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The Littlehampton LibelsA Miscarriage of Justice and a Mystery about Words in 1920s England$
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Christopher Hilliard

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198799658

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198799658.001.0001

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A Case of Handwriting

A Case of Handwriting

(p.73) 5 A Case of Handwriting
The Littlehampton Libels

Christopher Hilliard

Oxford University Press

At this point the chapters catch up in time with the events narrated in the prologue. Chapter 5 begins by recounting George Nicholls’ discoveries in June 1921. The detective searched the Goodings’ and Swans’ houses and took from the Swans’ a quantity of blotting paper that bore the imprint of some of the libels. Rose Gooding’s handwriting was very different. When Sir Archibald Bodkin, the Director of Public Prosecutions, read Nicholls’ report, he declared that this was fundamentally ‘a case of handwriting’. How, Bodkin mused, could an ‘uneducated’ woman develop such a distinctive style? The chapter uses Bodkin’s reaction to Rose Gooding’s letters, the evidence provided by spelling and misspelling, and the inventory of writing paraphernalia in the Gooding and Swan households, to explore the relationship between popular literacy and agency, engaging with the recent work of Jane Caplan and Patrick Joyce.

Keywords:   handwriting, education, legibility, state, bureaucracy, mail, paper, writing, evidence

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