In 1827, in the small village of Polstead in Suffolk, England, a local farmer called William Corder killed his lover, Maria Marten, the daughter of the village mole catcher.
So what? A common place tale, of interest to nobody apart from the killer, the victim and their respective families and friends. Yet for some reason the story caught the imagination of the public and the press to such a degree that it immediately spawned ballads (one supposedly by the very murderer) and plays (still performed on stage). In fact, the first play was penned before the trial was even held!
Come all you thoughtless young men, a warning take by me,
And think upon my unhappy fate to be hanged upon a tree;
My name is William Corder, to you I do declare,
I courted Maria Marten, most beautiful and fair.
(The Murder of Maria Marten by W. Corder)
There are various macabre details to the story, some of which concerns a book I saw this weekend in the town museum of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk – occasioning this post. Do you know what anthropodermic bibliopegy is? If not, I dare you to read on!