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Title: Lives and exploits of the most noted highwaymen, robbers and murderers of all nations

Author: Charles Whitehead

Release date: August 15, 2022 [eBook #68752]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: Silas Andrus & Son, 1847

Credits: Brian Coe and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This book was produced from images made available by the HathiTrust Digital Library.)


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two men on horseback in the woods



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Claude Du Vall, 7
Sawney Beane, 14
Thomas Wynne, 18
Thomas Witherington, 22
James Batson, 34
Mulled Sack, alias John Cottington, 47
Capt. James Hind, 50
The German Princess, 61
Capt. Dudley, 76
William Nevison, 89
The Golden Farmer, 99
Jonathan Simpson, 104
William Cady, 107
Patrick O’Brian, 114
Thomas Rumbold, 117
Whitney, 134
Tim Buckeley, 144
Tom Jones, 147
Arthur Chambers, 151
Stephen Bunce, 157
Jack Ovet, 164
Tom Dorbel, 169
Dick Adams, 172
William Gettings, 176
Ned Bonnet, 181
Will Ogden and Tom Reynolds, 187
John Price, 190
Jack Shepherd, 194
Richard Turpin, 201
Henry Simms, 216
James Maclaine, 229
Eugene Aram, 245
George Barrington, 260
James Porter, 281

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Claude Du Vall

Claude Du Vall. P. 7.

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It might very naturally be objected to us by some, that we should introduce into our work the life of any highwayman, however celebrated, whose fortune it was to have been born in France; but, without insisting upon the celebrity of the person whose life we are about to narrate, it will be sufficient to inform the objecting reader, that many of the adventures achieved by Claude du Vall were performed in England, and that he is accordingly, to all intents and purposes, although a Frenchman by birth, an English highwayman.

This noted person was born at Domfront, in Normandy.[1] His father was a miller, and his mother[Pg 8] was descended from a worshipful race of tailors. He was brought up in the Catholic faith, and received an education suited to the profession for which he was intended,—namely, that of a footman. But, although his father was careful to train up his son in the religion of his ancestors, he was himself utterly without religion. He talked more of good cheer than of the church; of sumptuous feasts than of ardent faith; of good wine than of good works.

Du Vall’s parents were exempted from the trouble and expense of rearing their son at the age of thirteen. We first find him at Rouen, the principal city of Normandy, in the character of a stable-boy. Here he fortunately found retour horses going to Paris: upon one of these he was permitted to ride, on condition of assisting to dress them at night. His expenses were likewise defrayed by some English travellers whom he met upon the road.

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Arrived at Paris, he continued at the same inn where the Englishmen put up, and by running messages, or performing the meanest offices, subsisted for a while. He continued in this humble station until the restoration of Charles II., when multitudes from the continent resorted to England. In the character of a footman to a person of quality, Du Vall also repaired to England. The universal joy which seized the nation upon that happy event contaminated the morals of all: riot, dissipation, and every species of profligacy abounded. The young and sprightly French footman entered keenly into these amusements. His funds, however, being soon exhausted, he deemed it no great crime for a Frenchman to exact contributions from the English. In a short time, he became so dexterous in his new employment, that he had the honor of being first named in an advertisement issued for the apprehending of some notorious robbers.

One day, Du Vall and some others espied a knight and his lady travelling along in their coach. Seeing themselves in danger of being attacked, the lady resorted to a flageolet, and commenced playing, which she did very dexterously. Du Vall taking the hint, pulled one out of his pocket, began to play, and in this posture approached the coach. “Sir,” said he to the knight, “your lady performs excellently, and I make no doubt she dances well; will you step out of the coach, and let us have the honor to dance a courant with her upon the heath?” “I dare not deny any thing, sir,” replied the knight readily, “to a gentleman of your quality and good behavior; you seem a man of generosity, and your request is perfectly reasonable.” Immediately the footman opened the door, and the knight came out. Du Vall leaped lightly off his horse, and handed the lady down. It was surprising to see how gracefully he moved upon the grass: scarcely a dancing-master in London but would have been proud to have shown such agility in a pair of pumps, as Du Vall evinced in a pair of French riding-boots. As soon as the dance was over, he[Pg 10] handed the lady to the coach, but just as the knight was stepping in, “Sir,” said he, “you forget to pay the music.” His worship replied, that he never forgot such things, and instantly put his hand under the seat of the coach, pulled out one hundred pounds in a bag which he delivered to Du Vall, who received it with a very good grace, and courteously answered, “Sir you are liberal, and shall have no cause to regret your generosity; this hundred pounds, given so handsomely is better than ten times the sum taken by force. Your noble behavior has excused you the other three hundred pounds which you have in the coach with you.” After this, he gave him his word that he might pass undisturbed, if he met any other of his crew, and then wished them a good journey.

At another time, Du Vall and some of his associates met a coach upon Blackheath, full of ladies, and a child with them. One of the gang rode up to the coach, and in a rude manner robbed the ladies of their watches and rings, and even seized a silver sucking bottle of the child’s. The infant cried bitterly for its bottle, and the ladies earnestly entreated he would only return that article to the child, which he barbarously refused. Du Vall went forward to discover what detained his accomplice, and, the ladies renewing their entreaties to him, he instantly threatened to shoot his companion, unless he returned that article, saying, “Sirrah, can’t you behave like a gentleman and raise a contribution without stripping people? but, perhaps, you had some occasion for the sucking-bottle, for, by your actions, one would imagine you were hardly weaned.” This smart reproof had the desired effect, and Du Vall, in a courteous manner, took his leave of the ladies.

One day Du Vall met Roper, master of the hounds to Charles II., who was hunting in Windsor Forest; and, taking the advantage of a thicket, demanded his money, or he would instantly take his life. Roper, without hesitation, gave him his purse, containing at least fifty guineas: in return for which, Du Vall bound[Pg 11] him neck and heel, tied his horse to a tree beside him, and rode across the country.

It was a considerable time before the huntsmen discovered their master. The squire, being at length released, made all possible haste to Windsor, unwilling to venture himself into any more thickets for that day, whatever might be the fortune of the hunt. Entering the town, he was accosted by Sir Stephen Fox, who inquired if he had had any sport. “Sport!” replied Roper, in a great passion, “yes, sir, I have had sport enough from a villain who made me pay full dear for it; he bound me neck and heels, contrary to my desire, and then took fifty guineas from me to pay him for his labor, which I had much rather he had omitted.”

England now became too contracted a sphere for the talents of our adventurer; and, in consequence of a proclamation issued for his detection, and his notoriety in the kingdom, Du Vall retired to his native country. At Paris he lived in a very extravagant style, and carried on war with rich travellers and fair ladies, and proudly boasted that he was equally successful with both; but his warfare with the latter was infinitely more agreeable, though much less profitable, than with the former.

There is one adventure of Du Vall at Paris, which we shall lay before our readers. There was in that city a learned Jesuit, confessor to the French king, who had rendered himself eminent, both by his politics and his avarice. His thirst for money was insatiable, and increased with his riches. Du Vall devised the following plan to obtain a share of the immense wealth of this pious father.

To facilitate his admittance into the Jesuit’s company, he dressed himself as a scholar, and, waiting a favorable opportunity, went up to him very confidently, and addressed him as follows: “May it please your reverence, I am a poor scholar, who have been several years travelling over strange countries, to learn experience in the sciences, principally to serve mine own[Pg 12] country, for whose advantage I am determined to apply my knowledge, if I may be favored with the patronage of a man so eminent as yourself.” “And what may this knowledge of yours be?” replied the father, very much pleased. “If you will communicate any thing to me that may be beneficial to France, I assure you, no proper encouragement shall be wanting on my side.” Du Vall, upon this, growing bolder, proceeded: “Sir, I have spent most of my time in the study of alchymy, or the transmutation of metals, and have profited so much at Rome and Venice, from great men learned in that science, that I can change several metals into gold, by the help of a philosophical powder which I can prepare very speedily.”

The father confessor was more elated with this communication than all the discoveries he had obtained in the way of his profession, and his knowledge even of his royal penitent’s most private secrets gave him less delight than the prospect of immense riches which now burst upon his avaricious mind. “Friend,” said he, “such a thing as this will be serviceable to the whole state, and particularly grateful to the king, who, as his affairs go at present, stands in great need of such a curious invention. But you must let me see some proof of your skill, before I credit what you say, so far as to communicate it to his majesty, who will sufficiently reward you, if what you promise be demonstrated.” Upon this, the confessor conducted Du Vall to his house, and furnished him with money to erect a laboratory, and to purchase such other materials as were requisite, in order to proceed in this invaluable operation, charging him to keep the secret from every living soul. Utensils being fixed, and every thing in readiness, the Jesuit came to witness the wonderful operation. Du Vall took several metals and minerals of the basest sort, and put them in a crucible, his reverence viewing every one as he put them in. Our alchymist had prepared a hollow tube, into which he conveyed several sprigs of real gold; with this seeming stick he stirred the operation,[Pg 13] which, with its heat, melted the gold, and the tube at the same time, so that it sank imperceptibly into the vessel. When the excessive fire had consumed all the different materials which he had put in, the gold remained pure, to the quantity of an ounce and a half. This the Jesuit ordered to be examined, and, ascertaining that it was actually pure gold, he became devoted to Du Vall, and, blinded with the prospect of future advantage, credited every thing our impostor said, furnishing him with whatever he demanded, in hopes of being made master of this extraordinary secret. Thus were our alchymist and Jesuit, according to the old saying, as “great as two pickpockets.” Du Vall was a professed robber; and what is a court favorite but a picker of the people’s pockets? So that it was two sharpers endeavoring to outsharp one another. The confessor was as candid as Du Vall could wish; he showed him all his treasures, and several rich jewels which he had received from the king; hoping, by these obligations, to incline him to discover his wonderful secrets with more alacrity. In short, he became so importunate, that Du Vall was apprehensive of too minute an inquiry, if he denied the request any longer: he therefore appointed a day when the whole was to be disclosed. In the mean time, he took an opportunity of stealing into the chamber where the riches were deposited, and where his reverence generally slept after dinner; finding him in deep repose, he gently bound him, then took his keys, and unhoarded as much of his wealth as he could carry off unsuspected; after which, he quickly took leave of him and France.

It is uncertain how long Du Vall continued his depredations after his return to England; but we are informed, that in a fit of intoxication he was detected at the Hole-in-the-Wall, in Chandos street, committed to Newgate, convicted, condemned, and executed at Tyburn, in the twenty-seventh year of his age, on the 1st of January 1669: and so much had his gallantries and handsome figure rendered him the favorite of the[Pg 14] fair sex, that many a bright eye was dimmed at his funeral; his corpse was bedewed with the tears of beauty, and his actions and death were celebrated by the immortal author of the inimitable Hudibras. He was buried with many flambeaux, amidst a numerous train of mourners, (most of them ladies,) in the middle aisle of the church in Covent Garden.


[1] We find, by reference to an old Life of Du Vall, published in 1670, that Domfront was a place by no means unlikely to have produced our adventurer. Indeed, it appears that common honesty was a most uncommon ingredient in the moral economy of the place, as the following curious extract from the work in question will abundantly testify:—

“In the days of Charles IX. the curate of Domfront, (for so the French name him whom we call parson, and vicar,) out of his own head began a strange innovation and oppression in that parish; that is, he absolutely denied to baptize any of their children, if they would not, at the same time, pay him his funeral fees: and what was worse, he would give them no reason for this alteration, but only promised to enter bond for himself and successors, that hereafter, all persons paying so at their christening should be buried gratis. What think ye the poor people did in this case? They did not pull his surplice over his ears, nor tear his mass-book, nor throw crickets at his head: no, they humbly desired him to alter his resolutions, and amicably reasoned with him; but he, being a capricious fellow, gave them no other answer, but ‘What I have done, I have done; take your remedy where you can find it; it is not for men of my coat to give an account of my actions to the laity;’ which was a surly and quarrelsome answer, and unbefitting a priest. Yet this did not provoke his parishioners to speak one ill word against his person or function, or to do any illegal act. They only took the regular way of complaining of him to his ordinary, the archbishop of Rouen. Upon summons, he appears: the archbishop takes him up roundly, tells him he deserves deprivation, if that can be proved which is objected against him, and asked him what he had to say for himself. After his due reverence, he answers, that he acknowledges the fact, to save the time of examining witnesses; but desires his grace to hear his reasons, and then do unto him as he shall see cause. ‘I have,’ says he, ‘been curate of this parish seven years; in that time I have, one year with another, baptized a hundred children, and buried not one. At first I rejoiced at my good fortune to be placed in so good an air; but, looking into the register-book, I found, for a hundred years back, near the same number yearly baptized, and no one above five years old buried; and which did more amaze me, I find the number of communicants to be no greater now than they were then. This seemed to me a great mystery; but, upon farther inquiry, I found out the true cause of it; for all that were born at Domfront were hanged at Rouen. I did this to keep my parishioners from hanging, encouraging them to die at home, the burial duties being already paid.’

“The archbishop demanded of the parishioners whether this was true or not. They answered, that too many of them came to that unlucky end at Rouen. ‘Well, then,’ says he, ‘I approve of what the curate has done, and will cause my secretary, in perpetuam rei memoriam, to make an act of it;’ which act the curate carried home with him, and the parish cheerfully submitted to it, and have found much good by it; for within less than twenty years, there died fifteen of natural deaths, and now there die three or four yearly.”


The following narrative presents such a picture of human barbarity, that, were it not attested by the most unquestionable historical evidence, it would be rejected as altogether fabulous and incredible.

Sawney Beane was born in the county of East Lothian, about eight miles east of Edinburgh, in the reign of James I. of Scotland. His father was a hedger and ditcher, and brought up his son to the same laborious employment. Naturally idle and vicious, he abandoned that place in company with a young woman equally idle and profligate, and retired to the deserts of Galloway, where they took up their habitation by the sea-side. The place which Sawney and his wife selected for their dwelling was a cave of about a mile in length, and of considerable breadth, so near the sea, that the tide often penetrated into the cave above two hundred yards. The entry had many intricate windings and turnings, leading to the extremity of the subterraneous dwelling, which was literally “the habitation of horrid cruelty.”

Sawney and his wife took shelter in this cave, and commenced their depredations. To prevent the possibility of detection, they murdered every person they robbed. Destitute also of the means of obtaining any other food, they resolved to live upon human flesh. Accordingly, when they had murdered any man, woman,[Pg 15] or child, they carried them to their den, quartered them, salted the limbs, and dried them for food. In this manner they lived, carrying on their depredations and murder, until they had eight sons and six daughters, eighteen grandsons and fourteen granddaughters, all the offspring of incest.

But though they soon became numerous, yet such was the multitude which fell into their hands, that they had often superabundance of provisions, and would, at a distance from their own habitation, throw legs and arms of dried human bodies into the sea by night. These were often cast out by the tide, and taken up by the country people, to the great consternation and dismay of all the surrounding inhabitants. Nor could any one discover what had befallen the many friends, relations, and neighbors who had unfortunately fallen into the hands of these merciless cannibals.

In proportion as Sawney’s family increased, every one that was able acted his part in these horrid assassinations. They would sometimes attack four or six men on foot, but never more than two upon horseback. To prevent the possibility of escape, they would lie in ambush in every direction, that if they escaped those who first attacked, they might be assailed with renewed fury by another party, and inevitably murdered. By this means they always secured their prey, and prevented detection.

At last, however, the vast number who were slain roused the inhabitants of the country, and all the woods and lurking-places were carefully searched; yet, though they often passed by the mouth of the horrible den, it was never once suspected that any human being resided there. In this state of uncertainty and suspense concerning the authors of such frequent massacres, several innocent travellers and innkeepers were taken up on suspicion, because the persons who were missing had been seen last in their company, or had last resided at their houses. The effect of this well-meant and severe justice constrained the greater[Pg 16] part of the innkeepers in those parts to abandon such employments, to the great inconvenience of those who travelled through that district.

Meanwhile, the country became depopulated, and the whole nation was at a loss to account for the numerous and unheard-of villanies and cruelties that were perpetrated, without the slightest clue to the discovery of the abominable actors. At length Providence interposed in the following manner to terminate the horrible scene. One evening, a man and his wife were riding home upon the same horse from a fair which had been held in the neighborhood, and, being attacked, the husband made a most vigorous resistance: his wife, however, was dragged from behind him, carried to a little distance, and her entrails instantly taken out. Struck with grief and horror, the husband continued to redouble his efforts to escape, and even trod some of the assassins down under his horse’s feet. Fortunately for him, and for the inhabitants of that part of the country, in the mean time, twenty or thirty in a company came riding home from the fair. Upon their approach, Sawney and his bloody crew fled into a thick wood, and hastened to their infernal den.

This man, who was the first that had ever escaped out of their hands, related to his neighbors what had happened, and showed them the mangled body of his wife lying at a distance, the bloodthirsty wretches not having time to carry it along with them. They were all struck with astonishment and horror, took him with them to Glasgow, and reported the whole adventure to the chief magistrate of the city, who, upon this information, instantly wrote to the king, informing him of the matter.

In a few days, his majesty in person, accompanied by four hundred men, went in quest of the perpetrators of these horrible cruelties. The man, whose wife had been murdered before his eyes, went as their guide, with a great number of bloodhounds, that no possible means might be left unattempted to discover the haunt of such execrable villains.

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They searched the woods, and traversed and examined the sea-shore; but, though they passed by the entrance into their cave, they had no suspicion that any creature resided in that dark and dismal abode. Fortunately, however, some of the bloodhounds entered the cave, raising an uncommon barking and noise, an indication that they were about to seize their prey. The king and his men returned, but could scarcely conceive how any human being could reside in a place of utter darkness, and where the entrance was difficult and narrow; but, as the bloodhounds increased in their vociferation, and refused to return, it occurred to all that the cave ought to be explored to the extremity. Accordingly, a sufficient number of torches was provided; the hounds were permitted to pursue their course; a great number of men penetrated through all the intricacies of the path, and at length arrived at the private residence of the horrible cannibals.

They were followed by all the band, who were shocked to behold a sight unequalled in Scotland, if not in any part of the universe. Legs, arms, thighs, hands, and feet, of men, women, and children, were suspended in rows like dried beef. Some limbs and other members were soaked in pickle; while a great mass of money, both of gold and silver, watches, rings, pistols, clothes, both linen and woollen, with an immense quantity of other articles, were either thrown together in heaps, or suspended upon the sides of the cave.

The whole cruel, brutal family, to the number formerly mentioned, were seized; the human flesh buried in the sand of the sea-shore; the immense booty carried away, and the king marched to Edinburgh with the prisoners. This new and wretched spectacle attracted the attention of the inhabitants, who flocked from all quarters to see, as they passed along, so bloody and unnatural a family, which had increased, in the space of twenty-five years, to the number of twenty-seven men and twenty-one women. Arrived in the capital, they were all confined in the Tolbooth under[Pg 18] a strong guard, and were next day conducted to the common place of execution in Leith Walk, and executed without any formal trial, it being deemed unnecessary to try those who were avowed enemies of all mankind, and of all social order.

The enormity of their crimes dictated the severity of their death. The men had their entrails thrown into the fire, their hands and legs were severed from their bodies, and they were permitted to bleed to death. The wretched mother of the whole crew, the daughters, and grandchildren, after being spectators of the death of the men, were cast into three separate fires, and consumed to ashes. Nor did they, in general, display any signs of repentance or regret, but continued, with their last breath, to pour forth the most dreadful curses and imprecations upon all around, and upon those who were instrumental in consigning them to the hands of a tardy but a certain and inevitable justice.


This notorious criminal was born at Ipswich, where he continued till he was between fifteen and sixteen, and then went to sea. Nine years after, coming to London, and associating with loose company, especially with women of the most infamous character, he left no villainy undone for the support of himself and them in their extravagances, till at last he became so expert in house-breaking and all sorts of theft, that he was esteemed the most remarkable villain of his time.

It was in the reign of queen Elizabeth that our artist flourished: accordingly, we find that he had the boldness to rob the royal lodgings at Whitehall palace of plate to the amount of 400l. for which he was taken and committed to Newgate. But fortunately for him, her majesty’s act of grace coming out, granting a free[Pg 19] pardon for all offences except murder, treason, and other notorious crimes, he was allowed the benefit of that act, and thus obtained his liberty. But neither the royal clemency, nor the imminent danger to which he had been exposed, had any effect upon the obdurate heart of Wynne; for, pursuing his villanies, he was soon constrained to hire himself as under servant in the kitchen, to the earl of Salisbury, to avoid detection. While he was in this post, he had the audacity to make love to the countess’s woman, who, astonished at such insolence in a fellow of his rank, returned his addresses with the greatest contempt. This exasperated Wynne so much, that his pretended love turned to hatred, and he vowed revenge. He embraced an opportunity, and used her in a very brutal manner, until she was under the necessity of calling to the other servants for assistance. The poor woman took to her bed, and remained very unwell for some time. The master, informed of this shocking piece of cruelty, ordered Wynne to be whipped by the coachman, and the same to be repeated once a week during a month. Though Wynne was happy in having satiated his vengeance upon the woman who had contemptuously spurned his addresses, yet he was not very much in love with the reward assigned him by his master; therefore, robbing the coachman of nine pounds, borrowing fifteen pounds of the master-cook, carrying off a silver cup of the master’s, and all the best clothes of the woman whom he had so greatly injured, he went in quest of new adventures.

At that time innkeepers were not so active as now; Wynne therefore often dressed himself in the garb of a porter, and carried off parcels consigned to carriers, and continued undetected in this practice, until he had acquired about two hundred pounds, for which the different carriers had to pay through their neglect. Taught by experience, however, they began to look better after the goods entrusted to their care, so that Wynne had to turn to a new employment.

One day, hearing a man inform his wife, as he was going out, that it would be five or six hours before[Pg 20] he would return, he followed him until he saw him go into a tavern; and, after getting acquainted with the name of the landlord, he went back to the man’s neighborhood, and discovered his name also. Having obtained this intelligence, he goes to the man’s wife, and informs her that her husband is taken suddenly ill, and wishes to see her before his death. Upon this the poor woman cried bitterly, and, after giving the maid orders to take care of the house, she ran off with this pretended messenger to the place where her husband was supposed to be in the jaws of death.

They had not proceeded far, when Wynne, upon pretence of business in a different part of the town, left her to prosecute her journey,—returned back to the house, and told the maid, that “her mistress had sent him to acquaint her, that if she did not come home by such an hour, she might go to bed, for she should not come home all night.” Wynne in the mean time seeming out of breath with haste, the maid civilly requested him to come in and rest himself. This according with his wishes, he immediately complied, and, when the maid was going to fetch him some meat, he suddenly knocked her down, bound her hand and foot, and robbed the house of every thing he could carry off, to the amount of 200l.

Wynne, having reigned eight years in his villanies, formed a strong desire to rob a linen-draper who had retired from business, and with his wife was living upon the fruits of his industry. He accordingly one evening broke into their house, and, to prevent discovery, cut both their throats while they were asleep, and rifled the house to the amount of 2500l.; and, to prevent detection, sailed to Virginia, with his wife and four children.

The two old people not appearing in the neighborhood next day as usual, and the doors remaining locked, the neighbors were alarmed, sent for a constable and burst open the doors, when they found them weltering in their blood, and their house pillaged. Diligent search was made, and a poor man, who begged[Pg 21] his bread, was taken up on suspicion, because he had been seen about the doors, and sitting upon a bench belonging to the house the day before: and although nothing but circumstantial evidence appeared against him, he was tried, condemned, and executed before the door of the house, and his body hung in chains at Holloway.

Meanwhile Wynne, the murderer, was in safety in a foreign land. It also happened, that by the price of innocent blood he prospered, and his riches greatly increased. After he had resided twenty years in Virginia, where his family became numerous, and his riches great, he resolved to visit England before his death, and then to return to deposit his bones in a foreign grave. During his stay in London, he one day went into a goldsmith’s shop in Cheapside, to purchase some plate that he intended to take home with him. It happened, while the goldsmith was weighing the plate which Wynne had purchased, that an uproar took place in the street, occasioned by the circumstance of a gentleman running off from certain bailiffs who were conducting him to prison. Upon this Wynne ran also out into the street, and hearing somebody behind him crying out, “Stop him! stop him!” his conscience instantly awoke, so that he stopped, and exclaimed, “I am the man!” “You the man!” cried the people; “what man?” “The man,” replied Wynne, “that committed such a murder in Honey lane twenty years ago, for which a poor man was hanged wrongfully!”

Upon this confession he was carried before a magistrate, to whom he repeated the same acknowledgment, and was committed to Newgate, tried, condemned, and executed before the house where he perpetrated the horrid deed. In this manner the justice of Heaven pursued this guilty wretch long after he thought himself beyond the reach of punishment. Justice also overtook his family, who were privy to his guilt. Upon the intelligence of his shameful end, his wife immediately became deranged, and continued so to her[Pg 22] death. Two of his sons were hanged in Virginia for robbery, and the whole family were soon reduced to beggary.


This person was the son of a worthy gentleman of Carlisle, in the county of Cumberland, who possessed a considerable estate, and brought up his children suitably to his condition. Thomas, the subject of this memoir, received a liberal education, as his father intended that he should live free from the toil and hazard of business. The father dying, Thomas came into possession of the estate, which soon procured him a rich wife, who afterwards proved the chief cause of his ruin. She was loose in her conduct, and violated her matrimonial obligations, which drove him from his house to seek happiness in the tavern, or in the company of abandoned women. These by degrees perverted all the good qualities he possessed; nor was his estate less subject to ruin and decay; for the mortgages he made on it, in order to support his luxury and profusion, soon reduced his circumstances to the lowest ebb. Undisciplined in poverty, how could a man of his late affluent fortune, and unacquainted with business, procure a maintenance? He was possessed of too independent a spirit to stoop either to relations or friends for a precarious subsistence, and to solicit the benevolence of his fellow-men was what his soul abhorred. Starve he could not, and only one way of living presented itself to his choice—levying contributions on the road. This he followed for six or seven years with tolerable success; and we shall now relate a few of his most remarkable adventures.

Upon his first outset he repaired to a friend, and with a grave face lamented his late irregularities, and declared[Pg 23] his determination to live by some honest means; but for this purpose he required a little money to assist him in establishing himself, and hoped his friend would find it convenient to accommodate him. His friend was overjoyed at the prospect of his amendment and willingly lent him fifty pounds, with as many blessings and exhortations. But Witherington frustrated the expectations of his friend, and with the money bought himself a horse and other necessaries fit for his future enterprises.

One night he stopped at Keswick in Cumberland, where he met with the dean of Carlisle. Being equally learned, they found each other’s company very agreeable, and Witherington passed himself off for a gentleman who had just returned from the East Indies with a handsome competency, and was returning to his friends at Carlisle, among whom he had a rich uncle, who had lately died and left him sole heir to his estate. “True,” said the dean, “I have often heard of a relation of Mr. Witherington’s being in the East Indies; but his family, I can assure you, have received repeated information of his death, and what prejudice this may have done to your affairs at Carlisle, to-morrow will be the best witness.” The dean then told him his own history, and concluded in these words:—“And I am now informed that, to support his extravagance, Mr. Witherington frequents the road, and takes a purse wherever he can extort it.” Our adventurer seemed greatly hurt at this account of his cousin’s conduct, and thanked the doctor for his information. Being both fond of their bottle, they spent the evening very agreeably, promising to travel together on the following day to Carlisle.

Having arrived at a wood on the road, Witherington rode close up to the dean, and whispered into his ear, “Sir, though the place at which we now are is private enough, yet willing that what I do should be still more private, I take the liberty to acquaint you, that you have something about you that will do me an infinite piece of service.”—“What’s that?” answered the doctor;[Pg 24] “you shall have it with all my heart.”—“I thank you for your civility,” said Witherington. “Well then, to be plain, the money in your breeches-pocket will be very serviceable to me at the present moment.”—“Money!” rejoined the doctor; “sir, you cannot want money; your garb and person both tell me you are in no want.”—“Ay, but I am; for the ship in which I came over happened to be wrecked, so that I have lost all I brought from India; and I would not enter Carlisle for the whole world without money in my pocket.”—“Friend, I may urge the same plea, and say I would not go into that city without money for the world; but what then? If you are Mr. Witherington’s nephew, as you pretend to be, you would not thus peremptorily demand money of me, for at Carlisle your friends will supply you; and if you have none now, I will bear your expenses to that place.”—“Sir,” said Witherington, “the question is not whether I have money or not, but concerning that which is in your pocket; for, as you say, my cousin is obliged to take purses on the road, and so am I; so that if I take yours, you may ride to Carlisle, and say that Mr. Witherington met you and demanded your charity.” After a good deal of expostulation, the dean, terrified at the sight of a pistol, delivered to Witherington a purse containing fifty guineas, before he pursued his journey to Carlisle, and our adventurer set off in search of more prey.

Witherington being at Newcastle, put up at an inn where some commissioners were to meet that day, to make choice of a schoolmaster for a neighboring parish. The salary being very handsome, many spruce young clergymen and students appeared as competitors: and, being possessed of sufficient qualifications, Witherington bethought him of standing a candidate, for which purpose he borrowed coarse, plain clothes from the landlord, to make his appearance correspond with the conduct he meant to pursue. Repairing to the kitchen, and sitting down by the fire, he called for a mug of ale, putting on a very dejected countenance.[Pg 25] One of the freeholders who came to vote, observing him as he stood warming himself by the fire, was taken with his countenance, and entered into conversation with him. He very modestly let the freeholder know that he had come with the intention of standing a candidate, but when he saw so many gay young men as competitors, and fearing that every thing would be carried by interest, he resolved to return home. “Nay,” replied the honest freeholder, “as long as I have a vote, justice shall be done; and never fear, for egad, I say, merit shall have the place, and if thou be found the best scholar, thou shalt certainly have it; and to show you I am sincere, I now, though you are a stranger to me, promise you my vote, and my interest likewise.” Witherington thanked him for his civility, and consented to wait for the trial. A keen contest took place between two of the most successful candidates, when our adventurer was introduced as a man who had so much modesty as to make him fearful of appearing before so great an assembly, but who nevertheless wished to be examined. He confronted the two opponents, and exposed their ignorance to the trustees, who were all astonished at the stranger. He showed it was not a number of Greek and Latin sentences that constituted a good scholar, but a thorough knowledge of the nature of the book which he read, and the ability to discover the design of the author. Suffice it to say, that Witherington was installed into the office with all the usual formalities.

Conducting himself with much moderation and humility, the churchwardens of the parish took a great fancy to him, and made him overseer and tax-gatherer to the parish; and the rector likewise committed to his care the collection of his rents and tithes. This friendly disposition towards Witherington extended itself over the parish, and never was a man believed to be more honest or industrious. Of the latter qualification, we must say, in this instance, he showed himself possessed; but of the former he had never any notion. His opinion had great weight with the heads of the[Pg 26] parish, and he proposed the erection of a new school-house, and for this purpose offered, himself, to sink a year’s salary towards a subscription. It was willingly agreed to, and contributions came in from all quarters, and a sum exceeding 700l. was speedily raised. The mind of Witherington was now big with hope, but, being discovered by two gentlemen who had come from Carlisle, he made off with all the subscriptions and funds in his possession, leaving the parish to reflect upon the honesty of their schoolmaster and their own credulity.

He went to Buckinghamshire, and, being at an inn in the county town, fell into the company of some farmers, who, he discovered, had come to meet their landlord with their rents. They were all tenants of the same proprietor, and poured out many complaints against him for his harshness and injustice, in not allowing some deduction from their rents, or time after quarter-day, when they met with severe losses from bad weather or other causes. He learned that this landlord was very rich, and so miserly that he denied himself even the necessaries of life; our adventurer, therefore, determined, if possible, to rifle him before he parted.

The landlord soon arrived, and the company were shown into a private room; Witherington, upon pretence of being a friend of one of the farmers, and a lawyer, accompanied them. He requested a sight of the last receipts, and examined them with great care, and then addressing the landlord, “Sir,” said he, “these honest men, my friends, have been your tenants for a long time, and have paid their rents very regularly; but why they should be so fond of your farms at so high a rent I am unable to comprehend, when they may get other lands much cheaper; and that you should be so unreasonable as not to allow a reduction in their rents in a season like this, when they must lose instead of gaining by their farms. It is your duty, sir, to encourage them, and not to grind them so unmercifully, else they will soon be obliged to leave your farms altogether.” The landlord endeavored to[Pg 27] argue the point; and the farmers seeing the drift of Witherington, refrained from interfering. “It is unnecessary,” resumed Witherington, “to have more parley about it; I insist, on behalf of my friends here, that you remit them a hundred and fifty pounds of the three hundred you expect them to pay you, for I am told you have more than enough to support yourself and family.” “Not a sous,” replied the landlord. “We’ll try that presently. But pray, sir, take your pen, ink, and paper, in the mean time, and write out their receipts, and the money shall be forthcoming immediately.” “Not a letter, till the money is in my hands.” “It must be so, then,” answered Witherington; “you will force a good-natured man to use extremities with you;” and so saying, he laid a brace of loaded pistols on the table. In a moment the landlord was on his knees, crying, “Oh! dear sir, sweet sir, kind sir, merciful sir, for God of Heaven’s sake, sir, don’t take away the life of an innocent man, sir, who never intended harm to any one, sir.” “Why, what harm do I intend you, friend? Cannot I lay the pistols I travel with on the table, but you must throw yourself into this unnecessary fear? Pray, proceed with the receipts, and write them in full of all demands to this time, or else—”—“Oh, God, sir! Oh, dear sir! you have an intention—pray, dear sir, have no intention against my life.” “To the receipts then, or by Jupiter Ammon! I’ll—”—“O yes, I will, sir.” With this the old landlord wrote full receipts, and delivered them to the respective farmers.

“Come,” said Witherington, “this is honest, and to show you that you have to deal with honest people, here is the hundred and fifty pounds; and I promise you, in the name of these honest men, that if things succeed well, you shall have the other half next quarter-day.” The farmers paid the money, and departed astonished, and not a little afraid, at the consequences of this proceeding. Witherington ordered his horse, and inquired of the ostler the road the old gentleman had to travel, and presently took his departure.

[Pg 28]

He chose the road which the old gentleman had to travel, and soon observed him jogging away in sullen silence, with a servant behind him. When he observed our hero, he would have fled, but Witherington seized the bridle of his horse, and forced him to proceed, bantering him upon the folly of hoarding up wealth, without enjoying it himself, merely for some spendthrift son to squander after his death. “For,” he continued, “money is a blessing sent us from Heaven, in order that, by its circulation, it may afford nourishment to the body politic; and if such wretches as you, by laying up thousands in your coffers to no advantage, cause a stagnation, there are thousands in the world that must feel the consequences, and I am to acquaint you of them; so that a better deed cannot be done, than to bestow what you have about you upon me; for, to be plain with you, I am not to be refused;” and hereupon he presented his pistol. The old gentleman, in trepidation for his life, resigned his purse, containing more than three hundred and fifty guineas; and Witherington, unbuckling the portmanteau from behind the servant, placed it on his own horse, and left the old landlord with an admonition, to be in future affable and generous to his tenants, for they were the persons who supported him, adding, that if he ever again heard complaints from them, he would visit his house, and partake liberally of what he most coveted.

The county, after this adventure, was up in pursuit of Witherington, and he retired to Cheshire with great expedition. The first house he put up at was an inn kept by a young widow, noted as well for her kindness to travellers, as her wealth and beauty. She paid our adventurer great attention, and invited him to be of a party, consisting of some friends, which she was to have that evening. He was not blind to the charms of the widow, and gladly accepted the invitation. The company he found to consist chiefly of gentlemen, who, he could discover, were angling for the widow’s riches. Witherington gained great favor in the eyes of the lady, and she asked him to favor the company with a song,[Pg 29] as she was sure, from his sweet clear voice, he could perform well. Witherington wanting no farther importunity from a person he had fixed his affections upon, complied with the request, and sang an amorous ditty, very applicable to his present situation, and, with the assistance of a side glance and a sigh, enabled the widow to draw the most favorable inferences. He was completely successful, and the widow evidently vanquished. Witherington was now requested by the widow to relate some story concerning himself, “as certainly a person who could make himself so agreeable, and make others take such an interest in his welfare, could not fail to have met with something remarkable in his lifetime.” Witherington was all compliance, and begged leave to give a short recital of his life; and the company were anxious that he should proceed, expecting to be informed of something marvellous and mysterious.

He invented an artful story, the drift of which was to give the widow a high idea of himself, of the power that love had over him, and of the generosity of his own mind. His greatest misfortune, he said, was disappointment in love, the object of his choice having been stolen from him by an old rich uncle, against her inclination, and he stated that he had just left home, in order to divert his mind from the melancholy with which this had overcast him; “chance,” said he, in conclusion, “has thrown me into this hospitable house, where I cannot but own I have found as much beauty as I have been unfortunately deprived of.”

This story excited considerable interest throughout the company, more particularly in the breast of the widow, towards whom Witherington now evinced unequivocal marks of attention, which seemed to excite considerable jealousy in some of the gentlemen present. They all parted, however, on the most friendly terms, and our adventurer resolved to stay some time at Nantwich, in order to follow out this adventure. Next morning, Witherington renewed his assiduities, and both he and the amorous widow were equally gratified[Pg 30] with each other’s company; at length, determined to carry his point by a coup de grace, he declared a most ardent passion for her, which, after much prefacing and many assurances, was returned tenfold. She assured him, at the same time, that he had many rivals, but over these he had gained the pre-eminence, in her estimation.

A few days after the first interview with the other suitors at the inn, Witherington’s ascendancy was so evident, that a rival, who imagined he had the game within reach, was seriously alarmed, and had recourse to stratagem to free himself from such an opponent. For this purpose he sent for Witherington, and, with every appearance of disinterested friendship, informed him, that he had sent for him to caution him against further intimacy with the widow, to whom he confessed he once paid matrimonial court, but that he had thrown her completely off since he had discovered the measure of her guilt, and congratulated himself upon his escape. Expressing his detestation of the character of a defamer, and solemnly avowing the purity of his motives, he informed Witherington, that the widow was most fickle and insincere in her attachment, as any one might have discovered at the supper party: and, in order to gratify this wavering inclination, she had poisoned her last husband. He entreated him then, as he valued his own happiness and security, to desist from prosecuting his intentions farther, and hoped Witherington would pardon the liberty he had taken; for, hearing his acquaintance was to end in marriage, and considering the fortunate escape he had himself made, he was bound to prevent a stranger from being imposed upon.

Witherington at once saw the drift of his rival, and humored him accordingly. He seemed shocked at the baseness of the widow, and joined the other in self-congratulation. He thanked the gentleman for his kindly warning, and told him to leave the affair to his management, and he would soon discover the depth of her guilt; and that as they both seemed to have one[Pg 31] object in view, namely, the possession of her money, they might then be able to make what use of the circumstances they found convenient and proper. The gentleman seemed satisfied, and they parted for the present.

Our adventurer returning to the inn, acquainted the widow with the whole conversation between him and the gentleman. She was greatly incensed, declared the world was very censorious, and vowed revenge at whatever price. Witherington judging that a rupture was about to take place, thought it high time to take advantage of the credulous woman; so, that evening, taking her aside, he observed to her that the best way of revenging herself upon his rival would be, if she had any serious intention of marrying him, to show her inclination by some mark of her favor that might distinguish him above his rival. Glad of this opportunity, she conveyed him into a closet, where, showing him all her money and plate, she told him that all these were at his service, provided he could deliver her from the importunities of the gentleman. Witherington assured her that she might depend upon him, and, taking his leave for the night, retired to his chamber. Here he wrote the following letter to the widow:

My Dear,

“Ever mindful of what a woman says, especially one who has been pleased to set her affections on me, I have written this letter purely to acquaint you that, being obliged to go to London, and the journey being pretty long, I could not do better than make use of the money in the closet which you were so good as to say was at my service. I was in exceeding haste when I began to write this, so that I can spare no more time than to request you to be sure of thinking of me till my return.

T. Witherington.

After writing this he went privately into the widow’s closet and secured all her ready money, which amounted to above three hundred pounds; then, going into[Pg 32] the stable, saddled his horse, mounted, and rode out at the back door, leaving the family fast asleep, and the widow and the gentleman lover to prosecute their amours as they thought fit.

Witherington, not yet content with the spoil obtained from the parish and from the widow, repaired to the London road, where he perpetrated a robbery between Acton and Uxbridge; after which he was detected and committed to Newgate, where he led a most profligate life till the day of his execution.

He was executed with Jonathan Woodward and James Philpot, two most notorious housebreakers, who had once before received mercy from king James I. upon his accession to the throne. One of the name of Elliot, the son of a respectable lady then living, was condemned at the same time, but afterwards pardoned. This individual, thus restored to society by the royal clemency, afterwards became a worthy citizen and a good Christian. Out of compassion for other criminals, and in acknowledgment of the king’s favor, his mother, upon her death-bed, bequeathed a handsome sum to the parish of St. Sepulchre’s in London, upon the condition of finding a man who should always, between the hours of eleven and twelve o’clock of the night previous to the execution of any unhappy criminal, go under Newgate, and, giving notice of his approach by the ringing of a bell, remind the prisoners of their approaching end, by repeating religious exhortations, tending to prepare them for death. Witherington and his companions in death were the first to whom these exhortations were given; and as the design is truly benevolent, and as they are often fraught with incalculable blessings to the guilty, we will gratify our readers by the insertion of them, and with this close the life of Witherington.

The person appointed, after inquiring of the criminals if they are awake, and being answered in the affirmative, proceeds thus:

“Gentlemen, I am the unwelcome messenger who comes to inform you that to-morrow you must die.[Pg 33] Your time is but short, the time slides away apace, the glass runs fast, and the last sand being now about to drop, when you must launch out into boundless eternity, give not yourselves to sleep, but watch and pray to gain eternal life. Repent sooner than St. Peter, and repent before the cock crows, for now repentance is the only road to salvation; be fervent in this great duty, and without doubt you may to-morrow be with the penitent thief in paradise. Pray without ceasing; quench not the spirit; abstain from all appearance of evil; as your own wickedness hath caused all this to fall upon you, and brought the day of tribulation near at hand, so let goodness be your sole comfort, that your souls may find perpetual rest with your blessed Savior who died for the sins of the world; he will wipe all tears from your eyes, remove your sorrows, and assuage your grief, so that your sin-sick souls shall be healed for evermore. I exhort you earnestly not to be negligent of the work of your salvation, which depends upon your sincere devotion betwixt this and to-morrow, when the sword of justice shall send you out of the land of the living. Fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold of eternal life whilst you may, for there is no repentance in the grave. Ye have pierced yourselves with many sorrows, but a few hours will bring you to a place where you will know nothing but joy and gladness. Love righteousness and hate iniquity, then God, even your God, will anoint you with the oil of gladness above your fellows. Go now boldly to the throne of grace, that ye may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. The God of peace sanctify you wholly! and I pray God, your whole spirits, and souls, and bodies, may be preserved blameless, until the meeting of your blessed Redeemer! The Lord have mercy upon you! Christ have mercy upon you! Sweet Jesus receive your souls! and to-morrow may you sup with him in paradise! Amen! Amen!”

Next day, when they were to die, the bell on the steeple was tolled, and the cart stopped under the churchyard wall at St. Sepulchre’s, where the same[Pg 34] person related from the wall the following additional exhortation:

“Gentlemen, consider, now you are going out of this world into another, where you will live in happiness or woe for evermore. Make your peace with God Almighty, and let your whole thoughts be entirely bent upon your latter end. Cursed is he that hangeth on a tree; but it is hoped the fatal knot will bring your precious souls to a union with the great Creator of heaven and earth, to whom I recommend your souls, in this your final hour of distress. Lord have mercy upon you! Christ look down upon you and comfort you! Sweet Jesus receive your souls this day into eternal life! Amen!”


This famous robber was born in the first year of James the First. It so happens (although perhaps the circumstance is no very satisfactory evidence of the authenticity of his adventures) that he is his own historian; we are accordingly compelled, in default of other particulars, to lay his auto-biography before our readers.

“I suppose,” says he, “that, according to custom, the reader will expect some relation of my genealogy, and as I am a great admirer of fashion, I shall gratify his curiosity. My grandfather had the good fortune to marry a woman well skilled in vaulting and rope-dancing, and who could act her part uncommonly well. Though above fifty years of age, and affected with the phthisic, she died in the air. To avoid seeing other women fly as she had done, her husband would not marry again; but diverted himself with keeping a puppet-show in Moorfields, deemed the most remarkable that ever had been seen in that place. My grandfather was also so little, that the only difference between him[Pg 35] and his puppets was, that they spoke through a trunk, and he without one. He was, however, so eloquent, and made such lively speeches, that his audience were never rendered drowsy. All the apple-women, hawkers, and fish-women, were so charmed by his wit, that they would run to hear him, and leave their goods without any guard but their own straw hats.

“My father had two trades, or two strings to his bow; he was a painter and a gamester, and master much alike at both; for his painting could scarcely rise so high as a sign-post, and his hand at play was of such an ancient date, that it could scarcely pass. He had one misfortune, which, like original sin, he entailed upon all his children; and that was, his being born a gentleman, which is as bad as being a poet, few of whom escape eternal poverty.

“My mother had the misfortune to die longing for mushrooms. Besides myself she left two daughters, both very handsome and very young; and though I was then young myself, yet I was much better skilled in sharping than my age seemed to promise. When the funeral sermon was preached, the funeral rites performed, and our tears dried up, my father returned to his daubing, my sisters to their stitching, and I was despatched to school. I had such an excellent memory, that though my dispositions were then what they have continued to be, yet I soon learned as much as might have been applied to better purposes than I have done. My tricks upon my master and my companions were so numerous, that I obtained the honorable appellation of the Little Judas. My avaricious disposition soon appeared, and if my covetous eyes once beheld any thing, my invention soon put it into my possession. These, however, I could not obtain gratis, for they cost me many a boxing bout every day. The reports of my conduct were conveyed home, and my eldest sister would frequently spend her white hands upon the side of my pate; and sometimes even carried her admonitions so far, as politely to inform me, that I would prove a disgrace to the family.

[Pg 36]

“It was my good fortune, however, not to be greatly agitated by her remonstrances, which went in at the one ear and out at the other. It happened, however, that my adventures were so numerous, and daily increasing in their magnitude, that I was dismissed the school with as much solemnity as if it had been by beat of drum. After giving me a complete drubbing, my father carried me to a barber, in order to be bound as his apprentice. I was first sent to the kitchen, where my mistress soon provided me with employment, by showing me a parcel of dirty clothes, informing me, that it made part of the apprentice’s work to clean them: ‘Jemmy,’ said she, ‘mind your heels, there’s a good boy!’ I hung down my head, tumbled all the clouts into a trough, and washed them as well as I could. I so managed the matter, that I was soon discarded from my office, which was very fortunate for me, for it would have put an end to Jemmy in less than a fortnight.

“The third day of my apprenticeship, my master having just given me a note to receive money, there came into the shop a ruffian with a pair of whiskers, and told my master he would have them turned up. The journeyman not being at hand, my master began to turn them up himself and desired me to heat the irons. I complied, and just as he had turned up one whisker, there happened a quarrel in the street, and my master ran out to learn the cause. The scuffle lasting long, and my master desirous to see the end as well as the beginning of the bustle, the spark was all the time detained in the shop, with the one whisker ornamented, and the other hanging down like an aspen leaf. In a harsh tone he asked me, if I understood my trade; and I, thinking it derogatory to my understanding to be ignorant, boldly replied that I did; ‘Why, then,’ said he, ‘turn up this whisker for me, or I shall go into the street as I am, and kick your master.’ I was unwilling to be detected in a lie, and deeming it no difficult matter to turn up a whisker, never showed the least concern, but took up one of the irons, that had[Pg 37] been in the fire ever since the commencement of the street bustle, and having nothing to try it on, and willing to appear expeditious, I took a comb, stuck it into his bristly bush, and clapped the iron to it: no sooner did they meet, than there arose a smoke, as if it had been out of a chimney, with a whizzing noise, and in a moment all the hair vanished. He exclaimed furiously, ‘Thou son of a thousand dogs! dost thou take me for St. Lawrence, that thou burnest me alive!’ With that he let fly such a bang at me, that the comb dropped out of my hand, and I could not avoid, in the fright, laying the hot iron close along his cheek: this made him give such a shriek as shook the whole house, and he, at the same time, drew his sword to send me to the other world. I, however, recollecting the proverb, that ‘One pair of heels is worth two pair of hands,’ ran so nimbly into the street, and fled so quickly from that part of the town, that though I was a good runner, I was amazed when I found myself about a mile from home, with the iron in my hand, and the remainder of the whisker sticking to it. As fortune would have it, I was near the dwelling of the person who was to pay the note my master gave me: I went and received the money, but deemed it proper to detain it in lieu of my three days’ wages.

“This money was all exhausted in one month, when I was under the necessity of returning to my father’s house. Before arriving there, I was informed, that he was gone to the country to receive a large sum of money which was due him, and therefore went boldly in, as if the house had been my own. My grave sisters received me very coldly, and severely blamed me for the money which my father paid for my pranks. Maintaining, however, the honor of my birthright, I kept them at considerable distance. The domestic war being thus prolonged, I one day lost temper, and was resolved to make them feel the consequences of giving me sour beer; and, though the dinner was upon the table, I threw the dish at my eldest sister, and the beer at the younger, overthrew the table, and marched out[Pg 38] of doors on a ramble. Fortunately, however, I was interrupted in my flight by one who informed me, that my father was dead, and in his testament had very wisely left me sole heir and executor. Upon this I returned, and soon found the tones and tempers of my sisters changed, in consequence of the recent news. I sold the goods, collected the debts, and feasted all the rakes in town, until not one farthing remained.

“One evening, a party of my companions carried me along with them, and, opening the door of a certain house, conveyed from thence some trunks, which a faithful dog perceiving, he gave the alarm. The people of the house attacked the robbers, who threw down their burdens to defend themselves: meanwhile, I skulked into a corner all trembling. The watch made their appearance, and seeing three trunks in the street, two men dangerously wounded, and myself standing at a small distance, they seized me as one concerned in the robbery. Next day I was ordered to a place of confinement, and could find no friend to bail me from thence. In ten days I was tried, and my defences being frivolous and unsatisfactory, I was about to be hoisted up by the neck, and sent out of the world in a swinging manner, when a reprieve came, and in two months a full pardon.

“After this horrible fright, (for I was not much disposed to visit the dwelling of my grandfather,) I commenced travelling merchant, and, according to my finances, purchased a quantity of wash-balls, toothpicks, and tooth-powders. Pretending that they came from Japan, Peru, or Tartary, and extolling them to the skies, I had a good sale, particularly among the gentry of the playhouse. Upon a certain day, one of the actresses, a beautiful woman of eighteen, and married to one of the actors, addressed me, saying, ‘she had taken a liking to me, because I was a confident, sharp, forward youth; and therefore, if I would serve her, she would entertain me with all her heart; and that, when the company were strolling, I might beat the drum and stick up the bills.’ Deeming it an[Pg 39] easier mode of moving through the world, I readily consented, only requesting two days to dispose of my stock, and to settle all my accounts.

“In my new profession my employments were various, some of which, though not very pleasant, I endeavored to reconcile myself to, inasmuch as they were comparatively better than my former. In a little time, I became more acquainted with the tempers of my master and mistress, and became so great a favorite, that fees and bribes replenished my coffers from all expectants and authors who courted their favor. Unfortunately, however, one day, in their absence, I was invited by some of the party to take a walk, and, going into a tavern, commenced playing at cards, till my last farthing was lost. Determined, if possible, to be revenged of my antagonist, I requested time to run home for more money: it was readily granted. I ran and seized an article belonging to my mistress, pawned it for a small sum, which soon followed my other stores. But evils seldom come alone: I was in this situation not only deprived of my money, but also obliged to decamp.”

The next adventure of Batson was to enlist as a soldier. It happened, however, that his captain cheating him out of his pay, caused a grievous quarrel. Batson soon found that it was dangerous to reside in Rome and strive with the pope. His captain, upon some pretence of improper conduct, had him apprehended, tried, and condemned to be hanged. The cause of this harsh treatment was a very simple one: “For,” says Batson, “I was one day drinking with a soldier, and happened to fall out about a lie given. My sword unluckily running into his throat, he kicked up his heels, through his own fault, for he ran upon my point, so that he may thank his own hastiness.” Upon this our hero says, “As if it had been a thing of nothing, or as a matter of pastime, they gave sentence that I should be led in state along the streets, then mounted upon a ladder, kick up my heels before all the people, and take a swing in the open air, as if I had another life in my[Pg 40] knapsack. A notary informed me of this sentence, who was so generous that he requested no fee, nor any expenses for his trouble during the trial. The unfeeling gaoler desired me to make my peace with my Maker, without giving me one drop to cheer my desponding heart. Informed of my melancholy condition, a compassionate friar came to prepare me for another world, since the inhabitants of this were so ready to bid me farewell. When he arrived, he inquired for the condemned person. I answered, ‘Father, I am the man, though you do not know me.’ He said, ‘Dear child, it is now time for you to think of another world, since sentence is passed, and, therefore, you must employ the short time allowed you in confessing your sins, and asking forgiveness of your offences.’ I answered, ‘Reverend father, in obedience to the commands of the church, I confess but once in the year, and that is in Lent; but if, according to the human laws, I must atone with my life for the crime I have committed, your reverence, being so learned, must be truly sensible that there is no divine precept which says, “Thou shall not eat or drink;” and therefore, since it is not contrary to the law of God, I desire that I may have meat and drink, and then we will discourse of what is best for us both; for I am in a Christian country, and plead the privilege of sanctuary.’

“The good friar was much moved at finding me so jocular when I ought to be so serious, and began to preach to me a loud and a long sermon upon the parable of the lost sheep, and the repentance of the good thief. But the charity bells that ring when criminals are executed knolling in mine ears, made a deeper impression than the loud and impressive voice of the friar. I therefore kneeled down before my ghostly father, and cleared the store-house of my sins, and poured forth a dreadful budget of iniquity. He then gave me his blessing, and poor Batson seemed prepared to take his flight from a world of misfortunes and insults.

“But, having previously presented a petition to the marquis D’Este, then commanding officer, he at that[Pg 41] critical moment called me before him. He, being a merciful man, respited my sentence, and sent me to the galleys for ten years. Some friends farther interfered, and informed the marquis, that the accusation and sentence against me were effected by the malice of the captain, who was offended because I had insisted for the whole of my listing money. The result was that he ordered me to be set at liberty, to the disappointment of my captain, together with that of the multitude and the executioner.

“The deadly fright being over, and my mind restored to tranquillity, I went forth to walk, and to meditate upon what method I was now to pursue in the rugged journey of life. Every man has his own fortune, and, as good luck would have it, I again met with a recruiting officer, who enlisted me, and, from partiality, took me home to his own quarters. The cook taking leave of the family, I was interrogated if I understood any thing in that line. To this I replied, as usual, in the affirmative, and was accordingly installed into the important office of a cook.

“In the course of a military life, my master took up his winter residence at Bavaria, in the house of one of the richest men in those parts. To save his property, however, the Bavarian pretended to be very poor, drove away all his cattle, and removed all his stores to another quarter. Informed of this, I waited upon him, and acquainted him that, as he had a person of quality in his house, it would be necessary to provide liberally for him and his servants. He replied, that I had only to inform him what provisions I wanted, and he would order them immediately. I then informed him, that my master always kept three tables, one for the gentlemen and pages, a second for the butler and under officers, a third for the footmen, grooms, and other liveries; that for these tables he must supply one ox, two calves, four sheep, twelve pullets, six capons, two dozen of pigeons, six pounds of bacon, four pounds of sugar, two of all sorts of spice; a hundred eggs, half a dozen dishes of fish, a pot of wine to every plate, and six hogsheads[Pg 42] to stand by. He blessed himself, and exclaimed, ‘If all you speak of be only for the servants’ tables, the village will not be able to furnish the master’s.’ To this I replied, that my master was such a good-natured man, that, if he saw his servants and attendants well provided, he was indifferent to his own table; a dish of imperial stuffed meat, with an egg in it, would be sufficient for him. He asked me of what that same imperial stuffed meat was composed? I desired him to send for a grave-digger and a cobbler, and while they were at work, I would inform him what there was wanting. They were instantly called. I then took an egg, and putting it into the body of a pigeon, which I had already gutted with my knife, said to him, ‘Now, sir, take notice; this egg is in the pigeon, the pigeon is to be put into a partridge, the partridge into a pheasant, the pheasant into a pullet, the pullet into a turkey, the turkey into a kid, the kid into a sheep, the sheep into a calf, the calf into a cow; all these creatures are to be pulled, flead, and larded, except the cow, which is to have her hide on; and as they are through one into another, like a nest of boxes, the cobbler is to sew every one of them with an end, that they may not slip out; and the grave-digger is to throw up a deep trench, into which one load of coals is to be cast, and the cow laid on the top of it, and another load above her; the fuel set on fire, to burn about four hours, more or less, when the meat being taken out, is incorporated, and becomes such a delicious dish, that formerly the emperors used to dine upon it on their coronation-day; for which reason, and because an egg is the foundation of all that curious mass, it is named the “imperial egg-stuffed meat.”’ The landlord was not a little astonished, but after some conversation we understood each other, and my master left the matter to my care.

“In the course of my negotiations with the landlord, I incurred the displeasure of my master, who, discovering my policy, came into the kitchen, seized the first convenient instrument, and belabored me most unmercifully.[Pg 43] He was, however, punished for his rashness, by the want of a cook for two weeks.

“The scoundrels of the French were audacious enough to pay us a visit while we remained here. I was ordered out with the rest, but I kept at the greatest distance, lest any bullet should have mistaken me for some other person. No sooner did I receive the intelligence that the French were conquered, than I ran to the field of battle, brandishing my sword, and cutting and slashing among the dead men. It unfortunately happened, however, that, as I struck one of them with my sword, he uttered a mournful groan, and, apprehensive that he was about to revenge the injury done to him, I ran off with full speed, leaving my sword in his body. In passing along, I met with another sword, which saved my honor, as I vaunted that I had seized it from one in the field of battle.

“While thus rambling through the field of blood and danger, my master was carried home mortally wounded, who called me a scoundrel, and cried, ‘Why did not you obey me?’ ‘Lest, sir,’ replied I, ‘I should have been as you now are.’ The good man soon breathed his last, leaving me a horse and fifty ducats.

“Being again emancipated from the bonds of servitude, I began to enjoy life, and continued to treat all my acquaintance so long as my money would permit. The return of poverty, however, made me again enlist under the banners of servitude.

“About this time a singular occurrence happened to me. I chanced to go out into the street, when my eyesight was so affected, that I could not discern black from green, nor white from gray. Observing the candles suspended in a candle-maker’s shop, and taking them for radishes, I thought there was no great harm though I should taste one of them. Accordingly, laying hold of one, down fell the whole row, and being dashed to pieces upon the floor, a scuffle ensued; I was taken into custody, and made to pay the damage, which operated to restore my sight to its natural state.

“Not long after this adventure, I was assailed with[Pg 44] love for the fair sex, and, after some sighs and presents, I was bound to a woman for better or for worse, and continued with her until the charms of the marriage state and the pleasures of domestic life began to pall upon me, and an ardent desire to return to my old course of adventure took possession of my mind. Towards the attainment of this desirable end, I one day kicked my wife out of doors, dressed myself, and prepared to sally forth. I had no sooner effected this liberation, than a tavern was my first resting-place to recruit my spirits and to redeem lost time.

“I at last formed the resolution of returning to my native home, and there spending the evening of my bustling life in calm repose. After travelling many a tedious mile, I got to London. Arrived in the capital, I went directly to my father’s house, but found it in the possession of another, and my sisters departed this life. As both of them had been married, and had left children, there was no hope of any legacy by their death: I was therefore under the necessity of doing something for a living. Finding the gout increasing upon me, I, by the advice of an acquaintance, took a public house; and, as I understood several languages, I thought I might have many customers from among foreigners.”

Batson then gravely concludes his own narrative in these words:—

“I intend to leave off my foolish pranks, and as I have spent my juvenile years and money in keeping company, hope to find some fools as bad as myself, who delight in throwing away their estates and impairing their health.”

He accordingly took a house in Smithfield, and acquired a considerable sum. But, being desirous to make a fortune with one dash, he hastened his end. Among others who put up at his house was a gentleman who had purchased a large estate in the country, and was going to deliver the cash. The ostler observed to his master, that the bags belonging to the gentleman were uncommonly heavy when he carried them into[Pg 47] the house. They mutually agreed to rob, and afterwards to murder him; and the ostler accomplished the horrid deed. But, differing about the division of the spoil, the ostler got drunk, and disclosed the whole matter. The house was searched, the body of the gentleman found, and both the murderers were seized, tried, and condemned. The ostler died before the fatal day, but Batson was executed, and, according to the Catholic faith, died a penitent, a year before the restoration of king Charles the Second.

John Cottington.

John Cottington. P. 47.


This man’s father was a petty haberdasher in Cheapside, but living above his income, he died so poor that he was interred by the parish. He had eighteen children, fifteen daughters and three sons. Our hero was the youngest of the family, and at the age of eight was bound apprentice to a chimney-sweeper. In his first year, deeming himself as expert at his profession as his master, he left him, and, acting for himself, soon acquired a great run of business.

Money now coming in upon him, he frequented the tavern, and, disdaining to taste of any thing but mulled sack, he acquired that appellation. One evening he there met with a young woman, with whom he was so enamored, that “he took her for better for worse.” But, not enjoying that degree of comfort in this union which his imagination had painted to him, he frequented the company of other women, until it became necessary to make public contributions to supply their pressing necessities. His first trials were in picking pockets of watches, and any small sum he could find. Among others, he robbed a lady famous among the usurers, of a gold watch set with diamonds, and another[Pg 48] lady of a similar piece of luxury, as she was going into church to hear a celebrated preacher. By the aid of his accomplices, the pin was taken out of the axle of her coach, which fell down at the church door, and in the crowd, Mulled Sack, being dressed as a gentleman, gave her his hand, while he seized her watch. The pious lady did not discover her loss, until she wished to know the length of the sermon, when her devout meditations, excited by the consoling exhortation of the pious preacher, were sadly interrupted by the loss of her time-piece. It is related, that upon a certain occasion, he had the boldness to attempt the pocket of Oliver Cromwell, and that the danger to which he was then exposed determined him to leave that sneaking trade, and in a genteel manner to enter upon the honorable profession of public collector on the highway.

He entered into partnership with Tom Cheney. Their first adventure was attacking colonel Hewson, who had raised himself by his merit from a cobbler to a colonel. He was riding at some distance from his regiment upon Hounslow-heath, and, even in the sight of some of his men, these two rogues robbed him. The pursuit was keen: Tom’s horse failing, he was apprehended, but Mulled Sack escaped. The prisoner, being severely wounded, entreated that his trial might be postponed on that account. But, on the contrary, lest he should die of his wounds, he was condemned at two o’clock, and executed that evening.

One Horne was the next accomplice of Mulled Sack. His companions were, however, generally unfortunate. Upon their first attempt, Horne was pursued, taken, and executed.

Thus twice bereft of his associates, he acted alone, but generally committed his depredations upon the republican party, who then had the wealth of the nation in their possession. Informed that the sum of four thousand pounds was on its way from London, to pay the regiments of Oxford and Gloucester, he concealed himself behind a hedge where the wagon was[Pg 49] to pass, presented his pistols, and the guard supposing that many more must have been concealed, fled, and left him the immense prize.

There were a few passengers in the wagon, who were greatly affrighted. He, however, consoled them, assuring them that he would not injure them, saying, “This which I have taken is as much mine as theirs who own it, being all extorted from the public by the rapacious members of our commonwealth, to enrich themselves, maintain their janizaries, and keep honest people in subjection, the most effectual way to do which is to keep them very poor.”

When not employed as a chimney-sweep, which profession he still occasionally pursued, he dressed in high style, and is said to have received more money by robbery than any man in that age. One day, being informed that the receiver-general was to send up to London six thousand pounds, he entered his house the night before, and rendered that trouble unnecessary. Upon the noise which this notorious robbery occasioned, Mulled Sack was apprehended; but through cunning, baffling the evidence, or corrupting the jury, he was acquitted.

In a little time after, he robbed and murdered a gentleman, and, for fear of detection, went to the continent, and was introduced into the court of Charles the Second. Upon pretence of giving information, he came home, and applied to Cromwell, confessed his crime, but proposed to purchase his life by important information. But whether he failed in his promise, or whether Cromwell thought that such a notorious offender was unworthy to live, cannot be ascertained; one thing is certain, that he was tried and executed in the forty-fifth year of his age, in the month of April 1659.

[Pg 50]


The father of Hind was an industrious saddler, a cheerful companion, and a good Christian. He was a native of Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, where James was born. As our hero was his only son, he received a good education, and remained at school until he was fifteen years of age.

He was then sent as an apprentice to a butcher in that place, and continued in that employment during two years. Upon leaving his master’s service, he applied to his mother for money to bear his expenses to London, complaining bitterly of the rough and quarrelsome temper of his master. The complying mother yielded, and, giving him three pounds, she, with a sorrowful heart, took farewell of her beloved son.

Arrived in the capital, he soon contracted a relish for the pleasures of the town. His bottle and a female companion became his principal delight, and occupied the greater part of his time. He was unfortunately detected one evening with a woman of the town who had just robbed a gentleman, and along with her confined until the morning. He was acquitted because no evidence appeared against him, but his fair companion was committed to Newgate.

Captain Hind, soon after this accident, became acquainted with one Allan, a famous highwayman. While partaking of a bottle, their conversation became mutually so agreeable that they consented to unite their fortunes.

Their measures being concerted, they set out in quest of plunder. They fortunately met a gentleman and his servant travelling along the road. Hind being raw and inexperienced, Allan was desirous to have a[Pg 51] proof of his courage and address; he, therefore, remained at a distance, while Hind boldly rode up to them and took from them fifteen pounds, at the same time returning one to bear their expenses home. This he did with so much grace and pleasantry, that the gentleman vowed that he would not injure a hair of his head though it were in his power.

About this period, the unfortunate Charles I. suffered death for his political principles. Captain Hind conceived an inveterate enmity to all those who had stained their hands with their sovereign’s blood, and gladly embraced every opportunity to wreak his vengeance upon them. In a short time, Allan and Hind met with the usurper, Oliver Cromwell, riding from Huntingdon to London. They attacked the coach, but Oliver being attended by seven servants. Allan was apprehended, and it was with no small difficulty that Hind made his escape. The unfortunate Allan was soon after tried, and suffered death for his audacity. The only effect which this produced upon Hind was to render him more cautious in his future depredations. He could not, however, think of abandoning a course on which he had just entered, and which promised so many advantages.

The captain had ridden so hard to escape from Cromwell and his train that he killed his horse, and having no money to purchase a substitute, he was under the necessity of trying his fortune upon foot, until he should find means to procure another. It was not long before he espied a horse tied to a hedge with a saddle on and a brace of pistols attached to it. He looked round and observed a gentleman on the other side of the hedge. “This is my horse,” exclaimed the captain, and immediately vaulted into the saddle. The gentleman called out to him that the horse was his. “Sir,” said Hind, “you may think yourself well off that I have left you all the money in your pocket to buy another, which you had best lay out before I meet you again, lest you should be worse used.” So saying, he rode off in search of new booty.

[Pg 52]

There is another story of Hind’s ingenious method of supplying himself with a horse upon occasion. It appears that, being upon a second extremity reduced to the humble station of a footpad, he hired a sorry nag and proceeded on his journey. He was overtaken by a gentleman mounted on a fine hunter, with a portmanteau behind him. They entered into conversation upon such topics as are common to travellers, and Hind was very eloquent in the praise of the gentleman’s horse, which inclined the other to descant upon the qualifications of the animal. There was upon one side of the road a wall, which the gentleman said his horse would leap over. Hind offered to risk a bottle on it, to which the gentleman agreed, and quickly made his horse leap over. The captain acknowledged that he had lost his wager, but requested the gentleman to let him try if he could do the same; to which he consented, and the captain, being seated in the saddle of his companion, rode off at full speed and left him to return the other miserable animal to its owner.

At another time the captain met the regicide Hugh Peters in Enfield chace, and commanded him to deliver his money. Hugh, who was not deficient in confidence, began to combat Hind with texts of scripture, and to cudgel our bold robber with the eighth commandment: “It is written in the law,” said he, “that ‘Thou shalt not steal:’ and furthermore, Solomon, who was surely a very wise man, spoke in this manner, ‘Rob not the poor, because he is poor.’” Hind was desirous to answer him in his own strain, and for that purpose began to rub up his memory for some of the texts he had learned when at school. “Verily,” said Hind, “if thou hadst regarded the divine precepts as thou oughtest to have done, thou wouldst not have wrested them to such an abominable and wicked sense as thou didst the words of the prophet, when he said, ‘Bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron.’ Didst thou not then, detestable hypocrite, endeavor, from these words, to aggravate the misfortunes of thy royal master, whom thy cursed republican party unjustly[Pg 53] murdered before the gate of his own palace?” Here Hugh Peters began to extenuate that proceeding, and to allege other parts of scripture in his own defence. “Pray, sir,” replied Hind, “make no reflections against men of my profession, for Solomon plainly said, ‘do not despise a thief.’ But it is to little purpose for us to dispute; the substance of what I have to say is this, deliver thy money presently, or else I shall send thee out of the world to thy master, the devil, in an instant.” These terrible words of the captain’s so terrified the old Presbyterian, that he forthwith gave him thirty broad pieces of gold and then departed.

But Hind was not satisfied with allowing so bitter an enemy to the royal cause to depart in such a manner. He accordingly rode after him at full speed, and, overtaking him, addressed him in the following language:—“Sir, now I think of it, I am convinced this misfortune has happened to you because you did not obey the words of the scripture, which expressly says, ‘provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass, in your purses, for your journey,’ whereas it is evident that you had provided a pretty decent quantity of gold. However, as it is now in my power to make you fulfil another commandment, I would by no means slip the opportunity; therefore, pray give me your cloak.” Peters was so surprised that he neither stood still to dispute nor to examine what was the drift of Hind’s demand. But he soon made him understand his meaning, when he added, “You know, sir, our Savior has commanded, that if any man take away thy cloak, thou must not refuse thy coat also; therefore, I cannot suppose that you will act in direct contradiction to such an express command, especially as you cannot pretend you have forgot it, seeing that I now remind you of that duty.” The old Puritan shrugged his shoulders some time before he proceeded to uncase them; but Hind told him that his delay would be of no service to him, for he would be implicitly obeyed, because he was sure that what he requested was entirely[Pg 54] consonant with the scripture. He accordingly surrendered, and Hind carried off the cloak.

The following sabbath, when Hugh ascended the pulpit, he was inclined to pour forth an invective against stealing, and selected for his subject these words: “I have put off my coat, how shall I put it on?” An honest plain man, who was present, and knew how he had been treated by the robber, promptly cried out, “Upon my word, sir, I believe there is nobody here can tell you, unless captain Hind were here.” Which ready answer to Hugh’s scriptural question put the congregation into such an outrageous fit of laughter, that the parson was made to blush, and descended from his pulpit, without prosecuting the subject farther.

The captain, as before mentioned, indulged a rooted hatred against all those who were concerned in the murder of the late king; and frequently these men fell in his way. He was one day riding on the road, when president Bradshaw, who had sat as judge upon the king, and passed the sentence of death upon him, met with the captain. The place where they came into collision was on the road between Sherbourne and Shaftesbury. Hind rode up to the coach, and demanded Bradshaw’s money, who, supposing that his very name would convey terror along with it, informed him who he was. “Marry,” cried Hind, “I neither fear you nor any king-killing villain alive. I have now as much power over you, as you lately had over the king, and I should do God and my country good service, if I made the same use of it; but live, villain, to suffer the pangs of thine own conscience, till justice shall lay her iron hand upon thee, and require an answer for thy crimes, in a way more proper for such a monster, who art unworthy to die by any hands but those of the common hangman, or at any other place than Tyburn. Nevertheless, though I spare thy life as a regicide, be assured, that unless thou deliver up thy money immediately, thou shalt die for thy obstinacy.”

Bradshaw began to perceive that the case was not[Pg 55] now with him as it was when he sat at Westminster hall, supported by all the strength of the rebellion. A horror took possession of his soul, and discovered itself in his countenance. He put his trembling hand into his pocket, and pulled out about forty shillings in silver, which he presented to the captain, who swore he would that minute shoot him through the heart, unless he found him coin of another species. To save his life, the sergeant pulled out that which he valued next to it, and presented the captain with a purse full of Jacobuses.

But though Hind had got possession of the cash, he was inclined to detain the sergeant a little longer, and began the following eulogium upon the value of money:—

“This, sir, is the metal that wins my heart forever! O precious gold! I admire and adore thee as much as either Bradshaw, Prynne, or any other villain of the same stamp, who, for the sake of thee, would sell his Redeemer again, were he now upon earth. This is that incomparable medicament, which the republican physicians call the wonder-working plaster; it is truly catholic in operation, and somewhat of kin to the Jesuit’s powder, but more effectual. The virtues of it are strange and various; it maketh justice deaf as well as blind; and takes out spots of the deepest treasons as easily as Castile soap does common stains; it alters a man’s constitution in two or three days, more than the virtuoso’s transfusion of blood can do in seven years. It is a great alexipharmic, and helps poisonous principles of rebellion, and those that use them; it miraculously exalts and purifies the eye-sight, and makes traitors behold nothing but innocence in the blackest malefactors: it is a mighty cordial for a declining cause; it stifles faction and schism as certainly as rats are destroyed by common arsenic: in a word, it makes fools wise men, and wise men fools, and both of them knaves. The very color of this precious balm is bright and dazzling. If it be properly applied to the fist, that is, in a decent manner, and in a competent dose, it[Pg 56] infallibly performs all the above-mentioned cures, and many others too numerous to be here mentioned.”

The captain, having finished his panegyric upon the virtues of the glittering metal, pulled out his pistol, and again addressed the serjeant, saying, “You and your infernal crew have a long while run on, like Jehu, in a career of blood and impiety, falsely pretending that zeal for the Lord of Hosts has been your only motive. How long you may be suffered to continue in the same course, God only knows. I will, however, for this time, stop your race in a literal sense of the word.” And without farther delay, he shot all the six horses that were in the carriage, and left Bradshaw to ponder upon the lesson he had received.

Hind’s next adventure was with a company of ladies, in a coach upon the road between Petersfield and Portsmouth. He accosted them in a polite manner, and informed them that he was a protector of the fair sex, and it was purely to win the favor of a hard-hearted mistress that he had travelled the country. “But, ladies,” added he, “I am at this time reduced to the necessity of asking relief, having nothing to carry me on in the intended prosecution of my adventures.” The young ladies, who had read many romances, could not help concluding that they had met with some Quixote or Amadis de Gaul, who was saluting them in the strains of knight-errantry. “Sir knight,” said one of the most jocular of the company, “we heartily commiserate your condition, and are very much troubled that we cannot contribute towards your support; for we have nothing about us but a sacred depositum, which the laws of your order will not suffer you to violate.” The captain was much pleased at having met with such a pleasant lady, and was much inclined to have permitted them to proceed; but his necessities were at this time very urgent. “May I, bright ladies, be favored with the knowledge of what this sacred depositum, which you speak of, is, that so I may employ my utmost abilities in its defence, as the laws of knight-errantry require.” The lady[Pg 57] who had spoken before told him, that the depositum she had spoken of was 3000l. the portion of one of the company, who was going to bestow it upon the knight who had won her good-will by his many past services. “Present my humble duty to the knight,” said he, “and be pleased to tell him that my name is captain Hind; that out of mere necessity I have made bold to borrow part of what, for his sake, I wish were twice as much; that I promise to expend the sum in defence of injured lovers, and in the support of gentlemen who profess knight-errantry.” Upon the name of captain Hind, the fair ones were sufficiently alarmed, as his name was well known all over England. He, however, requested them not to be affrighted, for he would not do them the least injury, and only requested 1000l. of the 3000l. As the money was bound up in several parcels, the request was instantly complied with, and our adventurer wished them a prosperous journey, and many happy days to the bride.

Taking leave of the captain for a little, we shall inform our readers of the consequences of this extorted loan of the captain’s. When the bride arrived at the dwelling of her intended husband, she faithfully recounted to him her adventures upon the road. The avaricious and embryo curmudgeon refused to accept her hand until her father should agree to make up the loss. Partly because he detested the request of the lover, and partly because he had sufficiently exhausted his funds, the father refused to comply. The pretended lover, therefore, declined her hand, because it was emptied of the third part of her fortune; and the affectionate and high spirited lady died of a broken heart. Hind often declared, that this adventure caused him great uneasiness, while it filled him with detestation at the dishonorable and base conduct of the mercenary lover.

The transactions of Hind were now become so numerous, and made him so well known, that he was forced to conceal himself in the country. During this cessation from his usual industrious labors, his funds[Pg 58] became so exhausted, that even his horse was sold to maintain his own life. Impelled by necessity, he often resolved to hazard a few movements upon the highway; but he had resided so long in that quarter, that he durst not risk any such adventure. Fortune, however, commiserated the condition of the captain, and provided relief. He was informed that a doctor, who resided in the neighborhood, had gone to receive a handsome fee for a cure which he had effected. The captain then lived in a small house which he had hired upon the side of a common, and which the doctor had to pass in his journey home. Hind, having long and impatiently waited his arrival, ran up to him, and in the most piteous tone and suppliant language, told the doctor his wife was suddenly seized with illness, and that unless she got some assistance she would certainly perish, and entreated him just to tarry for a minute or two and lend her his medical assistance, and he would gratefully pay him for his trouble as soon as it was in his power.

The tender-hearted doctor, moved with compassion, alighted and accompanied him into his house, assuring him that he should be very happy to be of any service in restoring his wife to health. Hind showed the doctor up-stairs; but they had no sooner entered the door, than he locked it, presented a pistol, showing, at the same time, his empty purse, saying: “This is my wife; she has so long been unwell, that there is now nothing at all within her. I know, sir, that you have a sovereign remedy in your pocket for her distemper, and if you do not apply it without a word, this pistol will make the day shine into your body!” The doctor would have been content to have lost his fee, upon condition of being delivered from the importunities of his patient; but it required only a small degree of the knowledge of symptoms to be convinced, that obedience was the only thing which remained for him to observe: he therefore emptied his own purse of forty guineas into that of the captain, and thus left our hero’s wife in a convalescent state. Hind then[Pg 59] informed the doctor, that he would leave him in possession of his whole house, to reimburse him for the money which he had taken from him. So saying, he locked the door upon the doctor, mounted that gentleman’s horse, and went in quest of another county, since this had become too hot for him.

Hind has been often celebrated for his generosity to the poor; and the following is a remarkable instance of his virtue in that particular. He was upon one occasion extremely destitute of cash, and had waited long upon the road without receiving any supply. An old man, jogging along upon an ass, at length appeared. He rode up to him, and very politely inquired where he was going. “To the market,” said the old man, “at Wantage, to buy me a cow, that I may have some milk for my children.” “How many children have you?” The old man answered, “Ten.” “And how much do you mean to give for a cow?” said Hind. “I have but forty shillings, master, and that I have been scraping together these two years.” Hind’s heart ached for the poor man’s condition; at the same time he could not help admiring his simplicity; but, being in absolute want himself, he thought of an expedient which would serve both himself and the poor old man. “Father,” said he, “the money which you have is necessary for me at this time; but I will not wrong your children of their milk. My name is Hind, and if you will give me your forty shillings quietly, and meet me again this day se’nnight at this place, I promise to make the sum double.” The old man reluctantly consented, and Hind enjoined him to “be cautious not to mention a word of the matter to any body between this and that time.” The old man came at the appointed time, and received as much as would purchase two cows, and twenty shillings more, that he might thereby have the best in the market.

Though Hind had long frequented the road, yet he carefully avoided shedding blood; and the following is the only instance of this nature related of him. He had one morning committed several robberies, and[Pg 60] among others, had taken more than 70l. from colonel Harrison, the celebrated parliamentary general. As the Roundheads were Hind’s inveterate foes, the colonel immediately raised the hue-and-cry after him, which was circulated in that part of the country before the captain was aware of it. At last, however, he received intelligence at one of the inns upon the road, and made every possible haste to fly the scene of danger. In this situation the captain was apprehensive of every person he met upon the road. He had reached a place called Knowl Hill, when the servant of a gentleman, who was following his master, came riding at full speed behind him. Hind, supposing that it was one in pursuit of himself, upon his coming up, turned about, and shot him through the head, when the unfortunate man fell dead upon the spot. Fortune favored the captain at this time, and he got off in safety.

The following adventure closes the narrative of Hind’s busy life. After Charles I. was beheaded, the Scots remained loyal, proclaimed his son Charles II., and resolved to maintain his right against the usurper. They suddenly raised an army, and entering England, proceeded as far as Worcester. Multitudes of the English joined the royal army, and among these captain Hind, who was loyal from principle, and brave by nature. Cromwell was sent by Parliament with an army to intercept the march of the royalists. Both armies met at Worcester, and a desperate and bloody battle ensued. The king’s army was routed. Captain Hind had the good fortune to escape, and, reaching London, lived in a retired situation. Here, however, he had not remained long, when he was betrayed by one of his intimate acquaintances. It will readily be granted that his actions merited death by the law of his country, but the mind recoils with horror from the thought of treachery in an intimate friend.

Hind was carried before the speaker of the house of commons, and, after a long examination, was committed to Newgate and loaded with irons; nor was[Pg 61] any person allowed to converse with him without a special permission. He was brought to the bar of the session-house at the Old Bailey, indicted for several crimes, but, for want of sufficient evidence, nothing worthy of death could be proved against him. Not long after this, he was sent down to Reading under a strong guard, and, being arraigned before judge Warburton, for killing George Symson at Knowl Hill, as formerly mentioned, he was convicted of wilful murder. An act of indemnity for all past offences was issued at this time, and he hoped to have been included; but an order of council removed him to Worcester gaol, where he was condemned for high treason, and hanged, drawn, and quartered, on the 24th September 1652, aged thirty-four years. His head was stuck upon the top of the bridge over the Severn, and the other parts of his body placed upon the gates of the city. The head was privately taken down and interred, but the remaining parts of his body remained until consumed by the influence of the weather.

In his last moments he declared that his principal depredations had been committed against the republican party, and that he was sorry for nothing so much as not living to see his royal master restored.


Though this remarkable female character was denominated a German Princess, for a reason which will be mentioned in the course of her narrative, she was a native of Canterbury, and her father a chorister of that cathedral. From her sprightly and volatile disposition, she at an early period took delight in reading the novels that were at that time fashionable,—such as Parismus and Parismanus, Don Bellianis of Greece, Amadis de Gaul, and Cassandra and Cleopatra; and[Pg 62] in a little time really believed what she wished, even that she was a princess.

But in her marriage she lost sight of her exalted conceptions, and united her fortune with a journeyman shoemaker. She resided with him until she had two children, who both died in their infancy. The industrious shoemaker was unable to support her extravagance, so that she at last left him, to seek her fortune elsewhere.

A woman of her figure, beauty, and address, was not long before she procured another husband. She went to Dover, and married a surgeon of that place, but, being apprehended and tried at Maidstone for having two husbands, by some dexterous manœuvre she was acquitted.

She presently after embarked for Holland, and travelled by land to Cologne, and having a considerable sum of money, took handsome lodgings at a house of entertainment, and cut a dashing figure. As it is customary for the gentry in England to frequent Brighton during the season, so it was then customary for those in Germany to frequent the Spa. Our heroine went thither, and was addressed by an old gentleman who had a good estate in the vicinity. With the assistance of her landlady, she managed this affair with great art. The old gentleman presented her with several fine jewels, besides a gold chain and costly medal, which had been given him, for some gallant action under count Tilly, against the valiant Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. He at length began to press matrimony with all the keenness of a young lover, and, unable to resist the siege any longer, she consented to make him happy in three days. Meanwhile, he supplied her with money in great profusion, and she was requested to prepare what things she pleased for the wedding. The Princess now deemed it high time to be gone, and, to secure her retreat, acquainted her landlady with her design. Having already shared largely of the spoils that our adventurer had received from her old doating lover, the aged beldame, in hopes[Pg 63] of pillaging him a little more, encouraged and aided her flight. Our heroine requested her to go and provide her a seat in a carriage which took a different road from that of Cologne, as she did not wish that her lover should be able to trace her route. When our Princess found herself alone, she broke open a chest in which the good woman had deposited all her share of the spoil that she had received from our heroine, as well as her own money. Madame made free with all, and took her passage to Utrecht, from thence went to Amsterdam, sold her chains and some jewels, and then passed into Rotterdam, from whence she speedily embarked for England.

She landed at Billingsgate, one morning very early in the end of March 1663, and found no house open until she came to the Exchange inn, where she attained to the dignity of a German princess in the following manner. In this inn, she got into the company of some gentlemen who, she perceived, were full of money, and these addressing her in a rude manner, she began to weep most bitterly, exclaiming that it was extremely hard for her to be reduced to this extreme distress, who was once a princess. Here she recited the story of her extraction and education, and much about her pretended father, the lord Henry Vanwolway, a prince of the empire, and independent of every man but his Imperial Majesty. “Certainly,” said she, “any gentleman here present may conceive what a painful situation this must be to me to be thus reduced, brought up as I have been under the care of an indulgent father, and in all the luxuries of a court. But, alas! what do I say?—Indulgent father! was it not his cruelty which banished me, his only daughter, from his dominions, merely for marrying, without his knowledge, a nobleman of the court whom I loved to excess? Was it not my father who occasioned my dear lord and husband to be cut off in the bloom of his age, by falsely accusing him of a design against his person,—a deed which his virtuous soul abhorred?” Here she pretended that the poignancy of her feelings[Pg 64] would allow her to relate no more of her unfortunate history.

The whole company was touched with compassion at the melancholy tale, which she related with so much unaffected simplicity, that they had not a doubt of its truth. Compassionating her unfortunate situation, they requested her acceptance of all the money they had about them, promising to return again with more. They were as good as their promise, and she ever after went by the name of the unfortunate German Princess.

The man who kept the inn, knowing that she was come from the continent, and seeing that she had great riches about her, was disposed more than ever to believe the truth of her story. Nor was Madame backward to inform him, that she had collected all that she possessed from the benevolent contributions of neighboring princes, who knew and pitied her misfortunes. “Nor durst any one of them,” continued she, “let my father know what they had done, or where I am, for he was so much more powerful than any of them, that if he understood that any one favored me, he would instantly make war upon them.”

King, the innkeeper, being convinced of her rank and fortune, John Carleton, his brother-in-law, no doubt receiving proper information from King, became enamored of the Princess, and presumed to pay his addresses to her. She was highly displeased at first, but, from his importunity, was at last prevailed upon to descend from her station, and receive the hand of a common man. Poor Carleton thought himself the happiest of mortals, in being thus so highly honored by a union with such an accomplished and amiable princess, possessed of an ample fortune, though far inferior to what she had a right to expect from her noble birth.

But, during this dream of pleasure, Mr. King received a letter, informing him, that the woman who resided at his house, and was married to his brother-in-law, was an impostor, that she had already been married to two husbands, and had eloped with all the[Pg 65] money she could lay her hands on: and that the writer said nothing but what could be proved by the most unquestionable evidence in a court of justice. The consequence was, that a prosecution was instituted against her for polygamy; but from insufficient evidence she was acquitted.

She was then introduced as an actress among the players, and by them supported for some time. Upon the strength of her popularity the house was often crowded, and the public curiosity was excited by a woman who had made such a figure in the world, and was receiving great applause in her dramatic capacity. She generally appeared in characters suited to her habits of life, and those scenes which had been rendered familiar to her by former deception and intrigues. But what tended chiefly to promote her fame, was a play called the “German Princess,” written principally upon her account, in which she spoke the following prologue in such a manner as gained universal applause.

I’ve passed one trial, but it is my fear
I shall receive a rigid sentence here:
You think me a bold cheat, but case ’twere so,
Which of you are not? Now you’d swear, I know;
But do not, lest that you deserve to be
Censured worse than you can censure me;
The world’s a cheat, and we that move in it
In our degrees do exercise our wit;
And better ’tis to get a glorious name,
However got, than live by common fame.

The Princess had too much mercury in her constitution to remain long within the bounds of a theatre, when London itself was too limited for her volatile disposition. She did not, however, leave the theatre until she had procured many admirers. Her history was well known, as well as her accomplishments and her gallantry, and introduced her into company. She was easy of access, but in society carried herself with an affected air of indifference.

There were two young beaux, in particular, who had more money in their pockets than wit in their[Pg 66] heads; and from the scarcity of that commodity in themselves, they the more admired her wit and humor. She encouraged their addresses until she had extracted about three hundred pounds from each of them, and then observing their funds were nearly exhausted, discarded them both, saying, she was astonished at their impudence, in making love to a princess!

Her next lover was an old gentleman about fifty, who saw her, and though he was acquainted with her history, nevertheless resolved to be at the expense of some hundreds a year, provided she would consent to live with him. To gain his purpose he sent her several rich presents, which, with seeming reluctance, she accepted. When they commenced living together as man and wife, she so accommodated herself to his temper and disposition that he was constantly making her rich presents, which were always accepted with apparent reluctance, as laying her under so many obligations. In this manner they continued, until her doating lover one evening coming home intoxicated, she thought it a proper opportunity to decamp. So soon as he was asleep, she rifled his pockets, and found his pocket-book, containing a bill for a hundred pounds, and some money. She also stripped him of his watch, and, taking his keys, opened his coffers, and carried off every thing that suited her purpose. She next went and presented the bill, and, as the acceptor knew her, received the money without hesitation.

Having thus fleeced her old lover, our German princess took up lodgings in a convenient place, under the character of a young lady with a thousand pounds, whose father was able to give her twice as much: but disliking a person whom he had provided as a husband for her, she had left her father’s house, and did not wish to be discovered by any of her friends. Madame now continued to have different letters sent her from time to time, containing an account of all the news concerning her father and lover. These were left carelessly about the room, and her landlady reading them, became confirmed in the belief of her story.

[Pg 67]

This woman had a rich nephew, a young man, who, having been introduced to her acquaintance, became enamored of her, and to gain her favor presented her with a gold watch, which she could hardly be prevailed upon to accept. Her lover already thought the door of paradise open to him, and their amour proceeded with all the mutual felicity that young lovers can expect or desire. But in this season of bliss, a porter knocked at the door with a letter. Her maid, as previously directed, brought the letter in to her, which she had no sooner read, than she exclaimed, “I am undone! I am ruined!”—and pretended to swoon away. The scent bottle was employed, and her enraptured lover was all kindness and attention. When she was a little recovered, she presented the letter, saying, “Sir, since you are at last acquainted with most of my concerns, I shall not make a secret of this; therefore, if you please, read this letter and know the occasion of my affliction.” The young gentleman received it, and read as follows:

Dear Madam,

“I have several times taken my pen in my hand, on purpose to write you, and as often laid it aside again, for fear of giving you more trouble than you already labor under. However, as the affair so immediately concerns you, I cannot in justice hide what I tremble to disclose, but must in duty tell you the worst of news, whatever may be the consequence of my so doing.

“Know, then, that your affectionate and tender brother is dead. I am sensible how dear he was to you, and you to him, yet let me entreat you, for your own sake, to acquiesce in the will of Providence as much as possible, since our lives are all at his disposal who gave us being. I could use another argument to comfort you, that, with a sister less loving than you, would be of more weight than that I have urged; but I know your soul is above all mercenary views. I cannot, however, forbear to inform you, that he has[Pg 68] left you all he had; and farther, that your father’s estate of 200l. per annum, can devolve upon no other person than yourself, who are now his only child.

“What I am next to acquaint you with may, perhaps, be almost as bad as the former particular. Your hated lover has been so importunate with your father, especially since your brother’s decease, that the old gentleman resolves, if ever he should hear of you any more, to marry you to him, and he makes this the condition of your being again received into his favor, and having your former disobedience, as he calls it, forgiven. While your brother lived, he was every day endeavoring to soften the heart of your father, and we were only last week in hopes he would have consented to let you follow your inclinations, if you would come home to him again; but now there is no advocate in your cause who can work upon the man’s peevish temper; for he says, as you are now his sole heir, he ought to be more resolute in the disposal of you in marriage.

“While I am now writing, I am surprised with an account that your father and lover are preparing to come to London, where, they say, they can find you out. Whether or not this be only a device, I cannot tell, nor can I conceive where they could receive their information, if it be true. However, to prevent the worst, consider whether or not you can cast off your old aversion, and submit to your father’s commands; for if you cannot, it will be most advisable in my opinion to change your residence. I have no more to say in the affair, being unwilling to direct you in such a very nice circumstance. The temper of your own mind will be the best instructer you can apply to; for your future happiness or misery during life depends on your choice. I hope that every thing will turn out for the best.

“From your sincere friend, S. E.”

Her lover saw that she had good reason to be afflicted, and, whilst he seemed to feel for her, he was[Pg 69] no less concerned about his own interest. He advised her immediately to leave her lodgings, and added that he had very elegant apartments which were at her service. She accepted his offer; and, with her maid, who was informed of her intentions, and prepared to assist her, immediately set out for the residence of her lover. When introduced to their new apartment, these ladies did not go to bed, as they had resolved to depart next morning, but lay down to rest themselves with their clothes on. When the house was all quiet, they broke open the lover’s desk, took out a bag with a hundred pounds, two suits of clothes, and every thing valuable that they could carry along with them.

Her numerous and varied adventures would far exceed the limits appropriated to one life in this volume. It is sufficient to observe, that rather than her hands should be unemployed, or her avaricious disposition unsatisfied, she would carry off the most trifling article; that, according to the proverb, all was fish that came into her net; and that when a watch, a diamond, or piece of plate could not be found, a napkin, a pair of sheets; or any article of wearing apparel, would suffice.

One day she, along with her pretended maid, went into a mercer’s shop in Cheapside, and purchased a piece of silk to the value of six pounds. She pulled out her purse to pay the draper, but to her surprise found that she had no money except some large pieces of gold, for which she had so high an esteem, that she could not think of parting with them. The polite draper, on his part, could not think of hurting the feelings of a lady so elegantly dressed, and, accordingly, dispatched one of his shopkeepers along with her to receive his money. Arrived at the Royal Exchange, Madame ordered the coachman to stop, when, upon pretence of purchasing some ribands that would suit the silks, her maid carried out the parcel, and went along with her, leaving the shopman in the coach to wait their return. The young man waited in the coach, until he was impatient and ashamed, and then[Pg 70] returned home to relate his misfortunes, and the loss of his master.

Upon another occasion Madame waited upon a French weaver in Spitalfields, and purchased goods to the amount of forty pounds. He went home with her to carry the parcel and to receive his money. She desired him to make out a bill for the whole of the goods, as one half belonged to a lady in the next room. With all the ceremony natural to a Frenchman, he sat down to write his account, while she took the silk into the adjacent room to show it to her niece, to whom the one half belonged. By means of a bottle of wine which Madame had placed before the French weaver, half an hour passed over without much uneasiness. At length his patience was exhausted, and, having called up the people of the house, he inquired for the lady who came in with him, and who told him she was only gone into the next room. To the utter confusion and disappointment of poor Monsieur, he was informed that his lady was gone, and would, they believed, return no more to that dwelling. To calm his rage, and to convince him that they were not confederates in her villany, they conveyed him to the next room, and showed him, that the proper entry to her apartment was by a back stair; adding, that she had only taken their room for a month, for which she had paid them, and that her time being expired, they knew not whither she had gone.

Determined to collect her contributions from householders instead of travellers, she next took lodgings from a tailor. As it was natural for a generous, good-hearted lady to promote the prosperity of the family where she resided, Madame employed the tailor to make the goods she had procured from the mercer and the weaver. Convinced that he had got an excellent job, as well as a rich lodger, the tailor, with mirth and song, sat down to make Madame’s dresses. As she acquainted him that upon a specified day she was to have a large party, the tailor called in all his journeymen to his aid, and had the whole finished by that time. Meanwhile, the Princess gave her landlady a[Pg 71] guinea to purchase what things she deemed necessary, promising to pay her the remainder the following day. The day arrived, the guests appeared, an elegant entertainment was served up, and plenty of wine drunk. None were without their due portion. The tailor had plied his glass so plentifully, that his wife had to lend him her assistance to his bed-chamber. This answered the design of our Princess. She and all her company departed one by one, carrying away, each a silver tankard, or a saltcellar, or a knife, or a fork, while the maid carried off all the clothes that were not upon their backs. The moment they reached the street, the maid was placed in a coach with the booty, and the rest of the company took different directions, none of them being discovered. Thus a merry night brought a sorrowful morning to the poor industrious tailor.

Madame being attacked with a fit of mourning, sent her confidential maid to a shop in the New Exchange, where she had purchased a few articles the previous day. The woman of the shop, with all possible expedition, selected the best specimens of her goods, and hastened to the lodgings. Madame was so very much indisposed when the milliner arrived, that she could not look at the things, and desired her to return after dinner, when she doubted not but they would agree as to the price. The obliging milliner was satisfied, and requested liberty to leave her goods until she returned, a request which was readily granted. At the hour appointed she returned, and inquired if the lady up stairs were at home. To her great mortification she was informed that she was gone they could not tell where, and that she did not intend to return. But before her departure she had conveyed away the valuable part of her effects. Thus both her landlady and the milliner were left to regret her absence, and to reflect upon their own easy credulity and loss.

But the adventures of our ingenious Princess increase in magnitude as they multiply in number. Being arrayed in her sable robes, and having taken lodgings in Holborn, she sent for a barrister of Gray’s Inn, and[Pg 72] informed him, that by the death of her father, she was sole heir to his fortune, but that she was married to an extravagant husband, who was resolved to secure her property to himself. Here she poured forth a torrent of tears and the most grievous lamentations, the more to interest the young barrister in her favor. But while the lawyer was squaring his features to the occasion, and talking of the matter in a learned and eloquent strain, a woman ran up stairs, exclaiming, “O, madam, we are all undone! for my master is below; he has been asking for you, and swears that he will come up to your chamber. I am afraid the people of the house will not be able to hinder him, he appears so resolute.”—“O heavens!” exclaimed Madame, “what shall I do?”—“Why?” cried the lawyer. “Why!” quoth she, “I mean how shall I dispose of you? Dear me, what excuse shall I make for your being here? I dare not tell him your quality and business, for that would endanger all; and, on the other side, he is extremely jealous. Therefore, good sir, step into that closet until I can send him away.” Surprised, and at a loss what to do, the lawyer complied. The closet being locked, and the curtains of the bed drawn, she opened the door to her husband, who was loudly demanding admittance.

The moment he entered, he gave his spouse the most opprobrious language. “O, mistress abandoned! I understand you have a man in the room: a pretty companion for a poor innocent woman, truly! one who is always complaining how hardly I use her. Where is the villain? I shall sacrifice him this moment. Is this your modesty, madam? this your virtue? Let me see your gallant immediately, or, by the light! you shall be the first victim yourself.” Saying this, he made to the closet door, and burst it open like a fury. The young lawyer was discovered with shame, though innocent, and trembling in every limb. The husband’s sword was unsheathed, and death was before the barrister’s eyes. But Madame, interposing, seemed determined rather to die herself than to suffer the blood of[Pg 73] an innocent man to stain her chamber. A companion of the husband also fortunately came to her assistance, and seizing the arm of the infuriated man, struggled to wrest the sword from his hand.

The discernment of the lawyer soon discovered the deception, and, to exculpate and relieve himself, he candidly related the whole matter, and the reason for which he was introduced into that place. But all was in vain. The injured and enraged husband insisted that this was only a feigned narrative to cover his villany, and nothing but his blood, or an adequate remuneration, would assuage his fury. The cause was at last referred to the arbitration of the kind stranger who had interfered, and aided Madame in protecting the young lawyer. Five hundred pounds were proposed as a proper recompense; but that was far beyond the power of the lawyer to command. It was with no small difficulty agreed that he should give a hundred pounds, rather than be found exposed to the consequences of detection, in a situation where he was unable to vindicate his innocence. He sent a note to a friend for that sum, the confederates being careful to examine it before it was transmitted, lest it should be for a constable, instead of a hundred pounds. Upon the payment of that sum the lawyer was liberated, and went off with the bitter reflection, that, instead of receiving a good fee for writing a deed of settlement, he had paid a hundred pounds for a few minutes’ lodging in a closet; but, consoling himself with the hopes of seeing this amiable widow speedily exalted to merited honor.

The good wishes of the lawyer were in a very few years verified in her history. Not long after this, Madame was apprehended, accused of stealing a silver tankard at Covent Garden, and sent to Newgate. At the next sessions she was tried, and transported to Jamaica; where, however, she only remained two years, when she returned to England, and appeared in the character of a great heiress. The result of this artifice was, that she was speedily married to a rich apothecary,[Pg 74] whom she soon robbed of above three hundred pounds, and then left him to resolve the question whether the loss of his money or the loss of his wife was the greatest misfortune. Madame went next to lodge in a house where the landlady, a watchmaker, herself, and her faithful maid, composed the whole family. Having established her character for sobriety and probity, she invited her landlady and the watchmaker to the play, and treated them with tickets. They accepted the invitation, and the maid remained at home, sole guardian of the garrison. But during their absence, she broke open the locks, extracted about two hundred pounds, and made free with about thirty watches; so that her spoil amounted in all to six hundred pounds, which she carried to the appointed place of rendezvous. Meanwhile, Madame, not satisfied with treating the watchmaker and her good landlady with tickets to the play, after it was over took them to a tavern to treat them to a small collation, where she embraced an opportunity to decamp.

It happened that one Mr. Freeman, a brewer, had been robbed of two hundred pounds, and that an officer had been sent to search every suspected place for the thieves. One Lancaster was the person upon whom suspicion chiefly rested, and, while searching a house for him, they discovered Madame walking in a night-gown. The thief-catcher entered her room, and, seeing two letters upon the table, he began to examine their contents. Madame was highly displeased with his impertinent freedom, and, in the course of the dispute which ensued, he had occasion to examine the features of her countenance, and recognising her ladyship, took both her and her letters along with him.

When removed to the Old Bailey, she was interrogated, whether she was the woman who usually went by the name of Mary Carleton. She answered, “Yes.” The court then demanded the reason of her return from banishment before the specified time. She made many trifling excuses, which detained the court for a few days; but finding these excuses would not answer her[Pg 75] purpose, she pleaded pregnancy. A committee of matrons was then appointed to examine her, who gave a verdict against her, and she was condemned to suffer in conformity with her previous sentence.

In prison she was visited by many, out of curiosity to see the behavior of such a remarkable character in confinement and under sentence of death; and several clergymen attended her to conduct her devotions, and to direct her in her calamitous situation. She confessed herself to be a Roman Catholic, and sincerely bewailed her criminal conduct, frequently wishing that she could again renew her life, in order to spend it in a more exemplary and virtuous manner.

On the day of her execution, she appeared more cheerful and gay than usual, and, placing the picture of her husband upon her arm, she went to Tyburn with it. She appeared devout, and, when she heard St. Sepulchre’s bell begin to toll, uttered several pious ejaculations. To a friend, who rode in a cart with her to the place of execution, she delivered two Roman Catholic books; and, addressing the multitude, owned that she had been a very vain woman, and hoped that her fate would deter others from the same evil ways; and that, though the world had condemned her, she had much to say for herself. Then, praying God to forgive her as she did her most inveterate enemies, she was in a few minutes launched into eternity. She was executed in the year 1672, in the thirty-eighth year of her age, and in the same month of the year in which she was born.

[Pg 76]


Captain Dudley was born at Swepston in Leicestershire. His father once possessed a considerable estate, but through extravagance lost the whole except about sixty pounds per annum. In these reduced circumstances he went to London, intending to live in obscurity, corresponding to the state of his finances.

Richard his son had a promising genius, and received a liberal education at St. Paul’s school. But a naturally vicious disposition baffled all restraints. When only nine years old he showed his covetous disposition, by robbing his sister of thirty shillings, and absconding with it. In a few days, however, he was found, brought home, and sent to school, where his vicious propensities were only strengthened by indulgence. Impatient of the confinement of a school, he next robbed his father of a considerable sum of money, and absconded. His father, however, discovered his retreat, and found him a little way from town in the company of two loose women.

Despairing of his settling at home, his father sent him on board a man-of-war, in which he sailed up the straits, and behaved gallantly in several actions. Upon his arrival in England, he left the ship, under the pretence that a younger officer had been preferred before him, upon the death of one of the lieutenants. In a short time he joined a band of thieves, assisted them in robbing the country-house of admiral Carter, and escaped detection. Having at length commenced robber, the first remarkable robbery in which he was engaged, was that of breaking into the house of a lady of Blackheath, and carrying off a large quantity of plate.

[Pg 77]

He and his associates were successful in selling the plate to a refiner; but in a short time he was apprehended for the robbery, and committed to Newgate. While there, he sent for the refiner, and severely reproached him in the following manner: “It is,” said he, “a hard matter to find an honest man and a fair dealer: for, you cursed rogue, among the plate you bought there was a cup with a cover, which you told us was but silver gilt, buying it at the same price with the rest; but it plainly appeared, by the advertisement in the gazette, that it was a gold cup and cover; I see you are a rogue, and that there is no trusting any body.” Dudley was tried, convicted for this robbery, and sentenced to death: but his youth, and the interest of his friends, procured him a royal pardon.

For two years he conducted himself to the satisfaction of his father, so that he purchased for him a commission in the army. In that situation he also acquitted himself honorably, and married a young lady of a respectable family, with whom he received an estate of a hundred and forty pounds a year. This, with his commission, enabled them to live in a genteel manner. Delighting, however, in company, and having become security for one of his companions for a debt, and that person being arrested for it, one of the bailiffs was killed in the scuffle, and Dudley was suspected of being the murderer.

What strengthened this suspicion was, that Dudley was the avowed enemy of all that class of society. He deemed a bailiff in England, or what is known in Scotland by the name of messenger, as one who is determined to strip every person who comes under his power of all he possibly can.

But, leaving the statements of Dudley concerning these men, let us return to the relation of his actions. Having banished every virtuous feeling, being more inclined to live upon the ruins of his country than the fruits of his industry, and more disposed to fight than to work, he abandoned his own house, and joined a band of robbers. Dudley soon became so expert a[Pg 78] robber, that there was scarcely any robbery committed but he acted a principal part in it. Pleased with this easy way of obtaining money, and of supporting an extravagant expense, he also prevailed upon Will, his brother, to join him in this employment. It happened, however, that Will had not been long in his new occupation, when the captain was apprehended for robbing a gentleman of a watch, a sword, a whip, and nine shillings. But, fortunately for him, the evidence was defective, and he escaped death a second time.

Now hardened in vice, he immediately recurred to his old trade. He robbed on the highway, broke into houses, picked pockets, or performed any act of violence or cunning by which he could procure money. Fortune favored him long, and he went on with impunity, but was at last apprehended for robbing Sir John Friend’s house. Upon trial the evidence was decisive, and he received sentence of death. His friends again interposed, and through their influence his sentence was changed for that of banishment. Accordingly, he and several other convicts were put on board a ship bound for Barbadoes. But they had scarcely reached the Isle of Wight, when he excited his companions to a conspiracy, and, having concerted their measures while the ship’s company were under hatches, they went off with the longboat.

No sooner had he reached the shore than he abandoned his companions, and travelled through woods and by-paths. Being in a very mean dress, he begged when he had no opportunity to steal. Arriving, however, at Hounslow heath, he met with a farmer, robbed him, seized his horse, and, having mounted, set forward in quest of new spoils. This was a fortunate day, for Dudley had not proceeded far on the heath when a gentleman, well dressed, and better mounted than the farmer, made his appearance. He was commanded to halt and to surrender. Dudley led him aside into a retired thicket, exchanged clothes and horse, rifled his pockets, and then addressed him, saying, that “he ought never to accuse him of robbing him, for according[Pg 79] to the old proverb, exchange was no robbery;” so bidding him good day, he marched off for London. Arrived there, he went in search of his old associates, who were glad to see their friend; and who, in consequence of his fortunate adventures and high reputation among them, conferred upon him the title of captain, all agreeing to be subject to his commands. Thus, at the head of such an experienced and desperate band, no part of the country was secure from his rapine, nor any house sufficiently strong to keep him out. The natural consequences were, that he soon became known and dreaded all over the country.

To avoid capture, and to prevent all inquiries, he paid a visit to the north of England, and, being one day in search of plunder, he robbed a Dutch colonel of his horse, arms, and fine laced coat. Thus equipped, he committed several other robberies. At length, however, he laid aside the colonel’s habit, only using his horse, which soon became dexterous at his new employment. But one day meeting a gentleman near Epsom, the latter resisted the captain’s demands, and discharged his pistol at Dudley. In the combat, however, he was victorious, wounded the gentleman in the leg, and, having stripped him of his money, conveyed him to the next village, that he might receive medical assistance, and then rode off in search of new adventures. The captain and his men were very successful in this quarter. No stage, nor coach, nor passenger, of which they had intelligence, could escape their depredations, and scarcely a day passed without the commission of some notorious robbery.

Captain Dudley and his men went on in a continued course of good fortune, acquiring much wealth, but amassing little, as their extravagance was equal to their gains. On one ill-fated day, however, having attacked and robbed the Southampton coach, they were keenly pursued, and several of them taken, but Dudley escaped. Deprived of the chief part of his own forces, he now attached himself to some housebreakers, and with them continued to commit many[Pg 80] robberies; in particular, with three others, he entered the house of an old woman in Spitalfields, gagged her, bound her to a chair, and rifled the house of a considerable sum of money, which the good woman had been long scraping together. Hearing the money clink that was going to be taken from her, she struggled in her chair, fell down upon her face, and was stifled to death, while the captain and his companions went off with impunity. But when the old woman came to be interred, a grandson of hers, who had been one of the robbers, when about to be fitted with a pair of mourning gloves, changed countenance, was strongly agitated, and began to tremble. He was suspected, charged with the murder, confessed the crime, and informing upon the rest, two of them were taken, tried, and condemned, and the three hanged in chains.

Yet, though Dudley’s name was published as accessory to the murder, he long escaped detection. At length, however, he was apprehended, and charged with several robberies, of which he, by dexterous management, evaded the deserved punishment. He was also called to stand trial for the murder of the old woman; but the principal evidence, upon whose testimony the other three were chiefly condemned, being absent, he escaped suffering for that crime. The dexterous manner in which he managed that trial, the witnesses whom he had suborned, and the manner in which he maintained his innocence before the jury, were often the cause of his boast and amusement.

The profligate Dudley was no sooner relieved from prison than he hastened to join his old companions in vice. Exulting to see their captain again at their head, they redoubled their activity, and committed all manner of depredations. Among other adventures, they robbed a nobleman on Hounslow heath of fifteen hundred pounds, after a severe engagement with his servants, three of whom were wounded, and two had their horses shot under them. They next directed their course along the west country road, and having robbed a parson, enjoined him, under the most terrific[Pg 81] threats, to preach a sermon in praise of thieving. He was forced to comply, and the sermon being ended, they returned his money, and gave him four shillings to drink their health and success.

After this adventure, they left off infesting the highways, and rode for London. Arrived in the capital, the captain’s brother employed his dexterity about town in several adventures, which go far to show how well the brother profited by the example and instructions of the captain. He first dressed himself as a countryman, with a pair of dirty boots on, and a whip in his hand, and went to Bartholomew Fair, where he wandered all the forenoon without meeting any prey. But as he was returning, he accosted a plain countryman, saying, “Have a care, honest friend, of your money, for we are going into a cursed place, full of thieves, rogues, and pickpockets. I am almost ruined by them, and I am glad that they have not pulled the teeth out of my head. Let one take never so good care, they will be sure of his money; the devil certainly helps them.”

The face of the countryman glowed with courage as he replied, “I defy all the devils to rob me of any thing I value. I have a round piece which I’ll secure;” and thrusting it into his mouth, he rushed confidently into the fair. Will was only desirous to ascertain the fact that he had money about him; therefore, giving his instructions with a few sixpences and groats to a hopeful boy, he immediately ran after the countryman, while Will followed at a distance. The boy coming up with the countryman, fell down before him, scattering the money all around; and starting up, he raised the most hideous noise, crying that he was undone, and that he must run away from his apprenticeship, that his master was a furious man, and that he would certainly be killed. The countryman and others flocked around, and endeavored to assist the boy in gathering up his lost money. Then one of them said, “Have you found all?” “Yes, all the silver, but that is of no avail; there is a broad piece of gold which I was carrying to[Pg 82] my master for a token sent from the country, and for the loss of it I shall be killed. Alas! I am undone! what will become of me?” Will now advanced among the crowd, and was equally concerned for the unhappy boy; and, seeing the countryman standing by, he gravely observed that he had seen him put a piece of gold into his mouth. The mob instantly seized him, and while one opened his mouth by force, another extracted the broad piece of gold; and when he attempted to speak in his own defence, he was kicked, pinched, and so tossed about, that he was glad to escape with his life. Meanwhile, the boy slipped away among the crowd, and at an appointed place met Will to surrender to him his booty.

Having changed his clothes, Will went into the market, and mingling with the crowd, learned that the countryman was gone to an inn, where he had sent for his master, a knight of a large estate, and some other respectable persons, to attest his character. Will knew this person well, and hastened to the Exchange, in full hopes of meeting him. Having reconnoitred the gentleman, and followed him until he perceived an opportunity, he robbed him of every guinea he had, except one, which he considerately left him to pay for his dinner. The knight, repairing to the inn, laughed heartily when the poor countryman informed him that he had been robbed, while he told him that he also had, in like manner, been just fleeced upon the Exchange. The countryman laughed in his turn, and said, “Sir, let us make our escape from this roguish place;” adding, with a shrug of the shoulders, “Sir, they’ll steal our small guts to make fiddle-strings of them.”

The gentleman, having recruited his purse, went on the next day to the Exchange. Will paid him the same compliment the second day. The knight was surprised how it was possible for any man to rob him when he was so forewarned, and so upon his guard; but, looking hastily about, his eye fixed upon Will, whom he suspected to be the delinquent. He went up to him, and, taking him by the button, informed him,[Pg 83] that he strongly suspected that he was the person who had robbed him; but, as he was a gentleman of a large fortune, he did not regard the money, and would freely pardon him, and give him all the money, upon condition that he would inform him by what means he had done so. “This,” said he, “I promise upon my honor.” “Your word of honor,” said Will, “is sufficient; I know the greatness of your fortune; I am the man. I will wait on your worship at the tavern, and there show you some of my art more freely than I would do to my fellow-rogues.” In their way to the inn, the gentleman informed Will, that as he wished to make a frolic of the matter, he would send for some other gentlemen to be present, assuring him, at the same time, that he should sustain no damage from any discovery that he might make to them. “I know you’re a gentleman,” said Will, “and men of honor scorn to keep base company. Call as many as you please; I’ll take their word, and I know that I am safe.”

When the gentlemen arrived, Will told them many things which greatly astonished and pleased them; and when he pulled out the piece of gold, and informed them how he had used Roger, the gentleman’s tenant, he was immediately sent for to increase the amusement. “What would you say,” cried the knight, as he entered, “if you saw your gold again?” “Oh!” said he, “I wish I could; but if my mouth can’t keep it, where shall I put it? Shud! I’d rather see the rogue; I’d make a jelly of his bones!” “There he is,” said the knight, “and there’s your broad piece.” As Roger began to heave and to bully, his master commanded him to take his piece of gold, and sit down by him: upon which, the pacified Roger, seeing how things went, drank to his new acquaintance.

One of the gentlemen pulling out a curious watch, said, he wondered how it was possible to take a watch out of a fob; that it certainly must be from carelessness on the part of the owner. “No,” said Will, “if the gentleman will take a turn in Moorfields, I’ll wager a[Pg 84] guinea I’ll have the watch before he return, let him take what care he pleases, and I shan’t stir out of the room.” “Done,” cried the gentleman; and every gentleman in the room laid down his guinea, while Roger staked his broad piece. The gentleman went out, and was careful that he would not suffer man, woman, nor child to come near him. When the time approached that he should return, a boy came pretty near him, but, to avoid suspicion, ran past him, and at the same time looking on his back, informed the gentleman that it swarmed with vermin. The gentleman observing them, and loathing the sight, said, “Good boy, take them off, and I’ll give you a shilling.” The boy did so, at the same time stealing his watch; and, having received his shilling, ran off. The gentleman returned to the tavern, wondering all the way how he could possibly come by such vermin, and taking the greatest care that no person should approach him.

Upon his return to the tavern, Will asked him what o’clock it was. He attempted to pull out his watch, but, to his utter astonishment and confusion, it was gone. Upon this, Will produced it, and asked the gentleman if that were his. The gentleman was struck dumb, casting up his hands and eyes, and, full of amazement, addressed Will, saying, “You must have had the assistance of the devil.” “Of a boy,” said Will. “Did not a boy pick you clean?” “There’s the devil,” said the gentleman; “and he threw them on, too, I suppose.” “Ay, through a quill,” said the other.

All present were astonished at the ingenuity of the trick, but particularly plain Roger, who could not, at times, restrain his laughter. “Alas!” said Will, “this trick is not worth talking about: it is only one of those we commit to our boys. There is a nobleman just passing the window, with a very rich coat upon his back; I’ll wager, as before, to steal it from him, before all his followers, and bring it here on my own back.” The gentlemen all staked their guineas, and were seconded by Roger. “Come, now,” said Will, “this[Pg 85] matter must not be entrusted to a boy; you will give me leave to go myself, nor must you restrict me to any particular time to return.” So out he ran, and followed the nobleman from street to street, until he saw him enter a tavern.

The nobleman was conducted up-stairs. Will bustling in after him, hastened to the bar-keeper, and desired him to lend him an apron, as his master would be served only by his own footman. “He is a very good customer, and expects the very best wine: I must go to the cellar and taste it for him.” The apron being given, he went to the cellar, and returned with some of the best of each wine for his pretended master. He ran so quick up and down stairs, and was so alert at his work, that none of the other servants could equal him. Meanwhile, the company up-stairs taking him for the servant of the house, were highly satisfied with his attendance. Will was also careful to give full cups to the servant who should have served in his place, with some money, which the other was very glad to receive for doing nothing. He seldom also went into the room without passing some merry jest to amuse the company. They were so highly pleased with him, that they said one to another, “This is a merry, witty fellow; such a man as he is fit to make a house; he deserves double wages.” When Will saw his plan ripe for execution, he came into the room with some wine, and by the aid of his knife, made a slit in my lord’s coat. Returning with a bottle in one hand, and his other hand full of glasses, before he approached his lordship he started and stared, saying, “What fellows are those who have made that coat?” with other imprecations against the tailor. Then some of the company rising up, saw the rent in my lord’s coat, and cried, “My lord, the tailor has cheated you.” Will, drawing near, said, “Such things may happen; but give me the coat, and I’ll carry it privately under my master’s cloak to an acquaintance of mine, who will presently make it as good as if it had not been torn.” Borrowing a great coat of a gentleman present, the[Pg 86] nobleman gave Will his coat to carry to the tailor, who, coming down stairs, informed the landlord of the disaster, received his cloak, and, putting the rent coat below it, seized a good beaver hat off one of the cloak-pins, and hastened from the tavern. Arriving at the inn where the gentlemen were anxiously waiting his return, he went into another room, dressed himself, and entered with the cloak and beaver on. “What!” said one of them, “instead of a coat, you come with a cloak, and great need for it; for,” he added, “there’s a deal of knavery under it.” Will then opened the cloak, and showed them the coat, saying, that he had received the cloak and beaver into the bargain; and gave an account of the whole adventure.

Meanwhile, my lord and his company had waited long in expectation of the servant, whom they supposed to have been one of the waiters of the house. The landlord also wondering that they were so long in calling for more wine, one of the servants was sent up-stairs to force trade. He entered the room, saying, “Call here, call here, gentlemen?” “Yes,” said one of them, “where is your fellow-servant who waited upon us?” “My fellow-servant!” exclaimed the other; “he said he was my lord’s servant, and that his master would be served by none but himself, and I should have good vails, nevertheless.” My lord replied, “How can that be? I have only one gentleman of my own retinue; the rest are with my lady. He that served us came in with an apron, and in the character of one of the servants of the house:—call up the landlord!” Boniface instantly waited upon them, when one of the gentlemen asked him, if he kept sharpers in his house, to affront gentlemen and to rob them. “Nay,” replied the vintner, who was a choleric man, “do you bring sharpers along with you, to affront me and rob my house? I am sure I have lost a new cloak and beaver; and, for aught I know, though you look like gentlemen, you may be sharpers yourselves; and I expect to be paid by you for my losses, as well as for the reckoning.” One of them instantly drew upon him,[Pg 87] enraged at his insolent language; but the landlord ran down stairs in affright, and alarmed the whole house, entreating them not to suffer such rogues to escape. In the mean time he seized a sword, the servants armed themselves with spits, pokers, and such other weapons as the house afforded. A great uproar was soon raised; and the nobleman coming first out to penetrate through the crowd, made a thrust at the landlord, but was beaten back by a fire-shovel in the hand of one of the waiters, and narrowly escaped being run through with a long spit in the hands of a cook maid. His lordship, seeing the door so completely guarded, shut himself up in the room, and began to consult with the rest of the company what was best to be done.

Fortunately, however, the gentleman who was in the other tavern with Will, conjecturing that a quarrel might ensue between the nobleman and the vintner, who had lost his cloak and beaver, sent his own landlord to inform him, that the rogue was caught, and in safe custody.

He was admitted up-stairs, waited on his lordship, and communicated to him the whole affair. A cessation of arms took place. They drank to the health of the landlord, assuring him, that in future they would be friendly to his house; but, in the mean time, they attended their peacemaker to the tavern, where Will was exhibiting his dexterity. The vintner went along with them, and, after common compliments, Will restored the coat, the cloak, and the beaver, and continued to amuse them during the remainder of the evening with the relation of his adventures.

But to return, at length, to the captain his brother. He had, along with his companions, committed so many robberies upon the highway, that a proclamation was issued against them, offering a reward to those who should bring them, either dead or alive. This occasioned their detection in the following manner:—having committed a robbery, and being closely pursued to Westminster ferry, the wherryman refused to carry any more that night. Two of them then rode off, and[Pg 88] the other four gave their horses to a waterman to lead to the next inn. The horses foaming with sweat, the waterman began to suspect that they were robbers who had been keenly pursued, and communicated his suspicions to the constable, who secured the horses, and went in search of the men.

He was not long in seizing one of them, who confessed; and the constable, hastening to the inn, secured the rest, and, having placed a strong guard upon them, rode to Lambeth, and making sure of the other two, led them before a justice of the peace, who committed them to Newgate.

At the next sessions, captain Dudley, his brother, and three other accomplices, were tried, and condemned to suffer death.

After sentence, captain Dudley was brought to Newgate, where he conducted himself agreeably to his sad situation. He was conveyed from Newgate with six other prisoners. He appeared pretty cheerful, but his brother lay all the time sick in the cart. The ceremonies of religion being performed, they were launched into another world on the twenty-second of February, 1681, to answer for the numerous crimes of their guilty lives.

The bodies of the captain and his brother, having been cut down, were put into separate coffins, to be conveyed to their disconsolate father, who at the sight was so overwhelmed, that he sank upon the dead bodies, and never spoke more, and was buried at the same time and in the same grave with his two sons.

[Pg 89]


The advancement of the arts and sciences is not more rapid than the progress of folly and vice. In the following memoir it will be demonstrated, that the best education may be perverted by vicious dispositions.

William Nevison was born at Pomfret, in Yorkshire, about the year 1639, and his parents, being in good circumstances, conferred upon him a decent education. He remained at school until he was about thirteen years of age. During that period, his expanding talents promised a luxuriant harvest; but the general bent of his future character, and the ruling motive of all his actions, were exhibited at that period. He commenced his depredations by stealing a silver spoon from his own father. The too indulgent parent, instead of chastising him for the crime, transferred the unpleasant work to the schoolmaster. The father who resigns authority over his own children may expect either to lose them altogether, or to have his heart grieved and his family dishonored by their conduct. The schoolmaster having punished young Nevison for the theft, he spent a sleepless night in meditating revenge. He knew that the pedagogue had a favorite horse, which grazed in an adjacent paddock. William rose early in the morning, moved quietly into his father’s closet, stole his keys, and supplied himself with cash to the amount of ten pounds; then, taking a saddle and bridle from his father’s stable, he hastened to the paddock in which the schoolmaster’s horse was accustomed to feed; and, having saddled and bridled the animal, with all haste rode towards London. About a mile or two from the capital, he cut the throat of the poor horse, for fear of detection. Arrived in London, he changed his name and clothes, and then hired himself to a brewer.[Pg 90] Although circumstances compelled him to be for a while industrious, in order to obtain the necessaries of life, his mind was always upon the stretch to invent some more expeditious mode of acquiring money than the slow return of annual pay; accordingly he often, ineffectually, attempted to rob his master. One evening, however, the clerk happening to use his bottle too freely, Nevison followed him into the counting-house, and, while he was enjoying a recruiting nap, stole the keys of the desks, and relieved them of their burden, to the amount of about two hundred pounds. Without waiting to discover whether the clerk or the servant would be blamed for the cash, he sailed for Holland.

But change of climate had no effect in changing his nature. Through his instigation, the daughter of a respectable citizen robbed her father of a large sum of money, and a quantity of jewels, and eloped with the Englishman. They were pursued, taken, and committed to prison. Thus detected, Nevison would certainly have finished a short but villanous career in a foreign land, had he not fortunately effected his escape.

With no small difficulty he arrived in Flanders, and enlisted into a regiment of English volunteers, under the command of the duke of York. In that station he behaved with considerable reputation, and even acquired some money; but his restless temper and disposition to acquire riches, by whatever means, did not permit him to remain in a situation of industry or sobriety. He deserted, went over to England, with his money purchased a horse, together with all other necessaries, and commenced his depredations in a systematic form. His success was uncommon, and he every day found means to replenish his coffers, and to nourish his extravagance. Nor would he unite his fortune with any one, who, from selfish motives, might feel disposed to participate in his lucrative employment.

One day Nevison, who went otherwise by the name of Johnson, travelling on the road, and scouring about in search of a prize, met two countrymen, who, coming up towards him, informed him that it was very dangerous[Pg 91] travelling forward, for that the way was set, and they had been robbed by three highwaymen, about half a mile off; and if he had any charge of money about him, it was his safest course to turn back. Nevison asking them what they had lost, they told him forty pounds: upon which he replied, “Turn back with me and show me the way they took, and my life to a farthing, I’ll make them return you your money again.” They rode along with him till they came in sight of the highwaymen, when Nevison, ordering the countrymen to stay behind him at some distance, rode up, and spoke to the foremost of them, saying, “Sir, by your garb and the color of your horse, you should be one of those I looked after; and if so, my business is to tell you, that you borrowed of two friends of mine forty pounds, which they desire me to demand of you, and which, before we part, you must restore.” “How!” cried the highwayman, “forty pounds! What! is the fellow mad?” “So mad,” replied Nevison, “that your life shall answer me, if you do not give me better satisfaction.” Upon which he drew his pistol and suddenly clapped it to the other’s breast, who finding that Nevison had also his rein, and that he could not get his sword or pistols, yielded, telling him his life was at his mercy. “No,” said Nevison, “it is not that I seek, but the money you robbed these two men of who are riding up to me, which you must refund.”

The thief was forced to consent, and readily to deliver such part as he had, saying his companions were in possession of the rest; so that Nevison, having made him dismount, and taking away his pistols, which he gave to the countrymen, ordered them to secure him, and hold his own, while he took the thief’s horse, and pursued the other two, whom he soon overtook; for they, thinking him their companion, stopped as soon as they saw him; so that he came up to them in the midst of a common. “How now, Jack,” said one of them, “what made you engage with yon fellow?” “No, gentlemen,” replied Nevison, “you are mistaken in your man: Thomas—for by the token of your horse[Pg 92] and arms, I perceive you are Thomas—he hath sent me to you for the ransom of his life, amounting to no less than the prize of the day, which if you presently surrender, you may go about your business; if not, I must have a little dispute with you at sword and pistol!” At which one of them fired at him, but missing his aim, received Nevison’s bullet in his right shoulder; and being thereby disabled, Nevison was about to discharge at the other, when he called for quarter, and came to a parley, which, in short, was made up, with Nevison’s promise to send their friend, and their delivering him all the ready money they had, amounting to a hundred and fifty pounds. Having obtained his booty, he rode back to the two countrymen, and released their prisoner, giving them their whole forty pounds, with a caution for the future to look better after it, and not, like cowards, as they were, to surrender the same on such easy terms again.

In all his exploits, Nevison was tender of the fair sex, and bountiful to the poor. He was also a true loyalist, and never levied any contributions upon the royalists. One day, fortunately encountering a rich usurer, he stopped his coach, and demanded that he would deliver the money which he had extorted from poor widows and orphans. The pistol presented to his breast, and the reproaches of the highwayman, filled his guilty mind with inexpressible terror, and he began to expostulate for his life. “That shall be granted,” replied Nevison, “upon condition of your surrendering your gold.” The other reluctantly drew out sixty broad pieces of gold; but this sum being inadequate to the necessities of Nevison, he constrained the usurer to mount upon the postilion’s horse, and allowed the coach with the three ladies in it to proceed. The poor Jew, now thinking that the hour was verily nigh at hand when he would be bereft of life and separated from his treasures, experienced all the violent emotions of terror, chagrin and despair. Nevison compelled him to draw a note upon sight for five hundred pounds upon a scrivener in London. He then permitted him[Pg 93] to ride after his friends to acquaint them with his misfortunes, while he himself rode all night, that he might have the money drawn before advice could be forwarded to stop the payment.

After several adventures of a similar nature, Nevison one day robbed a rich grazier of 450l. and then proposed to himself to retire with the spoil. Accordingly, he returned home, and, like the prodigal son, was joyfully received by his father, who, not having heard of him during seven or eight years, supposed that he had been dead. He remained with his father until the day of the old man’s death, living as soberly and honestly as if no act of violence had ever sullied his reputation. Upon the death of his father, however, he returned to his former courses, and in a short time, his name was a terror to every traveller upon the road. To such an extent did he carry his plans, that the carriers and drovers who frequented that road willingly agreed to leave certain sums at such places as he appointed, to prevent their being stripped of their all.

Continuing his wicked course, he was at last apprehended, thrown into Leicester gaol, put in irons, and strictly guarded; but, in spite of all the precautions of the county, he effected his escape. One day, two or three of his trusty friends visited him, one of whom, being a physician, gave out that he was infected with the plague, and that, unless he was removed to a larger room, where he might enjoy free air, he should not only himself perish, but communicate the infection to all the inhabitants of the gaol. He was instantly removed, and the gaoler’s wife would not allow her husband to go farther then the door of his room, for fear of the infection, which afforded Nevison and his friends time to perfect their scheme. The physician came twice or thrice every day to see him, and continued to declare his case hopeless. At last a painter was brought in, who painted all his body with spots, similar to those that appear upon a person infected with the pestilence. In a few days after, he received a sleeping draught, and was declared to be dead. The inquest[Pg 94] who sat upon his body were afraid to approach in order to make a minute inspection, and thus a verdict was returned that he had died of the plague. His friends now demanded his body, and he was carried out of prison in a coffin.

This insertion into a coffin only rendered him more callous and daring in vice. He, with redoubled vigor, renewed his depredations, and, meeting his carriers and drovers, informed them, that it was necessary to increase their rents, in order to refund his expenses while in gaol and his loss of time. It was at first supposed, that it was his ghost, who carried on the same pranks that he had done in his lifetime. The truth of this, however, came to be suspected, and the gaoler offered a reward of 20l. to any person who would restore him to his former domicile.

Resolved to visit the capital, he upon his journey met a company of canting beggars, pilgrims, and idle vagabonds. Continuing in their company for some time, and observing the merry life that they pursued, he took an opportunity to propose himself as a candidate for admission into their honorable fraternity. Their leader applauded his resolution, and addressed him in these words:—“Do not we come into the world arrant beggars, without a rag upon us? And do we not all go out of the world like beggars, saving only an old sheet over us? Shall we, then, be ashamed to walk up and down the world like beggars, with old blankets pinned about us? No! no! that would be a shame to us, indeed. Have we not the whole kingdom to walk in at our pleasure? Are we afraid of the approach of quarter-day? Do we walk in fear of sheriffs, bailiffs, and catchpoles? Who ever knew an arrant beggar arrested for debt? Is not our meat dressed in every man’s kitchen? Does not every man’s cellar afford us beer? And the best men’s purses keep a penny for us to spend?” Having, by these words, as he thought, fully fixed him in love with begging, he then acquainted the company with Nevison’s desire, in consequence of which they were all[Pg 95] very joyful, being as glad to add one to their society, as a Mussulman to obtain a proselyte. The first question they asked him was, if he had any loure in his bung. Nevison stared on them, not knowing what they meant; till at last, one informed him it was money in his purse. He told them he had but eighteen pence, which he gave them freely. This, by a general vote, was condemned to be spent in a booze for his initiation. They then commanded him to kneel down, which being done, one of the chief of them took a gage of booze, which is a quart of drink, and poured the same on his head, saying, “I do, by virtue of this sovereign liquor, install thee in the Roage, and make thee a free denizen of our ragged regiment. So that henceforth it shall be lawful for thee to cant, only observing these rules:—First, that thou art not to wander up and down all countries, but to keep to that quarter that is allotted thee; and, secondly, thou art to give way to any of us that have borne all the offices of the wallet before; and, upon holding up a finger, to avoid any town or country village, where thou seest we are foraging for victuals for our army that march along with us. Observing these two rules, we take thee into our protection, and adopt thee a brother of our numerous society.”

The leader having ended his oration, Nevison rose up, and was congratulated by all the company’s hanging about him, like so many dogs about a bear, and making such a hideous noise, that the chief, commanding silence, addressed him as follows:—“Now that thou art entered into our fraternity, thou must not scruple to act any villanies, whether it be to cut a purse, steal a cloak-bag, or portmanteau, convey all manner of things, whether a chicken, sucking-pig, duck, goose, or hen, or to steal a shirt from the hedge; for he that will be a quier cove, (a professed rogue) must observe these rules. And because thou art but a novice in begging, and understandest not the mysteries of the canting language, thou shalt have a wife to be thy companion, by whom thou mayest receive instructions.”[Pg 96] And thereupon, he singled him out a girl of about seventeen years of age, which tickled his fancy very much: but he must presently be married to her after the fashion of their patrico, who, amongst beggars, is their priest. Whereupon the ceremony was performed after this manner:—

They took a hen, and, having cut off the head of it, laid the dead body on the ground, placing Nevison on the one side, and his intended on the other; this being done, the priest, standing by, with a loud voice bade them live together till death did them part; then shaking hands, and kissing each other, the ceremony of the wedding was over, and the whole group appeared intoxicated with joy. Night approaching, and all their money being spent, they betook themselves to a barn not far off, where they broached a hogshead, and went to sleep.

Nevison, having met with this odd piece of diversion in his journey, slipped out of the barn when all were asleep, took a horse, and posted directly away. But, coming to London, he found there was too much noise about him to permit him to tarry there: he therefore returned into the country, and fell to his old pranks again. Several who had been formerly robbed by him, happening to meet him, imagined that his ghost walked abroad, having heard the report of his pestilential death in Leicester gaol. In short, his crimes became so notorious, that a reward was offered to any that would apprehend him: this made many waylay him, especially two brothers, named Fletcher, one of whom Nevison shot dead; but, going into a little village about thirteen miles from York, he was taken by captain Hardcastle, and sent to York gaol, where, on the 15th March 1684, he was tried, condemned, and executed, aged forty-five.

[Pg 98]

The Golden Farmer

The Golden Farmer. P. 99.

[Pg 99]


This man’s real name was William Davis, a native of North Wales, but he obtained the title of Golden Farmer from his custom of paying any considerable sum in gold. He was born in the year 1626. At an early period of life he removed to Sudbury, in Gloucestershire, where he took a farm, married the daughter of a wealthy innkeeper, by whom he had eighteen children, and followed that industrious employment merely to disguise the real character of a robber, which he sustained without suspicion for the space of forty-two years. He usually robbed alone. One day, meeting some stage-coaches, he stopped one of them, full of ladies, all of whom complied with his demands, except a Quaker, who vowed she had no money, nor any thing valuable about her: upon which, fearing lest he should lose the booty of the other coaches, he told her he would go and see what they could afford him, and return to her again. Having rifled the other three coaches, he was as good as his word; and the Quaker, persisting in her former statement, enraged the Farmer to such a degree, that, seizing her by the shoulder, and employing language which it would be hardly proper here to set down, he so scared the poor Quaker, as to cause her to produce a purse of guineas, a gold watch, and a diamond ring. Whereupon, they parted as good friends as when they were first introduced to each other.

Upon another occasion, our desperado met the duchess of Albemarle in her coach, as she was riding over Salisbury Plain; but he encountered greater difficulty in this case than he had contemplated. Before he could assault the lady he was compelled to engage a[Pg 100] postilion, the coachman, and two footmen; but, having disabled them all by discharging several pistols, he approached his prey, whom he found more refractory than the female Quaker. Perceiving another person of quality’s coach approaching, with a retinue of servants, he was fain to content himself by pulling three diamond rings from her fingers by force, snatching a rich gold watch from her side, and venting a portion of abuse upon her obstinate ladyship.

It was not very long after this exploit, that our adventurer met with Sir Thomas Day, a justice of the peace, living at Bristol. They fell into discourse, and, riding along, the Golden Farmer informed his new acquaintance, that a little while before, he had narrowly escaped being robbed by a couple of highwaymen, but, luckily, his horse having better heels than theirs, he had got clear of them. “Truly,” said Sir Thomas, “that had been very hard: but, nevertheless, as you would have been robbed between sun and sun, the county, upon suing it, would have been obliged to make your loss good.” Thus, chatting together, and coming to a convenient place, the Golden Farmer shot Sir Thomas’s man’s horse under him, and, compelling him to retire to a distance, presented a pistol to the knight’s heart, and demanded his money. “I thought, sir,” said Sir Thomas, “that you had been an honest man.” “Your worship is mistaken,” cried the Farmer; “and if you had had any skill in physiognomy, you might have perceived that my countenance is the very picture of necessity; so deliver me presently, for I’m in haste.” Sir Thomas, therefore, being constrained to give him the money he had about him, which was about 60l. in gold and silver, the other humbly thanked his worship, and told him, that what he had parted with was not lost, because he had been robbed between sun and sun, and could therefore come upon the county.

One Mr. Hart, a young gentleman of Enfield, who, it appears, possessed a good estate, but was not overburdened with brains, riding one day over Finchley[Pg 101] Common, where the Golden Farmer had been for some hours hunting for prey, was met by him, and saluted with a smart slap with the flat of his drawn hanger upon his shoulders: “A plague on you!” said the Farmer; “how slow you are, to make a man wait upon you all the morning: come, deliver what you have, and go to the devil for orders!” The young gentleman, rather surprised at this novel greeting, began to make several excuses, saying he had no money about him: but his incredulous antagonist took the liberty of searching him, and, finding about him above a hundred guineas, he bestowed upon him two or three farther slaps on the shoulders, telling him, at the same time, not to give his mind to lying in future, when an honest gentleman required a small gratuity from him.

Another time, this notorious robber having paid his landlord about 80l. for rent, the latter, going home with it, was accosted by his goodly tenant in disguise, who, bidding him stand, said:—“Come, Mr. Gravity, deliver what you have in a trice!” The old gentleman, fetching a deep sigh, to the hazard of displacing several buttons from his waistcoat, told him, that he had not above two shillings about him, and hoped, therefore, he was more a gentleman than to take so small a matter from a poor man. “I have no faith,” replied the Farmer; “for you seem, by your habit to be a man of better circumstances than you pretend; therefore, open your budget, or I shall fall foul of you.” “Dear sir,” cried the landlord, “you can’t be so barbarous to an old man. What! have you no religion, pity, or compassion in you? Have you no conscience? Have you no respect for your body or soul?” “Don’t talk of age or barbarity to me,” said the tenant, “for I show neither pity nor compassion to any body. Talk of conscience to me! I have no more of that dull commodity than you have; therefore, deliver every thing you have about you, before this pistol makes you repent your obstinacy.” The landlord being thus threatened, delivered his money, without receiving a receipt for it, although he had given one to the Farmer.

[Pg 102]

An old grazier at Putney Heath was the next victim to the avaricious Farmer. Having accosted him on the road, he informed him that there were some suspicious persons behind them, whom he suspected to be highwaymen; and, if that should be the case, he begged that he would conceal ten guineas for him, which would be safer with him, from the meanness of his apparel. He accepted the charge, and said, that as he himself had fifty guineas bound in the lappet of his shirt, he would deposit them along with his own. In a short time, the Farmer said,—“It does not appear that any person will run the risk of his neck by robbing you to-day; it will, therefore, be as well that I do so myself.” Without any farther preamble, therefore, he demanded of him, instead of delivering up his purse, to cut off the lappet of his shirt; but, declining to comply with his request, the Farmer put himself to the trouble of lightening the fore-garment of the grazier.

Squire Broughton, a gentleman of the Middle Temple, was the succeeding prey of the Golden Farmer. Happening to meet at an inn upon the road, the Farmer pretended to be on his way to the capital, concerning an offence that a neighboring farmer had committed against him, by allowing his cattle to break into his grounds. Meanwhile, he requested that squire Broughton would recommend him to an expert and faithful agent to conduct his cause. Like every other lawyer, Broughton was desirous to have him for a client, and proceeded to explain the nature of his cause. Having spent the night at the inn, they proceeded next morning on their journey, when the Farmer addressed the counsellor, saying, “Pray, sir, what is meant by trover and conversion in the law of England?” He replied, that it signified, in our common law, an action which one man has against another, who, having found any of his goods, refuses to deliver them up on demand, and perhaps converts them to his own use.

The Golden Farmer being now at a place convenient for his purpose, “Very well, then, sir,” said he,[Pg 103] “should I find any money about you, and convert it to my use, it is only actionable, I find.” “That is a robbery,” said the barrister, “which requires no less a satisfaction than a man’s life.” “A robbery!” replied the Golden Farmer; “why, then, I must commit one in my time:” and presenting his pistol, he instantly demanded his money or his life. Surprised at his client’s rough behavior, the lawyer began to remonstrate in strong terms upon the impropriety of his conduct, urging, that it was both contrary to law and to conscience. His eloquent pleading, however, made no impression upon the mind of the Farmer, who, putting a pistol to his breast, compelled the lawyer to deliver his money, amounting to the sum of 40l., some large pieces of gold, and a gold watch.

One day, accosting a tinker upon the road, whom he knew to have 7l. or 8l. upon him, he said, “Well, brother tinker, you seem to be very decent, for your life is a continual pilgrimage, and, in humility, you go almost barefooted, making necessity a virtue.” “Ay, master,” replied the tinker, “necessity compels when the devil drives, and, had you no more than I, you would do the same.” “That might be,” replied the Farmer, “and I suppose you march all over England.” “Yes,” said the tinker, “I go a great deal of ground, but not so much as you ride.” “Be this as it will. I suppose that your conversation is unblamable, because you are continually mending.” “I wish,” replied the tinker, “that as much could be said in commendation of your character.” The Farmer replied, that he was not like him, who would rather steal than beg, in defiance of whips or imprisonment. Determined to have the last word of the Farmer, the tinker rejoined, “I would have you to know, that I take a great deal of pains for a livelihood.” The Farmer, equally loquacious, replied, “I know that you are such an enemy to idleness, that, rather than want work, you will make three holes in mending one.” “That may be,” said the honest tinker, “but I begin to wish that there were a greater distance between us, as I do[Pg 104] neither love your conversation nor appearance.” “I am equally ready to say the same of you; for, though you are entertained in every place, yet you are seldom permitted to enter the door of any dwelling.” The tinker repeated his strong suspicions of the Farmer. “Nor shall it be without cause!” exclaimed he; “therefore, open your wallet, and deliver the money that is there.” Here their dialogue being about to close, the tinker entreated that he would not rob him, as he was above a hundred miles from home: but the Golden Farmer, being indifferent to all the consequences of the loss of the other’s property, seized both his wallet and his money, and left the poor tinker to renew his journey and his toils.

This famous highwayman had only a few more acts of violence to perform. His actions and character being now universally known, many a hue-and-cry was sent after him, and conspired to his overthrow. He was seized and imprisoned, tried, and condemned. He spent his time in prison in the same merry way in which his former life had been passed, and a violent death terminated his wicked course on the 20th December 1689.


This man was the son of a respectable gentleman in Launceston, in Cornwall, and put an apprentice to a linen-draper. After serving his time with great approbation, his father gave him 1500l. to commence business for himself.

He had not been a year in business when he married a merchant’s daughter, and received with her 2000l. of portion. Such an accession to his wealth enabled him to extend his business, and to conduct it with ease. But money cannot procure happiness.[Pg 105] The affections of the young lady had been gained by a man of less fortune, and, to please her father, she had given her hand where she could not bestow her heart; and, though married to another, she continued in a degree of familiarity with her former lover that excited her husband’s jealousy, the most violent of all the passions.

In a short time, after having lived in a very unhappy manner, Simpson took the opportunity to sell all off, and, having shut up shop, went away with what money he could raise, determined no longer to remain in Bristol. He was now possessed of about 5000l. but his expenses were so extravagant, that this large sum was soon exhausted. He then went to the highway, committed a robbery, was apprehended, and would certainly have been hanged, had not some of his rich relations procured a reprieve. The difficulty of obtaining it may be guessed from the fact, that it arrived at Tyburn just when the rope was about his neck. Such was his obduracy, that, when returning to Newgate behind one of the sheriff’s men, the latter asked him what he thought of a reprieve when he was come to the gallows. “No more than I thought of my dying day.”

When he came to the prison-door, the turnkey refused to receive him, saying, that he was sent to be executed, and that he was discharged of him, and would not permit him to enter without a new warrant. Upon which Simpson exclaimed, “What an unhappy cast-off dog am I, that both Tyburn and Newgate should in one day refuse to entertain me! Well, I’ll mend my manners for the future, and try whether I can’t merit a reception at them both, next time I am brought thither.”

He immediately recommenced his operations, and one day robbed a gentleman of a purse full of counters, which he supposed were gold. He kept them in his pockets, always anxiously looking out for his benefactor. About four months after, he met him upon Bagshot heath, riding in a coach: “Sir,” said he, “I[Pg 106] believe you made a mistake the last time I had the happiness of seeing you, in giving these pieces. I have been troubled ever since, lest you should have wanted them at cards, and am glad of this opportunity to return them; only, for my care, I require you to come this moment out of your coach, and give me your breeches, that I may search them at leisure, and not trust any more to your generosity, lest you should mistake again.” A pistol enforced his demand, and Simpson found a gold watch, a gold snuff-box, and ninety-eight guineas, with five jacobuses.

At another time, he robbed lord Delamere of three hundred and fifty guineas. He was almost unequalled in his depredations: in one day he robbed nineteen different people, and took above 200l.; and, in the space of six weeks, committed forty robberies in the county of Middlesex. He even ventured to attack the duke of Berwick, and took from him articles to a very great value.

But wickedness has a boundary over which it cannot pass. Simpson attacked two captains of the guards: a strong struggle ensued: his horse was shot under him, and he was wounded in both arms and one of his legs before he was taken. He was sent to Newgate, and now found that he was not refused entrance: and he soon also discovered, that Tyburn was equally ready to receive him. His execution took place on the 8th September 1686.

[Pg 107]


This gentleman was a native of Norfolk county, and the son of an eminent surgeon. After the preparatory steps of education, William went to the University of Cambridge, and was tutor to lord Townshend. He was during that time made bachelor of arts, and continued to pursue his studies until deprived of his father by death.

The loss of a prudent father to a young man, forms a remarkable era in his life. If he is left with an ample fortune, he has then the means of gratifying his wishes, whether in the field of benevolence or in that of dissipation: and though left with no fortune, yet he is then at full liberty to follow his ruling inclination. Upon the intelligence of his father’s death, William went to London and began to practise medicine. His first patient was his own uncle, who, being dangerously affected with an imposthume, was cured by him in the following manner:—

When he entered his uncle’s bedchamber, his first care was to examine the state of the old gentleman’s stomach: for this purpose he ranged about the room, overturning every plate and dish, to discover what had been given him to eat. He at last discovered an old saddle, which he thought would answer for the intended experiment. Upon seeing this he cried out, “Uncle, your case is very desperate!”—“Not so bad, I hope,” said the uncle, “as to make me past remedy.”—“Heaven knows that,” cried Cady, “but a surfeit is a terrible thing, and I perceive that you have got a violent one.”—“A surfeit!” said the old gentleman; “you mistake, nephew; it is an imposthume that I am affected with.”—“The deuce it is!” replied Cady;[Pg 108] “why, I could have sworn it had been a surfeit, for I perceive you have eaten a whole horse, and left us only the saddle!” At this he held up the saddle; and the old gentleman fell into such a fit of laughter as instantly broke his imposthume, so that he became quite well in less than a fortnight.

This is not the only instance of a disease of this nature being cured by a fit of laughter; and it is certainly an agreeable mode of being relieved of a painful and dangerous malady.

A cardinal at Padua, who was at the point of death, under the influence of this distemper, being past all hopes of recovery, his servants had begun to pillage his house, and even to make free with the hangings of his own bed. An ape, in the midst of this bustle, seized a nightcap that lay near, fixed it upon his head, and made so many and such curious tricks, that his reverence fell into a fit of laughter, and broke the imposthume, to the preservation of his life and property.

Another instance may be related. A countrywoman, very ignorant and superstitious, took it into her head to send for the parson of the parish to pray for the recovery of her cow, which was affected with a distemper incident to animals of that species. Not suspecting but that he was called to visit the woman herself, or some of her family in affliction, the pious man went forthwith, and, to his surprise, was not only informed why he was sent for, but the good woman insisted that he should go and see her cow before she would allow him to depart. Unable to resist her importunities, he went to the byre, and taking a handful of the short straw that lay beside the cow, spread it upon her back, saying, “Poor beast, if you be no better for this, you will be no worse.” The parson returned home, and the good woman was highly displeased with his indifference towards her favorite cow.

It happened, soon after, that she had an opportunity to retaliate: the parson was taken dangerously ill of an imposthume, and the woman, hearing of it, went to return his visit. Arrived at the parson’s house, she, in[Pg 109] consequence of her importunities, was admitted into his bedchamber; and, having kindly inquired after his health, went forward to the chimney, and taking up a handful of ashes from the hearth, scattered them over the parson, using his own words, “Poor man! if you be no better for this, you will be no worse;” which raised such a fit of laughter in the good man, that his imposthume broke and his cure was effected.

For the speedy and unexpected cure before related, the uncle of Cady gave him fifty guineas, which supplied his extravagances for one month. His purse being empty, he took his leave of the healing art, in which he had been so successful, and commenced robber. His first adventure was with a captain of the guards and another gentleman, of whom he inquired the way to Staines, as he was a stranger. They informed him that they were going to that place, and that they would be glad of his company. When he arrived at a convenient place, Cady shot the gentleman through the head, and, turning to the officer, told him that “if he did not deliver, he should share the same fate.” The other replied that as he was a captain of the guards, Cady must fight if he expected to get anything from him. “If you are a soldier,” cried Cady, “you ought to obey the word of command, otherwise you know your sentence: I have nothing to do but to tie you neck and heel.” “You are an unconscionable rogue,” said the captain, “to demand money of me, who never owed you any.” “Sir,” replied Cady, “there is not a man that travels the road but owes me money, if he has any about him: therefore, as you are one of my debtors, if you do not pay me instantly, your blood shall satisfy my demand.” The captain exchanged several shots with Cady; but his horse being killed under him, he surrendered his watch, a diamond ring, and a purse of twenty guineas. William, having collected all he could, tied the captain neck and heel, nailed the skirts of his coat to a tree, and rode off in search of more booty.

His next encounter was with viscount Dundee, who[Pg 110] commanded the forces of James VII. of Scotland, and the second of England, and fell in the battle of Killicrankie. Dundee was mounted upon horseback, attended by two servants. Cady rode up to them at full speed, and inquired if they did not see a man ride past with more than ordinary haste. “Yes,” he was presently answered. “He has robbed me of twenty pounds that I was going to pay my landlord, and I am utterly ruined!” cried Cady. The man who had ridden by was a confederate, and had done so by express concert. His lordship was moved with compassion, and ordered the two footmen to pursue the robber. When the servants seemed to have got to a sufficient distance, Cady turned upon his lordship, and robbed him of a gold watch, a gold snuff-box, and fifty guineas. He then shot the viscount’s horse, and rode after the footmen, whom he found about a mile off with the supposed robber as their prisoner. These men were surprised when Cady desired them to let him go, and laughed at them for what they had done. They, however, refusing to part with their prey, a scuffle ensued, and one of the footmen being slain, the other fled, and found that his master had been dismounted and robbed.

Dundee complained of this injury at court, and a reward of two hundred pounds was offered to any person who should apprehend either Cady or his companion, who were both minutely described. To evade the diligent search which he was certain this proclamation would occasion, he went over to Flanders. As he had received a liberal education, he entered himself of the English seminary of Douay, and, joining the fraternity of Benedictine friars, soon acquired an extraordinary character for learning and piety. The natural result was, that many penitents resorted to him for confession. The rigid sanctity and ecclesiastical duties of Cady were, however, soon found rather troublesome companions, and he resolved to return to England, preferring his rambles upon the highway to the devotions of the convent. But, as money was necessary for his voyage, his invention was again set in motion.

[Pg 111]

To effect his purpose, he feigned himself sick, and, being confined to bed, was visited by many of those who had formerly employed him as their father-confessor. He particularly fixed his attention upon two young women, who generally came together, and were both very rich and very handsome. He had previously procured a brace of pistols. When the ladies next came to him and had made their confession, he desired them presently to attend to him. He briefly informed them that he was greatly in want of money, and that if they did not instantly supply his wants, he would deprive them of their lives, holding at the same time a pistol to their breasts. He then proceeded to rifle their pockets, where he found fifty pistoles. In addition to this, he compelled them to make an offering of two diamond rings from their fingers; then, binding them neck and heel, he informed the father of the convent that he was going to walk a little in the fields, and would soon return. It is needless to say that he returned no more to his religious habitation, but renewed his former mode of life.

Scarcely was he arrived in England, when he met a hop merchant, accompanied by his wife, upon Blackheath, and commanded them to stand and deliver. The merchant made a stout resistance, firing two pistols, but without effect; so that he was left to the mercy of the robber, who killed their horse, and, examining their pockets, found twenty-eight pounds upon the merchant, and half a crown upon his wife.

Cady then addressed her thus: “Is this your way of travelling? What! carry but half a crown in your pocket when you are to meet a gentleman-collector on the highway? I’ll assure you, madam, I shall be even with you, therefore off with that ring from your finger.” She begged him to spare her marriage ring, as she would not lose it for double the value, having kept and worn it these twenty years. “You whining old woman,” quoth William, “marriage is nothing to me;—am I to be more favorable to you than any other woman, I’ll warrant? Give me the ring in a moment,[Pg 112] without any more cant, or I shall make bold to cut off your finger for despatch, as I have served several of your sex before.” The good woman, seeing all her entreaties vain, hastily pulled the ring off her finger, and thrust it into her mouth. Cady then stamped, raged, and swore that he would be even with her: and instantly shooting her through the head, went away perfectly unmoved, while the husband, being tied to a tree, was a spectator of this horrid barbarity.

Cady rode instantly to London, but fearing that even that great city could not conceal the author of a crime so unparalleled, he left the metropolis, and went to Scotland. Either his inclinations did not lead him, or he deemed that country too poor to afford him sufficient booty; he therefore soon returned again to England. On his road to the capital, between Ferrybridge and Doncaster, he met with Dr. Morton, a prebendary of Durham, well mounted; but whether meditating upon the amount of his tithes, or the next Sabbath’s sermon, is uncertain. Cady instantly rode up to him, and cried, “Deliver, or you are a dead man!” The doctor, unaccustomed to such language, began to admonish him concerning the atrocity of his conduct, and the danger that he was in, both with respect to his body and his soul. Cady stared him in the face with all the ferocity that he could muster, and informed him that his remonstrances were in vain, saying, that if he did not deliver him what he had, he should speedily send him out of the world. “But then,” added Cady, “that is nothing, because all the gentlemen of your cloth are prepared for death. What, you unreasonable, you unmannerly dog!” continued he, in a rage, unable to discover the doctor’s cash, “what do you mean, to meet a man in the midst of his journey, without bringing him any money to pay his charges?” For the doctor had taken care to hide his money in a hedge, so that Cady, upon examining him, found his pockets completely empty. The ruffian, convinced that a man of his appearance could not travel without money, with dreadful imprecations threatened that if he would not inform him[Pg 113] what he had done with it, he should never go home alive. The doctor insisting that he had none, the wretch shot him through the heart with as little remorse as he would have drunk a glass of burgundy.

He next undertook a journey into Norfolk to visit his relations, but meeting a coach near that place, in which were three gentlemen and a lady, he rode up to it, and addressed them in his own language. The gentlemen, however, were resolved to stand upon the defensive, and one of them fired a blunderbuss at him, which only grazed his arm, without doing any material injury. This put him into a violent passion, and, after taking a hundred and fifty pounds from the company, he brutally added, that the gentleman who fired at him should not pass unpunished, and instantly shot him through the heart; then, cutting the reins of the horses, he went off in search of new plunder, and declined visiting his relations upon that occasion, lest he should have been detected.

Directing his course to London, he came up with a lady taking a ride for the benefit of the air, attended by a single footman, and fell upon her in a very rude manner, pulling a diamond ring from her finger, a gold watch out of her pocket, and a purse with eighty guineas; insulting her meanwhile with opprobrious language. Though the lady had commanded her footman not to interfere, yet the man could not help complimenting Cady with some well-merited appellations. The ferocious monster, without uttering a word, saluted him with a brace of bullets in the head, and he fell upon the spot. Cady was just about to prosecute his journey, when two gentlemen, perceiving what he had done, rode up to him with pistols in their hands. Cady seeing his danger, fired at them, and shots were exchanged with the greatest rapidity, until Cady’s horse was shot under him; and even then he struggled with the greatest violence with the gentlemen, until his strength was exhausted; he was then apprehended, and carried to Newgate under a strong guard. There he remained until the assizes, without showing the[Pg 114] least signs of repentance, or tokens of regret. Upon his trial he behaved with the most daring insolence, calling the judges “a huddle of alms-women,” and treating the jury in the same manner. The crime for which he was accused was so clearly proved, that he was sentenced to death, and committed to the condemned hole. But this place of darkness and horror had no effect upon his mind. He continued to roar, curse, blaspheme, and get drunk, as he had always done. It is probable that the hope of pardon, by the influence of some friends at court, tended to harden him the more; but the number and enormity of his crimes prevented James the Second from extending his royal mercy to such a miscreant. The day of execution being come, and the cart stopping as usual under St. Sepulchre’s wall, while the bellman rang his bell and repeated his exhortations, instead of being moved, he began to swear and to rail because they stopped him to hear an old puppy chatter nonsense. At Tyburn he acted in a similar manner: without either taking any notice of the ordinary, praying by himself, or addressing the people, he rushed into an eternal state to suffer the just punishment of his great and numerous offences. He died in the twenty-fifth year of his age, in the year 1687.


Patrick O’Brian was a native of Ireland, and his parents were very indigent. He came over to England, and enlisted in the Coldstream Guards. He was, however, not so dexterous in the use of his arms as he was in the practice of all manner of vice. Patrick was resolved not to want money, if there was any in the country. He first ran into debt at all the public houses[Pg 115] and shops that would trust him; then borrowed from every person, as long as any one could be found to believe him.

When fraud failed him, he had recourse to force. Doctor Clewer, rector of Croydon, was the first whom he attacked. This man had been, in his youth, tried at the Old Bailey, and burned in the hand, for stealing a silver cup. Alluding to this, Patrick said, that “he could not refuse lending a little assistance to one of his old profession.” The doctor assured him that “he had not made a word, if he had had any money about him; but he had not so much as a single farthing.” “Then,” said Patrick, “I must have your gown, sir.” “If you can win it,” cried the doctor, “you shall; but let me have the chance of a game of cards.” To this O’Brian consented; and the doctor pulling out a pack of cards, they commenced. Patrick was victorious, and obtained the black gown.

One day, Patrick attacked a famous posture-master, and commanded him to “stand and deliver!” The latter instantly jumped over his head, which led Patrick to suppose that it was the devil come to sport with him before his time. By this display of his agility the harlequin escaped with his money, and had the good fortune never to afford to O’Brian an opportunity to be revenged of him for his fright.

Our adventurer at last commenced highwayman. For this purpose he purchased a horse and other necessaries, and began in due form. He one day met with the celebrated Nell Gwynne in her coach, and addressed her, saying: “Madam, I am a gentleman; I have done a great many signal services to the fair sex, and have, in return, been all my life maintained by them. Now, as I know that you are a charitable woman, I make bold to ask you for a little money, though I never had the honor of serving you in particular. However, if any opportunity shall ever fall in my way, you may depend upon it I will not be ungrateful.” Nell made him a present of ten guineas, and he went off in quest of more plunder.

[Pg 116]

It was with O’Brian as with every other wicked man: he was solicitous to lead others to the same line of conduct. In particular, he seduced a young man, of the name of Wilt, who was apprehended, and suffered for his first offence. O’Brian was also apprehended, and executed at Gloucester; and when he had hung the usual time, his body was cut down, and given to his friends; but when carried home, he was observed to move, on which a surgeon was immediately sent for, who bled him; and other means being used, he recovered life. This fact was kept a secret, and it was hoped that it would have had a salutary effect upon his future conduct. His friends were very willing to contribute towards his support, in order that he might live in the most retired manner, and O’Brian engaged to reform his life, and for some time kept his promise; but the impressions of death, and all its tremendous consequences, soon wearing off his mind, he returned to his vicious courses. Abandoning his friends, and purchasing a horse and other necessaries, O’Brian again visited the road.

In about a year after his execution he met the very gentleman who was his former prosecutor, and attacked him in the same manner as before. The gentleman was surprised to see himself stopped by the very same person who had formerly robbed him, and who was executed for that crime. His consternation was so great that he could not avoid exhibiting it, and he addressed O’Brian, saying, “How comes this to pass? I thought that you had been hanged a twelvemonth ago.” “So I was, and therefore you ought to imagine that what you now see is only my ghost. However, lest you should be so uncivil as to hang my ghost too, I think it my best way to secure you.” Upon this, he discharged a pistol through the gentleman’s head, and, alighting from his horse, cut his body in pieces with his hanger.

One barbarity was followed by a greater. O’Brian, accompanied by four others, attacked the house of Launcelot Wilmot, Esq. of Wiltshire; entered, and[Pg 117] bound all the servants; then went up to the gentleman’s own room, and bound him and his wife. They next proceeded to the daughter’s chamber, whom they stabbed to the heart, and having returned, in the same manner butchered the old people, and rifled the house to the value of two thousand five hundred pounds.

This miscreant continued his depredations two years longer, until one of his accomplices confessed his crime, and informed upon all who were concerned. Our adventurer was seized at his lodgings at Little Suffolk street, and conveyed to Salisbury, where he acknowledged the crime. He was a second time executed, and, to prevent another resuscitation, was hung in chains, near the place where the crime was perpetrated, on the 30th of April, 1689.


Rumbold was the son of honest and industrious parents, who lived at Ipswich, in Suffolk. In his youth he was apprenticed to a bricklayer; but evil inclinations gaining an ascendancy over his mind, he quitted his employment before a third part of his time was expired. In order to support himself after having absconded, and conceiving a great desire to see London, he repaired thither, and soon confederated himself with a gang of robbers. In conjunction with these he shared in many daring exploits; but wishing to try his skill and fortune alone, he left them, and repaired to the road.

He travelled from London with the intention of waylaying the archbishop of Canterbury. Having got sight of the party between Rochester and Sittingbourne in Kent, he got into a field, and placing a tablecloth on the grass, on which he placed several handfuls of gold and silver, took a box and dice out of his pocket, and[Pg 118] commenced a game at hazard by himself. His grace observing him in this situation, sent a servant to inquire the meaning; who upon coming near Rumbold, heard him swearing and rioting about his losses, but never paid the least attention to his questions. The servant returned and informed the prelate, who alighted, and seeing none but Rumbold, asked him whom he was playing with. “Pray, sir,” said Rumbold, “be silent—five hundred pounds lost in a jiffey!” His grace was about to speak again—“Ay,” continued Rumbold, continuing to play on, “there goes a hundred more!” “Pr’ythee,” said the archbishop, “do tell me whom you play with.” Rumbold replied, “With ——,” naming some one who perhaps never had existence. “And how will you send the money to him?” “By his ambassadors,” quoth Rumbold; “and, considering your grace as one of them extraordinary, I shall beg the favor of you to carry it to him.” He accordingly rose and rode up to the carriage, and, placing in the seat about six hundred pounds, rode off. He proceeded on the road he knew the archbishop had to travel, and both, having refreshed at Sittingbourne, again took the road, Rumbold preceding the bishop by a little distance. He waited at a convenient place, and again seared himself on the grass in the same manner as before, only having very little money on the cloth. The bishop again observed him, and now believing him really to be a mad gamester, walked up to him, and just as his grace was going to accost him, Rumbold cried out with great seeming joy, “Six hundred pounds!” “What!” said the archbishop, “losing again?” “No, by G—!” replied Rumbold, “won six hundred pounds! I’ll play this hand out, and then leave off while I’m well.” “And of whom have you won them?” said his grace. “Of the same person that I left the six hundred pounds for with you before dinner.” “And how will you get your winnings?” “Of his ambassador, to be sure,” said Rumbold; so, presenting his pistol and drawn sword, he rode up to the carriage, and took from the seat his own money,[Pg 119] and fourteen hundred pounds besides, with which he got clear off.

With part of this money Rumbold bought himself an eligible situation; but still he could not give up his propensity of appropriating to himself the purses of others. For many miles round London he had the waiters and chambermaids of the inns enlisted into his service; and though, to appearance, in an honest way of gaining a livelihood, he continued his nefarious courses to a great extent. He was not, indeed, always successful; but, having once been apprized of two rich travellers being at an inn where one of his assistants was, he left London immediately, and waited on the road which he had been informed the travellers were to take: long, however, he might have waited, for the travellers were too cunning, and pretended to be travelling to the place which they had last left. Determined, however, not to return without doing some business, he waited on the road: the earl of Oxford, attended by a single footman, soon appeared, and, being known to his lordship, he disguised himself by throwing his long hair over his face, and holding it with his teeth. In this clumsy mask he rode up, demanded his lordship’s purse, and threatened to shoot both the servant and him if they made the least resistance. Expostulations were vain, and he proceeded to rifle the earl, in whose coat and waistcoat he found nothing but dice and cards, and was much enraged, till, feeling the other pockets, he discovered a nest of goldfinches,[2] with which he was mightily pleased, and said he would take them home and cage them: recommending his lordship to return to his regiment and attend to his duty, giving him a shilling as an encouragement.

As Rumbold was riding along the road, he met a country girl with a milkpail on her head, with whose beauty and symmetry of shape he was greatly taken. Having entered into conversation, Rumbold alighted, and, excusing himself for the freedom, sat beside her while she milked her cows. Pleased with each other’s[Pg 120] company, they made an assignation the same evening: our adventurer was to come to her father’s house at a late hour, and, pretending to have lost his road, solicit a night’s lodging. The plan was accordingly followed out: but they were disappointed in each other’s society that evening, for some one of the family kept astir all night. Determined, however, not to leave his fair convert, he pretended in the morning to be taken dangerously ill, and the good farmer rode off immediately for medical assistance. All the power of surgery, however, could not discover his ailment. The farmer kindly insisted upon his remaining where he was until he should recover, to which he, with great professions of gratitude, assented. Completely overpowered by such generosity, Rumbold wished to make some apparent return; and, borrowing a name, told him he was a bachelor of property in a certain county; that he had hitherto remained secure against the attacks of beauty, but that he now was vanquished by the attractions of his daughter, and hoped, if the girl had no objection, that a proposal of marriage would not be unacceptable to the family. The farmer, in his turn, overcome by such a mark of condescension, expressed himself highly gratified by the proposal; and, upon communicating it to the family, all were agreeable, and none more so than the girl. The idea of adding gentility to the fortune which the farmer intended for his daughter, quite elated him, and made him extremely anxious to gain the favor of the suitor. Rumbold followed out the design, and his endearments with the daughter were thus more frequent than he expected. His principal design was to sift the girl as to the quantity of money her father had in the house, and where it lay; but he was chagrined when informed that there were only a few pounds; for that, a few days before they met, her father had made a great purchase, which took all his ready money. Seeing, now, that there was no chance of gleaning the father’s harvest, he resolved to leave the family, and, accordingly, one evening took his[Pg 121] march incognito, leaving the girl a present of twenty pieces of gold, inclosed in a copy of verses.

He proceeded on the road, and met with no person worthy his notice until the following day, when a singular occurrence happened to him. Passing by a small coppice between two hills, a gentleman, as he supposed, darted out upon him, and commanded him to stand and deliver. Rumbold requested him to have patience, and he would surrender all his property; when, putting his hand in his pocket, he drew a pistol, and fired at his opponent without the shot taking effect. “If you are for sport,” cried the other, “you shall have it!” and instantly shot him slightly in the thigh; and at the same moment drawing his sword, he cut Rumbold’s reins at one blow; thus rendering him unable to manage his horse. Rumbold fired his remaining pistol, and again missed his adversary, but shot his horse dead. Thus dismounted, the gentleman made a thrust at him with his sword, which, missing Rumbold, penetrated his horse, and brought them once more upon an equal footing. After hard fighting on both sides, our adventurer threw his adversary, bound him hand and foot, and proceeded to his more immediate object of rifling. Upon opening his coat he was amazed to discover that he had been fighting with a woman. Raising her up in his arms, he exclaimed, “Pardon me, most courageous Amazon, for thus rudely dealing with you: it was nothing but ignorance that caused this error; for, could my dim-sighted soul have distinguished what you were, the great love and respect I bear your sex would have deterred me from contending with you: but I esteem this ignorance of mine as the greatest happiness, since knowledge, in this case, might have deprived me of the opportunity of knowing there could be so much valor in a woman. For your sake, I shall forever retain a very high esteem for the worst of females.” The Amazon replied, that this was neither a place nor opportunity for eloquent speeches, but that, if he felt no reluctance, she would conduct him to a more appropriate place; to which he readily assented.[Pg 122] They entered a dark wood, and, following the winding of several obscure passages, arrived at a house upon which, apparently, the sun had not been accustomed to shine. A number of servants appeared, and bustled about their lady, whose disguise was familiar to them; but they were astonished to see her return on foot, attended by a stranger.

Being conducted into an elegant apartment, and having been refreshed by whatever the house afforded, they became very familiar, and Rumbold pressed his companion to relate her history, which, with great frankness, she did in the following words:—

“I cannot, sir, deny your request, since we seem to have formed a friendship which, I hope, will turn out to our mutual advantage. I am the daughter of a sword-cutler: in my youth my mother would have taught me to handle a needle, but my martial spirit gainsaid all persuasions to that purpose. I never could bear to be among the utensils of the kitchen, but was constantly in my father’s shop, and took wonderful delight in handling the warlike instruments he made; to take a sharp and well-mounted sword in my hand, and brandish it, was my chief recreation. Being about twelve years of age, I studied by every means possible how I might form an acquaintance with a fencing-master. Time brought my desires to an accomplishment; for such a person came into my father’s shop to have a blade furbished, and it so happened that there was none to answer him but myself. Having given him the satisfaction he desired, though he did not expect it from me, among other questions I asked him if he was not a professor of the noble science of self-defence, which I was pretty sure of from his postures, looks, and expressions. He answered in the affirmative, and I informed him I was glad of the opportunity, and begged him to conceal my intention, while I requested he would instruct me in the art of fencing. At first, he seemed amazed at my proposal; but, perceiving I was resolved in good earnest, he granted my request, and appointed a time which he could conveniently[Pg 123] allot to that purpose. In a short time I became so expert at buck-sword and single rapier, that I no longer required his assistance, and my parents never once discovered this transaction.

“I shall waive what exploits I did by the help of my disguise, and only tell you that, when I reached the age of fifteen, an innkeeper married me, and carried me into the country. For two years we lived peaceably and comfortably together; but at length the violent and imperious temper of my husband called my natural humor into action. Once a week we seldom missed a combat, which generally proved very sharp, especially on the head of the poor innkeeper; the gaping wounds of our discontent were not easily salved, and they in a manner became incurable. I was not much inclined to love him, because he was a man of a mean and dastardly spirit. Being likewise stinted in cash, my life grew altogether comfortless, and I looked on my condition as insupportable, and, as a means of mitigating my troubles, I was compelled to adopt the resolution of borrowing a purse occasionally. I judged this resolution safe enough, if I were not detected in the very act; for who could suspect me to be a robber, wearing abroad man’s apparel, but at home a dress suitable to my sex? Besides, no one could procure better information, or had more frequent opportunities than myself: for, keeping an inn, who could ascertain what booty their guests carried with them better than their landlady?

“As you can vouch, sir, I knew myself not to be destitute of courage; what, then, could hinder me from entering on such enterprises? Having thus resolved, I soon provided myself with the necessary habiliments for my scheme, carried it into immediate execution, and continued with great success, never having failed till now. Instead of riding to market, or travelling five or six miles about some piece of business, (the usual pretences with which I blinded my husband,) I would, when out of sight, take the road to the house in which we now are, where I metamorphosed myself, and proceeded[Pg 124] to the road in search of prey. Not long since, my husband had one hundred pounds due to him about twenty miles from home, and appointed a certain day for receiving it. Glad I was to hear of this, and instantly resolved to be revenged on him for all the injuries and churlish outrages he had committed against me; I knew very well the way he went, and understood the time he intended to return. I waylaid him, and had not to wait above three hours, when my lord and master made his appearance, whistling with joy at his heavy purse. I soon made him change the tune to a more doleful ditty in lamentation of his bad fortune. I permitted him to pass, but soon overtook him, and keeping close by him for a mile or two, at length found the coast clear, and, riding up and seizing his bridle, presented a pistol to his breast, and in a hoarse voice demanded his purse, else he was a dead man. This imperious don, seeing death before his face, had nearly saved me the trouble by dying without compulsion; and so terrified did he appear, that he looked more like an apparition than any thing human. ‘Sirrah!’ said I, ‘be expeditious;’ but a dead palsy had so seized every part of him, that his eyes were incapable of directing his hands to his pockets. I soon recalled his spirits by two or three sharp blows with the flat of my sword, which speedily wakened him, and, with great trembling and submission, he resigned his money. After I had dismounted him, I cut his horse’s reins and saddle-girths, beat him most soundly, and dismissed him, saying: ‘Now, you rogue, I am even with you; have a care, the next time you strike a woman, (your wife, I mean,) for none but such as dare not fight a man, will lift up his hand against the weaker vessel. Now you see what it is to provoke them, for, if once irritated, they are restless till they accomplish their revenge to their satisfaction: I have a good mind to end your wicked courses with your life, inhuman varlet, but I am loth to be hanged for nothing, I mean for such a worthless fellow as you are. Farewell! this money shall serve me to purchase wine to drink a toast to the confusion of all such rascally[Pg 125] and mean-spirited things!’ I then left him, and—”

This extraordinary character was about to proceed with the narration of her exploits, when the servant announced the arrival of two gentlemen. Our heroine left the room, and returning with her friends, apologized to our adventurer for the interruption, but hoped he would not find the company of her companions disagreeable, whom he soon discovered to be likewise females in disguise. The conversation now became general, and, upon condition of Rumbold stopping all night with them, the Amazon promised to finish her adventures next day. This accorded with the wishes of Rumbold; and when they retired to rest, he found the same room was destined for them all. His curiosity was, however, overcome by his covetousness; for, rising early next morning, and finding all his companions asleep, he rifled their pockets of a considerable quantity of gold, and decamped with great expedition, thus disappointing the reader in the continuation of a narrative almost incredible from its singularity.

Our adventurer had frequently observed a goldsmith in Lombard street counting large bags of gold, and he became very desirous to have a share of the glittering hoard. He made several unsuccessful attempts; but having in his possession many rings, which he had procured in the way of his profession, he dressed himself in the habit of a countryman, attended by a servant, and going to the goldsmith’s shop, proposed to sell one of these rings. The goldsmith, perceiving it to be a diamond of considerable value, and from the appearance of Rumbold supposing he was ignorant of its real worth, after examining it, with some hesitation estimated its value at ten pounds. To convince the countryman that this was its full value, he showed him a diamond ring very superior in quality, which he would sell him for twenty pounds. Rumbold took the goldsmith’s ring to compare with his own, and, fully acquainted with its value, informed him that he had come to sell, but that it was a matter of small importance[Pg 126] to him whether he purchased or sold. He accordingly pulled out a purse of gold, and laid down the twenty pounds for the ring. The goldsmith stormed and raged, crying that he had cheated him, and insisted on having back his ring. Rumbold, however, kept hold of his bargain, and replied, that the other had offered him the ring for twenty pounds; that he had a witness to his bargain; there was his money, and he hoped that he would give him a proper exchange for his gold.

The goldsmith’s indignation increasing at the prospect of parting with his ring, he carried the matter before a justice. Being plaintiff, he began his tale by informing the magistrate, that “the countryman had taken a diamond ring from him worth a hundred pounds, and would give him but twenty pounds for it.” “Have a care,” replied Rumbold, “for if you charge me with taking a ring from you, which is, in other words, stealing, I shall vex you more than I have yet done.” He then told the magistrate the whole story, and produced his servant as a witness to the bargain. The goldsmith now became infuriated, exclaiming, that “he believed the country gentleman and his servant were both impostors and cheats!” Rumbold replied, that “he would do well to take care not to make his cause worse; that he was a gentleman of three hundred pounds per annum; and that, being desirous to sell a ring at its just price to the goldsmith, the latter endeavored to cheat him, by estimating it far below its value.” The magistrate, accordingly, decided in favor of our adventurer, only appointing him to pay the twenty pounds in gold, without any change.

The gold of Lombard street still continuing to attract the attention of Rumbold, he with longing eyes one day traversed that street, attended by a boy whom he had trained in his service. The boy ran into a shop where they were counting a bag of gold, seized a handful, then let it all fall upon the counter, and ran off. The servants pursued, seized the boy, and charged him with having some of the money. Rumbold approached to[Pg 127] the assistance of the boy, insisting that the youth had not stolen a farthing of their money, and that the goldsmith should suffer for his audacity. The goldsmith and Rumbold came to high words, and mutual volleys of imprecations were exchanged. The latter then inquired what sum he charged the boy with having stolen. The goldsmith replied, that he did not know, but that the bag originally contained a hundred pounds.

Upon this, Rumbold insisted that he would wait until he saw the money counted. He tarried about half an hour, and the money was found complete. The goldsmith made an apology to Rumbold for the mistake; but the latter replied, that, as a gentleman, no one should put upon him such an affront with impunity. After some strong expressions on both sides, Rumbold took his leave, assuring his antagonist that he should hear from him. The goldsmith was arrested the day following, in an action of defamation. The bailiff who arrested him, being bribed by our adventurer, advised him to compromise the matter; urging, that the gentleman he had injured was a person of quality, and if he persisted in the action, it would expose him to severe damages. With some difficulty the matter was settled, by the goldsmith giving Rumbold twenty pounds in damages.

A jeweller in Foster lane next supplied the extravagances of Rumbold. He had often disposed of articles for that jeweller, who had full confidence in Rumbold’s fidelity. One day, having observed in his shop a very rich jewel, he acquainted the jeweller that he could sell it for him. Happy at such information, he delivered it to Rumbold, who carried it to another jeweller to have a false one, exactly similar, prepared. He then embraced an opportunity to leave the counterfeit jewel with the jeweller’s wife, in his absence. Shortly afterwards, he met the jeweller in the street, who said he never expected to have been so used by him, and threatened to bring the matter under the cognizance of a judge; but Rumbold retreated to a remote part of the city.

[Pg 128]

Rumbold was one day travelling in the vicinity of Hackney, when his attention was directed towards a house, which he earnestly desired to possess. He approached the house, knocked at the door, and inquired if the landlord was at home. He soon appeared; when Rumbold politely informed him, that, having been highly pleased with the appearance of his house, he was resolved to have one built after the same model, and requested the favor of being permitted to send a tradesman to take its exact dimensions. This favor was readily granted; when our adventurer went to a carpenter, and informed him that he wished him to go along with him to Hackney to measure a house, in order that he might have one built on a similar construction. They accordingly went, and found the gentleman at home, who kindly entertained Rumbold, while the carpenter took the dimensions of every part of the house.

The carpenter, being amply rewarded, was dismissed, and, by the aid of the draught of the house taken by him, Rumbold drew up a lease, with a very great penalty in case of failure to fulfil the agreement. Being provided with witnesses to the deed, he went and demanded possession. The gentleman was surprised, and only smiled at the absurdity of the demand. Rumbold commenced a lawsuit for possession of the house, and his witnesses swore to the validity of the deed. The carpenter’s evidence was also produced, many other circumstances were mentioned to corroborate the fact, and a verdict was obtained in favor of Rumbold’s claim. But the gentleman deemed it proper to pay the penalty rather than to lose his house.

Rumbold, disguised in the apparel of a person of quality, one day waited on a scrivener, and acquainted him that he had immediate occasion for a hundred pounds, which he hoped he would be able to raise for him upon good security. The scrivener inquired who were the securities, and Rumbold named two respectable citizens, whom he knew to be at that time in the country; which satisfying the money-lender, he desired our adventurer to call next day. In the mean[Pg 129] time, the lender made inquiry after the stability of the securities, and found he had not been imposed upon as to their respectability. Our adventurer again waited upon the scrivener, who having agreed to advance the sum, Rumbold sent for two of his accomplices, who personated his securities, and, after a little preliminary caution, signed the bond for him under their assumed names; and, upon Rumbold’s receiving the money, they immediately took their leave. The name which Rumbold assumed on this occasion was of further service to him; for it happened to be that of a gentleman in Surrey, whom he met with, after this adventure, at an inn. Having learned what time the gentleman intended to remain in town, and the name and situation of his estate, he determined to render his chance meeting of service to him. He accordingly again waited on the same scrivener, and informed him he had occasion for another hundred, but did not wish to trouble any of his friends to become security for such a trifle; for that, as he possessed a good estate, it might be advanced upon his own bond; and that if the scrivener could spare a servant to ride the length of Surrey, he would then learn the extent of his estate, and be enabled to remove any scruple whatever. A servant was accordingly sent, and directed to go and make inquiry after the property of the stranger whom Rumbold had met at the inn. Returning in a few days, Rumbold found the scrivener very condescending, and prodigal of congratulations upon the possession of so pleasant and valuable a property, and said he would not have scrupled though the loan had been for a thousand. Rumbold, finding him thus inclined, doubled the sum, and, after giving his own bond for two hundred pounds, left the scrivener to seek redress as he best could.

Rumbold thus supported himself by exercising his ingenuity at the expense of others, and by this means amassed a considerable sum of money. He was not so addicted to these bad habits but that he felt an inclination to retire from scenes so fraught with danger[Pg 130] and infamy. For this purpose he placed his money in the hands of a private banker, with a design of living frugally and comfortably upon the interest. This banker unfortunately failed, and made off with all Rumbold’s property; so that he was once more reduced to the necessity of having recourse to his old employment.

The first exploit recorded of Rumbold after his reappearance in public, is the following:—He stopped at a tavern, where he called for a flagon of beer, which was handed him in a silver cup, as was customary at that time. Being in a private room and alone, he called to the landlord to partake of his noggin, and they continued together for some time, until the landlord had occasion to leave him. Soon after, he went to the bar and paid for his beer, while the waiter at the same time went for the cup: missing which, he called Rumbold back and asked him for the cup. “Cup!” said Rumbold, “I left it in the room.” A careful search was made, but to no effect; the cup could not be found, and the landlord openly accused Rumbold of the theft. He willingly permitted his person to be searched, which proved equally unsuccessful; but the landlord still persisted in maintaining that Rumbold must have it, or, at all events, that he was chargeable with the loss, and would have the matter investigated by a justice, before whom they immediately went. The landlord stated the case, while Rumbold complained loudly of the injury done him by the suspicion; and from his never endeavoring to run off when he was called back, and submitting so readily to be searched, the justice dismissed him, and fined the landlord for his rashness.

During their visit to the justice, some of Rumbold’s associates entered the same inn, where, according to arrangement, they found the cup fixed under the table with soft wax, and made off with it without the least suspicion.

The last recorded adventure of Rumbold was one which is now very common in the metropolis. Having[Pg 131] observed a countryman pretty flush of money, he and his accomplices followed him; but, from Hodge’s attention to his pocket, they failed in several attempts to pick it. Our practitioners, however, taking a convenient opportunity and place, one of them went before and dropped a letter, while another kept close by the countryman, and upon seeing it cried out, “See, what is here?” But, although the countryman stooped to take it up, our adventurer was too nimble for him; and having it in his hand, observed, “Here is somewhat else besides a letter.” “I cry halves,” said the countryman. “Well,” said Rumbold, “you stooped, indeed, as well as I; but I have it. However, I will be fair with you; let us see what it is, and whether it is worth dividing;” and thereupon broke open the letter, in which was enclosed a chain or necklace of gold. “Good fortune,” said Rumbold, “if this be real gold.” “How shall we know that?” replied the countryman; “let us see what the letter says;” which ran as follows:—

Brother John,

“I have here sent you back this necklace of gold you have sent me, not from any dislike I have to it, but my wife is covetous, and would have a bigger. This comes not to above seven pounds, and she would have one of ten pounds; therefore, pray get it changed for one of that price, and send it by the bearer to your loving brother,

Jacob Thornton.”

“Nay, then we have good luck,” observed the cheat. “But I hope,” said he to the countryman, “you will not expect a full share, for, you know, I found it; and, besides, if one should divide it, I know not how to break it in pieces without injuring it; therefore, I had rather have my share in money.” “Well,” said the countryman, “I will give you your share in money, provided we divide equally.” “That you shall,” said Rumbold, “and therefore I must have three pounds ten shillings, the price in all being, as you see, seven[Pg 132] pounds.” “Ay,” said the countryman, thinking to be cunning with our adventurer, “it may be worth seven pounds in money, fashion and all: we must, however, not value that, but only the gold; therefore I think three pounds in money are better than half the chain, and so much I’ll give, if you’ll let me have it.” “Well, I’m contented,” said Rumbold: “but then you shall give me a pint of wine, over and above.” To this the other agreed, and to a tavern they went, where the bargain was ratified. There Rumbold and the countryman quickly disposed of two bottles of wine. In the mean time one of Rumbold’s companions entered the inn, inquiring for a certain person who was not there. Rumbold informed the stranger (as he pretended to be) that he would be there presently, as he had seen him in the street, and requested him to come in and wait for him. Upon this the stranger sat down to wait the arrival of his friend. In a little time Rumbold proposed to remove into a larger apartment, where they commenced playing at cards, to amuse themselves until the gentleman expected should arrive.

Rumbold and his associate began their amusement, the countryman being a stranger to the game. After he had continued a spectator of the good fortune of our adventurer, who in general vanquished the stranger, the countryman was at length prevailed upon to run halves with the fortunate gamester. For a while the same good fortune smiled upon them, and the stranger, in a rage at his great losses, refused to proceed. But after a few bottles more were emptied, the long-expected gentleman never appearing, they renewed their amusement; and fortune deserting Rumbold and the countryman who seconded him, in a short time the latter found himself without a shilling.

The landlord was then called to assist in drinking the money gained, and, being informed how they had cheated the countryman, was resolved to exert his ingenuity at their expense. Meanwhile, several associates of Rumbold, who had been respectively employed in similar adventures, entered the room, joined in their[Pg 133] conversation, and participated in their wine. The landlord was at last requested to bring supper, which was done with great alacrity. The bottle continuing to move with considerable rapidity, the company were in general intoxicated before they sat down to supper. When it was brought in, however, they commenced with great avidity, and soon despatched a shoulder of mutton and two capons; and, under the influence of wine, all fell asleep with the dishes before them.

The landlord embraced this favorable moment of silence to collect all the bones and remnants of the whole day’s provisions, and divided them upon the plates which were upon the table. In a short time, one of them losing his balance, embraced the floor, and, by the noise of the fall, awoke the rest of the drowsy company, who all renewed their attacks upon the victuals. “How came these bones here?” cried one of them; “I do not remember that I ate any such victuals.” “Nor I,” said another; upon which the landlord was called and interrogated. “Why, surely, gentlemen, you have forgot yourselves,” said he; “you have slept sound and fair indeed! I believe you will forget the collar of brawn you had too, that cost me six shillings out of my pocket.” “How, brawn!” said one. “Ay, brawn,” answered the landlord; “you had it, and shall pay for it: you’ll remember nothing presently. This is a fine drunken bout, indeed!” “So it is,” said one of the company; “surely, we have been in a dream: but it signifies nothing, my landlord, you must and shall be paid. Give us another dozen bottles, and bring us the bill, that we may pay the reckoning we have run up.” This order was obeyed, and a bill presented, amounting to seven pounds, and every man was called upon to pay his share. The countryman shrunk back, wishing to escape; but one of them pulled him forward, saying, “Come, let us tell noses, and every man pay alike.” The countryman desired to be excused, and said his money was all exhausted; they therefore agreed that he should be exempted.

[Pg 134]

In the morning, the countryman, in order to procure money to carry him home, resolved to sell the chain in his possession: he accordingly went to a goldsmith, but, to his additional mortification, was informed that instead of gold, it was nothing but brass gilded over. He acquainted the goldsmith with the whole matter, who went along with him to a justice to obtain a warrant for the apprehension of Rumbold and his associates; but before their arrival, the worthy knights of the pistol had prudently decamped with their spoils.

Rumbold after this adventure had several narrow escapes; but, continuing his nefarious courses, he was at length detected, tried, condemned, and executed at Tyburn in the year 1689.


[2] Guineas.


This notorious malefactor was born at Stevenage in Hertfordshire, and served an apprenticeship to a butcher. He often mentioned that he was happily disappointed in his first attempt to steal.

He and his master went to Romford to purchase calves, and there was an excellent one that they would fain have had in their possession, but the owner and they could not agree about the price. As the owner of the calf kept an alehouse, they went in to taste his ale. While they were enjoying themselves, but lamenting the loss of the calf, Whitney whispered to his master, that it would be foolish in them to give money for the calf, when they might have it for nothing. The good butcher understood his meaning and entered into his plan. In the mean while they sat still drinking, waiting their opportunity.

Whitney and the Bear

Whitney and the Bear. P. 134.

Unfortunately for their scheme, a fellow who travelled the country with a she-bear, had put up at the house where the butchers were drinking. The landlord[Pg 137] had no place to put up this bear without removing the calf to another house, which was accordingly done. The butchers continued carousing until it was dark, then having cheerfully paid their reckoning, in the hope that the calf would reimburse them, they left the house, and lurked about the fields until all was quiet. Approaching the place where they had seen the calf put up, Whitney was sent in to fetch it out. The bear was resting her wearied limbs when Whitney took hold of them, and was astonished to find the hair of the calf had suddenly grown to such a length. Bruin arose upon all-fours, opining, we suppose, that it was her master about to show her in his usual manner. But she no sooner discovered that it was a stranger who thus rudely assailed her, than she seized him with her two fore-paws and hugged him most lovingly to her bosom. The master, surprised that he was so long in bringing out the calf, began to chide him for his delay. Whitney cried out, that he could not get away himself, and he believed that the devil had hold of him. “If it is the old boy,” replied the master, “bring him out, as I should like to see what kind of an animal he is.” His importunities at length brought the butcher to his assistance, when they discovered their mistake, and with no small difficulty disentangled Whitney from the fraternal hug of honest bruin; which having done, they proceeded home without their prey, determined to attempt stealing calves no more.

Our young adventurer now abandoned the business of buying and slaying animals, and took the George inn at Cheshunt. In order to make the most of it, he entertained all sorts of people, whether good or bad. Disappointment attended him in this as well as his former employment, and he was constrained to shut up his doors.

He now went up to London, the common haunt of all profligates, where he lived in the most irregular manner, giving himself wholly up to villany. After practising the tricks of sharpers for a time, he at length commenced business upon the highway. He was one[Pg 138] day standing at the door of a mercer’s shop, when two young ladies, apparently of fashion, passed by, elegantly dressed, one of whom inquired if he had any silks of the newest patterns. Whitney replied, that he had none at present, but should soon have some home from the weaver. He then requested their address, that the goods, when they came to hand, might be sent to them. They were rather at a loss; one of them, however, answered, that they were only lately come to town, and did not remember the name of their street. They added, that, as it was not far off, if he would accompany them, they would show him their habitation.

This was just what he wanted; therefore, going into the shop, as if to leave orders, he hastened along with the ladies—they supposing he was the silk-mercer, and he that they were actually ladies of fortune, whom he might have an opportunity of robbing, either presently or at some future period. Upon their arrival he was introduced into an elegant parlor, and a collation placed upon the table, with some excellent wine, of which he was requested to partake. He was soon left alone with one of the ladies, and discovering his mistake, was resolved to have some more sport at the expense of a silk-mercer, since he had been taken for one.

Whitney went to a mercer, and mentioning the name of a lady of quality in the neighborhood, said he had been sent by her to request that the mercer would send one of his men with several pieces of his best silks, as the lady was to purchase a gown and petticoat. The shopkeeper readily consented, and one of the apprentices was despatched along with him. To deceive the young man, and render it impossible for him to discover the place where he should stop, he conducted him through various streets and lanes, until he at last halted at a house which had an entry into another street; here he took the parcel, and desired the lad to stand at the door while he went in to show the ladies the silks. Taking the parcel, he went in, and inquired for some[Pg 139] person who he was certain was not there. He then requested liberty to pass through to the next street, which would shorten his way. This being granted, he left the mercer’s man to wait for his return.

Having thus fortunately succeeded, and been able to fulfil his promise of giving one of the above-mentioned ladies a silk dress, he hastened to their dwelling, where they divided the spoil. For some days he remained there, indulging in all manner of riot and excess, until, satiated, he returned to his labor of seeking new adventures. Determined, however, that no other person but himself should reap the fruits of his ingenuity, he wrote a letter to the mercer, informing him where he would find his silks. Accordingly, having obtained a warrant, the house of the two damsels was searched, the pieces found, and both the ladies were sentenced to Bridewell to undergo whipping, and to submit to hard labor.

When Whitney was confirmed in his business, he met a gentleman on Bagshot heath, whom he commanded to stand and deliver: on which the other remarked, “It is well you spoke first, sir, for I was just going to make a similar demand.” “Why, then, you are a gentleman-thief?” Whitney cried. “Yes,” said the stranger, “but I have had very bad success to-day, for I have been riding up and down all this morning without meeting with any prize.” Whitney upon this wished him better luck, and took his leave.

At night Whitney and the above gentleman put up at the same inn, when the latter related to some other travellers by what stratagem he had evaded being robbed on the road. Whitney having changed his dress, the gentleman did not recognise him. Whitney also heard him whisper to one of the company, that by this contrivance he had saved a hundred pounds. That person informed him, that he had a considerable sum upon him, and that, if agreeable, he would travel next day with him. Our adventurer overheard the conversation, and resolved, without being solicited, to make one of the party. In the morning they commenced[Pg 140] their journey, and Whitney followed about a quarter of an hour after. Their conversation turned upon the best means to deceive the highwaymen; and our adventurer’s meditations were, how he should be revenged upon his quondam friend for the cheat he had received the day before.

Whitney soon overtook them, and riding before, turned suddenly about, presented his pistols, and commanded them to stand and deliver. “We were going to say the same to you, sir!” “Were you so?” replied our hero, “and are you then of my profession?” “Yes,” said they both. “If you are, I suppose you remember the old proverb, that two of a profession cannot agree together, so that you must not expect any favor on that score. But to be plain with you, gentlemen, I know you very well, and must have your hundred pounds, sir,—and your considerable sum, sir,”—turning first to the one, and then to the other,—“otherwise I shall be bold to send a brace of bullets through each of your heads. You, Messieurs Highwaymen, should have kept your secret a little longer, and not have boasted so soon of having outwitted a thief. There is now nothing for you but to deliver or die!” These words put them in a sad consternation: they were very unwilling to lose their money, but more unwilling to lose their lives; of two evils, therefore, they preferred choosing the least. The one produced his hundred pounds first, and the other gentleman his considerable sum, which was a good deal more.

At another time, our adventurer met with an old miser named Hull, on Hounslow Heath. The word of command being given, he trembled in every joint, and using the most piteous tones and humiliating complaints, said that he was a very poor man and had a large family, and he would be hard-hearted indeed who would take his money. He added, besides, a great deal more concerning the illegality of such an action, and how dangerous it was to engage in evil courses. Whitney, who knew him well, cried out in a violent passion, “Sirrah, you pretend to preach morality to an[Pg 141] honester man than yourself. Is it not more generous to take a man’s money from him bravely, than to grind him to death by exacting eight or ten per cent. under cover of serving him? You make a prey of all mankind, and necessity in an honest man is often the means of his falling into your hands, who are sure to be the means of undoing him. I am a man of more honor than to show any compassion to one whom I esteem an enemy to the whole species. For once, at least, I shall oblige you to lend me what you have, without interest or bond, so make no words!” Old Hull, upon this, reluctantly pulled out eighteen pounds, telling him at the same time that he would see him some time ride up Holborn hill backwards. Whitney was retiring until he heard these words, when, returning, he drew Hull off his horse, and putting him on again with his face towards the tail, and tying his legs, “Now,” said he, “you old rogue, let me see what a figure a man makes when he rides backwards, and let me have the pleasure at least of seeing you first in that posture:” so giving the horse a whip, the animal proceeded at a desperate pace until it came to Hounslow Town, where the people untied him, after they had enjoyed themselves at his expense.

In the course of Whitney’s rambles, he one day put up at an inn in Doncaster, and lived in a dashing style, as he had then plenty of money. He was informed that the landlord was a complete miser and sharper, and that he would not spare the smallest sum to a poor relation of his, who lived in the neighborhood. Accordingly, Whitney resolved to exert his ingenuity upon his landlord; and gave out that he had a good estate, and travelled merely for his own amusement. He continued to pay his bills regularly, until he supposed that his credit would be sufficiently established. Then he one day mentioned to his landlord, that as his money was run short, he would be obliged to him for credit until he received remittances. “Oh, dear sir, you need not give yourself any uneasiness about such a thing as this; every thing in my house is at your[Pg 142] service; and I shall think myself honored if you use me as your friend.” With abundance of eloquence, our adventurer returned the compliment. He continued to live at his table,—his horse was well fed with corn and hay, while Whitney, almost every day, took a ride to some neighboring village along with the landlord and some others, who were all proud of the honor he had done them.

It happened that there was an annual fair in that place, and in the morning a box came directed to him; opening it, he took out a letter, and, having read it, locked the box, and delivered it to the landlady, saying, that it would be safer in her custody than in his own. Having gone to see the fair, he returned in great haste in the afternoon, desiring his horse to be instantly dressed, as he had seen a horse in the fair for which he was desirous to exchange his own, adding, that he was determined to have the animal. He then requested the landlady to give him his box; but he was informed that she was gone to the fair. Hereupon he affected to burst out into a violent passion, saying, that he supposed she had locked up what he committed to her keeping:—“If she has,” said he, “I had rather have given ten guineas, for I have no money but what is in her possession.” Inquiry was made, and it was found to be as he had said, which put him into a still greater rage. This was, however, what he both wished and expected,—the whole being of his own invention. The landlord was informed of his rage, and the cause of it, and entreated that he would be easy, as he would lend him the sum he wanted until his wife came home. Our hero was greatly distressed that he should have to borrow money when he had so much of his own; but as there was no other method of obtaining cash to purchase his favorite horse, he accepted of the proffered loan: with an imperious and haughty air, demanding that his bill might be prepared for payment forthwith.

With forty guineas he rode to the fair; but instead of inquiring for any other horse, he spurred his own through the crowd, and hastened to London. The[Pg 143] people of the inn waited long for his return that evening; but, as he had frequently stayed two or three days at once in his rambles through the country, they suspected no fraud. After waiting with no small impatience for a whole week, the landlord resolved to break open the box, and went to the magistrates of the place, accompanied by witnesses. It is needless to record his chagrin and mortification, when he found the box filled with sand and stones.

In London, Whitney was apprehended upon the information of one of those abandoned females who live by betraying the simple ones of their own, and by robbing and plundering the profligate of the other sex. He was committed, tried, and condemned at the following sessions. The judge, before passing sentence, made an excellent speech to him and the other malefactors, in strong terms exhibiting the nature of their several crimes; and in particular addressed himself to Whitney, exhorting him to a sincere repentance, as there could be no hope of a pardon to him after a course of so many villanies.

At the place of execution, Whitney addressed the multitude in nearly the following terms:—“I have been a great offender, both against God and my country, by transgressing all laws, both human and divine. I believe there is not one here present but has often heard my name before my confinement, and seen the long catalogue of my crimes, which have since been made public. Why then should I pretend to vindicate a life stained with so many enormous deeds? The sentence passed upon me is just, and I can see the footsteps of a Providence, which, before, I had profanely laughed at, in my apprehension and conviction. I hope the sense which I have of these things has enabled me to make my peace with Heaven, the only thing which is now of any concern to me. Join in your prayers with me, my dear countrymen, that God would not forsake me in my last moments.” Having spent a few minutes in prayer, he suffered, in the thirty-fourth year of his age, on the 19th of December 1694.

[Pg 144]


Tim was reared to the useful occupation of a shoemaker, but leaving his master, he came to London, and soon found out companions suited to his disposition. He and his associates frequented an alehouse at Wapping; and one day being run short of cash, Tim asked the landlord for ten shillings, which he refused. Tim was so exasperated, that, along with some of his associates, he broke into his house, and bound him, his wife, and maid. When Tim was about this operation, the landlord conjured him to be favorable. “No, no, you must not expect any favor from my hands, whose prodigality makes you lord it over the people here like a boatswain over a ship’s crew; but I shall go to another part of the town, where I will be more civilly used, and spend a little of your money there.” Accordingly, Tim and his companions robbed the house of forty pounds, three silver tankards, a silver watch, and three gold rings.

Upon another day Tim was airing in Hyde-park-corner, and met with Dr. Cateby, the famous mountebank. At the words “Stand and deliver!” the doctor went into a long harangue about the honesty of his calling, and of the great difficulty with which he made a living. Tim laughed heartily, saying, “Quacks pretend to honesty! there is not such a pack of cheating knaves in the nation. Their impudence is intolerable for deceiving honest simple people, and pretending that more men were not slain at the battle of the Boyne, than they have recovered from death, or beckoned their souls back when they have been many leagues from their bodies: therefore, deliver! or this pistol shall put a stop to your further ramblings and deception.”[Pg 145] The doctor preferring his life to his gold, presented Tim with six guineas, and a watch, to show him how to keep time while spending the money.

Tim was once apprehended by a baker, in the character of a constable, and sent to Flanders as a soldier. He deserted, and returning to London, one day met with the baker’s wife. He presented a pistol, and demanded her money; she exclaimed, “Is this justice or conscience, sir?” “Don’t tell me of justice, for I hate her as much as your husband can, because her scales are even! And as for conscience, I have as little of that as any baker in England, who cheats other people’s bellies to fill his own!—Nay, a baker is a worse rogue than a tailor; for, whereas the latter commonly pinches his cabbage from the rich, the former, by making his bread too light, robs all without distinction, but chiefly the poor, for which he deserves hanging more than I, or any of my honest fraternity.” Then, taking from her eleven shillings and two gold rings, he sent her home to relate her adventure to her husband.

Tim next stealing a good horse, commenced upon the highway, and meeting with a pawnbroker by whom he had lost some articles, he commanded him to stand and deliver. The pawnbroker entreated for favor, saying “that it was a very hard thing that honest people could not go about their lawful business without being robbed.” “You talk of honesty, who live by fraud and oppression!—your shop, like the gates of hell, is always open, in which you sit at the receipt of custom, and having got the spoils of the needy, you hang them up in rank and file, like so many trophies of victory. To your shop all sorts of garments resort, as on a pilgrimage. Thou art the treasurer of the thieves’ exchequer, for which purpose you keep a private warehouse from whence you ship them off wholesale, or retail, according to pleasure. Nay, the poor and the oppressed have often to pay their own cloth, before they can receive them back by your exorbitant exactions. Come, come, blood-sucker, open your purse-strings, or this pistol shall send you where you are to[Pg 146] go sooner or later.” The poor pawnbroker did not, however, wish to visit his old friend before his time; he therefore ransomed his life at the expense of twenty-eight guineas, a gold watch, a silver box, and two gold rings.

Upon another occasion, Tim fortunately met with a stock-jobber (who had prosecuted him for felony,) and robbed him of forty-eight guineas. He requested something to carry him home. Tim refused, saying, “I have no charity for you stock-jobbers, who rise and fall like the ebbing and flowing of the tide, and whose paths are as unfathomable as the ocean. The grasshopper in the Royal Exchange is an emblem of your character. What! give you something to carry you home out of the paltry sum of forty-eight guineas! I won’t give you a farthing.” He then bade him farewell until next meeting.

Though unexpected and unwished, it was not long before the stock-jobber reconnoitred Tim, and caused him to be apprehended and committed to Newgate. He was tried, and received sentence of death; but obtaining a reprieve, and afterwards a pardon, he was determined to be revenged of the man who would not give him rest to pursue his honest employment; he therefore set fire to a country-house belonging to him. To his no small chagrin, however, it was quenched before much harm was done.

Tim then went to Leicestershire, broke into a house, seized eighty pounds, purchased a horse, and renewed his former mode of life. Thus mounted, he attacked a coach in which were three gentlemen, and two footmen attending. Tim’s horse being shot under him, he killed one of the gentlemen and a footman, but being overpowered, was committed to Nottingham gaol, and suffered the due reward of murder and robbery, at the age of twenty-nine, and in the year 1701.

[Pg 147]


Tom was a native of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. His father was a clothier, whose business he followed until he was two-and-twenty years of age. In that period, however, the prominent dispositions of his mind were displayed, by extravagance, and running into debt. In order, therefore, to retrieve his circumstances, he went upon the highway.

Out of gratitude for his father’s kindness, he commenced by robbing him of eighty pounds and a good horse. Unaccustomed to such work, he rode, under the impression that he was pursued and in danger of being taken, no less than forty miles. Arriving in Staffordshire, he attacked and robbed the stage-coach of a considerable booty. During the scuffle, several shots were fired at the passengers, but no injury was done.

A monkey belonging to one of the passengers, being tied behind the coach, was so frightened with the firing, that he broke his chain, and ran for his life. At night, as a countryman was coming over a gate, pug leaped out of the hedge upon his back, and clung very fast. The poor man, who had never seen such an animal, imagined that he was no less a person than the devil; and when he came home, thundered at the door. His wife looked out at the window, and asked him what he had got. “The devil!” cried he, and entreated that she would go to the parson, and beg his assistance. “Nay,” quoth she, “you shall not bring the devil in here. If you belong to him, I don’t; so be content to go without my company.” Poor Hob was obliged to wait at his door until one of his neighbors, wiser than the rest, came, and with a few apples[Pg 148] and pears, dispossessed him of the devil, and got him for his pains. He accordingly carried him to the owner, and received a suitable reward.

Tom’s next adventure was with a Quaker, who formerly kept a button shop, but, being reduced in his circumstances, he was going down to the country to avoid an arrest. In this situation he was more afraid of a bailiff than a robber. Therefore, when Tom took hold of him by the coat, broadbrim very gravely said, “At whose suit dost thou detain me?”—“I detain thee on thy own suit, and my demand is for all thy substance.” The Quaker having discovered his mistake, added, “Truly, friend, I don’t know thee, nor can I indeed imagine that ever thee and I had any dealings together.”—“You shall find then,” said Jones, “that we shall deal together now.” He then presented his pistol. “Pray, neighbor, use no violence, for if thou carriest me to jail, I am undone. I have fourteen guineas about me, and if that will satisfy thee, thou art welcome to take them. Here they are, and give me leave to assure thee, that I have frequently stopped the mouth of a bailiff with a much less sum, and made him affirm to my creditors that he could not find me.” Jones received the money, and replied, “Friend, I am not such a rogue as thou takest me to be: I am no bailiff, but an honest, generous highwayman.”—“I shall not trouble myself,” cried the Quaker, “about the distinction of names; if a man takes my money from me by force, it concerns me but little what he calls himself, or what his pretences may be for so doing.”

At another time Tom met with lord and lady Wharton, and though they had three men attending, demanded their charity in his usual style. His lordship said, “Do you know me, sir, that you dare be so bold as stop me upon the road?”—“Not I; I neither know nor care who you are. I am apt to imagine that you are some great man, because you speak so big; but, be as great as you will, sir, I must have you to know, that there is no man upon the road so great as myself; therefore, pray be quick in answering my demands, for[Pg 151] delays may prove dangerous.” Tom then received two hundred pounds, three diamond rings, and two gold watches.

Upon another day, Tom received intelligence that a gentleman was upon the road with a hundred pounds. He waited upon the top of a hill to welcome his approach. A steward of the gentleman discovered him, and suspecting his character, desired that the money might be given to him, and he would ride off with it, as the robber would not suspect him. This was done; Tom came forward, stopped the coach, and the gentleman gave him ten pounds. He was greatly enraged, and mentioned the sum he knew the gentleman carried along with him. In an instant, however, suspecting the stratagem, he rode after the steward with all possible speed; but the latter observing him in pursuit, increased his pace, and reached an inn before Tom could overtake him.

After many similar adventures, Tom was apprehended for robbing a farmer’s wife. He was so habituated to vice, that nothing but the gallows could arrest his course, and in the forty-second year of his age he met with that fate, on the 25th April 1702.

Arthur Chambers

Arthur Chambers. P. 151.


Arthur Chambers was of low extraction, and destitute of every amiable quality. From his very infancy he was addicted to pilfering; and the low circumstances of his parents being unable to support his extravagances, he had recourse to dishonest practices. It is even reported, that before he was dressed in boy’s clothes, he committed several acts of theft.

The first thing which he attempted, was to learn from an experienced master, all those cant words and[Pg 152] phrases current among pickpockets, by which they distinguish one another. Chambers was soon an adept in this new language; and being well dressed, he was introduced to the better sort of company, and took occasion, when such opportunities offered, to rob his companions.

In a short time he was confined in Bridewell, to answer with hard labor for some small offence. Having obtained his liberty, he left the town, where he again begun to be suspected, and went to Cornwall. His social turn gained him a reception in genteel companies, and he became a memorable character in the place. Before he left London, he provided himself with a large quantity of base crowns and half-crowns, which he uttered wherever he went. After many had been deceived, strict search was made, and Chambers detected. For this offence he was committed to gaol, where he remained a year and a half.

As he could no longer abide in Cornwall, he returned to London. Upon his arrival he went to an alehouse, and called for a pot of beer and a slice of bread and cheese. Having refreshed himself, he entered into conversation with some persons in a neighboring box. The conversation turned upon the superior advantages of a country life, but was insensibly directed to that of robbery. Chambers, improving the hint, regretted that no better provision was made for suppressing such villanies; for, added he, death is too scarce a punishment for a man even if he robbed the whole world. “But why do I talk thus?” he continued; “if great offenders are suffered, well may the poor and necessitous say, we must live, and where is the harm of taking a few guineas from those who can spare them, or who, perhaps, have robbed others of them? For my own part, I look upon a dexterous pickpocket as a very useful person, as he draws his resources from the purses of those who would spend their money in gaming, or worse. Look ye, gentlemen, I can pick a pocket as well as any man in Britain, and yet, though I say it, I am as honest as the best[Pg 153] Englishman breathing. Observe that country gentleman passing by the window there; I will engage to rob him of his watch, though it is scarcely five o’clock.”

A wager of ten shillings was instantly taken, and Chambers hastened after the gentleman. He accosted him at the extremity of Long lane, and pulling off his hat, asked him if he could inform him the nearest way to Knave’s acre. The stranger replied that he himself wished to know the way to Moorfields, which Chambers pointed out: and while the other kept his eyes fixed upon the places to which he directed him, he embraced an opportunity to rob him of his watch, and hastening back to the alehouse, threw down his plunder, and claimed the wager.

He next exerted his ingenuity upon a plain countryman, newly come to town. The rustic had got into the company of sharpers, and stood gazing at a gaming table. Our adventurer stepping up, tapped him on the shoulder, and inquired what part of the country he came from, and if he was desirous to find a place as a gentleman’s servant. Robin answered, that it was his very errand to town, to find such a place. Chambers then said that he could fit him to a hair. “I believe I can afford you myself four pounds a year, standing wages, and six shillings a week board wages, and all cast clothes, which are none of the worst.” This was sufficient to make Robin almost leap out of his skin, for never before had such an offer been made to him. Having arranged every thing to his wish, Robin entered upon his new service. He received Chambers’ cloak, threw it over his arm, and followed his master. Chambers ordered a coach, and Robin being placed behind, they drove off to an inn. Dinner being ordered, Robin sat down with his master, and made a hearty meal, the former in the mean while instructing him in all the tricks of the town and inculcating the necessity of his being always upon his guard. He informed him also, that the servants of the inn would be requesting him to join in play at cards, and that he was in danger of[Pg 154] being imposed upon; therefore, if he had any money upon him, it would be proper to give it to him, and he would receive it back when necessary. Robin, accordingly, pulled out his purse, and delivered all that he had, with which Chambers paid his dinner, and went off, leaving Robin to shift for himself, and to lament the loss of his money and his new master.

The next adventure of Chambers was directed against the innkeeper of the Greyhound, St. Alban’s. His wife was rather handsome, and exceedingly facetious; and Chambers being often there, was on terms of the greatest familiarity with the household. Directing his steps thither, and pretending to have been attacked by three men near the inn, he went in with his clothes all besmeared. The travellers who were in the inn condoled with him on his misfortune, and gave him a change of clothes until his own should be cleaned. To make amends to himself for this sad disaster, he invited six of his fellow-travellers, with the landlord and his wife, to supper. The glass circulated pretty freely, and the wife entertained them with several appropriate songs. Chambers was careful that her glass never remained long empty. In a short time he saw with pleasure that all his companions, with the solitary exception of the landlord, were sunk in the arms of sleep, and he proposed that they should be conveyed to bed; whereupon two or three stout fellows came to perform that office. Chambers was so obliging as to lend his assistance, but took care that their money and watches should pay him for his trouble.

Left alone with the landlord, he proposed that they should have an additional bottle. Another succeeded before the landlord was in a condition to be conveyed to rest. In aiding the servants with the corpulent innkeeper, he discovered the geography of his bedroom, and finding that the door was directly opposite to his own, he retired, not to rest, but to plot and to perfect his villany.

When he was convinced that the wine would work its full effect upon the deluded pair, he revisited the[Pg 155] bedchamber, waited some time, and extracted what property he could most conveniently carry away; by the dawn of day dressed himself in the best suit of clothes which his bottle companions could afford, called for the horse of the person whose clothes he now wore, left two guineas with the waiter to pay his bill, gave half-a-crown to the ostler, and rode off for London.

His first enterprise after his arrival was attacking an Italian merchant upon the Exchange. He took him aside, eagerly inquired what goods he had to dispose of, and, entering into conversation, one of Chambers’ accomplices approaching, joined the conversation. Meanwhile, our adventurer found means to extract from his pocket a large purse of gold and his gold watch, which he delivered to his accomplice. Not satisfied with his first success, and observing a silk handkerchief suspended from his pocket, he walked behind him to seize it, but was detected in the act, and kept fast hold of by the merchant, who cried out lustily, “Thief! thief!” In this dilemma, Chambers’ accomplice ran to the crier, and requested him to give public proclamation, that if any body had lost a purse of gold, upon giving proper information it would be restored. With the expectation of finding his money again, the merchant let go his hold; and, in the crowd, Chambers and his friends retired with their booty.

But Chambers was now resolved to perform an action worthy of his talents. He hired the first floor of a house, and agreed with the landlord for 14s. a week. Having, in the first instance, been mistaken for a man of fortune, both from his appearance and style of living, a mutual confidence was gradually established. When his plot was matured, he one day entered with a very pensive and sorrowful look the apartment of his landlord, who anxiously inquired the cause of his great uneasiness; when Chambers, with tears in his eyes, informed him, that he had just returned from Hampstead, where he had witnessed the death of a beloved brother, who had left him sole heir, with an express injunction to convey his dear remains[Pg 156] to Westminster Abbey. He therefore entreated the favor of being allowed to bring his brother’s remains at a certain hour to his house, that from thence they might be conveyed to the place of their destination, which very reasonable request was readily granted by his unsuspecting landlord.

Chambers went off the next morning, leaving word, that the corpse would be there at six o’clock in the evening. At the appointed hour, the hearse, with six horses, arrived at the door. An elegant coffin, with six gilded handles, was carried up stairs, and placed upon the dining-room table, and the horses were conveyed by the men to a stable in the neighborhood. They informed the landlord, that Chambers was detained on business, and would probably sleep that night in the Strand.

That artful rogue was, however, confined in the coffin, in which air-holes had been made, the screw-nails left unfixed, his clothes all on, with a winding-sheet wrapped over them, and his face blanched with flour. All the family were now gone to bed, except the maid-servants. Chambers arose from his confinement, went down stairs to the kitchen wrapped in his winding-sheet, sat down, and stared the maid in the face, who, overwhelmed with fear, cried out, “A ghost! a ghost!” and ran up stairs to her master’s room, who chid her unreasonable fears, and requested her to return to bed, and compose herself. She, however, obstinately refused, and remained in the room.

In a short time, however, in stalked the stately ghost, took his seat, and conferred a complete sweat and a mortal fright upon all three who were present. Retiring from his station when he deemed it convenient, he continued, by the moving of the doors, and the noise raised through the house, to conceal his design: in the mean time, he went down stairs, opened the doors to his accomplices, who assisted in carrying off the plate, and every thing which could be removed, not even sparing the kitchen utensils. The maid was the first to venture from her room in the morning, and[Pg 157] to inform her master and mistress of what had happened, who, more than the night before, chid her credulity in believing that a ghost could rob a house, or carry away any article out of it. In a little time, however, the landlord was induced to rise from his bed, and to move down stairs, and found, to his astonishment and chagrin, that the whole of his plate, and almost the whole of his movables, were gone, for which he had only received in return an empty coffin.

A great many other stories of the like nature are told of Chambers; and it is well known, that for the few years he was permitted, by singular good fortune, to go at large, he committed as many artful and daring actions as were ever accomplished by one man.

At length, however, one Jack Hall, a chimney-sweeper, being apprehended, to save his own life, made himself an evidence against Chambers, who, being cast upon that information, was, with two other notorious offenders, executed at Tyburn, in 1703, in the twenty-eighth year of his age.


In the plain but strong phrase, this man was born a thief. Scarcely could his hand carry away the property of others, when he engaged in this nefarious trade. While yet a child, he was frequently amusing himself with the children of a charcoal man who lived in the neighborhood, and would even then fill his pockets with the charcoal, and sell it to a woman that kept an apple-stall for codlings. One day he wished to try his ingenuity upon the good woman, and requested to have some codlings beforehand, promising to pay them with his next charcoal. But though she could purchase from him that which she knew he had stolen, yet she was not disposed to give him any credit.

[Pg 158]

Stephen was highly enraged that his fidelity should be called in question by the old woman, and determined upon revenge; so stealing a larger quantity of charcoal than usual, he filled the empty parts with powder, and sealed them with black wax. The old woman kindled a fire of them, and it being a very cold frosty night, sat down before the fire in the usual manner, to warm her starving body. But scarcely had the heat begun to operate, when the powder catching fire, off flew the kettle from the grate, the codlings and the water sprang about the old woman’s ears, and, in the midst of fire and smoke, she cried out in the most piteous manner, which brought a great mob about her to assist her in the hour of misfortune and distress. Fortunately, however, the chief injury that the old woman received was a hole burnt in her gown, a scalding to her chin, and the trouble of picking up her codlings.

But Stephen was not long to remain in correspondence with apple wives and such low gentry. Arrived at the years of a stripling, he went into a coffee-house, and called for a dish of tea. Meanwhile, rustling among the newspapers, he picked up the lid of a silver box, and paying for his tea, went and instantly got his own initials engraven upon it. Then, with the greatest assurance, he went back, saying, “Gentlemen, have not I left the bottom of my tobacco-box?” Thereupon rummaging among the papers, he found it, exclaiming, as he put the lid on, “Oh, here it is!” Upon this the owner claimed it as his property, but Stephen impudently showing his cipher upon it, claimed and retained it as his own.

At one time Bunce was benighted at Branyard in Hertfordshire, and being destitute of money, was at infinite loss how to proceed. But a fertile invention is a necessary qualification in a deceiver, and Stephen’s was acquiring considerable strength. He called at the parson’s door, and requested the maid to tell her master that a stranger wished to have the honor of speaking with him. When the clergyman made his appearance, Stephen, in an eloquent and affecting tone, informed[Pg 159] him that he was a poor student from Oxford, going home to his friends, and as he was benighted, he entreated that he would afford him the friendly aid of his roof for one night. The generous-hearted parson, pleased with his appearance and pitying his distress, kindly received him and entertained him according to the best of his household.

When Stephen was taking his leave for the night, he, with no small degree of modesty and respect, requested that he might be permitted to give the parson a sermon in the morning, the next day being Sunday. As, in general, no clergyman has any great objection to a day of rest, the parson willingly accepted of his offered services. The morning came, and the hour of divine service being arrived, the young student was equipped in the parson’s gown and cassock, and as it was about a mile to the church, he was mounted on the parson’s horse, while the latter, with his wife and family, went a nearer path through the fields. When his reverence came to the church, every one was scraping and bowing, and inquiring why he was without his canonical robes on the day of sacred duty. He soon relieved their anxiety, by informing them that a young gentleman of the university of Oxford would be there presently, and would preach for him that day. They waited for some time, then commenced divine service; the prayers were now ended, and the last psalm sung, but no preacher appeared. In short, not to detain our readers with a long narrative, they waited until noon,—the congregation went home without a sermon,—and the parson without his robes and horse, while Bunce was by this time far advanced on his journey, employing the horse to carry a thief instead of a clergyman.

Upon another day, as Stephen was going about seeking whom he might render lighter on their journey, he saw a gentleman well mounted upon a gelding, and going into the road along where he was to ride, he laid himself all along the ground, with his ear to it. When the gentleman came up to him, he asked the reason of[Pg 160] such unusual conduct. Stephen held up his hand to him, signifying his desire that he should be silent; but the gentleman, being of a hasty temper, cried, “What the plague are you listening to?” Upon this Stephen sat up, saying, “Oh, dear sir, I have often heard great talk of the fairies, but I could never have the faith to believe that there was ever any such thing in nature, till now, in this very place, I hear such a ravishing and melodious harmony of all kinds of music, that it is enough to charm me to sit here, if possible, to all eternity.”

Curiosity, that active principle in the human mind, inclined the gentleman to alight from his horse to hear the enchanting music. Having reached the ground, he gave his gelding to Stephen to hold during his interview with the fairies. Then, applying his ear to the ground, he said, “I can hear nothing.” Bunce desired him to turn the other ear. This being done, and his face averted from him, Bunce leaped into his saddle, and rode off with his gelding at full speed, until he came to Romford. Supposing that the owner would have some particular inn where he put up his horse, and therefore that the horse would know that place, he went after the horse at a small distance.

He no sooner appeared than the ostler, who was standing at the door, exclaimed, “Master! master! here’s Mr. Bartlet’s horse come without him.” Stephen, having discovered the name of the owner of the gelding, said to the innkeeper, “Mr. Bartlet being engaged with some gentlemen at play in Ingatestone, he requests you to send him fifteen guineas, and to keep his horse in pledge in the mean time, until he comes himself in the evening.” “Ay, ay,” replied the innkeeper, “a hundred guineas, if he stood in need of them.” So Bunce, having received the fifteen guineas, prosecuted his journey to London. In a few hours, Mr. Bartlet came puffing and blowing, and covered with perspiration and dust. The innkeeper accosted him, saying, “Oh! dear sir, why need you have sent your gelding, and so put yourself to the trouble of[Pg 161] coming in this sultry weather on foot, for the small sum of fifteen guineas, when you might have commanded ten times as much without a pledge?”—“What!” cried the gentleman, “has the fellow, then, brought my gelding hither? A villain! he was pretty honest in that; but I find the rogue has made me pay fifteen guineas for hearing one tune of the fairies.”

Bunce was an industrious man, and frequented the billiard-tables, the cockpits, and every place where he thought that a penny would come in his way. Though his funds often afforded him the means of reformation, he naturally hated virtue and honesty; he, therefore, with redoubled keenness, pursued his depredations. Once, upon foot, he met with a butcher between Paddington and London, who, being a strong, lusty fellow, was not disposed to give his contribution to Bunce without an exchange of blows. The cudgelling commenced, and, though the butcher acted his part well, yet Bunce was victorious. The conqueror, on searching for his spoil, found the immense sum of fourpence in his pockets. “Is this all you have got?” “And too much to lose,” said the butcher. “You villain!” cried Bunce, “if you’d fight at this rate for a groat, what a plague would you have done if you’d had more money?”

This was rather an unfortunate adventure, to have lost so much time and given so many blows for so little; but, returning home, he observed a goldsmith, who was a far richer prize than a butcher, telling a large sum of money in his shop. His eyes instantly sparkled, and his invention awoke. He went into an old shop in the vicinity, and purchased one farthing’s worth of salt. Then, hastening into the goldsmith’s shop, he threw the whole in his eyes; so that while he was rubbing his peepers, and stamping with rage, Bunce went off with about fifty pounds—a tolerable return for the outlay of a farthing.

It is an old proverb, “Lightly come, lightly go.” The same evening, having gone to recreate himself in the company of certain females, he was robbed of[Pg 162] twenty pounds, when, in the most furious manner, though to no purpose, he vented his imprecations against all the sex, asserting, that “every woman was a crocodile at ten, a fury at thirty, and a witch at four-score.”

Under the influence of vexatious disappointment, Bunce soon spent the remainder of his fifty pounds, and stern necessity again impelled him to action. Along with one of his trusty companions, he went into a wollen-draper’s shop, just as the good man was about to shut up; and, while he was cheapening a remnant of cloth, his companion stole the key of the shop from its usual resting place; upon which they both went off without making a purchase. Favored by the darkness of the night, they returned, and, without interruption or difficulty, extracted from the shop cloth to the amount of eighty pounds.

Bunce having been afterwards, by an order of the court, sent a soldier into Spain, while there, he and his comrades were one day in great want of victuals, and, having loitered all day about the market-place of Barcelona without finding any thing to remove their hunger, they discovered, in the evening, a countryman returning home on an ass. They followed him, and, having to ascend a steep hill, he alighted and led the ass. Bunce, with his companion, slipped quietly forward, and dexterously removing the bridle from the ass’s head to his own, his comrade went off with the ass, and Bunce trudged after the man upon all-fours. Arrived at the top of the hill, he looked around, and, to his great consternation and amazement, saw his ass transformed into a man.

Stephen, observing his surprise, said, “Dear master, don’t be troubled at this strange alteration that you see in your beast; for, indeed, I was no ass, as you supposed me, but a man, real flesh and blood, as you yourself are: but you must know, that it being my misfortune to commit a sin against the Virgin Mary, she resented it so heinously, that she transformed me into the likeness of an ass for seven years; and now,[Pg 163] the time being expired, I resume my proper shape again, and am at my own disposal. However, sir, I return you many thanks for your goodness towards me; for since I have been in your custody, you have put me to no more labor than what I, you, or any other ass, might be able to bear.”

The countryman was greatly surprised at the relation, but was well satisfied, on receiving the grateful thanks of his former ass for the kind treatment he had given him during the period of his degradation. Stephen returned to his comrade, who had made the ass undergo another transmigration into money, so that these two hungry sharks hastened to set their teeth at work, lest they should lose the power of action by long disuse. Meanwhile, the countryman returned to town to purchase another ass to carry him home. But, to his astonishment, the first thing he met with was his own individual ass. Stepping up to the animal, he said, “Oh! I see that you have committed another sin against the Virgin Mary, but I shall take care how I buy you again.”

Bunce was married to a victualler’s daughter in Plymouth, and for some time lived with her with tolerable regularity, making the table roar, and the bowl to foam, and entertaining all the merry beaux of the town, until one of the tars offended Bunce by his politeness. Upon this, he left his young wife, and plunged into all those scenes of debauchery which are the usual attendants of the acquisition of money by unlawful means. In the progress of time his manners became so abandoned and profligate, and his conversation so loose, that he was the abhorrence of all decent persons, and a disgrace to human nature. He was at last detected in his wickedness, and suffered at Tyburn in the year 1707, in company with Dick Low and Jack Hall, whose histories are not of sufficient interest to warrant their insertion in these pages.

[Pg 164]


Jack Ovet was born at Nottingham, and, after serving an apprenticeship to a shoemaker, for some time gained his bread by that industrious and useful employment: but his licentious dispositions inclining him to profligate and abandoned company, he soon took to the highway.

After having purchased a horse, pistols, and every necessary utensil proper to his projected profession, he rode towards London, and on the way robbed a gentleman of twenty pounds. That gentleman, however, not destitute of courage, and unwilling to part with his money, told Ovet, that if he had not taken him unawares, he would not so easily have plundered him of his property. The son of Crispin was not destitute of the essential qualifications of his new profession; he, therefore, replied, that he had already ventured his life for his twenty pounds; “but,” continued he, “here’s your money again, and whoever is the better man, let him win it and wear it.” The proposal being agreed to, and both employing their swords, the gentleman fell, and Ovet had the money.

But having now stained his hands with blood, it was not long before he killed another man in a quarrel. He, however, escaped from justice, and continued his depredations. One day, being greatly in want of money, and meeting one Rogers with some pack-horses, he turned one of them off the way, opened the pack, and extracted about two hundred and eighty guineas, with three dozen of silver knives, forks, and spoons. Then, tying the horse to a tree, he made off with the spoil.

Jack Ovet

Jack Ovet. P. 164.

Another time, Jack Ovet, drinking at the Star inn, in the Strand, overheard a soap-boiler contriving with[Pg 167] a carrier how he should send a hundred pounds to a friend in the country. At length, it was concluded upon to put the money into a barrel of soap; which project was mightily approved of by the carrier, who answered, “If any rogues should rob my wagon, (which they never did but once,) the devil must be in them if they look for any money in the soap-barrel.” Accordingly, the money and soap were brought to the inn, and next morning the carrier going out of town, Jack overtook him in the afternoon, and commanding him to stop, or otherwise he would shoot him and his horses too, he was obliged to obey the word of command. Then cried the honest highwayman, “I must make bold to borrow a little money out of your wagon; therefore, if you have any, direct me to it, that I may not lose any time, which you know is always precious.” The carrier told him, he had nothing but cumbersome goods in his wagon, that he knew of; however, if he would not believe him, he might search every box and bundle there, if he pleased.

Ovet soon got into the wagon, and threw all the boxes and bundles about, till, at last, he came to the soap-barrel, which feeling somewhat heavy, said he to the carrier, “What do you do with this nasty commodity in your wagon? I’ll fling it away.” So throwing it on the ground, the hoops burst, out flew the head, and the soap spreading abroad, the bag appeared: then jumping out of the wagon and taking it up, said he again, “Is not he that sells this soap a cheating rascal, to put a bag of lead into it to make the barrel weigh heavy? If I knew where he lived, I’d go and tell him my mind. However, that he may not succeed in his roguery, I’ll take it and sell it at the next house I come to, for it will wet one’s whistle to the tune of two or three shillings.”

He was going to ride away, when the carrier cried after him, “Hold, hold, sir! that is not lead in the bag; it is a hundred pounds, for which (if you take it away) I must be accountable.” “No, no!” replied Jack Ovet, “this cannot be money; but if it is, tell the[Pg 168] owner that I will be answerable for it if he will come to me.” “Where, sir,” said the carrier, “may one find you?” “Why, truly,” replied Jack, “that is a question soon asked, but not so easily to be answered; the best direction I can give is, it is likely that you may find me in a gaol before night, and then, perhaps, you may have again what I have taken from you, and forty pounds to boot.”

Another time Jack Ovet, meeting with the Worcester stage-coach on the road, in which were several young gentlewomen, he robbed them all; but one of them being a very handsome person, he was struck with admiration, and when he took her money from her, said, “Madam, cast not your eyes down, neither cover your face with those modest blushes; your charms have softened my temper, and I am no longer the man I was; what I have taken from you (through mere necessity at present) is only borrowed; for as no object on earth ever had such an effect on me as you, assure yourself, that, if you please to tell me where I may direct to you, I will, upon honor, make good your loss to the very utmost.” The young gentlewoman told him where he might send to her; and then parting, it was not above a week after that Jack sent a letter to the young lady, who had gained such an absolute conquest over his soul that his mind now ran as much upon love as robbery.

Unfortunately, however, the sentimental attachment of our too susceptible highwayman was doomed to suffer a defeat; and still more unfortunately, he was quite as unsuccessful in his profession; for, committing a robbery in Leicestershire, where his comrade was killed in the attempt, he was closely pursued by the county, apprehended, and sent to gaol; and at the next Leicester assizes condemned. Whilst under sentence of death, he seemed to feel no remorse at all for his wickedness, nor in the least to repent of the blood of two persons, which he had shed. So being brought to the gallows, on Wednesday the fifth of May, 1708, he was justly hanged, in the thirty-second year of his age.

[Pg 169]


This robber was bred a glover; but before he had served one half of his time, ran off from his master, and coming to London, soon became acquainted with men of dispositions similar to his own. About the age of seventeen, Tom ventured to appear upon the highway, but was outwitted in his first attempt.

Meeting a Welshman, he demanded Taffy’s money, or he would take his life. The Welshman said, “Hur has no money of hur own, but has threescore pounds of hur master’s money; but, Cot’s blood! hur must not give hur master’s money,—what would hur master then say for hur doing so?” Tom replied, “You must not put me off with your cant; for money I want, and money I will have, let it be whose it will, or expect to be shot through the head.” The Welshman then delivered the money, saying, “What hur gives you is none of hur own; and that hur master may not think hur has spent hur money, hur requests you to be so kind as to shoot some holes through hur coat-lappets, that hur master may see hur was robbed.” So suspending his coat upon a tree, Tom fired his pistol through it, Taffy exclaiming, “Gots splatter a-nails! this is a pretty pounce; pray give hur another pounce for hur money!” Tom fired another shot through his coat. “By St. Davy, this is a better pounce than the other! pray give hur one pounce more!” “I have never another pounce left,” cried Tom. “Why then,” replied the Welshman, “hur has one pounce left for hur, and if hur will not give hur hur money again, hur will pounce hur through hur body.” Dorbel very reluctantly but quietly returned the money, and was thankful that he was allowed to depart.

But this narrow escape did not deter Dorbel, and he[Pg 170] continued his villanies for the space of five years. It happened, however, that a gentleman’s son was taken for robbing on the highway, and as he had been formerly pardoned, he now despaired of obtaining mercy a second time. Tom undertook, for the sum of five hundred pounds, to bring him off. The one half was paid in hand, and the other half was to be paid immediately the deliverance was effected. When the young gentleman came upon his trial, he was found guilty; but just as the judge was about to pass sentence, Tom cried out, “Oh! what a sad thing it is to shed innocent blood! Oh! what a sad thing it is to shed innocent blood!” And continuing to reiterate the expression, he was apprehended, and the judge interrogating him what he meant by such an expression, he said, “May it please your lordship, it is a very hard thing for a man to die wrongfully; but one may see how hard-mouthed some people are, by the witnesses swearing that this gentleman now at the bar robbed them on the highway at such a time, when indeed, my lord, I was the person that committed that robbery.”

Accordingly, Tom was taken into custody, and the young gentleman liberated. He was brought to trial at the following assizes; and being asked, whether he was guilty or not, he pleaded, not guilty! “Not guilty!” replied the judge; “why, did not you at the last assizes, when I was here, own yourself guilty of such a robbery?” “I don’t know,” said Tom, “how far I was guilty then, but upon my word, I am not guilty now; therefore, if any person can accuse me of committing such a robbery, I desire they may prove the same.” No witness appearing, he was acquitted.

Tom, living at such an extravagant rate in the prison, had scarcely any part of the five hundred pounds remaining when he obtained his liberty; therefore, endeavoring to recruit his funds, by robbing the duke of Norfolk near Salisbury, his horse was shot, and he himself taken, and condemned at the next assizes. While under sentence, he found a lawyer who engaged, for the sum of fifty guineas, to obtain his pardon. He[Pg 171] accordingly rode to London, was successful, and just arrived in time with the pardon, when Dorbel was about to be thrown off,—having rode so hard that his horse immediately dropped down dead. Such, however, was Tom’s ingratitude, that he refused to pay the lawyer, alleging, that any obligation given by a man under sentence of death was not valid.

Dorbel was so much alarmed upon his narrow escape from a violent death, that he resolved to abandon the collecting trade, and obtained a situation in several families as a footman. He also served six or seven years with a lady in Ormond street, who had a brother, a merchant in Bristol, whose only daughter, a girl sixteen years of age, prevailed upon her father to allow her to come to London to perfect her education. Dorbel being a person in whom her aunt thought she could place unlimited confidence, was sent to convey the young lady to London. In the last stage he was left alone with her, when the miscreant first shockingly abused her, then robbed her of her gold watch, diamond ring, jewels to the amount of a hundred pounds, and cutting a hole in the back of the coach, escaped, leaving the young lady in a swoon. It was with difficulty she recovered, to inform her relations how she had been treated. Her mother hastened to town to see her, and after speaking a few words to her, the poor girl breathed her last. The disconsolate father soon after lost his senses.

Dorbel was pursued in different directions, and apprehended just after he had robbed a gentleman of three pounds five shillings. He was tried, and condemned to be executed and hung in chains; which well-merited sentence was put in force against this hardened villain, on the 23d of March, 1708.

[Pg 172]


The parents of this worthless fellow lived in Gloucestershire, and gave him an education suited to his station. Leaving the country, and coming to London, the abode of the most distinguished virtue as well as of the most consummate villany, he was introduced into the service of a great duchess at St. James’, and stayed there for two years. He was at last dismissed for improper conduct; but while he remained there, he had obtained a general key which opened the lodgings in St. James’. Accordingly, he went to a mercer, and desired him to send, with all speed, a parcel of the best brocades, satins, and silks, for his duchess, that she might select some for an approaching drawing-room. Having often gone on a similar errand, the mercer instantly complied. His servant, and a porter to carry the parcels, accompanied Dick, and when arrived at the gate of some of the lodgings, he said, “Let’s see the pieces at once, for my duchess is just now at leisure to look at them.” So receiving the parcel, he conveyed it down a back stair, and went clear off. After waiting with great impatience for two or three hours, the porter and the man returned home, much lighter than when they came out.

About a month after, one evening when Dick had been taking his glass pretty freely, he unfortunately came by the mercer’s shop, while the mercer was standing at the door; the latter recollected and instantly seized him, saying, “Oh sir, have I caught you! you are a fine spark indeed! to cheat me out of two hundred pounds’ worth of goods! but before I part with you, I shall make you pay dearly for them!” Adams was not a little surprised at being so unexpectedly[Pg 173] taken; but instantly seeing the bishop of London coming up in his carriage, he said to the mercer, “I must acknowledge that I have committed a crime to which I was forced by extreme necessity; but I see my uncle, the bishop of London, coming this way in his coach; therefore, I hope that you’ll be so civil as not to raise any hubbub of a mob about me, by which I should be exposed and utterly undone: I’ll go speak to his lordship about the matter, if you please to step with me; and I’ll engage he shall make you satisfaction for the damage I have done you.”

The mercer, eager to receive his money, and deeming this proposal a better method than sending him to gaol, consented. Adams went boldly up, and desiring the coachman to stop, requested a few words of his lordship. Seeing him in the dress of a gentleman, he was pleased to listen to him, upon which Adams said, “Begging your lordship’s pardon for my presumption, I make bold to acquaint your reverence that the gentleman standing behind me is an eminent mercer, keeping house hard by, and is a very upright, godly man; but being a great reader of books of divinity, especially polemical pieces, he has met therein with some intricate cases, which very much trouble him, and his conscience cannot be at rest until his doubts and scruples are cleared about them; I humbly beg, therefore, that your lordship would vouchsafe him the honor of giving him some ease before he runs utterly to despair.”

The bishop, always ready to assist any person troubled with scruples of conscience, requested Adams to bring his friend to him the following day: “But,” said Adams, deferentially, “it will be more satisfactory to the poor man, if your lordship will speak to him yourself.” Upon which the bishop bowing to the mercer, the latter approached the coach, when the bishop said, “The gentleman has informed me of all the matter about you, and if you please to give yourself the trouble of coming to my house at Fulham, I will satisfy you in every point.” The mercer made many grateful[Pg 174] bows, and taking Adams to a tavern, gave him a good entertainment.

The next morning Adams waited upon the mercer, who was making out his bill to present to the bishop, and pretending that his coming in haste to attend him to the bishop’s house had made him forget to bring money with him, entreated that he would grant him the loan of a guinea, and put it down in the bill. They then went off to wait upon the bishop at the time appointed. After being regaled in the parlor with a bottle of wine, the mercer was introduced to the bishop, who addressed him, saying, “I understand that you have been greatly troubled of late; I hope that you are better now, sir?” The mercer answered, “My trouble is much abated, since your lordship has been pleased to order me to wait upon you.” So pulling out his pocket-book, he presented his lordship with a bill containing several articles, including a guinea of borrowed money, amounting in all to two hundred and three pounds nineteen shillings and tenpence.

His lordship, staring upon the bill, and examining its contents, said, “What is the meaning of all this? The gentleman last night might very well say your conscience could not be at rest, and I wonder why it should, when you bring a bill to me of which I know nothing.” “Your lordship,” said the mercer, bowing and scraping, “was pleased last night to say, that you would satisfy me to-day.” “Yes,” replied the prelate, “and so I would with respect to what the gentleman told me; who said that you, being much troubled about some points of religion, desired to be resolved therein, and, in order thereto, I appointed you to come to-day.” “Truly, your lordship’s nephew told me otherwise; for he said you would pay me this bill of parcels, which, upon my word, he had of me, and in a very clandestine manner too, if I were to tell your lordship all the truth: but out of respect to your honor, I will not disgrace your nephew.” “My nephew! he is none of my nephew! I never, to my knowledge, saw the gentleman in my life before!”

[Pg 175]

Dick not long after went into the life-guards, but as his pay would not support his extravagance, he sometimes collected upon the highway. Along with some of his companions upon the road, they robbed a gentleman of a gold watch and a purse of a hundred and eight pounds. Not content with his booty. Adams went after the gentleman, saying, “Sir, you have got a very fine coat on; I must make bold to exchange with you.” As the gentleman rode along, he thought he heard something making a noise in his pocket, and examining it, to his great joy he found his watch and all his money, which Adams in his hurry had forgot to remove out of the pocket of his own coat when he exchanged with the gentleman. But when Adams and his associates came to an inn, and sat down to examine their booty, to their unspeakable chagrin they found that all was gone.

Adams and his companions went out that very same day to repair their loss, and attacked the stage-coach, in which were several women, with whom, irritated by their recent misfortune, they were very rough and urgent. While Dick was searching the pockets of one of the women, she said, “Have you no pity or compassion on our sex? Certainly, you have neither Christianity, nor conscience, nor religion, in you!” “Right, we have not much Christianity nor conscience in us: but, for my part, you shall presently find a little religion in me.” So falling next upon her jewels and ear-rings, “Indeed, madam,” exclaimed Adams, “supposing you to be an Egyptian, I must beg the favor of you, being a Jew, to borrow your jewels and ear-rings, according as my forefathers were commanded by Moses;” and having robbed the ladies to the amount of two hundred pounds in money and goods, allowed them to proceed. After a course of depredations, Dick, in robbing a man between London and Brentford, was so closely pursued by the person who was robbed, and a neighbor whom he fortunately met upon the road, that in a little time afterwards he was apprehended, carried before a magistrate, committed to Newgate,[Pg 176] tried, condemned, and executed, in March 1713. Though rude and profligate before, he was penitent and devout after receiving his sentence.


William’s father was a grazier in Herefordshire, and he lived with him until he was sixteen years old, and then came up to London. Sometimes in the capacity of a footman, and sometimes in that of a butler, he spent five years in a very irreproachable manner. Unfortunately, however, he became acquainted with evil company, was soon corrupted in principles, and became a rogue in practice.

William Gettings robs a Gentleman in his own Garden

William Gettings robs a Gentleman in his own Garden. P. 176.

He began his course under the name of William Smith, and traded in the smaller matter of pilfering. In the dress of a porter he one evening went into the house of a doctor of medicine, took down a rich bed, and packed it up. In carrying it off he fell down stairs, and had almost broken his neck. The noise alarming the old doctor and his son, they came running to see what was the matter; whereupon Gettings, puffing and blowing as if he was quite out of breath, perceiving them nearer than they should be, said to the doctor, “Is not your name so and so?”—“Yes,” replied the doctor; “and what then?”—“Why, then, sir,” said Gettings, “there’s one Mr. Hugh Hen and Penhenribus has ordered me to bring these goods hither (which have almost broken my back,) and carry them away to a new lodging, which he has taken somewhere hereabouts.”—“Mr. Hugh Hen and Penhenribus!” replied the doctor again: “pray, who’s he? for, to the best of my knowledge, I don’t know such a gentleman.”—“I can’t tell,” said Gettings, “but, indeed, the gentleman knows you, and ordered me to leave the goods here.” [Pg 179]“I don’t care,” said the doctor, “how well he knows[Pg 177] me! I tell you I’ll not take the people’s goods, unless they were here themselves; therefore, I say, carry them away!”—“Nay, pray sir,” said Gettings, “let me leave the goods here, for I am quite weary already in bringing them hither.”—“I tell you,” replied the doctor, “there shall none be left here; therefore take them away, or I’ll throw them into the street!”—“Well, well,” said Gettings, “I’ll take the goods away then; but I’m sure the gentleman will be very angry, because he ordered me to leave them here.”—“I don’t care,” replied the doctor, “for his anger, nor your’s either! I tell you, I’ll take no charge of other people’s goods, unless they are here themselves to put them into my custody!”—“Very well, sir,” said Gettings, “since I must carry them away, I beg the favor of you and the gentleman there to lift them on my back.”—“Ay, ay, with all my heart,” replied the doctor. “Come, son, and lend a hand to lift them on the fellow’s back.”

Scarcely was William gone, when the doctor’s wife coming home from the market, and going into the room, saw the bed taken down, and came running in a great passion to her husband, exclaiming, “Why, truly, this is a most strange business, that I can never stir out of doors, but you must be making some whimsical alteration or other in the house!”—“What’s the matter,” replied the doctor, “with the woman? Are you beside yourself?”—“No,” said the wife, “but truly you are, in thus altering things as you do, almost every moment!” “Certainly, my dear,” replied the doctor, “you must have been spending your market-penny, or else you would not talk at this rate, as you do, of alterations, when not the smallest have been made since you have gone out.”—“I am not blind, I think,” retorted the wife, “for I am sure the bed is taken out of the two-pair-of-stairs back room; and pray, husband, where do you design to put it now?” The doctor and his son then went up-stairs, and not only found that the bed was stolen, but that they had assisted the thief to carry it off.

Our hero next resolved to try his fortune upon the[Pg 180] highway, and meeting with a sharper on the road, commanded him to “stand and deliver!” He robbed him of two pence half-penny, when the sharper remarked, that “the world was come indeed to a very sad pass, when one rogue must prey upon another.”

He next robbed a man of twelve shillings and a pair of silver buckles. From thence he proceeded to rifle a stage-coach, and took away some money and a silver watch. Not long after, he robbed Mr. Dashwood and his lady of a gold watch and money.

These, however, were only smaller exhibitions of his dexterity. One evening, well mounted, he passed through Richmond, and perceiving a gentleman walking in his gardens, inquired of the gardener if he might be permitted to view the gardens, of which he had heard so much.

The gardener, well acquainted with the harmless vanity and benevolence of his master, granted his request. Giving his horse to the gardener, Gettings walked forward, and in a very respectful manner accosted the gentleman, who received him very courteously; when, sitting down together in an arbor, Gettings said, “Your worship has got a fine diamond ring upon your finger.”—“Yes,” replied the owner, “it ought to be a very fine one, for it cost me a very fine price.”—“Why, then,” said Gettings, “it is the fitter to bestow on a friend; therefore, if your worship pleases, I must make bold to take it and wear it for your sake.” The gentleman stared at his impudence, but Gettings presenting a pistol, made a short process of the matter. Having taken the ring, the villain added, “I am sure you do not go without a good watch too.” Making free with that also, and some guineas, he bound the gentleman, and went off with his booty, after requesting him to be patient, and he would send some person to set him at liberty. When he came to the gate, he gave the gardener a shilling, informing him that Sir James wanted to speak to him. The botanical retainer accordingly went and untied his master, who[Pg 181] with a grim smile returned him thanks for sending a man into his own garden to rob him.

Upon another day, Gettings undertook a long journey, for the express purpose of robbing the house of a friend; and being well acquainted with all parts of the house, was successful, and brought off money, plate, and goods, to a considerable amount. He at last, in an unlucky moment, robbed a Mr. Harrison of four guineas, some silver, and a watch; and being detected, was tried, condemned, and executed, on the 25th September, 1713, in the twenty-second year of his age.


Edward Bonnet was born of respectable parents in the isle of Ely, in Cambridgeshire, received an education superior to many of his companions, and when he was only ten years old, gave the following proof of his promising genius. He was sent to the parson with the present of a sparerib of pork, wrapped up in a cloth in a basket. Ned knocked with some degree of importance at the door, which a servant answered, inquiring his business. “I want to speak with your master.” The master came. “Well, my dear, what is your business?” “Why, only my father has sent you this,” said young Ned; and gave him the basket, without moving his hat. “O fie! fie! child, have you no manners? you should pull off your hat, and say,—Sir, my father gives his service to you, and desires you to accept this small token. Come, go you out again with the basket, and knock at the door, and I’ll let you in, and see how prettily you can perform it.” The parson waited within until his impatience to receive and examine the contents of the basket incited him to open the door. But Ned was at a considerable distance,[Pg 182] walking off with the present. “So ho! so ho, sirrah! where are you going?” “Home, sir,” replied Ned, in an equally loud voice. “Hey, but you must come back and do as I bade you first.” “Thank you for that, sir, I know better than that; and if you teach me manners, I’ll teach you wit.” The father smiled at the story, and retained his sparerib.

At the age of fifteen, Bonnet was sent apprentice to a grocer, served his time with credit, was afterwards married to a young woman in the neighborhood, and continued in business until he had acquired about six hundred pounds. Unfortunately, however, he was reduced to poverty by an accidental fire. Unable to answer the pressing demands of his creditors, he left the place, and came up to London. Here he soon became acquainted with a band of highwaymen, and began with them to seek from the highway what had been lost by fire.

Nor did he long continue in the inferior walks of his new profession, but providing himself with a horse which he taught to leap over ditch, hedge, or toll-bar, and to know all the roads in the country, whether by day or by night, he quickly became the terror of Cambridgeshire.

Upon this horse, he one day met a Cantabrigian, who was possessed of more money than good sense, morality, or wit, in a calash with a dashing courtesan. Ned commanded the student to “stand and deliver.” Unwilling to show his cowardice before his companion, he refused. Without any respect for the venerable university to which he belonged, Ned by violence took from him about six pounds, and presenting a pair of pistols, constrained the hopeful pair to strip themselves, then bound them together, and giving the horse a lashing, the animal went off at full trot with them to the inn to which he belonged. But no sooner did these Adamites enter the town, than men, women, and children, came hallooing, shouting, and collecting the whole town to behold such an uncommon spectacle. The student was expelled for disgracing the university,[Pg 183] and the courtesan was sent to the house of correction.

Humorous Ned next met with a tailor and his son, who had arrested him for five pounds. He commanded him to surrender, and received thirty-five in place of his five. “I wonder,” said the innocent son, “what these fellows think of themselves? Surely they must go to the place below for committing these notorious actions.” “God forbid,” replied the tailor, “for to have the conversation of such rogues there, would be worse than all the rest.”

Ned’s next adventure was with an anabaptist preacher, whom he commanded to deliver up his purse and scrip. The latter began by reasonings, ejaculations, and texts, to avert the impending evil. Ned instantly put himself in a great passion, and replied, “Pray, sir, keep your breath to cool your porridge, and don’t talk of religious matters to me, for I’ll have you to know, that, like all other true-bred gentlemen, I believe nothing at all of religion; therefore deliver me your money, and bestow your laborious cant upon your female auditors, who never scold with their maids without cudgelling them with broken pieces of scripture.” Whereupon, taking a watch and eight guineas, he tied his legs under his horse, and let him depart.

On another occasion, Bonnet and a few associates met a nobleman and four servants in a narrow pass, one side of which was enclosed by a craggy and shattered rock, and the other by an almost impenetrable wood, rising gradually considerably higher than the road, and accosted them in his usual style. The nobleman pretended that he supposed they were only in jest, and said, “that if they would accompany him to the next inn, he would give them a handsome treat.” He was soon informed that they preferred the present to the future. A sharp dispute ensued, but the nobleman and his men were conquered; and the lord was robbed of a purse of gold, a gold watch, a gold snuff-box, and a diamond ring.

Being conducted into the adjacent wood, and bound[Pg 184] hand and foot, the robbers left them, saying, “that they would bring them more company presently.” Accordingly, they were as good as their word, for in less than two hours they contrived to increase the number to twelve, on which Ned cried, “There are now twelve of you, all good men and true; so bidding you farewell, you may give in your verdict against us as you please, when we are gone, though it will be none of the best; but to give us as little trouble as possible, we shall not now stay to challenge any of you. So, once more, farewell.”

Ned Bonnet and his comrades now going to the place of rendezvous, to make merry with what they had got, which was at a by sort of an inn standing somewhat out of the high-road between Stamford and Grantham, it happened at night to rain very hard, so that one Mr. Randal, a pewterer, living near Marygold alley in the Strand, before it was burnt down, was obliged to put in there for shelter. Calling for a pot of ale, on which was the innkeeper’s name, which was also Randal, the pewterer asked him, being his namesake, to sit and bear him company.

They had not been long chatting, before Ned and one of his comrades came down stairs and placed themselves at the same table; and understanding the name of the stranger, one of the rogues, fixing his eyes more intently than ordinary upon him, in a fit of seeming joy leaped over the table, and embracing the pewterer, exclaimed, “Dear Mr. Randal! who would have thought to have seen you here? it is ten years, I think, since I had the happiness to be acquainted with you.”

Whilst the pewterer was recollecting whether he could call this spark to mind or not, for it came not into his memory that he had ever seen him in his life, the highwayman again cried out, “Alas! Mr. Randal, I see now I am much altered, since you have forgotten me.” Here, being arrived at a ne plus ultra, up started Ned, and with as great apparent joy said to his companion, “Is this, Harry, the honest gentleman in London, whom you so often used to praise for his great civility[Pg 185] and liberality to all people? Surely then we are very happy in meeting thus accidentally with him.”

By this discourse they would almost have persuaded Mr. Randal that they perfectly knew him; but being sensible of the contrary, he very seriously assured them that he could not remember that he had ever seen any of them in his life. “No!” said they, struck with seeming astonishment; “it is strange we should be altered so much within these few years.”

But to evade further ill-timed questions, the rogues insisted upon Mr. Randal’s supping with them, which invitation he was by no means permitted to decline.

By the time they had supped, in came four more of Ned’s comrades, who were invited also to sit down, and more provisions were called for, which were quickly brought, and as rapidly devoured.

When the fury of consuming half a dozen good fowls and other victuals was over, besides several flasks of wine, there was not less than three pounds odd money to pay. At this they stared on each other, and held a profound silence, whilst Mr. Randal was fumbling in his pocket. When they saw that he only brought forth a mouse from the mountain of money the thieves hoped to find piled in his pocket, which was only as much as his share, he that pretended to know him started up, and protested he should be excused for old acquaintance sake; but the pewterer, not willing to be beholden, as indeed they never intended he should, to such companions, lest for this civility they should expect greater obligations from him, pressed them to accept his dividend of the reckoning, saying, if they thought it equitable he would pay more.

At last one of them, tipping the wink, said, “Come, come, what needs all this ado? Let the gentleman, if he so pleases, present us with this small treat, and do you give him a larger at his taking his farewell in the morning.” Mr. Randal not liking this proposal, it was started that he and Ned should throw dice to end the controversy; and fearing he had got into ill company, to avoid mischief, Randal acquiesced to throw a main[Pg 186] who should pay the whole shot, which was so managed that the lot fell upon Randal. By this means Randal, having the voice of the whole board against him, was deputed to pay the whole reckoning; though the dissembling villains vowed and protested they had rather it had fallen to any of them, that they might have had the honor of treating him.

Mr. Randal concealed his discontent at these shirking tricks as well as he could; and they perceiving he would not engage in gaming, but counterfeited drowsiness, and desired to be abed, the company broke up, and he was shown to his lodgings, which he barricaded as well as he could, by putting old chairs, stools, and tables against the door. Going to bed and putting the candle out, he fell asleep; but was soon awaked by a strange walking up and down the room, and an outcry of murder and thieves.

At this surprising noise he leaped out of bed, and ran to the door, to see whether it was fast or not: and finding nothing removed, (for the highwaymen came into his chamber by a trap-door which was behind the hangings,) he wondered how the noise should be there in his apartment, unless it was enchanted; but as he was about to remove the barricade to run and raise the house, he was surrounded by a crew, who, tying and gagging him, took away all his clothes, and left him to shift for himself as well as he could.

One day having the misfortune to have his horse shot under him, Bonnet embraced the first opportunity to take a good gelding from the grounds of the man who kept the Red Lion inn. Being again equipped like a gentleman, he rode into Cambridgeshire, and met with a gentleman, who informed him that he had well nigh been robbed, and requested him to ride along with him for protection. As a highwayman is never out of his way, he complied, and, at a convenient place, levied a contribution, as protector of the gentleman, by emptying his pockets of eighty guineas. He, however, had the generosity to give him half-a-crown to carry him to the next town.

[Pg 187]

After having, according to computation, committed three hundred robberies, another thief, being apprehended, in order to save his own life, informed against Bonnet, who was apprehended, not upon the highway, but in his own lodgings, and sent to Newgate, and at the next assizes carried down to Cambridge, sentenced and executed before the castle, on the 28th March, 1713, to the great joy of the county, which had suffered severely by his depredations.


The first of these was a waterman, and born in Southwark. The second was a dung-bargeman, and born in Barnaby street. Entering into company, they robbed shops and ships, during the space of two years, with considerable success: they then ascended to the second degree of robbery, and broke several houses in Southwark. Associating themselves with another, they broke into a watchmaker’s shop, and extracted twenty-six watches; but the stranger becoming evidence, our two trusty friends were lodged in Newgate, tried, and condemned, but received a pardon, in consequence of which they were again let loose upon the community. Ogden one evening met a parson walking home under the light of the moon, and approached him in the character of a seaman in great poverty and distress. His dismal narrative excited the compassion of the parson, who gave him a sixpence. The parson had not proceeded far when Ogden met him again, and renewed his request. “You are the most impudent beggar that ever I met with,” cried the reverend gentleman. Ogden told him that he was in very great want, and that the sixpence he had received would not supply his necessities. He then gave him half a crown. Ogden said, “These are very sad times, for there’s horrid[Pg 188] robbing abroad, therefore, if you have any more money about you, you may as well let me have it as another, who perhaps may abuse you, and binding you hand and foot, make you lie in the cold all night; but if you’ll give me your money, I’ll take care of you, and conduct you very safely home.”

The parson made a virtue of necessity, and gave him all his money, which was about forty shillings. Ogden then said, “I see you have a watch, sir; you may as well let me have that too.” The parson complied, and as they were plodding along, two or three fellows came out upon them, to whom Ogden cried, “The moon shines bright,” and they let them proceed. They had only gone a short way, when the same scene was repeated, but at last the parson was brought safely to his own door. He requested his guide to go in, assuring him that he should receive no injury; but the latter declined his offer. The good parson then brought a bottle of wine, and drinking to Ogden, gave him the bottle and the glass to help himself, upon which he ran off with both.

Upon another day, meeting Beau Medlicote, he was commanded to “stand and deliver.” The beau pretended to make some resistance with his sword, but pistols being produced, he was constrained to yield. There were only two half-crowns found in his pocket, and one of them was bad. Upon this he received a complete caning for presuming to carry counterfeit money.

Some time after this, Ogden and Reynolds, in company with one Bradshaw, the grandson of serjeant Bradshaw, who condemned king Charles the First to death, were watching in a wood for some booty. A poor servant girl was returning home from her service, with a box upon her head. Bradshaw was deemed a sufficient match for her; accordingly, he alone rushed out of the wood and seized her box, in which were her clothes and fifteen shillings, being all her wages for three months’ service. When he had broken up her box and was rifling it, there happening to be a hammer[Pg 189] in it, she suddenly seized the hammer, and gave him a blow upon the temples, which was followed by another equally well directed, with the claw of the hammer, into his windpipe, on which the villain instantly expired.

In a short time a gentleman came up, to whom she related the whole adventure; he went up to the deceased, and found in his pockets eighty guineas, with a whistle. Perceiving its use, he immediately whistled, when Ogden and Reynolds in a moment rushed from the wood; but discovering that it was a wrong person who gave the signal, they with equal speed ran back. The gentleman carried the girl before a magistrate, became bail for her appearance; and being tried, she was acquitted.

At another time, these two men met a tallyman, well known for his commerce of two kinds with the hawkers of St. Giles’-in-the-Fields. They employed the common phrase “Stand and deliver!” In a piteous tone the victim entreated them to spare a poor man who was at great pains to acquire his daily bread. In a violent passion Ogden exclaimed, “Thou spawn of hell! have pity on thee? No, sirrah! I know you too well, and I would almost as soon be kind to a bailiff or an informing constable. A tallyman and a rogue are terms of similar import. Every Friday you set up a tenter in the Marshalsea court, upon which you rack and stretch poor prisoners, like English broadcloth, beyond the staple of the wool, till the threads crack, which causes them upon the least wet to shrink, and presently wear threadbare. I say that you and all your calling are worse rogues than ever were hanged at Tyburn.” After this eloquent harangue, he took whatever he found upon him, stripped him naked, bound him hand and foot, and left him under a hedge to ruminate on his former villanies.

These rogues were great cronies of Thomas Jones and John Richardson, the one butler, the other footman, to a gentleman living at Eltham. These fellows having one day robbed a gentleman on Blackheath, left him[Pg 190] bound by the roadside. Their master coming past a few hours after, relieved the unfortunate gentleman, took him to his own house, and gave him a glass of wine to recruit his spirits. The butler no sooner appeared, than the gentleman knew him, and instantly charged him with the robbery. His master was astonished, and could scarcely credit the report; but the other describing the horse upon which he rode, and the person who was along with him, he found that he was one of his footmen. The two servants being examined, and acknowledging the fact, were committed, tried, and suffered the punishment due to their crimes.

Ogden and Reynolds continued their depredations until justice at length overtook them, and at Kingston-upon-Thames they were sentenced. They were unsuccessful in attempting to break out of the Stock-house; and such was the indifference of Ogden, that when he was going to the place of execution, he threw a handful of money among the crowd, saying, “Gentlemen, here is poor Will’s farewell.”

They were executed on the 2d of April, 1714.


The depravity of human nature was exemplified in its full extent in the character of John Price. The indigence and profligacy of his parents were such, that he received no education, and he was sent into the world to shift for himself at the age of seven. Before this period, he was a proficient both in cursing and lying. It is rather a singular fact, that his habitual lying was once a means of saving his life.

About the age of eighteen he was serving a gentleman in the country, who turned him off for his notorious falsehoods. In going to London, he robbed a woman of eighteen shillings, was apprehended in the act,[Pg 191] and convicted; but his late master, who was sheriff, took pity upon his situation, and saved his life. Informed of this, the judges at the next assizes blamed the gentleman’s conduct for allowing a man to escape who had pleaded guilty. The sheriff acknowledged that such a man had been condemned at the last assizes; but then, he knew the fellow to be such an unaccountable liar, that there was no believing one word he said; so his pleading guilty to what was laid to his charge, was in his opinion a sufficient reason for his being believed innocent of the fact, and he would not hang an innocent man for the world. This reply made the judges smile, and he was dismissed with a severe reprimand, and cautioned not to come before them again.

Upon obtaining his liberty, Price went to London; associated with a band of robbers, and in a short time was apprehended for diving into another person’s pocket instead of his own, and for that crime committed to Newgate. He was accordingly sentenced to a severe whipping, and sent on board a man-of-war; but after he had received the punishment assigned to stealing from the sailors, he was discharged from the ship.

He hastened again to London, joined another association of thieves, and abandoned himself to all manner of wickedness. One evening his gang divided themselves into three companies. The first met an attorney, near Hampstead, whom they robbed of eight guineas. The unfortunate lawyer had not gone far when he was attacked by the second party, to whom he related his misfortunes, and into what cruel hands he had fallen. “Cruel!” said one of them; “how dare you use these terms? And who made you so bold as to talk to us with your hat on? Pray, sir, be pleased henceforward to learn more manners.” They then snatched off his hat and wig, and took a diamond ring from his finger. As he was plodding his way home, uncertain which road was safest, the third division came up to him near Kentish Town, bringing with them a man whom they pretended to have completely stripped, and constrained the lawyer to clothe the naked with his own coat and[Pg 192] waistcoat; then told him he might be thankful to get off with his life, which he employed in sowing division amongst society.

In a short time after this, Price and a companion one evening entered a garret, in which there was nothing but lumber, with the intention of robbing the house when all was silent. But in the dark, as Price was laying his hand upon a pistol which he had placed upon a table, it went off and alarmed the people of the house. His comrade instantly ran to the window, where they fastened a rope for their escape, and his companion attempting to slide down, the rope soon broke, though he was not so much injured but he got away. Price seeing the extreme danger of being caught, removed the rope to another window, and it conveyed him to a balcony. He was, however, scarcely there, when all the people in the house were alarmed; on which he leaped into a large basket of eggs which a man was carrying upon his head, from Newgate market; so that the fall being broken, he was able to make his escape, amid the cry of “thieves!”

Jack now began to be so well known about town, that he found it necessary to remove to the country. He was there most industrious in stripping the hedges of all the linen that he found upon them. Putting up at an inn, the landlord soon understood from his discourse that he was a servant who would suit him, and therefore hired him as his tapster. It was this miscreant landlord’s custom to murder travellers who put up at his house; but one gentleman being warned by a maid of his danger, provided for his safety.

Among other things the maid informed him that it was usual for the landlord to ring a bell, on which an assassin, pretending to be a servant, entered the chamber and snuffed out the candle, when the other villains rushed in and murdered the stranger. The gentleman caused the maid to place a lantern with a candle in it under a stool, and he laid his arms ready and stood upon his guard. Scarcely had he sat himself down when it happened as the girl had mentioned; but the[Pg 193] gentleman, with the assistance of his servant, killed two of the villains and put the rest to flight. He then seized the innkeeper and his wife, carried them before a magistrate, and they were indicted to stand trial at the next assizes. From the maid’s deposition it appeared that fourteen strangers had been murdered by them, and that their bodies were concealed in an arched vault in the garden, to which there was a passage from the cellar. Both were executed, and the innkeeper hung in chains.

Jack having once more escaped death, returned to his pilfering trade, was committed to Newgate, and whipped for his crimes. But Jack was now determined to follow the example of the great ones of the earth, and to better his circumstances by marriage. Accordingly, he married one of the name of Betty, who gained her livelihood by running errands to the prisoners of Newgate. Nor was Jack, like too many, disappointed in his matrimonial connection, for he was soon elevated to be hangman to the county of Middlesex. In this station he assumed great importance, and held a levee every day that he did business at Tyburn; but though he sometimes ran in debt, yet he was always very willing to work in order to pay his obligations. But envy reached even him, and he lost his place by means of one who had greater ministerial interest. But Jack could never be destitute while he had hands and fingers to lay hold of whatever was within his reach.

He at last suffered from having assaulted a watchman’s wife, whom he met in Bunhill Fields, and used in such a barbarous manner that she died in a few days of her wounds. Two men suddenly came up to him, and, being seized, he was secured in Newgate. After his trial and condemnation he remained impenitent, and endeavored, by intoxication, to stifle the forebodings of conscience. He was hanged on the 31st of May, 1718.

[Pg 194]


The father of the celebrated John Shepherd was a carpenter in Spitalfields, of good character, and exceedingly solicitous to train up his children in the path of sobriety and religion. They, however, afforded a melancholy proof that the most virtuous example, and the soundest principles, are frequently unsuccessful in influencing the conduct of children. Two of his sons followed evil courses, and were convicted at the bar of the Old Bailey.

After his father’s death, young Shepherd was sent to a school in Bishopsgate street, where he received the rudiments of education, and was bound apprentice to a cane chair-maker. His master used him well, and he lived very comfortably with him; but this master dying, he was sent to another, who treated him so very harshly that he eloped. Masters ought to be cautious how they conduct themselves towards their servants, because this harsh usage was in all probability the cause of Jack Shepherd’s ruin, as well as of bringing great injury upon society. In a short time, he commenced his depredations, and, in place of his former sober mode of life, his time was spent in drinking all day, and retiring to an infamous abode all night.

The history of this unfortunate man adds another to the many examples already given in this volume, that the company of profligate women has plunged men into scenes of dissipation and vice, to which they would have been entire strangers, had it not been for such associates. He was first enamored of one Elizabeth Lion, a woman remarkable for her stature and strength. Having separated from her, he associated with one who stimulated him to all manner of pilfering, in order[Pg 195] that he might be the better able to feed her extravagances.

One day, informing her that she had received his last half-crown, she instigated him to rob a wealthy pawnbroker. Shepherd left her about one in the morning, and returned with goods to the value of twenty-two pounds. It was not long before the two who had planned the robbery exhausted the booty.

The first favorite of Shepherd was committed to St. Giles’ round-house, for some pilfering pranks. Jack went to see her, broke open the doors, beat the keeper, and set Bess Lion at liberty. It is scarcely necessary to add, that this action gained him great fame among ladies of her description, and stimulated him to more daring acts of depredation.

About this period Jack supplied his brother with a little money to equip him for the honorable profession he himself followed: and they broke into a linen draper’s shop, from whence they extracted goods to the amount of fifty pounds. The younger brother, however, being rather a novice in the art, was too open in the disposal of the goods, by which means he was detected, and his first return for the kindness of his brother was to inform upon him and several of his confederates. Jack Shepherd was accordingly apprehended, and committed to the round-house for farther examination. This place could not long retain so bold a spirit, and marching off, he that very evening committed a robbery, and vowed to be revenged upon Tom for his ungenerous conduct.

Detection produced no reformation. Jack, in common with one Benson, attempting to steal a gentleman’s watch, was discovered and committed to New Prison. The first person whom he discerned there was his old favorite Bess Lion, who had been sent there upon a similar errand. After exerting all his cunning and stratagem in vain, Bess and he by force escaped, and instantly repaired to her old lodgings. There he remained concealed for some time, but, taking leave of his friend, he again associated with one Grace in raising[Pg 196] contributions. These two villains becoming acquainted with one Lamb, an apprentice to Mr. Carter, they enticed him to introduce them into his master’s house, from whence they extracted goods to a considerable amount. Shepherd and Grace, however, differed in the division of the spoil, and betrayed each other; when Grace and Lamb were apprehended. The misfortune of poor Lamb, who was so simply inveigled, excited the compassion of some gentlemen, who by their exertions succeeded in mitigating his sentence to transportation.

The confederates of Shepherd, in order to obtain a ready market for their goods, employed one Field to sell them, but he being occasionally dilatory, they hired a warehouse, and there deposited what goods they stole. Field, displeased at being turned off from his lucrative employment, importuned them to show him their stores, as he had several orders for goods, and could therefore dispose of them to advantage. He was conducted to the warehouse and shown the goods, and though he had not the courage manfully to rob any person, yet he emptied the warehouse of every rag it contained.

In the course of business, Shepherd robbed a Mr. Kneebone, and was tried at the ensuing sessions. He appeared simple and almost foolish at his trial, alleging, as his principal defence, that Jonathan Wild had disposed of part of the goods, and ought therefore to be punished as well as himself. He was however sentenced, and conducted himself, in the whole of his defence, more like an ignorant and simple man, than one who was formed to excel in his own or any other profession.

But necessity is the mother of invention. While in the condemned hole, he prevailed upon one Fowls, who was also under sentence of death, to lift him up to the iron spikes that were over the top of the door which looks into the lodge. By the aid of a strong tall woman, and two others, his head and shoulders were got through, and the whole of his body following, he was[Pg 197] by them let down, and, without the least suspicion of the keepers, conveyed through the lodge, put into a hackney coach, and out of reach before the least notice of his escape could be given.

But Jack had scarcely breathed the fresh air when he returned to business. He associated with one Page, a butcher, who dressed him in one of his frocks, and both betook themselves to the highway. They went to a watchmaker’s shop, in a daring manner broke open one of the glasses, and seized three watches before the boy who kept the shop could detect them. Upon this occasion Shepherd had the audacity to pass under Newgate.

But as Shepherd would not conceal himself nor give over his depredations, he was soon apprehended and again committed to Newgate, was put into the stone-room, loaded with irons, and stapled down to the ground. Being left alone, he with a crooked nail opened the lock, got free of his chains, wrought out two stones in the chimney, entered the red-room, where no person resided, threw down the door, got into the chapel, broke a spike of the door, and by it opened four other doors, got upon the roof, and from thence, by the means of his blanket, went in at a garret window belonging to an adjacent house, and through that house into the street.

The whole of this almost incredible exertion was rendered the more extraordinary in that his irons were on all the time. When at liberty, he went into an adjoining field and knocked them off; and, astonishing to relate, that very evening robbed a pawnbroker’s house, where among other things he found a handsome suit of black clothes, in which he dressed himself, and carried the booty to two of his female companions.

He now went to visit his companions in their scenes of iniquity, and drinking at a brandy shop, was discovered by a boy who knew him. The boy had no sooner recognised Jack than he ran to give information, so that he was almost immediately apprehended and reconducted to his old quarters in Newgate, amid a[Pg 198] vast crowd, who ran from all parts to see such an extraordinary character; but he was so intoxicated at the time that he was scarcely conscious of his miserable situation. To prevent the possibility of a third escape, they never permitted him to be alone, and made the contributions of those who came to see and converse with such a singular character pay for their additional trouble.

He was now the topic of general conversation, and multitudes, not only of the common ranks of society, but many in the more elevated ranks of life, flocked to see him. In the most ludicrous and jocular manner he related his adventures, exerting all his low wit and buffoonery to amuse those who visited him, and to exact money from them. In this manner were the last days of this unhappy mortal spent, in diverting his mind from serious reflection, and the awful scene before him. Nor was he even destitute of the hope of pardon, from the distinguished persons who visited him, and who seemed to pity his misfortune. But these hopes were vain, and the attentions of these persons proved worse than useless.

He was removed to the bar of the court of the King’s Bench, in November, 1724, and an affidavit made that he was the same John Shepherd mentioned in the record of conviction. Judgment was awarded against him, and the day of his execution fixed. But such was his strong desire of life, and his belief that his resources would never fail him, that he prepared a knife to cut the ropes of the cart which should carry him to Tyburn, in hopes of running off among the crowd. This knife was, however, with no small difficulty, taken from him by force. As his last refuge to provide against every possible event, he employed a friend, to whom he had given all the money he had reserved from his visiters, to take his body away with all possible haste, put it into a warm bed, and draw a little blood, thus to use every possible means to recover life. He finally enjoined, that if all means should prove unsuccessful, his body should be decently interred,[Pg 201] and the remainder of the money given to his poor mother.

He was conducted to the place of execution in a cart, strongly handcuffed, when he behaved very gravely, confessed some of the robberies laid to his charge, and exculpated himself from others. His general dexterity, and the various scenes through which he had passed, operated to excite, in no common degree, the sympathy of the multitude.

Richard Turpin

Richard Turpin. P. 201.


There never was, perhaps, a man in the particular profession to which this notorious fellow devoted himself, whose name was more familiar in the mouths of the common people than that of Richard Turpin. But, since it invariably happens that a certain proportion of curiosity respecting the life and actions of a man is sure to beget a corresponding desire to satisfy it, we cannot wonder if the perplexed biographer should sometimes resort to fiction to supply the deficiencies of fact. Hence it has happened that certain exploits have been attributed to Turpin which do not properly belong to him; amongst others, the unparalleled ride from York to London in an unprecedentedly short period, performed, it is averred, on a single horse. We have never been able to find any authentic account of this feat, nor have we, as yet, discovered any conceivable necessity that should compel him to such a rapid journey. Turpin was never tried but once, and that was, indeed, at York; but the reader will perceive that he had no opportunity of escape, nor did he attempt any thing of the kind after his first apprehension.

Richard Turpin was the son of John Turpin, of Hempstead in Essex, and was put apprentice to a[Pg 202] butcher in Whitechapel, where he served his time, during which period he was frequently guilty of misdemeanors, and conducted himself in a loose and disorderly manner.

As soon as his time was up, he married, and set up in business for himself at Suson in Essex, where, having no credit in the market, and no money in his pocket, he was shortly reduced to the necessity of maintaining himself by indirect practices; and, accordingly, very often used to rob the neighboring gentry of sheep, lambs, and oxen.

Upon one occasion, he stole a couple of oxen from a farmer at Plaistow, which he caused to be conveyed to his own house and cut up. Two of the men belonging to the farm, having a suspicion of Turpin, went to his house, and seeing an ox slaughtered, were convinced of his guilt; and having traced the sale of the hides, returned to Suson to apprehend him. Turpin, apprized of their intention, left them in the front room, jumped out of a window and made his escape.

By this time his character had become notorious, and he never could entertain a thought of returning to Suson, or of following the trade of a butcher in that county. He, accordingly, resolved to commence smuggler; and raising as much money as he could scrape together, he betook himself to the hundreds of Essex, where he soon became connected with a gang of smugglers. This his new profession he followed for some time with tolerable success; but fortune taking a turn, he lost all that he had acquired; upon which he began to turn his thoughts to another, but by no means more honest, mode of life. In a word, he connected himself with a gang of deer-stealers, who finding him a desperate fellow, and fit for their purpose, admitted him among them. This desperate gang, afterwards known and feared under the title of the Essex Gang, not only robbed the forest of deer, but thinned several gentlemen’s parks of them, insomuch that they obtained a considerable sum of money. They followed deer-stealing only for some time; but not finding the money[Pg 203] come in so quickly as they wished, and being narrowly watched by the park-keepers, they, by Turpin’s direction, resolved to go round the country at nights, and when they could find a house that had any thing valuable in it, one was to knock at the door, which being opened, the rest should rush in and plunder it, not only of plate but of household goods.

The first person attacked in this manner was a Mr. Strype, an old man who kept a chandler’s shop at Watford, from whom they only took the money he had by him; but Turpin informed his companions that he knew an old woman at Loughton, who, he was certain, had seven or eight hundred pounds in her possession. The plan being declared feasible, away they went, and coming to the door, one of them knocked, and Turpin and the rest of the gang rushed in. The first thing they did was to blindfold the old lady and her maid. Turpin then examined the former touching her money, upon which she declared that she had none, being naturally loth to part with it. Some of the gang were inclined to believe her, but Turpin, with an oath, declared that if she remained obstinate he would set her on the fire. The poor old lady imagining that this was a mere threat, suffered herself to be lifted on to the fire, till the anguish she had endured for a long time compelled her to disclose, and the gang retired with about four hundred pounds.

They then consulted together who should be their next victim, and agreed to wait upon a farmer, near Ripple Side. The people within not answering the door so soon as they would fain have had it opened, they broke in, and according to their old custom tied the old man, the old woman, the servant maid, and the farmer’s son-in-law. They then ransacked the house, and robbed the old farmer of about seven hundred pounds. Turpin, seeing so considerable a booty, cried, “Ay, this would do if it were always so,” their share being about eighty pounds a man.

The success the gang met with made them resolve to proceed against those who had attempted to detect them.[Pg 204] They accordingly agreed to attack the house of Mason, the keeper of Epping Forest. The time was fixed when the house was to be attacked; but Turpin having still a great deal of money in his possession, could not refrain from coming up to London to spend it, and getting drunk, forgot the appointed time for putting their design into execution: however, the rest, resolving not to be balked, set out for Mason’s, after having bound themselves by oath not to leave one whole piece of goods in the house. Accordingly they went, broke open the door, beat poor Mason in a cruel manner, and finally killed him under the dresser. An old man sitting by the fireside, who declared that he knew nothing of them, got off untouched. After ransacking the lower part of the house, and doing much mischief, they proceeded up-stairs, and broke every thing in their way; at last, espying a punch-bowl, they broke that, when out dropped a hundred and twenty guineas, which they seized upon and made off with.

Turpin, with five others, in January, 1735, came to the door of Mr. Saunders, a wealthy farmer at Charlton in Kent, and knocking, inquired if the gentleman of the house was at home; he was answered he was, and that being the signal, they rushed in, and going directly to the parlor, where Mr. Saunders, his wife, and some friends were amusing themselves at a quiet game of cards, desired them on no account to be alarmed, for that they would not hurt their persons, if they sat still and made no disturbance. A silver snuff-box that lay on the table Turpin at once appropriated to himself, and the rest having bound the company, obliged Mr. Saunders to accompany them about the house, and open his closets and boxes, to prevent the necessity of laying violent hands upon them, and perhaps upon himself. They then possessed themselves of upwards of a hundred pounds in money, besides other property, including all the plate in the house. While this was proceeding, the maid-servant, a girl of some presence of mind, ran up-stairs, and barring herself in one of the rooms, called out lustily at the window for assistance; but one of the[Pg 205] rogues following her, broke open the door with a poker, and brought her down again. In their search for all things of value in the house, they hit upon some bottles of wine, a bottle of brandy, and some mince-pies, with which they immediately sat down and regaled themselves, inviting the company to partake, indeed compelling them to drink a dram of brandy each, to work off the fright. Mrs. Saunders, however, fainted, and a glass of water with some drops in it was instantly provided, with which they bathed her temples, and were very anxious for her recovery. After staying about two hours in the house, they packed up their plunder, and made off with it, threatening the inmates of the house, that, if they stirred within two hours, they would murder them.

The names of Turpin’s principal associates were Fielder, Rose, and Walker; there was another, also, whose name we have not learned. These made an appointment to rob a gentleman’s house at Croydon, and for that purpose agreed to meet at the Half-Moon tavern, which they accordingly did, about six o’clock in the evening. Walker, having some knowledge of the house, went at the head of his companions into the yard, and found the coachman dressing the horses; him they bound, and going from thence met Mr. Sheldon, the master, whom they seized and compelled to show them the way to the house. As soon as they entered, they tied Mr. Sheldon’s hands behind him with cords, and having served the rest of the family after the same fashion, fell to plundering the house. Eleven guineas, and several pieces of plate, jewels, and other things of value, was the result of this adventure; but before they left the place they returned two guineas, thanked Mr. Sheldon for the very courteous manner with which they had been received, and bade him good night.

Their next design was upon the house of Mr. Lawrence, at Edgeware-bury near Stanmore. About five o’clock they went from the Queen’s Head at Stanmore, and proceeded to the destined spot. On their arrival, they left their horses at the outer gate, and climbing[Pg 206] over the hatch into the sheep-yard, met with a boy just putting up some sheep. They seized him, and presenting a pistol, told him they would shoot him if he offered to cry out, but if he would inform them truly what servants Mr. Lawrence kept, and who was in the house, they would give him money. The boy, terrified at their threats, told instantly what they desired, and one of them thereupon knocked at the door. When it was opened they all rushed in with pistols in their hands, and seizing Mr. Lawrence, rifled his pockets, out of which they took one guinea, a Portugal piece of thirty-six shillings, about fifteen shillings in silver, and his keys. Dissatisfied with so small a booty, they then drove him up-stairs, and breaking open a closet, plundered it of money, silver cups and spoons, gold rings, and many other things of value. A bottle of elder wine which they found they divided amongst the servants, lifting it to their mouths, as their hands were pinioned behind them. A maid-servant who was churning in an outhouse, hearing a noise, suspected there were thieves in the house, and put out the candle to secrete herself. One of them, however, discovered her, and dragging her from her hiding-place, menaced her with the most horrid threats if she raised an alarm. All of them, indeed, disappointed and enraged at their ill success, (for they had calculated upon a rich return for their trouble and hazard,) practised on this occasion the most savage cruelties. Having stripped the house of every thing of worth, even to the sheets from the beds, they dragged Mr. Lawrence down stairs again, and declared, with the most dreadful oaths, that they would cut his throat if he hesitated to confess what money was in the house; and being answered that there was none excepting that which they had taken, they beat him barbarously with the butt-ends of their whips, and inflicted a terrific cut upon his head with a pistol. One of them took a chopping-bill and swore he would cleave his legs off; another a kettle of water from the fire, and flung upon him, which happening, however, to have been recently filled, did no serious[Pg 207] injury. In their search, besides the beforementioned particulars, they met with a chest belonging to one of Mr. Lawrence’s sons, which they broke open, taking therefrom twenty pounds, and all his linen. Some of these things were afterwards traced to a place called Duck-lane, where two of these fellows were apprehended.

Although in this robbery they got about twenty-six pounds in money in the whole, yet they made no fair distribution of it amongst themselves. The honor mentioned as existing among thieves was, in this instance, at any rate, something of that character which distinguishes their dealings with others not of their profession; for it appeared upon evidence, that those who were most fortunate in the plunder, on the division of the spoil, could bring their minds to produce no more than three pounds nine shillings and sixpence.

These frequent and daring burglaries induced his majesty to offer a pardon to any one of the criminals who had been concerned in entering the house of Mr. Lawrence, and committing such atrocities on the evening of the 4th of February; and further, a reward of fifty pounds to every person who should be instrumental in the discovery of any of the offenders.

Notwithstanding which, on the 7th of February the party again met by appointment, having fixed upon the White Hart in Drury-lane, as the best place whereat to concert future depredations. Accordingly, they agreed upon making an attempt to rob Mr. Francis, a large farmer near Mary-le-bone, at whose house they arrived shortly after seven. The details of this outrage are much the same as the previous robberies in which they were engaged. They succeeded in obtaining thirty-seven guineas and ten pounds in silver, a quantity of jewels and linen, and the unfortunate Mr. Francis’ wig, all of which they carried off; not forgetting the latter, the value of which, excepting to the owner, we are quite at a loss to conceive.

They also formed a design to rob the house of a country justice, and with that intention met at a public[Pg 208] house near Leigh. Not rightly knowing, however, the way into the jolly justice’s domicile, they concealed themselves under some furze bushes; but while they were thus lying perdue there, they heard several persons riding along together, who happened to be some of the neighboring farmers returning from the table of the rustic Rhadamanthus in a state of noisy mirth, induced, doubtless, by the genial fumes of the justice’s wines; and by their conversation it was plain that there were others still remaining there, who, dreading neither riotous spouses nor the midnight bottle, might probably have determined with wine and song to “out-watch the bear;” they, therefore, deemed it advisable not to attempt it that night, and adjourned accordingly their attack to some more promising period, which so far proved of advantage to them, that it thereby prevented their being taken, as otherwise they unavoidably would have been; for they had been observed by some of the neighborhood, and being suspected as smugglers, information was given to the custom-house, and a party of dragoons sent out after them, whom they met; when after a strict search, nothing having been found upon them, they were suffered to pass. Thus the jolly justice escaped.

The daring robberies of these men at length roused the country, and one of the king’s keepers waited on the duke of Newcastle, and obtained his majesty’s promise of a reward of one hundred pounds to him who should be fortunate enough to apprehend any of them. This made them lie a little more concealed; but some of the keepers and others receiving intelligence that they were regaling themselves at an alehouse in Westminster, they pursued them there, and bursting open the door, took three, after a stout resistance; two of whom, the third turning evidence against them, were hanged in chains accordingly. Turpin, however, made his escape by leaping from a window.

The gang thus broke up, and Turpin, quite left to himself, made a determination never to command another, but to go altogether upon his own bottom; and[Pg 209] with this view he set out for Cambridge, as he was not known in that county.

Notwithstanding this resolve, the following strange encounter provided him with his best companion (as he would call him) before he reached his journey’s end. King, the highwayman, who had been towards Cambridge on professional business, was returning to town. Turpin seeing him well mounted, and bearing the appearance of a gentleman, thought it was an excellent opportunity to recruit his pockets, and accordingly, with a loud voice, commanded King to stand. King, enjoying the joke, though at the ugly prospect of a bullet through his head if he carried the jest too far, assumed all the conduct of a person so unceremoniously addressed. “Deliver!” shouted Turpin, “or by —— I’ll let daylight through you.” “What,” said King, laughing heartily, “what! dog eat dog! Come, come! brother Turpin, if you don’t know me, I know you, and should be glad of your company.” After mutual assurances of fidelity to one another, and that nothing should part them till death, they agreed to go together upon some exploit, and met with a small booty that very day; after which they continued together, committing divers robberies, for nearly three years, when King was accidentally shot.

King being very well known about the country, as likewise was Turpin, insomuch that no house would entertain them, they formed the idea of dwelling in a cave, and to that end pitched upon a place enclosed with a large thicket, between Loughton Road and King’s-Oak-Road; here they made a place large enough to receive them and two horses, and while they lay concealed there, they could see, through several holes purposely made, what passengers went by on either road, and as they thought proper sallied out and robbed them. This they did in such a daring manner and so frequently, that it was not safe for any person to travel that way, and the very higglers were obliged to go armed. In this cave they drank and lay; Turpin’s wife supplied them with food, and frequently remained in the place all night with them.

[Pg 210]

From the forest, King and Turpin once took a ride to Bungay in Suffolk, where the latter had seen two young market-women receive thirteen or fourteen pounds, and was determined to rob them of it. King attempted to dissuade him from it, saying, they were pretty girls, and he would never be engaged in an attempt to deprive two hard-working women of their little gains. Turpin, however, persisted, and coming up with them, relieved them of the burden of their coin, which exploit occasioned a dispute between them.

As they were returning they robbed a gentleman, who was taking an airing in his chariot, with his two children. King first attacked him, but found him so powerful and determined a person, returning such sound replies in the shape of blows to poor King’s civilities, that he was fain to call upon his companion for assistance. Their united strength at last overcame him, and they took from him all the money he had about him, and then demanded his watch, which he declined on any account to part with; but one of the children became frightened, and persuaded its father to let them have it. They then insisted upon taking a mourning ring which they observed he wore, and an objection was raised on his part, even to that proposition. Finding, however, it was useless to oppose them, he at length resigned it, telling them it was not worth eighteen pence, but that he much valued it: upon which information they returned it to him, saying they were too much of gentlemen to take any thing which another valued so much.

About this time the reward offered for the apprehension of Turpin had induced several poor, but resolute men, to make an attempt to get him into their power. Among the rest a man, groom to a Mr. Thompson, tempted by the placard setting forth the golden return in the event of success, connected himself with a higgler to ward off suspicion, and commenced his search. Turpin one day standing by himself in the neighborhood of his cave, observed some one who, he supposed, was poaching for hares, and saluted him with, “No[Pg 211] hares near this thicket; it’s of no use seeking, you’ll not find any.”—“Perhaps I shall a Turpin, though,” replied the fellow, and levelled his piece at him. Seeing his danger, Turpin commenced a parley, retreating at the same time by degrees towards his cave, the groom following him with his gun presented. “I surrender,” said Turpin, when he reached the mouth of the cavern, and the man dropping the point of his piece, the former seized his carbine, and shot him dead on the spot. Turpin instantly made off to another part of the country, in search of King, and sent his wife a letter to meet him at a certain public house, at which, in a few days, inquiring for her under a feigned name, he found she was awaiting his appearance. The kitchen where she was happened to be at the back through a public room, where some farmers and others were regaling themselves. On passing through, a butcher, to whom he owed five pounds, recognised him, and taking him aside, said, “I know you have money now, Dick; if you’d pay me, it would be of great service.”—“My wife has certainly money to some amount,” replied Turpin, with a most unmoved countenance; “she is in the next place; I’ll get it of her, and pay you presently.” When Turpin was gone, the butcher apprized the company who he was, and added, “I’ll just get my five pounds of him, and then we’ll take him.” Turpin, however, was not to be so caught, and instead of going to his wife, leaped out of the next window, took horse, and was off in an instant, much to the discomfiture of the knight of the cleaver and the assembled company, who doubtless had calculated most correctly the proportion of the reward that would be due to each by virtue of the king’s signet.

Having discovered King, and one of his associates whose name was Potter, they determined to set out at once for London; and coming over the forest about three hundred yards from the Green Man, Turpin found that his horse, having undergone great fatigue, began to tire. On such an occasion it was no question with Turpin how he should provide himself with another,[Pg 212] for, overtaking a gentleman, the owner of several race-horses, he at once appropriated his steed and a handsome whip to his own peculiar use, and recommending his own broken-down jade to the kind consideration of the party, speaking highly of his points, left him to mount the sorry courser, and urge the wretched quadruped forward in the best way he could.

This robbery was committed on a Saturday night, and on the Monday following the gentleman received intelligence, that such a horse as he had lost and described was left at an inn in Whitechapel; he accordingly went there, and found it to be the same. Nobody came for it at the time appointed, but about eleven o’clock at night, King’s brother called for the horse, and was seized immediately. The whip he carried in his hand the gentleman instantly identified as that stolen from him, although the button upon which his name had been engraved was half broken off; the latter letters of his name, however, were plainly distinguishable upon the remaining part. They charged a constable with him, but he becoming frightened, and on the assurance that if he spoke the truth he should be released, confessed that there was a lusty man in a white duffel coat waiting for it in a street adjoining. One Mr. Bayes immediately went out, and finding the man as directed, perceived it was King. Coming round upon him, Mr. Bayes (the then active landlord of the Green Man, to whom the gentleman at the time had related the robbery,) attacked him. King immediately drew a pistol, which he pointed to Mr. Bayes’ breast, but it luckily flashed in the pan. A struggle then ensued, for King was a powerful man, and Turpin hearing the skirmish, came up, when King cried out, “Dick, shoot him, or we are taken, by ——!” at which instant Turpin fired his pistol, but it missed Mr. Bayes, and shot King in two places. “Dick, you have killed me, make off,” were King’s words as he fell, and Turpin, seeing what he had done, clapped spurs to his horse, and made his escape. King lived for a week afterwards, and gave Turpin the character of a coward;[Pg 213] telling Mr. Bayes that if he pleased to take him, he was to be found at a certain house near Hackney Marsh, and that when he rode away, he had three brace of pistols about him, and a carbine slung. Upon inquiry, it was found that Turpin had actually been at the house which King mentioned, and made use of something like the following expressions to the man. “What shall I do? where shall I go? Dick Bayes, I’ll be the death of you; for I have lost the best fellowman I ever had in my life; I shot poor King in endeavoring to kill that dog.” The same resolution of revenge he retained to the last, though without the power of effecting it.

After this, he still kept about the forest, till he was harassed almost to death; for he had lost his place of safety, the cave, which was discovered upon his shooting Mr. Thompson’s groom. When they found the cave, there were in it two shirts in a bag, two pair of stockings, part of a bottle of wine, and some ham. Turpin was very nearly taken while hiding in these woods by a Mr. Ives, the king’s huntsman, who, thinking he was secreted there, took out two dry-footed hounds; but Turpin perceiving them coming, climbed up a tree, and saw them stop beneath it several times, as though they scented him, which so terrified Turpin, that as soon as they were gone, he made a resolution of retiring that instant to Yorkshire.

Soon after this, a person came out of Lincolnshire to Brough, near Market-Cave, in Yorkshire, and stayed for some time at the Ferry-house. He said his name was John Palmer; and he went from thence sometimes to live at North Cave, and sometimes at Welton, continuing in these places about fifteen or sixteen months, except such part of the time as he went to Lincolnshire to see his friends, which he frequently did, and as often brought three or four horses back with him, which he used to sell or exchange in Yorkshire. While he so lived at Brough, Cave, and Welton, he very often went out hunting and shooting with the gentlemen in the neighborhood. As he was returning one day from[Pg 214] shooting, he saw one of his landlord’s cocks in the street, and raising his gun shot it dead. A man, his neighbor, witnessing so wanton an act, complained of such conduct, asking him by what authority he shot another man’s property. “Wait one moment,” said Mr. Palmer, “just stay till I have charged my piece, and I’ll shoot you too.” The landlord being informed of the loss he had sustained by the death of his favorite bird, and the man who saw the act being enraged at the threat Palmer had used towards him, they both obtained a warrant against him, and he was brought up at the general quarter sessions, where he was examined. Sureties for his good behavior in future were the penalty alone exacted from him, which, however, refusing to find, he was committed to the house of correction. His conduct thus excited great suspicion; for it was strange that a man who was in the habit of bringing from his friends in Lincolnshire half-a-dozen horses at a time, and plenty of money, should be so forsaken as not to be able to provide sureties; and still stranger, that on so trivial an occasion as the present, if he could find them at all, he did not produce them. A man’s pride under other circumstances might be concerned, or a consciousness of innocence that excluded the possibility, or the benefit of release, under other conditions than free acquittal; but on a charge of this nature, which might have been made up even by the purchase of the fowl, or a simple excuse, his refusal was very suspicious. Inquiries were set on foot in all quarters; and the magistrate, not contented with the accounts he gave of himself of having been a grazier in Lincolnshire, despatched officers to learn how far that statement was consistent with truth. The result was a confirmation of Palmer’s account, so far as the fact of his having lived in Lincolnshire, and having been a grazier there; that is, that there he had something to do with sheep, confined principally, however, to the expert practice of stealing them. Mr. Palmer, upon the receipt of this information, was removed from the Beverly house of correction to York castle, and accommodated[Pg 215] on the way with the use of handcuffs, and a guard of honor. When he arrived at his new abode, two persons from Lincolnshire challenged a mare and a foal which he had sold to a gentleman, and also the horse on which he rode when he came to Beverly, to be stolen from them off the fens in Lincolnshire. We need not add that Mr. Palmer was one and the same person with Dick Turpin, the notorious highwayman.

Turpin at one time, with another fellow, laid a scheme for seizing the government money, ordered to be paid to the ships at Portsmouth. Both of them were to have attacked the guard in a narrow pass, with sword and pistol in hand; but Turpin’s courage failed him, and the enterprise dropped. Gordon, his accomplice in this design, was afterwards taken on a charge in which he alone was concerned; and while in Newgate he declared that “after that, Turpin would be guilty of any cowardly action, and die like a dog.”

Turpin was tried and convicted of stealing the horse and the foal and the mare from the fens, and was executed on Saturday, April 7th, 1739. He behaved himself with remarkable assurance, and bowed to the spectators as he passed. It was observed that as he mounted the ladder his right leg trembled, on which he stamped it down with violence, and with undaunted fortitude looked around him. After speaking to the executioner for nearly half an hour, he threw himself off the ladder, and expired in about five minutes.

His corpse was brought back from the gallows and buried in a neat coffin in St. George’s churchyard. The grave was dug deep, and the persons he appointed to follow him (mourners we hesitate to call them, for we cannot imagine anybody to mourn upon the death of such an unprecedented ruffian,)—those persons, whoever they were, however, took all possible care to secure the corpse: notwithstanding which, some men were discovered to be moving off the body, which they had taken up; and the mob having got information where it might be found, went to a garden in which it[Pg 216] was deposited, and brought it away in a sort of triumph, and buried it in the same grave, having first filled the coffin with slacked lime.


We prefer giving an abstract of the life and adventures of this notorious criminal in his own words, since it will serve to show far better than any moral reflections of our own, that when once the principles become vitiated, whether by early abuse or habitual moral recklessness, the very nature is changed, and the conscience remains in a state of abeyance. There is an easy unconcern, a “young gentleman” flippancy in the style in which our adventurer has chosen to narrate his exploits, that indicates too plainly the utter want of common or decent feeling in his nature, and leaves us to the unavoidable conclusion, that under no possible circumstances, nor in any conceivable condition, could “Young Gentleman Harry” have become or have been made a respectable member of society. He begins his narrative thus:—

“I am now thirty years of age, born in London, October 19, 1716, of honest industrious parents, in the parish of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields. Having the misfortune to lose both my father and my mother when very young, I was left to the care of an indulgent grandmother, who tenderly loved me, had me educated with maternal fondness, and early began to instil into me sentiments of virtue, honor and honesty, from which I too early swerved. My grandmother having been many years in the service of a nobleman, was an old servant much respected, and on that account not only indulged with having her grandson with her, but was likewise indulged with my being permitted to go to[Pg 217] Eton school with two sons of the noble lord. I remained at Eton school some time, and even there began to show an early inclination to vice, without an opportunity of committing it. When I arrived at the age of fourteen, my grandmother put me apprentice to a breeches-maker, but a life of servitude ill suited my constitution. I stayed with him no longer than a month, in which short time I procured to myself several choice acquaintances, particularly two (since hanged,) and was easily persuaded to accompany them in many robberies, which we committed in and about Mary-le-bone fields, and the money we got we riotously spent among thieves and bullies, and when that was gone, turned out (as we called it) for more.

“Thus some months passed on in a round of wickedness which not all the counsel in the universe could restrain. My poor grandmother with tears in her eyes entreated me to leave off my wicked course and to follow her instructions. But I little regarded her advice, and still pursued my own schemes.

“There was hardly a place round London famed for wickedness, but I was there. Tottenham Court Fair, when it came, I rejoiced at, for there I lived riotously, and there too I became a proficient in the dexterous art of picking pockets, by which I gained for some time pretty handsomely. But at length that business grew dead, and, as I lived at a large rate, money was wanting. Accordingly, having mustered up a sufficient quantity of cash, I purchased a pair of pistols and a horse, and set out; and in Epping Forest, near Woodford, I stopped two gentlemen in a chaise and pair, from whom I took only a little silver, and proceeded on to Newmarket, where I arrived that night, and early next morning set out again, stopped the Norwich coach, and took from the passengers thirty guineas, a gold watch, and a diamond ring, and then rode away; and about three hours after, near Littlebury, met the Cambridge coach, from the passengers of which I took about five pounds, and came on for London. I now began to frequent a noted gaming-house in Covent[Pg 218] Garden, where, for several nights, I had a prodigious run of luck, and won a considerable sum of money. I bought myself a silver hilted sword, had several new suits of clothes made, particularly one suit of black velvet, and appeared at all my usual haunts with surprising eclat. It was at this time I gained the name of ‘Gentleman Harry,’ for though I was before only called plain Harry, yet, on this my sudden grand appearance, I was christened ‘Gentleman Harry,’ which name I retained forever. But fortune not continuing her favors to me at the gaming-table, I was once more reduced, and obliged to take up again my old trade. Hitherto, what business I had done was by myself; but being out one day with a companion of mine, we agreed to attack the first person we met with powder and shot. We saw nothing for some days that we either cared or dared to attack, till we came to a place called Eversley Bank, where we met a collector of Shrewsbury: we ordered him to stand and deliver, and took from him near three hundred pounds. For this robbery two men were taken up a short time after, tried at the assizes, capitally convicted, and executed: and I cannot but own, that, notwithstanding my hardened villany, so often as I remembered it, I felt a good deal of sorrow at being the cause of shedding innocent blood, which I always avoided and abhorred.

“About a month after this, I robbed a lady on Blackheath, in her coach. After this robbery, riding down the hill that leads to Lewisham Wash, I was overtaken by six or seven butchers, one of whom seizing the cape of my coat, pulled me off my horse, and the cape giving way, he tore it quite off. I then pulled out my pistols, swearing I would shoot the first man who dared to advance; which none of them caring to do, I retreated into the fields and got off with the loss of my horse, which cost me seventeen pounds. But I was not long without a horse, for, going towards Bromley, I met a gentleman on horseback, to whom I presented my pistols, ordering him to dismount or I would shoot him through the head; which he did, and I took from him[Pg 219] eight guineas and seventeen shillings in silver, and, mounting the horse, left him to pursue his journey on foot. I sold the horse the next day at the George, in Farnham, and bought another, which cost me thirteen guineas. From thence I proceeded to Tunbridge, at which place I stayed a day or two, and then came to London, where I found an old companion, a sailor, who agreed to turn out with me. At the bottom of Shooters hill we robbed a gentleman of his gold watch, and about seventeen pounds: the watch I afterwards sold for nine pounds at the gaming-table in Covent Garden, and lost the money when I had done.

“Being by this time pretty well known, I ran great hazards; it was but a very few days after I lost the money as above, I was attacked by several soldiers in Drury Lane, and should have been carried to the Savoy, had I not been rescued by some of my friends from Covent Garden; and in about a week after that, I was taken out of a tavern for the robbery of a gold watch which I had about me, and was again rescued by my companions. Some little time after this, I was attacked by about nine gentlemen thief-takers, in Bridewell Walk, Clerkenwell, but having my pistols about me, I soon dispersed the cowardly rascals, and walked off. Another time, riding on horseback through Covent Garden, I was pursued by a party of thief-takers, but got clear.

“Being in this manner continually beset on all sides, I was at length, by the perfidy of some ladies with whom I was in company at Goodman’s Fields’ Wells, taken by a parcel of thief-takers, and conducted to Clerkenwell Bridewell, where several prosecutions were commenced against me, and I was obliged to come to a composition with divers of them, which drained me very low. One gentleman in particular, whom I had robbed of only eleven shillings and a small medal, made me pay him forty-seven guineas. By these means, having got rid of my several prosecutors, I was, by order of the court of justice, confined in Clerkenwell Bridewell two months for an assault, at the end of[Pg 220] which time I was set at liberty, giving sureties for my good behavior for two years. It was not long after I was discharged, before I was pressed and sent on board his majesty’s ship the Rye, where I continued for about three months, though much against my inclination; being continually forming some scheme for an escape, not one of which schemes took effect till the following was hit upon. Whilst we were at Leith, we had pressed several hands out of some colliers, who, I found by talking to, were as little desirous of staying on board as myself; I therefore proposed to eight of them this scheme:—that when the cutter, which had been on shore pressing, came alongside at night, one of them should fall out of the main-chains into the river, and the rest of us should immediately jump into the boat and take the man up, and row away, which we put in practice with success, only, just as we had got up our man, the boatswain jumped on board and threatened us. My companions were for throwing him overboard, but on his promising to be quiet they were overruled, and he was suffered to sit still; and, notwithstanding several guns were fired after us, we rowed safe to shore, and left the boat to the care of the boatswain to carry back if he thought proper. Being safe on shore, we took leave of each other: they set out for Scarborough, and I for Edinburgh, in which city I stayed about a week, and during that time became acquainted with a Scotch lassie, who not only furnished me with money to purchase my former implements, but lent me seven guineas to bear my expenses to London, which lasted me no farther than Grantham; and between Grantham and Stamford I was obliged to speak with the York stage, from the passengers of which I took eight guineas, about seventeen shillings in silver, a silver watch and three plain gold rings, with which I came to London.

“In a short space of time after this, I committed many robberies by myself, which I did not exactly minute down. My general rendezvous was about Epping Forest, where I robbed the Harwich coach, the[Pg 221] Cambridge coach, the Norwich coach, &c., to a pretty large amount, which I spent as fast as I got. About this time, I kept company with another man’s wife, who was so fond of me, that I could persuade her either out of cash or any valuables she had, to supply my present necessities; as was the case when I persuaded her out of her gold watch, and some other things, which her husband took me up upon, and I was committed to Newgate, tried at the Old Bailey, and acquitted by the court, who very justly saw through the prosecution. After my being discharged on this affair, I unluckily, in a quarrel, ran a crab-stick into a woman’s eye in Goodman’s-fields, for which I was sent to New Prison. In the mean time, I was informed that the wife was arrested on an action, and sent to a sponging-house. Being determined to relieve her, if possible, I contrived in what manner I could make my escape, and, accordingly, by the help of sheets I let myself down out of my window and got off: I immediately went to a friend of mine in Leather-lane, who furnished me with two pistols, with which I went to the sponging-house in Gray’s-inn-lane, expecting to find my lady; but when I came there I found she had been removed to Newgate. Being thus disappointed, and having no hopes of getting her out of Newgate, I determined to go to work at my old trade.

“In Broad-street, St. Giles’, about nine at night, I stopped a coach which contained a single gentleman, from whom I took about seventeen shillings, and from thence went to my old haunts in Covent Garden, and after drinking pretty freely, I had a quarrel with a gentleman, who calling the watch to his assistance, I was taken and carried to the Covent Garden round-house. Being very much fuddled, I soon went to sleep; but when I waked next morning, and found myself in a prison, after having escaped from one but the night before, I was almost distracted, and began to contrive an escape, but to no purpose; for after calling for the keeper of the round-house, under pretence of being hungry, I got some toast and ale, and therewith a[Pg 222] knife, with which I hoped once more to make a breach whereby to escape. But I was doomed to be disappointed; for notwithstanding my cutting down the plaster and laths of the ceiling, the joists were so firm that I could not make an opening. I then grew desperate, broke all the things I could find in the room, cut the sheets to pieces, pulled off some tiles from the roof, and did every offensive act in my power, till at length the constable with a large posse of myrmidons arrived, who carried me before Sir Thomas De Veil, where, after a long examination, I laid my information of the robbery of Mr. Smith in Southwark, which robbery I was actually concerned in, though not with the persons I swore against at Croydon assizes, but with three others. We committed the robbery in December 1745, getting in at the two-pair-of-stairs window by a Jacob, that is, a ladder of ropes, which was fixed to the sign-post first, drawn afterwards into the balcony, and then attached to the two-pair-of-stairs window. We took from Mr. Smith’s house, after frightening Mrs. Smith almost to death, two bags of money containing 514l. and a 20l. bank note, and carried off in bags goods to the value of 800l. The cash we divided equally amongst us at a house in the Mint; the plate we sold; and we carried the goods to a house near the Pinder of Wakefield, near Pancras; but for my share of the goods I never received one penny; they were carried to Ireland by my three accomplices, who promised to remit me my part, but were never so good as their words. After my examination I was removed to the New Gaol, Southwark, to give evidence at the assizes at Croydon.

“After this affair at Croydon, I was removed by habeas to Newgate, on the oath of a barber at Westminster, whom I had robbed, which barber was found out by some of my enemies to prosecute me; and upon his indictment I was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to transportation; and, about two months after, was with several other convicts put on board the Italian Merchant, which carried us to Maryland. On our[Pg 223] passage I had formed several plans for an escape, one of which had nearly been successful, and was agreed upon between me and the rest of the transports. We were at a certain time to have secured the captain and sailors, as well as the fire-arms, and to have run away with the ship, but one of them discovered it to the captain, who put us in irons, and kept a watchful eye on us during the remainder of the voyage. When we arrived at Maryland, I was disposed of to the master of the Two Sisters, who was in want of sailors, and with whom I went to sea. We had not been out many days before we were taken by a privateer of Bayonne, and carried into Spain. We were all sent on shore, and had papers given to us to go to Portugal. When I arrived at Oporto, I was pressed on board his majesty’s ship the King Fisher, where I remained about four months, in which time we took several prizes. But not liking my station, I left her at Oporto, travelled to Lisbon, and got in the Hanover packet to Falmouth, where I stayed about a month. My companions endeavored to persuade me to go a privateering with them in the Warner galley; but I refused, and leaving Falmouth travelled to St. Ives, where I found a vessel ready to sail for Bristol, on board of which I went, and arrived at Bristol in two days. I was not long there before I determined to set up my old trade, and procured a pair of pistols, though I still wanted a horse; but having observed several horses in a field near Lawford’s-gate, I soon marked out one for myself, and that night got into a stable, from whence I stole a saddle and bridle, and without much difficulty caught my horse and set out for London.

“When I reached London, I was soon informed the thief-takers were after me. The night I came to town, I put my horse up at the White Swan in Whitechapel, but went no more near him, fearful, as I had stolen him, he might be advertised. But I was not long without a horse, for one Saturday night, about eight o’clock, coming from St. James’, where I had been regaling with some friends, I perceived a boy in Rider[Pg 224] street walking a horse about, apparently waiting for somebody. I called and persuaded him to step on an errand into Duke street while I held the horse, and, as soon as the boy was gone, I mounted and rode away, and crossing the country reached Harrow-on-the-Hill, where I passed the night, and the next day set out towards London, in hopes of meeting some of the farmers returning from the hay-markets after having sold their hay. I had drank pretty freely at dinner and was somewhat elevated. I had not ridden far before I met three gentlemen, whom I commanded to ‘stand and deliver their money,’ which they did very quietly. From the first I got about three pounds, from the second I had about five pounds, and from the third thirteen or fourteen shillings.

“The next person I robbed was Mr. Sleep, my prosecutor, and though neither he nor I recognised each other at that time, yet he, it seems, has known me from a child. I took from him his watch and six shillings, and made off.

“After robbing Mr. Sleep, I still kept travelling towards London, in hopes of meeting the farmers; at length, five of them appeared, whom I commanded ‘to stop,’ and took from them about 15l. in silver. I felt in their pockets for watches, but they had none. Next I met three men, whom I ordered ‘to stop;’ but they, not regarding my orders, refused, and rode full speed, and I alongside of them for at least five or six minutes, presenting my pistol, swearing I would shoot if they did not stop: but they still rode on; and I turned from them, giving them a hearty d—n, not caring to let off my pistol; for I had determined to shoot no man, unless he attempted to take me. But after this, on the same road, I robbed two more men; from one I took about fifteen shillings, from another about seven shillings. Turning from them I let off one of my pistols into the air, and went on for London.

“That night I made a sort of perambulation among the thief-takers, determining to do mischief to some of them, if possible, especially to those who, I heard, had[Pg 225] been after me. The first I went to was one W. H. in Chancery-lane. Being on horseback, I knocked at the door, which his wife opened, demanding my business. I told her, ‘to speak with her husband.’ She replied, ‘he was gone to bed,’ at the same time desiring to know my name and business. ‘I am a gentleman of his acquaintance,’ said I; ‘he will know me when he sees me.’ My blunderbuss, which I then carried, being mounted with brass, and having a brass barrel, by the light of her candle she perceived it, and directly slapped to the door, called to her husband and told him (mentioning my name) that I was at the door. I could hear him ask for his piece, on which I cried out, ‘You rascal, come to the door, and I’ll piece you;’ and if he had come I should certainly have killed him, but he thought better of it, and I rode away.

“From my friend H. I went to another of the same sort of gentry in Holborn, one I. S. I got off my horse and went into his house threatening destruction; but the moment he saw me enter at one door, he went out at another, and after venting a few oaths, I remounted my horse, and went to the Greyhound inn, in Drury-lane, where I lay that night.

“Next morning I set out for Epping Forest, and dined at the Bird-in-Hand, at Stratford: after dinner, about two o’clock, I set out on the Romford road. I met in the forest a chaise, and from a man therein took about fourteen shillings. This robbery was done within sight of the Spread Eagle, at the door of which several people were drinking on horseback. From thence I rode through Ilford, then came on the forest again, and stayed till it was almost dark, and rode towards Laytonstone, within half a mile of which I robbed a captain of his gold watch, ten guineas, and some silver. After speaking with the captain, I came off the forest for London. Perceiving a hurly-burly, and a great mob at Snaresbrook turnpike, I rode up to see what was the matter, and on inquiry amongst the mob, found that they had stopped a gentleman whom they mistook for me. As it was dark and they could not distinguish[Pg 226] me, I thought it most prudent to ride through the turnpike, and go directly for London, which I did, and putting up my horse at the Saracen’s Head, Aldgate, and calling a coach, I went to a tavern, where I lay all night.

“In the morning I began to reflect that, it being well known I was in England returned from transportation, and as well known too that I had committed a great many robberies, there were many thief-takers after me, and I was surrounded with danger; and I therefore determined to set out for Chester immediately, and from thence to Dublin, resolving, as I had now a handsome sum, as well as a parcel of diamond rings and watches, to live entirely on my stock, and rob no more, at least while that lasted. I dined that day at St. Alban’s, and as I generally drank both at and after my meals pretty freely, I soon grew warm, and after dinner, setting out for Dunstable, I found my resolution to rob no more would not hold, for within a quarter of a mile of Redbourne, I ordered three gentlemen to stand and deliver. Presenting my pistol at the first, he replied, that he would not be robbed, and rode on; the second hit me on the head with his whip, and at the same time the other rode by me. Having a good beast under me, I was quickly up with them, and putting on one of my terrible countenances, with bitter imprecations I avowed that I would instantly shoot the first man dead who refused to deliver; when the first of them quietly gave me about nine shillings; from the second I took an old-fashioned watch and seventeen shillings; and from the third, two guineas and about five shillings; and taking my leave immediately, attacked two more gentlemen, who likewise rode for it; but their horses being as good as mine, I ran them into Redbourne, and then gave it up. About an hour after, I stopped a single man on horseback, who telling me he had but eighteen-pence, I bade him keep that; but he seeming to have a very good horse and mine beginning to fail, I made him dismount and change with me. He had a portmanteau on his horse, which he[Pg 227] was very industriously going to take off, but I told him he might as well let it remain where it was, which he did, though I had no opportunity to see what was in it; for being now become, perhaps, one of the most industrious of my profession, I could no more let a coach, chaise, or man go by without speaking with them in my way, than I could fly; and perceiving a coach coming along, which proved to be the Warrington stage, I directly made up to it, and got from the passengers therein about three pounds. The ladies seemed terribly frightened, and begged I would take my pistol away, which I did, and after taking their money I went on for Dunstable, and calling at several houses before I got there, I became pretty fatigued, not only with my business, but with liquor too. Being very much fuddled, I was so cunning as to think of putting up at the Bull inn, at Dunstable, the very house where the Warrington coach went to. After dismounting my horse, and calling for a quartern of brandy, I saw some of the passengers in the kitchen, belonging to the coach I had just then robbed, on which, I never stayed for my brandy, but went out of the house, mounted my horse, and rode as fast as I could make him go, till I came to Hockliffe, and as it rained very hard, I resolved to put up, and accordingly went into the Star inn. After I had been there about an hour, and had drank very freely, I became intoxicated, and fell asleep by the kitchen fire; but was soon awakened by three troopers and some others with pistols at my head, swearing they would shoot me if I offered to put my hand to my pockets. Being half asleep as well as drunk, they soon disarmed me, and took from me one gold watch, two silver ones, four diamond rings, forty-seven guineas in gold, and four pounds in silver: three of the best diamond rings I had secreted in my neckcloth. I desired them to give me my money again, and to let me go to bed; they gave me about nine pounds in gold and silver back, and then conducted me to a chamber, where I went to bed, after putting my money under my pillow, and fell asleep, guarded by the troopers,[Pg 228] who took my money from under my head, which, when I awoke and missed, I charged them with, telling them it was using me exceedingly ill indeed, as they had gotten so much from me already, to take that from me too; whereupon, they returned it to me. Presently, I got up and sat by the fire-side, a good deal chagrined at my unfortunate fate. I resolved in my mind a thousand different methods of escape, but none appeared feasible even to myself. At length, a thought came into my head, of which I was resolved to make a trial. As I knew these troopers, from their behavior, to be hungry hounds, and having two seals, the one gold, and the other silver, about me; as I sat over the fire, I determined to throw them in, naturally supposing, from their eagerness after plunder, they would endeavor to get them out, and I might thus, by some means or other, become master of their fire-arms. It happened as I had imagined; eager for their prey they soused down to rake them from the ashes, when I, at the same time, snatched a pistol from one of their hands, and snapped it at his head: it missed fire, and I was immediately overpowered by the rest of the troopers, the landlord and others coming to their assistance; and I was the next day carried before the justice at Dunstable, where I insisted upon the troopers returning me my money and watches again, before I would answer any questions, and, accordingly, I undressed their pockets both of money and watches, asking them if they thought I had nothing else to do than to venture my life to dress the pockets of such fellows as they, who knew not how to wind up a watch; for in endeavoring to wind up one of the watches they had broken it.

“I was eventually committed to Bedford gaol for robbing the Warrington stage-coach, where I remained about four months, till I was removed by habeas corpus to Newgate, and in February last was tried at the Old Bailey for robbing Mr. Francis Sleep of his watch and six shillings, of which I was found guilty, and received sentence of death.”

The above is an abstract containing all the most[Pg 229] interesting or prominent transactions in the life of Henry Simms, who appears to have labored in his vocation with a zeal worthy of a better calling, and with a wantonness deserving of the gallows to which, at length, he was compelled to ascend. Young Gentleman Harry was executed at Tyburn in June, 1747; and after hanging till he was dead, his body was cut down by a mob appointed for that purpose, and carried to a surgeon’s in Covent Garden.


James Maclaine, called in his own time by the distinguished title of “the gentleman highwayman,” seemed at his birth to be far removed from the common temptations which too frequently lead to an infamous death. Until the decease of his father, which took place when he was about eighteen years of age, a fair prospect of prosperity was presented to him; but, unhappily, being conscious of his birth, which entitled him, by a slight straining of courtesy, to the designation of a gentleman, he imbibed, together with an inordinate vanity, an aversion from business, and an immoderate desire to appear a gay young fellow.

Lauchlin Maclaine, the father of our adventurer, was a Presbyterian divine, and pastor of a congregation of that communion at Monaghan, in the North of Ireland. He designed James, his second son, for a merchant, and bestowed upon him a sound education, but died before he could put his intentions into effect of sending him to Rotterdam to be placed in the counting-house of a Scotch merchant of his acquaintance.

Young Maclaine, the instant his father’s breath was out of his body, proceeded to take possession and to dispose of his father’s substance; and treated with[Pg 230] perfect contempt the remonstrances of his friends and relations, and the exhortations of his aunt, who, finding all her entreaties ineffectual, took his only sister into her charge, and left him to pursue what course he pleased.

Thus left to himself, Maclaine forgot altogether the projected Dutch counting-house, and equipping himself in the gayest apparel that part of the country could afford, and purchasing a gelding, set up fine gentleman at once, and in a twelvemonth dissipated almost the whole of his property. During his extravagances, however, his ear had been frequently troubled with the remonstrances of his aunt and his other relations, which at length he found so disagreeable, that he was fain to set out for Dublin without communicating his intention to any one. It was here, it appears, that he first conceived the notion of making his fortune by marriage; and having no disagreeable person, he gratuitously gave himself credit for many more excellencies than, unfortunately, other people could discover in him. The demands for the maintenance of such an appearance as would realize his hopes of a rich marriage, soon swept away the small remainder of his property; and he had now full time to reflect on his folly and vanity, and to regret not a little having despised the advice of his relations, who had for some time turned a deaf ear to his entreaties by letter for a supply of money. But upon them, nevertheless, he felt was now his sole dependence. He had long spent his all—he was an entire stranger to a single individual of worth or substance in the place, and his credit and clothes, even to the last shirt, were gone. Selling his sword, therefore, the last piece of splendor that remained to him, he raised as much as would bear his charges on foot, and with a heavy heart set out to return to Monaghan, his native place.

Not a hand was outstretched to welcome the prodigal home again; his aunt refused to see him, all his other relations followed her example, and the companions of his former riots not only refused him relief, but[Pg 231] rendered him the sport and ridicule of the town. His sister, however, sometimes contrived to see him by stealth to give him her pocket money, but that could not long support him. Here, then, he must inevitably have starved, had not a gentleman on his way to England, passing through the town, compassionately offered him the place of a servant who had recently died. Want, and the dread of starving, had by this time entirely banished all unnecessary or superfluous pride, and our young gentleman accepted the offer with joy. But, unhappily, the extreme pressure of want once removed, old thoughts return, old vanities are renewed; and so it was with Mr. Maclaine. His master’s commands, though uniformly softened by good-nature and benevolence, appeared to him as so many insults offered to his birth and breeding; it is no wonder, therefore, that in a few months he was discharged from his service. Depending on his sister, who was about to be married to a man of some wealth, he set out once more for Ireland, to endeavor to obtain enough from his relations to fit him out for America, or the West Indies; but here again he was doomed to disappointment. His sister’s marriage had been broken off—she was unable to do anything for him;—and his other relations, deeming themselves scandalized by his having been a footman, were even less tractable than before, treated him with great indignity, and finally refused all manner of assistance.

Again reduced to starvation, he was obliged to think of service as his only resource. With much difficulty he obtained a situation as butler to a gentleman near Cork, with whom he did not live long, being discharged for some breach of trust. Here he remained for many months out of place, wandering about, without any settled abode or means of subsistence, except occasional remittances from his elder brother, a pastor of the English congregation at the Hague, whose friendly assistance was less relished, because it was accompanied by warm remonstrances[Pg 232] on the past, and wholesome advice on the future conduct of his life.

Fortune was at length favorable; his old master, though he refused him a character to another family, generously paid his passage to England, and allowed him, for a limited period after his landing, a shilling a day for subsistence.

Once again on this side of the water, his notions of gentility returned; he scorned being a menial servant; and valuing the minimum of his ambition at a pair of colors, he actually had the impudence to attempt to borrow the purchase money on the bond he had obtained from his master. This absurd scheme failing, he threw up his shilling a day in disgust, and heroically cast himself for support on a celebrated courtesan, a countrywoman of his own, who maintained him for some months in great magnificence, and enabled him to attend the public places with something like splendor.

But having disgusted this lady by his pusillanimous conduct in a rencontre with a certain peer,—who bestowed upon him a severe castigation, and very nearly ran him through the body, though he was much stronger, and as well armed as the nobleman,—he was once more without resources. His grandeur now suffered an eclipse for two or three months, and his last suit had been laid by in lavender, or, in other words, pawned, when he inspired the regard of a lady of quality, the consequence of which was that for five or six months longer he flourished away as an idle fellow in all the public places.

But Maclaine inwardly was not idle. He was extremely anxious for an independent settlement, and the thought of inveigling some woman of fortune by the charms of his person was still uppermost in his mind. Among other schemes to this end, there was none he built so much upon as a very hopeful and grateful plot he had laid for the daughter of his patroness and benefactress, who had a considerable fortune. But the young lady’s waiting-maid, who had either[Pg 233] more honesty than abigails in general are furnished with, or had not received the price with which they are usually rewarded, discovered the affair to the old lady, who forthwith dismissed Maclaine from her service: but when, in a few months after, he was much reduced, she privately bestowed upon him fifty pounds in order to fit him out for Jamaica, where he had proposed to go and seek his fortune, and where the lady was willing enough that he should retire, that she might be free from fears on her daughter’s account.

But Maclaine was no sooner possessed of this sum than he forgot his Jamaica expedition, and returned to his favorite scheme of fortune-hunting; for he never could rid himself of the idea that one day or other he should succeed in the main object of his existence. He released, therefore, his best clothes from the durance vile in which they had been plunged, and after various treaties with match-makers and chambermaids, relating to ladies of great reputed fortune, all which treaties ended in disappointment, he reluctantly contracted his ambition, and made suit to the daughter of a considerable innkeeper and dealer in horses, with whom he was fortunate enough to succeed, and whom he married with her parents’ consent and five hundred pounds.

Here it would seem that Maclaine had laid aside all thoughts of the fine gentleman, and had really determined to make the most of his wife’s fortune by industry and diligence. He took a house in Welbeck street, and set up a grocer’s and chandler’s shop; was very obliging to his customers, punctual in his dealings, and while his wife lived, was esteemed by his neighbors a careful and industrious man. However, though at times, and while he was in his shop, he appeared to like his business, yet in parties of pleasure, which he made but too often, and on holydays, he affected the dress of a gentleman, and thus created expenses which only a gradual encroachment on his capital enabled him to meet; insomuch that when his wife died, which was about three years after their marriage, he resolved[Pg 234] to leave off business, and converted his furniture and goods into the miserable sum of eighty-five pounds, which, perhaps, with frugality, might have supported him in business, but which was at all times too small a sum for Mr. Maclaine.

His mother-in-law consenting to take charge of his only daughter, and once more in a manner a single man, with his eighty-five pounds in his pocket, again did the desire of appearing the gay fine gentleman obtrude itself upon his mind, and his old project of marrying a rich fortune engrossed all his faculties. For this purpose, Mr. Maclaine, who but a few weeks before was not ashamed to appear in a patched coat, or to carry a halfpenny-worth of coal or sand to his customers, now hired handsome apartments near Soho square, and resumed his laced clothes, and a hat and feather.

But, however unreasonable to others this sudden transition from the grub to the butterfly might appear, Mr. Maclaine had very good private reasons for his actions. It appears that during his wife’s last illness, she had been attended by one Plunket, as a surgeon and apothecary; this Plunket, after the decease of the poor woman, opened his mind to Maclaine, saying, that though the latter had lost a good wife, yet, seeing that she was gone, it was of no use to despond or to repine, particularly as it might eventually turn out the most lucky circumstance in his life. He added at the same time, that if Maclaine would agree to share the fortune with him, he could help him to a lady with ten thousand pounds at least in her own right.

This motion was too agreeable to Mr. Maclaine to be rejected. It is hardly necessary to detail with what zeal this affair was followed up, or how often they flattered themselves with the deceitful prospects of success. The young lady having been taken to Wells, Maclaine followed her, passing for a man of fortune, and in every part of his dress and equipage appearing in that character. Plunket acted as his partner, and was a sort of under agent, while Maclaine himself was ogling, dancing,[Pg 235] and flirting with the young lady. But an ill-timed quarrel with an apothecary, one evening, in the public room, placed a quietus upon his hopes for ever; for the disciple of Galen enlisting a “gallant son of Mars” in his quarrel, the latter had the effrontery to kick our adventurer down stairs, declaring publicly that he knew the rascal a footman a few years ago. This statement, which was believed by every body present, amongst whom was his mistress, whose credulity he had ascertained before, and was therefore not in a situation to doubt, compelled him and his footman Plunket to decamp without the ceremony of leave-taking, and, indeed, without any ceremony at all.

Returning to town from this woeful expedition, and examining the state of their cash, these faithful friends discovered that five guineas were the whole that remained,—a sum too little to support them, or to enter into any new project, or to keep up their assumed grandeur. Maclaine now found himself in a worse plight than he had brought himself to for some years past, without any visible hope of a supply, and yet engaged in a mode of life highly expensive, which it went to his heart either to retrench or relinquish. He now thought seriously of embarking for Jamaica, where he hoped to find employment as an accountant, and flattered himself that his person might be turned to account amongst the rich planters’ daughters or widows. But no money was forthcoming for this purpose, nor could he think of any possible scheme whereby it might be raised.

Certainly, never had man less cause to complain of Fortune than Maclaine, and it would seem throughout his life, that she had determined to make his ruin entirely the work of his own hand, and leave him at last utterly without excuse or palliation; for meeting on ’Change with a gentleman, a countryman of his own, to whom he had formerly related his hopes of making a fortune in the manner we have related, he told him his situation at the present moment, adding that he was now undone, that he had spent his all in that unhappy[Pg 236] project, and had not wherewithal to subsist on here, or to carry him from a place in which he felt he was cutting a very ridiculous figure. Hereupon the gentleman spoke in his behalf to some others of his countrymen; and as his conduct heretofore, according the notions of the age, had been rather imprudent than vicious, they actually raised sixty guineas to fit him out for Jamaica, which they gave him, promising him letters of recommendation from some merchants of respectability to their own correspondents. Here, then, was a prospect at once opened to him of future happiness and prosperity. Let us see how it terminated.

He had agreed for the passage, paid part of the money in advance, and bespoken some necessaries fitted for the climate, when, unhappily for the infatuated man, he was prompted to go to a masquerade, to take leave, as he said, for the last time, of the bewitching pleasures of London, and to bid a final farewell to this species of enjoyment, which he should have no hope of partaking in the West Indies. He went with the whole of his money in his pocket. The strange appearance of the place and of the company amused him for a while, but the noise of the gamesters drew his attention to the gaming-table, where the quick transition of large sums from one hand to another awakened his avarice, and lulled his prudence asleep. In short, he ventured, and in half an hour had possessed himself of a hundred guineas, with which he resolved, according to their phrase, “to tie up;” but avarice had now attacked him; and after taking a turn or two round the room, he again returned, and in a few minutes was stripped to the last guinea.

It is needless to describe his agony on this occasion. His money gone, his expedition utterly disconcerted, and his friends lost past redemption! What was now to be done?

In this extremity, his evil genius, now in the ascendant, prompted him to send to Plunket to advise with and from that moment his ruin commenced. This was the favorable moment for Plunket. Himself a man of[Pg 237] no honor, an utter stranger to all ties or principles of religion or honesty, an old sharper, and a daring fellow into the bargain, this was an opportunity, when his friend was agitated almost to madness, to propose, at first by distant hints, and at last in plain English, going on the highway.

Had he approached him in a calm hour, it is more than probable that his proposal had been rejected with horror; but the former strongly represented the necessity of a speedy supply before his friends could discover that his money was gone, which, he said, would expose him to universal scorn and contempt. A strange infatuation, the dread of shame—the shame of appearing a fool, diminished the horror of being a villain, and decided him to recruit his losses by means the most hazardous and wicked.

Having agreed upon a plan of copartnership, and hired two horses, Plunket furnishing the pistols, for this was not his first entrance upon business of that nature, they set out on the evening after the masquerade, to lie in wait for passengers coming from Smithfield market. They met on Hounslow heath with a grazier, next morning about four o’clock, from whom they took, without opposition, between sixty and seventy pounds.

In this, and other expeditions of the same kind, they wore Venetian masks; but this covering could not stifle conscience in Maclaine, nor animate him into courage. He accompanied Plunket, it is true, and was by at the robbery, but, strictly speaking, had no hand in it; for his fears were so great that he had no power to utter a word, or to draw a pistol. The least resistance on the part of the countryman would have given wings to his heels, and have caused him to leave his more daring accomplice in the lurch.

Even when the robbery was over, and the countryman out of sight, Maclaine’s fears were intolerable. He followed Plunket for some miles without speaking a word; and when they put up at an inn, nearly ten miles from the place of the robbery, he called for a[Pg 238] private room, fearful of every shadow, and terrified at every sound. His agonies of mind were so great, that Plunket was fearful that his folly would raise suspicion in the house, and he would fain have persuaded him to return immediately to London; but he would not stir till it was dusk, and then would not appear at the stables from which they had hired the horses, but left the care of them to Plunket.

He was now, by his share of this ill-acquired booty, very nearly reimbursed his losses at the masquerade, and might easily have undertaken his voyage; but he had lost all peace of mind, and was become entirely void of prudence. So great was his dread of a discovery, though Plunket represented the impossibility of it, that he would not stir out of his room for some days, and even then did not think himself safe, but proposed going down to the country for a week or two. Plunket did not oppose his departure, especially as he was to direct the route, and had gotten some intimation of a prize coming that day from St. Alban’s, towards which place they set out. When they had gone a few miles, Plunket imparted to him his design, which Maclaine promised to second, with a great deal of reluctance. When they came within sight of the coach, in which was their expected booty, Maclaine would have persuaded Plunket to desist; but the other turning his qualms of conscience into ridicule, and dropping some hints of cowardice, Maclaine prepared for the attack, crying, “He needs must whom the devil drives. I am over shoes, and must over boots;” but, notwithstanding, conducted himself in so distracted a manner as went nigh to lose them their prey. They took, however, from a gentleman and a lady in the coach two gold watches, and about twenty pounds in money, with which they got clear off; but did not think fit to keep that road any longer, but turned off, and before morning put up at an inn at Richmond, where Maclaine was as much in the horrors as in London; had no rest, no peace of mind, and stayed there two or three days, sulky, sullen, and perplexed as to what course he was[Pg 239] to pursue. His wish, however, to be in town in time for the ship’s departure for Jamaica, determined him to return to London in a fortnight, when he found that the ship had sailed two days before,—a disappointment that added to his former perplexity. Nevertheless, having money in his pocket, he contrived to excuse himself to his friends for his untoward absence, and promised, and seriously designed, to set out on the very next opportunity.

But the expensive company he kept in the interim, and further losses at play, once more stripped him of his money; and his evil genius, Plunket, was ever at his elbow, ready to suggest the former method of supply, with which he now complied much less reluctantly than before. The bounds of honor once overstepped, especially when success and security attend the villany, the habit of vice grows strong; and the checks of conscience, gradually less regarded, at length pass without notice. In a word, Maclaine hardened himself by degrees to villany, left the company of his city acquaintance that they might not tease him about his voyage to Jamaica, and took lodgings in St. James street, a place excellently suited to his purpose, for his appearance glanced off all suspicion, and he had a favorable opportunity, when gentlemen came to town, of knowing and watching their motions, and consequently of following and waylaying them on the road.

In the space of six months, he and Plunket, sometimes in company and sometimes separately, committed fifteen or sixteen robberies in Hyde Park, and within twenty miles of London, and obtained some large prizes. But still the money went as it came, for Plunket loved his bottle and intrigue, and Maclaine was doatingly fond of fine clothes, balls, and masquerades, at all which places he made a conspicuous figure. As he still had fortune-hunting in view, he was very assiduous in his attentions to women, and was not altogether unsuccessful; but, we imagine, made sincere return to none but such as had money in their own hands, or could be useful in helping him to an introduction to such as had.

[Pg 240]

And here it were needless and not productive of much interest to recount several intrigues in which Maclaine was engaged, and it were not a little painful to narrate two instances of wanton seduction on his part, which, were there no other counts in the moral indictment against him, would be sufficient to consign him to eternal infamy.

Mr. Maclaine applied himself also to his old profession of fortune-hunting, and, in company with his old and worthy coadjutor Plunket, made several attempts to entrap heiresses, all of which proved abortive. While he was intent upon these schemes, he had no opportunity of making excursions on the road, and to defray his expenses had borrowed from a citizen’s wife, with whom he had an intrigue, about twenty pounds, which he promised faithfully to repay before her husband should return from the country. The time of the citizen’s arrival being at hand, the good wife became exceedingly curious about the coin; and as a similar favor might be wanted by him at a future time, Mr. Maclaine made it a point of conscience to keep his word with her, and appointed her to come to him at his country lodgings at Chelsea, where he paid her the money. He, however, took care that his friend Plunket should ease her of the trouble of carrying it home, by waylaying her in the Five-fields.

Soon after this, a supply of cash being wanted, Plunket and he prepared for an expedition, and took the road to Chester; and in three days committed five robberies between Stony Stratford and Whitechurch, one of which was upon an intimate acquaintance, by whom Maclaine had been handsomely entertained but two days before. However, the booty in the whole five robberies did not amount to thirty pounds in cash, but they had watches, rings, &c. to a much greater amount. On the very evening of their return to town, they obtained information that an officer in the East India company’s service had received a large sum of money, with which he was about to return to Greenwich. They waylaid and robbed him of a very considerable[Pg 241] sum, and it would seem that on this occasion they were under some dread of a discovery; for, in a few days after the commission of it, Maclaine set out for the Hague, and Plunket for Ireland.

On the arrival of the former at the Hague, he pretended a friendly visit to his brother, who received him with cordiality and affection, and as honesty is never suspicious, he was easily induced to give credit to the specious tale which his brother related to him. He told him that he had got a considerable fortune with his late wife, and that her father, who died some few months before, had left him a valuable legacy, with which he designed to purchase a company in the army. Upon that, and the interest of his other funds, he said, he hoped to live at ease for the remainder of his life. His worthy brother, rejoicing in his prosperity, introduced him to his acquaintance and friends, amongst whom Mr. Maclaine behaved with great politeness, giving balls and large parties; to pay for which, it is surmised, he had the art to extract the gold watches and purses of his guests without suspicion.

However, upon his arrival in London, to which place he had been induced to return by a letter from Plunket, informing him of another rich matrimonial prize, which was, as usual, beyond his reach or above his ingenuity to ensnare;—he again appears to have taken up his old thoughts of preparing for Jamaica, as a last resource. But these thoughts did not long possess him; for though by the sale of his horses and furniture he might have fitted himself for the West Indies in a very genteel manner, and had still reputation enough left to have procured sufficient recommendations from home; yet he was prevailed upon to try his fate on the road once more, and was but too successful, making several rich prizes. Amongst the rest he and Plunket robbed Horace Walpole,[3] and on a reward[Pg 242] being advertised for the watch which they had taken from him, Plunket had the impudence to go and receive it himself, choosing to run the risk rather than trust a third person with their hazardous secret. But all human prudence is in vain to stop the hand of justice, when once the measure of our iniquity is full; our closest secrets take wind, we know not how; and our own folly acts the part of an informer to awaken[Pg 243] offended justice. The crisis of Maclaine’s fate was at hand. It was he who proposed his last excursion to Plunket, who was ill at the time, and was very unwilling to turn out; but Maclaine, impelled by some uncommon impulse, urged him so earnestly, that he at length complied. They came up about two o’clock in the morning, near Turnham Green, with the Salisbury stage-coach, in which five men and a woman were passengers. Though this was Maclaine’s expedition, yet Plunket was the acting man, and obliged all the men to come out of the coach one by one, and rifled them; and then, putting his pistol in his pocket, lest he should frighten the lady, without forcing her out of the coach, he took what she offered without further search. Plunket would now have gone off; but Maclaine, full of his fate, demanded the cloak-bags out of the boot of the coach; each of them took one before him and rode off, bidding a polite adieu to the passengers, and riding as deliberately as though they had been performing some signal service.

On the same morning they met and robbed lord Eglinton, who was the prize for whom they originally went out. They effected this by a stratagem, as his lordship was armed with a blunderbuss. One of them screened himself behind the postboy, so that if his lordship fired he must shoot his servant, while the other with a pistol cocked demanded his money, and ordered him to throw his blunderbuss on the ground. But, it appears, the prize obtained at this hazard was but seven guineas, with which, and the cloak-bags, they returned to Maclaine’s lodgings before the family were up, and divided their spoil.

But though the clothes were described in the public papers, yet so infatuated was Maclaine, that he sold his share of the booty to a salesman, who instantly recognised them as belonging to a Mr. Higden, and the latter immediately had Maclaine taken into custody.

On his first examination he denied the fact, but afterwards, that he might leave himself no room to escape, he formed a design of saving his life by impeaching[Pg 244] his accomplice Plunket, foolishly imagining that justice would promise life to a villain she had in custody, for impeaching another that was out of her reach. But “Quem Deus vult perdere priùs demontat,” or, to express a similar sentiment in the words of Massinger,—

“Here is a precedent to teach wicked men,
That when they leave religion and turn atheists
Their own abilities leave ’em.”

For though he was forewarned that a confession, without impeaching a number of accomplices, would not avail him, he still insisted upon taking that step, not from compunction or remorse, but with the base design of saving his own life at the expense of that of his quondam friend.

On his second examination he delivered his confession in writing, and behaved in a most dastardly manner, whimpering and crying like a whipped school-boy. This conduct, degrading as it was, drew sympathetic tears from, and opened the purses of his fair audience, whose bounty supported him in great affluence while he remained in the Gatehouse, and whose kind offers of intercession gave him hopes of a free pardon.

On his trial, he thought fit to retract his confession, pretending that he was flurried, and in some measure delirious, when he made it, and that he had received the clothes from Plunket in payment of a debt. But this evasion had no weight with the jury, who brought him in guilty without going out of court.

On receiving sentence, guilt, shame and dread deprived him of the power of speech, and disabled him from reading a paper, pathetically enough composed, in which he prayed for mercy.

In Newgate, ample time was permitted him to make his peace with his offended Maker, and there is every evidence to believe, from the testimony of the Rev. Dr. Allen, who attended him constantly to the last moment of his life, that his remorse and contrition were unaffected, sincere and strong.

He was carried to Tyburn in a cart, like the rest of[Pg 245] the criminals, and not, as was expected, in a coach; he stood the gaze of the multitude (which was on this occasion almost infinite) without the least concern; his thoughts were steadfast in his devotion, and when he was about to be turned off he said, “O God, forgive my enemies, bless my friends, and receive my soul!” His execution took place on Wednesday, October 3, 1750.


[3] In the very amusing Letters of Horace Walpole to Sir Horace Mann, recently published, we find the following spirited and lively sketch of Maclaine.

“I have been in town for a day or two, and heard no conversation but about M’Laine, a fashionable highwayman, who is just taken, and who robbed me among others; as lord Eglinton, Sir Thomas Robinson of Vienna, Mrs. Talbot, &c. He took an odd booty from the Scotch earl, a blunderbuss, which lies very formidable upon the justice’s table. He was taken by selling a laced waistcoat to a pawnbroker, who happened to carry it to the very man who had just sold the lace. His history is very particular, for he confesses every thing, and is so little of a hero, that he cries and begs, and I believe, if lord Eglinton had been in any luck, might have been robbed of his own blunderbuss. His father was an Irish dean; his brother is a Calvinist minister in great esteem at the Hague. He himself was a grocer, but losing a wife that he loved extremely about two years ago, and by whom he has one little girl, he quitted his business with two hundred pounds in his pocket, which he soon spent, and then took to the road with only one companion, Plunket, a journeyman apothecary, my other friend, whom he has impeached, but who is not taken. M’Laine had a lodging in St. James’ street over against White’s, and another at Chelsea; Plunket one in Jermyn street; and their faces are as known about St. James’ as any gentleman’s who lives in that quarter, and who perhaps goes upon the road too. M’Laine had a quarrel at Putney bowling-green two months ago with an officer, whom he challenged for disputing his crank; but the captain declined, till M’Laine should produce a certificate of his nobility, which he has just received. If he had escaped a month longer, he might have heard of Mr. Chute’s genealogical expertness, and come hither to the College of Arms for a certificate. There was a wardrobe of clothes, three and twenty purses, and the celebrated blunderbuss, found at his lodgings, besides a famous kept mistress. As I conclude he will suffer, and wish him no ill, I don’t care to have his idea, and am almost single in not having been to see him. Lord Mountford, at the head of half White’s, went the first day: his aunt was crying over him: as soon as they were withdrawn, she said to him, knowing they were of White’s, ‘My dear, what did the lords say to you? have you ever been concerned with any of them?’ Was it not admirable? what a favorable idea people must have of White’s!—and what if White’s should not deserve a touch better! But the chief personages who have been to comfort and weep over this fallen hero are lady Caroline Petersham and Miss Ashe: I call them Polly and Lucy, and asked them if he did not sing, ‘Thus I stand like the Turk with his doxies around.’”


The accounts of the life of this man have become of late so widely circulated, and the particulars respecting the murder of which he was the perpetrator so generally known, that any notice of him in this work would appear almost supererogatory, were it not that a charge of oversight and omission could, without injustice, be reasonably advanced against it, were we to slight over or leave unmentioned a name so notorious. We shall, therefore, give a summary of his history, commencing with an account of his family and early life, furnished by himself at the request of the two gentlemen who, at his own particular desire, attended him at his condemnation.

“I was born at Ramsgill, a little village in Netherdale, in 1704. My maternal relations had been substantial and reputable in that dale, for a great many generations: my father was of Nottinghamshire, a gardener, of great abilities in botany, and an excellent draughtsman. He served the right reverend bishop of London, Dr. Compton, with great approbation; which occasioned his being recommended to Newby, in this county, to Sir Edward Blackett, whom he served in the capacity of gardener, with much credit to himself, and satisfaction to that family, for above thirty years. Upon the decease of that baronet, he went, and was[Pg 246] retained in the service of Sir John Ingilby, of Ripley, Bart., where he died; respected when living, and lamented when dead. My father’s ancestors were of great antiquity and consideration in the county, and originally British. Their surname is local, for they were formerly lords of the town of Haram, or Aram, on the southern banks of the Tees, and opposite to Sockburn, in Bishopric; and appear in the records of St. Mary’s, at York, among many charitable names, early and considerable benefactors to that abbey. They, many centuries ago, removed from these parts, and were settled under the fee of the lords Mowbray, in Nottinghamshire, at Haram or Aram Park, in the neighborhood of Newark upon Trent; where they were possessed of no less than three knights’ fees in the reign of Edward the Third. Their lands, I find not whether by purchase or marriage, came into the hands of the present lord Lexington. While the name existed in the county, some of them were several times high sheriffs for the county; and one was professor of divinity, if I remember right, at Oxford, and died at York. The last of the chief of this family was Thomas Aram, Esq. of Gray’s inn, and one of the commissioners of the salt office, under queen Anne. He married one of the co-heiresses of Sir John Coningsby, of North Mimms, in Hertfordshire. His seat, which was his own estate, was at the Wild, near Shenley, in Hertfordshire, where I saw him, and where he died without issue.

“I was removed very young, along with my mother, to Skelton, near Newby; and thence, at five or six years old, my father making a little purchase at Bondgate, near Ripon, his family went thither. There I went to school; where I was made capable of reading the Testament, which was all I was ever taught, except, a long time after, for about a month, in a very advanced age for that, with the reverend Mr. Alcock, of Burnsal.

“After this, about thirteen or fourteen years of age, I went to my father at Newby, and attended him in[Pg 247] the family there, till the death of Sir Edward Blackett. It was here my propensity to literature first appeared, for being always of a solitary disposition, and uncommonly fond of retirement and books, I enjoyed here all the repose and opportunity I could wish. My study at that time was engaged in the mathematics: I know not what my acquisitions were, but I am certain my application was intense and unwearied. I found in my father’s library there, which contained a very great number of books in most branches, Kersey’s Algebra, Leybourn’s Cursus Mathematicus, Ward’s Young Mathematician’s Guide, Harris’ Algebra, &c. and a great many more; but these being the books in which I was ever most conversant, I remember them the better. I was even then equal to the management of quadratic equations, and their geometrical constructions. After we left Newby, I repeated the same studies in Bondgate, and went over all parts I had studied before, I believe not altogether unsuccessfully.

“Being about the age of sixteen, I was sent for to London, being thought, upon examination by Mr. Christopher Blackett, qualified to serve him as book-keeper in his counting-house. Here, after a year or two, I took the small-pox and suffered most severely under that distemper. I returned home again, and there with leisure on my hands, and a new addition of authors to those brought me from Newby, I renewed not only my mathematical studies, but began and prosecuted others, of a different turn, with much avidity and diligence. These were poetry, history, and antiquities; the charms of which quite destroyed all the heavier beauties of numbers in lines, whose applications and properties I now pursued no longer, except occasionally in teaching.

“I was, after some time employed in this manner, invited into Netherdale, my native air, where I first engaged in a school, and where, unfortunately enough for me, I married. The misconduct of the wife which that place afforded me, has procured me this prosecution, this prison, this infamy, and this sentence.

[Pg 248]

“During my marriage here, perceiving the deficiencies in my education, and sensible of my want of the learned languages, and prompted by an irresistible covetousness of knowledge, I commenced a series of studies in that way, and undertook the tediousness of the intricacies and the labor of grammar; I selected Lilly from the rest, all of which I got and repeated by heart. The task of repeating it all every day was impossible while I attended the school; so I divided it into portions; by which method it was pronounced thrice every week, and this I performed for years.

“I next became acquainted with Camden’s Greek Grammar, which I also repeated in the same manner, memoriter. Thus instructed, I entered upon the Latin classics, whose allurements repaid my assiduities and my labors. I remember to have, at first, overhung five lines for a whole day; and never, in all the painful course of my reading, left any one passage till I did, or thought I did, perfectly comprehend it.

“After I had accurately perused every one of the Latin classics, historians and poets, I went through the Greek Testament, first parsing every word as I proceeded; next I ventured upon Hesiod, Homer, Theocritus, Herodotus, Thucydides, and all the Greek tragedians: a tedious labor was this; but my former acquaintance with history lessened it extremely, because it threw light upon many passages, which without that assistance must have appeared obscure.

“In the midst of these literary pursuits a man and horse from my good friend William Norton, Esq., came for me from Knaresborough, bearing that gentleman’s letter inviting me thither; and accordingly I repaired there in some part of the year 1734, and was, I believe, well accepted and esteemed there. Here, not satisfied with my former acquisitions, I prosecuted the attainment of Hebrew, and with indefatigable diligence. I had Buxtorff’s grammar, but that being perplexed, or not explicit enough, at least in my opinion at that time, I collected no less than eight or ten different grammars and thus one very often supplied the omissions of the[Pg 249] others, and was, I found, of extraordinary advantage. Then I purchased the Bible in the original and read the whole Pentateuch, with an intention to go through the whole of it, which I attempted, but wanted time.

“In April, I think the 18th, 1744, I went again to London, and agreed to teach the Latin and writing, for the Rev. Mr. Painblanc, in Piccadilly, which he, along with a salary, returned, by teaching me French; wherein I observed the pronunciation the most formidable part, at least to me, who had never before known a word of it. By continued application every night and every opportunity, I overcame this, and soon became a tolerable master of French. I remained in this situation two years and above.

“Some time after this I went to Hays, in the capacity of writing-master, and served a gentlewoman there, since dead; and stayed, after that, with a worthy and reverend gentleman. I continued here between three and four years. To several other places I then succeeded, and all that while used every occasion for improvement. I then transcribed acts of parliament to be registered in chancery; and after went down to the free-school at Lynn.

“From my leaving Knaresborough to this time is a long interval, which I had filled up with the farther study of history and antiquities, heraldry and botany; in the last of which I was very agreeably entertained, there being in that study so extensive a display of nature. I well knew Tournefort, Ray, Miller, Linnæus, &c. I made frequent visits to the botanic garden at Chelsea; and traced pleasure through a thousand fields: at last, few plants, domestic or exotic, were unknown to me. Amidst all this I ventured upon the Chaldee and Arabic; and, with a design to understand them, supplied myself with Erpenius, Chappelow, and others: but I had not time to obtain any great knowledge of the Arabic; the Chaldee I found easy enough, because of its connection with the Hebrew.

“I then investigated the Celtic, as far as possible, in all its dialects; began collections, and made comparisons[Pg 250] between that, the English, the Latin, the Greek, and even the Hebrew. I had made notes, and compared above three thousand of these together, and found such a surprising affinity, even beyond any expectation or conception, that I was determined to proceed through the whole of these languages, and form a comparative lexicon, which I hoped would account for numberless vocables in use with us, the Latins, and Greeks, before concealed and unobserved: this, or something like it, was the design of a clergyman of great erudition in Scotland; but it must prove abortive, for he died before he executed it, and most of my books and papers are now scattered and lost.”

Such is the account Eugene Aram has given of himself, until the commission of the fatal act that brought down upon him the execration of the world and the last vengeance of the law. Of all the crimes man is capable of committing, there is none so offensive to Omnipotence as murder; and the Almighty, therefore, seems to be more intent to expose that heinous and accursed offence to mankind; to warn and admonish them, to show them that rocks cannot hide, nor distance secure them from the inevitable consequences of the violation of that law which nature dictates and man confirms. The extraordinary means by which this murder was brought to light, is one of the many instances of this divine interposition.

Daniel Clark was born at Knaresborough, of reputable parents, where he lived and followed the business of a shoemaker. About the month of January, 1744 or 5, he married, and became possessed of property to the amount of two or three hundred pounds. He was at that time in very good credit at Knaresborough, and it is supposed a scheme was then laid by Eugene Aram, at that time a schoolmaster in the town, and one Houseman, a flax-dresser, to defraud several tradesmen of great quantities of goods and plate, Clark having been chosen as the fittest person to carry their plan into execution; for, as he then lived in very good reputation, and, moreover, was lately married, he was the[Pg 251] person of all others best calculated to effect the intended purpose. Accordingly, Clark for some days went about to various tradesmen in the town, and under the pretext that, as he was just married, it was not altogether irrational to suppose that cloth, and table and bed-linen, would considerably contribute to his matrimonial comfort, he took up great quantities of linen and woollen-drapery goods; the worthy dealers of Knaresborough rendering up their commodities with the greatest zeal and expedition on so interesting an occasion. After this, he went to several innkeepers and others, desiring to borrow a silver tankard of one, a nicely-worked silver pint of another, and the like, alleging that he was to have company that night, and should be glad of the use of them at supper; and in order to give a color to his story, he procured of the innkeepers (of whom he had borrowed the plate) ale and other liquors to regale his visitors.

Some suspicious circumstances, however, appearing that night and the following morning, a rumor got wind that Clark had absconded; and upon inquiry, most certainly, he was not to be found. An active search was immediately made for the goods and plate with which he had provided himself, when some part of the goods was found at Houseman’s house, and another part dug up in Aram’s garden: but as no plate could be found it was concluded, somewhat naturally, that with them Clark had decamped. The strictest inquiry was instantly set on foot to discover his retreat; persons were despatched to all parts; advertisements describing his person inserted in all the papers; but to no purpose.

Eugene Aram being suspected to be an accomplice, a process was granted against him by the steward of the honor of Knaresborough to arrest him for a debt due to a Mr. Norton, with a view to detain him till such time as a warrant could be obtained from the justice of the peace to apprehend him upon that charge. To the surprise of all, however, the money was instantly paid, and moreover, at the same time, a considerable[Pg 252] mortgage upon his house at Bondgate was also discharged. Soon afterwards, Aram left the town, and was not heard of until the month of June, 1758, when the murder of Clark being traced to him, he was found residing at Lynn.

Upwards of thirteen years after Clark’s disappearance, it happened that a laborer employed in digging for stone to supply a lime-kiln, at a place called Thistle hill, near Knaresborough, striking about half a yard and half a quarter deep, turned up an arm bone and the small bone of the leg of a human skeleton. His curiosity being excited, he carefully removed the earth round about the place, and discovered all the bones belonging to a body, presenting an appearance, from their position, as though the body had been doubled at the hips, though the bones were all perfect. This remarkable accident being rumored in the town, gave rise to a suspicion that Daniel Clark had been murdered and buried there; for no other person had been missing thereabouts for sixty years and upwards. The coroner was instantly informed, and an inquest summoned.

The wife of Eugene Aram, who had frequently before given hints of her suspicions, was now examined. From her evidence, it appeared that Clark was an intimate acquaintance of Aram’s before the 8th of February, 1744-5, and they had had frequent transactions together, and with Houseman also. About two o’clock in the morning of the 8th of February, 1744-5, Aram, Clark, and Houseman came to Aram’s house and went up stairs, where they remained about an hour. They then went out together, and Clark being the last, she observed that he had a sack or wallet on his back. About four, Aram and Houseman returned, but without their companion. “Where is Clark?” she inquired; but her husband only returned an angry look in reply, and desired her to go to bed, which she refused, and told him, “she feared he had been doing something wrong.” Aram then went down stairs with the candle, and she being desirous to know what they were doing,[Pg 253] followed them, and from the top of the stairs heard Houseman say, “She’s coming; if she does, she’ll tell.” “What can she tell, poor simple thing?” replied Aram; “she knows nothing. I’ll hold the door to prevent her coming.” “It’s of no use, something must be done,” returned Houseman; “if she don’t split now, she will some other time.” “No, no, foolish,” her husband said; “we’ll coax her a little till her passion is off, and then”—“What!” said Houseman sullenly.—“Shoot her,” whispered Aram, “shoot her!” Mrs. Aram, hearing this discourse, became very much alarmed, but remained quiet. At seven o’clock the same morning they both left the house, and she, immediately their backs were turned, went down stairs, and observed that there had been a fire below, and all the ashes taken out of the grate. She then examined the dunghill, and perceived ashes of a different kind lying upon it, and searching amongst them, found several pieces of linen and woollen cloth very nearly burnt, which had the appearance of wearing apparel. When she returned into the house, she found a handkerchief that she had lent to Houseman the night before, and a round spot of blood upon it about the size of a shilling. Houseman came back soon afterwards, and she charged him with having done some dreadful thing to Clark; but he pretended total ignorance, and added, “she was a fool, and knew not what she said.” From these circumstances, she fully and conscientiously believed that Daniel Clark was murdered by Houseman and Eugene Aram, on the 8th of February, 1744-5.

Several other witnesses were examined, all affirming that Houseman and Eugene Aram were the last persons seen with Clark, especially on the night of the 7th of February, being that after which he was missing. Upon hearing these testimonies, Houseman, who was present, was observed to become very restless, discovering all the signs of guilt, such as trembling, turning pale, and faltering in his speech. Few men guilty of the crime of murder have the strength of heart and self-command to conceal it: by some circumstance or[Pg 254] other, the truth will out; a look, a dream, and not unfrequently, as in this case, their own unfaithful tongue, is the involuntary agent that brings at last the blackened culprit to that punishment which unerringly awaits the man that sheds his brother’s blood. Accordingly, upon the skeleton being produced, Houseman, taking up one of the bones, dropped this most unguarded expression: “This is no more Daniel Clark’s bone than it is mine.” “What?” remarked the coroner instantly—“what?—how is this? How can you be so sure that that is not Daniel Clark’s bone?” “Because I can produce a witness,” replied Houseman, in evident confusion—“because I can produce a witness, who saw Daniel Clark upon the road two days after he was missing at Knaresborough.” This witness was instantly summoned, and stated that he had never seen Clark after the 8th of February; a friend, however, had told him (and this only had he mentioned at first) that he met some one very like Clark; but, it being a snowy day, and the person having the cape of his great coat up, he could not say with the least degree of certainty who he was. This explanation, so far from proving satisfactory, increased the suspicion against Houseman; and accordingly a warrant was issued against him, and he was apprehended and brought before William Thornton, Esq., who, examining him, elicited a full acknowledgment of the fact of his having been with Clark on the night in question, on account of some money (twenty pounds) that he had lent him, and which he wanted at the time very pressingly. He further stated, that Clark begged him to accept the value in goods, to which proposition he assented, and was necessarily, therefore, several times to and fro between Clark’s house and his own, in order to remove the goods from one to the other. When he had finished, he left Clark at Aram’s house, with another man, whom he had never seen before. Aram and Clark, immediately afterwards, followed him out of the house of the former, and the stranger was with them. They then went in the direction of the market-place,[Pg 255] which the light of the moon enabled him to see, and he lost sight of them. He disavowed most solemnly that he came back to Aram’s house that morning with Aram and Clark, as was asserted by Mrs. Aram; nor was he with Aram, but with Clark, at the house of the former on that night, whither he only went to see Clark in order to obtain from him the note.

Being then asked if he would sign this examination, he said he would rather waive it for the present, for he might have something to add, and therefore desired to have time to consider of it. The magistrate then committed him to York castle, when, expressing a wish to explain more fully, he was again brought before Mr. Thornton, and in his presence made the following confession:—That Daniel Clark was murdered by Eugene Aram, late of Knaresborough, a schoolmaster, and, as he believed, on Friday the 8th of February, 1744-5; for that Eugene Aram and Daniel Clark were together at Aram’s house early that morning, and that he (Houseman) left the house and went up the street a little before, and they called to him, desiring he would go a short way with them; and he accordingly went with them to a place called St. Robert’s cave, near Grimble bridge, where the two former stopped, and there he saw Aram strike Clark several times over the breast and head, and saw him fall as if he were dead; upon which he came away and left them; but whether Aram used any weapon or not to kill Clark, he could not tell, nor did he know what he did with the body afterwards, but believed that Aram left it at the mouth of the cave; for that, seeing Aram do this, lest he might share the same fate, he made the best of his way to the bridge-end, where, looking back, he saw Aram coming from the cave-side, (which is in a private rock adjoining the river,) and could discern a bundle in his hand, but did not know what it was: upon this he hastened away to the town, without either joining Aram or seeing him again till the next day, and from that time he had never had discourse with him. He stated, however, afterwards, that Clark’s body was buried in[Pg 256] St. Robert’s cave, and that he was sure it was there, but desired it might remain till such time as Aram was taken. He added further, that Clark’s head lay to the right, in the turn at the entrance of the cave.

Proper persons were instantly appointed to examine St. Robert’s cave, when, agreeably to Houseman’s confession, the skeleton of a human body (the head lying as he had described) was found. A warrant was instantly issued to apprehend Eugene Aram, who was discovered to be living at Lynn in the capacity of usher at a school. He confessed before the magistrate that he was well acquainted with Clark, and, to the best of his remembrance, about or before the 8th of February, 1744-5, but utterly denied any participation in the frauds which Clark stood charged with at the time of his disappearance. He also declared that he knew nothing of the murder, and that the statements made by his wife were without exception false: he, however, declined to sign his examination, on the same plea preferred by Houseman, that he might recollect himself better, and lest any thing should be omitted which might afterwards occur to him. On being conducted to the castle, he desired to return, and acknowledged that he was at his own house when Houseman and Clark came to him with some plate, of which Clark had defrauded his neighbors. He could not but observe that the former was very diligent in assisting; in fact, it was altogether Houseman’s business; and there was no truth whatever in the statement that he came there to sign a note or instrument. All the leather which Clark had possessed himself of, amounting to a considerable value, was concealed under flax at Houseman’s house, with the intention of disposing of it little by little, to prevent any suspicion of his being concerned in the robbery. The plate was beaten flat in St. Robert’s cave. At four o’clock in the morning, they, thinking that it was too late to enable Clark to leave with safety, agreed that he should stay there till the next night, and he accordingly remained there all the following day. In order, then, the better to effect his[Pg 257] escape, they both went down to the cave, Houseman only entering, while he watched without, lest any person should surprise them. On a sudden he heard a noise, and Houseman appeared at the mouth of the cave, and told him that Clark was gone. He had a bag with him, containing plate, which he said he had purchased of Clark, money being much more portable than such cumbersome articles. They then went to Houseman’s house, and concealed the property there, he fully believing that Clark had escaped. He never heard any thing of Clark subsequently, and was as much surprised to hear there was a suspicion of his being murdered, as that he (Eugene Aram) should be considered to be the murderer. Notwithstanding this surprise, however, his examination having been signed, he was committed with his companion to York castle, there to await the assizes.

On the third of August, 1759, they were both brought to the bar. Houseman was arraigned on the former indictment, acquitted, and admitted evidence against Aram, who was thereupon arraigned. Houseman was then called, and deposed to the same effect as that which has already appeared in his own confession. Several witnesses were called, who gave evidence as to finding several kinds of goods buried in Aram’s garden, Aram’s knowledge of the fact of Clark’s possessing two hundred pounds, and to show that they both had been seen together on the evening of the 7th of February. After which the skull was produced in court; on the left side there was a fracture, from the nature of which it was impossible to have been done but by the stroke of some blunt instrument. The skull was beaten inwards, and could not be replaced but from within. The surgeon gave it as his opinion, that no such breach could proceed from natural decay; that it was not a recent fracture made by the spade or axe by which it might have been dug up; but seemed to be of some years’ standing.

Eugene Aram’s defence, which he read, was marked with an undoubted manifestation of very considerable[Pg 258] powers. It was learned and argumentative; and in some passages, glowing and eloquent. He attempted to show, that no rational inference can be drawn that a person is dead who suddenly disappears;—that hermitages such as St. Robert’s cave were the constant repositories of the bones of the recluse; that the proofs of this were well authenticated; and, that therefore the conclusion that the bones found were those of some one killed in battle, or of some ascetic, remained no less reasonably than impatiently expected by him. A verdict of guilty was however returned, and he was condemned to be hanged accordingly.

On the morning after his condemnation, he confessed the justice of his sentence to the two gentlemen who attended him, and acknowledged that he had murdered Clark. He told them, also, that he suspected Clark of having an unlawful commerce with his wife; and that at the time of the murder he felt persuaded he was acting right, but since, he had thought otherwise.[4]

It was generally believed, as he promised to make a more ample confession on the day he was executed of every thing prior to the murder, that the whole would have been disclosed; but he put an end to any farther discovery, by an attempt upon his own life. When he was called from his bed to have his chains taken off, he refused, alleging that he was very weak. On moving him, it was found that he had inflicted a severe wound upon his arm, from which the blood was flowing copiously. He had concealed a razor in the condemned hold some time before. By proper and prompt applications he was brought to himself, and though weak from loss of blood, conducted to Tyburn in York, where, being asked if he had any thing to say, he answered, “No.” He was then executed, and his body conveyed to Knaresborough Forest, and hung in chains, pursuant to his sentence.

[Pg 259]

That Eugene Aram murdered Clark is beyond all question, since we have his confession; that he committed the murder actuated by the cause he alleges, is open to great suspicion. The strange solicitude which all men, even the most vicious, manifest to leave behind a memory mingled with some little good, prompted him, doubtless, to give his crime the ennobling, or, at least, mitigatory motive to which he attributes it. Whether the perpetration of a murder can be justified, even urged by the wrong Aram states himself to have suspected, may be left to the consideration of the casuist; but whether the dreadful act can be extenuated by as deliberate and foul attack on the virtue and character of an innocent and industrious woman, whom he upon all occasions treated with infamous barbarity, is a question we can confidently leave to the judgment and moral sense of every man. That Eugene Aram was leagued with Clark and Houseman in their fraud at Knaresborough, there can be little doubt; that he plundered his unhappy victim after he had murdered him, there can be less; that no sense of domestic injury would urge a man to rob another who had wronged him after he had slain him, needs only to be mentioned to be admitted; and therefore, believing conscientiously from these facts that the charge against his wife was not maintainable, a double indignation is entailed upon the wretch who could add to the measure of his crime this gratuitous calumny.

Notwithstanding these facts and the inferences that every attentive reader must inevitably draw from them, Eugene Aram has been deemed a fit hero for a popular novel; and the execration with which he should have been consigned to posterity has been attempted to be converted into a sentimental commiseration for a gentle student who beats out his friend’s brains on philosophical principles, and converts his property to his own use purely with a view to the interests of science and the intellectual progression of the world at large.


[4] It is generally believed, and upon good grounds, we imagine, that Aram possessed himself of all the money Clark had received for his wife’s dower, (about one hundred and sixty pounds,) and there were strong circumstances to substantiate it; but it was thought unnecessary, sufficient proof having been adduced without it.

[Pg 260]


George Barrington, whose crimes have justly astonished his contemporaries, was originally a native and inhabitant of Ireland; and, as it will appear in the sequel that the name of Barrington was assumed, let it suffice to remark that his father’s name was Henry Waldron, and that he was a working silversmith; while his mother, whose maiden name was Naish, was a mantuamaker, and occasionally a midwife.

Our adventurer was born about the year 1755, at the village of Maynooth, in the county of Kildare. His parents, who bore a good character for their industry, integrity, and general good behavior, were, however, never able to rise to a state of independence, or security from indigence, owing to their engagement in a lawsuit with a more powerful and opulent relative, in order to the recovery of a legacy, to which they conceived they had a legal right. To the narrowness of their circumstances the neglect of their son’s education is imputed; and, therefore, they were incapable of improving, or of giving a proper bias to those early indications of natural abilities, and a superiority of talents, which must inevitably have unfolded themselves even in the dawn of young Barrington’s existence. He was, notwithstanding these obstacles, instructed in reading and writing at an early age at their expense; and afterwards, through the bounty of a medical gentleman in the neighborhood, he was initiated in the principles of common arithmetic, the elements of geography, and the outlines of English grammar.

This ill-fated youth, however, enjoyed but for a short time the benefits he derived from the kindness of his first patron, a dignitary of the church in Ireland; for[Pg 261] the violence of his passions, which equalled at least the extent of his talents, precipitated him into an action by which he lost his favor forever, and which, in its consequences, finally proved his ruin. When he had been about half a year at the grammar-school in Dublin, to which he had been sent by his patron, he unluckily got into a dispute with a lad, much older, larger, and stronger than himself; the dispute degenerated into a quarrel, and some blows ensued, in which young Waldron suffered considerably; but in order to be revenged, he stabbed his antagonist with a penknife; and had he not been seasonably prevented, would have in all probability murdered him. The wounds which he gave did not prove so dangerous as to render the several circumstances of the quarrel which occasioned them a subject of legal investigation. The discipline of the house, (flogging,) however, was inflicted with proper severity on the perpetrator of so atrocious an offence, which irritated the unrelenting and vindictive temper of the young man to such a degree that he determined at once to run away from school, from his family, and from his friends; thus abandoning the fair prospects that he had before him, and blasting all the hopes that had been fondly, though vainly, formed of the great things that might be effected by his genius when matured by time and improved by study.

His plan of escape was no sooner formed than it was carried into execution; but previously to his departure he found means to steal ten or twelve guineas from the master of the school, and a gold repeating watch from Mrs. Goldsborough, the master’s sister. With this booty, a few shirts, and two or three pair of stockings, he silently but safely effected his retreat from the school-house, in the middle of a still night in the month of May, 1771; and pursuing the great northern road all that night, and all the next day, he late in the evening arrived at the town of Drogheda, without interruption, without accident, and in a great measure without halting, without rest, and without food.

The first place of safety at which young Waldron[Pg 262] thought proper to halt, was at an obscure inn in Drogheda, where a company of strolling players happening to be at the time, it was the occasion of a new series of acquaintance, which, though formed on precipitation and on the spur of the occasion, was retained from choice and affection for a number of years.

One John Price, the manager of the strolling company, became quickly the confidant, and from the confidant the sole counsellor of the young fugitive Waldron, who, influenced by the ardor, the natural and unguarded ingenuousness of a youthful mind, communicated to this new friend, without reserve, all the circumstances of his life and story. By his advice this unhappy youth renounced his paternal name, assumed that of Barrington, entered into the company, and in the course of four days became so absolutely and formally a strolling son of Thespis, that he performed the part of Jaffier in “Venice Preserved,” with some applause, to a crowded audience, in a barn in the suburbs of Drogheda; and this without the assistance of a prompter.

Though the reception he met with on his debut was very flattering to a mind like his, Price, as well as himself, thought it would not be proper for him to appear in public so near the scene of his late depredations in the capital. It was, therefore, resolved on by them that the whole company should without delay move to the northward, and, if possible, get to the distance of sixty or eighty miles from Dublin before they halted for any length of time. In order to enable so numerous a body to move with all their baggage, it was necessary to raise money; and in doing this, Barrington’s assistance being the first thing that offered, was indispensably necessary. He was accordingly applied to, and acquiesced with a good grace, giving Price Mrs. Goldsborough’s gold repeater, which was disposed of for the general benefit of the strollers.

As soon as the necessary funds were procured, all these children of Thespis set out for Londonderry, which was the place at which they first designed to[Pg 263] play. Travelling but slowly, they were a considerable time on their journey; and during the course of it, the penetrating eyes of the experienced actresses discovered that Barrington had made a tender impression on the heart of Miss Egerton, the young lady who played the part of Belvidera when he acted that of Jaffier at Drogheda. This poor girl was the daughter of an opulent tradesman at Coventry. She was young and beautiful, sweet-tempered and accomplished, but now friendless; and though, like the rest, inured to misfortune, she was destitute of the experience which is generally acquired during a series of sinister and untoward events. At the age of sixteen she was seduced by a lieutenant of marines, with whom she fled from her father’s house to Dublin, where in less than three months he abandoned her, leaving her a prey to poverty, infamy, and desperation.

Having been thus deceived in the simplicity of innocence by the cunning and falsehood of one of the vilest and most profligate of human beings, she had no other resource from the most extreme want than closing with Price, who proposed to her to join his company; which, situated as she was, she readily agreed to do, and had been with him but a very short time when she saw Barrington, of whom, being of a warm constitution, she became rather suddenly enamored. But to the credit of our adventurer, although his affection was as ardent as her own, it was not of that brutal and profligate cast that so frequently disgraces the devious paths of youthful imprudence and indiscretion. On the part of Miss Egerton, the symptoms of her affection for him were so obvious, that, inexperienced as he then was in matters of gallantry and intrigue, he not only perceived her passion but was sensible of her merit, and returned her love with perfect sincerity.

It was not long before Price, urged a second time by want of money, found it expedient to insinuate to the unfortunate Barrington, that a young man of his address and appearance might very easily find means to introduce himself into some of the public places to[Pg 264] which the merchants and chapmen of that commercial city generally resorted; and that he there might, without any great difficulty, find opportunities of picking their pockets unnoticed, and of escaping undetected, more especially at that particular time, when, the fair being held, a favorable juncture afforded itself of executing a plan of such a nature with safety and facility. The idea pleased our needy adventurer, and the plan formed on it was carried into execution by him and his trusty confidant John Price, the very next day, with great success; at least such it appeared to them at that time, their acquisitions having amounted, on the close of the evening, to about forty guineas in cash, and above one hundred and fifty pounds, Irish currency, in bank-notes; which, however, they artfully determined not, on any account, to circulate in the part of the kingdom in which they were obtained. This precaution became peculiarly necessary; for several gentlemen having been robbed, the town took the alarm, which was the greater, or at least made the more noise, from the rarity of such events in that part of the kingdom, where the picking of pockets is said to be very little practised or known. But whatever the alarm was, or whatever noise it made, neither Barrington nor his accomplice was suspected. They however resolved to leave Derry as soon as they could with any appearance of propriety depart from thence: so that, having played a few nights as usual, with more applause than profit, they and their associates of the sock and buskin removed from Londonderry to Ballyshannon, in the county of Donegal, and never more returned into that part of the kingdom, where George Barrington may be considered as having commenced the business of a regular and professed pickpocket, in the summer of the year 1771, being at that time little more than sixteen years of age, and having just laid by the profession of a strolling player.

This wretched company having now become thieves as well as vagrants in the eye of the law, and compelled to subsist upon the plunder above mentioned, after[Pg 265] travelling about a fortnight, arrived at Ballyshannon. Here Barrington, with the company to which he belonged, spent the autumn and the winter of the year 1771, playing generally on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and picking pockets with John Price every day in the week, whenever opportunity offered; a business which, though attended with danger and certain infamy, he found more lucrative and more entertaining than that of the theatre, where his fame and his proficiency were by no means equal to the expectations he had raised, or to the hopes that had been formed of him on his first appearance at Drogheda.

From Ballyshannon, at length, having left the company of his friend Price, he moved to the southward, with his faithful Miss Egerton, whom he had the misfortune to lose forever in crossing the river Boyne, in which she was drowned, through the ignorance, or the more culpable negligence, of a ferryman.

Barrington, however, virtuous in his attachment to Miss Egerton, was for some time inconsolable for the loss which he had just sustained; but being neither of an age nor of a temper propitious to the continuance of sorrowful sensations, he hastened to Limerick, where he hoped to meet Price, his old accomplice. On his arrival in that city, he learned that the person after whom he had inquired had set out for Cork ten days before, and thither our adventurer followed him, and found him within an hour after he entered the town gates. On their meeting, it was agreed on by them never more to think of the stage; a resolution which was the more easily executed, as the company to which they originally belonged was now broken up and dispersed. It was besides settled between them that Price should pass for Barrington’s servant, and that Barrington should act the part of a young gentleman of large fortune and of a noble family, who was not yet quite of age, but, until he should attain that period, travelled for his amusement. In pursuance of this hopeful scheme, horses were purchased, and the master and man, now united as knight-errant and esquire, and[Pg 266] well equipped for every purpose of depredation, accordingly took their determination to act their several parts in the wild field of adventure; and thus, in the summer of 1772, as the race grounds in the south of Ireland presented themselves as the fairest objects, they hastened to these scenes of spoliation, and were successful even beyond their expectation.

Picking pockets being rather new amongst the gentry of Ireland, their want of precaution rendered them a more easy prey to Mr. Barrington and his accomplice, who found means to retire to Cork on the setting in of winter, with a booty of nearly one thousand pounds. In this city they found it convenient to fix their residence, at least till the next spring. And now it was that Barrington first determined within himself to become what has been called a gentleman pickpocket, and to affect both the airs and importance of a man of fashion.

In this desperate career of vice and folly, it was the fate of Price, the preceptor of Barrington, to be first detected in the act of picking the pocket of a gentleman of high rank, for which he was tried, convicted, and in a very short period sentenced to transportation, for the term of seven years, to America.

Barrington, naturally alarmed at the fate of his iniquitous preceptor, without loss of time converted all his movable property into cash, and taking horse, made as precipitate a journey to Dublin as he possibly could.

On his arrival there, he lived rather in a private and retired manner, only lurking in the darkest evenings about the playhouses, where he occasionally picked up a few guineas or a watch. But he was soon weary of the sameness, and disgusted with the obscurity of a life of comparative retirement, such as that he led in the Irish capital; so that when the spring and the fine weather that accompanied it returned, he embarked on board the Dorset yacht, which was then on the point of sailing with the duke of Leinster for Parkgate; and before the expiration of a week, he found himself for the first time of his life on English ground.

[Pg 267]

With Sir Alexander Schomberg, who commanded the Dorset yacht, there were three other persons embarked, and of some distinction, from whence it appeared that the connection which our adventurer formed with them had considerable effect afterwards in the course of the long succession of transactions in which he was engaged. A young captain was one of the three who was most conspicuous, and, as it will appear, a striking, though an innocent cause of Barrington’s success in his projects of depredation.

It did not require so much sagacity and penetration as Barrington at the time certainly possessed, to penetrate into the character of this young gentleman, and to predict the good consequences that might follow an intimacy with a young man of his rank, disposition, and family. Actuated by a sordid sense of the utility of such a connection to one in his circumstances, the adventurer employed all those base arts of flattery and insinuation of which he had been long a perfect master, to ingratiate himself with this gentleman; and in this design he succeeded to the utmost extent of his wishes. Barrington formed an artful tale, which he told as his own story, the purport of which was, that his father was a man of a noble family in Ireland, and illustrious in England, to which country he himself now came to study law in one of the inns of court, more, however, to avoid the ill-natured severity of a harsh, unrelenting step-mother, which rendered his paternal mansion in a great measure intolerable to him, than from any predilection for the profession to which he intended to apply himself, but the exercise of which the ample fortune that he was heir to would render unnecessary.

The story took as well as could be desired by the inventor of it, and it was settled between him and his new friend that he should, on his arrival in town, enter himself of the Middle Temple, where Mr. H——n had some relations and a numerous acquaintance, to whom, he said, he should be happy to introduce a gentleman so eminently distinguished by his talents and his accomplishments,[Pg 268] as well as by his fortune and birth, as Mr. Barrington was.

It was also further agreed on between them, that they should travel together to London; and they accordingly the next day took a post-chaise at Parkgate, and continuing their journey by easy stages through Chester, Nantwich, and Coventry, where they stopped two or three days, arrived by the end of the week at the Bath coffee-house in Piccadilly, which, on the recommendation of the captain, who had been several times before in the metropolis, was fixed upon as their head-quarters for the remaining part of the summer.

But the expensive manner in which he lived with Mr. H——n, and those to whose acquaintance that gentleman introduced him, all of them gay, sprightly young fellows, who had money at command, in less than a month reduced the funds which Barrington had brought with him from Ireland to about twenty guineas, which to him, who had been now for some years accustomed to live like a man of affluent fortune, seemed to afford a very inconsiderable resource: he therefore resolutely determined to procure a supply of money by some means or other. One evening, while he was deliberating with himself on the choice of expedients to recruit his finances, he was interrupted in his meditations on the subject by the arrival of a party of his friends with the captain, who proposed to accompany them to Ranelagh, where they had agreed to meet some of their acquaintance, and to spend the evening. Their proposal was, without much hesitation, acceded to by Barrington, and they, without further loss of time, ordered coaches to set them down at that celebrated place of amusement.

Walking in the middle of the gay scenes that surrounded him, he chanced to espy the two other companions of his voyage in the Dorset packet, to whom he only made a slight bow of recognition; and in less than a quarter of an hour afterwards he saw the duke of Leinster engaged deeply in conversation with two ladies and a knight of the Bath, who, it afterwards[Pg 269] turned out, was Sir William Draper; and near these he placed himself, quitting for a short time the company to which he belonged. While he was stationed there, an opportunity, which he considered a fair one, offered itself of making a good booty, and he availed himself of it: he picked the duke’s pocket of above eighty pounds, Sir William’s of five and thirty guineas, and one of the ladies of her watch, with all which he got off undiscovered by the parties, and joined the captain and his party as if nothing had happened out of the ordinary and common routine of affairs in such places of public recreation as Ranelagh.

A degree of fatality, rather unfortunate for Barrington, it seems, occurred during the perpetration of the robbery just related; that is to say, he was observed in the very act by one of the persons who came with him in the Dorset yacht from Ireland to Parkgate; and this man, who was also a practitioner in the same trade of infamy, lost no time in communicating what he saw to Barrington himself, and that in a manner not by any means calculated to conceal his triumph on the occasion: in fact, this gentleman’s affairs being pressing, he made very little ceremony of informing Mr. Barrington that, unless he was willing to give him a share of the plunder, he should communicate to the parties robbed, without delay, the particulars of what he had seen. The consequences of a proposal of this nature presenting a disagreeable alternative, Mr. Barrington, as it may be imagined, naturally chose the least of two evils, and, under pretence of being attacked with a sudden complaint, immediately retired with his new acquaintance to town, and putting up at the Golden Cross inn, at Charing-cross, the booty acquired at Ranelagh was in some sense divided, the new intruder contenting himself with taking the lady’s watch, chain, &c., which were of gold, and a ten pound note, leaving all the rest of the money and the bank-papers with Mr. Barrington, who, he probably conceived, had run the greatest risk to obtain them at first.

[Pg 270]

But in order to cement the connection which these two were now on the point of forming, Mr. James (for by that name this new accomplice called himself,) insisted upon Barrington supping with him; and as Mr. James knew the town much better than himself, Barrington thought he would be a real acquisition, particularly in helping him to dispose of the valuables he might acquire. Picking pockets, therefore, was proposed by Mr. Barrington as a joint concern.

The outlines of the future operations of these adventurous colleagues being adjusted, it was further agreed upon to have another interview on the next day at a tavern in the Strand, there to regulate the plan of their future conduct; and affairs being so far arranged, Barrington returned to his lodgings at the Bath coffee-house, where, luckily enough, neither captain H——n nor any of his party were at that time arrived from Ranelagh.

The next morning, at breakfast, he informed his friend the captain, that on his return last night, he chanced to meet a very worthy relation of his, Sir Fitzwilliam Barrington, who engaged him that day to dinner; so that it would be out of his power to make one of the party that were to spend the day with the captain at the Thatched-house tavern; but that, however, he would endeavor to contrive matters so as to join them early in the evening, and stay to supper with them, if they were bent upon keeping it up to a late hour.

This apology was received without any suspicion by the gentleman to whom it was made, as it accounted plausibly enough for his fellow-traveller’s absenting himself, notwithstanding a kind of prior engagement to Mr. H——n.

Afterwards, Barrington being dressed, called a coach and drove to the Crown and Anchor tavern, where he found Mr. James, who had been for some time waiting for him. The cloth being removed, and the servants withdrawn, these worthy gentlemen entered upon business. It was agreed upon, that whatever either[Pg 271] acquired, should be equally divided between them; and that in the sale of watches, jewels, or any other articles they might have to dispose of, both should be present. By this provision, no suspicion of fraud could be entertained; and thus Barrington got what he extremely wished, and greatly wanted, an introduction to a fence, or a receiver of stolen goods. It was farther settled by them, that while the captain remained in town, they should take care not to be seen together, and that Mr. James should resume his long neglected habit of a clergyman. These weighty conditions, and some others of equal magnitude and importance, being ultimately adjusted to the satisfaction of these systematic plunderers, it was determined on that they should meet regularly twice a week, that is, on Tuesdays and Fridays, to settle with each other; but never, if it could possibly be avoided, twice at the same house. Having then adjourned to the next Tuesday, and fixed on the Devil tavern, at Temple-bar, as the place of their next meeting, our adventurers separated for that time, Barrington going, according to his appointment, to the Thatched-house tavern, and reaching it about eight in the evening, where he found his friend the captain and a large party of his acquaintance. Though rather far gone in liquor, most of them knew him personally, and considering him in the light in which he was represented to them by captain H——n, as a young man of condition, they were delighted with his company. He only waited till the bills were called for, and the reckoning discharged, when, there being no farther obstacle to a hasty retreat, he plundered those who were most off their guard; or rather those who, as he supposed, were possessed of the most portable kind of property. Still, as the prey then made consisted more of watches and trinkets than ready cash, he was under the necessity of calling upon Mr. James, his new friend, next morning, who readily introduced him to a man, a receiver of stolen property, and who paying them what they deemed an adequate consideration, they made the first division with as much[Pg 272] apparent satisfaction as if they had been lawful dealers in the commodities of which they had unjustly deprived the right owners.

So strongly did appearance plead for him at this time, that Barrington’s depredation was never imputed to him by those who suffered in consequence of it; and though similar offences were at different seasons, for upwards of two years, committed by him without suspicion or detection, he preserved his fame, and even extended his acquaintance. With certain superficial qualifications for shining in company, and yet a stranger to honor or honesty, in the summer of the year 1775, in the course of his depredations, he visited, as his custom was, the most celebrated watering-places; and among the rest he went to Brighton, which at that time, though frequented by genteel company, was far from having arrived at the celebrity which it has since acquired, especially since the conclusion of the peace with France. But notwithstanding the paucity of numbers at this watering-place, he is said to have had the address to ingratiate himself into the notice and favor of the late duke of Ancaster, with several other persons of rank and property, who all considered him as a man of genius and ability, and as a gentleman of fortune and noble family.

But, in tracing all Mr. Barrington’s very singular connections, it is necessary to remark, that about the conclusion of this winter he got acquainted with one Lowe, a very singular character, and one who, like his friend James, he occasionally made use of to vend his ill-gotten property.

Mr. Barrington’s new junction with Mr. Lowe having rendered Mr. James rather a dead weight upon his hands, he began to think about breaking with him, which he did not find a difficult matter, as James, having at bottom some remorse of conscience for his neglect of the laws of justice and moral obligation, very easily quitted Mr. Barrington’s connection; and what is more extraordinary, being a Roman Catholic by profession, retired to a monastery upon the continent,[Pg 273] there in all probability to end his days in piety and peace. Barrington, on the other hand, seemed to increase in temerity and desperation; for on his forming a connection with Lowe, which was but a short time previous to that evening of the month of January which was observed as the anniversary of the queen’s birthday, it was resolved on between them, that, habited as a clergyman, he should repair to court, and there endeavor, not only to pick the pockets of some of the company, but, what was a bolder and a much more novel attempt, to cut off the diamond orders of some of the knights of the Garter, Bath, and Thistle, who on such days usually wear the collars of their respective orders over their coats. In this enterprize he succeeded beyond the most sanguine expectations that could have been formed by either his new accomplice Lowe or himself; for he found means to deprive a nobleman of his diamond order, and also contrived to get away from the palace without suspicion. This being an article of too much value to dispose of in England, it is reported that it was sold to a Dutchman, or rather to a Dutch Jew, who came over from Holland once or twice a year for the sole object of buying jewels that had been stolen; and though a stranger, he is generally reported to have given a much higher price for such articles than could have been gotten from the receivers in town.

The celebrated Russian prince Orloff paid his first visit to England in the winter of 1775. The high degree of estimation in which that nobleman had long been held by the late empress Catharine, had ultimately heaped upon him not a few of her distinguishing favors. Among other things of this nature, she had expressed her approbation of his merits by presenting him with a gold snuff-box, set with brilliants generally supposed to have been worth no less a sum than thirty thousand pounds. This distinguishing trophy having caught the eye of Barrington, impelled him to contrive means to get it into his possession, and he thought a fit opportunity presented itself one night at[Pg 274] Covent Garden theatre, where, getting near the prince, he had the dexterity to convey it out of his excellency’s waistcoat pocket into his own; when, being immediately suspected by the prince, he seized him by the collar; but, in the bustle that took place, Barrington slipped the box into his hand, which that nobleman gladly retained, though Barrington, to the astonishment of all around, was secured and lodged in Tothill-fields Bridewell till the Wednesday following, when his examination took place at the public office in Bow street.

Sir John Fielding being at that time the magistrate, Barrington represented himself to him as a native of Ireland, of an affluent and respectable family. He said that he had been educated in the medical line, and came to England to improve himself by the extent of his connections. To this plausible representation he added so many tears, and seemed to rest so much upon his being an unfortunate gentleman, rather than a guilty culprit, that prince Orloff declining to prosecute him, he was dismissed with an admonition from the magistrate to amend his future conduct; but this, it will appear, had no manner of influence upon his subsequent proceedings. In fact, Barrington having gone too far to recede, every one now taking alarm at his character and conduct, and the public prints naturally holding him up as a cheat and impostor, he was even forsaken by those who, until that discovery of his practices, generally countenanced him, and enjoyed his company as a young gentleman of no common abilities.

Being in the lobby of the lords one day, when an appeal of an interesting nature was expected to come on, so that Barrington thought to profit by numbers of genteel people that generally attend; unhappily for Barrington’s projects, a gentleman recognised his person, and applying to the deputy usher of the black rod, Barrington was disgracefully turned out, and, of course, totally disappointed of the harvest he had promised himself.

Barrington, having by some means heard that this[Pg 275] gentleman was the person who had denounced him to the keeper of the lobby, was so indiscreet as to threaten him with revenge for what he deemed an unmerited injury; but, the magistrates thinking otherwise, they granted, upon that gentleman’s complaint, a warrant against Barrington to bind him over to keep the peace. His credit having sunk so very low, that not one of all his numerous acquaintance would become a surety for him, he was compelled to go to Tothill-fields Bridewell, where he remained a considerable time under confinement, from his inability to procure the bail that was required. However, having again obtained a release from that disagreeable quarter, he had no alternative but that of his old profession, and, therefore, in about three months afterwards, we find him detected in picking the pocket of a low woman, at Drury-Lane theatre, for which, being indicted and convicted at the Old Bailey, he was sentenced to ballast-heaving, or, in other words, to three years’ hard labor on the river Thames, on board of the hulks at Woolwich. As soon as it was convenient, in the spring of 1777, Barrington was put on board one of these vessels.

A sudden remove from ease and affluence to a scene of wretched servitude and suffering, and the privation of almost every comfort in life, could not but have a most sensible effect upon a man in his condition. In short, he was not only harassed and fatigued with labor, to which he had been unaccustomed, but even disgusted with the filthy language of his fellow-convicts, whose blasphemous effusions, which they seemed to make use of by way of amusement, must have been a constant source of the most disagreeable sensations in the mind of almost any person not totally lost to the feelings and the decencies of civilized, or even a savage state of existence. At length the mental, as well as the corporeal sufferings of Barrington, did not escape the notice of Messrs. Erskine and Duncan Campbell, the superintendents of the convicts; for, in consequence of Barrington’s good behavior, and through the interference of these gentlemen, he was again set at liberty,[Pg 276] after sustaining nearly a twelvemonth’s severe suffering on board the hulks of Woolwich.

Still, nothing that Barrington had yet undergone was sufficient to produce any cordial repentance in his mind. He again entered into the full practice of his former profession. In less than six months after his liberation from hard labor, he was detected by one Payne, a very zealous constable in the city, in the very act of picking pockets at St. Sepulchre’s church during divine service, and being convicted upon undeniable evidence at the ensuing Old Bailey sessions, he was a second time sentenced to hard labor on board the hulks, and that for five years.

It was upon his trial on this occasion, that Barrington was first noticed in the public prints as an able speaker. He then essayed, with no small degree of artifice, to interest the feelings of the court in his behalf; but the evidences of his guilt being too forcible and repeated, and all his efforts proving abortive, he was once more removed to the hulks, about the middle of the year 1778. Being a second time in this humiliating and disgraceful situation, he found his imaginary consequence so much hurt, that, failing in a variety of plans to effect his escape, his next attempt was to destroy himself. For this purpose, he took an opportunity to be seen stabbing himself with a penknife in the breast; but as the wound, by the immediate application of medical assistance, was slowly healed, he continued to linger in this new state of wretchedness, till, happening to be seen by a gentleman who came to visit the hulks, it produced another event in his favor.

The gentleman just alluded to being most sensibly affected by the dejected and squalid appearance of Barrington, made a most successful use of his influence with government to obtain Barrington’s release, upon the condition that he should leave the kingdom. To this as Barrington gladly assented, he generously supplied him with a sum of money to defray the expense of his removal to Ireland, where it is understood this unhappy offender always persisted in stating that he[Pg 277] had friends and relatives of credit and character. In London he did not think proper to stay longer than was needful to procure necessaries for his journey; he therefore took the Chester coach, and in the course of a week was enabled to reach the Irish capital, where his fame having arrived before, he was looked upon with such an eye of suspicion, that he was shortly apprehended for picking the pocket of an Irish nobleman of a gold watch and his money at one of the theatres, and was soon after committed to the New Gaol to be tried upon the charge, but was acquitted for want of evidence.

Though he was acquitted on this occasion, he was perfectly convinced that the Irish capital would be too warm to retain him. He quickly determined to leave Ireland, and accordingly removed to the northern parts of that kingdom, through which he took his way to Edinburgh, where he concluded that he might, for some time at least, commit his depredations with greater safety and facility than he could do either in London or Dublin.

But, in the opinion which he had formed of the character of the Scots, he soon learned by experience that he was grossly mistaken; for he was quickly observed in the capital of Scotland, where the police is more vigilant and severe than in most other parts of the British dominions. He therefore thought it prudent to depart from Edinburgh, where his gleanings were comparatively small.

However, being determined to return to London, he took Chester in his way, and it being fair-time there, he is said to have contrived to get possession of the amount of six hundred pounds in cash and bank notes, with which he got clear off.

Such are the delusions of vice and the fatal sweets of ill-gotten wealth, that, though additional danger attended his public appearance, from the infraction of the terms on which he was liberated from his confinement on board the hulks, (which were those of his leaving the kingdom and never more returning to it,)[Pg 278] still he frequented the theatres, the Opera House, and the Pantheon, with tolerable success. But he was now too notorious to be long secure: he was closely watched and well-nigh detected at the latter of these places; at least, such strong suspicions were entertained by the magistrates of his conduct on the occasion, that he was taken into custody, and committed to Newgate.

Here again, for want of evidence, he got clear of the charge brought against him; but, notwithstanding this, he was unexpectedly detained at the instance of Mr. Duncan Campbell, the superintendent of the convicts, for having returned to England in violation of the condition on which his majesty was pleased to grant him a remission of the punishment which he was sentenced to undergo on board the hulks; and the consequence of the detainer was, that he was made what is called a fine at Newgate, during the unexpired part of the time that he was originally to have served on the Thames. When the period of his captivity in this prison expired, he was, as a matter of course, set at liberty; and as usual, no sooner obtained his liberty, than he returned to his former practices. He, however, was now more cautious; and being connected with some accomplices of his own cast, he was not so easily detected as he might have been with others less experienced.

In a state of alarm and anxiety, he lived a considerable time in the society of the most profligate and abandoned characters of the metropolis, when he was seen to pick the pocket of Mr. Le Mesurier, at Drury-lane playhouse, and was immediately apprehended. Charge of him was given to one Blandy, a constable, who, through negligence or corruption, suffered him to make his escape. The proceedings against him were carried on to an outlawry, and various methods were made use of to detect him, for nearly two years, without effect.

But while the lawyers were outlawing him, and the constables endeavoring to take him, he was travelling in various disguises and characters through the northern counties of this kingdom. He visited the great[Pg 279] towns in those parts as a quack-doctor, or as a clergyman; sometimes he went with an E. O. table, and sometimes he pretended to be a rider to a manufacturing house at Birmingham or Manchester; and travelling on horseback, with a decent deportment and grave appearance, the account which he thought proper to give of himself was credited, without any difficulty, by those who questioned him.

But, in spite of all these precautions, it sometimes happened that he was known by gentlemen whom he met, once particularly in Lincolnshire; yet no one offered to molest or intercept him, until he arrived at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where, on being recognised, he was suspected of picking pockets, and, on inquiry, was discovered to be an outlaw: upon which he was removed by a writ of habeas corpus to London, and imprisoned in Newgate, where he arrived miserable and so dejected, that on learning his circumstances, some of his friends made a subscription for him, by which he was enabled to employ counsel, and to take legal measures to have the outlawry against him reversed.

This being effected, he was tried for the original offence, that of stealing Mr. Le Mesurier’s purse; but, through the absence of the Rev. Mr. Adeane, a material witness for the prosecution, he was acquitted. Being once more enlarged, he again set off for Ireland, in company with a young man of the name of Hubert, well known in town for his fraud on the duke of York. With this accomplice, he was so infatuated as to endeavor to carry on his depredations in Dublin, where it was never his fortune to remain for any length of time undetected; for, Hubert being taken in the act of picking a gentleman’s pocket, and handing the property to Barrington, he with great difficulty made his escape to England, where he rambled about for some time previously to his arrival in the capital, which he had scarcely entered, when he was taken into custody for picking Mr. Henry Hare Townsend’s pocket of a gold watch.

Hubert, his accomplice, was tried at Dublin, and[Pg 280] sentenced to transportation for seven years; but he afterwards contrived to make his escape.

On Wednesday morning, September 15th, 1790, Barrington was put to the bar to be arraigned on an indictment charging him with stealing, on the 1st of September, 1790, in the parish of Enfield, a gold watch, chain, and seals, the property of Henry Hare Townsend, Esq. Upon this occasion Barrington displayed all the talents which it has been universally admitted he possessed; but in spite of a long speech, which professed, whether sincere or assumed, great contrition for his past offences, and a determination to amend his life for the future, he was convicted, and sentenced by the judge to seven years’ transportation.

During the voyage to Port Jackson, Barrington rendered an essential service in quelling a mutiny in the vessel. Upon this occasion the captain evinced his gratitude for the services he had performed, and when they had reached the Cape, at the recommendation of the former, he received a hundred dollars reward for his zeal and activity.

On their arrival at Port Jackson, Barrington having been recommended to the governor, was placed in the first instance at Tamgabbe as a subordinate, and was soon advanced to be a principal watchman, in which situation he acquitted himself as a useful and active officer; insomuch that the governor determined to withdraw him from the convicts; and at the same time that he received his instrument of emancipation, he was presented with a grant of thirty acres of land at Paramatta. He was subsequently appointed superintendent of the convicts; and although not permitted to return to England, was invested with all the immunities of a freeman, a settler, and a civil officer, and had the satisfaction to know that his diligence and activity were not only without suspicion, but were fully appreciated.

It was here that Barrington resolved to revise the notes he had taken during the voyage, and of describing more fully the places they had touched at. He[Pg 281] has accordingly produced a very useful and instructive work.

In addition to this performance, he compiled a complete history of the country itself, from its first discovery, comprehending an account of its original inhabitants, their customs and manners, accompanied with an historical detail of the proceedings of the colony from its foundation to his own time.

He continued in the situation in which the governor had placed him till his death; and performed the duties of his office with an unwearied assiduity, which at last superinduced a general decay of nature, of which he died in the year 1811.


Was an Irishman, and a weaver by trade. He had been a robber in his own country. We know not what events induced him to seek a refuge in America, or what were his first adventures on this side of the Atlantic. We first find him in Philadelphia, ostensibly working at his trade, but in reality gaining his livelihood by dishonest practices. He had two accomplices, George Wilson and Abraham Poteet, weavers, who had learned their trade in the penitentiary. The former was but twenty-three years of age; yet, though his days were few, his iniquities were many. Poteet had been convicted at the Baltimore city court of stealing four handkerchiefs, for which he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. For a second theft he was sentenced to imprisonment. He had also been convicted of breaking prison, of attempting a stage robbery and wounding the driver, and of shooting at the keeper of the Baltimore penitentiary. He was a native of Baltimore, and Wilson also was an American. They became acquainted in the penitentiary, and were jointly[Pg 282] concerned in the attempt to break out, in which the life of the keeper was endangered. Such were James Porter and his associates.

Porter and Poteet became tired of stealing wee things, for so silver spoons were denominated by Porter, and resolved to rob the Reading mail, in order to make their fortune at once. To prepare for this exploit Porter and Wilson crossed the Schuylkill, on the 20th of November, 1829, and broke into the shop of Mr. Watt, a gunsmith. They took thence five pistols and two powder-flasks. After this the three companions repeatedly practised with their pistols to ascertain their qualities.

On the 6th of December, the mail stage started from Philadelphia at two in the morning, driven by one Samuel M’Crea. There were nine passengers inside, and another on the box with the driver. The night was dark and cloudy. When the stage had got two miles from the city and was nearly opposite Turner’s lane, Porter started from the road-side, took the off leading horse by the head and turned him round. At the same time Wilson and Poteet came up, one on each side of the coach, with presented pistols, bidding the driver stop, “or they would blow his d—d brains out.” He struck the horses with his whip, but could not make them go forward. Poteet then ordered the driver and the passenger who sat beside him to come down. The driver obeyed, and the passenger was about descending, when Porter swore at his comrades for not putting out the lamps. Poteet put out the lamp on his side with the butt of his pistol: Wilson merely broke the glass of the lamp next him. Porter then left the horses’ heads, ran up and dashed the light out with his pistol. He asked the passenger if he had any weapons, and being answered in the negative, took his handkerchief and tied his hands with it. The robbers then rifled the passenger and bound the driver. Poteet asked the driver if he did not think this a very rough introduction. He answered that it was. The robber then asked him if he got his living by stage driving, and he replied that he did, and “it was a hard way too.” “Well,” said[Pg 283] the ruffian, “this is the way we get our living, and ’tis very hard with us sometimes.” While these matters were going on Poteet and Wilson held their pistols in their hands, but Porter, more collected, thrust his into his bosom.

This done, Porter and Poteet went to the doors, while Wilson watched the two bondmen. Porter told the passengers they should receive no injury if they did not resist. A Mr. Clarke proposed to attack the robbers, but was overruled by the rest of the passengers. The gentlemen then concealed some of their valuables. Porter asked if any of them were armed, and being answered in the negative, answered sneeringly, that “it was a pity.”

The thieves next compelled the true men to alight, one by one. Porter searched them, and tied their hands with their kerchiefs. As fast as he tied them he turned them over to Poteet, who kept them quiet with his pistol. One of the passengers, after being tied, asked the robbers for a quid of tobacco, which was put into his mouth by Poteet. Another was very reluctant to part with his watch, which he said had been long in his family, and at his urgent entreaty Poteet restored it. From another, who was a physician, Poteet took the seal of a corporation and a case of lancets, but put them back into the doctor’s pockets on being told what they were. The gentleman then asked Porter for half a dollar to pay for his breakfast, and the robber complied. Another of the passengers asked Porter to restore his papers. “O,” said the ruffian, “I dare say all this business will be published, and then I shall know where to direct the papers. I will send you a letter.”

Mr. Clarke was the last but one who came out of the coach. As Porter was plundering him he said, that if the other passengers had followed his advice they would not have been robbed. “Well done!” replied the robber. “I like to see a man of spunk.” After being tied, Mr. Clarke walked up to Poteet, in order to be able to recognise him if they should meet again. The rogue[Pg 284] bade him stand off. “I hope,” said Mr. Clarke, “you are not afraid of a small man, and he bound too.” “No, sir,” said Poteet, “but I don’t want to be better acquainted with you.” “I hope,” rejoined Mr. Clarke, “that we shall have a longer acquaintance than this yet.” “I hope not, sir,” said Poteet. On Mr. Clarke’s again observing that the passengers would have done better to resist, Porter remarked that if they had, they would have seen the consequences.

After the passengers had all been examined, the robbers took the baggage out of the coach and from before and behind it. They then tried to open the boot in which the mail bags were contained, but finding some difficulty, they compelled the driver to do it. Mr. Clarke now remarked that another stage would soon be along, and this intelligence quickened their proceedings. One of them busied himself in rifling the mails and trunks, while the other two put the passengers into the coach again without untying them. They tied the driver again and lifted him into his seat, after which they tied the leading horses to the fence by the road side. This done, the robbers went off, so softly that neither the driver nor any of the passengers were aware of their departure.

The gentlemen sat still in the coach some minutes after they were gone, till one of them contrived to untie himself, and unbound the rest. After some consultation, it was thought best to return to the city. When they arrived at the post-office a person was despatched to the scene of the robbery, where he found the mail bags cut open and the packages and newspapers scattered around, but the villains had carried away the letters.

On the 16th of December, Wilson carried one of the watches they had taken to Crosswell Holmes, a pawnbroker, and pledged it for twenty dollars. He said he was a carpenter unable to get employment, and was therefore obliged to raise money on his watch. He agreed to pay Mr. Holmes in — days, with two dollars commission, and signed the obligation “John James, North Second street.”

[Pg 285]

On the 21st, Porter carried another watch (a golden one) to a Mr. Prentiss, a pawnbroker, and asked sixty dollars on it. Mr. Prentiss refused to advance more than forty-five, when Porter left him, saying he could get fifty anywhere. On this occasion he represented himself as a carpenter, who wanted money to repair his house. The next day Wilson called on Mr. Prentiss with the same watch, saying the gentleman who owned it had made up his mind to take the forty-five dollars offered, and that he would act as his agent. Mr. Prentiss gave him the money, and wrote a receipt, which Wilson signed “George Brown, for John Keys.”

Nothing occurred to direct suspicion to either of our rogues as the robbers of the mail till the middle of January, when a Mr. Jeffers, a police officer of Baltimore, found reason to believe that Poteet and Wilson were the persons who shot at the keeper of the penitentiary and at the stage driver before mentioned. He sought them, and found Wilson first, in a tavern. The robber drew a pistol from his pocket and bade Mr. Jeffers stand off, but the latter seized him by the wrist and collar and held him till the landlord came into the room. The landlord took the pistol from Wilson at the request of Jeffers, who then asked the culprit for the other, but he denied having any. However, after the police officer had nearly strangled him he gave up another. Mr. Jeffers thrust him into a chair, when he said, “Let me stand up, and I’ll give it to you.” With the landlord’s assistance, Mr. Jeffers took him to a magistrate’s office. He was committed to prison.

The next day Mr. Jeffers visited him, and told him he had heard that two men had offered to pawn a gold watch, and he believed from the description that he was one of them. At the same time he gave Wilson a description of the other man. Wilson replied that it was Porter, and but for him, he, Wilson, would not have been in this difficulty. He added that Porter had a better right to suffer than himself, and he would therefore disclose the whole matter. His story, as told to Mr. Jeffers, was as follows.

[Pg 286]

He had gone out three several times with Porter to rob the Lancaster mail, but his heart failing him, they returned without effecting their purpose. When Porter and Poteet proposed to rob the Reading mail, he would have had nothing to do with it, had he not feared that Porter would kill him if he refused. He then described the robbery, and the part each had taken in it, pretty much as we have related above. While the pillage was going on, he said, he was very anxious to get away, but Porter declared he would not hurry himself. He added that he was sorry he had ever seen Porter. He was steady at work in Philadelphia till he came and seduced him from his employment. He believed Porter would as lief kill a man as eat his breakfast. All this confession took place without any inducement on the part of Jeffers.

This confession put the police of Baltimore on the look-out for Porter and Poteet. On the ninth of February, Mr. Stewart, a constable, met Porter in the street, and accosted him with a question concerning his health. He added that he had been looking for him all day, and must now take him with him. Porter asked him what he wanted, and on what authority he arrested him. The officer replied that he carried his authority in his face, and then asked if he knew Wilson or Poteet, or could tell where they might be found. He denied all knowledge of them, but followed Mr. Stewart quietly to his house. The officer searched him, and took from him a powder-flask and a pair of pistols. Porter asked if he meant to keep them, and the constable replied that he did. Porter very sternly said, “I hope I shall live to buy another pair for somebody.” He admitted before a magistrate that he knew Poteet.

Mr. Stewart conducted Wilson to Philadelphia first, and Porter afterwards. After they got into the stage, Wilson said that he believed his case was hopeless, and that he would plead guilty to every charge brought against him. Mr. Stewart asked him if he were not afraid to undertake to rob a stage so full of passengers. “No,” replied the villain, “three good men could rob a dozen at any time.”

[Pg 287]

Poteet was also arrested, and consented to save his own life by becoming state’s evidence.

Porter’s demeanor after his arrest was marked by that cool courage that seems to have been the only favorable trait in his character. He spoke freely of his past life, without showing the least compunction, and said that if the passengers had resisted, he would not have scrupled to shed blood.

On the 26th of April, 1830, James Porter and George Wilson were brought before the circuit court, and the grand jury presented six bills of indictment against them.

They pleaded not guilty to all these indictments, and applied for separate trials, which was granted.

On the trial Wilson was identified as one of the robbers, by the evidence of some of the passengers, as well as that of Poteet. The watches taken from the passengers, and pawned by him, were produced in court and sworn to. So were the weapons stolen from Mr. Watt’s shop. The other facts relating to the robbery were proved, in substance, as we have given them.

The jury found a verdict of guilty.

Porter was next arraigned, and found guilty on the same evidence. Sentence of death was passed upon him and Wilson. After sentence Porter showed contrition, but suffered with the same hardihood that he had exhibited throughout. We can accord him no pity. He was the master spirit, the ringleader, the captain of a band of highway robbers. He had collected a gang about him, drilled, marshalled, and equipped them, and led them forth to an unholy warfare against the peace and interest of society.

Wilson was pardoned by president Jackson; for what reason, we cannot pretend to divine. The pardon set forth that certain disclosures were expected from him but we never heard that he made any.

Transcriber’s Notes

Obvious errors in punctuation were fixed.

Some of the illustrations were relocated to be closer to the relevant content.

Page 38: “not much dis-disposed” changed to “not much disposed”

Page 74: “question whe- the loss” changed to “question whether the loss”

Page 115: “he ad not made a word” changed to “he had not made a word”

Page 186: “he barricadoed” changed to “he barricaded”

Page 193: “two of the villians” changed to “two of the villains”

Page 233: “considerable innkeeqer” changed to “considerable innkeeper”