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Women and the World of Dime Novels

Emeline Lawrence

Example of:
The ruined woman

Featured in:
The midnight lamp; or, Life in the Empire City

 The midnight lamp; or, Life in the Empire City
"… all that I want is him—him for whom I have left husband, children, friends, everything that a good woman should prize. Alas, I am no longer good. For him I have taken a step, which, when it is known to the world, will brand me forever with shame. … Why does he not send for me? It cannot be that he has tired of my charms already. If I thought that could be, I would go mad—I would go raving mad." (46)

Emeline Lawrence is the wife of a Boston businessman, until a young man named Martin Haley lures her away from him. Martin has stolen money from Emeline’s husband and taken to New York City. When Martin learns that a New York detective is onto him, he leaves Emeline in the hotel with plenty of money to keep her comfortable. However, he has done what Emeline fears: taken up with another woman, a waitress in a saloon. In spite of the false trail Emeline laid, her husband becomes aware of what she has done, but he has no desire to reunite with her.

"What will you do? will you not go on to New York after her?"
"Not after
her. She is lost to me forever. Nothing can wipe out her shame. She is an alien to my breast and my house forever. But I will go to push forward the measures for his arrest. And to secure such evidence of her guilt as will gain me a divorce." (51)

The detective following Martin arrests him and asks Emeline’s husband to come to New York to provide testimony. The detective has also planned a trap to reveal both of Martin’s lovers to each other. They are both at the trial, waiting in a room adjacent to the court. Though they are in the room together, neither woman knows why the other is there. When the women hear Martin’s name in the course of the trial, they both sprint into the court room and are confronted with his scandalous behavior toward of them. In the midst of this debacle, Emeline's husband, Eliphalet, enters the court room.

"You here—you here Eliphalet Lawrence?"
"Yes, woman, to send that man to prison for a life-long term. To brand you with infamy—to blazon your shame, and my wrongs to a shuddering world!"
"Man—man—I defy you! I hate and spit upon you! I abhor you. I loathe your presence. I love Martin Haley and I glory in it!" 

When Martin’s other lover hears of his behavior, she stabs him and then herself. Emeline runs to Martin and clasps his dying body before fainting. When she comes to, she sees the blood in her hands and believes that she has murdered Martin and his lover. She goes mad as a result of Martin’s treachery and death. It is decided that she should be taken to a hospital for the insane.

“It is better for her, Sir, that reason has left her … For with reason, nothing but endless agony and eternal remorse would be hers. You could not take her back to your bosom with her sin upon her soul. … It is better—better for her and you, that reason has left her, and were I in your place, I would pray that it might never return."  (90)

Emeline Lawrence