Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Madeleine Smith Story

A Dangerous Affair

Even though she knew that a warehouse clerk would be an unacceptable companion for a young lady of the upper class, Madeleine was attracted to Emile, and he provided much-needed relief from the tedium and routine of her life. Soon after their initial meeting, she wrote him a friendly note that began:

My Dear Emile, I do not feel as if I were writing you for the first time. (We) have become as familiar friends. May we long continue so.

Letters continued back and forth between the two, and several times they arranged meetings on the street or at a nearby shop. Soon, however, Madeleine's father learned of the friendship and demanded that it stop. Disappointed, but following the social customs of the time, Madeleine reluctantly wrote to Emile that their friendship must end and wished him all happiness in the future.

Emile entreated her to meet with him again, and persuaded a friend, Miss Mary Perry, to allow the couple to meet covertly at her house. Madeleine relented, and the correspondence and meetings continued, although secretly.

As time went on and their romance intensified, they planned their wedding, and in June of 1856 they became lovers an unthinkable taboo in Victorian times. Although no ceremony had yet been performed, they addressed each other as husband and wife.

Emile kept all of Madeleines letters, but firmly instructed her to burn his, probably to prevent anyone in the Smith household from accidentally coming across them. They met at Miss Perry's when they could and occasionally met late at night at Madeleine's house, long after her family was asleep.

Madeleine's parents, not knowing that the relationship with Emile had continued after it had been forbidden, began to search for a suitable husband for Madeleine. They settled on 30ish William Minnoch, a wealthy merchant and neighbor of the Smiths. In September of 1856, Minnoch stayed with the Smith family at their summerhouse on the Clyde, and he spent much time with Madeleine.

Knowing that Minnoch would be more acceptable to her parents and to society than Emile ever would, Madeleine encouraged Minnoch's affections and accepted his marriage proposal in late January of 1857.

Madeleine, now needing to be rid of Emile, wrote him in early February: there is coolness on both sides, our engagement had better be broken.

Altogether, I think owing to coolness and indifferencenothing elsethat we had better, for the future, consider ourselves as strangers.

I trust your honor as a gentleman that you will not reveal anything that may have passed between us. I shall feel obliged by your bringing me my letters and likeness on Thursday evening at seven. Be at the area gate, and (the housemaid) will take the parcel from you. On Friday night, I shall send you all your letters, likeness, etc.

P.S. You may be astonished at this sudden changebut for some time back you must have noticed a coolness in my notes. My love for you has ceased, and that is why I was cool. I did once love you truly, fondly, but for some time back I have lost much of that love. There is no other reason for my conduct, and I think it but fair to let you know this. I might have gone on and become your wife, but I could not have loved you as I ought.

I know you will never injure the character of one you so fondly loved. No, Emile, I know you have honor and are a gentleman. What has passed you will not mention. I know when I ask you, that you will comply.

Yet Emile would not comply.

She wrote him again, but by this time Emile had heard rumors of her engagement to Minnoch, and he demanded to know if they were true. She heatedly denied the report of her engagement, and asked again for the return of her letters. Emile again refused, saying that he was planning instead to show the letters to Madeleine's father.

Madeleine wrote two pleading letters to Emile, begging him not to expose their past love and sexual encounters to anyone, which would bring great shame on her and possibly get her thrown out of the family house. Instead, she asked him to meet with her again secretly.


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