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Kevin Purcell, Bella


An Exploration of a Victorian Annulment of Marriage Appeal Record of Gordon v. Merricks to the House of Lords Containing Witness Transcripts, Legal Pleadings, Documentary Evidence, and Appeal Court Decisions; with Annotations, Analysis, and Additional Material from the Time

Kevin Purcell

Adultery, impotence, and a cruel cross-examination all in the context of a famous bank failure, this precedent setting case, fueled by a fight to control a sizeable inheritance, recounts Bella’s struggle to claim her own body, life and fortune from her husband and a misogynistic legal system. Bella gives readers an accurate view into an unhappy marriage and the court cases resulting from it.

Bella explores and explains an Appeal Record to the House of Lords, functioning as the highest appeal court in the United Kingdom in 1885. To explain Bella’s case to modern readers, the author provides detailed annotations to the text of the Appeal Record, including the many witness transcripts, as well as other documents from the time.

News articles and much legal research help modern readers understand how Bella’s fortune was at risk of being squandered by her husband. This effort reveals the legal machinations perpetrated by Bella’s husband and his lawyers as well as the excellent brief her own lawyers provide. Four decisions from the House of Lords are also presented with detailed annotations so modern readers may discern the results of both sides’ arguments.

Several essays detail the context of the time including the failure of the City of Glasgow Bank, famous in its day for being the first case where bank officers went to jail for concealing very large unpaid loans to insiders and their favorite businesses. The development of judicial objectivity is examined in the context of Bella’s case.

The author provides an Epilogue detailing, in some instances, the day to day turmoil of Bella’s life.

You should read this book if you: love true stories about brave women; find stories that detail real lives in Victorian times fascinating; want to study feminism through the lens of Victorian misogyny; are a fan of failed romances; like dramas played out in courtrooms; are interested in what Victorians thought about sex inside and outside of marriage; are interested in the lives of famous Victorian lawyers; are attempting to understand the development of married women’s property rights in the United Kingdom; want to see how a famous bank failure effected real lives; study matrimonial law; want to improve your legal writing; are interested in how Victorians lived in India; want to understand the development and limits of Victorian scientific testimony; take a guided tour of a precedent setting appeal.

Epigraph Books

Kevin Purcell was, for three decades, a bankruptcy lawyer for the United States Department of Justice. During this time, he wrote and presented many papers to court. As an acknowledgment of his expertise, Mr. Purcell was called as a witness in three criminal trials, resulting in eight convictions. Having found Bella’s Appeal Record in a used bookstore, Mr. Purcell let his fascination with her story guide him in authoring this book. Mr. Purcell lives in upstate New York.

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