The Parricide (1847)

For this post, I wanted to draw attention to G W M Reynolds’s first work– The Parricide, The Youth’s Career of Crime (1847)[1]. The text had originally been published under the title The Youthful Imposter in 1835 when Reynolds was only twenty year’s old. Though I was unable to find any reviews of 1835 The Youthful Imposter, the reception to the text on re-publication revealed the text caused quite a stir. It is very likely that the original text had not attracted enough attention to be controversial whereas the republication had been released shortly after the famous The Mysteries of London (1844-46). In particular, The Pilot and the Nottingham Review criticised Reynolds’s ‘latest’ work for its inappropriate and salacious content. To give a brief overview, The Parricide follows the criminal career of James Crawford who, under the tutorage of family-friend Stanley Arnold, is part of an elaborate plot to con wealthy Londoners out of their fortunes. Crawford is bonded to Arnold after a scheme that went awry some years ago that resulted in Crawford committing a murder (he later discovers the victim to have been his own father – hence the title).

On Friday 14th May 1847, The Pilot heavily criticised The Parricide for having inappropriate and pernicious content. Within this criticism, was the inaccurate accusation that G W M Reynolds was in fact the son of Thomas Reynolds “the Informer”, an informant against the United Irishman. While The Pilot accepted that the wrongdoings of Thomas Reynolds could not be blamed on his ‘son’ they did state that “the sire despatched bodies with the tongue: the son would murder souls with a pen” [2]. Again, on the 19th May, they claimed that G W M Reynolds was corrupting the youth of London ‘as his father before him had contracted the wind- pipes of Irish men’[3].

A week after their first accusation, The Pilot wrote an article conceding that Reynolds was not the son of the Irish informer and accompanying this by a letter from Reynolds’ Miscellany in which Reynolds is appalled at this connection and explains he is in fact the son of Captain George Reynolds who had served in the navy.

Mistaken identities aside, I did find the criticisms of Reynolds’ work on grounds of immorality particularly interesting. While the penny dreadful itself was criticised for explicit or salacious material, Reynolds’ work was comparatively well-received. It was not only The Pilot that criticised the text with Nottingham Review and General Advertiser for the Midland Counties stating: ‘we repeat it, we do not deny that Mr Reynolds is a man of considerable talent, but judging from the “Parricide” we should say of mean ambition, and sorely perverted taste’[4]. The Liverpool Mercury had similar issues with the text and while conceding that it was eloquently written, condemned Reynolds for writing too liberally about crime, even asserting that the writer must be drawing upon his own experiences in order to write about such things in a convincing manner! [5] Though the text is not particularly explicit throughout the majority of the text, there are scenes that are more exploitative– particularly the scene where Crawford rapes a woman he has previously seduced and abandoned. Though the scene is not particularly explicit and makes up only a fraction of the chapter, the affect it had on its viewers indicated that this was not the type of pernicious material they had come to expect from Reynolds. Overall, the text is well written and entertaining as many of these articles reluctantly concur.

Sophie Raine

References

[1] Reynolds, G W M. The Parricide; or, The youth’s career of crime. (London: J Dicks), 1847.

[2] “The Parricide”, The Pilot, Friday 14 May 1847, Literature Notices p. 2.

[3] “Life and Times of the Roman Patrician”, The Pilot, Wednesday 19 May 1847, Literature , p.1.

[4] “ ‘The Parricide’ by George W M Reynolds Part 4”, Nottingham Review and General Advertiser for the Midland Counties , Tuesday 29 June 1847, Literature Reviews, p.3.

[5] “ ‘The Parricide’ by George W M Reynolds Part 4”, Liverpool Mercury, Tuesday 29 June 1847, Literature Reviews, p.3.

 


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