Sunday, June 4, 2017

Teen kills himself after woman, 45, rejects him - 1876

I do genealogical research. As a result, I sometimes search old newspapers, and from time to time, I am drawn to stories like the one in the screen shot that are written more like fiction than fact. The text is farther down in this post.

The old-style journalism fascinates, amuses, and disturbs me. So many of the stories of the past were written with a purple flourish, thick subjectivity, and wild speculation, I gather that editors and readers preferred such writing. Of course, this type of journalism is not truly dead. It's popular in the political sphere these days in a way and on gossip pages.

In the story here, I observe bias toward women as well as cruelty directed at the youth who committed suicide, even a kind of glee or schadenfreude. The writer attributes feelings and thoughts to the young man that another could not possibly know: "He prayed that his too solid flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itself into dew." How many romances must the writer have read to write that sentence. The approach and style cause me to wonder whether the story is even true.

From the Opelousas Courier (Opelousas, Louisiana) Saturday, Feb. 19, 1876
A Nashville Romance - That was a sad story sent out from Nashville the other day. A small boy named Alfred Reddick, only fifteen years of age, formed a liaison some months ago with the wife of David Rees. On Friday last the estimable lady informed the young man that he would have to discontinue his visits. This broke the young man's tender heart. He prayed that his too, too solid flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itself into dew. The uses of this life appeared to him weary, flat, stale and unprofitable. He called at the home of his charmer. She was inexorable. He stepped into the husband's apartment, drew a pistol and blew out his itty, ootsy, tootsy brains. The dispatch says that Reddick was passionately enamored of Mrs. Rees, and would have done anything at her command. The coroner's jury found a verdict of suicide and charged the woman with being the cause of the deed. It is said that Mrs. Rees has daughters old enough to have been Reddick's mother. Alas, for poor humanity!
 So, a woman, probably in her mid-forties, is blamed for a teenager's suicide. She is called a "charmer," and their relationship is assumed to have been romantic. But for all we know and probably for all the writer knew, the boy could have developed a crush, and the woman did nothing intentionally to encourage it. She could have been teaching him how to read or do arithmetic, for all we know.

If there had been a Facebook back then, I'm sure this story would have been shared repeatedly, especially if Mrs. Rees was well-known known figure. Even I shifted my headline toward the scandalous because I know how the human mind works still.

No comments: