Russell Croft’s Victorian fiction with a legal backdrop is entertainingly written and teeming with meticulously researched vignettes of life in the mid-1800s.
His first novel Bring Him In Mad was self-published in 2012. He is currently writing a second novel, also set in the mid-1800s, which has a maritime flavour.
Bring Him In Mad
Bring Him In Mad is a fictionalised account of the William Windham lunacy trial, which lasted for thirty-four days in the winter of 1861-2 – just after the death of Queen Victoria’s beloved Prince Albert.
The book is based on an illustrated and unabridged transcript of the trial, published in pamphlet form by W Oliver of the Strand.
The author has woven factual and fictional elements together in order to create a satisfying story out of this now largely forgotten cause célèbre. He has also blended-in much fascinating and informative period detail.
The book raises issues concerning the proper boundaries of an individual’s freedom of action and of the interplay between madness and morality, that have distinctly modern resonances.
William Frederick Windham, the eccentric squire of Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk, was put through the public inquiry into his state of mind by his high-born relatives, who wanted to ‘bring him in mad’ because of his infatuation with Agnes Willoughby – a notorious young woman of the kind popularly known as ‘pretty horsebreakers’. Windham stood to lose both his freedom of action and the control of his property if found of unsound mind.
Reflecting on the case from his Edwardian old-age, fictional retired solicitor George Phinney tells the story of Windham and the events leading up to, and following, the trial.
Phinney’s memoir brings to life the principal characters involved in the case and charts the twists and turns of an affair that gripped public attention for weeks and caused a national sensation.