A murder that scandalised Harvard and the world

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Parkman in one piece

Blood & Ivy: The 1849 Murder That Scandalised Harvard. By Paul Collins. W.W. Norton & Company; 320 pages; $26.95 and £21.99.

VISITING Boston in 1868, Charles Dickens was asked what he wanted to see most. The room where it happened, Dickens said—by which he meant the scene of a grisly murder that had scandalised the city nearly two decades earlier. The crime had all the ghoulish ingredients of a potboiler: the sudden disappearance of a wealthy landowner and Harvard graduate, George Parkman (pictured); another Harvard man—John Webster, a professor of chemistry and mineralogy—as prime suspect; a dismembered body presumed to be the victim’s; a sullen janitor who supplied the anatomy laboratory with cadavers; and a trial reported in screaming headlines.

In “Blood & Ivy”, Paul Collins ushers readers into that fabled room—and the incestuously tight world of Brahmin…Continue reading

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