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Abstract

Herbert Croft fictionalized an eighteenth-century crime of passion in his epistolary novel, Love and Madness; or, A Story Too True (1780); in his retelling, Croft presents James Hackman, the suicidal murderer of Martha Ray in 1779, as both the victim of various forms of contagion -- social, textual, and medical -- and as an exemplar of a kind of self-sacrificing sensibility that enables him to overcome the stigma of suicide. Croft's representation of the crime draws heavily upon Goethe's controversial The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) and implicates this text in Hackman's suicidal subjectivity. Croft frames his anti-Wertherian story as a Christian heroic and nationalist narrative dedicated to dismantling the myth of the "English Malady" of suicidal melancholy. Croft struggles to reposition suicide as a transnational rather than a national phenomenon. The historical figure of James Hackman emerges out of Croft's treatment as an unlikely means of revaluing national character, interests, and sensibility.

Contributor's Note

Kelly McGuire is assistant professor of English at Trent University.

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