"I am a woman all alone": The case of Mrs. Manning

Catherine Layton

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


A ménage à trois and a grisly murder shocked and fascinated the Victorian public in 1849; the public hanging attracted huge crowds who appalled Charles Dickens with their bloodthirstiness. As far as readers of broadsheets and newspapers understood, the criminal trajectory, two deceptive suitors courted Swiss lady’s maid Marie de Roux, with railway guard Frederick Manning the first to propose. They married in 1847, after which he emptied her coffers in a failed pub and did not receive an expected legacy. Mrs. Manning turned to her long-term friend, successful extortionist Patrick O’Connor, for financial help, while Manning planned an unsuccessful armed robbery. The murder plot took shape, the deed was done, the body discovered, and the couple cleverly traced using the latest technology. A dizzyingly modern but inadequate investigation was followed by reports in the press that promoted illusory truths, and a trial in which her death sentence was a foregone conclusion. Since then, through a muddle of contradictory reports, the rhetoric of the period about her depravity has become fact. Taking her outburst in court as its starting point, this version of events may be just as fragile, but at least attempts to answer the questions she asked and points toward an injustice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Victorian Scandals in Literature and Culture
EditorsBrenda Ayres, Sarah E. Maier
Place of PublicationNew York, NY
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781000782578
ISBN (Print)9781032259963
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Publication series

NameRoutledge Literature Handbooks


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