Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Beauchampe; or, The Kentucky Tragedy. A Tale of Passion. >> Beauchampe; or, The Kentucky Tragedy. A Tale of Passion. >> Chapter IV

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Chapter IV

Novel (Romance) | Lea and Blanchard | 1842


            Early in the morning of 7 November 1825, in the town of Frankfort, KY, a young lawyer named Jereboam O. Beauchamp crept to the house of the state attorney general, Solomon P. Sharp, and stabbed him to death.  The murder was orchestrated to avenge the honor of Anna Cook[1], Beauchamp’s wife, who as a single woman had been seduced, impregnated, and abandoned by Sharp[2].  The event was a national sensation immediately following its discovery and Beauchamp’s capture days later.  Following Cook and Beauchamp’s failed joint suicide attempt and the latter’s subsequent execution, the event has entered the realm of legend and come to be referred to as the “Kentucky Tragedy.” As such, it has inspired a spate of literary treatments from its own time to the present.  Writers such as Thomas Holley Chivers, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Fenno Hoffman, John Savage, and Robert Penn Warren have all penned works based on these events.  Simms’s own version of the story was originally published in 1842 as a two-volume work titled Beauchampe; or, the Kentucky Tragedy. A Tale of Passion.  Later, in 1856, Simms edited and expanded the work into two separately-titled novels.  The first he called Charlemont; or, the Pride of the Village. A Tale of Kentucky and the second retained the title Beauchampe.  The first volume details the early life of the heroine in her frontier Kentucky village, including her gradual seduction by a pseudonymous Sharp.  As such, this portion of the story is almost entirely fictional.  The second volume, conversely, stays very close to the historical record of the murder and aftermath.