This is a piece on shoplifting that was published originally in the New Yorker in 2011.
In 1980, Lady Isobel Barnett was found guilty of stealing a can of tuna and a carton of cream and fined about £75. Barnett was a very public figure. For a decade or more, from the early nineteen-fifties, she had been a regular on the English version of “What’s My Line?” and on BBC Radio’s “Question Time.” Often assumed to be an aristocrat (actually, her title came from her husband, who was the mayor of Leicester), she was a quintessential lady—fine-featured, well dressed, and always with sensible, moderate opinions about the world and its doings. She embodied British deceny, uprightness, and charm.
By the time of the conviction, Barnett was a widow in her sixties, no longer a media star, and evidently depressed. Still, she couldn’t possibly have been short of the money to…
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