Life After Trial Poisoning and Madeline Smith Part 2

About Madeline Smith, a Scottish woman put on trial for the arsenic poisoning murder of her boyfriend and found not guilty, life after the trial.


And After: Although the sympathy of most people in Edinburgh, where the trial was held, was with Madeleine and the verdict was received favorably there, she found herself snubbed by neighbors when the family withdrew to their country house after the conclusion of the court proceedings. Her family became aloof after all the notoriety and apparently did not give her the moral support she felt she deserved. As a result of the general feeling of rejection she experienced, Madeleine eventually left Scotland, and with her brother Jack-the only person who stood by her unreservedly-went to London to lose herself in that enormous city.

In London she apparently became involved in the artistic crowd that centered around William Morris, the poet, and in 1861 she married George Wardle, an artist who was part of the group. According to most accounts, Wardle married her knowing of her past, and the marriage turned out to be a successful one. Later Madeleine and her husband settled in the Bloomsbury section of London, and she is credited with starting a new fashion in dining by doing without the tablecloth at dinner and setting the places directly on the wood surface.

She had two children and evidently was a devoted mother to them. Later, however, the boy was arrested for making Socialist speeches, and the girl gained a certain reputation for being "emancipated," smoking in public, and supporting free love. It was suggested that Madeleine's taking up with the artistic group to begin with, together with the controversial results of her children's rearing, illustrated the same flaunting of convention at work that originally had involved her with Emile and led her to become his paramour, whether or not she was indeed guilty of his murder.

The fame of Madeleine Smith lasted for many years after her trial, and during one dinner party at the Bloomsbury house, a guest, not knowing Madeleine Wardle's maiden name, brought up the subject and suggested that if Madeleine Smith had ever married, her husband-if he knew of her past-must always be uneasy. The guest continued in this fashion until someone who knew the hostess's past kicked him under the table, and he shut up. For the most part, however, Madeleine's friends and acquaintances knew of her background but forbore from asking her questions about her past or from commenting on it. George Bernard Shaw met her during this period of her life, at Socialist gatherings, and later recalled that she seemed capable and good-humored, with nothing at all sinister in her behavior or actions.

After Wardle died, Madeleine lived in obscurity in the English countryside, supported by her savings and assistance from her brother-in-law. She was in her 70s by then, and continued in Staffordshire even after the death of the brother-in-law and the end of his support. But when nearly 80, she decided to move to America to be near her son. There she married a man named Sheehy and lived with him till he died in 1926, when she was 90.

Although details about her last years are sketchy, it appears that a motion picture firm discovered her existence and tried to get her to act in a movie about her life. She refused and was threatened with deportation as an undesirable, but the charges were later dropped. Madeleine Smith died in poverty at age 92 and is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. She maintained her own innocence of murder to the end of her life.

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