“In 1800, Jane Austen’s aunt, Jane Leigh Perrot, was tried for stealing a card of white lace from a milliner’s in Bath. She was wealthy and well connected. In her defense she explained, ‘Placed in a situation the most eligible that any woman could desire, with supplies so ample that I was left rich after every wish was gratified; blessed in the affections of the most generous man as a husband, what could induce me to commit such a crime?’ The jury was convinced of the absurdity of the charge and acquitted her in fifteen minutes.”

People, you can’t make this stuff up. The above is from “The History of Shoplifting” by Jenny Diski in the September 26 issue of The New Yorker. The link goes to an article abstract. If you can still find this issue on the newsstand, it’s worth picking up. (My New Yorkers always come late — I think they get stuck in customs at the Texas border.)

This must be the Austen skeleton in the closet. Every family has a black sheep; no doubt Aunt Leigh (I’m sure she went by Aunt Leigh) was also quite wild in her youth.

I love these glimmers into the past. And it just goes to show how present the past remains. Shoplifting! For every unfathomable cultural oddity, like adopting your children out to wealthy relatives, there’s shoplifting.

Shocking! Doesn't Aunt Leigh know that a woman's reputation is her most glorious raiment?

Oh, Mary. Don't you know that well-behaved women rarely make history? I didn't think so.



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