Murder, Magic, Madness: The Victorian Trials of Dove and the Wizard by Owen Davies
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
One thing I like about writers like Owen Davies is that they give you the whole truth and nothing but the truth. A true story documented during Mid –Victorian times in Leeds, England involving a murder case. Nothing unusual bout a murder case except this one involved religion and the presence of a wizard or a cunning man.
William Dove was the son of a well to do Methodist currier named Christopher Dove. The family was quit well known in the community and they had solid reputation to bank on. William was sort of a black sheep of the family. Showing signs of erratic behavior at an early age, he would torture animals and kill them in extremely painful acts of torture. He was would inflict sadistic pain on other people. His father had tried to help young William in a variety of ways but William performed poorly in school and he never listened to the teacher he was apprenticed under. When people spoke with him they swore they were speaking with a dim wit. As a last ditch measure his father rented him a farm in hope of finding some salvation for his wayward son.
William did a horrible running the farm and he made a series of crazy and erratic decisions. The farm did not make money . During his time for running the farm William met Harriet and married her. Despite William being unstable the family felt it was a good match to be united with the Dove family. Harriet was prone to fits of hysteria especially after her brother died. Her years with William were not easy. Often times he was cruel to her , he had a drinking problem and he did not maintain stable employment. Since the farm was not making money the owner of the farm decided he would not renew the leas with William Dove.
It was at this point in life that William fell in with cunning man or bitterly known as a wizard. Back in those days Wizards would call themselves doctors or dentist as back then any fool could do so as there was no regulation. Many people would subscribe to cunning folk owing to desperate life situation. Many of the better educated felt that Cunning –Folk were deceiving and dishonest people who took advantage of people. Some phrenologist even stted that the part of the brain responsible for honesty and noble behavior was smaller in cunning folk then it was in normal people. They were master deceivers. Henry Harrison convinced William tht his magic would save the farm, predict his fathers death and also revealed that Harriet his first wife would die and he would later remarry and be happy.
The first predication did not come true. The second one did The third ….. William used strychnine to poison his wife. He believed he could get away with it. He did not. Prior to being hung he confessed his guilty and tried to spin some o the guilt on Henry Harrison. William Dove was tried I a time of transition for Great. Britain. Debate swirled over insanity pleas, the effect of religion and the humaneness of using the death penalty. Henry Harrison would later get his come uppance after being accused of rape . He was sentenced to prison but not death. After that he faded into history.
For those wanting to study witchcraft or magic it would be well to note that many of these magicians were not Wiccan with the reed “Harm Ye None’ In fact they took advantage of vulnerable ad desperate people. These guys were shady con man and they did not worship the lord and lady nor did they work with the old gods. In fact several called on new testament figure including the devil himself.
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