The Euston Square Mystery. Extraordinary Statement Made by Hannah Dobbs...

The Euston Square Mystery. Extraordinary Statement Made by Hannah Dobbs. Sex Work, Pregnancy, Homicide.
The Euston Square Mystery. Extraordinary Statement Made by Hannah Dobbs...
The Euston Square Mystery. Extraordinary Statement Made by Hannah Dobbs...
The Euston Square Mystery. Extraordinary Statement Made by Hannah Dobbs...
The Euston Square Mystery. Extraordinary Statement Made by Hannah Dobbs...
A young woman sells her scandalous story of sex work and illicit pregnancy to recover financially after a murder trial
The Euston Square Mystery. Extraordinary Statement Made by Hannah Dobbs...

London: G. Purkess, [1879]. First edition. Original printed wraps stitched at spine. Measuring 230 x 150mm and complete in 16 pages. A Near Fine copy on account of some soiling to edges of wraps and some chipping along page edges. OCLC reports only 2 surviving copies of this fragile piece, and the present is the only example on the market.

The first-hand report of the accused and acquitted Hannah Dobbs' life as a maid to the wealthy Bastendorff family, and providing the public with her sensational alibi to the unsolved murder of lodger Matilda Hacker. The "Euston Square Mystery" had become a story of tabloid fodder and city-wide fascination, following the discovery of human bones in the coal cellar at the tony Euston Square home of the Bastendorff family. Though initially considered the possible victim of the crime -- having disappeared some months earlier from her domestic job -- Hannah Dobbs quickly shifted to become the main suspect in the middle-class woman's demise. Though both women were single, they were of different economic classes; and Dobbs had sold several pieces of Hacker's jewelry to local pawnshops. "It was thought Hannah Dobbs was envious of Hacker, with her carefree confidence, disposable income, and fancy lifestyle...Stolen jewelry may have caused a rift between the women if Hacker had found out, supplying a motive for murder" (History of Yesterday). But ultimately, too many loose ends remained to convict Dobbs of the murder.

"Curiously, after what seemed to be a narrow escape even if she were not guilty, Hannah Dobbs did not fade into obscurity following the trial...A sensationalist journalist named George Purkess contacted Dobbs, asking if she might be willing to provide details so he could create a news piece documenting her side of the story, and she agreed" (History of Yesterday). The result was the present piece, which kept focus on economic and class dynamics while shifting focus onto the men in control of these power dynamics. Here, Dobbs notes that her alibi was her ongoing affair with Severin Bastendorff -- the entire reason he had hired her as a live-in maid -- and the unexpected pregnancy she needed to hide. She then pointed to Bastendorff as a violent and controlling man who had killed several lodgers; and she claimed that he had threatened to use his powerful connections and money to peg her as a suspect if she revealed their affair. "The extreme details were enough to land Bastendorff in trouble. A second trial began, and this time he was the primary suspect" (History of Yesterday). Found not guilty of murder, he served a year in prison for perjuring himself regarding his affair with Dobbs.

The Euston Square Mystery is a powerful example of commercial greed and the manipulation of the less economically fortunate. Salacious news stories drew readers and sold papers, even at the expense of lives. And vulnerable women like Hannah Dobbs -- without income, without a steady home, and now with a child -- would sell their stories, their names, themselves, if they needed to live.
(Item #5000)

Price: $1,750