A JOURNAL OF EXTREMITY

An Interesting Episode in Criminal History

“In 1839, the year of the Mercier trial, a French equivalent of the Mary Blandy case caused a sensation. A hotelier named Cumon retired in the village of Montignac. When a gendarme named Dupont requested the hand of his daughter Victorine in marriage, he exploded with indignation: the fact that Victorine was eager to accept failed to dislodge his prejudice against an underpaid policeman. As Victorine and Dupont continued to meet, there were violent family quarrels. Victorine confided her misery to her maid Nini. And then, suddenly, old Cumon fell ill with an internal complaint; within a month he was dead. Victorine disdained any hypocritical show of sorrow; declaring that “What God does must be well done,” she lost no time in marrying her gendarme. One day, a condemned man on his way to hard labor— probably in the hulks— passed through the village, and was “exhibited,” as was the custom, on the village green, as a salutary warning to other potential miscreants. With tears in his eyes, he begged his audience to conduct themselves irreproachably, adding with a certain smugness the comment that no doubt many of them had consciousnesses as bad as his own. Nini head all this only at second hand, but it was enough to release her in a flood of repentance. She now confessed that she had purchased arsenic, opium, vitriol, and other toxic substances which Victorine had administered to her father. Cumon’s body was exhumed, and a panel of experts declared that they suspected poisoning by arsenic. Victorine was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor, and the maid’s sensitive conscience was rewarded with 18 years of the same punishment.”

From "Written in Blood: The Criminal Mind and Method" by Colin Wilson

Todd Hido

Pablo Picasso, "The Charnel House"

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