6 SEPTEMBER 1890, Page 25

Strange Crimes. By William Westall. (Ward and Downey.)— Mr. Westall

has used his title in a very vague sense. There is generally something strange in connection with the crimes he relates, either as to their incidents, or their motives, or their punishment. But very few of them are really strange as crimes, —i.e., in their motive for the transgression of the law. Indeed, most of them are crimes committed for the sake of gain or pleasure, as the great majority of all crimes are. One of the strangest, perhaps, is the crime, for at that time it was a crime, for which Latude suffered so many years' imprisonment,—namely, the writing epigrams on Madame de Pompadour after he had been placed in prison for a real crime, the attempt to make money out of her by inventing a story that there was a plot to poison her. The reckless vanity which induced him and his fellow-prisoner more than once to attack her for the mere sake of literary revenge, while they were still either in her power, or so nearly within it that it was certain she could recover the power of torturing them, is a curiosity in its way. One would have thought that after suffering so long an imprison- ment for a real crime against her, they would hardly have been so rash as to write epigrams on her in prison, and send defiances to her when they had escaped from prison ; but nothing seems more certain than the frequent triviality of the motive for which very terrible penalties are risked, and for which very atrocious crimes are often committed. Perhaps nothing is stranger than such crimes as those of the various Brinvilliers, of which we have at least two examples in this book, in the story cf Madame Gottfried's crimes and of Mademoiselle Jeanneret's. That there are persons who commit murder for the sake of enjoying the sense of power which putting to death a'.one gives them in perfection, appears to be perfectly certain. The book is full of the sort of interest which attaches to all bold transgression ; but we are not sure that books of this kind are very wholesome reading. At the same time, Mr. Westall includes no stories of a character to pollute the mind.