The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #4499   Message #3101385
Posted By: Jim Dixon
23-Feb-11 - 02:56 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req/ADD: Ladies Go A-Thieving/Curious Times
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Ladies Go A-Thieving/Curious Times
From Some Experiences of a Barrister's Life by William Ballantine (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1882), page 211:

A lady of the name of Ramsbottom, the wife of an eminent physician, herself of middle age and generally respected, was suspected of pilfering from a draper's shop in Baker Street, Portman Square. She was watched, followed, and her person was searched, and several small articles were found concealed in different parts of her dress. She was given into custody, went through the painful ordeal of an inquiry at the Marylebone Police Court, and was committed for trial at the Middlesex sessions. At the period when this occurred, Mr. Serjeant Adams was the presiding judge. He was thoroughly impartial and knew all the law necessary for his position, but it was not very well packed in the receptacle of his brain, and the particles constantly came out at wrong times and places. The case, however, could hardly have been confused; the facts were perfectly clear, the whole of the lady's life, as far as its history was known, was not only free from reproach, but thoroughly rational. The only point that could be relied upon for the defense was that the articles stolen were so trivial that no sane object could exist for intentional theft, and the only suggestion that could be made in her favor was that she was not responsible for her actions, being compelled by an uncontrollable impulse, or, to use a technical term, that she was the victim of kleptomania, not a very popular defense before a jury of tradesmen. However, after having been locked up for some hours, they were ultimately discharged without giving a verdict, a result arising probably more from compassion for the lady's husband than any doubt about the facts.

I thought at the time that if, instead of laying a trap for her, the proprietor of the shop had conveyed a hint either to herself or to the doctor, it would have been the kinder course, and subsequent circumstances showed that in reality her conduct was attributable to insane influences, although certainly she knew thoroughly well that she was acting wrongly.

She died very shortly after the ordeal she had undergone, broken down in health and spirit with the shame and disgrace, and I was consulted, after her death had taken place, by Dr. Ramsbottom under the following circumstances. Every drawer and cupboard in the house was found to be full of new goods, which she must have been in the habit of abstracting during many years, and I believe that in every instance they were contained in their original wrappers. Mrs. Ramsbottom was a religious woman, and I cannot doubt that every Sunday she listened with respect and veneration to the lessons taught in the church, and fully realized the commandment of "Thou shalt not steal." And it is clear that she by the acts she committed incurred danger and obtained no advantage. I advised Dr. Ramsbottom not to make the discovery public, and the articles found were distributed amongst different charitable institutions.

Can any one doubt that insanity irresistibly controlled her conduct?