A Book of Remarkable Criminals HTML version
well be explained by the fact that the convicted criminal has been found out.
Crime has been happily defined by a recent and most able investigator into the
character of the criminal as "an unusual act committed by a perfectly normal
person." At the same time, according to the same authority, there is a type of
normal person who tends to be convicted of crime, and he is differentiated from
his fellows by defective physique and mental capacity and an increased
possession of antisocial qualities.
 "The English Convict," a statistical study, by Charles Goring, M.D. His
Majesty's Stationery Office, 1913.
 Murderers--at least those executed for their crimes--have not for obvious
reasons been made the subject of close scientific observation. Their mental
capacity would in all probability be found to be rather higher than that of less
How does Peace answer to the definition? Though short in stature, his physical
development left little to be desired: he was active, agile, and enjoyed excellent
health at all times. For a man of forty-seven he had aged remarkably in
appearance. That is probably to be accounted for by mental worry. With two
murders on his conscience we know from Sue Thompson that all she learnt of his
secrets was what escaped from him in his troubled dreams--Peace may well
have shown traces of mental anxiety. But in all other respects Charles Peace
would seem to have been physically fit. In intellectual capacity he was
undoubtedly above the average of the ordinary criminal. The facts of his career,
his natural gifts, speak for themselves. Of anti-social proclivities he no doubt
possessed his share at the beginning, and these were aggravated, as in most
cases they were in his day, by prison life and discipline.
Judged as scientifically as is possible where the human being is concerned,
Peace stands out physically and intellectually well above the average of his
class, perhaps the most naturally gifted of all those who, without advantages of
rank or education, have tried their hands at crime. Ordinary crime for the most
part would appear to be little better than the last resort of the intellectually
defective, and a poor game at that. The only interesting criminals are those
worthy of something better. Peace was one of these. If his life may be said to
point a moral, it is the very simple one that crime is no career for a man of brains.