The insanity of love? Why would Rev James Hackman shoot the woman he loved?

7 min readOct 11, 2021

Can it be true, as the writers of great novels have often told us, that love is a kind of madness? Perhaps, on the other hand, insanity can destroy the very object of its affections. Something beyond rational explanation, certainly, seems to have afflicted the Reverend James Hackman, who shot the woman he loved, outside the theatre in London, on 7th April 1779.

Here is the story, so judge for yourself.

Reverend James Hackman (from Wikimedia Commons)

James Hackman was born and grew up in Gosport in the county of Hampshire on the South Coast of England. From a comfortable background, his parents wanted him to develop as a businessman. It soon became clear, however, that his temperament was not suited to the world of trade and so his parents, not giving up just yet, purchased a commission in the army for him. During his time in the army he was sent with a group of soldiers to recruit for the army in Huntingdon. It was there that he made himself known to the hospitable Earl of Sandwich.

The Earl of Sandwich (this was in fact the fourth Earl, but the very same one who gave his name to the two slices of bread around a piece of beef, thus ensuring that he could continue at the gaming table) had separated from his wife and long ago taken up with one Margaret Reay (sometimes known as Martha…