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Romance! Intrigue! Mystery! Daniel Thomas Egerton

1 November 2014

Apparently, it’s “National Novel Writing Month”… somewhere or another (never heard of it myself)… but for those stuck for a plot:

from "Fashionable Bores, or Coolers in High Life, by Peter Quiz' 1824

from “Fashionable Bores, or Coolers in High Life, by Peter Quiz’ 1824

Daniel Thomas Egerton (born 1797), a founding members of the Society of British Artists married Georgiana Dickens in 1818, , had three children, and by all accounts made a comfortable living producing humourous lithographs of British street life.   But, like many artists of the early 19th century, he was always on the lookout for the picaresque and exotic for subject matter.  In 1831, he traveled to Mexico, travelled extensively and painted his best known works.  Returning home in 1836, his paintings of Mexican landscapes and city life were a critical success, as was his 184o series of lithographs, Egerton’s Views of Mexico.

And… now for you romance novelists:

In July 1841, Egerton abandoned Georgiana and took off for Mexico, accompanied by the teen-aged Agnes Edwards, his printer’s daughter. 

And… for you mystery writers:

Daniel and Agnes lived a reclusive existence in Tacuba, keeping irregular hours and… despite his fame abroad… secretive about their personal affairs.  Many, even in the British expat community, did not even know the artist was among them, until he and Agnes were murdered on the  the 27th of April, 1842 while on the road to Xola.

mexikanische_landschaft_xochi_hiNow the plot thickens…

Egerton’s brother had also emigrated abroad… to the Republic of Texas, which Mexico still claimed was their territory in 1842.  The brother was making a good living selling real estate, most of which seemed to belong to Mexicans.  And, while he made a comfortable living as an artist back in Britain, Daniel Egerton certainly didn’t have the wherewithall to have paid for his previous “working vacation” in Mexico, nor to be draping 19 year old Alice in jewelry. 

When demands that “something be done” about the murder  were raised in Parliament back in old Blighty, the Foreign Minister was quick to assure Parliament that the matter was being looked into to the govement’s satisfaction. 


The British Ambassador was quick to accept the standard Mexican official finding that this was a simple street robbery gone wrong.  This, despite the fact that both Egerton and Alice were wearing expensive jewelry, and Egerton was carrying a large amount of money.  Neither the jewelry nor the money was taken.  And, strangely, there were eyewitnesses to Egerton and Alice being detained by four men with pistols, although both died of multiple stab wounds.  



Three men were arrested and tried for the crime  Despite their alibis (which were never checked), all were found guilty of murder and robbery.  Two were hanged, protesting their innocence, and  (some say on the personal behest of HIs Excellency Don Antonio López de Santa Anna) one simply walked out of prison and disappeared… to Texas?

Or, if your tastes run to international intrigue:

The 1820s and 30s, when Egerton first came to Mexico were also the years in which the British were doing everything possible to penetrate Latin America, seeing the collapse of the Spanish Empire as an opportunity… not to pick up more landscape, but to exploit the resources.  As early as 1825, when Britian became one of the first European nations to recognize the Mexican Republic, Prime Minister Geroge Canning declared “Spanish America is free, and if we do not mismanage our affairs she is English … the New World established and if we do not throw it away, ours.”  British “travelers” throughout Latin America… especially those with a good eye and a plausible reason for doing nothing but roaming the countryside… were often as not “informal” employees of His Majesty. 


And by 1842, when it became clear that Mexico was unlikely to regain control, both Britain and France expressed an interest in creating a protectorate over the Texas Republic.  Many in Santa Anna’s inner circle, especially his sometime Secretary of Foreign Relations, the conservative historian and writer, Lucas Alemán, particuarly favored the idea, as a buffer against the greater danger of an expanding United States.  And there were those, in Texas, Mexico and Britian, who stood to materially gain from land sales.

And… for those who want a nice speculative romantic intrigue mystery thiller: 

Alice was eight months pregnant at the time of her death.  Meaning, she conceived in September 1841… after returning to Mexico.  Was the 45 year old Egerton the father?  A jealous boyfriend?  An “auto-sequestro” gone wrong? Maybe Alice was the secret agent, who gave her all for King and Country.  Or maybe a British spy investigating Texas land fraud fell in love with Alice and hoped to live happily ever after on the Texas frontier ran afoul of the jealous boyfriend who planned only to have Egerton murder.  Or Alice’s dad had connections we never knew about.? Or what about Georgiana?  Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and all that.  Egerton’s two sons… what about them?  the Royal Academy and the Society of British Artists were behind it…


C’mon you novelists… get crackin’!

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