On this date in 1761, Swiss-born portrait miniaturist Theodore Gardelle was hanged for murdering his landlady.
“We have to lament,” begins our guide, “that the woman might not have met her death at his hands, had she allotted some discretion to the limits of her tongue — a weapon, we may call it, often goading a man to a frenzy of the mind, ending in horror.”
In later years, she might have wielded a midriff.
[Gardelle] was born at Geneva, a city which is famed for giving birth to great men, in both the arts and sciences. He chose the miniature style of painting, and having acquired its first rudiments, went to Paris, where he made great proficiency in the art. He then returned to his native place, and practised his profession for some years, with credit and emolument; but, being unhappy in his domestic concerns, he repaired to London, and took lodgings at Mrs. King’s, in Leicester-fields, in the year 1760.
Gardelle’s version of the crime — long story short — is that he got into a tiff with said landlady, who stumbled when he shoved her and thereby fatally struck her head on the bedstead.
Panicked, Gardelle hid the body and began disposing of it in pieces over the succeeding week, until the ongoing dismemberment was quite accidentally discovered by the almost terminally incurious servants.
One reflection, upon reading this dreadful narrative, will probably rise in the mind of the attentive reader; the advantages of virtue with respect to our social connections, and the interest that others take in what befalls us. It does not appear that, during all the time Mrs. King was missing, she was enquired after by one relation or friend; the murder was discovered by strangers, almost without solicitude or enquiry; the murderer was secured by strangers, and by strangers the prosecution against him was carried on.
But who is there of honest reputation, however poor, that could be missing a day, without becoming the subject of many interesting enquiries, without exciting solicitude and fears, that would have no rest till the truth was discovered, and the crime punished?
Theodore Gardelle didn’t have the luxury of being so philosophical about it — but “was executed amidst the shouts and hisses of an indignant populace, in the Haymarket, near Panton Street, to which he was led by Mrs. King’s house, where the cart made a stop, and at which he just gave a look. His body was hanged in chains upon Hounslow-heath.”
Part of the Themed Set: Selections from the Newgate Calendar.