Sunday, March 18, 2012

Love, Marriage and Suicide in Civil War Memphis; the Allegory of Alice Simpson

The End of a Lucky Marriage.

Some six or seven months ago we gave an account of the marriage of a beautiful courtesan from a house of ill
fame in this city. Her husband was a very wealth planter in Arkansas.  We state in that account that the woman had declared that on her part the man who had chosen her should have no reason to complain of the future, whatever might be the events of the past. She was taken to her husband's home. Her life was far from stain. She appeared to be in the way to recover the position in society she had lost, when an individual arrived in the neighborhood that knew her. Her previous history was then exposed.  Her efforts to escape the consequences of past guild were in vain. She committed the sin for which there is no earthly pardon. For her that world could offer no hope. He who had power to say, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone," was not there to repeat them. Her new acquaintances avoided her; her now friends upbraided her; her new relatives denounced her and demanded of
the husband that she should be driven like Hagar to the desert - to a desert where there was no angled to open the weeping wanderer's eyes and discover to her the well flowing with healing waters. The months of her purity counted as nothing in her favor; her husband brought her to this city and left to misery and crime. She lately resided on Vance Street, near the first bayou, passing by the name her husband first knew her by-Alice Simpson. She had been plunged into her early wrong course on her first return to the city, but had lately been industriously engaged in sewing for a living, and it was beloved was striving hard to lay aside finally the slough of her past life, and to
maintain herself by honest labor. But that banishment from the brief paradise in which she had enjoyed the society of the pure and the respect of the good, she could not forget. Ceaselessly she turned her eyes back to those doors eternally closed to her, and saw no more the brightness that was within, only the fierce glittering of the flaming
sword that tuned every was repelling her from hope. That brief interval of pure wifehood had awakened within the knowing consciousness of what she lost when her honor was robbed from by the honey-tongued seducer in her girlish, thoughtless days. This brief sojourn with good had been the fruit communicating to her a knowledge
of good and evil too bitter to be borne. Despairing, she sought the sad fatal refuge of despair. On Thursday night [November 28] she took a large dose of morphine; yesterday Alice Simpson was a corpse and a suicide. How sad must be that sin whose anguish is increased by communion with virtue.

Memphis Daily Appeal, December 5, 1861.

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