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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
The story of Miss Madeline H. Smith and L'Angelier, as told by the Lord Advocate


THE first six days of the trial of Madeline H. Smith for the alleged poisoning of P. Emile L’Angelier were taken up with the hearing and examination of evidence. There were fifty-seven witnesses for the Crown, and thirty-one for the defence. The Inventory of papers, etc., numbered two hundred and fourteen—inclusive of letters. On the morning of the seventh day of the trial, the Lord Advocate (Moncreiff—afterwards Lord Justice-Clerk) entered upon his pleading of the case for the Crown, and after some preliminary remarks, he said:

"My story is short. This young lady returned from a London boarding-school in 1853. She met L’Angelier somewhere about the end of the year following in the city of Glasgow. L’Angelier’s history has not been very clearly brought out. It is plain, unquestionably, that in 1851 he was in very poor and destitute circumstances in Edinburgh. By his energy he had worked his way up to a position which was at least respectable. It is no part of my case to maintain the character of the unhappy deceased. The facts of this case make it impossible to speak of him in any terms but those of very strong condemnation. Nor am I inclined to say that from first to last his conduct was that of a man of honour.

"These two persons met; they were introduced, I assume, clandestinely. After a time, it seems an attachment commenced which was forbidden by her parents. It is only right to say that the earlier letters of the prisoner at that time show good feeling, proper affection, and a proper sense of duty. Time went on; the intercourse was again renewed, and in the course of 1856, as found from the letters, it assumed a criminal aspect.

"But her affection began to cool. Another suitor appeared, He was more attractive. She promised to marry him in the month of June. She endeavoured to break off her connection with L’Angelier by coldness, and asked him to return her letters. He refused, and threatened to put them into the hands of her father. It was then she saw the position she was in—she knew what letters she had written to L’Angelier—she knew what he could reveal—she knew that, if the letters were sent to her father, not only would her marriage with Mr. Minnoch be broken off but that she could not hold up her head again. She writes in despair to him to give her back her letters; he refuses."

The Lord Advocate went on to relate how one interview, then another, and again a third followed, and that then her letters, instead of being cold—instead of demands for the recovery of her letters being contained in them—again assume all the warmth of affection of the year before. On the 12th of March she has been with Mr. Minnoch making arrangements for her marriage in June—on the 21st she invites L’Angelier, with all the ardour of passion, to come to see her—she buys arsenic on the 18th—and L’Angelier dies of poison on the morning of the 23rd. A strange story gentlemen (of the jury)! such as the imagination of novelist or dramatist never painted—so strange in its horror as almost to be incredible, if it were not proved to be true. No one can wonder that such a story has carried a thrill of horror into every family in the land. His lordship then entered upon the evidence in detail with the view of proving the accused guilty as charged in the indictment. At the close of the Lord Advocate’s address to the jury, the Lord Justice-Clerk suggested to the Dean of Faculty (Inglis) that he should delay his address to the jury for the defence until the following day, and this being agreed to, the Lord Justice-Clerk warned the jury that they should avoid drawing any conclusion in the present state of the case, seeing that they had heard counsel only on one side.

The Court then adjourned.


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