Wednesday, October 20, 2010

countdown to Halloween: vengeance

Pierre-Louis Pierson (1822 - 1913), Vengeance, 1863-67, Albumen silver print partially painted in gouache, 24.4 x 19.2 cm. Martini di Cigala Collection, San Giusto a Rentennano, Siena. (The Countess Castiglione (1837-1899) sent this photograph of herself to her husband after a marital argument. She entitled it Vengeance.)

The following except is from the book Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French & English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes. It describes the case of Claire Reymond, the 25 year old wife of a Parisian businessman. Reymond was tried in July 1892 for premeditated murder. The jury acquitted her.

"But, according to Claire [Reymond], her suspicions were rekindled a few months later when, disappointed over Paul's [Reymond] canceling a luncheon date at the fashionable Ledoyen's, she gave in to curiosity over a mysterious valise her husband kept in their bedroom and summoned a locksmith to open it. In it she discovered sixty-odd letters from Yvonne [Lassimone] to her husband, many written since the promised break, which made it clear that parting was hardly uppermost in their minds. She also found, in addition to a corset and a veil (whose presence was suggestive if nothing else), the receipt for a recently let apartment. She took the letters upstairs to her father's apartment with instructions to her parents to read them and guard them well.

Claire described what happened next as "instinctive." She armed herself with her husband's revolver and a knife and ordered a cab to take her to the address on the receipt. The concierge directed her to a third-floor apartment; when her husband came to the door but refused to admit her, Claire slipped a note through the door stating that Yvonne's husband had discovered them and was on his way. She assured Paul that she had only come to warn them and he opened the door to her. Then, as she had anticipated, her husband dashed downstairs to instruct the concierge not to let anyone up, which left her free to make her way into the bedroom of the apartment. There she found Yvonne seated on the edge of the bed, beginning to put on her stockings. Claire described the scene to the judge:

Finding them together there . . . I was strangled with emotion . . . I did not really expect to see her in the bed . . . she was almost naked . . . I reproached her: "How could you be so shameless. It was I who was so good to you, who forgave you."

Yvonne reportedly dismissed Claire's charges with sarcasm: "Your husband, and is he really yours?" At that, Claire testified, "I lost my head, I fired."
(Source for photograph: "La Divine Comtesse": Photographs of the Countess de Castiglione by Pierre Apraxine and Xavier Demange, published by Yale University Press in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY © 2000 ; Source for quote: Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French & English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes by Mary S. Hartman, published by Robson Books, London, England © 1985)

PiL - (This Is Not A) Love Song

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