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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This threw him out of his place, and though he got into another, and behaved well in it, yet going into the service of Mr. John Mendez da Costa, he became there so uneasy on account of his child, and some other troublesome affairs, that he ventured on stealing eight silver spoons, five silver forks, two pair of silver canisters, a diamond ring value two hundred and fifty pounds, a pair of diamond ear-rings worth ninety pounds, three diamond buckles, and other goods of a great value. For this fact he was prosecuted, and on very full evidence convicted.

Under sentence of death, the Ordinary informs us that he appeared to be better acquainted with Hebrew than is common amongst Jews. He came up to the chapel rather for the air than for devotion. However, he one day sung part of a Psalm. His hatred against his prosecutor was strong and unconquerable, for when the minister told him it was his duty to forgive him, he said he did not know whether it was or no according to their law, and sometimes said that Heaven might deal with the same justice by him hereafter, as he had been dealt with here.

As the time of his death approached, he grew graver, and read more constantly in those books he had in Hebrew characters of his own religion. However, he wrote a letter to the gentleman he robbed in very harsh terms, and applied to him some of the imprecations of the hundred and ninth Psalm. At the place of execution he had two men with him, who were muttering something or other in his ear. He had a little Hebrew prayer-book in his hand, and read in it. When being again persuaded to forgive his prosecutor, he at last, in a faint voice, answered that he did, and then submitted to his fate at Tyburn, on the 12th of May, 1730, being then about twenty-two years of age. He had several relations who had a great deal of money in England, and they took care of his body.

The Life of EBENEZER ELLISON, a Notorious Irish Thief

With respect to this malefactor I have nothing to acquaint the world with but what is taken from his own speech which was printed at Dublin, and said to be published there by his own desire for the common good. It made a great noise there then, and may perhaps serve to entertain you now, wherefore I proceed to give it you in his own words.

I am now going to suffer the just punishment of my crimes, prescribed by the Law of God and my country. I know it is the constant custom that those who come to this place should have speeches made for them, and cried about in their own hearing as they are carried to execution; and truly they are such speeches that although our fraternity be an ignorant illiterate people, they would make a man ashamed to have such nonsense and false English charged upon him, even when he is going to the gallows. They contain a pretended account of our birth and family, of the facts for which we are to die, of our sincere repentance, and a declaration of our religion. I cannot expect to avoid the same treatment with my predecessors. However, having an education one or two degrees better than those of my rank and profession, ever since my commitment I have been considering what might be proper for me to deliver upon this occasion.

And first, I cannot say from the bottom of my heart that I am truly sorry for the offence I have given to God and the world; but I am very much so for the bad success of my villainies, in bringing me to this untimely end; for it is plainly evident, that after having some time ago obtained a pardon from the Crown, I again took up my old trade. My evil habits were so rooted in me, and I was grown unfit for any other kind of employment; and therefore, although in compliance with my friends I resolved to go to the gallows after the usual manner, kneeling with a book in my hand and my eyes lift up, yet I shall feel no more devotion in my heart than I observed in some of my comrades, who have been drunk among common whores the very night before their execution. I can say further from my own knowledge, that two of my own fraternity, after they had been hanged and wonderfully came to life, and made their escapes, as it sometimes happens, proved afterwards the wickedest rogues I ever knew, and so continued until they were hanged again for good and all; and yet they had the impudence at both times they went up to the gallows to smite their breasts and lift up their eyes to Heaven all the way.

Secondly, from the knowledge I have of my own wicked dispositon, and that of my comrades, I give it as my opinion that nothing can be more unfortunate to the public than the mercy of Government in even pardoning and transporting us, unless we betray one another, as we never fail to do if we are sure to be well paid, and then a pardon may do good. By the same rule, it is better to have but one fox in a farm than three or four, but we generally make a shift to return after being transported, and are ten times greater rogues than before, and much more cunning. Besides, I know it by experience, that some hopes we have of finding mercy when we are tried, or after we are condemned, is always a great encouragement to us.

Thirdly, nothing is more dangerous to idle young fellows than the company of those odious common whores we frequent, and of which this town is full. These wretches put us upon all mischief to feed their lust and extravagance. They are ten times more bloody and cruel than men. Their advice is always not to spare us if we are pursued, they get drunk with us, and are common to us all, and yet if they can get anything by it, are sore to be our betrayers.

Now, as I am a dying man, something I have done which may be of good use to the public, I have left with an honest man and indeed the only honed man I ever was acquainted with—the names of all my wicked brethren, the present places of abode, with a short account of the chief crimes they have committed in many of which I have been their accomplice, and heard the rest from their own mouths. I have likewise set down the names of those we call our setters, of the wicked houses we frequent, and of those who receive and buy our stolen goods. I have solemnly charged this honest man, and have received his promise upon oath, that whenever he hears of any to be tried for robbing or housebreaking, he will look into his list, and he if finds the name there of the thief concerned, to send the whole paper to the Government. Of this I here give my companions fair and public warning, and I hope they will take it.

In the paper above-mentioned, which I left with my friend, I have also set down the names of the several gentlemen whom we have robbed in Dublin streets for three years past. I have told the circumstances of those robberies, and shown plainly that nothing but the want of common courage was the cause of their misfortunes. I have therefore desired my friends that whenever any gentleman happens to be robbed in the streets, he will get the relation printed and published with the first letters of those gentlemen's names, who by their want of bravery are likely to be the cause of all the mischief of that kind, which may happen for the future. I cannot leave the world without a short description of that kind of life which I have led for some years past and is exactly the same with the rest of our wicked brethren.

Although we are generally so corrupted from our childhood as to have no sense of goodness, yet something heavy always hangs about us. I know not what it is, that we are never easy until we are half drunk among our whores and companions, nor sleep sound, unless we drink longer than we can stand. If we go abroad in the day, a wise man would easily find us to be rogues by our faces, we have such suspicious, fearful and constrained countenances, often turning back and sneaking through narrow lanes and alleys. I have never failed of knowing a brother thief by his looks, though I never saw him before. Every man amongst us keeps his particular whore, who is however common to us all when we have a mind to change. When we have got a booty, if it be money, we divide it equally among our companions, and soon squander it on our vices in those houses that receive us, for the master and mistress and very tapster go snacks, and besides make us pay treble reckonings. If our plunder be plate, watches, rings, snuff-boxes and the like, we have customers in all quarters of the town to take them off. I have seen a tankard sold, worth fifteen pounds to a fellow in —— Street, for twenty shillings, and a gold watch for thirty. I have set down his name, and that of several others in the paper already mentioned. We have setters watching in corners, and by dead walls, to give us notice when a gentleman goes by, especially if he be anything in drink. I believe in my conscience, that if an account were made of a thousand pounds in stolen goods, considering the low rates we sell them at, the bribes we must give for concealment, the extortions of alehouse reckonings, and other necessary charges there would not remain fifty pounds clear to be divided among the robbers, and out of this we must find clothes for whores, besides treating them from morning until night, who in requital award us with nothing but treachery and the pox, for when our money is gone, they are every moment threatening to inform against us, if we will not get out to look for more. If anything in this world be like Hell, as I have heard it described by our clergy, the truest picture of it must be in the back room of one of our alehouses at midnight, where a crew of robbers and their whores are met together after a booty, and are beginning to grow drunk, from that time until they are past their senses, in such a continued horrible noise of cursing, blasphemy, lewdness, scurrility, and brutish behaviour, such roaring and confusion, such a clatter of mugs and pots at each other's heads, that Bedlam in comparison is a sober and orderly place. At last they all tumble from their stools and benches, and sleep away the rest of the night, and generally the landlord or his wife, or some other whore, who has a stronger head than the rest, picks their pockets before they awake. The misfortune is, that we can never be easy until we are drunk, and our drunkenness constantly exposes us to be more easily betrayed and taken.

This is a short picture of the life I have led, which is more miserable than that of the poorest labourer who works for fourpence a day; and yet custom is so strong that I am confident, if I could make escape at the foot of the gallows, I should be following the same course this very evening. Upon the whole, we ought to be looked upon as the common enemies of mankind, whose interest it is to root us out like worms, and other mischievous vermin, against which no fair play is required. If I have done service to men in what I have said, I shall hope to have done service to God, and that will be better than a silly speech made by me full of whining and canting, which I utterly despise, and have never been used to yet such a one I expect to have my ears tormented with as I am passing along the streets.

Good people, fare ye well; bad as I am, I leave many worse behind me, and I hope you shall see me die like a man, though a death contrary.

E. E.

The Life of JAMES DALTON, a Thief

The character of this criminal is already so infamous, and his crimes so notorious that I may spare myself any introductory observation which I have made use of as to most of the rest with respect to his birth. He was so unfortunate as to have the gallows hereditary to his family, his father, who was by birth an Irishman, and in the late Wars in Flanders a sergeant, coming over here was indicted and hanged for a street robbery. After his death, Dalton's mother married a butcher, who, not long before Dalton's death, was transported, and she herself for a like crime shared in the same punishment.

This unhappy young man himself went between his father's legs in the cart when he made his fatal exit at Tyburn. It has, indeed, remained a doubt whether Dalton the father were a downright thief or not; his own friends say that he was only a cheat, and one of the most dexterous sharpers at cards in England. It seems he fell in with some people of his own profession, who thought he got their money too much easily, and therefore made bold to fix him with a downright robbery.

As for James Dalton the younger, from his infancy he was a thief and deserved the gallows almost as soon as he wore breeches. He began his pranks with robbing the maid where he went to school. By eleven years old he got himself into the company of Fulsom and Field, who were evidences against Jonathan Wild and Blueskin, and in their company committed villainies of every denomination, such as picking pockets, snatching hats and wigs, breaking open shops, filching bundles at dusk of the evening. All the money they got by these practices was spent among the common women of the town, whose company they frequented. Then the Old Bailey and Smithfield Cloisters became the place of their resort, from whence they carried away goods to a considerable quantity, sold them at under-rates, and squandered away the money upon strumpets.

Towards Smithfield and the narrow lanes and allies about it, are the chief houses of entertainment for such people, where they are promiscuously admitted, men or women, and have places every way fitted for both concealing and entertainment. The man and woman of the house frequently take their commodities off their hand at low prices, and the women who frequent these sort of places help them off with what trifling sums of money they receive; for though they are utterly devoid of education, yet dinning and flattery are so perfectly practised by them, that these bewitched young robbers make no scruple of venturing soul and body to acquire wherewith to purchase their favours, which are frequently attended with circumstances that would send them rotten to their graves, if the gallows did not intercept and take them before they are got half way. But it happened that Field was apprehended, and to save himself immediately made an information against his companions, named Dalton and Fulsom, whereupon they were obliged to be very cautious and durst venture out only in the night. It happened that in Broad Street, St. Giles's they met about twelve o'clock at night a captain in the Foot-Guards. Dalton commanded the gentleman to surrender, but persons of his cloth seldom parting with their money so peaceably, there happened a skirmish, in which Fulsom knocked him down, and afterwards they rifled him, taking some silver and a leaden shilling out of his pocket, together with a pocket book, which had some bank notes in it, and therefore was burnt by them for fear it should betray them. But in this fact, Dalton, who had not even honesty enough for a thief, cheated his companion of seven guineas and a watch.

The woman to whom they sold their stolen goods was one Hannah Britton, who, upon Lambert's being committed to New Prison, was named in his information, taken up and committed to Newgate. At the sessions after she was convicted for that offence, and thereupon whipped from Holborn Bars to St. Giles's Pound; which proceeding so affrighted Dalton that he resolved for a time to retire out of London.

Thereupon he and one of his companions went down to Bristol, to see what they could make at the Fair. But they were not over-lucky in their country expedition, for they were apprehended for breaking a shop open, and tried at the assizes; but the witness not being able to swear directly to their persons, they were acquitted through the defect of evidence. As soon as they were out of prison, Dalton returned to London as speedily as he was able, where joining himself with the remainder of the old gang, shortly after his arrival they broke open a toy-shop near Holborn Bars, and carried off eight hundred pounds worth of goods, with a pretty large sum in ready money. Of the goods they did not make above two hundred and fifty pounds, and for the ready money, which was about twenty pounds, they shared it amongst them.

Dalton about that time frequenting a house near Golden Lane, found doxies there to help him off with it, and reduced him to the necessity of making t'other large stride in the way to Tyburn. Not long after, therefore, he committed a robbery in the road to Islington, for which being taken up he brought three who personated a doctor, apothecary and surgeon at his trial, who swore that the time the robbery was said to have been committed he was sick and even at the point of death, upon which he was acquitted.

But as this was a narrow escape, so his liberty was of no long continuance, for his companion Fulsom, being apprehended for a felony, to save himself, made an information against his comrades, and amongst the rest named Dalton, and gave so exact an account of his haunts that h e was quickly after apprehended, and at the ensuing sessions convicted and ordered for transportation.

At sea a great storm arising, they were glad to call up such of the criminals as they thought might be of use towards managing the ship, amongst whom was James Dalton, who no sooner was upon deck but he was contriving to make the crew mutiny and seize the ship. In a very little time he brought enough of them to be of his mind in order to execute their intent, and accordingly got the fire-arms and made themselves masters of the ship, and obliged the men to navigate her to a little port near Cape Finisterre, in Spain, where they robbed the ship of about a hundred pounds, and then went on shore and travelled by land to Vigo. They were scarce got thither before the ship arrived, and the captain charged them with the piracy they had committed; but from the lenity of the Spanish Government, they quickly got released, without giving the captain any satisfaction. The Governor, when they were discharged from their confinement, gave them a pass in which, after reciting their names, he styled them all English thieves, which putting them in no small fright, they resolved to prevent its doing them a mischief, committed it to the flames, and then ran the hazard of travelling the country without one. This, accordingly, they did, until they met with a Dutch ship, the master of which readily gave them a passage to Amsterdam, from whence Dalton and two or three more, found means to get over again to England, and came up to London.

On their arrival here they fell to robbing with such fury that the streets were hardly safe when the sun was set; but Dalton apprehending that this trade would not lost long, resolved to make a country expedition, in order to get out of the way. Thereupon down he went again to his old city of refuge, Bristol. There he did not continue long before he was apprehended for breaking open a linen-draper's shop but the burglary not being clearly proved, the jury found him guilty of the felony only, whereupon he was once more transported to Virginia.

He did not continue long in that plantation before growing weary of labour, he thought fit to threaten his master, so that the man was glad to discharge him, and thought himself happy of getting rid of such a servant. Upon which Dalton soon found out one Whalebone, a fellow of a like disposition with himself; and they went about stealing boats and negroes, running away with them and selling them in other colonies. At last Dalton met with a ship which carried him for England. By the way he was pressed on board the Hampshire man-of-war, in which he was a spectator of the last siege of Gibraltar.[95]

On his return he received his wages and lived on it for a little time. Then he with Benjamin Branch and William Field, took to snatching of pockets. At last they took Christopher Rawlins into their society and in a few months' time they three snatched five hundred pockets. Amongst the rest Dalton cut off one from a woman's side at St. Andrew's, Holborn, for which Branch being in company was taken and executed, although Dalton and Rawlins did all they could to have made up the affair with the prosecutor but in vain. This trade therefore being at an end, he and his companion Rawlins fell next to robbing coaches in the streets, and being once more apprehended, he found himself under a necessity of making an information against his companions, six or seven of whom were executed upon his evidence. He also received ten guineas to swear against Nichols the peruke-maker, but after he received the money, his conscience checked him, and though he did not return it, yet he absolutely refused to give any evidence against him. But Neeves, who had been taken into the same plot, went through with it, and as has been said before, hanged him for a fact which he never committed.[96]

A multitude of wives Dalton married during his life, and many of them were alive at the time of his decease, four of them coming at once to see him in Newgate when under his last misfortune, and appearing at that time to be very friendly together. He had not been long out of Newgate before be fell to his old practices, and a few sessions after was apprehended, and tried for stopping the coach of an eminent physician with an intent to rob it. For this he was sentenced to a fine and imprisonment, which upon insulting the court was ordered to be in one of the condemned cells in Newgate. But he did not remain long there, being the very next sessions brought to his trial on an indictment for robbing John Waller in a certain field or open place near the highway, putting him in fear of his life, and taking from him twenty-five handkerchiefs, value four pounds, five ducats value forty-eight shillings, two guineas, a three guilder piece, a French pistol, and five shillings in silver, on the 22nd of November, 1729. The prosecutor deposed, that being a Holland trader, the prisoner met with him as he was drinking at the Adam and Eve at Pancras, in his return from Hampstead, where he had sold some goods, and received a little money; that Dalton perceiving it grow dark, desired to walk to town with him, and that they had a link with them, which Dalton put out in the fields, and then knocked him down, beat him and abused him, and then robbed him of the things mentioned in the indictment; and that he threatened to blow his brains out if he made any noise or called for help. He swore also to a pistol which had been produced against Dalton on a former trial.

In his defence the prisoner insisted peremptorily upon his innocence, charged the prosecutor with being a common affidavit man, and a fellow of as bad if not worse character than himself. However, in order to falsify some circumstances which he had deposed against him, Dalton called three witnesses, Charles North, Edward Brumfield, and John Mitchell, who were all prisoners in Newgate, but were permitted by the Court to come down. Some of them contradicted the prosecutor as to a gingham waistcoat which he had swore Dalton wore in Newgate. They swore also to the prosecutor's visiting Dalton there, and owing that he never damaged him a farthing in his life. But the jury on the whole found him guilty, and he received sentence of death.

As he had little reason to hope for pardon, so he never deluded himself with false expectations about it, but applied himself, as diligently as he was able, to repent of those manifold sins and offences which he had committed. He confessed very frankly the manifold crimes and horrid enormities in which he had involved himself. He seemed to be very sensible of that dreadful state into which his own wickedness had plunged him. He behaved himself gravely when at public prayers at the chapel, and applied himself with great diligence to praying and singing of Psalms when in his cell; but as to the particular crime of which he was convicted, that he absolutely denied from first to last, with the strongest asseverations that not one word of all the prosecutor's evidence was true, and indeed there has since appeared great likelihood that he spoke nothing but the truth.

For this Waller going on in the same fact after the death of Dalton, became an evidence against many others, sometimes in one country by one name, by and by in another country by another name. In Cambridgeshire, particularly, he convicted two men for a robbery whose lives were saved by means of the Clerk of the Peace entertaining some suspicion of this Mr. Waller's veracity. But as practices of this sort, though they may continue undiscovered for some time, rarely escape for good and all, so Waller's fate came home to him at last; for a worthy magistrate suspecting the truth of an information which he gave before him by another name, and he coming afterwards and owning his true name to be Waller, he was apprehended for the perjury contained in the said examination, and committed to Newgate, and at the next sessions at the Old Bailey received sentence for this offence to stand in the pillory near the Seven Dials. He had scarce been exalted above five minutes, before the mob knocked him on the head, for which fact Andrew Dalton, who did it to revenge the death of his brother, the criminal of whom we are now speaking, together with one Richard Griffith, at the time I am now writing, are under sentence of death.

But to return to James Dalton, he continued to behave uniformly and penitently all the time he lay under conviction, and as the friends and relations of Nichols applied themselves to him about clearing the innocence of their deceased friend, he said that Neeves himself actually committed the fact, which he swore upon the person they mentioned, and that he was entirely innocent of whatever was laid to his charge.

When the bellman came to repeat the verses, which he always does the night before the malefactors are to die, Dalton illuminated his cell with six candles. In his passage to the place of execution he appeared very cheerful. When he arrived there, having once more denied in the most solemn manner the fact for which he was to suffer, he yielded up his breath at Tyburn, the 13th of May, 1730, being then somewhat above thirty years of age.


[95] On Feb. 22, 1727, when the Spaniards attacked with 20,000 men and were repulsed with a loss of 5,000. The English lost 300.

[96] See page 463.

The Life of HUGH HOUGHTON, alias AWTON, alias NORTON, who robbed the Bristol Mail

This unfortunate person was the son of honest and reputable people of Lancaster, who took care to give him a very good education, sufficient to have fitted him for any trade whatever. Afterwards they bound him out apprentice to a wine-cooper, to whom he served out his time very carefully and honestly, and appeared in his temper and disposition to be a civil, good-natured young man. For some time after his coming out of his time, he followed his trade of a wine-cooper, but being pressed on board a man-of-war, during the French War in the late Queen's time, he behaved himself so well on board that he acquired the goodwill of all his officers, attained to the degree of a midshipman, and was afterwards gunner's mate, receiving also a title to five pound per annum, out of the Pension Chest at Chatham.

After this he came to London, married a wife and was a housekeeper in town; and for his better support got himself into the Horse Guards, where he served with reputation, until some small time before his death, when some clothes of value being taken away, and he being strongly suspected on that score was dismissed the service, whereby he fell into great difficulties for want of money.

It seems that for many months before his death he had frequented the house of one Mr. Marlow, and was indebted to him for a considerable sum of money, but one day he came and discharged it, having for that purpose changed a twenty pound bank-note at a brewer's not far distant. But the Bristol mail happening about that time to be robbed, and the bank-note, after various circulations, being discovered to be one of those taken out of it, Houghton was thereupon seized and committed, being at the next sessions brought to his trial at the Old Bailey for the fact, when the course of the evidence appeared against him as follows. He was arraigned on an indictment for dealing from Stephen Crouches, on the King's highway, after putting him in fear, a sorrel gelding value five pounds, the property of Thomas Ostwich, a mail value four pounds, and fifty leather bags, value five pounds, the property of our Sovereign Lord the King, on the first of March, 1730.

Stephen Crouches deposed that on the day laid in the indictment, he was going with the Bristol and Gloucester mail, being near Knightsbridge, a man of the prisoner's size, who spoke like him, came out of the gateway and bid him stand; that he laid the horse to the farther side of a field, commanded him to show him the Bristol bag, which he took and went off with the horse, leaving this evidence bound with his hands behind him, threatening to murder him in case he made the least noise.

Daniel Burton deposed that the prisoner Houghton had more than once proposed to him the robbing of the Bristol mail, and upon his refusing to be concerned in it, would then have had him rob their landlady, Mrs. Marlow, which when her husband came to know, he turned him out of doors.

The next witness that was called was Mr. Marlow, who deposed that on the 2nd of March, the prisoner Houghton paid him five pounds which was owing to him, having changed for that purpose a bank-note of twenty pounds at Mr. Broadhead's the brewer. Then the note itself was produced, which had been paid by Mr. Broadhead to Mr. King, a factor, and by him to Mr. Dictorine's man, in Thames Street, and by him again to the servant of Messrs. Knight and Jackson, by whom it was brought into Court, an endorsement being upon it not to be paid till the fifth of May. But Mr. Marlow being asked as to his being acquainted by Burton with the prisoner's attempts to persuade him to robbing the Bristol mail, and afterwards robbing his house, Mr. Marlow answered that he did not remember he had ever been told such a thing, but that he did indeed know the prisoner together with one Masa, was for scandalous practices turned out of the Guards.

William Burligh deposed that he took out of the prisoner's pocket a pocket-book in which was several notes, which pocket-book the prisoner said he took up in Covent Garden. Mr. Langley, the Turnkey of Newgate, deposed that after he was committed to his custody, he searched his pocket and found therein three bank-notes of Mr. Hoare, which he gave to Mr. Archer. Mr. Archer deposed that he did receive such notes, which were so taken as had been before sworn by Mr. Langley.

There were some other persons produced who swore to some slips of leather which were found in Houghton's lodgings, and which were believed to be cut out of the bag which were taken from the Bristol Mail. The prisoner in his defence said he believed there was a trap laid for him and exclaimed against Burton. Two women positively deposed that Houghton all that night was not out of his lodgings. But the jury notwithstanding that, gave so much credit to the evidence offered for the King, that they found him guilty.

Under sentence of death, he said that he had hitherto lived free from most of those enormous vices into which criminals are usually plunged, who came to his unhappy fate. He said that through the course of his life he had always been a good husband, a loving parent, and had provided carefully for his family; that he had served the Government twelve years by land, and twelve years by sea, and in all that time never had any reflection upon him until the unhappy accident in the Guards, which he said he was not guilty of, and had been since confessed by another man.

As to the fact for which he was to die, he said that the same day the mail was robbed (which was on a Sunday morning) at six or seven o'clock he found a bundle of papers which he took up, and perceived them to be a parcel taken out of the Bristol mail, and therefore having perused them carefully, and taken out of them such as he judged proper, he being at that time out of business and in great want, put up the rest of them in a sheet of paper, directed to the Post Master General, and laid them down in the box-house at Lincoln's Inn Fields, being afraid to go with them to the office, because a great reward was offered for the robber. And that he, having changed a twenty-pound bank-note, paid five pounds of it away to his landlord, Mr. Marlow. He reflected also very severely on the evidence given against him by Mr. Burton, which he said was the very reverse of the truth. Burton having often solicited him to go upon the highway as the shortest method of easing his misfortunes and bringing them both money.

As he persisted in averring the confession he made to be the truth, it was objected to him that it was a story, the most improbable in the world, that when a man had hazarded his life to rob the Bristol mail, he should then throw away all the booty, and leave it in such a place as Covent Garden, for any stranger to take up as he came by; yet neither this nor anything else that could be said to him had so much weight as to move him to a free confession of his guilt, but on the contrary, he gave greater and more evident signs of a sullen, morose and reserved disposition, spoke little, desired not to be interrupted, made general confessions of his sins, pleased himself with high conceits of the Divine Mercy, and endeavoured as much as possible to avoid conferences with anybody, and especially declined speaking of that offence for which he was to die.

When he first came to Newgate, the keepers had, it seems, a strong apprehension that he would attempt something against his own life, and upon this suspicion they were very careful of him, and enjoined a barber who shaved him in prison to be so, lest he should take that occasion to cut his throat. Yet nothing of this happened until the day of his execution, when the keepers coming to him in the morning, found him praying very devoutly in his cell; but about twenty minutes after, going thither again, they perceived he had fastened his sword belt which he wore always about him to the grate of the window which looked out of his cell, to the end of which he tied his handkerchief, and having then adjusted that about his neck, he strangled himself with it, and was dead when the keepers opened the doors to look in.

The Ordinary makes this remark upon his exit, that it is to be feared he was a hypocrite and that little of what he said can be believed. For my part, I am far from taking upon me either to enter into the breasts of men or pretend to set bounds to the mercy of God, and therefore without any further remarks, shall conclude his life with informing my readers that at the time he put an end to his own being, he was about forty-eight years of age, and a man in his person and behaviour very unlikely to have been such a one as it is to be feared (notwithstanding all his denials) he really was.

The Life of JOHN DOYLE, a Highwayman

When once men have plunged themselves so far into sensual pleasures as to lose all sense of any other delight than that arises from the gratification of the senses, there is no great cause of wonder if they addict themselves to illegal methods of gaining wherewith to purchase such enjoyments; since the want of virtue easily draws on the loss of all other principles, nor can it be hoped from a man who has delivered himself over to the dominion of these vices that he should stop short at the lawful means of obtaining money by which alone he can be enabled to possess them.

Common women are usually the first bane of those unhappy persons who forfeit their lives to the Law as the just punishment of their offences; these women, I say, are so far from having the least concern whether their paramours run any unhappy courses to obtain the sums necessary to supply their mutual extravagance, that on the contrary they are ever ready, by oblique hints and insinuations, to put them upon such dangerous exploits which as they are sure to reap the fruits of, so sometimes when they grow weary of them, they find it an easy method to get rid of them and at the same time put money in their own pockets. Yet so blind are these unhappy wretches, that although such things fall out yearly, yet they are never to be warned, but run into the snare with as much readiness as if they were going unto the possession of certain and lasting happiness.

But to come to the adventures of the unhappy person whose life we are going to relate. John Doyle was born in the town of Carrough, in Ireland, and of very honest parents who gave him as good education as could be expected in that country, instructing him in writing and accounts, and made some progress in Latin. When he was fit for a trade, his friends agreed to put him out, and not thinking they should find a master good enough for him in a country place, they sent him to Dublin, and bound him to a tallow-chandler and soap-boiler in St. Thomas's Street, whom he faithfully served seven years, and his master gave him a good character. Being out of his time, his master prevailed with him to work journey-work for him, which he did for nine months; but having got acquainted by that time with some of the town ladies and pretending to his friends that he was in hopes of better business, his friends remitted him fifty pounds to help him forward.

He lived well while that money lasted, but when it was almost spent, he knew not what to turn himself to, for working did not agree with him. He took a resolution to come to England, and on the 19th of April, 1715, he came over in a packet-boat. Having no more money left than three pounds ten shillings, and not seeing which way he could get a further supply unless he went to work, which he could not endure, he resolved to rob on the highway; and to fit him for it, he bought a pair of pistols at West Chester which cost him forty shillings. He continued in that city till the Chester coach was to go for London. At four miles distant from the town he attacked it, and robbed four passengers that were in it of fourteen pounds, six shillings and ninepence, two silver watches and a mourning ring, which was the first attempt of that kind that ever he made in his life; then he went off a by-way undiscovered.

Having got a pretty good booty, he travelled across the country to Shrewsbury, and having stayed there about two days, he happened to meet a man that had been formerly a collector on the road, who had a horse to sell. He bought the horse for seven guineas, though indeed it was worth twenty, as it proved afterwards; no man soever was master of a better bred horse for the highway. He was not willing to stay long at Shrewsbury, so he went from thence and going along the country, met two ladies in a small chaise, with only one servant and a pair of horses. He robbed them of a purse with twenty-nine half guineas, nine shillings in silver and twopence brass, and two gold watches. The servant who rode by had a case of pistols which he took from him, and then made off undiscovered. His horse at that time was much better acquainted with coming up to a coach door than he was. Sometime afterwards he passed across the country, and came to Newbury, in Berkshire, where he remained for about fourteen days, during which time he was very reserved and kept no company. But growing weary, he departed from that place the same morning that the Newbury coach was to set out for London: and when it was about five miles distant from the town of Newbury, he came up to the coach door, and making a ceremony, as became a man of business, demanded their all, which they very readily consented to deliver, which proved to be about twenty-nine pounds in money, a silver watch, a plain wedding ring, a tortoiseshell snuff box, and a very good whip.

There was also a family ring which a gentleman begged very hard for, whereupon by his earnest application he gave it back, and the man assured him he would never appear against him. He was a man of honour, for he happened to meet him some time after at the Rummer and Horseshoe in Drury Lane, where he treated Doyle handsomely, and showed him the ring, and withal declared that he would not be his enemy on any account whatsoever.

Doyle being at this time a young beginner, thought what he got for the preceding time to be very well, and in a few days after this arrived at Windsor, where he stayed one night, and there being a gentleman's family bound for London, that lay that night at the Mermaid Inn in the town, he changed his lodging and removed to the inn; and having stayed there that night, he minded where they put their valuable baggage up. The next morning he paid his reckoning and came away, and got about four miles out of the town before them; then coming up and making the usual ceremony, he demanded their money, watches and rings. The gentleman in the coach pulled out a blunderbuss, but Doyle soon quelled him by clapping a pistol to his nose, telling him that if he stirred hand or foot he was a dead man. Then he made him give his blunderbuss first, then his money which was fifty guineas, fifteen shillings in silver, and five-pence in brass, a woman's gold watch and a pocket book in which were seven bank-notes, which the gentleman said he took that day in order to pay his servants' wages. After this he made the best of his way to London and got into James's Street, Westminster, where he drank a pint of wine, and then crossed over to Lambeth, and put up his horse at the Red Lion Inn, and stayed there that night.

The next morning he came to the Coach and Horses in Old Palace Yard, Westminster, where he dined, and about seven at night departed from thence and went to the Phoenix gaming-house in the Haymarket, to which place, he said, he believed a great many owe their ruin. He remained some time at the Phoenix, and seeing them gaming hard, he had a mind to have a touch at it; when coming into the ring he took the box in his turn, and in about thirty minutes lost thirty-seven pounds, which broke him. But having some watches about him, he went immediately to the Three Bowls in Market Lane, St. James, and pawned a gold watch for sixteen guineas; and returning back to the Phoenix went to gaming a second time, and in less than an hour recovered his money and forty-three pounds more. And seeing an acquaintance there he took him to the Cardigan's Head tavern, Charing Cross, and made merry. That night he lay at the White Bear in Piccadilly, and stayed there until the next evening, after which, having paid his reckoning, he went to Lambeth to his landlord who had his horse in his care, and remained there that night. The next morning he went away having discharged the house.

Having then a pretty sum of money about him, he had an inclination to see the country of Kent, and accordingly went that day to Greenwich, and put up his horse while he went to see the Hospital; and having baited the horse he parted from thence, and going over Blackheath, he happened to meet a gentleman, who proved to be Sir Gregory Page. Doyle took what money he had about him, which was about seventy guineas in a green purse, a watch, two gold seals and eighteen pence in silver. That night he rode away to Maidstone, and from thence to Canterbury.

In a few days he returned to London, and was for a long time silent, even for about six months, and never robbed or made an attempt to rob any man, but kept his horse in a very good order, and commonly went in an afternoon to Hampstead, sometimes to Richmond, or to Hackney. In short, he knew all the roads about London in less than six months as well as any man in England. His money beginning now to grow short, not having turned out so long, and the keeping his horse on the other hand being costly, he resolved that his horse should pay for his own keeping, and turned out one evening and robbed a Jew of seventy-five pounds, and of his and his lady's watches, a gold box and some silver, and returned to town undiscovered. The next day Doyle went Brentford way, and coming to Turnham Green stayed some time at the Pack Horse, where he saw two Quakers on horseback. He rode gently after them till they got to Hounslow Heath, where he secured what money they had, which was something above a hundred pounds. They begged hard for some money back, when he gave them a guinea, taking from them their spurs and whips, and at some distance threw them away. Those two men, as he found some days after by the papers, were two meal factors that were going to High Wycombe market in Buckinghamshire, to buy either wheat or flour.

This last being a pretty good booty, he had a mind afterwards to go for Ireland and accordingly set out for his journey thither. He took shipping at King's Road near Bristol, on board a small vessel bound to Waterford, where he arrived and stayed at the Eagle in Waterford three days, and from thence went directly to Dublin. Doyle was not long in Dublin before he became acquainted with his wife, whom he courted for some time and was extravagant in spending his money on her. He also soon got acquainted with one N. B., a man now alive, and they turned out together. None was able to stand against them, for they had everything that came in their way, and in plain terms, there was not a man that carried money about him, within eight miles of Dublin, but if they met him they were sure to get what he had.

Being grown so wicked Doyle was at length taken for a robber and committed to Newgate, then kept by one Mr. Hawkins, who used him so barbarously that he wished himself out of his hands. Accordingly he got his irons off and broke out of the gaol. Hawkins knowing all the bums[97] in Dublin, sent them up and down the city to take him, but to no purpose. However, they rooted him fairly out of that neighbourhood.

Then he returned to Waterford, where he appointed his wife and friend should meet him, which they did; and in about four hours after he came there he found them out, and there being a ship bound for Bristol, he sent them on board, agreed with the captain and went himself on board the same night. They hoisted their sails and got down to the Passage near Waterford, but the wind proving contrary, they were obliged to return back, and then concluded it was determined for Doyle to be taken; which he had been had he kept on board, but he luckily got on shore, when it was agreed to go to Cork. There they met with an honest cock of a landlord, and he kept himself very private, making the poor man believe that his companion and he were two that were raising men for the Chevalier's[98] service, and that their keeping so private proceeded from a fear of being discovered. The poor man had then a double regard for them, he being a lover in his heart of ——. Doyle then sent his wife to seek for a ship; but Hawkins having pursued him from Dublin, happened to see her, and dogged her to the ship where she went on board, sending officers to search, for he was sure he should find him there. He was mistaken, but they took his poor wife up to see if they could make her discover where he was, and ordered a strong guard to bring her to Cork gaol. A boat was provided to bring her on shore, but she telling the men some plausible stories that her husband was not the man they represented him to be, one of the watermen having stripped off his clothes in order to row, and there being a great many honest fellows in the boat, they assisted her in putting on waterman's clothes, which as soon as done, she fairly got away from them, and came and acquainted Doyle that Hawkins was in town, and how she had been in danger. They then concluded on leaving Cork, hired horses that night, and came to a place called Mallow, within ten miles of Cork. The next day they travelled to Limerick, where Doyle bought a horse, bridle, etc., and went towards Galloway, and in all his journey round about got but two prizes, which did not amount to above fifteen pounds.

Sometime after, his wife was transported, which gave him a great deal of concern, and he could not be in any way content without her. So getting some money together he went to Virginia, and having arrived there soon met with her, having had intelligence where to enquire for her. The first house be came into was one William Dalton's, who had some days before bought the late noted James Dalton,[99] who was then his servant, whom he very often used to send along with Doyle in his boat to put him on board a ship. Then he thought it his best way to buy his wife's liberty, which he did, paying fifteen pounds for it.

He had then a considerable deal of money about him, and removed from that part of the country where she was known and went to New York. Being arrived there he soon got acquainted with some of his countrymen, with whom be had used to go a-hunting and to the horse races; so be spent some time in seeing the country. By chance he came to hear of a namesake of his, that lived in an island a little distant from New York, and being willing to see any of his name, he sent for him, and according to Doyle's request, he wrote to him that he would come the next day, which he did, and proved to be his uncle. The old man was overjoyed to see Doyle, and carried him home with him, where he stayed a long time, and spent a great deal of money.

His uncle was very much affronted at Doyle's ill-treatment of the natives, whom he severely beat, insomuch that the whole place was afraid of him, and all intended to join and take the Law of him. Soon after he departed from New York and went to Boston, where he remained some time, and at length he resolved within himself to settle and work at his trade, thinking it better to do so than to spend all his money, and be obliged to return to England or Ireland without a penny in his pocket. He did so, and having agreed with a master he went to work, and was very saving and frugal.

He remained with that man till by his wife's industry he had got, including what was his own, about two hundred pounds English money. Then he advised his wife to go for Ireland in the first ship that was bound that way, laying all her money out to twenty pounds, and shipped the goods which he had brought on board for her account. She then went to Ireland and Doyle for England, promising to go over to her as soon as he could get some money, for he had then an inclination to leave off his old trade of collecting.

Being arrived at London, he met with a certain person with whom he joined, and as he himself terms it, never had man a braver companion, for let him push at what he would, his new companion never flinched one inch. They turned out about London for some time, and got a great deal of money, for nothing hardly missed them. They used a long time the roads about Hounslow, Hampstead, and places adjacent, until the papers began to describe them, on which they went into Essex, and robbed several graziers, farmers and others. Then they went to Bishop's Stortford, in Hertfordshire, where they robbed one man in particular who had his money tied up under his arm in a great purse. Doyle says that he had some intelligence from a friend that the man had money about him, he made him strip in buff, and then found out where he lodged it, and took it, but he did not use him in any way ill, for he says it was the man's business to conceal it, as much as his to discover it.

Doyle and his partner hearing of a certain fair which was to be held a few days after, they resolved to go to it, and coming there took notice who took most money. In the evening they took their horses, and about three miles distant from the town there was a green, over which the people were obliged to come from the fair. There came a great many graziers and farmers, whom they robbed of upwards of eight hundred pounds. At this time Doyle had in money and valuable things, such as diamonds, rings, watches, to the amount of about sixteen hundred pounds. His partner had also a great deal of money, but not so much as Doyle, by reason that he (D) had got some very often which he had no right to have a share of.

Doyle went again for Ireland, and carried all his money with him, and having a great many poor relations, distributed part of it amongst them; some he lent, which he could never get again, and in a little his money grew short, having frequented horse races and all public places. However, before all was spent he returned to England. Following his old course of life, he happened into several broils, with which a little money and a few friends he got over. In a short space of time he became acquainted with Benjamin Wileman. They two, with another person concerned with them, committed several robberies. At length they were discovered, apprehended and committed to Newgate. Wileman, it seems, had an itching to become an evidence against Doyle and W. G. But Doyle made himself an evidence, being really, as he said, for his own preservation and not for the sake of any reward.

Doyle's wife being for a second time transported, he went with her in the same ship, and having arrived in Virginia, slaved there some time, until he began to grow weary of the place. But as he was always too indulgent to her, he bought her her liberty, and shipped her and himself on board the first ship that came to England, when in seven weeks time they arrived in the Downs. Soon after they came up to England, but were not long in town before his wife was taken up for returning from transportation, and committed to Newgate, where she remained until the sessions following, and being brought upon her trial, pleaded guilty.

When they came to pass sentence upon her, she produced his Majesty's most gracious pardon, and was admitted to bail to plead the same, and thereupon discharged. Doyle, a short time after, went to the West of England, where he slaved some time, following his old way of life; and associating himself with a certain companion, got a considerable sum of money, and came to Marlborough. And having continued some time in that neighbourhood, they usually kept the markets, where they commonly cleared five pounds a day. Going from Marlborough they came to Hungerford, and put up their horses at the George Inn; and having ordered something for dinner, saw some graziers on the road, but one of them being an old sportsman, and a brother tradesman of Doyle's formerly, he knew the said Doyle immediately, by the description given of him, and very honestly came to him, and told him that he had a charge of money about him, and withal begged that he would not hurt him, since he had made so ingenuous a confession, desiring Doyle to make the best of his way to another part of the country, telling him at the same time where he lived in London, and that if he should act honourably by him, he would put a thousand pounds in his pocket in a month's time. According to the grazier's directions, Doyle and his companions departed, but having met, as Doyle phrases it, with a running chase in their cross way, which they had taken for safety, they were obliged to return back into the main road again, and by accident put up at the same inn where the grazier and his companions were that evening. The grazier, as soon as he saw Doyle, came in and drank a bottle with him, and then retired to his companions, without taking any manner of notice of him.

As they came for London, they took everything that came into their net, and in three days time Doyle paid his brother sportsman, the grazier, a visit, who received him handsomely, and appointed him to meet him the next market day at the Greyhound in Smithfield, in order to make good part of his promise to him. Doyle and his companion went to him, put up their horses at the same inn and passed for country farmers. This grazier, who formerly had been one of the same profession being now grown honest and bred a butcher, was then turned salesman in Smithfield, and sold cattle for country graziers, and sent them their money back by their servants who had brought the cattle to town. Having drunk a glass of wine together, they began to talk about business, and the grazier being obliged to go into the market to sell some beasts, desired Doyle and his companion to stay there until he returned. When he came he gave them some little instructions how they should proceed in an affair he had then in view to serve then in, and having taken his advice, they rode out of town; and it being a West Country fair they rode Turnham Green way.

They had not time to drink a pint of wine before the West Country chapman came ajogging along. They took two hundred and forty pounds from him, making (as D. terms it) a much quicker bargain with him than he had done with the butcher at Smithfield. The chapman begged hard for some money to carry him home to his family, and after they had given him two guineas, he said to them that he had often travelled that road with five hundred pounds about him, and never had been stopped. To which Doyle replied, that half the highwaymen who frequented the road were but mere old women, otherwise he would never have had that to brag of, and then parted. Doyle says that the honest man at Smithfield had poundage of him as well as from the grazier, so that he acted in a double capacity.

That night they came to London, and having put up their horses, put on other clothes and went to Smithfield, where not finding the butcher at home, they write a note and left it for an appointment to meet him at the Horn Tavern in Fleet Street, where they had not stayed long before he came. After taking a cheerful glass they talked the story over, and out of the booty Doyle gave turn fifty guineas, after which the butcher promised to be his friend upon a better affair. After paying the reckoning they parted and appointed to meet the next market day at Smithfield.

They went at the time appointed, and having drank a morning glass, stepped into the market and stayed some time. Their brother sportsman being very busy, he made excuse to Doyle and his companion, telling them there was nothing to be done in their way till the evening, desiring them to be patient. They remained in and about Smithfield till then, and market being entirely over, their friend came up to the place appointed, and showed them a man on horseback to whom he had just paid fifty pounds. Doyle and his companion immediately called for their horses, took leave of their friend, and kept in sight of the countryman until he was out of town. And when he was got near the Adam and Eve, at Kensington, they came up to him, and made a ceremony, as became men of their profession. He was very unwilling to part from his money, making an attempt to ride away, but they soon overtook him, and after some dispute took every penny that he received in Smithfield, and for his residing gave him back only a crown to bear his charges home. In his memoirs Doyle makes this observation, that they always robbed between sun and sun, so that the persons robbed might make the county pay them that money back if they thought fit to sue them for it.[100] Next morning Doyle and his companion came to the place appointed, and not meeting with their brother sportsman sent for him, where they drank together, and talked as usual about business, paying him poundage out of what money they had collected on his information (for they usually dealt with him as a custom-house officer does by an informer); after which they parted for that time, and did not meet for a month after.

Afterwards they went up and down Hertfordshire, but got scarce money enough to bear their expenses; but where there were small gettings they lived the more frugally, for Doyle observed that if the country did not bear their expenses wherever he travelled, he thought it very hard, and that if he failed of gaming one day, he commonly got as much the next as he could well destroy.

Hitherto we have kept very close to those memoirs which Mr. Doyle left behind him, which I did with this view, that my readers might have some idea of what these people think of themselves. I shall now bring you to the conclusion of his story, by informing you that finding himself beset at the several lodgings which he kept by way of precaution, he for some days behaved himself with much circumspection; but happening to forget his pistols, he was seized, coming out of an inn in Drury Lane, and though he made as much resistance as he was able, yet they forced him unto a coach and conveyed him to Newgate. It is hard to say what expectations he entertained after he was once apprehended, but it is reasonable to believe that he had strong hopes of life, notwithstanding his pleading guilty at his trial, for he dissembled until the time of the coming down of a death warrant, and then declared he was a Roman Catholic, and not a member of the Church of England, as he had hitherto pretended.

He seemed to be a tolerably good-natured man, but excessively vicious at the same time that he was extravagantly fond of the woman he called his wife. He took no little pleasure in the relations of those adventures which happened to him in his exploits on the highway, and expressed himself with much seeming satisfaction, because as he said, he had never been guilty of beating or using passengers ill, much less of wounding or attempting to murder them. In general terms, he pretended to much penitence, but whether it was that he could not get over the natural vivacity of his own temper, or that the principles of the Church of Rome, as is too common a case, proved a strong opiate in his conscience, however it was, I say, Doyle did not seem to have any true contrition for his great and manifold offences. On the contrary, he appeared with some levity, even when on the very point of death.

He went to execution in a mourning coach; all the way he read with much seeming attention in a little Popish manual, which had been given him by one of his friends. At the tree he spoke a little to the people, told them that his wife had been a very good wife to him, let her character in other respects be what it would. Then he declared he had left behind him memoirs of his life and conduct, to which he had nothing to add there, and from which I have taken verbatim a great part of what I have related. And then, having nothing more to offer to the world, he submitted to death on the first of June, 1730, but in what year of his age I cannot say.

However, before I make an end of what relates to Mr. Doyle, it would be proper to acquaint the public that the vanity of his wife extended so far as to make a pompous funeral for him at St. Sepulchre's church, whereat she, as chief mourner assisted, and was led by a gentleman whom the world suspected to be of her husband's employment.


[97] i.e., bailiffs, informers and spies.

[98] The Pretender, whose name was only to be mentioned with baited breath.

[99] See page 533.

[100] Passengers robbed on the highway between sunrise and sunset, could sue the county for the amount of their loss, it being the duty of the officials to keep the roads safe.

The Life of JOHN YOUNG, a Highwayman

I have more than once remarked in the course of these memoirs that of all crimes, cruelty makes men the most generally hated, and that from this reasonable cause, that they seem to have taken up an aversion to their own kind. This was remarkably the case of the unhappy man of whom we are now speaking.

He was, it seems, the son of very honest and industrious parents, his father being a gardener at Kensington. From him he received as good an education as it was in his power to give him, and was treated with all the indulgence that could be expected from a tender parent; and it seems that after five years' stay at school, he was qualified for any business whatsoever. So after consulting his own inclinations he was put out apprentice to a coach-maker in Long Acre, where he stayed not long; but finding all work disagreeable to him, he therefore resolved to be gone, let the consequence be what it would. When this resolve was once taken, it was but a very short time before it was put into execution. Living now at large, and not knowing how to gain money enough to support himself, and therefore being in very great straits, he complied with the solicitations of some hackney-coachmen, who advised him to learn their trade. They took some pains to instruct him, employed him often, and in about six months time he became perfect master of his business, and drove for Mr. Blunt, in Piccadilly. His behaviour here was so honest that Mr. Blunt gave him a good character, and he thereby obtained the place of a gentleman's coachmen. In a short time he saved money and began to have some relish for an honest life; and continuing industriously to hoard up what he received either in wages or vales [tips] at last by these methods he drew together a very considerable sum of money.

And then it came into his head to settle himself in an honest way of life, in which design his father gave him all the encouragement that was in his power, telling him in order to do it, he should marry an honest, virtuous woman. Whereupon, with the advice and consent of his parents, he married a young woman of a reputable family from Kentish Town, who, as to fortune, brought him a pretty little addition to his own savings, so that altogether he had, according to his own account, a very pretty competency wherewith to begin the world.

For some time after his marriage he indulged himself in living without employment, but finding such a course wasted his little stock very fast, he began to apply his thoughts to the consideration of what course was the most likely to get his bread in. After beating his brains for some little time on this subject he at last resolved on keeping a public-house; which agreeing very well with his father's and relations' notions, he thereupon immediately took the King's Arms, in Red Lion Street, where for some time he continued to have very good business. In all, he remained there about five years, and might in that time have got a very pretty sum of money if he had not been so unhappy as to grow proud, as soon as he had anything in his pocket. It was not long, therefore, before he gave way to his own roving disposition, going over to Ireland, where he remained for a considerable space, living by his wits as he expresses it, or, in the language of honest people, by defrauding others.

But Ireland is a country where such sort of people are not likely to support themselves long; money is far from being plentiful, and though the common people are credulous in their nature, yet tradesmen and the folks of middling ranks are as suspicious as any nation in the world. The county of West Meath was the place where he had fixed his residence for the greatest part of the time he continued in the island, but at last it grew too hot for him. The inhabitants became sensible of his way of living, and gave him such disturbance that he found himself under an indispensable necessity of quitting that place as soon as possibly he could; and so having picked up as much money as would pay for his passage, he came over again into England, out of humour with rambling while he felt the uneasiness it had brought upon him, but ready to take it up again as soon as ever his circumstances were made a little easy, which in his present condition was not likely to happen in haste.

His friends received him very coldly, his parents had it not in their power to do more for him. In a word, the countenance of the world frowned upon him, and everybody treated him with that disdain and contempt which his foolish behaviour deserved. However, instead of reclaiming him, this forced him upon worse courses. His wife, it seems, either died in his absence, or was dead before he went abroad, and soon after his return he contracted an acquaintance with a woman, who was at that time cook in the family of a certain bishop; her he courted and a short time after, married. She brought him not only some ready money, but also goods to a pretty large value. Young being not a bit mended by his misfortunes, squandered away the first in a very short time, and turned the last into ready money. However, these supplies were of not very long continuance, and with much importunity his friends, in order, if it were possible, to keep him honest, got him in a small place in the Revenue, and he was put in as one of the officers to survey candles. In this post he continued for about a twelvemonth, and then relapsing into his former idle and profligate courses, he was quickly suspected and thereby put to his shifts again, though his wife at that time was in place, and helped him very frequently with money.

This, it seems, was too servile a course for a man of Mr. Young's spirit to take, so that he picked up as much as bought him a pair of pistols, and then went upon the highway, to which it seems the foolish pride of not being dependant upon his wife did at that time not a little contribute. In his first adventure in this new employment, he got fifteen guineas, but being in a very great apprehension of a pursuit, his fears engaged him to fly down to Bristol, in order, if it were possible, to avoid them. After staying there some considerable time, he began at last to take heart, and to fancy he might be forgotten. Upon these hopes he resolved with himself to come up towards London again; and taking advantage of a person travelling with him to Uxbridge, he made use of every method in his power to insinuate himself into his fellow traveller's good graces. This he effected, insomuch that at High Wycombe, in Buckinghamshire, as Young himself told the story, he prevailed on him to lend him three half-crowns to defray his expenses, pretending that he had some friend or relation hard by who would repay him. But unfortunately for the man, he had talked too freely of a sum of money which he pretended to have about him. It thereupon raised an inclination in Young to strip him and rob him of this supposed great prize; for which purpose he attacked him in a lone place, and not only threatened him with shooting him, but as he pretended, by his hand shaking, was as good as his word, and actually wounded him in such a manner as he in all probability at that time took to be mortal; but taking advantage of the condition in which the poor man was, he made the best of his way off, and was so lucky as to escape for the present, although that crime brought him afterwards to his execution.

When he had considered a little the nature of the fact which he had committed, it appeared even to himself of so black and barbarous a nature that he resolved to fly to the West of England, in order to remain there for some time. But from this he was deterred by looking into a newspaper and finding himself advertised there; the man whom he had shot being also said to be dead, this put him into such a consternation that he returned directly to London, and going to a place hard by where his wife lived, he sent for her, and told her that he was threatened with an unfortunate affair which might be of the greatest ill-consequence to him if he should be discovered. She seemed to be extremely moved at his misfortunes, and gave him what money she could spare, which was not a little, insomuch that Young at last began to suspect she made bold now and then to borrow of her mistress; but if she did, that was a practice he could forgive her. At last he proposed taking a lodging for himself at Horsely Down,[101] as a place the likeliest for him to be concealed in. There his wife continued to supply him, until one Sunday morning she came in a great hurry and brought with her a pretty handsome parcel of guineas. Young could not help suspecting she did not come very honestly by them. However, if he had the money he troubled not his head much which way he came by it, and he had so good a knack of wheedling her that he got twenty pounds out of her that Sunday.

A very few days after, intelligence was got of his retreat, and the man whom he had robbed and shot made so indefatigable a search after him, that he was taken up and committed to the New Gaol, and his wife, a very little time after, was committed to Newgate for breaking open her lady's escrutoire, and robbing her of a hundred guineas. This was what Young said himself and I repeat it because I have his memoirs before me. Yet in respect to truth, I shall be obliged to say something of another nature in its due place; but to go on with our narration according to the time in which facts happened.

A Habeas Corpus was directed to the sheriff of Surrey, whereupon Young was brought to Newgate, and at the next sessions of the Old Bailey was indicted for the aforesaid robbery, which was committed in the county of Middlesex. The charge against him was for assaulting Thomas Stinton, in a field or open place near the Highway, and taking from him a mare of the value of seven pounds, a bridle value one shilling and sixpence, a saddle value twelve shillings, three broad-pieces of gold and nine shillings in silver, at the same time putting the said Thomas Stinton in fear of his life.

Upon this indictment the prosecutor deposed that meeting with the prisoner about seven miles on this side of Bristol, and being glad of each other's company, they continued and lodged together till they came to Oxford; where the prisoner complaining that he was short of money, the prosecutor lent him a crown out of his pocket, and at Loudwater, the place where they lodged next night, he lent him half a crown more. The next morning they came for London, and being a little on this side of Uxbridge, Young said he had a friend in Hounslow who would advance him the money which he had borrowed from the prosecutor, and thereupon desired Mr. Stinton to go with him thither, to which he agreed; and Young thereupon persuaded him to go by a nearer way, and under that pretence after making him leap hedges and ditches, at last brought him to a place by the river side, where on a sudden he knocked him off his horse, and that with such force that he made the blood gush out of his nose and mouth.

As soon as Young perceived that the prosecutor had recovered his senses a little, he demanded his money, to which Mr. Stinton replied, Is this the manner in which you treat your friend? You see, I have not strength to give you anything. Whereupon Young took from him his pocket-book and money. And Mr. Stinton earnestly entreating that he would give him somewhat to bear his expenses home, in answer thereto Young said, Ay, I'll give you what shall carry you home straight, and then shot him in the neck, and pushing him down into the ditch, said, Lie there. Some time after with much ado, Mr. Stinton crawled out and got to a house, but saw no more of the prisoner, or of either of their mares.

George Hartwell deposed that he helped both the prisoner and the prosecutor to the inn where they lay at Oxford. Sarah Howard deposed that she kept the inn or house where they lodged at Loudwater the night before the robbery was committed. And all the witnesses, as well as the prosecutor being positive to the person of the prisoner, the charge seemed to be as fully proved as it was possible for a thing of that nature to admit.

The prisoner in his defence did not pretend to deny the fact, but as much as he was able endeavoured to extenuate it. He said, that for his part he did not know anything of the mare; that the going off the pistol was merely accidental; that he did, indeed, take the money, and therefore, did not expect any other than to suffer death, but that it would be a great satisfaction to him, even in his last moments, that he neither had or ever intended to commit any murder. But those words in the prosecutor's evidence, I'll give you something to carry you home, and Lie there (that is in the ditch) being mentioned in summing up the evidence to the jury, Young, with great warmth and many asseverations, denied that he made use of them. The jury, after a very short consideration, being full satisfied with the evidence which had been offered, found him guilty.

The very same day his wife was indicted for the robbery of her mistress, when the fact was charged upon her thus: that she on a Sunday, conveyed Young secretly upstairs in her mistress's house, where she passed for a single woman; that he took an opportunity to break open a closet and to steal from thence ninety guineas, and ten pounds in silver; a satin petticoat value thirty shillings, and an orange crepe petticoat were also carried off; and she asking leave of her lady to go out in the afternoon, took that opportunity to go quite away, not being heard of for a long time. Upon her husband being apprehended for the fact for which he died, somebody remembered her and the story of her robbing her mistress, caused her thereupon to be apprehended. Not being able to prove her marriage at the time of her trial, she was convicted, and ordered for transportation. This was a very different story from that which Young told in his relations of his wife's adventure, but when it came to be mentioned to that unhappy man and pressed upon him, though he could not be brought to acknowledge it, yet he never denied it; which the Ordinary says, was a method of proceeding he took up, because unwilling to confess the truth, and afraid when so near death to tell a lie.

When under sentence of death, this unfortunate person began to have a true sense of his own miserable condition; he was very far from denying the crime for which he suffered, although he still continued to deny some of the circumstances of it. The judgment which had been pronounced upon him, he acknowledged to be very just and reasonable, and was so far from being either angry or affrighted at the death he was to die that on the contrary he said it was the only thing that gave his thoughts ease. To say truth, the force of religion was never more visible in any man than it was in this unfortunate malefactor. He was sensible of his repentance being both forced and late, which made him attend to the duties thereof with an extraordinary fervour and application. He said that the thoughts of his dissolution had no other effect upon him than to quicken his diligence in imploring God for pardon. To all those who visited him either from their knowledge of him in former circumstances, or, as too many do, from the curiosity of observing how he would behave under those melancholy circumstances in which he then was, he discoursed of nothing but death, eternity, and future judgment. The gravity of his temper and the serious turn of his thoughts was never interrupted in any respect throughout the whole space of time in which he lay under condemnation; on the contrary, he every day appeared to have more and more improved from his meditations and almost continual devotions, appearing frequently when at chapel wrapped up as it were in ecstasy at the thoughts of heaven and future felicity, humbling himself, however, for the numberless sins he had committed, and omitting nothing which could serve to show the greatness of his sorrow and the sincerity of his contrition.

The day he was to die, the unfortunate old man his father, then upwards of seventy years of age, came to visit him, and saw him haltered as he went out to execution. Words are too feeble to express that impetuosity of grief which overwhelmed both the miserable father and the dying son. However, the old man, bedewing him with a flood of tears, exhorted him not to let go on his hopes in Christ, even in that miserable conjuncture; but that he should remember the mercy of God was over all his works, and in an especial manner was promised to those who were penitent for their sins, which Christ had especially confirmed in sealing the pardon of the repenting thief, even upon the cross.

At the place of execution he appeared scarce without any appearance of terror, much less of obstinacy or contempt of death. Being asked what he did with the pocket-book which he took from Mr. Stinton, and which contained in it things of very great use to him, Young replied ingeniously that he had burnt it, for which he was heartily sorry, but that he did not look into or make himself acquainted with its contents. Just before the cart drew away, he arose and spoke to the people, and said, The love of idleness, being too much addicted to company, and a too greedy love of strong liquors has brought me to this unhappy end. The Law intends my death for an example unto others; let it be so, let my follies prevent others from falling into the like, and let the shame which you see me suffer, deter all of you from the commission of such sins as may bring you to the like fatal end. My sentence is just, but pray, ye good people, for my soul, that though I die ignominiously here, I may not perish everlastingly.

He was executed the first of June, 1730, being at the time about thirty-nine years of age.


[101] This district, at the Dockhead end of Tooley Street, was at that time a sort of No Man's Land, where horses were grazed and a few poverty-stricken wretches lived in sheds and holes in the ground.

The Life of THOMAS POLSON, alias HITCHIN, a Footpad and Highwayman

Habit is the most dangerous of all evils. The transports of passion are sometimes prevented from having fatal effects, either by the precautions of those with whom we quarrel, or because a sudden reflection of our own minds checks our hand. But where men have abandoned themselves to wickedness, and given themselves up to the commission of every kind of evil without restraint, there is little hope to be entertained of their ever mending; and if the fear of a sudden death work a true repentance, it is all that can be hoped.

As for this unfortunate man of whose actions the course of our memoirs obliges us to treat, he was descended from parents who lived at Marlow, in the county of Salop, who were equally honest in their reputations, and easy in their circumstances. They spared nothing in the education of their son, and it is hard to say whether their care of him was more or his application was less. Even while a child and at school he gave too evident symptoms of that lazy, indolent disposition which attended him so flagrantly and was justly the occasion of all the misfortunes of his succeeding life. Learning was of all things his aversion. It was with difficulty that he was taught to read and write. As to employment, his father brought him up to husbandry and the business of a rural life.

When he was of age his father gave him an estate of twenty pounds per annum, freehold, and got him into a very good farm. He procured for him also a wife, who had ten pounds a year more of her own, and settled him in such a manner that no young man in the country had a better prospect of doing well than himself. But, alas! to what purpose are the endeavours of others, where a man studies nothing so much as to compass his own ruin? On a sudden he took a love to card-playing, and addicted himself to it with such earnestness that he neglected his business and squandered his money. Want was what of all things he hated, except work, and therefore rather than labour to retrieve, he bethought himself of an easier way of getting money, and that was to steal.

His first attempt was upon his father, whom he robbed of a considerable sum of money. He not being in the least suspected, a poor maid who lived in the house bore the blame for about six months, and nobody in all that time being charged with it but her, there was at last a design in the old man's head to prosecute her. This reaching young Polson's ear, he resolved not to let an innocent person suffer, which was indeed a very just and honourable act, whereupon he wrote an humble letter to his father, acknowledging his fault, begging pardon for his offences, and desiring that he would not prosecute the poor woman, or suffer her to be any longer under the odium of a fact of which she had not the least knowledge. This, to be sure, had its effect on his father, who was a very honest and considerate man. He took care to restore the wench to her good character and his favour, though for a while he with just reason continued to frown upon his son. At last paternal tenderness prevailed, and after giving him several cautions and much good advice, he promised, on his good behaviour, to forgive him what had past. The young man promised fairly, but falling quickly into necessities, want of money had its old effect upon him again, that is, impatient to be at his old practices, tired with work, and yet not knowing how to get money, he at length resolved to go into Wales and steal horses.

This project he executed, and took one from one Mr. Lewis of a considerable value. He sold it to a London butcher for about sixteen pounds, at a village not far from Shrewsbury. That money did him a little good, and therefore the next time he was in a strait he readily bethought himself of Wales. Accordingly he equipped himself with a little pad, and out he set in quest of purchase. At a little inn in Wales be met with a gentleman whom he had reason to suppose had money about him, whereupon our highwayman was very industrious first to make him drink, and then to get him for a bed-fellow, both of which designs he in the end brought to pass, and by that means robbed him of six pounds odd money, taking care to go in the morning a different road from what he had talked of, and by that means easily escaped what pursuit was made after him.

When he had committed this fact he retired towards Canterbury, giving himself over entirely to thieving or cheating, on which design he traversed the whole county of Kent, but found the people so cautious that he did it with very little advantage; until at last coming near Maidstone, he observed a parcel of fine linen hanging upon a hedge. He immediately bethought himself that though the people were wise, yet their hedges might be otherwise, upon which stepping up to it, he fairly stripped it of ten fine shirts, and so left the people who had washed them to account for it. After this exploit, he made the best of his way to London, where he speedily sold the stolen linen for five pounds to a Life Guardsman; and when he had spent a good part of it, down he went into Norfolk. And being afraid that the inhabitants would take notice of a stranger setting up his abode there for any considerable time, he thought fit to pretend to be very lame. Having continued as long as he thought proper in this place, he took his opportunity to carry off a fine mare out of the grounds of Sir John Habbard, Baronet, now the Right Honourable the Lord Blickling. This was one of the most dangerous feats he ever committed in his life, for the scent was so strong upon him, and so quickly followed, that he was forced to take a multitude of byways to get to London, where he set her up in the Haymarket. However he quickly found there was no possibility of disposing of her here, information having been given of her to all the great jockeys; so that for present money he was obliged to borrow four guineas of the man at the inn, and to leave her in his hands by way of security, which was making but a poor hand of what he had hazarded his life for.

By this time his father had received some intelligence of his way of living, and out of tenderness of its consequences, wrote to him assuring him of forgiveness for all that was past, if he would come down into the country and live honestly. Such undeserved tenderness had some weight even with our criminal himself, and he at last began to frame his mind to comply with the request of so good a father. Accordingly, down he came, and for a little space, behaved himself honestly and as he should do; but his old distemper, laziness quickly came in his way, and finding money not to come in so fast as he would have it, he began to think of his old practice again, and prepared himself once more to sally out upon his illegal adventures. For this purpose taking with him a little mare of his brothers, for at that time he had no horse proper for the designs he went on, forth he rode in search of prey.

Wales was the place he first visited, and after riding up and down for a good while without meeting with any purchase worth taking, he at last unluckily stumbled upon a poor old man in Flintshire, who had one foot already in the grave. From him he took a silver watch, worth about five pounds, and five shillings in money, which was all the poor man had, and making thereupon the greatest haste he could out of the country, he got clear away before it was discovered. After this he came again to London, where what little money he had he lavished away upon women of the town.

It was not long before want overtook him again, upon which he determined to visit Yorkshire, in hopes of raising some considerable booty there. All the way down, according to his common practice, he bilked the public-houses, and at last arriving at Doncaster, began to set heartily about the work for which he came down. On a market day, he robbed an old farmer of forty shillings and a pair of silver buckles, taking his horse also from him, which, when he had ridden about fifteen miles across country, he turned loose. He rambled from thence on foot, as well as he could, in order to get into his native country of Shropshire, where after the commission of a multitude of such actions, none of which afforded him any great booty, he arrived.

His father took him home again, and he lived for eleven months tolerably honest. However, to keep his hand in use, he now and then stole a shoulder of mutton, a joint which he particularly loved; but sometimes to please his father he would work a little, though it always went much against the grain. At last he quarrelled with his wife, and thereupon threatened to go away again, which very quickly after he did, turning his course, notwithstanding his former ill-success into Yorkshire once more. He was at several of the races in that county, and having no particular business at any place, did nothing but course the country round, pilfering and stealing whatever came in his way; insomuch that at one inn, finding nothing else to lay his hands on, he stole the people's sheets off the bed he lay in, and marched off in the morning so early, that he was out of danger before they perceived the theft.

But finding that he could not do any considerable matter amongst the people, who are cunning to a proverb, he bethought himself of returning to London, and the society of those strumpets in which he took a delight. However, all the way on the road he made a shift to pick up as much as kept him pretty well all the way. On his arrival in town he set up his place of residence in an inn near Leather Lane, Holborn, where he remained one whole day to rest himself after the fatigue of his northern journey. There he reflected on the sad state in which his affairs were, being without money and without friends, justly disregarded by his friends in the country, and hated and despised by all his neighbours. His debts, too, amounted there to near a hundred and forty pounds, so that there was no hopes in going back. The result of these cogitations was that the next day he would go out on the road towards Hampstead, and see what might be made there. He accordingly did so, but with very ill success. However, he returned a second time and had no better; the third day, towards evening, he observed an old gentleman in a chaise by himself, whom he robbed of six guineas, a watch, a mourning-ring, and nine and sixpence in silver, and then making over the fields got home very safe.

For three days he thought fit to remain within doors, under pretence of sickness, fearing lest he should be advertised and described in the public prints; but finding nothing of that happened, he grew bold, and for about fourteen nights continued the same trade constantly, getting, sometimes, two or three pieces, and sometimes losing his labour and getting nothing at all. At length, waiting pretty late for an old man, who, as he was informed, was to come that night with eight hundred pounds about him, although he was so feeble that a child might be able to take it from him, he at length grew impatient, and resolved to rob the first man he met. This proved to be one Mr. Andrews, who raised so quick a pursuit upon him that he never lost sight of him until the time of his being apprehended, when he was carried to Newgate and prosecuted the next sessions for the aforesaid robbery.

He was then indicted for taking from the said Thomas Andrews, after putting him in fear, six or seven shillings in money, a bay mare, bridle and saddle, and a cane, on the 23rd of July, 1730. The evidence was exceedingly clear, he having, as I have said, never gone out of sight, from the time of the robbery to the time he was taken. Under sentence of death the prisoner behaved with great piety and resignation. He showed great concern for the offences of his former life, and testified the utmost sorrow for having blemished an honest family by the shame of his vices and their just punishment. The night before his execution he wrote a letter to his parents in the country, which though it be written in a very uncouth style, yet I have thought fit to insert it verbatim, because there is a strain in it of unusual confusion and concern, expressing the agony of a dying man with more truth and tenderness than the best penned epistle could have done.

Honoured Parents,

My duty to both, my love to my brother-in-law. I wish to God I had been ruled by you, for now I see the evil of my sin, but I freely die, only the disgrace I have brought on you, my wife and children. I wrote to my wife last Saturday was seven night but had no answer, for I should have been glad to have heard from you before I die, which will be on Wednesday the seventh of this instant October, hoping I have made my peace with God Almighty. I freely forgive all the world, and die in charity with all people. Had it not been for Joyce Hite's sister and Mr. Howel, I might have starved, he told me it has cost him fifteen shillings on my account, and he gave me four more. I desire Thomas Mason will give my wife that locket for my son.

I have nothing more to say, but my prayers to God for you all day and night, and for God's sake, be as kind to my poor wife and children as in your power lies. I desire there might be some care taken of that Estate at Minton for my son. Mr. Botfield hath the old writings, and I beg you will get them and give them to my wife, and pray show her this letter and my love to her, and my blessing to my children, begging of her as I am a dying man to be good to them, and not make any difference in them, but be as kind to one as the other, and if she is able to put the boy to some trade. Mr. Waring and Thomas Tomlings have each of them a book of mine, pray ask for them, which is all I have to say, but my prayers to God for you all, which is all from your

Dying Son, Richard Polson. In my Cell. October the 6th.

P.S. My love to all my friends. Pray show this letter to my wife as soon as you can, and desire of her to bring up my children in the fear of the Lord, and to make my son a scholar if she is able. There is five of us to die.

In this disposition of mind, and without adding anything to his former confessions he suffered on the seventh of October, 1730, being then in the thirty-third year of his age.

The Life of SAMUEL ARMSTRONG, a Housebreaker

I have heretofore remarked the great danger there is in having a bad character, and keeping ill-company, from the probability of truth which it gives to every accusation that either malice or interest may induce men to bring against one.

This malefactor was the son of parents in tolerable circumstances, who were careful of his education, and when he grew up bound him apprentice to Captain Matthews, commander of a vessel which traded to Guinea and the West Indies. He behaved at sea very well, and had not the least objection made to his character when he came home. Happy had it been for him if he had gone to sea again, without suffering himself to be tainted with the vices of this great city.

Unfortunately for him, he fell in love with a young woman, and lived with her for some time as his wife. His fondness for this creature drew him to be guilty of those base actions which first brought him to Newgate and the bar at the Old Bailey, and so far blasted his character and unfortunately betrayed him to his death. In the company of this female he quickly lavished what little money he had, and not knowing how to get more, he fell into the persuasions of some wicked young fellows who advised him to take to robbing in the streets. Certain it is that he had not made many attempts (he himself said none) before he was apprehended, and that the first fact he was ever concerned in was stealing a man's hat and tobacco box in Thames Street. This was committed by his companion, who gave them to him, and then running away, left him to be answerable for the fact, for which being indicted at the next sessions at the Old Bailey, he was found guilty, but it being a single felony only it did not affect his life.

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