In a letter Dickens refers to Thomas De Quincey’s essay on the infamous Radcliffe Highway murders which had taken place in 1811. De Quincey gives a masterly account of the murders, capturing all the suspense and horror of the crimes as well as describing the terror of the populace. Dickens had read De Quincey’s essay on murder as well as De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater, the influence of which is seen in The Mystery of Edwin Drood which, of course, combines murder with opium. Interestingly De Quincey knew Thomas Wainewright, the notorious killer, who, when he was not murdering his relatives, was an artist and writer and encountered by Dickens in Newgate Prison.
Q is also for Quinliven
The Household Narrative of Current Events (1850) reports that an old man named Quinliven was found guilty of the murder of a poor woman whose husband left her two shillings to support her while he was away looking for work. Quinliven, a neighbour, knew about the two shillings and ‘committed the crime for the sake of that wretched amount.’