Lives Of The Most Remarkable Criminals Who have been Condemned and Executed for Murder, the Highway, Housebreaking, Street Robberies, Coining or other offences
by Arthur L. Hayward
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Peter Levee was descended from honest and reputable parents, who gave him a very good education, and afterwards bound him out apprentice to a silk weaver; but such as the perverse disposition of this unfortunate Lad, such his love of gaming, and such his continual inclination to debauched company, that nothing better could be expected from him than what afterwards befell him. Yet his understanding was very tolerable, he did not want a sufficient share of wit, and in a word his capacity altogether might have enabled him to have lived very well, if his prodigious vices had not prevented it by hurrying him into misfortunes. It was remarkable in this criminal that his long habit of carrying in the detestable trade of stealing, to which he had incurred himself in every shape as much as possible, had given so odd a cast to his visage that it was impossible for a man to look him in the face without immediately guessing him to be a rogue.

While yet a boy, he had been so accustomed to confinement in the Compter, especially in Wood Street, that he had contracted a friendship with all the under-officers in that prison, who treated him with great leniency as often as he came there. Picking pockets, sneaking goods out of shops, snatching them through windows, and such other petty facts, were the employments of his junior years. As he grew bigger, he grew riper in all sorts of villainy, though never a fellow had worse luck in dishonest attempts, for he was always detected, and very frequently had gone through the lesser punishments of the Law, such as whipping and hard labour. At one time he lay four years in Newgate for a fine, and this finished the course of his villainous education, for from the time he got out, he never ceased to practice robbing in the streets, and on the roads to the villages near London, until he and his companions fell into the hands of Justice, and went altogether to their last adventure at Tyburn.

John Featherby, the second of these criminals, had received a greater share of education than any of the rest. His father had been a man of tolerable circumstances, and with great care provided that this young fellow should not be ignorant of anything that might be necessary or convenient for him to know in that business for which he designed him, viz., a coach-painter. But he did not live to see him put apprentice to it, which his mother afterwards took care to do, and consequently he had not the misfortune of seeing him live so scandalous a life, and die so shameful a death.

His understanding was tolerable, but his behaviour so rude, boisterous and shocking that he left no room even for that compassion to which all men are naturally prone when they see persons under sentence of death. The desire of appearing brave and making the figure of a hero in low life was in all probability the occasion of his acting so odd a part, and as he was generally looked upon as their chief by those unfortunate creatures who were of his gang, possibly he put on this ferocity in his manner in order to support his authority, and preserve that respect and superiority of which these wretches are observed to be inexpressibly fond.

Stephen Burnet, alias Barnet, alias Barnham, which was his true name, was a child when he died, and a thief almost from his cradle. His parents, who were people of worth, sent him to school with a design, doubtless, that he should have acquired some good there; but Stephen made use of that time to visit a master of his own choosing, the celebrated Mr. Jonathan Wild, at whose levy he was a pretty constant attendant and while an infant he was a most assiduous companion and assistant to the famous Blueskin.

My readers may be perhaps inquisitive how an infant of eight years old could in any way assist a person of Blueskin's profession. For their information, then, perhaps for their security, I must inform them that while Blueskin and one of his companions bought a pair of stockings, or two or three pairs of gloves in a large Shop, Stephen used to creep on all fours under the counter, and march off with goods perhaps to the value of ten, twelve, or twenty pounds. But, alas, he was not the youngest of Mr. Wild's scholars. I myself have seen a boy of six years old tried at the Old Bailey for stealing the rings of an oyster women's fingers as she sat asleep by her tub, and after his being acquitted by the compassion of the jury, Jonathan took him from the bar, and carrying him back upon the leads, lifted him up in his arms, and turning to the spectators, said, Here's a cock of the game for you, of my own breeding up.

But to return to Barnham. His friends no sooner found out the villainy of his inclinations, but they took all methods imaginable to wean him from his vices. They corrected him severely; they offered him any encouragements on his showing the least visible sign of amendment, they put him to seven several trades upon liking. But all this was to no purpose, nothing could persuade him to forsake his old trade, which following with indefatigable industry, he made a shift to reach the gallows of an old offender, at almost nineteen years of age.

After he, Featherby, Vaux and Levee became acquainted, they suffered no time to be lost in perpetrating such facts as were most likely to supply them with money, roving abroad almost every night, in quest of adventures and returning very seldom without some considerable prey. Perhaps my readers may be inquisitive as to what became of all this money. Why, really, it was spent in drink, gaming and in whores, three articles which ran so high amongst these knight-errants in low life that Barnham and two more found a way to lavish an hundred and twenty pounds on them in three weeks.

On one of his nocturnal expeditions, in company with Levee and Featherby, they robbed one Mr. Brown, in Dean's Court by St. Paul's Churchyard, of a gold watch and thirteen guineas; upon which the gentleman thought fit, it seems, to offer in the newspapers a reward of five guineas for restoring the watch. Not many days after, he received a penny-post epistle from Mr. Barnham, in which he was told that if he came to a field near Sadler's Wells, and brought the promised reward of five guineas along with him, he should there meet a single person at half an hour after six precisely, who would restore him his watch without doing him any injury whatsoever. At the time appointed the gentleman went thither, found Barnham walking alone, well dressed with a laced hat on, who immediately came up to him, and receiving the five guineas presented him with his watch.

Mr. Brown having no more to do with him, immediately turned round about to go back, upon which Barnham produced a pistol ready cocked from under his coat. You see, says he, it is in my power to rob you again; but I scorn to break my word of honour. Levee and Featherby, it seems, were posted pretty near and, as they all declared, intended to have shot the gentleman if he had brought anybody with him, or had made the least opposition or noise.

At Kingston assizes he was tried for a robbery committed in Surrey, but for want of sufficient evidence was acquitted, upon which he returned immediately to his old trade. About three months before he was apprehended for the last time, he came into Little Britain (the place where he was born), produced a silver spoon and fifteen shillings in money, declared it to be the effects of that day's exploits, and then climbing up a lamp-post, thrust his head through the iron circle in which in winter time the lamp is placed, declaring to the neighbours who called him and advised him to reform, that within three months he would do something that should bring him to be hanged in the same place. As to the time he was not mistaken, though he was a little out as to the manner and place of his execution, and we mention this fact only to show the amazing wickedness of so young a man, of which we shall hereafter have occasion to say a great deal more.

Thomas Vaux was a fellow of no education at all. Whether he had been bred to any employment or not I am not able to say, but that which he followed was sweeping of chimneys, the profits of which he eked out with thefts, in which he continued undiscovered for a long space of time. In himself he was a fellow void of almost every good quality, disliked even by his own companions for his brutal behaviour which he still kept up even under his misfortunes, and ceased not to behave with an obstinate perverseness even to the last moment of his life.

The fact for which all this gang suffered was for robbing one Mr. Clark, at the corner of Water Lane, in Fleet Street,[82] which at their trial, was proved upon them by witnesses in the following manner:

Mr. Clark, the prosecutor, deposed that going in a coach from St. Paul's to the Inner Temple, he saw three or four persons dogging it from a toy-shop at the corner of St. Paul's Churchyard; that he scarce lost sight of them until he came to the end of Water Lane, where Barnham and Vaux stopped the coach; he then looked out and saw them very plainly. Levee stepped into the coach, put his hand into his pocket, and tore his breeches down in taking out the things; Featherby all the while holding a pistol to his breast The things they took from him were a silver watch, value four pounds, a diamond ring, three pounds eleven shillings in silver and fourteen guineas.

Then the confessions of Levee and Barnham before Sir William Billers, Knight and Alderman, were read, in which they owned that they committed the robbery on Mr. Clark, and that Featherby and Vaux assisted therein. Sir William also attested that they made the said confession freely and without any promises made, or being threatened in case of refusal. Thomas Wood swore that going to apprehend Featherby and one Cable, in a house in Blue Boar's Head Alley, in Barbican, they both snapped their pistols at him, but that neither of them went off.

Mary Vaux, wife of the prisoner Thomas Vaux, having first excused herself from giving any testimony against her husband, deposed that she saw the rest of the prisoners commit the robbery at the end of Water Lane, and that Levee got into the coach. Upon which evidence taken altogether the jury found them guilty without going out of the Court.

When they received sentence of death, they all behaved themselves very audaciously, except Levee who appeared penitent, and excused himself of the misbehaviour he had been guilty of at his trial. During the time they remained under sentence of death in Newgate, this last mentioned criminal, Levee, appeared truly sensible of that miserable state in which he was. He attended the public devotion at Chapel with great seriousness, except when his audacious companions pulled him and disturbed him, when he would sometimes smile. As he had passed through the former part of his life without thought or reflection, so he seemed now awakened all at once to a just sense of his sins. In a word, he did every thing which so short a space could admit of, to convince those who saw him that he minded only the great business he had to do, viz., the making of his peace with that God who he had so much offended.

Featherby, as has been said, persisted in that brutal behaviour for which he had been remarkable amongst his gang. At chapel he disturbed the congregation by throwing sticks at a gentleman, laughing and talking to his companions, sometimes insulting and beating those who were near him, and in fine encouraged the rest of his companions to behave in such a manner that the keepers were reduced to the necessity of causing them all four to be chained and nailed down in the old condemned hold, for fear of their committing some murder or other before they died, which they often threatened they would do. There they continued for three or four days, until upon the promise of amendment and behaving better for the future, they were released, brought back again to their respective cells, and at times of public devotion up to chapel.

When the death warrant came down, Featherby pretended to be much more moved than could be expected, seemed in dreadful agonies at the remembrance of his former wicked and impudent behaviour, prayed with great fervency, and said he hoped that God would yet have mercy on him. Barnham continued unmoved to the last. He did, indeed, abstain from ill-language and disturbing people at chapel, but employed his time in his cell, in composing a song to celebrate the glorious actions of himself and his companions. This was work he very much valued himself upon, and sending for the person who usually prints the dying speeches, he desired it might be inserted, but it containing incitements to their companions to go on in the same trade, in the strongest terms he was capable of framing them in, his design was frustrated, and they were not published.

Vaux behaved a little more civilly after their being stapled down in the condemned hold, but throughout the time of his confinement appeared to be a very obstinate and incorrigible fellow. Levee was twenty-four years old; Featherby about the same age; Barnham near nineteen; and Vaux twenty-three, at the time they suffered, being on the 11th of November, 1728, in company with nine other malefactors.

A Paper written by Featherby's own hand, which he delivered to the Ordinary of Newgate in the Chapel immediately before they went to be executed.

As it is my sad misfortune to come to this untimely end, I think it my duty to acknowledge the justice of Almighty God, and that of my country, and I humbly implore pardon of the Divine Goodness, and forgiveness of all that I have injured, or any ways offended. It is a sad reflection upon my spirit that I have had the blessing and advantage of honest and pious parents, whose tender care provided for my education, so that I might have lived to God's glory, their comfort and my own lasting felicity. But I take shame to myself, and humbly acknowledge that by the evil ways I of late followed I neglected my duty to my great Creator, and brought grief to my dear and tender mother. And having thus far, and much more, effended against God and man, I hope and earnestly desire, that no prudent nor charitable person will reflect upon my good mother, or any other friend or relation for my shameful end.

John Featherby


[82] Now called Whitefriars Street.

The Life of THOMAS NEEVES, Street-Robber and Thief

There are some persons so amazingly destitute of reason, so exceedingly stupid, and of so sleepy a disposition of mind, that neither advice, nor danger, nor punishment are capable of awaking them; they pass through life in a continual lethargy of wickedness, nor can they be obliged to open their eyes even when at the point of death.

How shocking, how horrid soever such a character may be, certain it is that the criminal Neeves, of whom we are now speaking, deserved no better. His parents, though mean, had not omitted the care of his education so far but that he had learned to read and write, which they thought qualification sufficient for the business in which they intended to breed him, viz., a cane chair-maker, to which employment they put him apprentice. He did not serve out his time with his master, for having got into an acquaintance with some lewd, debauched persons, he, whose inclination from his youth turned that way, went totally into all their measures, and quitting all thoughts of an honest livelihood, thought of nothing but picking and stealing.

He associated himself with a woman of the same calling, who probably furthered him in all his attempts, in consideration of which he married her, and they were both together in Newgate for their several offences. In the former part of this volume[83] we have mentioned his becoming a witness against several street-robbers, who were executed upon his evidence; of whom George Gale, alias Kiddy George, Thomas Crowder, James Toon, and John Hornby, denied the commission of those particular facts which he swore upon them, and Richard Nichols (who was a grave sober man) went to death and took it upon his salvation, that he was never concerned either in that act for which he died, or in any other of the same kind during the course of his life.

As the town naturally abhors perjuries which affect men's lives, and are not very well affected towards evidences even when they do not exceed the truth, so the misfortune of Neeves being a second time apprehended, instead of creating pity, gave the public a general satisfaction. At the sessions following his confinement he was indicted for privately stealing out of the shop of Charles Lawrence a corduroy coat value thirteen shillings. In respect of this robbery, the prosecutor deposed that Thomas Neeves, about seven in the evening, came into his shop, he being a salesman, and enquired for a dimity waistcoat; one accordingly was shown him, but they not at all agreeing in the price, Neeves on a sudden turned towards the door, and having with some earnestness cursed the prosecutor, snatched up a coat and ran away. Upon which Mr. Lawrence followed him, crying out, Stop Thief! which Neeves himself also bawled out as loud as he could until he was taken. Upon this evidence the jury found him guilty.

Under sentence of death his behaviour was much of a piece with what it was before. As to his confession, he would make none, saying he would give no occasion for books or ballads to be made about him. Even in chapel he behaved himself so rudely that he occasioned great disturbance, and put the keepers under a necessity of treating him with more severity than was usual to persons under his miserable condition. When alone in his cell he expressed great diffidence of the mercy of God, seemed to be in a slate of despair, and though he was often pressed to declare whether depositions he had given against the afore-mentioned street robbers were true or not, he either waived making an answer, or used so much evasion or equivocation that it still remained doubtful whether he swore truth or no.

As his end drew yet nearer, he appeared more and more confused and uneasy, but not a bit more penitent or ready to confess, notwithstanding that several persons, and some of them of distinction had applied to him in the cells and earnestly exhorted him to that purpose. He also drank excessively, though so near his end, and his conscience so loaded with such a weight of horrible offences.

Yet it is very probable that he would have been much more tractable in his temper and ingenuous in his confessions, if he had not been continually visited and kept warm by a certain bad woman he at that time owned for his wife. This wretched creature was employed by some persons who thought themselves in danger if Neeves should once become truly penitent, to keep him full of idle thoughts and delusive promises to the very hour of his death, in which (from the temper of the fellow), they flattered themselves his cowardice would make them safe. In which wicked design both they and she succeeded but too well, for he continued careless, obstinate and impenitent to the last moment of his life, and at the place of execution staggered and was scarce able to stand, bawling out to a man in a coach who was to carry away his body, until the Ordinary reprimanded him and told him he believed he had drunk too much that morning; to which Neeves answered, No indeed, Sir, I only took a dram. He then besought him that a Psalm might be sung, which request of his being complied with, he yet could not forbear smiling while they were singing.

The father and wife of Mr. Nichols, the barber so often mentioned, got into the cart and earnestly enquired whether the deposition he had given against him was the truth or not. Neeves, thereupon, with tears in his eyes owned that it was not, and thence fell into a greater agony than he had ever been perceived in before, beseeching God to have mercy on him for shedding innocent blood, into which he had been induced by the persuasion of others, who represented it to him as a means for getting money both for them and him, owning that he never saw Nichols in his life before they were at the justices together. After this he cried two or three times unto God to forgive him, and so was turned off with the rest on the 27th of February, 1729, being then about twenty-eight years of age.


[83] See page 445.

The Lives of HENRY GAHOGAN and ROBERT BLAKE, Coiners

Notwithstanding the number of those who have been executed for this offence, yet of late years we have had frequent instances of persons who rather than groan under the burden of poverty or labour hard to get an honest livelihood, have chosen this method of supplying their extravagances and consequently have run their heads into a halter.

Henry Gahogan, an Irishman of mean parents (who had however bestowed so much education upon him that he attained writing a very fair hand), in order to get his bread set up the business of a writing-master in that part of Ireland, where there were few masters to strive against him. Here he behaved for some time so well, that he got the reputation of being an honest industrious young man; but whether business fell off, or that his roving temper could no longer be kept within bounds, the papers I have do not authorise me to determine.

He went upon his travels, and passed through a great part of Europe in the quality, as may be conjectured, of a gentleman's servant, until two or three years before his death, about which time he brought over the art of coining into England, which he had been taught by a countryman of his, as an easy and certain resource whenever his difficulties should straiten him so far as to make its assistance necessary. This happened no very long time after his coming over thence, for in a short time his extravagancies reduced him so much that one of his countrymen thought he did him a great service in recommending him to one Blake, for an usher, which Blake at that time set up to teach young gentlemen to fence, having a school for that purpose near the Temple.

Thither Gahogan came accordingly, and after staying for two days successively, and finding no scholars came, he opened the case to his master that was to have been and told him how easy it was to get money and live well, provided they had but utensils for coining, and soon after he showed him a specimen of his art, which he performed so dexterously that at first sight they promised themselves prodigious matters therefrom. They engaged one Ferris, who formerly had wrote as a clerk to a gentleman of Lincoln's Inn and the Temple, but adventuring to trust another person with that secret, he soon after made a confession and impeached them all. Upon which this Gahogan, Blake and the before-mentioned Ferris, together with two women, came to be tried for this offence on an indictment of high treason.

The evidence was very clear, and notwithstanding the assurance with which Blake and Gahogan behaved at the bar, and the perplexed defence which was made by Ferris (who fancied himself so sure of being acquitted that he directed horses to be hired in order to his going down to a country assizes, there to assist as solicitor for a notorious offender), the jury, after a short stay, brought them in guilty, but acquitted the women, of whom the one was the mother of this Gahogan and the other the mistress or wife of the said Robert Blake, of whom we are next to speak.

He was by birth also of the Kingdom of Ireland, his parents being people of some condition, who gave him a very good education and afterwards put him out apprentice to a linendraper. After he was out of his time he married a woman with some little fortune, by whom he had three children, and after misusing her greatly, went away from her into England. Here he led a loose, debauched life, and subsisted himself, to give it the best phrase, rather upon the ingenuity of his head than the industry of his hands. Here he found means to draw aside a farmer's daughter, to whom he was married, and whom he involved so far in his misfortunes, as to bring her to the bar with himself for high treason, where her marriage was so far of service to her that it excused her from bearing a share in his conviction.

After they were found guilty, Gahogan expressed much penitence and sorrow, acknowledged the heinous offences of which he had been guilty, and expressed particular concern for the ill-usage he had given his poor mother, whom he had often beaten and abused, for whom he was once committed to Bridewell on that score, which effectually ruined what little reputation be had left. Before the day of execution came he was exceedingly poor and destitute, so that he had scarce clothes wherewith to cover him, or food sufficient to preserve that life which was so suddenly to be finished at the gallows. As far as we are able to judge from the man's outward behaviour, he was a sincere and hearty penitent, only it was with great difficulty he forgave the persons concerned in his prosecution, which however at last he declared he did, and passed with great resignation and piety, though by a violent death from this world to another, and we may charitably hope, a better.

As to Blake, his behaviour was not so much of a piece at first, but when he perceived death inevitable, notwithstanding his having procured a reprieve for a week, and thereby escaped dying with his companion Gahogan, the prospect of his approaching dissolution wrought so far upon him that with much seeming penitence he made a frank confession of all his offences, reflecting chiefly on himself for having deserted his wife, and living for so many years with other women. When the week for which he had procured a reprieve was expired, he was carried alone on a hurdle, which is usual in cases of high treason, and being come to the place of execution he stood up and spoke to those who were present in the following terms:

Good People,

I am brought here justly to suffer death for an offence the nature of which I did not so well comprehend at the time I committed it. I have been the greatest of all sinners, addicted to every kind of lust, and guilty of every manner of crime, excepting that of murder only. You that are assembled here to see the unfortunate exit of an unhappy man, take warning from my fate, and avoid falling into those extravagancies which necessarily bring persons to those straits which have forced me upon taking undue courses for a supply. This is the end proposed by the Law for making me a spectacle, and I pray God with my last breath that you may make that use of it.

After this he betook himself to some private devotions, and then suffered with great constancy and resignation of mind. He was executed on the 31st of March, 1729, being then about thirty-eight years of age. Gahogan died on the 24th of the same month, being then thirty years of age.

The Life of PETER KELLEY, alias OWEN, alias NISBET, a Murderer

Whether there be really any gradation in crimes, or whether we do not mistake in supposing the transgression of one Law of God more heinous than that of another, would be a point too difficult and too abstract for us to enter into, but as human nature is more shocked at the shedding of blood than at any other offence, we may be allowed to treat those who are guilty of it as bloody and unnatural men, who besides their losing all respect towards the laws of God, show also a want of that compassion and tenderness which seems incident to the human species.

The unhappy person of whom we are now to speak, was by birth an Irishman, and his true name Mackhuen, but upon his coming over into England he thought fit to change it for Owen, thereby inclining to avoid being taken for any other person than an Englishman. His parents were, it seems, persons so low in the world that they could not afford him any education, so that he was unable either to write or read at the time of his death. However, they put him out apprentice to a weaver, with whom having served his time, he came over to England, and worked for a little time at his trade. But growing idle, and being always inclined to sotting, he chose rather to go errands, or to do anything rather than work any longer.

It seems he played with great dexterity upon two jews' harps at a time, and this serving to entertain people of as loose and idle a disposition as himself, he thereby got a good deal of money, or least drink (which was to him all one, for without it he could not live), and his delight in an alehouse was so great that he seldom cared to be out of it. People in such houses finding they got money by his playing upon the jews' harp, and thereby keeping people longer at the pot than otherwise they were inclined to stay, used to encourage Peter by helping him to errands; but amongst all the persons who were so kind as to supply his necessities, there was one Nisbet, an old joiner in the neighbourhood, who was never weary of doing him kindnesses. Having repeated these often and for a long time together, Kelley at last began to call the old man father, and there seemed to be an inviolable friendship between them, Peter always preserving some respect towards him, though he seemed to have lost it towards everybody else.

One night, however, or rather morning, for it was near two o'clock, Kelley came with many signs of terror and confusion to the watch-house, and there told the constable and attendants that old Nisbet was murdered and lay weltering in his bed and a razor by him. The watch, knowing Peter to be a wild, half-witted drunken fellow, gave little heed to his discourse, and so far they were from crediting it that they turned him out of the watch-house, and bid him get about his business. In the morning old Nisbet's lodgers not hearing him stir at his usual hour, went to the door, and there made a noise in order to awake him. Having no answer upon that, they sent for a proper officer and broke the door open, where they found the old man with his throat cut in a most barbarous fashion, overflowed with the torrent of his own blood, which was yet warm. No sooner did the particulars of this horrid murder begin to make a noise, but the watch calling to mind what Kelley had told them, immediately suspected him for the murder, and caused him quickly to be apprehended and committed to Newgate.

On the trial the strongest circumstances imaginable appeared against him, so much that the jury, without much hesitation, found him guilty, and he, after a pathetic speech from the Bench, of the nature and circumstances of his bloody crime, received sentence of death with the rest. Under conviction he appeared a very stupid creature, though as far as his capacity would give him leave he showed all imaginable signs of penitence and sorrow, and attended with great gravity and devotion at the public service in the chapel, notwithstanding he professed himself to be in the communion of the Church of Rome. He acknowledged the deceased Mr. Nisbet to have been extraordinarily kind and charitable to him, even to as great a degree as if he had been his own child, but as to the murder, he flatly denied his committing it, or his having any knowledge of its being committed; and though he was strongly pressed as to the nature of those circumstances on which the jury had found him guilty, and which were so strong as to persuade all mankind that their verdict was just, yet he continued still in the same mind, protesting his own clearness from that bloody and detestable crime. In this disposition of mind he suffered at Tyburn, being at that time about forty years of age or somewhat under.

The Lives of WILLIAM MARPLE and TIMOTHY COTTON, Highwaymen

That violence with which, in this age, young people pursue the gratification of their passions without considering how far they therein violate the laws of God and their country, is the common and natural source of those many and great afflictions which fall upon them; and though they do now always bring them to such exemplary punishment as befel the criminal whose memoirs we have undertaken to transmit to posterity, yet they fail not of making them exceedingly uneasy and grievously unhappy, consequences unavoidably entailed on these destructive pleasures, so contrary to the nature of man's soul, and so derogatory from that excellence to the attainment of which he was created. Although one would imagine these observations must naturally occur at some time or other to the minds of persons who ever think at all concerning the design of their own being yet experience convinces us that they very seldom do, and if they do, they make but very little impression.

William Marple, the first of these criminals, was descended from parents of very tolerable fortune, as well as unblemished reputation. Their care had not only gone so far in providing him with useful and common learning, but had also been careful in bestowing on him an excellent education in schools both in town and country. The use he made of them you will quickly hear, which cannot however be mentioned as a reflection on his unhappy parents, who were as industrious to have him taught good, as he was in pursuing evil.

When he grew to years capable of being put out to business, the unsettled giddiness of his temper sufficiently appeared, for being put out to three several trades at his own request, he could not bring himself to any of them, but went at last to a fourth which was that of a joiner, with whom he stayed a considerable space. But before the expiration of his time he fell in love with a young woman and married her, which coming with other stories to his master's ears, occasioned such difference that they parted.

Marple was prodigiously fond of his new married wife, and what is a pretty rare circumstance in this age, his fondness proved the greatest advantage possible to him, for the young woman being in herself both virtuous and industrious, her temper (as it is natural for us to imitate what we love) made so great an impression upon Marple that from a wild, loose and extravagant young man, he became a sober, diligent and honest workman, labouring hard to get his bread, and living at home with his wife in the greatest tranquility and with the utmost satisfaction. But the agreeable beauty of this scene was soon darkened, or rather totally destroyed, by the death of his wife; for no sooner were the transports of his melancholy over than he returned to his old course of life. And in order to efface effectually that grief which still hung over him, he removed out of town to an adjacent village, where he quickly contracted an intimate acquaintance with a young woman, and thereby almost at once put all thoughts of sorrow and honesty quite out of his head. This creature was of a very different disposition from Marple's late wife. She had no regard for the man, farther than she was able to get money out of him; and provided she had wherewith to buy her fine clothes and keep her in handsome lodgings, she gave herself no trouble how he came by it, and this carriage of hers in a short time put him upon illegal methods of obtaining money.

Who were his first companions in his robberies is not in my power to say; it was generally looked upon that one Rouden seduced him, but Marple declared this to be false, and perhaps the best account that can be given is that he was led to it by his own evil inclinations, and his necessities in which they had brought him. However it were, during the time he practised going upon the road nobody committed more robberies than he himself did, preying alike upon all sorts of people, and taking from the poor what little they had, as well as plundering the rich of what they could much better spare.

In Marylebone Fields he and his companion Cotton met with a poor woman with a basket on her head, who gained her livelihood by selling joints of meat to gentlemen's families. The first thing they did was to search her basket, in which there was a fine leg of mutton, which these gentlemen thought fit to dress and eat next day for dinner. They then commanded her to deliver her money, which she declared was a thing out of her power, because she had none about her; upon which they took her pocket and turned it out, where finding seven shillings, Marple struck and abused the woman for daring to tell him a lie.

Amongst the rest of the acquaintance that Marple picked up, was a young man who had a very rich uncle who, though he was very willing to do anything which might be for the real good of his nephew, did not think it at all reasonable to waste his fortune in the supply of the young man's extravagances. This spark, with another, acquainted Marple how easy a thing it would be to rob the old man of a considerable sum of money. They readily came into the project, and accordingly it was put into execution; Marple and the nephew actually committing the robbery, and the other man standing at the door till they came out. The booty they got was about thirty-six guineas, which they divided into three parts. In a very short time, Marple was apprehended and committed to Newgate for this very fact. However, the old man would not prosecute him, because he would not expose his relation.

Yet this was no warning to Marple who continued his old trade, and committed thirty or forty robberies in a very short space. Drinking was a vice he abhorred, and the chief cause for which he addicted himself to this life of rapine was his associating himself with all sorts of lewd women, amongst whom he became acquainted with the infamous Elizabeth Lion,[84] mistress to Jack Shepherd, who grew quickly too impudent and abusive for Marple's conversation, for when he fell under his misfortunes he declared that she was the vilest and most abominable wretch that ever lived. However, to the immodest, lascivious carriage of this woman, he owed the sudden dislike he took to that sort of cattle; which became so strong that he no longer frequented their company, but married a second wife, a young woman of a handsome person, of a good character, and who, as he said, was totally ignorant of the measures he took for getting money.

Timothy Cotton, the second of these malefactors, was descended of mean, yet honest parents, who in his infancy had not spared to give him a very good education, and bred him to get an honest livelihood to the trade of a poulterer. In this, when he grew up, he was for a time very industrious, and got thereby sufficient to have maintained himself and his family, as well as he could reasonably expect; but happening unluckily to call into the acquaintance and conversation of lewd women, they soon took up so much of his thoughts, his time and his money, that he was obliged to think of easier methods of getting it than those to which hitherto he had applied himself. For it is a truth deducible from uninterrupted experience that a whore is not to be maintained at the same easy expense with a wife. Cotton found this to his cost, for he had not committed above five robberies, of which three were with his companion Marple, who had been his schoolfellow, before he was apprehended.

The first of their exploits, I have already told you, was plundering the poor woman's basket. The second was upon the Hampstead Road, where they stopped the coach and robbed the passengers. Three gentlemen coming by on horseback, Marple presented his pistol, and commanded them to ride off as hard as they could; but the fear with which they were seized made them so far mistake his words as to apprehend he bid them deliver, and so they went very readily to work, putting their hands into their pockets to satisfy his demands. But Marple having no guess of their intention, and perceiving them to stand still, repeated his order to them to ride off, with greater vehemency than before, which as soon as they apprehended they very readily complied with, and rode off as hard as their horses would carry them. A little while after this they robbed one Stout, who was servant to Captain Trevor, of his hat, two pounds of butter, his buckles, five and sixpence in money, and some other trivial things. For this fact they were both apprehended, and at the next sessions at the Old Bailey tried and convicted upon very full evidence.

Under sentence of death Marple appeared with less concern than is usually seen in persons under such unfortunate circumstances. He however confessed a multitude of offences with which he was not charged, as well as that particular crime for which he was convicted. He said he had never any strong inclination to drunkenness or gaming, but that addicting himself to the company and conversation of bad women had been the sole occasion of all his misfortunes. He particularly regretted his want of respect towards his parents, and especially towards his mother, who had given him the best of advice, though he had trifled with and abused it. He said that he often struck and abused those whom he robbed, but not so as to endanger their lives, and therefore he hoped they would forgive him, and join their prayers with his for his forgiveness at the hand of God.

Cotton was more tender and more penitent, expressed great sorrow for his numerous offences, and besought Almighty God to accept of a sincere, though late repentance. They both of them protested that their wives had not anything to do with their affairs, that they never advised them, nor were so much as privy to the offences they had committed. Then both of them suffered with much penitence and resignation, on the 24th of March, 1729, Marple being about thirty, and Cotton near twenty-five years of age.


[84] See page 182.

The Life of JOHN UPTON, a Pirate; including also the history of that sort of people, particularly the crew under Captain Cooper, in the Night Rambler

No laws in any civilized nations are more severe than those against piracy, nor are they less severely executed, and the criminals who suffer by them are usually the least pitied, or rather the most detested of all who come to die an ignominious death by the sentence of the Law. Of old they were styled hostes humani generis, and the oldest systems we have of particular institutions have treated them with a rigor suitable to their offence. With respect to those who fall into the hands of British justice, it must be remarked that they usually plead as an excuse for what they have done their being forced into pirates' service, and as it is well known that numbers are really forced into crimes they detest, so the lenience of our judicators generally admit whatever proofs are probable in such a case. But where the contrary appears, and the acts of piracy plainly arise from the wicked dispositions of the offenders, the Royal Mercy is less frequently extended to them than to any other sort of criminal whatever.

As to the prisoner of whom we are to speak, John Upton was born at Deptford, of very honest parents who gave him such an education as fitted their station, and that in which they intended to breed him. When grown up to be a sturdy youth, they put him out apprentice to a waterman, with whom he served out his time faithfully, and with a good character. Afterwards he went to sea and served for twenty-eight years together on board a man-of-war, in the posts of either boatswain or quartermaster. Near the place of his birth he married a woman, took a house and lived very respectably with her during the whole course of her life, but she dying while he was at sea, and finding at his return that his deceased wife had run him greatly in debt, clamours coming from every quarter, and several writs being issued out against him, he quitted the service in the man-of-war, and went immediately in a merchantman to Newfoundland. There by agreement he was discharged from the ship and entered himself for eighteen pounds per annum into the service of a planter in that country in order to serve him in fishing and furring, the chief trade of that place; for Newfoundland abounding with excellent harbours, there is no country in the world which affords so large and so plentiful a fishery as this does. However its climate renders it less desirable, it being extremely hot in the summer and as intensely cold in the winter, when the wild beasts roam about in great numbers, and furnish thereby an opportunity to the inhabitants of gaining considerably by falling them, and selling their furs.

Upton having served his year out was discharged from his master, and going to New England, he there, in the month of July, 1725, shipped himself on board the Perry merchantman bound for Barbadoes. The ship was livred and loaded again, the captain designing them to sail for England, whereupon Upton desired leave to go on board his Majesty's ship Lynn, Captain Cooper. But Captain King absolutely refusing to discharge him in order thereto, on the ninth of November, 1725, he sailed in the aforesaid vessel for England.

On the twelfth of the same month, off Dominica, they were attacked by a pirate sloop called the Night Rambler, under the command of one Cooper. The pirate immediately ordered the captain of the Perry galley to come on board his ship, which he and four of his men did, and the pirate immediately sent some of his crew on board the Perry galley, who effectually made themselves masters thereof, and as Upton said, used him and the rest of the persons they found on board with great inhumanity and baseness, a thing very common amongst those wretches. Upton also insisted that as to himself, one of the pirate's crew ran up to him as soon as they came on board and with a cutlass in his hand, said with an oath, You old son of a bitch, I know you and you shall go along with us or I'll cut out your liver, and thereupon fell to beating him fore and aft the deck with his cutlass.

The same evening he was carried on board the pirate sloop, where, according to his journal, three of the pirates attacked him; one with a pistol levelled at his forehead demanded whether he would sign their articles, another with a pistol at his right ear, swore that if he did not they would blow out his brains, while a third held a couple of forks at his breast, and terrified him with the continual apprehensions of having them stabbed into him. Whereupon he told them that he had four young infants in England, to whom he thought it his duty to return, and therefore begged to be excused as having reason to decline their service, as well as a natural dislike to their proceedings. Upon which, he said, he called his captain to take notice that he did not enter voluntarily amongst them. Upon this the pirate said they found out a way to satisfy themselves by signing for him, and this, he constantly averred, was the method of his being taken into the crew of the Night Rambler, where he insisted he did nothing but as he was commanded, received no share in the plunder, but lived wholly on the ship's allowance, being treated in all respect as one whom force and not choice had brought amongst them.

But to return to the Perry galley, which the pirates carried to the Island of Aruba, a maroon or uninhabited island, or rather sand bank, where they sat the crew ashore and left them for seventeen days without any provision, except that the surgeon of the pirate now and then brought them something in his pocket by stealth. On the tenth of December the pirates saw a sail which proved to be a Dutch sloop, which they took, and on board this Upton and two others who had been forced as well as himself were put, from whence as he said, they made their escape. After abundance of misfortunes and many extraordinary adventures, he got on board his Majesty's ship Nottingham, commanded by Captain Charles Cotterel, where he served for two years in the quality of quartermaster. He was then taken up and charged with piracy, upon which he was indicted at an Admiralty sessions held in the month of May, 1729, when the evidence at his trial appeared so strong that after a short stay the jury found him guilty.

But his case having been very differently represented, I fancy my readers will not be displeased if I give them an exact account of the proofs produced against him.

The first witness who was called on the part of the Crown was Mr. Dimmock, who had been chief mate on board the Perry galley, and he deposed in the following terms:

On the twelfth of November, 1725, we sailed from Barbadoes on the Perry galley bound for England. On the 14th, about noon, we were taken by the Night Rambler, pirate sloop, one Cooper commander. Our captain and four men were ordered on board the pirate sloop, part of the pirate's crew coming also on board the Perry. Wherein they no sooner entered, but the prisoner at the bar said, Lads, are ye come? I'm glad to see ye; I have been looking out for ye for a great while. Whereupon the pirates saluted him very particularly, calling him by his name, and the prisoner was as busy as any of the rest in plundering and stripping the ship on board of which he had served, and the rest who belonged to it, the very next day after being made boatswain of the pirate. The same day I was carried on board the pirate sloop, tied to the gears and received two hundred lashes with a cat o' nine tails which the prisoner Upton had made for that purpose; after which they pickled me, and the prisoner Upton stabbed me in the head near my ear with a knife, insomuch that I could not lay my head upon a pillow for fourteen days, but was forced to support it upon my hand against the table; and when some of the pirate's crew asked me how I did, upon my answering that I was as bad as a man could be and live, the prisoner, Upton, said D——n him, give him a second reward.

It was also further deposed by the same gentleman that at the island of Aruba, the prisoner was very busy in stripping the Perry galley of the most useful and valuable parts of her rigging, carrying them on board the pirate, and making use of them there. He had also in his custody several things of value, and particularly wearing apparel, belonging to one Mr. Furnell, a passenger belonging to the said Perry galley; and when it was debated amongst the pirates, and afterwards put to the vote, whether the crew of the said galley should have their vessel again or no, John Upton was not only against them, but also proposed burning the said vessel, and tying the captain and mate to one of the masts in order to their being burnt too.

Mr. Eaton, the second mate of the ship, was the next witness called. He confirmed all that had been sworn by Mr. Dimmock, adding that the day they were taken the pirates asked if he would consent to sign their articles, which he refused. Whereupon they put a rope about his neck, and hoisted him up to the yard's arm, so that he totally lost his senses. He recovered them by some of the pirate's crew pricking him in the fleshy parts of his body, while others beat him with the flat of their swords. As soon as they perceived he was a little come to himself they put the former question to him, whether he would sign their articles. He answered, No, a second time. One of the crew thereupon snatched up a pistol, and swore he would shoot him through the head; but another of them said, No, d——n him, that's too honourable a death; he shall be hanged. Upon this they pulled him up by the rope again, and treated him with many other indignities, and at last in the captain's cabin, pulled a cap over his eyes and clapped a pistol to his head; then he expected nothing but immediate death, a person having almost jabbed his eye out with the muzzle of the pistol, but at last they did let him go. He swore, also, that when the pirates' articles were presented to him to sign, he saw there the name of John Upton, he being well acquainted with his hand.

Mr. Furnell, a passenger in the ship, was the third evidence against the prisoner. He deposed to the same effect with the other two, adding that John Upton was more cruel and barbarous to them than any of the other pirates, insomuch that when they were marooned, and under the greatest necessities for food, Upton said, D——n them, let them be starved, and was the most active of all the rest in taking the goods, and whatever he could lay his hands on out of the Perry galley.

In his defence the prisoner would fain have suggested that what the witnesses had sworn against him was chiefly occasioned by a malicious spleen they had against him. He asserted that he was forced by the pirates to become one of their number and was so far from concerned with them voluntarily that he proposed to the mate, after they were taken, to regain the ship, urging that there were but thirteen of the pirates on board, and they all drunk, and no less than nine of their own men left there who were all sober; that the mate's heart failed him, and instead of complying with his motion, said, This is a dangerous thing to speak of; if it should come to the pirates' ears we shall be all murdered, and therefore entreated the prisoner not to speak of it any more. The mate denied every syllable of this, and so the prisoner's assertions did not weigh at all with the jury. After they had brought in their verdict, Mr. Upton said to those who swore against him, Lord! What have you three done?

Under sentence of death he behaved himself with much courage, and yet with great penitence. He denied part of the charge, viz., that he was willingly one of the pirates, but as to the other facts, he confessed them with very little alteration. He averred that the course of his life had been very wicked and debauched, for which he expressed much sorrow, and to the day of his death behaved himself with all outward mark of true repentance. At the place of execution, he was asked whether he had not advised the burning of the Perry galley, with Captain King and the chief mate on board. He averred that he did not in any shape whatsoever either propose or agree to an act of such a sort. Then, after some private devotions, he submitted to his sentence, and was turned off on the 16th day of May, 1729, being then about fifty years of age.

The Life of JEPTHAH BIGG, an Incendiary, and Writer of Threatening Letters

I have already taken notice in the life of Bryan Smith[85] of the Act of Parliament on which the proceedings against these letter-writers are grounded. One would be surprised that after more examples than one of that kind, people should yet be found so foolish as well as wicked as to carry on so desperate an enterprise, in which there is scarce any probability of meeting with success; yet this unfortunate person of whom we are now to speak, who was descended of mean parents, careful however of giving him a very good education, fell upon this project, put into his head by being a little out of business, and so in one moment cancelled all his former honesty and industry, and hazarded a life which soon after became forfeited.

His friends had put him out apprentice to a gunstock maker, to which he served out his time honestly and with a good character. Afterwards he continued to work at his business with several masters and tolerable reputation, until about a year before the time of his death, when he was out of work, by reason he had disobliged two or three persons for whom he had wrought, and had also been guilty of some extravagancies which had brought him into narrow circumstances. These straits it is to be supposed put him upon the fatal project of writing a letter to Mr. Nathaniel Newman, senior, a man of a very good fortune, threatening him that unless he sent the sum of eighty-five guineas to such a place, he would murder him and his wife, with other bloody and barbarous expressions. This not having its effect, he wrote him a second letter by the penny post, demanding one hundred guineas, with grievous threatenings in case they were not sent. This soon made a very great noise about town, and put Mr. Newman upon all methods possible for detecting the author of these villainous epistles, and as everybody almost looked upon it as a common case, to which any gentleman who is supposed to be rich might be liable, such indefatigable pains were taken that in a short time the whole mystery of iniquity was discovered and Bigg apprehended.

At the next sessions at the Old Bailey he was indicted capitally for this offence, and after the counsel for the prosecutor had fully opened the heinous nature of the crime, Peter Salter was the first witness called to prove it upon the prisoner. He deposed that Jepthah Bigg came to him where he was at work in the Minories, and desired him to go with him, having something to say to him of consequence; whereupon the witness would have gone to the sign of the Ship where he used, but the prisoner would needs go to the Sieve in the Little Minories. There he communicated to him his design, and then prevailed on Salter to go to the Shoulder of Mutton alehouse at Billingsgate, where Bigg directed him to call for drink, and to wait until a porter came to him with a parcel directed to John Harrison, when if he suspected anything, he should come to the prisoner at the King's Head alehouse, on Fish Street Hill. This the evidence performed punctually, whereupon Bigg sent him a second time to the Blackboy, in Goodman's Fields, where a second parcel was left, though of no value. Whereupon Bigg would have had the evidence Salter concerned in a third letter to the same purpose, but Salter declined it and dissuaded him as much as lay in his power, from continuing to venture on such hazardous things. Upon which the prisoner replied, You need not fear. Nothing can hurt you; my life is in your hands; but if ever you reveal the matter, you shall share the same fate.

John Long, servant to Mr. Newman, deposed that he delivered two penny post letters to his master on the 20th and 27th of March. Other witnesses swore as to the sending of the parcels, and the jury on the whole, seeing the fact to be well proved against the prisoner, found him guilty.

Under sentence of death at first the poor man behaved himself like one stupid. He pretended that he did not know the offence that he had committed was capital, and afterwards exclaimed against the hardness of the Law which made it so; but some little pains being taken with him in those points, he was soon brought over to acknowledge the justice of his sentence, and the reasonableness of that Statute which enacted it into a capital offence.

As the day of his death drew nigh he was still more and more drowned in stupidity and lost to all thought or concern for this world or that to come, at least as to outward appearance. Some said he was a Roman Catholic, but while the poor wretch retained his senses, he said nothing that could give any ground for a suspicion of that sort. He heard the discourses which the Ordinary made to him, with as much patience as the rest did, and when he visited him in the cell, did not express any uneasiness thereat. Indeed, in the passage to execution, there were two fellows in the cart who would fain have had the minister desist from his duty, urging the same reason, that the criminal was in communion with another Church. The man, himself, seemed stupid and speechless all the way, yet when he was turned off, the reverend Ordinary tells us, he went off the stage crying out aloud, O Lord! etc. This seems to me a very indecent way of concluding a dying speech, but as it is that which is generally used, I shall not stay to bestow any further reflections upon it. He died on the 19th of May, 1729, being about twenty-five years of age.


[85] See page 221.

The Life of THOMAS JAMES GRUNDY, a Housebreaker

When we meet with accounts of persons doubly remarkable for the multitude of their offences and the tenderness of their age, it is almost impossible for us to determine whether we should most pity or detest a mind so preternaturally abandoned to wickedness as to transcend its usual course, and make itself remarkable as a sinner, before taken notice of as a man.

This was exactly the case with the unfortunate criminal whom we are now to mention. He was the son of parents in the lowest circumstances, who yet had strained those circumstances to give him a tolerable education, which he, instead of improving, forgot as fast as it was possible, and seemed solicitous about nothing but out-doing in villainy all his contemporaries of the same unhappy cast. During his junior years he addicted himself continually to picking and stealing whatever he could lay his hands on, and although his father had been exceedingly careful in causing him to be taught his own trade of a weaver, yet he seldom or never worked at it, but went on at this rate, from one crime to another, until he at last arrived at those which brought him to the ignominious end, and thereby rendered him a subject for our memoirs.

At twelve years old, he took up the trade of housebreaking, to which he applied himself very closely, for the last six years of his life. Hampstead, Highgate, Hackney, and other villages round the town were the places which he generally made choice of to play his tricks in, and as people are much more ingenious in wickedness than ever they are in the pursuit of honest employments, so by degrees he became (even while a boy) the most dexterous housebreaker of his time; insomuch that as is usual amongst those unhappy people, the gang commended him so much, that believing himself some great person, he went on with an air of confidence, in the commission of a multitude of burglaries, in and about the streets of this metropolis.

Young as he was at that time, he plunged himself, as it were with industry, into all manner of lusts, wickedness and illegal pleasures, which, as it wasted all he acquired by the thefts he committed, so it injured his health and damaged his understanding to such a degree that when he came to die, he could scarce be looked on as a rational creature.

The offence which proved fatal to him was the breaking into the house of Mr. Samuel Smith, in the night-time, on the 31st of May, 1729, with an intent to steal. At his trial the prosecutor swore that between the hours of eleven and one of the dock of the night laid in the indictment he was called up by his neighbours, and found that his window was broken open; whereupon, searching about very narrowly, he at last found the prisoner got up the chimney, and landing on the pole whereon the pothooks hung. In his defence the prisoner told the Court that meeting with a person who said he lodged in the prosecutor's house, and it being late, he accepted the man's proposition to lie with him; thereupon his new acquaintance carried him to Mr. Smith's, let him in, and then ran away, so that he had never seen or heard of him since. This relation being every way improbable and ridiculous, the jury very readily found him guilty of the fact, and he with the rest, on the last day of the sessions received sentence of death accordingly.

While he lay in the cells, his behaviour was as stupid in all outward appearance as ever had appeared in any who came to that miserable place. However, he persuaded his companions, of whom we shall speak hereafter, to attempt breaking out and to encourage them told them that there was no brick or free stone wall in the world could keep him in, if he had but a few tools proper for loosening the stones. These were quickly procured, and Grundy put his companions into so proper a method of working, that if a discovery had not been made on the Sunday morning in a very few hours space they would have broken their way into Phoenix Court, and so have undoubtedly got off. But as soon as the keepers came to the knowledge of their design, they removed the three persons concerned in it, into the old condemned hold, and there stapled them down to the ground.

Then this lad began to repent. He wept bitterly, but said it was not so much for the fear of death as the apprehension of his soul being thrown into the pit of destruction and eternal misery. However, by degrees, he recovered a little spirit, confessed all the enormities of his past life, and begged pardon of God, and of the persons whom he had injured. If we were to attempt an account of them, it would not only seem improbable but incredible; and therefore, as there was nothing in them otherwise extraordinary than as they were committed by a lad of his age, we shall not dwell any longer upon them than to inform our readers that with much sorrow, and grievous agonies, he expired at Tyburn, on the 22nd of August, 1729, being about eighteen years old.

The Life of JOSEPH KEMP, a Housebreaker

We have often, in the course of these lives, observed to our readers that loose women are generally the causes of those misfortunes which first bring men to the commission of felonious crimes, and, as a just consequence thereof, to an ignominious death. It may yet seem strange, how, after so many instances, there are still to be found people so weak as for the sake of the caresses of these strumpets to lavish away their lives, at the same time that they are putting their souls into the greatest hazard. If I may be allowed to offer my conjecture in this case, I should be apt to account for it thus: that in the present age, the depravity of men's morals being greater than ever, they addict themselves so entirely to their lusts and sensual pleasures that having no relish left for more innocent entertainments, they think no price too great to purchase those lewd enjoyments, to which, by a continued series of such actions, they have habituated themselves beyond their own power to retire.

This unfortunate person, Joseph Kemp, was son to people in very mean circumstances, in Holborn, who yet procured him a very good education in a public charity-school. When of age to be put out to employment, his friends made him apply himself to the heads of the parish, who put him out to a glazier, with whom he served out his time with the character of a very honest young man. By that time his parents had thriven pretty well in the world through their own industry, and so, on his setting up a shop, they gave him sixty pounds to begin with. But unfortunately for him, he had ere now seen a woman of the town, on whom he had irretrievably fixed his affections, and was absolutely resolved on living with her, though ever so great ruin should prove the consequence of the purchase.

In pursuance of this unfortunate resolution, he no sooner had received the aforesaid sum, but proposals of marriage were immediately offered to this object of his affections, notwithstanding that he well knew she at that time conversed with two men, styling each of them her husband. However, as Kemp was the most likely to maintain her in idleness and plenty, she, without much trouble, suffered herself to be prevailed on to let him, by a legal matrimony, increase the number of her husbands. This, as it was but probable, was speedily followed by his breaking in his business, and being totally undone, which, though it was a great misfortune, and an evil new to poor Kemp, only reduced the lady to her former manner of living, which was by thieving whatever she could come at. A little while after, she was ruined even in this business, for being detected, she was committed to Newgate, and was in great danger of lying there for life. Poor Kemp was still as fond of her as ever. He carried her all the money he could get, and lamenting to her that it was not in his power to raise more, she immediately flew into a passion, stormed and swore at him, bid him go and break houses, rob people in the streets, or do anything which would get money, for money she wanted and money she would have. He foolishly complied with her request and having provided himself with the necessary implements for housebreaking, he soon put her in possession of a large quantity of plate, which being converted into money, easily procured her liberty, the consequence of which was that she lavished whatever he brought her upon other men.

Yet even her perfidy could not cure him; he was still as much her slave as ever, and failed not venturing body and soul to procure whatever might give her pleasure. In this unhappy state a considerable space of time was spent, until, for some other thievish exploits of her own, Kemp's wife was apprehended, convicted and transported. One would have thought this might have put an end to his crimes of the same sort, but it seems he was too far plunged into the mire of rapine and debauchery ever to struggle out, so that no sooner was she safely on board the transport vessel but he found out a new mistress to supply her place; as if he had been industrious in destroying his fortune and careful about nothing but arriving as soon as possible at the gallows.

By the time he made his second marriage, which in itself was illegal while the first wife was living, his credit was totally exhausted, his character totally ruined, and no manner of subsistence left but what was purchased at the hazard of his soul and the price of his life; and as housebreaking was now become his sole business, so he pursued it with great eagerness, and for a while with as great success. But it was not long before he was apprehended, and committed close to Newgate for a multitude of charges of this kind against him.

At the following sessions at the Old Bailey, he was indicted for burglariously breaking open the house of Sarah Pickard, and feloniously taking thence thirty-six gold rings and stone rings, three silver watches, several pieces of silver plate, and divers other goods of considerable value. The prosecutrix, Mrs. Pickard, deposed that her house was fast shut between then and eleven o'clock at night, and found broken open at five of the clock the next morning, and that one Kemp, a person related to the prisoner, found a short strong knife left in the yard, together with an auger, which he knew to belong to the prisoner.

In confirmation of this Mr. Kemp deposed that the prisoner had shown him the knife; Joanna Kemp and Jonathan Auskins deposed likewise to the same thing, and Samuel Gerrard, the constable, swore that when with the two preceding witnesses he went to search the house of the aforesaid prisoner, and found therein several things belonging to Mrs. Pickard, the prisoner then confessed that he committed burglary alone and not by the persuasion or with the assistance of any other person whatsoever.

The prisoner said very little in his own defence, and the jury thereupon, without hesitation, found him guilty; as they did also upon two other indictments, the one for breaking the house of James Wood, and the other for breaking the house of Mrs. Mary Paget, and stealing thence plate to a considerable value; the facts being dearly proved by John Knap, who had been an accomplice, and turned evidence to save himself. His last wife was indicted and tried with him, but acquitted.

Under sentence of death he was seized with a disease which held him for the greater part of the time permitted by Law for him to repent, and by reason of that distemper he was so deaf that he was scarce capable of instruction. However, he appeared to be fully sensible of the great danger he was in, of suffering much more from the just anger of God than that sentence of the Law which his crimes had drawn upon him. He bewailed with much passion and concern that wicked course of life which for many years past he had led, seemed exceedingly grieved at the horror of those reflections, and to mourn with unfeigned penitence his forgetfulness of the duties he owed towards God, and to his neighbours. As the hour of death approached, he resumed somewhat of courage, and at the place of execution died with all outward marks of a repenting sinner.

His wife came up into the cart and took her last adieu of him, in the most tender manner that can be imagined. He died on the 24th of August, 1729, being then in the twenty-fourth year of his age, and left behind him the following paper, which seems to have been what he intended to have said to the people at the time of his death, and therefore we, according to custom, thought it not proper to be omitted in this account.


Good People,

My father and mother brought me up tenderly and honestly, and always gave me good advice, whilst I was under their care. They put me apprentice to a glazier. My master not being so careful of me as he ought to have been, I took to ill courses, and before my time was expired, married a woman that brought me to this untimely end; for she could not live upon what I got at my trade, and out of my over-fondess for her, I did whatever she required, or requested of me. At length she was taken up for some fact, and transported. Then I married a second wife, and she was as good as the other was bad. She would do anything to help to support me that I might not commit any wickedness, but I could not take her advice, but still ran on in my wicked course of life, till I was overtaken by my folly. For if we think ourselves safe in committing sin, God will certainly find such out, because He is just, and will punish accordingly. This my miserable end, I would have all take warning by, and that they follow not the devices of the world, the snares whereof are apt to lead men into evil courses, unless they endeavour to shun them, and seek the grace of God to assist and enable them for the good of all men, and ask pardon of God for my evil doings, and forgiveness of all whom I have wronged, and particularly the forgiveness of God to those who have sworn away my life. I beg reflections pass not upon my wife, for I declare, whatever wrongs she may have committed, was through my persuasion, of herself being inclinable to good. I would lastly request that the follies and vices which have brought me to this untimely end may not by any means be a cause to afflict my grievous parents, both father and mother, but would have all to consider when ever they are persuaded to any manner of ways, tending to their ruin, they would likewise remember to call upon God to help and assist them, in shunning such, and all other wicked courses. Good people, pray for me, that God may receive me through his mercies, which I trust he will.

Newgate, August 22nd, 1729.

Joseph Kemp

The Life of BENJAMIN WILEMAN, a Highwayman

Amongst the many other ill consequences of a debauched life and wicked conversation, it may be reckoned, perhaps, no small one that they render men liable to suspicions, imprisonments and even capital punishment, when at the same time, they may be innocent of the particular fact with which they are charged; nor in such a case is the conviction of an innocent person so great a reflection on any, as on themselves having rendered such an accusation probable.

Benjamin Wileman, of whom we are now to speak, was the son of honest parents in the city of Dublin. They gave him a very good education at school, and when he was fit to go out apprentice, his father bred him to his own trade, which was that of a tailor. When he grew weary of that business, he listed himself as a soldier, and in that state of life passed twelve years, a sufficient space of time to acquire those numerous vices which are so ordinary amongst the common sort of men, who betake themselves to a military employment. Then he came over into England and lived here, as he himself said, by working at his own trade; though certain it is, that he led a most debauched and dissolute life, associating himself with those of his countrymen who of all others were the most abandoned in their characters. In fine, in all the associations of his life he seemed to proceed without any other design than that of gratifying his vicious inclinations.

In the midst of this terrible course of folly and wickedness he was apprehended for a highwayman, committed to Newgate, and at the ensuing sessions capitally indicted for two robberies, the one committed on William Hucks, Esq., and the other on William Bridges, Esq. On the first indictment it was deposed by the prosecutor that he believed Wileman to be the person who attacked him. John Doyle, who owned himself to have been an accomplice in the robbery, swore that Wileman and he committed it together, and that he paid Wileman five guineas and a half for his share of the gold watch and other things which were taken from the gentleman. As to the second fact, Mr. Bridges gave evidence that he was robbed on the highway and lost a sword, a hat, a pocket-book and a bank-note for twenty pounds. Doyle gave evidence in this, as in the former case, declaring that Wileman and he committed the fact together.

Then Elizabeth Jones being produced, swore that the same day she met Doyle and Wileman booted and spurred and very dirty in Bedford Row, and that they showed her the bank note, which when shown to her, she deposed to be the same. Arabelle Manning deposed that on the night of the day the robbery was committed, the prisoner Wileman and Doyle gave her a dram at a gin-shop in Drury Lane, and that one of them let fall a paper, and taking it up again, said that the loss of it would have been the loss of twenty pounds.

The prisoner objected to the character of Doyle, Jones and Manning, and called some persons as to his own, but the jury thinking the fact sufficiently proved, found him guilty on both indictments. Under sentence of death, his behaviour was very regular, professing a deep sorrow and repentance for a very loose life which he had led, and at the same time peremptorily denying that he had any hand in, or knew anything of either of those facts which had been sworn against him, and for which he was to die.

Notwithstanding that the most earnest entreaties were made use of to induce him to a plain and sincere confession, yet he continued always to assert his innocence as to thieving, letting fall sharp and invidious expressions against the evidence of Doyle whom he charged with swearing against him only to preserve another guilty person from punishment, whom Wileman intended to prosecute and had it is his power to convict. The effects of his former good education were very serviceable to him in this his great and last misfortune, for he seemed to have very just notions of those duties which were incumbent upon him in his miserable state; therefore, especially towards the latter part of his time, he appeared gravely at chapel and prayed fervently in his cell until the boy James Grundy, whom we have mentioned before, put it in to his head to make his escape; for the attempting which they were all carried (as we have said before) into the old condemned hold and there stapled down to the ground.

As there is no courage so reasonable as that which is founded on Christian principles, so neither constitutional bravery nor that resolution which arises either from custom, from vanity, or from other false maxims preserves that steady firmness at the approach of death which gives true quiet and peace of mind in the last moments of life, taking away through the certainty of belief, those terrors which are otherwise too strong for the mind, and which human nature is unable to resist. Wileman's conduct under his misfortunes, fully verified this observation in its strongest sense; he only retained just notions of religion and this enabled him to support his affliction after a very different manner from that in which it affected his two companions; or as it had done himself before, from a just contemplation of the mercy of God, and the merits of his Saviour, he had brought himself to a right idea of the importance of his soul, and thereby took himself off from the superfluous consideration of this world and stifled those uneasy sensations with which men are naturally startled at the approach of death. Yet he did not in all this time alter a jot in his confession, but asserted calmly that he was innocent, and that Doyle had perjured himself in order to take away his life.

At the place of execution his wife came to him, embraced him with great tenderness, and all he said there in relation to the world was that he hoped nobody would reflect upon her for the misfortune which had befallen him, and then, with great piety and resignation in the midst of fervent ejaculations, yielded up his last breath at Tyburn, at the same time with the malefactor before mentioned, being at the time of his decease about forty-three years of age.

The Life of JAMES CLUFF, a Murderer, in which is contained a concise account of the nature of Appeals

To curb our vicious inclinations and to restrain those passions from the sudden transports of which cruel and irreparable mischiefs are done, is without doubt the best end of all instructions; and for my own part, I cannot help thinking that this very book may contribute as much to this purpose as any other that has been published for a long time. That vices are foul in their nature is certainly true, and that they are fatal in their consequences, those who, without consideration pursue them, feel. There are few who will take time to convince themselves of the first, but no man can be so blind as to mistake the latter after the perusal of these memoirs, in which I have been particularly careful to describe the several roads by which our lusts lead us to destruction; and have fixed up Tyburn as a beacon to warn several men from indulging themselves in sensual pleasures.

This unfortunate person we are now going to give the public an account of was the son of very honest people who kept a public-house in Clare Market. They were careful in sending him to school, and having taught him there to read and write etc., sufficiently to qualify him for business, then put him apprentice to the Swan Tavern near the Tower. There he served his time carefully and with a good character, nor did his parents omit in instructing him in the grounds of the Christian religion, of which having a tolerable understanding he attained a just knowledge, and preserved a tolerable remembrance unto the time of his unhappy death.

After he was out of his time, he served as a drawer at several public houses, and behaved himself civilly and honestly without any reflections either on his temper or his honesty until he came to Mr. Payne's, who kept the Green Lettuce, a public house in High Holborn, where the accident fell out which cost him his life.

It seems there lived with him as a fellow servant, one Mary Green, whom some suggested he had an affection for; but whether that were so or not, did not very clearly appear, but on the contrary it was proved that they had many janglings and quarrels together, in which Cluff had sometimes struck her. However it was, on the 11th of April, 1729, Mary Green being at dinner in a box by herself, Cluff came in and went into the box to her, where he had not continued above four or five minutes before he called to his mistress, who was walking up and down, Madam, pray come here. By this time the maid was dead of a wound in her thigh, which pierced the femoral artery. There was a noise heard before the man himself came out, and the wench was dead before her mistress came in.

However, Cluff was immediately apprehended, and at the ensuing sessions at the Old Bailey he was indicted for the murder of Mary Green, by giving her a mortal wound in the right thigh, of the breadth of one inch, and of the depth of five inches, of which she instantly died. He was a second time indicted upon the coroner's inquest for the said offence, and also a third time upon the Statute of Stabbing. However the evidence not being clear enough to satisfy the jury, on his trial he was acquitted by them all. But this not at all satisfying the relations of the deceased Mary Green, her brother William Green brought an appeal against him, which is a kind of proceeding which has occasioned several popular errors to take rise. Therefore it may not be improper to say something concerning it for the better information of our readers.

Appeals are of two sorts, viz., such as are brought by an innocent person, and such as are brought by an offender confessing himself guilty, who is commonly called an approver. An innocent person's appeal is the party's private action, prosecuting also for the Crown, in respect of the offence against the public, and such a prosecution may be either by writ or by bill. As to the writ of appeal, it is an original issuing out of Chancery and remarkable in the Court of King's Bench only. Bills of Appeal are more common and contain in them the nature both of a writ and a declaration, and they may be received by commissioners of gaol delivery or justices of assize.

Those which are in use at present in capital cases are four, viz., Appeals of Death, of Larceny, of Rape and of Arson. The first is both the most common and that of which we are particularly to speak. It is to be brought by the wife or heir of the person deceased, unless they be guilty of the murder, and then the heir may have an appeal against the wife, or if he be accused the next heir may have it against him. The appellant must be heir general to the deceased, and his heir male (for by Magna Charta a woman cannot have an appeal of death for any but her husband) and in the appeal also it must be set forth how the appellant is heir unto the deceased. As to the time in which an appeal may be brought, it is by the Statute of Gloucester[86] restrained within a year and a day from the time of the deed done. There is great nicety in all the proceedings on appeals of death and everything must be set forth with the greatest exactness imaginable. The appellant hath also the liberty of pleading as many pleas, or to speak more properly, to take issue on as many points as he thinks fit. He is tried by a jury, and on his being found guilty, the appellant hath an order for his execution settled by the Court; but when the appellee is acquitted, the appellant is chargeable with damages on such a prosecution, provided there appear to have been no just cause for the commencement thereof.

But to return to the case of Cluff, which led us into this discourse. The evidence at his trial upon the appeal was, as to its substance thus. Mrs. Diana Payne, at the Green Lettuce in Holborn, deposed that the prisoner James Cluff and the deceased Mary Green were both of them her servants; that about a quarter of an hour before Mary Green died, she saw the prisoner carry out a pot of drink; that while she was walking in the tap-house with her child in her arms, she saw Mary Green go down into the cellar and bring up two pints of drink, one for a customer and another for herself, which she carried into a box where she was at dinner; that about four or five minutes before the accident happened, Cluff came in, and went to the box to the deceased, and in about four minutes cried out, Madam, pray come hither; that the witness thereupon went to the door of the box and saw the deceased on her backside on the floor, and the prisoner held her up by the shoulders, while the blood ran from her in a stream; that on seeing her, she said to the prisoner, James, what have you done? To which he answered, Nothing, Madam. Whereupon this evidence enquired whether he had seen her do anything to herself, he replied. No, the deceased at that time neither speaking not stirring, but looking as if she were dead. However, the prisoner at that time said he saw her have a knife in her hand in the cellar, and the witness being prodigiously affrighted called her husband and ran for an apothecary.

Mr. John Payne, husband of the first witness, deposed to the same purpose as his wife, adding that no struggling was heard when the blows were given and that she had no knife in her hand when she came out of the cellar; that in the morning between nine and ten o'clock, a young man came in, who, as he was informed, had been formerly a sweetheart of the deceased; that this person drank a pint of drink and smoked a pipe, the deceased sitting by him some little time, during which as he believed the stranger kissed her; at which, as they stood before the bar, he observed the prisoner's countenance alter, as if he were out of humour at somewhat, although he could not say that he had ever heard of courtship between them; adding, that when the prisoner went into the box where the deceased was at dinner, he did take notice of his throwing the door after him with an unusual violence.

Mr. Saunders, who happened that day to dine at Mr. Payne's house, confirmed all the former evidence, deposing moreover, than when Mr. Payne gave the prisoner some harsh language, the prisoner replied, Sir, I am as innocent as the child is at my mistress's breast; that the prisoner also pretended the deceased took a knife in her hand when she went into the cellar, upon which this evidence and Mr. Payne went down, and found not a drop of blood all the way. Mr. Saunders also deposed that the prisoner was out of the way when the deceased went to draw drink, and that they saw no knife in her hand.

Mr. Cox, the surgeon, deposed that he saw the deceased lying upon her back, amid a vast stream of blood which had issued from her; that upon the table among other knives he had found one amongst them which was a little bloody and answered exactly to the cut, it going through her apron, a stuff petticoat and a strong coarse shift. The wound was in her thigh, going obliquely upwards, and therefore, as he thought, could not have been given by the deceased herself. The knife, too, was as he said, laid farther than the deceased could have carried it after the receipt of the wound, which being in the femoral artery must be mortal in a minute, or a minute and a half at most. He observed, also, that under her chin and about her left ear there seemed to have been some violence used, so as to have caused a stagnation of the blood. This deposition was confirmed by another surgeon and apothecary, and also in most of its material circumstances by a surgeon who looked on her on behalf of the prisoner.

Cluff asked very few questions, and Mr. Daldwin being called for the appellant, swore that at nine o'clock in the morning he was at Mr. Payne's and saw the prisoner and the deceased quarrelling, that he looked maliciously and was an ill-natured fellow. Here the counsel of the appeal rested their proof, and the prisoner made no other defence than absolutely denying the fact. After his counsel had said what they thought proper on the nature and circumstances that had been sworn against him, the jury withdrew, and after a short stay brought in the prisoner guilty.

During the space he was confined, between their verdict and his death, he behaved with a calmness very rare to be met with. He attended the public devotion of the chapel very gravely and devoutly, behaved quietly and patiently in his cell, never expressed either fear or uneasiness at his approaching death, nor ever let fall a warm expression against his prosecutors, but on the contrary always spoke well of them, and prayed heartily for them. When pressed, by the ministers who attended him, not to pass into the other world with a lie in his mouth, but to declare sincerely and candidly how Mary Green came by her death, he at first looked a little confused, but at last seeming to recollect himself, he said, Gentlemen, I know it is my duty to give glory unto God, and to take shame unto myself for those sins I have committed in my passage through this life. I therefore readily acknowledge that my offences have been black in their nature, and many in number; but for the particular crime I am to suffer death as the punishment of it, I know no more of it than the child that is unborn, nor am I able to say in what manner she came by her death. And in this he continued to persist unto the time of his death, appearing to be very easy under his sufferings and did not change countenance when he was told the day was fixed for his execution, as it is ordinarily observed the other malefactors do.

As he passed through Holborn to the place of execution, he desired the cart might stop at his master's house, which accordingly it did. Cluff thereupon called for a pint of wine and desired to speak with Mr. Payne. Accordingly he came out, and then he addressed himself to him in these words. Sir, you are not insensible that I am going to suffer an ignominious death for what I declare I am not guilty of, as I am to appear before my Great Judge in a few moments, to answer for all my past sins. I hope you and my good mistress will pray for my poor soul. I pray God bless you and all your family. Then he spoke to somebody to bid the carman go on. It was remarkable that he spoke this with great composedness and seeming cheerfulness.

At the place of execution he did not lose anything of that cheerful sedateness which he had preserved under the course of his misfortunes, but made the responses regular to the prayers in the cart and standing up, addressed himself in these words to the multitude. Good People, I die for a fact I did not commit. I have never ceased to pray for my prosecutors most heartily, ever since I have been under sentence. I wish all men well. My sins have been great, but I hope for God's mercy through the merits of Jesus Christ. Then a Psalm was sung at his own request. Afterwards, overhearing somebody say that his mistress was in a coach hard by his execution, he could not be satisfied until somebody went to search and coming back assured him she was not there. As the cart was going away he spoke again to the people saying, I beg of you to pray for my departing soul. I wish I was as free from all other sins as I am of this for which I am now going to suffer.

He desired of his friends that his body might be carried to Hand Alley in Holborn, and from thence to St. Andrew's Church, to lie in the grave with his brother. He suffered on the 25th of July, 1719, being then about thirty-two years of age.


[86] Passed by a Parliament held at Gloucester in 1278 and dealing with actions at law.

The Life of JOHN DYER, a most notorious thief, highwayman and housebreaker

My readers cannot but remember the mention often made of this criminal, in the former volumes. He was, at the time of his death, one of the oldest offenders in England, and as he was at some pains to digest his own story that is, the series of his villainies into writing, so what we take from thence, will at once be authentic and entertaining to our readers.

He was born of honest and mean parents at Salisbury, who took care, however, to bestow on him a very tolerable education, and when he grew up, put him out apprentice to a shoemaker, where he soon made a beginning in those pernicious practices to which he so assiduously afterwards addicted himself. The first thing he did, was robbing a chandler's chop at Collinburn, in the county of Wilts, of the money box, in which was thirty shillings, and got clear off. Some time after, his master sending him on a Sunday to a village just by, to get twelve pennyworth of halfpence at a chandler's shop, Dyer finding nobody at home, cut the bar of the window, got in thereat, and rifled the house. The booty he found did not amount to above three half-crowns, but he added to that the taking away what currants and raisins there were in the shop, which piece of covetousness had well-nigh cost him his life, for being suspected and charged with the fact, he had only time to hide the money. Having searched him in vain, they turned some of the plums out of his coat pocket, but he readily averring that he bought them at Andover Market, there being nobody who could falsify it, he escaped for that time.

His matter shortly after sending him with five pounds to buy leather, Dyer picking up a companion, as wicked as himself, he persuaded him to join in a story of his being robbed of the aforesaid sum of money, which, upon his return, he told his master, and the boy vouching it firmly, they were believed. Some small space from this, being sent amongst his master's customers to receive some money, he picked up about three pounds, and then went off immediately for Salisbury, where he became acquainted with an idle young woman; which bringing him once more into necessity, he went one day into the market to see what he might be able to lay hands on. There he observed a young woman to receive money, and watching her out of town, he took an opportunity to knock her down, robbing her, and dragging her into a wood, where he lay with her, and then bound her fast to a tree.

From thence he went to a village in Hampshire, where he wrought journey-work at his trade; and getting acquainted with a young woman, he lodged at her mother's house, where he soon got the daughter with child, and persuaded her to rob the old woman, and go with him to Bristol. There they lived together profusely until all the money was spent, and then she and her child went back to her mother, who received them very gladly. Dyer did not think fit to return, but went to make his mother a visit at Salisbury, where he continued not long before he took an opportunity of robbing her of fifty pounds, and thence marched off to Bristol, where he gamed most of the money away. Then he retired to a town in Wiltshire, where cohabiting with a widow women, they found means to get so good credit as to take the town in (as Mr. Dyer expressed it) for thirty pounds. Then packing up they marched off to a place at a considerable distance, where Dyer entered into partnership with a collier, being to advance fifty pounds, thirty of which he paid down and the rest was to pay monthly; but before the first payment became due the collier broke, and his partner, Dyer, thereupon thought it convenient to remove to some other place.

He pitched, therefore, upon the city of Hereford, where he worked honestly for a space, until being in company one night with a higgler, he heard the man say he should go to a place called Ross to buy fowls. Dyer answered that he did not care if he went with him, and in their journey, taking the advantage of a proper place he stopped his companion and robbed him. The man gave him two shillings out of his pocket, but Dyer suspecting he must have some more money to buy fowls with, searched the hampers and took out twelve pounds. Taking the man's horse also, he rode it forty miles outright, after which he went to Marlborough in Wiltshire, and stayed there a fortnight. But venturing to steal a silver mug, he was for that fact apprehended and committed close prisoner there, in order to be tried for it next assizes, but before that time, he found a weak place in the prison, and breaking it made his escape.

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