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Mary Paterson, or, The Fatal Error is a high-Victorian tale of the tragic life, and sorry end, of poor Mary Paterson: her fall from grace, her unhappy loves – and her final grisly demise at the hands of Burke and Hare, who kept Edinburgh’s anatomists supplied with freshly manufactured corpses. But the melodrama doesn’t stop with Mary lying cold upon the dissecting slab: David Pae’s galloping novel, originally serialised in the Dundee People’s Journal in 1864 and 1865, hounds Burke and Hare to their capture and trial, leads Burke to the gallows, and thereafter follows Hare and his accomplices to their various just deserts.
The Scottish writer David Pae was one of the most successful serial novelists of his day. Edited by Caroline McCracken-Flesher, this new edition of Pae’s original and unexpurgated tale not only provides a fascinating window into the popular Victorian imagination but is also a highly entertaining novel in its own right.
Caroline McCracken-Flesher is Professor and Chair in the Department of English at the University of Wyoming. She has published widely on Scottish literature and culture, and edited the book Scotland as Science Fiction (Bucknell). Other books include Possible Scotlands: Walter Scott and the Story of Tomorrow, The Doctor Dissected: A Cultural Autopsy of the Burke and Hare Murders, both from Oxford University Press, and the edited volume Culture, Nation and the New Scottish Parliament (Bucknell).
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Mary Paterson, or, The Fatal Error
List of Historical Figures
Cover image: Burke and Hare dolls, by Mary Archibald.
Cover design: Mark Blackadder.
Last updated 27 May 2015.