outlining the country's strict social-class structure, Levy also clearly demonstrates the precarious predicament Ray, a commoner by birth, was in as the mistress to Sandwich, a married earl. Still, Levy's greatest achievement is his analysis of some of the mysteries of human nature that make Ray and Hackman's story ageless. For instance, Levy asks why "unrequited love and madness" are eternally intertwined and why we take such "a voyeuristic delight" in seeing others' weaknesses brought into public view. Though he may not come up with definitive answers for all of his questions, in this age of "Bennifer" and the "Kobe Trial," he definitely gives readers something to think about. 15 b&w illus. throughout.
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