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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Henry Marshall, about thirty-six years of age, the unfortunate person by whose hand the murder was committed, seemed to be the least sensible of any of the evils he had done, although such was the pleasure of Almighty God that till the day before his execution, he neither had his senses, nor the use of his speech. When he recovered it, and a clergyman represented to him the horrid crime of which he had been guilty, he was so far from showing any deep sense of that crime of shedding innocent blood, that he made light of it, said he might stand upon his own defence, and was not bound to run away and leave his companions in danger. This was the language he talked for the space of twenty-four hours before his death, in which he enjoyed the use of speech; and so far was he from thanking those who charitably offered him their admonitions, that he said he had not forgot himself, but had already taken care of what he thought necessary for his soul. However, he did not attempt in the least to prevaricate, but fairly acknowledged that he committed the fact for which he died, though nothing could oblige him to speak of it in any manner as if he was sorry for or repented of it, farther than for having occasioned his own misfortunes; so strong is the prejudice which vulgar minds acquire by often repeating to themselves and in company certain positions, however ridiculous and false. And sure, nothing could be more so than for a man to fancy he had a right to imbrue his hands in the blood of another, who was in the execution of his office, and endeavouring to hinder the commission of an illegal act.

These of whom I have last spoken were all concerned together in the before-mentioned fact, which was attended with murder; but we are now to speak of the rest who were concerned in the felony only, for which they with the above-mentioned Parvin suffered. Of these were two brothers, whose names were John and Edward Pink, carters in Portsmouth, and always accounted honest and industrious fellows before this accident happened. They did not, however, deny their being guilty, but on the contrary ingenuously confessed the truth of what was sworn, and mentioned some other circumstances that had been produced at the trial which attended their committing it. They said they met Parvin's housekeeper upon that road, that they forced her to cut the throat of a deer which they had just taken upon Bear Forest, gave her a dagger which they forced her to wear, and to ride cross-legged with pistols before her.

In this dress they brought her to Parvin's house upon the forest, where they dined upon a haunch of venison, feasted merrily and after dinner sent out two of their companions to kill more deer, not in the King's Forest, but in Waltham Chase, belonging to the Bishop of Winchester. One of these two persons they called their king, and the other they called Lyon. Neither of these brothers objected anything, either to the truth of the evidence given against them, or the justice of that sentence which had passed upon them, only one insinuating that the evidence would not have been so strong against him and Ansell, if it had not been for running away with the witness's wife, which so provoked him that they were sure they should not escape when he was admitted a witness.

These like the rest were hard to be persuaded that the things they had committed were any crimes in the eyes of God. They said deer were wild beasts, and they did not see why the poor had not as good a right to them as the rich. However, as the Law condemned them to suffer, they were bound to submit, and in consequence of that notion, behaved themselves very orderly, decently and quietly, while under sentence.

James Ansell, alias Stephen Philips, the seventh and last of these unhappy persons, was a man addicted to a worse and more profligate life than any of the rest had ever been; for he had held no settled employment, but had been a loose disorderly person, concerned in all sorts of wickedness for many years, both at Portsmouth, Guildford, and other country towns, as well as at London. Deer were not the only things that he had dealt in; stealing and robbing on the highway had been formerly his employment, and in becoming a Black, he did not as the others ascend in wickedness, but came down on the contrary, a step lower. Yet this criminal as his offences were greater, so his sense of them was much stronger than in any of the rest, excepting Kingshell, for he gave over all manner of hopes of life and all concerns about it as soon as he was taken.

Yet even he had no notion of making discoveries, unless they might be beneficial to himself, and though he owned the knowledge of twenty persons who were notorious offenders in the same kind, he absolutely refused to name them, since such naming would not procure himself a pardon; talking to him of the duty of doing justice was beating the air. He said, he thought there was no justice in taking away other people's lives, unless it was to save his own, yet no sooner was he taxed about his own going on the highway than he confessed it, said he knew very well bills would have been preferred against him at Guildford assizes, in case he had got off at the King's Bench, but that he did not greatly value them. Though formerly he had been guilty of some facts in that way, yet they could not all now be proved, and he should have found it no difficult matter to have demonstrated his innocence of those then charged upon him, of which he was not really guilty, but owed his being thought so to the profligate course of life he had for some time led, and his aversion to all honest employments.

Bold as the whole gang of these fellows appeared, yet with what sickness, what with the apprehension of death, they were so terrified that not one of them but Ansell, alias Philips, was able to stand up, or speak at the place of execution, many who saw them affirming that some of them were dead even before they were turned off.

As an appendix to the melancholy history of these seven miserable and unhappy persons, I will add a letter written at that time by a gentleman of the county of Essex, to his friend in London, containing a more particular account of the transactions of these people, than I have seen anywhere else. Wherefore, without any further preface, I shall leave it to speak for itself.

A letter to Mr. C. D. in London.

Dear Sir,

Amongst the odd accidents which you know have happened to me in the course of a very unsettled life, I don't know any which hath been more extraordinary or surprising than one I met with in going down to my own house when I left you last in town. You cannot but have heard of the Waltham Blacks, as they are called, a set of whimsical merry fellows, that are so mad to run the greatest hazards for the sake of a haunch of venison, and passing a jolly evening together.

For my part, though the stories told of these people had reached my ears, yet I confess I took most of them for fables, and I thought that if there was truth in any of them it was much exaggerated. But experience (the mistress of fools) has taught me the contrary, by the adventure I am going to relate to you, which though it ended well enough at last, I confess at first put me a good deal out of humour. To begin, then; my horse got a stone in his foot, and therewith went so lame just as I entered the forest, that I really thought his shoulder slipped. Finding it however impossible to get him along, I was even glad to take up at a little blind alehouse which I perceived had a yard and a stable behind it.

The man of the house received me very civilly, but when he perceived my horse was so lame as scarce to be able to stir a step, I observed he grew uneasy. I asked him whether I could lodge there that night, he told me no, he had no room, I desired him, then, to put something to my horse's foot, and let me sit up all night; for I was resolved not to spoil a horse which cost me twenty guineas by riding him in such a condition in which he was at present. The man made me no answer, and I proposed the same questions to the wife. She dealt more roughly and freely with me, and told me that truly I neither could, nor should stay there, and was for hurrying her husband to get my horse out. However, on putting a crown into her hand and promising another for my lodging, she began to consider a little; and at last told me that there was indeed a little bed above stairs, on which she should order a clean pair of sheets to be put, for she was persuaded I was more of a gentleman than to take any notice of what I saw passed there.

This made me more uneasy than I was before. I concluded now I was got amongst a den of highwaymen, and expected nothing less than to be robbed and my throat cut. However, finding there was no remedy, I even set myself down and endeavoured to be as easy as I could. By this time it was very dark, and I heard three or four horsemen alight and lead their horses into the yard. As the men returned and were coming into the room where I was, I overheard my landlord say, Indeed, brother, you need not be uneasy, I am positive the gentleman's a man of honour, to which I heard another voice reply, What could our death do to any stranger? Faith, I don't apprehend half the danger you do. I dare say the gentleman would be glad of our company, and we should be pleased with his. Come, hang fear, I'll lead the way. So said, so done, in they came, five of them, all disguised so effectually that I declare, unless it were in the same disguise, I should not be able to distinguish any one of them.

Down they sat, and he who I suppose was constituted their captain pro hac vice, accosted me with great civility, and asked me if I would honour them with my company to supper. I acknowledge I did not yet guess the profession of my new acquaintances, but supposing my landlord would be cautious of suffering either a robbery or a murder in his own house, I know not how, but by degrees my mind grew perfectly easy. About ten o'clock I heard a very great noise of horses, and soon after men's feet tramping in a room over my head. Then my landlord came down and informed us supper was just ready to go upon the table.

Upon this we were all desired to walk up, and he whom I before called the captain, presented me, with a humorous kind of ceremony, to a man more dignified than the rest who sat at the end of the table, telling me at the same time, he hoped I would not refuse to pay my respects to Prince Oroonoko, King of the Blacks. It then immediately struck into my head who those worthy persons were, into whose company I was thus accidentally fallen. I called myself a thousand blockheads for not finding out before, but the hurry of things, or to speak the truth, the fear I was in, prevented my judging even from the most evident signs.

As soon as our awkward ceremony was over, supper was brought in; it consisted of eighteen dishes of venison in every shape, roasted, boiled with broth, hashed collops, pasties, umble pies, and a large haunch in the middle, larded. I easily saw that of three ordinary rooms of which the first floor of the house consisted, ours (by taking down the partitions) was very large, and the company in all twenty-one persons. At each of our elbows there was set a bottle of claret, and the man and woman of the house sat down at the lower end. Two or three of the fellows had good natural voices, and so the evening was spent as merrily as the rakes pass theirs in the King's Arms, or the City apprentices with their master's maids at Sadler's Wells. About two the company seemed inclined to break up, having first assured me that they should take my company as a favour any Thursday evening, if I came that way.

I confess I did not sleep all night with reflecting on what had passed, and could not resolve with myself whether these humorous gentlemen in masquerade were to be ranked under the denomination of knight-errants, or plain robbers. This I must tell you, by the by, that with respect both to honesty and hardship, their life resembles much that of the hussars, since drinking is all their delight, and plundering their employment.

Before I conclude my epistle, it is fit I should inform you that they did me the honour (with a design perhaps to have received me into their order) of acquainting me with those rules by which their society was governed.

In the first place their Black Prince assured me that their government was perfectly monarchial, and that when upon expeditions he had an absolute command; but in the time of peace, continued he, and at the table, government being no longer necessary, I condescend to eat and drink familiarly with my subjects as friends. We admit no man, continued he, into our society until he has been twice drunk with us, that we may be perfectly acquainted with his temper, in compliance with the old proverb—women, children and drunken folks speak truth. But if the person who sues to be admitted, declares solemnly he was never drunk in his life, and it plainly appears to the society in such case, this rule is dispensed with, and the person before admission is only bound to converse with us a month. As soon as we have determined to admit him, he is then to equip himself with a good mare or gelding, a brace of pistols, and a gun of the size of this, to lie on the saddle bow. Then he is sworn upon the horns over the chimney, and having a new name conferred by the society, is thereby entered upon the roll, and from that day forward, considered as a lawful member.

He went on with abundance more of their wise institutions, which I think are not of consequence enough to tell you, and shall only remark one thing more, which is the phrase they make use of in speaking of one another, viz., He is a very honest fellow and one of us. For you must know it is the first article in their creed that there's no sin in deer-stealing.

In the morning, having given my landlady the other crown piece, I found her temper so much altered for the better, that in my conscience I believe she was not in the humour to have refused me anything, no, not even the last favour; and so walking down the yard and finding my horse in pretty tolerable order, I speeded directly home, much in amaze at the new people I had discovered. You see I have taken a great deal of pains in my letter; pray, in return, let me have as long a one from you, and let me see if all your London rambles can produce such another adventure.

I am, yours, etc.

Before I leave these people, I think it proper to acquaint my readers that their folly was not to be extinguished by a single execution. There were a great many young fellows of the same stamp, who were fools enough to forfeit their lives upon the same occasion. However, the humour did not run very long, though some of them were impudent enough to murder a keeper or two afterwards. Yet in the space of a twelvemonth, the whole nation of Blacks was extinguished, and these country rakes were contented to play the fool upon easier terms. The last blood that was shed on either side was that of a keeper's son at Old Windsor, whom some of these wise people fired at as he looked out of the window, by which means they drew on their own ruin and that of several numerous families by which the country was put in such terror that we have heard nothing of them since, though this Act of Parliament[44] as I shall tell you, has been by construction extended to some other criminals, who were not strictly speaking of the same kind as the Waltham Blacks.


[44] The Black Act (9 Geo. I, cap. 2) was repealed so late as 1827.

The Life of JULIAN, a Black Boy and Incendiary

From speaking of artificial blacks, I come now to relate the unhappy death of one who was naturally of that colour. This poor creature's Julian. At the time of his execution he seemed to be about sixteen years of age, he had been stolen while young from his parents at Madras. He still retained his pagan ignorance both in respect to religion and our language.

He was brought over by one Captain Dawes, who presented him to Mrs. Elizabeth Turner, where he was used with the greatest tenderness and kindness, she often calling him to dance and sing after his manner before company; and he himself acknowledged that he had never been so happy in his life as he was there. Yet, on a sudden, he stole about twenty or thirty guineas, and then placing a candle under the sheets left it burning to fire the house, and consume the inhabitants in it. Of this, upon proof and his own confession made before Sir Francis Forbes and Mr. Turner, he was convicted.

While he remained under sentence, he was often heard to mumble in reproach and revengeful terms to himself. However, before his death he learned the Lord's Prayer, and when it was demanded whether he would be a Christian, he assented with great joy, which arose, it seems, from his having heard the common foolish opinion that when christened Blacks are to be set free. However, christened he was, and received at his baptism the name of John.

The place in which he was confined being very damp, the boy having nothing to lie on but a coat, caught so great a cold in his limbs that he almost lost the use of them before his death, and continued in a state of great pain and weakness; insomuch that when he was told he must prepare for his execution, he determined with himself to forestall it, and for that purpose desired one of the prisoners to lend him a penknife, but the man, it seems, had more grace than to grant his request, and he ended his life at Tyburn, according to his sentence.

The Life of ABRAHAM DEVAL, a Lottery Ticket Forger

Abraham Deval, who had been a clerk to the Lottery Office, at last took it into his head to coin tickets for himself, and had such good luck therein that he at one time counterfeited a certificate for L52 12s. 0d., for seven blank lottery tickets, in the year 1723. Two or three other facts of the same nature he perpetrated with the like success, but happening to counterfeit two blank tickets of the lottery in the year in which he died, they were discovered, and he thereupon apprehended and tried at the Old Bailey. On the first indictment, for want of evidence he was acquitted, upon which he behaved himself with great insolence, lolled out his tongue at the Court, and told them he did not value the second indictment. But herein he happened to be mistaken, for the jury found him guilty of that indictment and thereupon he received sentence of death accordingly.

Notwithstanding that impudence with which he had treated the Court at his trial, he complained very loudly of their not showing him favour; nay, he even pretended that he had not justice done him. This he grounded upon the score that the ticket he was indicted for was No. 39, in the 651st course of payment. Now it seems that in searching of his brother-in-law Parson's room, the original ticket was found, though very much torn, from whence Deval would have had it taken to be no more than a duplicate, and much blamed his counsel for not insisting long enough upon this point, which if he had done, Deval entertained a strong opinion that he could not have been convicted.

The apprehension of this and the uneasiness he was under with his irons made him pass his last moments with great unquietness and discontent. He said it was against the law to put men in irons, that fettering English subjects (except they attempted to break prisons) was altogether illegal. But after having raved at this rate for a small space, when he found it did him no good, and that there were no hopes of a reprieve, he even began to settle himself to the performance of those duties which became a man in his sad condition and when he did apply himself thereto, nobody could appear to have a juster sense than he of that miserable and sad condition into which the folly and wickedness of his life had brought him.

It is certain the man did not want parts, though sometimes he applied them to the worst of purposes, and was cursed with an insolent and overbearing temper which hindered him from being loved or respected anywhere, and which never did him any service but in the last moments of his life, where if it had not been for the severity of his behaviour, Julian, the black boy, would have been very troublesome, both to him and to the other person who was under sentence at the same time.

At the place of execution Deval owned the fact, but wished the spectators to consider whether for all that he was legally convicted, and so suffered in the thirtieth year of his age.

The Life of JOSEPH BLAKE, alias BLUESKIN, a Footpad and Highwayman

As there is impudence and wickedness enough in the lives of most malefactors to make persons of a sober education and behaviour wonder at the depravity of human nature, so there are sometimes superlative rogues who, in the infamous boldness of their behaviour, as far exceed the ordinary class of rogues as they do honest people; and whenever such a monster as this appears in the world, there are enough fools to gape at him, and to make such a noise and outcry about his conduct as is sure to invite others of the gang to imitate the obstinacy of his deportment, through that false love of fame, which seems inherent to human nature. Amongst the number of these, Joseph Blake, better known by his nickname of Blueskin, always deserves to be remembered as one who thought wickedness the greatest achievement, and studiously took the paths of infamy in order to become famous.

By birth he was a native of this City of London. His parents being persons in tolerable circumstances kept him six years at school, where he did not learn half as much good from his master as he did evil from his schoolfellow, William Blewitt, from whose lessons he copied so well that all his education signified nothing. When he came from school he absolutely refused to go to any employment, but on the contrary set up for a robber when he was scarce seventeen, but from that time to the day of his death was unsuccessful in all his undertakings, hardly ever committing the most trivial fact but he experienced for it, either the humanity of the mob, or of the keepers of Bridewell, out of which or some other prison, he could hardly keep his feet for a month together.

He fell into the gang of Lock, Wilkinson, Carrick[45] Lincoln and Daniel Carroll, which last having so often been mentioned, perhaps my readers may be desirous to know what became of him. I shall therefore inform them that after Carrick and Molony were executed for robbing Mr. Young, as has been before related, he fled home to his own native country of Ireland, where for a while making a great figure till he had exhausted what little wealth he had brought over with him from England, he was obliged to go again upon the old method to supply him. But street-robbing being a very new thing at Dublin, it so alarmed that city that they never ceased pursuing him, and one or two more who joined with him, till catching them one night at their employment, they pursued Carrol so closely that he was obliged to come to a close engagement with a thief-taker, so he was killed upon the spot.

But to return to Blake, alias Blueskin. Being one night out with his gang, they robbed one Mr. Clark of eight shillings and a silver hilted sword, just as candles were going to be lighted, and a woman looking accidentally out of a window, perceived it, and cried out, Thieves. Wilkinson fired a pistol at her which, very luckily, upon her drawing in her head, grazed upon the stone of the window, and did no other mischief. Blake was also in the company of the same gang when they attacked Captain Langley, at the corner of Hyde Park Road, as he was going to the Camp[46]; but the Captain behaved himself so well that notwithstanding they shot several times through and through his coat, yet they were not able to rob him.

Not long after this Wilkinson being apprehended impeached a large number of persons, and with them Joseph Blake and William Lock. Blake hereupon made a fuller discovery than the other before Justice Blackerby; in which information there was contained no less than seventy robberies, upon which he also was admitted a witness. And having named Wilkinson, Lincoln, Carrick, Carrol, and himself to have been the five persons who murdered Peter Martin the Chelsea pensioner, by the Park wall, Wilkinson was apprehended, tried and convicted, notwithstanding the information he had before given (which was thereby totally set aside); so that Blake himself became now an evidence against the rest of his companions, and discovered about a dozen robberies which they had committed.

Amongst these there was one very remarkable one. Two gentlemen in hunting caps were together in a chariot on the Hampstead Road, and they took from them two gold watches, rings, seals and other things to a considerable value. Junks, alias Levee, laid his pistol down by the gentleman all the while he searched him, yet he wanted either the courage or the presence of mind to seize and prevent their losing things of so great value. Not long after this, Oakey, Junks and this Blake, stopped a single man with a link before him in Fig Lane; and he not surrendering so easily as they expected, Junks and Oakey beat him over the head with their pistols, and then left him wounded in a terrible condition, taking from him one guinea and one penny. A very short time after this, Junks, Oakey and Flood were apprehended and executed for robbing Colonel Cope and Mr. Young of that very watch for which Carrick and Molony had been before executed, Joseph Blake being the evidence against them.

After this hanging work of his companions, he thought himself not only entitled to liberty but reward. Herein, however, he was mightily mistaken, for not having surrendered willingly and quietly, but being taken after long resistance and when he was much wounded, there did not seem to be the least foundation for this confident demand, he still remaining a prisoner in the Wood Street Compter, obstinately refusing to be transported for seven years, but insisting that as he had given evidence he ought to have his liberty. However, the magistrates were of another opinion, until at last by procuring two men to be bound for his good behaviour, he was carried before a wealthy alderman of the City and there discharged. At which time, somebody there present asking how long time might be given him before they should see him again at the Old Bailey, a gentleman made answer in about three sessions, in which time it seems he guessed very right, for the third session from thence, Blake was indeed brought to the Bar.

For no sooner were his feet at liberty but his hands were employed in robbing, and having picked up Jack Shepherd for a companion, they went out together to search for prey in the fields. Near the half-way house to Hampstead they met with one Pargiter, a man pretty much in liquor, whom immediately Blake knocked down into the ditch, where he must have inevitably perished if John Shepherd had not kept his head above the mud with great difficulty. For this fact, the next sessions after it happened the two brothers Brightwell in the Guards were tried, and if a number of men had not sworn them to have been upon duty at the time the robbery was committed, they had certainly been convicted, the evidence of the prosecutor being direct and full. Through the grief of this the elder Brightwell died a week after he was released from his confinement, and so did not live to see his innocence fully cleared by the confession of Blake.

A very short space after this, Blake and his companion Shepherd committed the burglary together in the house of Mr. Kneebone, where Shepherd getting into the house, let in Blake at the back door and stripped the house of a considerable value. For this, both Shepherd and he were apprehended, and the sessions before Blake was convicted his companion received sentence of death; but at the time Blake was taken up, he had made his escape out of the condemned hold.

He behaved with great impudence at his trial, and when he found nothing would save him, he took the advantage of Jonathan Wild coming to speak with him, to cut the said Wild's throat, making a large gash from the ear beyond the windpipe.[47] Of this wound Wild languished a long time, and happy had it been for him if Blake's wound had proved fatal, for then Jonathan had escaped death by a more dishonourable wound in the throat than that of a penknife; but the number of his crimes and the spleen of his enemies procured him a worse fate. Whatever Wild might deserve of others, he seems to have merited better usage from this Blake, for while he continued a prisoner in the Compter, Jonathan was at the expense of curing his wound, allowing him three shillings and sixpence a week, and after his last misfortune promised him a good coffin, actually furnishing him with money to support him in Newgate, and several good books, if he would have made any use of them; but because he freely declared to Blueskin that there was no hopes of getting him transported, the bloody villain determined to take away his life, and was so far from showing any signs of remorse when he was brought up again to Newgate, that he declared if he had thought of it before, he would have provided such a knife as should have cut his head off.

At the time that he received sentence there was a woman also condemned, and they being placed as usual in what is called the Bail Dock at the Old Bailey, Blake offered such rudeness to the woman that she cried out and alarmed the whole Bench. All the time he lay under condemnation he appeared utterly thoughtless and insensible of his approaching fate. Though from the cutting of Wild's throat, and some other barbarities of the same nature, he acquired amongst the mob the character of a brave fellow, yet he was in himself but a mean-spirited timorous wretch, and never exerted himself but either through fury and despair. His cowardice appealed manifestly in his behaviour at his death; he wept much at the chapel in the morning he was to die, and though he drank deeply to drive away fear, yet at the place of execution he wept again, trembled and showed all the signs of a timorous confusion, as well he might, who had lived wickedly and trifled with his repentance to the grave.

There was nothing in his person extraordinary. A dapper, well-set fellow of great strength, and great cruelty, equally detested by the sober part of the world for his audacious wickedness of his behaviour, and despised by his companions for the villainies he committed even against them. He was executed in the twenty-eighth year of his age, on the 11th of November, 1724.


[45] See page 85.

[46] An encampment was formed in Hyde Park, about 1714. Writing to Martha Blount, Pope says "The tents are carried there this morning, new regiments with new clothes and furniture, far exceeding the late cloth and linen designed by his Grace (the Duke of Marlborough) for the soldiery."

[47] See also the Life of Jonathan Wild, subsequently related.

The Life of the Famous JOHN SHEPHERD, Footpad, Housebreaker and Prison-breaker

Amongst the prodigies of ingenious wickedness and artful mischief which have surprised the world in our time, perhaps none has made so great a noise as John Shepherd, the malefactor of whom we are now to speak. His father's name was Thomas Shepherd, who was by trade a carpenter, and lived in Spitalfields, a man of an extraordinary good character, and who took all the care his narrow circumstances would allow, that his family might be brought up in the fear of God, and in just notions of their duty towards their neighbour. Yet he was so unhappy in his children that both his son John and another took to evil courses, and both in their turns have been convicted at the bar at the Old Bailey.

After the father's death, his widow did all she could to get this unfortunate son of hers admitted into Christ's Hospital, but failing of that, she got him bred up at a school in Bishopsgate Street, where he learned to read. He might in all probability have got a good education if he had not been too soon removed, being put out to a trade, viz., that of a cane-chair-maker, who used him very well, and with whom probably he might have lived honestly. But his mother dying a short time afterwards, he was put to another, a much younger man, who used him so harshly that in a little time he ran away from him, and was put to another master, one Mr. Wood in Wych Street. From his kindness and that of Mr. Kneebone (whom he robbed) he was taught to write and had many other favours done by that gentleman whom he so ungratefully treated. But good usage or bad, it was grown all alike to him now; he had given himself up to all the sensual pleasures of low life. Drinking all day, and getting to some impudent and notorious strumpet at night, was the whole course of his life for a considerable space, without the least reflection on what a miserable fate it might bring upon him here, much less the judgment that might be passed upon him hereafter.

Amongst the chief of his mistresses there was one Elizabeth Lion, commonly called Edgeworth Bess, the impudence of whose behaviour was shocking even to the greatest part of Shepherd's companions, but it charmed him so much that he suffered her for a while to direct him in every thing, and she was the first who engaged him in taking base methods to obtain money wherewith to purchase baser pleasures. This Lion was a large masculine woman, and Shepherd a very little slight-limbed lad, so that whenever he had been drinking and came to her quarrelsome, Bess often beat him into better temper, though Shepherd upon other occasions manifested his wanting neither courage nor strength. Repeated quarrels, however, between Shepherd and his mistress, as it does often with people of better rank, created such coldness that they spoke not together sometimes for a month. But our robber could not be so long without some fair one to take up his time, and drive his thoughts from the consideration of his crimes and the punishment which might one day befall them.

The creature he picked out to supply the place of Betty Lion was one Mrs. Maggott, a woman somewhat less boisterous in her temper, but full as wicked. She had a very great contempt for Shepherd, and only made use of him to go and steal money, or what might yield money, for her to spend in company that she liked better. One night when Shepherd came to her and told her he had pawned the last thing he had for half a crown, Prithee, says she, don't tell me such melancholy stories but think how you may get more money. I have been in Whitehorse Yard this afternoon. There's a piece-broker there worth a great deal of money; he keeps his cash in a drawer under the counter, and there's abundance of good things in his shop that would be fit for me to wear. A word, you know, to the wise is enough, let me see now how soon you'll put me in possession of them. This had the effect she desired; Shepherd left her about one o'clock in the morning, went to the house she talked of, took up the cellar window bars, and from thence entered the shop, which he plundered of money and goods, to the amount of L22. He brought it to his doxy the same day before she was stirring, who thereupon appeared very satisfied with his diligence, and helped him in a short time to squander what he had so dearly earned.

However, he still retained some affection for his old favourite, Bess Lion, who being taken up for some of her tricks, was committed to St. Giles's Round-house. Shepherd going to see her there, broke the doors open, beat the keeper, and like a true knight-errant, set his distressed paramour at liberty. This heroic act got him so much reputation amongst the fair ladies in Drury Lane that there was nobody of his profession so much esteemed by them as John Shepherd, with his brother Thomas, who had taken to the same trade. Observing and being in himself in tolerable estimation with that debauched part of the sex, he importuned some of them to speak to his brother John to lend him a little money, and for the future to allow him to go out robbing with him. To both these propositions Jack (being a kind brother as he himself said) consented at the first word, and from thence forward the two brothers were always of one party: Jack having, as he impudently phrased it, lent him forty shillings to put himself in a proper plight, and soon after their being together having broke open an alehouse, where they got a tolerable booty, in a high fit of generosity, John presented it all to his brother, as, soon after, he did clothes to a very considerable extent, so that the young man might not appear among the damsels of Drury unbecoming Mr. Shepherd's brother.

About three weeks after their coming together, they broke open a linen-draper's shop, near Clare Market, where the brothers made good use of their time; for they were not in the house above a quarter of an hour before they made a shift to strip it of L50. But the younger brother acting imprudently in disposing of some of the goods, he was detected and apprehended, upon which the first thing he did was to make a full discovery to impeach his brother and as many of his confederates as he could. Jack was very quickly apprehended upon his brother's information, and was committed by Justice Parry to the Round-house, for further examination. But instead of waiting for that, Jack began to examine as well as he could the strength of the place of his confinement, which being much too weak for a fellow of his capacity, he marched off before night, and committed a robbery into the bargain, but vowed to be revenged on Tom who had so basely behaved himself (as Jack phrased it) towards so good a brother. However, that information going off, Jack went on in his old way as usual.

One day in May he and F. Benson being in Leicester Fields, Benson attempted to get a gentleman's watch, but missing his pull, the gentleman perceived it and raised a mob. Shepherd passing briskly to save his companion, was apprehended in his stead, and being carried before Justice Walters, was committed to New Prison, where the first sight he saw was his old companion, Bess Lion, who had found her way thither upon a like errand. Jack, who now saw himself beset with danger, began to exert all his little cunning, which was indeed his masterpiece. For this purpose he applied first to Benson's friends, who were in good circumstances, hoping by their mediation to make the matter up, but in this he miscarried. Then he attempted a slight information, but the Justice to whom he sent it, perceiving how trivial a thing it was, and guessing well at the drift thereof, refused it. Whereupon Shepherd, when driven to his last shift, communicated his resolution to Bess Lion. They laid their heads together the fore part of the night, and then went to work to break out, which they effected by force, and got safe off to one of Bess Lion's old lodgings, where she kept him secret for some time, frightening him with stories of great searches being made after him, in order to detain him from conversing with any other woman.

But Jack being not naturally timorous, and having a strong inclination to be out again in his old way with his companions, it was not long before he gave her the slip, and lodged himself with another of his female acquaintances, in a little by-court near the Strand. Here one Charles Grace desired to become an associate with him. Jack was very ready to take any young fellow in as a partner of his villainies, and Grace told him that his reason for doing such things was to keep a beautiful woman without the knowledge of his relations. Shepherd and he therefore getting into the acquaintance of one Anthony Lamb, an apprentice of Mr. Carter, near St. Clement's Church, they inveigled the young man to consent to let them in to rob his master's house. He accordingly performed it, and they took from Mr. Barton, who lodged there, to a very considerable value. But Grace and Shepherd quarrelling about the division, Shepherd wounded Grace in a violent manner, and on this quarrel betraying one another, they were all taken, Shepherd only escaping. But the misfortune of poor Lamb who had been drawn in, being so very young, so far prevailed upon several gentlemen who knew him, that they not only prevailed to have his sentence mitigated to transportation, but also furnished him with all necessaries, and procured an order that on his arrival there he should not be sold as the other felons were, but that he should be left at liberty to provide for himself as well as he could.

It seems that Shepherd's gang (which consisted of himself, his brother Tom, Joseph Blake, alias Blueskin, Charles Grace, James Sikes, to whose name his companions tacked their two favourite syllables, Hell and Fury) not knowing how to dispose of the goods they had taken, made use of one William Field for that purpose, who Shepherd in his ludicrous style, used to characterise thus: that he was a fellow wicked enough to do anything, but his want of courage permitted him to do nothing but carry on the trade he did, which was that of selling stolen goods when put into his hands.

But Blake and Shepherd finding Field somewhat dilatory, not thinking it always safe to trust him, they resolved to hire a warehouse and lodge their goods there, which accordingly they did, near the Horseferry in Westminster. There they placed what they had taken out of Mr. Kneebones' house, and the goods made a great show there, whence the people in the neighbourhood really took them for honest persons, who had so great a wholesale business on their hands as occasioned their taking a place where they by convenient for the water.

Field, however, importuned them (having got scent they had such a warehouse) that he might go and see the goods, pretending that he had it just now in his power to sell them at a very great price. They accordingly carried him thither and showed him the things. Two or three days afterwards, though he had not courage enough to rob anybody else, Field ventured to break open the warehouse, and took every rag that had been lodged there; and not long after, Shepherd was apprehended for the fact and tried at the next sessions of the Old Bailey.

His appearance there was very mean, and all the defence he offered to make was that Jonathan Wild had helped to dispose of part of the goods and he thought it was very hard that he should not share in the punishment. The Court took little notice of so insignificant a plea and sentence being passed upon him, he hardly made a sensible petition for the favour of the Court in the report, but behaved throughout as a person either stupid or foolish, so far was he from appearing in any degree likely to make the noise he afterwards did.

When put into the condemned hold, he prevailed upon one Fowls, who was also under sentence, to lift him up to the iron spikes placed over the door which looks into the lodge. A woman of large make attending without, and two others standing behind her in riding hoods, Jack no sooner got his head and shoulders through between the iron spikes, than by a sudden spring his body followed with ease, and the women taking him down gently, he was without suspicion of the keepers (although some of them were drinking at the upper end of the lodge) conveyed safely out of the lodge door, and getting a hackney coach went clear off before there was the least notice of his escape, which, when it was known, very much surprised the keepers, who never dreamt of an attempt of that kind before.

As soon as John breathed the fresh air, he went again briskly to his old employment, and the first thing he did was to find out one Page, a butcher of his acquaintance in Clare Market, who dressed him up in one of his frocks, and then went with him upon the business of raising money. No sooner had they set out, but Shepherd remembering one Mr. Martin, a watchmaker near the Castle Tavern in Fleet Street, he prevailed upon his companion to go thither, and screwing a gimlet fast into the post of the door, they then tied the knocker thereto with a spring, and then boldly breaking the windows, they snatched three watches before a boy that was in the shop could open the door, and so marched clear off, Shepherd having the impudence, upon this occasion, to pass underneath Newgate.

However, he did not long enjoy his liberty, for strolling about Finchley Common, he was apprehended and committed to Newgate, and was put immediately in the Stone Room, where they put him on a heavy pair of irons, and then stapled him fast down to the floor. Being left there alone in the sessions time (most of the people in the gaol then attending at the Old Bailey) with a crooked nail he opened the lock, and by that means got rid of his chain, and went directly to the chimney in the room, where with incessant working he got out a couple of stones and by that means climbed up into a room called the Red Room, where nobody had been lodged for a considerable time. Here he threw down a door, which one would have thought impossible to have been done by the strength of man (though with ever so much noise); from hence with a great deal to do, he forced his passage into the chapel. There he broke a spike off the door, forcing open by its help four other doors. Getting at last upon the leads, he from thence descended gently (by the help of the blanket on which he lay, for which he went back through the whole prison) upon the leads of Mr. Bird, a turner who lives next door to Newgate; and looking in at the garret window, he saw the maid going to bed. As soon as he thought she was asleep, he stepped downstairs, went through the shop, opened the door, then into the street, leaving the door open behind him.

In the morning, when the keepers were in search after him, hearing of this circumstance by the watchman, they were then perfectly satisfied of the method by which he went off. However, they were obliged to publish a reward and make the strictest enquiry after him, some foolish people having propagated a report that he had not got out without connivance. In the meanwhile, Shepherd found it a very difficult thing to get rid of his irons, being obliged to lurk about and lie hid near a village not far from town, until with much ado he fell upon a method of procuring a hammer and taking his irons off.

He was no sooner freed from the encumbrance that remained upon him, than he came secretly into the town that night, and robbed Mr. Rawlin's house, a pawnbroker in Drury Lane. Here he got a very large booty, and amongst other things a very handsome black suit of clothes and a gold watch. Being dressed in this manner he carried the rest of the goods and valuable effects to two women, one of whom was a poor young creature whom Shepherd had seduced, and who was imprisoned on this account. No sooner had she taken care of the booty but he went among his old companions, pickpockets and whores in Drury Lane and Clare Market. There being accidentally espied fuddling at a little brandy-shop, by a boy belonging to an alehouse, who knew him very well, the lad immediately gave information upon which he was apprehended, and reconducted, with a vast mob, to his old mansion house of Newgate, being so much intoxicated with liquor that he was hardly sensible of his miserable fate. However, they took effectual care to prevent a third escape, never suffering him to be alone a moment, which, as it put the keepers to a great expense, they took care to pay themselves with the money they took of all who came to see him.

In this last confinement it was that Mr. Shepherd and his adventures became the sole topic of conversation about town. Numbers flocked daily to behold him, and far from being displeased at being made a spectacle of, he entertained all who came with the greatest gaiety that could be. He acquainted them with all his adventures, related each of his robberies in the most ludicrous manner, and endeavoured to set off every circumstance of his flagitious life as well as his capacity would give him leave, which, to say truth, was excellent at cunning, and buffoonery, and nothing else.

Nor were the crowds that thronged to Newgate on this occasion made up of the dregs of the people only, for then there would have been no wonder; but instead of that they were persons of the first distinction, and not a few even dignified with titles.[48] 'Tis certain that the noise made about him, and this curiosity of persons of so high a rank, was a very great misfortune to the poor wretch himself, who from these circumstances began to conceive grand ideas of himself, as well as strong hopes of pardon, which encouraged him to play over all his airs and divert as many as thought it worth their while by their presence to prevent a dying man from considering his latter end, who instead of repenting of his crimes, gloried in rehearsing them.

Yet when Shepherd came up to chapel, it was observed that all his gaiety was laid aside, and he both heard and assisted with great attention at Divine Service, though upon other occasions he avoided religious discourse as much as he could; and depending upon the petitions he had made to several noblemen to intercede with the king for mercy, he seemed rather to aim at diverting his time until he received a pardon, than to improve the few days he had to prepare himself for his last.

On the 10th of November, 1724, he was by Certiorari removed to the bar of the Court of King's Bench, at Westminster. An affidavit being made that he was the same John Shepherd mentioned in the record of conviction before him, Mr. Justice Powis awarded judgment against him, and a rule was made for his execution on the 16th.

Such was the unaccountable fondness this criminal had for life, and so unwilling was he to lose all hopes of preserving it, that he framed in his mind resolutions of cutting the rope when he should be bound in the cart, thinking thereby to get amongst the crowd, and so into Lincoln's Inn Fields, and from thence to the Thames. For this purpose he had provided a knife, which was with great difficulty taken from him by Mr. Watson, who was to attend him to death. Nay, his hopes were carried even beyond hanging, for when he spoke to a person to whom he gave what money he had remaining out of the large presents he had received from those who came to divert themselves at Shepherd's Show, or Newgate Fair, he most earnestly entreated him that as soon as possible his body might be taken out of the hearse which was provided for him, put into a warm bed, and if it were possible, some blood taken from him, for he was in great hopes that he might be brought to life again; but if he was not, he desired him to defray the expenses of his funeral, and return the overplus to his poor mother. Then he resumed his usual discourse about his robberies and in the last moments of his life endeavoured to divert himself from the thoughts of death. Yet so uncertain and various was he in his behaviour that he told one whom he had a great desire to see on the morning that he died, that he had then a satisfaction at his heart, as if he were going to enjoy two hundred pounds per annum.

At the place of execution, to which he was conveyed in a cart, with iron handcuffs on, he behaved himself very gravely, confessing his robbery of Mr. Philips and Mrs. Cook, but denied that he and Joseph Blake had William Field in their company when they broke open the house of Mr. Kneebone. After this he submitted to his fate on the 16th of November, 1724, much pitied by the mob.[49]


[48] While in Newgate he sat for his portrait to Sir James Thornhill.

[49] Over 200,000 persons witnessed his execution at Tyburn, and a riot which broke out concerning the disposal of his corpse was quelled by soldiers with fixed bayonets.

The Life of LEWIS HOUSSART, the French Barber, a Murderer

As there is not any crime more shocking to human nature or more contrary to all laws human and divine than murder, so perhaps there has been few committed in these last years accompanied with more odd circumstances than that for which this criminal suffered.

Lewis Houssart was born at Sedan, a town in Champaigne in the kingdom of France. His own paper says that he was bred a surgeon and qualified for that business. However that were, he was here no better than a penny barber, only that he let blood, and thereby got a little and not much money. As to the other circumstances of his life, my memoirs are not full enough to assist me in speaking thereto. All I can say of him is that while his wife, Anne Rondeau, was living, he married another woman, and the night of the marriage before sitting down to supper, he went out a little space. During the interval between that and his coming in, it was judged from the circumstances that I shall mention hereafter, that he cut the throat of the poor woman who was his first wife, with a razor. For this being apprehended he was tried at the Old Bailey, but for want of proof sufficient was acquitted.

Not long after he was indicted for bigamy, i.e., for marrying his second wife, his first having been yet alive. Scarce making any defence upon this indictment he was found guilty. He said thereupon, it was no more than he expected, and that he did not trouble himself to preserve so much as his reputation in this respect; for in the first place he knew they were resolved to convict him, and in the next, he said, where there was no fault, there was no shame; that his first wife was a Socinian, an irrational creature, and was entitled to the advantages of no nation nor people because she was no Christian, and accordingly the Scripture says, with such a one have no conversation, no, not so much as to eat with them. But an appeal was lodged against him by Solomon Rondeau, brother and heir to Anne his wife, yet that appearing to be defective, it was quashed, and he charged upon another, whereunto joining issue upon six points they came to be tried at the Old Bailey, where the following circumstances appeared upon the trial.

First, that at the time he was at supper at his new wife's house, he started on a sudden, looked aghast and seemed to be very much frightened. A little boy deposed that the prisoner gave him money to go to his own house in a little court, and fetch the mother of the deceased Anne Rondeau to a gentleman who would be at such a place and wait for her. When the mother returned from that place and found nobody wanting her, or that had wanted her, she was very much out of humour at the boy's calling her; but that quickly gave way to the surprise of finding her daughter murdered as soon as she entered the room. This boy who called her was very young, yet out of the number of persons who were in Newgate he singled out Lewis Houssart, and declared that he was the only man among them who gave him money to go on the errant for old Mistress Rondeau.

Upon this and several other corroborating proofs, the jury found him guilty, upon which he arraigned the justice of a Court which hitherto had been preserved without a taint, declaring that he was innocent, and that they might punish if they would, but they could not make him guilty, and much more to the like effect; but the Court were not troubled with that, so he scarce endeavoured to make any other defence.

While in the condemned hold amongst the rest of the criminals, he behaved himself in a very odd manner, insisted upon it that he was innocent of the fact laid to his charge, threw out most opprobious language against the Court that condemned him, and when he was advised to lay aside such heats of passionate expressions, he said he was sorry he did not more fully expose British justice upon the spot at the Old Bailey, and that now since they had tied up his hands from acting, he would at least have satisfaction in saying what he pleased.

When this Houssart was first apprehended he appeared to be very much affected with his condition, was continually reading good books, praying and meditating, and showing the utmost signs of a heart full of concern, and under the greatest emotions, but after he had once been convicted, it made a thorough change in his temper. He quite laid aside all the former gravity of his temper and gave way, in the contrary, to a very extraordinary spirit of obstinacy and unbelief. He puzzled himself continually, and if Mr. Deval, who was then under sentence, would have given leave, attempted to puzzle him too, as to the doctrines of a future state, and an identical resurrection of the body. He said he could not be persuaded of the truth thereof in a literal sense; that when the individual frame of flesh which he bore about him was once dead, and from being flesh became again clay, he did not either conceive or believe that it, after lying in the earth, or disposed of otherwise perhaps for the space of a thousand years, should at the last day be reanimated by the soul which possessed it now, and become answerable even to eternal punishment for crimes committed so long ago. It was, he said, also little agreeable to the notions he entertained of the infinite mercy of God, and therefore he chose rather to look upon such doctrines as errors received from education, than torment and afflict himself with the terrors which must arise from such a belief. But after he had once answered as well as he could these objections, Mr. Deval refused to harken a second time to any such discourses and was obliged to have recourse to harsh language to oblige him to desist.

In the meanwhile his brother came over from Holland, on the news of this dreadful misfortune, and went to make him a visit in the place of his confinement while under condemnation, going to condole with him on the heavy weight of his misfortunes. Upon which, instead of receiving the kindness of his brother in the manner it deserved, Houssart began to make light of the affair, and treated the death of his wife and his own confinement in such a manner that his brother leaving him abruptly, went back to Holland more shocked at the brutality of his behaviour than grieved for the misfortune which had befallen him.

It being a considerable space of time that Houssart lay in confinement in Newgate and even in the condemned hold, he had there, of course, abundance of companions. But of them all he affected none so much as John Shepherd, with whom he had abundance of merry and even loose discourse. Once particularly, when the sparks flew very quickly out of the charcoal fire, he said to Shepherd, See, see! I wish these were so many bullets that might beat the prison down about our ears, and then I might die like Sampson.

It was near a month before he was called up to receive sentence, after which he made no scruple of saying that since they had found him guilty of throat-cutting, they should not lie, he would verify their judgment by cutting his own throat. Upon which, when some who were in the same sad state with himself, pointed out to him how great a crime self-murder was, he immediately made answer that he was satisfied it was no crime at all; and upon this he fell to arguing in favour of the mortality of the soul, as if certain that it died with the body, endeavouring to cover his opinions with false glosses on that text in Genesis where it is said, that God breathed into man a living soul. From hence he would have inferred that when a man ceased to live, he totally lost that soul, and when it was asked of him where then it went, he said, he did not know, nor did it concern him much.

The standers-by, who notwithstanding their profligate course of life had a natural abhorrence of this theoretical impiety, reproved him in very sharp terms for making use of such expression, upon which he replied, Ay! would you have me believe all the strange notions that are taught by the parsons? That the devil is a real thing? That our good God punishes souls for ever and ever? That Hell is full of flames from material fire, and that this body of mine shall feel it? Well, you may believe it if you please, but it is so with me that I cannot.

Sometimes, however, he would lay aside these sceptical opinions for a time, talk in another strain, and appear mightily concerned at the misfortunes he had drawn upon his second wife and child. He would then speak of Providence, and the decrees of God with much seeming submission, would own that he had been guilty of many and grievous offences, say that the punishment of God was just, and desire the prayers of the minister of the place, and those that were about him.

When he reflected on the grief it would give his father, near ninety years old, to hear of his misfortunes and that his son should be shamefully executed for the murder of his wife, he was seen to shed tears and to appear very much affected; but as soon as these thoughts were a little out of his head, he resumed his former temper and was continually asking questions in relation to the truth of the Gospel dispensation, and the doctrines therein taught of rewards and punishments after this life.

Being a Frenchman and not perfectly versed in our language, a minister of the Reformed Church of that nation was prevailed upon to attend him. Houssart received him with tolerable civility, seemed pleased that he should pray by him, but industriously waved aside all discourses of his guilt, and even fell out into violent passions if confession was pressed upon him as a duty. In this strange way he consumed the time allowed him to prepare for another world.

The day before his execution he appeared more than ordinarily attentive at the public devotions in the chapel. A sermon was then made with particular regard to that fact for which he was to die; he heard that also seemingly with much care, but when he was asked immediately after to unburden his conscience in respect of the death of his wife, he not only refused it, but also expressed a great indignation that he should be tormented as he called it, to confess a thing of which he was not guilty.

In the evening of that day the foreign minister and he whose duty it was to attend him, both waited upon him at night in order to discourse with him on those strange notions he had of the mortality of the soul, and a total cessation of being after this life. But when they came to speak to him to this purpose, he said they might spare themselves any arguments upon that head, for he believed a God and a resurrection as firmly as they did. They then discoursed to him of the nature of a sufficient repentance, and of the duty incumbent upon him to confess that great crime for which he was condemned, and thereby give glory unto God. He fell at this into his old temper, and said with some passion, If you will pray with me, I'll thank you, and pray with you as long as you please; but if you come only to torture me with my guilt, I desire you would let me alone altogether.

His lawyers having pretty well instructed him in the nature of an appeal, and he coming thereby to know that he was now under sentence of death, at the suit of the subject and not of the King, he was very assiduous to learn where it was he was to apply for a reprieve; but finding it was the relations of his deceased wife from whom he was to expect it, he laid aside all those hopes, as conceiving it rightly a thing impossible to prevail upon people to spare his life, who had almost undone themselves in prosecuting him.

In the morning of the day of execution he was very much disturbed at being refused the Sacrament, which as the minister told him, could not be given him by the canon without his confession. Yet this did not prevail; he said he would die without receiving it, as he had before answered a French minister, who said, Lewis Houssart, since you are condemned on full evidence, and I see no reason but to believe you guilty, I must, as a just pastor, inform you that if you persist in this denial, and die without confession, you can look for nothing but to be d——; to which Houssart replied, You must look for damnation to yourself for judging me guilty, when you know nothing of the matter.

This confused frame of mind he continued in until he entered the cart for his execution, persisting in a like declaration of innocence all the way he went, though sometimes intermixed with short prayers to God to forgive his manifold sins and offences.

At the place of execution he turned very pale and grew very sick. The ministers told him they would not pray by him unless he would confess the murder for which he died. He said he was very sorry for that, but if they would not pray by him he could not help it, he would not confess what he was totally ignorant of. Even at the moment of being tied up he persisted and when such exhortations were again repeated, he said: Pray do not torment me, pray cease troubling me. I tell you I will not make myself worse than I am. And so saying, he gave up the ghost without any private prayer when left alone or calling upon God or Christ to receive his spirit. He delivered to the minister of Newgate, however, a paper, the copy which follows, from whence my readers will receive a more exact idea of the man from this, his draught of himself, than from any picture I can draw.

The Paper delivered by Lewis Houssart at his death.

I, Lewis Houssart, am forty years old, and was born in Sedan, a town in Champaigne, near Boullonois. I have left France above fourteen years. I was apprentice to a surgeon at Amsterdam, and after examination was allowed by the college to be qualified for that business, so that I intended to go on board a ship as surgeon, but I could never have my health at sea. I dwelt sometime at Maestricht, in the Dutch Brabant, where my aged father and brother now dwell. I travelled through Holland and was in almost every town. My two sisters are in France and also many of my relations, for the earth has scarce any family more numerous than ours. Seven or eight years have I been in London, and here I met with Anne Rondeau, who was born at the same village with me, and therefore I loved her. After I had left her, she wrote to me, and said she would reveal a secret. I promised her to be secret, and she told me she had not been chaste, and the consequence of it was upon her, upon which I gave her my best help and assistance. Since she is dead I hope her soul is happy.

Lewis Houssart

The Life of CHARLES TOWERS, a Minter in Wapping

Notwithstanding it must be apparent, even to a very ordinary understanding, that the Law must be executed both in civil and criminal cases, and that without such execution those who live under its protection would be very unsafe, yet it happens so that those who feel the smart of its judgment (though drawn upon them by their own misdeeds, follies or misfortunes which the Law of man cannot remedy or prevent) are always clamouring against its supposed severity, and making dreadful complaints of the hardships they from thence sustain. This disposition hath engaged numbers under these unhappy circumstances to attempt screening themselves from the rigour of the laws by sheltering in certain places, where by virtue of their own authority, or rather necessities, they set up a right of exemption and endeavour to establish a power of preserving those who live within certain limits from being prosecuted according to the usual course of the Law.

Anciently, indeed, there were several sanctuaries which depended on the Roman Catholic religion, and which were, of course, destroyed when popery was done away by Law. However, those who had sheltered themselves in them kept up such exemption, and by force withstood whatever civil officers attempted to execute process for debt, and that so vigorously that at length they seemed to have established by prescription what was directly against Law. These pretended privileged places increased at last to such an extent that in the ninth year of King William, the legislature was obliged to make provision by a clause in an Act of Parliament, requiring the sheriffs of London, Middlesex, and Surrey, the head bailiff of the Dutchy Liberty, or the bailiff of Surrey, under the penalty of one hundred pounds, to execute with the assistance of the posse comitatus any writ or warrant directed to them for seizing any person within any pretended privilege place such as Whitefriars, the Savoy, Salisbury Court, Ram Alley, Mitre Court, Fuller's Rents, Baldwin's Gardens, Montague Close or the Minories, Mint, Clink, or Dead Man's Place.[50] At the same time they ordered the assistance for executing the Law, of any who obey the sheriff or other person or persons in such places as aforesaid, with very great penalties upon persons who attempt to rescue persons from the hands of justice in such place.

This law had a very good effect with respect to all places excepting those within the jurisdiction of the Mint, though not without some struggle. There, however, they still continued to keep up those privileges they had assumed, and accordingly did maintain them by so far misusing persons who attempted to execute processes amongst them, by ducking them in ditches, dragging them through privies or "lay stalls," accompanied by a number of people dressed up in frightful habits, who were summoned upon blowing a horn. All which at last became so very great a grievance that the legislature was again forced to interpose, and by an act of the 9th of the late King, the Mint, as it was commonly called, situated in the parish of St. George's, Southwark, in the county of Surrey, was taken away, and the punishment of transportation, and even death, inflicted upon such who should persist in maintaining there pretended privileges.

Yet so far did the Government extend its mercy, as to suffer all those who at the time of passing the Act were actually shelterers in the Mint (provided that they made a just discovery of their effects) to be discharged from any imprisonment of their persons for any debts contracted before that time. By this Act of Parliament, the privilege of the Mint was totally taken away and destroyed.

The persons who had so many years supported themselves therein were dissipated and dispersed. But many of them got again into debt, and associating themselves with other persons in the same condition, with unparalleled impudence they attempted to set up (towards Wapping) a new privileged jurisdiction under the title of the Seven Cities of Refuge. In this attempt they were much furthered and directed by one Major Santloe, formerly a Justice of Peace, but being turned out of commission, he came first a shelterer here, and afterwards a prisoner in the Fleet. These people made an addition to these laws which had formerly been established in such illegal sanctuaries, for they provided large books in which they entered the names of persons who entered into their association, swearing to defend one another against all bailiffs and such like. In consequence of which, they very often rescued prisoners out of custody, or even entered the houses of officers for that purposes. Amongst the number of these unhappy people, who by protecting themselves against the lesser judgments of the Law involved themselves in greater difficulties, and at last drew on the greatest and most heavy sentence which it could pronounce, was him we now speak of.

Charles Towers was a person whose circumstances had been bad for many years, and in order to retrieve them he had turned gamester. For a guinea or two, it seems, he engaged for the payment of a very considerable debt for a friend, who not paying it at his time, Towers was obliged to fly for shelter into the Old Mint, then in being. He went into the New, which was just then setting up, and where the Shelterers took upon them to act more licentiously and with greater outrages towards officers of Justice than the people in any other places had done. Particularly they erected a tribunal on which a person chosen for that purpose sat as a judge with great state and solemnity. When any bailiff had attempted to arrest persons within the limits which they assumed for their jurisdiction, he was seized immediately by a mob of their own people, and hurried before the judge of their own choosing. There a sort of charge or indictment was preferred against him, for attempting to disturb the peace of the Shelterers within the jurisdiction of the Seven Cities of Refuge. Then they examined certain witnesses to prove this, and thereupon pretending to convict such bailiff as a criminal, he was sentenced by their judge aforesaid to be whipped or otherwise punished as he thought fit, which was executed frequently in the most cruel and barbarous manner, by dragging him through ditches and other nasty places, tearing his clothes off his back, and even endangering his life.

One West, who had got amongst them, being arrested by John Errington, who carried him to his house by Wapping Wall, the Shelterers in the New Mint no sooner heard thereof, but assembling on a Sunday morning in a great number, with guns, swords, staves, and other offensive weapons, they went to the house of the said John Errington, and there terrifying and affrighting the persons in the house rescued John West, pursuant, as they said, to their oaths, he being registered as a protected person in their books of the Seven Cities of Refuge. In this expedition Charles Towers was very forward, being dressed with only a blue pea-jacket, without hat, wig or shirt, with a large stick like a quarter-staff in his hand, his face and breast being so blackened that it appeared to be done with soot and grease, contrary to the Statute made against those called The Waltham Blacks, and done after the first day of June, 1723, when that Statute took place.

Upon an indictment for this, the fact being very fully and dearly proved, notwithstanding his defence, which was that he was no more disguised than his necessity obliged him to be, not having wherewith to provide himself clothes, and his face perhaps dirty and daubed with mud, the jury found him guilty, and he thereupon received sentence of death.

Before the execution of that sentence, he insisted strenuously on his innocence as to the point on which he was found guilty and condemned, viz., having his face blacked and disguised within the intent and meaning of the Statute, but he readily acknowledged that he had been often present and assisted at such mock courts of justice as were held in the New Mint, though he absolutely denied sitting as judge when one Mr. Westwood, a bailiff, was most abominably abused by an order of that pretended court. He seemed fully sensible of the ills and injuries he had committed by being concerned amongst such people, but often said that he thought the bailiffs had sufficiently revenged themselves by the cruel treatment they had used the riotous persons with, when they fell within their power, particularly since they hacked and chopped a carpenter's right arm in such a manner that it was obliged to be cut off; had abused others in so terrible a degree that they were not able to work, or do anything for their living. He himself had received several large cuts over the head, which though received six weeks before, yet were in a very bad condition at the time of his death.

As to disguises, he constantly averred they were never practised in the New Mint. He owned they had had some masquerades amongst them, to which himself amongst others had gone in the dress of a miller, and his face all covered with white, but as to any blacking or other means to prevent his face being known when he rescued West he had none, but on the contrary was in his usual habit as all the rest were that accompanied him. He framed as well as he could a petition for mercy, setting forth the circumstances of the thing, and the hardship he conceived it to be to suffer upon the bare construction of an Act of Parliament. He set forth likewise, the miserable condition of his wife and two children already, she being also big of a third. This petition she presented to his Majesty at the Council Chamber door, but the necessity there was of preventing such combinations for obstructing justice, rendered it of no effect. Upon her return, and Towers being acquainted with the result, he said he was contented, that he went willingly into a land of quiet from a world so troublesome and so tormenting as this had been to him. Then he kneeled down and prayed with great fervency and devotion, after which he appeared very composed and showed no rage against the prosecutor and witnesses who had brought on his death, as is too often the case with men in his miserable condition.

On the day appointed for his execution, he was carried in a cart to a gallows whereon he was to suffer in Wapping, the crowd, as is not common on such occasions, lamenting him, and pouring down showers of tears, he himself behaving with great calmness and intrepidity. After prayers had been said, he stood up in the cart, and turning towards the people, professed his innocence in being in a disguise at the time of rescuing Mr. West, and with the strongest asserverations said that it was Captain Buckland and not himself who sat as judge upon Mr. Jones the bailiff, though, as he complained, he had been ill-used while he remained a prisoner upon that score. To this he added that for the robberies and thefts with which he was charged, they were falsities, as he was a dying man. Money indeed, be said, might be shaken out of the breeches pocket of the bailiff when he was ditched, but that whether it was or was not so, he was no judge, for he never saw any of it. That as to any design of breaking open Sir Isaac Tilliard's house, he was innocent of that also. In fine, he owned that the judgment of God was exceeding just for the many offences he committed, but that the sentence of the Law was too severe, because, as he understood it, he had done nothing culpable within the intent of the Statute on which he died. After this, he inveighed for some time against bailiffs, and then crying with vehemency to God to receive his spirit, he gave up the ghost on the 4th of January, 1724-5.

However the death of Towers might prevent people committing such acts as breaking open the houses of bailiffs, and setting prisoners at liberty, yet it did not quite stifle or destroy those attempts which necessitous people made for screening themselves from public justice, insomuch that the Government were obliged at last to cause a Bill to be brought into Parliament for the preventing such attempts for the future, whereupon in the 11th year of the late King, it passed into a law to this effect:

That if any number of persons not less than three, associate themselves together in the hamlet of Wapping, Stepney, or in any other place within the bills of mortality, in order to shelter themselves from their debts, after complaint made thereof by presentment of a grand jury, and should obstruct any officer legally empowered and authorised in the execution of any writ or warrant against any person whatsoever, and in such obstructing or hindering should hurt, wound or injure any person; then any offender convicted of such offence, should suffer as a felon and be transported for seven years in like manner as other persons are so convicted. And it is further enacted by the same law that upon application made to the judge of any Court, out of which the writs therein mentioned are issued, the aforesaid judge, if he see proper, may grant a warrant directly to the sheriff, or other person proper to raise the posse comitatus, where there is any probability of resistance. And if in the execution of such warrant any disturbance should happen, and a rescue be made, then the persons assisting in such rescue, or who harbour or conceal the persons so rescued, shall be transported for seven years in like manner as if convicted of felony, but all indictments upon this statute are to be commenced within six months after the fact committed.


[50] Ram Alley was on the south side of Fleet Street, between Sergeants' Inn and Mitre Court; Fuller's Rents is now Fulwood Place, Holborn; Baldwin's Gardens runs from Gray's Inn Road to Leather Lane; Montague Close was on the Southwark side, near London Bridge; Dead Man's Place was a crooked street at the east end of Bankside.

The Life of THOMAS ANDERSON, a Scotch Thief

Amongst a multitude of tragical adventures it is with some satisfaction that I mention the life of a person who was of the number of those few which take warning in time, and having once felt the rod of affliction, fear it ever afterwards.

Thomas Anderson was the son of reputable parents in the city of Aberdeen, in Scotland. His father was of the number of those unhappy people who went over to Darien when the Scots made their settlement there in the reign of the late King William, his son Thomas being left under the care of his mother then a widow. By this his education suffered, and he was put apprentice to a glazier, although his father had been a man of some fashion, and the boy always educated with hopes of living genteelly. However, he is not the first that has been so deceived, though he took it so to heart that at first going to his master his grief was so great as had very nigh killed him. He continued, however, with his master two years, and then making bold with about nine guineas of his, and thirteen of his mother's, he procured a horse and made the greatest speed he could to Edinburgh.

Tom was sensible enough that he should be pursued, and hearing of a ship ready to sail from Leith for London, he went on board it, and in five days' time having a fair wind they arrived in the river of Thames. As soon as he got on shore Tom had the precaution to take lodging in a little street near Bur Street in Wapping, there he put his things; and his stock now being dwindled to twelve guineas, he put two of them in his fob, with his mother's old gold watch, which he had likewise brought along with him, and then went out to see the town. He had not walked far in Fleet Street, whither he had conveyed himself by boat, but he was saluted by a well-dressed woman, in a tone almost as broad as his own. Conscious of what he had committed he thought it was somebody that knew him and would have taken him up. He turned thereupon pale, and started. The woman observing his surprise, said, Sir, I beg your pardon I took you for one Mr. Johnson, of Hull, my near relation; but I see you are not the same gentleman, though you are very like him.

Anderson thereupon taking heart, walked a little way with her, and the woman inviting him to drink tea at her lodgings, he accepted it readily, and away they went together to the bottom of Salisbury Court, where the woman lived. After tea was over, so many overtures were made that our new-come spark was easily drawn into an amour, and after a considerable time spent in parley, it was at last agreed that he should pass for her husband newly come from sea; and this being agreed upon, the landlady was called up, and the story told in form. The name the woman assumed was that of Johnson, and Tom consequently was obliged to go by the same. So after compliments expressed on all sides for his safe return, a supper was provided, and about ten o'clock they went to bed together.

Whether anything had been put in the drink, or whether it was only owing to the quantity he had drunk, he slept very soundly until 11 o'clock in the morning, when he was awakened by a knocking at the door; upon getting up to open it, he was a little surprised at finding the woman gone and more so at seeing the key thrown under the door. However, he took it up and opened it: his landlady then delivered him a letter, which as soon as she was gone he opened, and found it to run in these terms:

Dear Sir,

You must know that for about three years I have been an unfortunate woman, that is, have conversed with many of your sex, as I have done with you. I need not tell you that you made me a present of what money you had about you last night, after the reckoning over the way at The George was paid. I told my landlady when I went out this morning that I was going to bring home some linen for shirts; you had best say so too, and so you may go away without noise, for as I owe her above three pound for lodging, 'tis odds but that as you said last night you were my husband, she will put you in trouble, and that I think would be hard, for to be sure you have paid dear enough for your frolic. I hope you will forgive this presumption, and I am yours next time you meet me.

Jane Johnson

Tom was not a little chagrined at this accident, especially when he found that not only the remainder of the two guineas, but also his mother's gold watch, and a gold chain and ring was gone into the bargain. However, he thought it best to take the woman's word, and so coming down and putting on the best air he could, he told his landlady he hoped his wife would bring the linen home time enough to go to breakfast, and that in the meanwhile he would go to the coffee-house, and read the news. The woman said it was very well, and Tom getting to the waterside, directed them to row to the stairs nearest to his lodging by Bur Street, ruminating all the way he went on the accident which had befallen him.

The rumours of Jonathan Wild, then in the zenith of his glory, had somehow or other reached the ears of our North Briton. He thereupon mentioned him to the watermen, who perceiving that he was a stranger, and hoping to get a pot of drink for the relation, obliged him with the best account they were able of Mr. Wild and his proceedings. As soon, therefore, as Anderson came home, he put the other two guineas in his pocket, and over he came in a coach to the Old Bailey, where Mr. Wild had just then set up in his office, Mr. Anderson being introduced in form, acquainted him in good blunt Scotch how he had lost his money and his watch. Jonathan used him very civilly, and promised his utmost diligence in recovering it. Tom being willing to save money, enquired of him his way home by land on foot, and having received instructions he set out accordingly. About the middle of Cheapside a well-dressed gentleman came up to him. Friend, says he, I have heard you ask five or six people, as I followed you, your way to Bur Street. I am going thither and so if you'll walk along with me, 'twill save you the labour of asking further questions.

Tom readily accepted the gentleman's civility, and so on they trudged, until they came within twenty yards of the place, and into Tom's knowledge. Young man, then says the stranger, since I have shown you the way home you must not refuse drinking a pint with me at a tavern hard by, of my acquaintance. No sooner were they entered and sat down, but a third person was introduced into their company, as an acquaintance of the former. A good supper was provided, and when they had drunk about a pint of wine apiece, says the gentleman who brought him thither to Anderson, You seem an understanding young fellow. I fancy your circumstances are not of the best. Come, if you have a tolerable head and any courage, I'll put you in a way to live as easy as you can wish.

Tom pricked up his ears upon this motion, and told him that truly, as to his circumstances, he had guessed very right, but that he wished he would be so good as to put him into any road of living like a gentleman. For to say the truth, sir, says he, it was with that view I left my own country to come up to London.

Well spoken, my lad, says the other, and like a gentleman thou shalt live. But hark ye, are you well acquainted with the men of quality's families about Aberdeen? Yes, sir, says he. Well then, replied the stranger, do you know none of them who has a son about your age? Yes, yes, replied Tom, My Lord J—— sent his eldest son to our college at Aberdeen to be bred, and he and I an much alike, and not above ten days difference in our ages. Why then, replied the spark, it will do, and here's to your honour's health. Come, from this time forward, you are the Honourable Mr. ——, son and heir apparent to the Right Honourable, the Lord ——.

To make the story short, these sharpers equipped him like the person they put him upon the town to be, and lodging him at the house of a Scotch merchant who was in the secret, with no less than three footmen all in proper livery to attend him. In the space of ten days' time, they took up effect upon his credit to the amount of a thousand pounds. Tom was cunning enough to lay his hands on a good diamond ring, two suits of clothes, and a handsome watch, and improved mightily from a fortnight's conversation with these gentlemen. He foresaw the storm would quickly begin, the news of his arrival under the name he had assumed, having been in the papers a week; so to prevent what might happen to himself, he sends his three footmen on different errands, and making up his clothes and some holland shirts into a bundle, called a coach and drove off to Bur Street, where having taken the remainder of his things that had been there ever since his coming to town, he bid the fellow drive him to the house of a person near St. Catherine's, to whom he had known his mother direct letters when in Scotland.

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