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CHARLES G 



HALF-HOURS WITH 
THE HIGHWAYMEN 



WORKS BY CHARLES G. HARPER 

The Portsmouth Road, and its Tributaries : To-day and in Days 
of Old. 

The Dover Road : Annals of an Ancient Turnpike. 

The Bath Road : History, Fashion, and Frivolity on an Old 
Highway. 

The Exeter Road : The Story of the West of England Highway. 

The Great North Road : The Old Mail Road to Scotland. Two 
Yols. 

The Norwich Road : An East Anglian Highway. 

The Holyhead Road: The Mail-Coach Road to Dublin. Two 
Vols. 

The Cambridge, Ely, and King's Lynn Road: The Great 
Fenland Highway. 

The Newmarket, Bury, Thetford, and Cromer Road : Sport 
and History on an Last Anglian Turnpike. 

The Oxford, Gloucester, and Milford Haven Road : The 
Ready Way to South Wales. Two Vols. 

The Brighton Road: Speed, Sport, and History on the Classic 
Highway. 

The Hastings Road and the " Happy Springs of Tunbridge." 
Cycle Rides Round London. 

A Practical Handbook of Drawing for Modern Methods of 
Reproduction. 

Stage Coach and Mail in Days of Yore. Two Vols. 

The Ingoldsby Country : Literary Landmarks of " The Ingoldsby 
Legends." 

The Hardy Country : Literary Landmarks of the Wessex Novels. 

The Dorset Coast 

The South Devon Coast. 

The North Devon Coast. 

The Old Inns of Old England. Two Vols. 

Love in the Harbour : a Longshore Comedy. 

Rural Nooks Round London (Middlesex and Surrey). 

The Manchester and Glasgow Road; This way to Gretna 
Green. Two Vols. 

Haunted Houses; Tales of the Supernatural. 

The Somerset Coast. [/ the Press. 




SIXTRIIN STRING 



SIXTKKN-STRISG JACK. 



HALF-HOURS WITH 
THE HIGHWAYMEN 

PICTURESQUE BIOGRAPHIES AND 

TRADITIONS OF THE " KNIGHTS 

OF THE ROAD" 

BY OHAELES G. HARPER 

VOL. II 




Illnxtrated by Paul Hardy and by the Author, and 
from Old Prints 



LONDON 
CHAPMAN & HALL, LIMITED 

1908 

All riyhtt rtteroed 




I/, 



IRIMhlJ AND BOLND IT 

I1AZELL, WATSON ASD VISEY. LU., 

U5NDOX AND AYLESBUKY. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

NEVISON : " SWIFT NICKS " i 

JOHN COTTINGTON, alias " MULLED SACK " ... 26 
THOMAS RUMBOLD . . . 35 

"CAPTAIN" JAMES WHITNEY 41 

TWM SHON CATTI . 65 

JOHN WITHERS AND WILLIAM EDWARDS . . . -75 

PATRICK O'BRIAN 81 

JACK BIRD . . . . . . . . .86 

WILL OGDEN, JACK BRADSHAW, AND TOM REYNOLDS . 98 
JACK OVET . . . . . . . . . 105 

JOHN HALL, RICHARD Low, AND STEPHEN BUNCE . .no 
" MR." AVERY AND DICK ADAMS . . . . .121 

JONATHAN WILD . . . . . . . .126 

NICHOLAS HORNER . . . . . . . .148 

WALTER TRACEY . . . . . . . -158 

NED WICKS 166 

DICK TURPIN 173 

WILLIAM PARSONS, THE BARONET'S SON . . . .241 

WILLIAM PAGE . . 249 

ISAAC DARKIN, alias DUMAS 264 

JAMES MACLAINE, THE "GENTLEMAN" HIGHWAYMAN. . 271 

JOHN POULTER, alias BAXTER . . . . . -301 
VOL. ii. *ii b 



viii CONTENTS 



i \,,i 



PAUL LEWIS . ..... 316 

TUB WESTONS . . 320 

JACK UAXN : " SIXTEEIJ-STRING JACK " . . 340 

ROBERT FERGUSON "GALLOPING DICK" .... 353 

JERRY ABERSHAW .... ... 361 

JOHN AND WILLIAM BEATSON . .... 370 

ROBERT SNOOKS 376 

HUFFUM WHITK ........ 384 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



PAGE 

SIXTEEN-STEING JACK Frontispiece 

JSTsvisoN's RIDE TO YORK . . '. . . . . 7 

" SWIFT NICKS" BEFORE CHARLES THE SECOND ... 13 
" MULLED SACK" ROBS THE ARMY PAY WAGGON . . 31 
WHITNEY HUGGED BY THE BEAR ..... 43 

WHITNEY AND THE USURER ...... 53 

TWM SHON CATTI AND THE HIGHWAYMAN . . . .73 

JACK BIRD FIGHTS THE CHAPLAIN 95 

THE BOBBERY AT THE HACKNEY BAKER'S. . . .113 
JONATHAN WILD ON THE WAY TO EXECUTION . . . 145 

HORNER MEETS HIS MATCH 155 

TURPIN AND HIS GANG IN THEIR CAVE IN EPPING FOREST 179 
TURPIN HOLDS THE LANDLADY OVER THE FlRE . . .187 

TURPIN MEETS TOM KING 199 

TURPIN IN HIS CAVE 213 

WILLIAM PARSONS ........ 243 

WILLIAM PAGE. ........ 253 

MACLAINE, THE LADIES' HERO 273 

JAMES MACLAINE ...... . . 277 

MACLAINE AND PLUNKETT ROBBING THE EARL OF EGLINTON 

ON HOUNSLOW HEATH . . . . .287 

MACLAINE IN THE DOCK . .' . . . . . 293 
NEWGATE'S LAMENTATION; OR, THE LADIES' FAREWELL TO 

MACLAINE . 297 

PAUL LEWIS 317 



x LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAOB 

THE WESTONS ESCAPING FROM NBWGATE .... 335 

" SlXTEEN-STRINQ JACK " AND ELLEN RoCHE IN THE DOCK 349 

" GALLOPING DICK " 355 

JERRY ABERSHAW ON PUTNEY HEATH .... 363 

SNOOKS ADDRESSING THE CROWD AT HIS EXECUTION . . 379 

HUFFUM WHITE ESCAPING FROM THE HULKS . . . 385 



ILLUSTRATIONS IN TEXT 

Nevison's Leg-irons, in York Museum .... 23 
Jonathan Wild in the Condemned Cell . . . .135 
Satirical Invitation -card to Execution of Jonathan Wild 139 
Turpin's Baptismal Register, Hempstead . . . 175 

Bold Dick Turpin 197 

Tom King ......... 205 

Dick Turpin ......... 207 

Tom King ......... 209 

Tom King . . . . . . . . .211 

Dick Turpin . . . . . . . . .215 

Sir Ralph Rookwood and Simon Sharpscent . . .219 
Turpin's Cell in York Castle . . . . . .222 

Ralph Ostler . . . . . . . . .225 

Turpin's Waist-girdle, \Vrist-shackles, and Leg-irons . 227 
Maid of the Inn ........ 228 

Highwaymen carousing . . . . . . .229 

Innkeeper. . . . . . . . . -231 

Turpin's Stone ......... 237 

Portmanteau, formerly belonging to Turpin, discovered at 

Clerkenwell . . .- .. ... . . 239 

William Parsons . . . . . . . .247 

James Maclaine . . " >, . . . . 272 

Jack Rann ......... 345 

Snooks's Grave 383 




HALF- 
HOJRS 



HIGHWAYMEN 



NEVISON: " SWIET NICKS" 

WHEN Harrison Ainsworth wrote Itookwood, that 
fantastic romance of highway robbery and the 
impossible exploits of the Rookwood family, he 
did a singular injustice to a most distinguished 
seventeenth-century highwayman, John Nevison 
by name, and transferred the glory of his wonder- 
ful ride to York to Dick Turpin, who never owned 
a " Black Bess," and who never did anything of 
the kind. Turpin, by virtue of Ains worth's glow- 
ing pages, has become a popular hero and stands 
full in the limelight, while the real gallant figure 
is only dimly seen in the cold shade of neglect. 

John or " William " Nevison, by some accounts, 
was born at Pontefract, in 1639, of " honest and 
reasonably-estated parents." Sometimes we find 
him styled Nevinson, at other times he is " alias 
Clerk " in the proclamations issued, offering 
rewards for his arrest. Occasionally, in the chap- 
books, we find John Nevison and William Nevison 
treated as two separate and distinct persons, no 

VOL. II. I 



a HALP-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

doubt because the recorded adventures of this 
truly eminent man were so widely distributed over 
the country, that it was difficult to believe them 
the doings of one person. But there seems to be 
no reasonable doubt that one and the same man 
was the hero of all these doings, as also of the 
famous Ride to York. Of course it is now by 
far too late to snatch from Turpin the false glory 
bestowed upon him. A hundred romances, a 
century of popular plays, have for ever in the 
popular mind identified him with the Ride to 
York, and with all manner of achievements and 
graces that were never his. Lies are brazen 
and immortal ; truth is modest ; and the Great 
Turpin Myth is too fully established to be 
thoroughly scotched. 

But let us to the career of Nevison, as told in 
the pages of what few authorities exist. He seems 
to have been a precocious boy : precocious in 
things evil. Indeed we must needs regard him 
as a wunderkind in that sort, for between the ages 
of thirteen and fourteen, and when still at school, 
he is reported to have been the " ringleader in rude- 
ness and debauchery." He stole a silver spoon from 
his father, who delegated the thrashing so richly 
deserved to the schoolmaster, who seems to have 
" laid on " in the thorough manner suggested to 
Macduff. A vivid picture presents itself to us, 
of William (or John) occupying a sleepless night, 
rubbing the parts and meditating revenge. As 
a result of his deliberations, he arose before peep 
of day and, cautiously taking his father's keys, 



NEVISON 3 

stole to the domestic cashbox and helped himself 
to the ten pounds he found there. Then, taking 
a saddle and bridle from his father's stable, he 
hastened to the paddock where the schoolmaster 
had a horse out to graze. Saddling it, he made 
off for London, which he reached in four days. 
He dared not sell the horse, for by that means 
he might have been traced, so he killed the un- 
fortunate animal when within one or two miles 
of London. 

Buying a new suit of clothes and changing his 
name, he soon found employment with a brewer. 
In that situation he remained nearly three years, 
and then left suddenly for the Continent, in- 
cidentally with 200 belonging to the brewer. 
Holland was the country he honoured with his 
presence, and there he found a fellow- mind in the 
person of a young Dutch woman who, robbing 
her father of all the money and jewels she could 
lay hands upon, eloped with him. They were soon 
arrested, but Nevison broke prison, and with 
some difficulty, made his way into Elanders, and 
enlisted in the troops stationed there under 
command of the Duke of York. It is not to be 
supposed that such a restless temperament as 
his would allow him long to remain subject to 
restrictions and the word of command, and 
accordingly he deserted, made across to England, 
and, purchasing a horse and arms, and " resolving 
for the Road," blossomed out as a full-blown 
highwayman. As his original biographer prettily 
puts it, he embarked upon " a pleasant life at the 



4 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

hazard of his neck, rather than toil out a long 
remainder of unhappy days in want and poverty, 
which he was always averse to." Who, for that 
matter, is not ? Let us sigh for the days that 
were, the days that are no more, when such 
adventures as the highwaymen sought were to 
be found on every highway. A short life, so long 
as it was a merry, was sufficient for these fine 
fellows, who desired nothing so little as a gnarled 
and crabhed age, and nothing so much as a life 
filled with excitement, wine, and the smiles of 
the fair. Those smiles were apt to be purchased, 
and generally purchased dear, but in that respect 
the highwaymen were never disposed to be critical. 

Nevison's success, immediate and complete, 
proclaimed his fitness for the career himself had 
with due thought and deliberation chosen. At first 
he kept his own counsel and haunted the roads 
alone. Sometimes he went by the name of Johnson. 

At this early stage he met one evening on 
the high road two farmers, who told him it was 
dangerous to go forward, themselves having only 
a few minutes before been robbed of forty pounds 
by three highwaymen, scarce more than half a 
mile off. 

" Turn back with me," he said, " and show me 
the way they went, and, my life to a farthing if 
I do not make them return your money." 

They accordingly rode back with him until they 
had come within sight of the three robbers, when 
Nevison, ordering the two farmers to stand behind, 
rode up and spoke to the foremost of the three. 



NEVISON 5 

" Sir," said he, " by your garb and the colour 
of your horse, you should be one of those I look 
after, and, if so, my business is to tell you that 
you borrowed of two friends of mine forty pounds, 
which they desired me to demand of you, and 
which, before we part, you must restore." 

Two of the men then made haste to ride off. 

" How ? " quoth the remaining highway- 
man. " Forty pounds ; d n me, is the fellow 
mad ? " 

" So mad," replied Nevison, " that your life 
shall answer me, if you do not give me better 
satisfaction." 

With that Nevison drew his pistol and sudden- 
ly clapped it to the man's chest ; at the same time 
seizing his horse's reins, in such a manner that he 
could not draw either sword or pistols. 

" My life is at your mercy," he confessed. 

" No," said Nevison, " 'tis not that I seek, 
but the money you have robbed those two men of. 
You must refund it." 

With the best grace he could, the highwayman 
parted with what he had, saying his companions 
had the rest. 

Nevison then, making him dismount, and 
taking his pistols, desired the countrymen to 
secure him, while he pursued the others. In the 
gathering twilight, as he galloped up, they, 
thinking it was their friend, drew rein. 

" Jack," said one to him, " why did you stop to 
argue with that fellow ? " 

" No, gentlemen," said Nevison, " you are 



6 HALF- HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

mistaken in your man ; though, by token of his 
horse that I ride and his arms I carry, he hath 
sent me to you, to ransom his life. The ransom, 
sirs, is nothing less than your shares of the prize 
of the day, which if you presently surrender, you 
may go about your business. If not, I must have 
a little dispute with you, at sword and pistol." 

One of them then let fly at him, but his aim 
missing, Nevison's bullet in reply took him in the 
right shoulder. He then called for quarter and 
came to a parley, which ended in the two sur- 
rendering not only their share of the two travellers' 
money, but a total amount of a hundred and fifty 
guineas. Nevison thereupon returned to the 
farmers and, handing them their money, went his 
way with the balance of one hundred and ten 
guineas. 

This, it will at once be conceded, was by no 
means professional conduct ; and was indeed, we 
may say, a serious breach of the highway law, by 
which thieves should at any rate stand by one 
another, shoulder to shoulder against the world. 

Nevison, however, like a true philosopher and 
a false comrade, improved any occasion to his own 
advantage, without scruple. You figure him thus, 
rather of a saturnine humour, with an ugly grin on 
his face, instead of a frank smile; but probably 
you would be quite wrong in so doing. At any 
rate, the ladies appear to have loved him, for we 
learn that, " in all his pranks, he was very favour- 
able to the female sex, who generally gave him 
the character of a civil, obliging robber." He 




NEVISON'S KIDB TO YOKK. 



NEVISON 9 

was also charitable to the poor, and, being a true 
Royalist, he never attempted anything against 
those of that party. 

After many adventures, our William, or John, 
as the case may be, one day secured no less a sum 
than 450 by a fortunate meeting on the road 
with a rich grazier who had just sold, and been 
paid for, some cattle. He resolved to let the road 
lie fallow, as it were, for a while, and to seek, in 
a temporary retirement in his native place, that 
repose which comes doubly welcome after a period 
of strenuous professional endeavour. 

He was joyfully received by his father, who 
still was living in the old town of Pontefract, 
although some seven or eight years had passed 
since his son had levanted and disappeared utterly 
from the parental ken. He had long given up all 
hopes of seeing his boy again ; and now he was 
returned, a young man of twenty-one years of age, 
and with a respectable sum of money ; the savings 
of a frugal and industrious life in London, accord- 
ing to his own account. 

Here is an idyllic picture : the highwayman 
returned home, soothing the declining days of his 
father, and living as quietly and soberly as though 
he had never emptied a pocket on the King's 
highway ! 

After the death of his father, he left the quiet 
existence at Pontefract, and opened the second 
part of his career upon the road. He now so far 
departed from his former practice as to become 
the moving spirit in a numerous band whose 



io HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

headquarters were long situated at Newark. 
They particularly affected Yorkshire, and inspired 
the drovers and graziers who used the Great North 
Road with dread. 

At times, however, he would range southward 
again, hy himself, and one of these expeditions 
resulted in the marvellous feat that made him 
famous at the time, and should have kept him so 
for all time. His well-earned laurels, unhappily, 
have been snatched by a heedless hand from his 
brow, and placed on the unworthy head of Turpin. 
Such are the strange vagaries of fame I 

Nevison's all-eclipsing exploit originated in a 
four-o'clock-in-the-morning robbery upon Gad's 
Hill, near Rochester. 

For some reason, Nevison appears to have been 
particularly afraid of being recognised by the 
traveller whom he stopped and relieved of his 
purse on that May morning, and he immediately, 
for the establishment of an alibi, conceived the 
idea of riding such a distance that day as to make 
it appear humanly impossible he could have been 
near R/ochester at that hour. He proposed to 
ride to no less distant a place than the city of 
York, two hundred and thirty miles away from 
that "high old robbing hill." To the modern 
commentator, writing with even pulse, it would 
seem that, unless that traveller's purse had been 
very well lined, the proceeds of the robbery 
would not be nearly worth this tremendous 
effort, after the taking of it. 

\\ would seem that in being so rash as to 



NEVISON ii 

rob a traveller in the dawning of that May 
day, he had indeed been so unfortunate as to 
happen upon some one who knew him ; and 
there was nothing else but to put as many 
miles as he could between the dawn and the 
setting of the sun. So behold him, mounted upon 
his "blood bay " mare, galloping away for Graves- 
end. He crossed the Thames to Tilbury, and so 
went, by way of Horndon and Billericay, to 
Chelmsford, where he halted an hour and gave his 
gallant steed some balls. Thence through Brain- 
tree, Booking, Wethersfield, Fenny Stanton, 
Godmanchester, and Huntingdon, where he halted 
another half -hour ; and so, straight down the Great 
North Road (but avoiding the towns) to York. 
Of course he must needs have had several re- 
mounts on the way. It is unthinkable that one 
horse could have performed such a journey. But 
Nevison was no lone unfriended knight of the 
road, and, in his extensive operations, had ex- 
cellent friends in different parts of the country, 
who could help him on occasion to a good horse. 

Arrived at York, he halted only to put up his 
horse, and to remove the travel-stains and signs of 
haste from his person, and then made his way 
to the nearest bowling-green, where it chanced 
that so important a personage as the Lord Mayor 
was playing bowls with some friends. 

Nevison took an early opportunity of asking 
the time, and was told it was just a quarter to 
eight. Having done this, and thus fixed the time 
and the incident in the Lord Mayor's mind, he 

VOL. II. 2 



12 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

was satisfied, and after-events proved the wisdom 
of his flight ; for he was shortly afterwards 
arrested on another charge of highway robbery, 
and, among those who were present, in an effort 
to identify him with other charges, was none other 
than the early morning traveller upon Gad's Hill. 

The alibi on that count was triumphantly 
established. Nevison called his York acquaint- 
ances, and the Lord Mayor was appealed to. That 
civic dignitary readily deposed to the fact that 
this falsely-accused gentleman was on the York 
bowling-green on the evening of that day : and in 
the end, Nevison was acquitted on all charges. 

But the highwaymen of that age had a good 
deal of the braggart in their composition. They 
could not do a clever thing without taking the 
world into their confidence ; and so, heedless of 
the danger to his career, Nevison told the story 
of the ride to delighted ears. Instead of being 
arrested on what was practically a confession, he 
became the hero of the hour. The tale even 
reached the ears of Charles the Second, who had 
him presented, and, loving a clever rogue as he 
did (and possibly with some fellow-feeling, in the 
recollection of how himself had been a harassed 
fugitive), pardoned him, and christened him "Swift 
Nicks." 

Elsewhere, we read that the robbery took 
place at Barnet, and that it was thence Nevison 
rode to York. The traveller, it seems in this 
version, had set out from the " Blossoms " inn, 
Lawrence Lane, in the city of London, and lost 




" SWIFT NICKS " BEFORE CHARLES THE SECOND. 



NEVIS ON 15 

five hundred and sixty guineas on this monumental 
occasion. 

According to one account, this was "in or 
about" May 1676; but it is difficult to fix the 
dates of many of the seventeenth-century high- 
waymen's doings within a few years, and this 
would certainly appear to be an error, for it can 
be proved that he bore the nickname " Swift 
Nicks " years before. For example, we find in 
December 1668 a proclamation offering 20 
reward for the arrest of several specified highway- 
men, including Swift Nicks ; and another in the 
London Gazette of November 18th, 1669, in which 
" Swift Nix " is again mentioned. This pro- 
clamation is in itself an interesting and valuable 
sidelight upon the social conditions of that age : 

WHITEHALL, Nov. nth. 

His Majesty having been informed that divers lewd 
and disorderly persons have committed great and 
heinous Robberies, Murders, and Burglaries, imboldened 
thereto either out of hope to escape the hand of Justice, 
or by the carelessness and negligence in keeping due 
"Watches and "Wards, and the pursuit of them by Hue 
and cry, or the concealment of them and their Horses 
by Inn-keepers, Ostlers, and others, and that some which 
have been indicted for these offences, and others not 
indicted but guilty of the same, continue their wicked 
practices in spoiling his good subjects, of which number 
are said to be Lewis, alias Lodowick, alias Claude de 
Val, alias Brown, Swift Nix, alias Clerk, Humble 
Ashenhurst, Martin Bringhurst, John Spencer, "William 
Stavely, William Stanesby, Thomas Stanley, Nicholas 
Greenbury, "William Talbot, Richard Wild, William 
Connel, Nicholas James, and Herman Atkins, are 



16 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

notoriously known to be such, and of one party and 
knot, etc. His Majesty minding to preserve all His 
loving Subjects in their Lives and Estates from all 
Rapine and Violence, was thus pleased to order His 
Proclamation to be issued out, Commanding all His 
Subjects and Officers of Justice to use their endeavours 
for the apprehension of the said persons, and all others 
who have been, or shall be guilty of the offences afore- 
said, that they may be proceeded against according to 
Law and Justice, declaring His Will and Pleasure, 

That all Justices take Order, that due Watches and Wards 
be kept by Horse and Foot for the apprehension of such 
offenders ; Commanding all Vintners, keepers of Common 
Ordinaries, Gaming Houses, Inn-keepers, Horse-keepers, 
and other persons where such persons shall be or resort, 
to apprehend or cause them to be apprehended, etc., or 
otherwise themselves to be proceeded against as far as 
by due course of Law they may, declaring that whoso- 
ever shall before the 20th of June next, apprehend or 
cause to be apprehended any of the said persons above- 
named, and brought into custody, and prosecute them 
to a Conviction, shall have a reward of Twenty pounds 
for every such offender, and for every other notorious 
Robber, Burglar, or Murderer, the sum of Ten pounds 
within 15 days after their Conviction, to be paid by the 
respective Sheriff of the County where such conviction 
shall be had, upon the Certificate of the Judge, or under 
the hands of two or more Justices of the Peace before 
whom they were convicted. 

And so forth. This official proclamation clashes 
discordantly with the kindly, forgiving character 
of the King's interview with Nevison. Of course, 
there would naturally be all the difference between 
a proclamation and a private , act of clemency ; 
and not even in those days, when a King might do 
strange things, was it possible, or thinkable, to 



NEVISON 17 

give a highwayman liberty to rob as he pleased. 
We may, perhaps, not without justification, sur- 
mise that this highwayman's continued and 
notorious activity wore out the easy-going 
monarch's patience. 

Nevison was arrested on one occasion and 
lodged in Wakefield prison, but he broke out, and 
was again holding up the lieges. At another time 
he was released on giving a promise that he would 
volunteer to serve in our newly acquired colony, 
Tangier ; but he promptly deserted. Once he was 
thrown into Leicester gaol, heavily ironed, and 
strictly guarded ; so well-advised were the authori- 
ties of his slippery character. Among those who 
visited him in his cell was a friend in the disguise 
of a doctor. This person, affecting to be struck 
with horror at the sight of him, declared he was 
infected with the plague ; and added that, so far 
as the prisoner himself was concerned, he might 

die and be d d for a rogue, and welcome ; but 

a more serious thing was that, unless he were 
removed to a larger room, not only would he die, 
but he would also spread the infection over the 
entire prison. 

Nevison was very speedily removed to another 
room, and the gaoler, implored by his wife, went 
no further than the door. The physician, mean- 
while, came twice or thrice a day to see the 
patient, and at last declared his case to be hope- 
less. The highwayman's body was then artfully 
painted over with blue spots, and he was given a 
powerful sleeping draught. The physician was 



1 8 HALF HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

shocked, the next time he called, to find him dead. 
An inquest was hurriedly held : the jury keeping 
a considerable distance away, with vinegar- 
saturated handkerchiefs to noses. " Dead of the 
plague," they declared; and hurried home to 
make their wills. 

The friends of the dead highwayman proved to 
the local world the strength and fearlessness of 
their friendship by claiming the body, and were 
allowed to coffin it and remove it. The coffin was 
duly interred, but not Nevison, for he stepped out 
at the first opportunity, and that very night, in 
the character of his own ghost, was robbing way- 
farers, doubly terrified at this " supernatural " 
reappearance. 

It was not long before the whole story leaked 
out. Then ensued perhaps the busiest period of 
his career. The drovers and farmers of Yorkshire 
were put under regular contribution by him and 
his gang : the carriers paid a recognised toll, in 
the form of a quarterly allowance, which at one 
and the same time cleared the road for them, and 
offered protection against any other highway 
marauders. Indeed, Nevison was in this respect 
almost a counterpart of those old German barons 
of the Rhine who levied dues on travellers, or in 
default hanged or imprisoned them. The parallel 
goes no greater distance than that, for those 
picturesque nobles were anything but the idols of 
the people ; while Nevison was sufficiently popular 
to have become the hero of a rural ballad, still 
occasionally to be heard in the neighbourhood of 



NEVIS ON 19 

his haunts at Knaresborough, Ferrybridge, York, 
or Newark. Here are two verses of it, not 
perhaps distinguished by wealth of fancy or re- 
sourcefulness of rhyme : 

Did you ever hear tell of that hero, 
Bold Nevison, that was his name ? 

He rode about like a bold hero, 

And with that he gained great fame. 

He maintained himself like a gentleman, 
Besides, he was good to the poor; 

He rode about like a great hero, 

And he gained himself favour therefor. 

A curious pamphlet survives, entitled Bloody 
News from Yorkshire, dated 1674, and telling 
how Nevison and twenty of his men attacked 
fifteen butchers, who were riding to Northallerton 
Pair, and engaged in a furious battle with them. 

As an interlude to these more serious affairs, 
there is the story of how Nevison alone, going on 
a southerly expedition, met a company of canting 
beggars, mumpers, and idle vagrants, and proposed 
to join their " merry " life. Their leader wel- 
comed his proposal, and indicated their course of 
life. " Do we not come into the world arrant 
beggars, without a rag upon us ? And do we not 
all go out of the world like beggars, saving only 
an old sheet over us ? Very well, then : shall we 
be ashamed to walk up and down the world like 
beggars, with old blankets pinned about us ? No, 
no : that would be a shame to us indeed. Have 
we not the whole kingdom to walk in, at our 



20 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

pleasure ? Are we afraid of the approach of 
quarter-day ? Do we walk in fear of sheriffs, 
sergeants, and catchpoles ? Who ever knew an 
arrant beggar arrested for debt ? Is not our meat 
dressed in every man's kitchen ? Does not every 
man's cellar afford us beer ? And the best men's 
purses keep a penny for us to spend." 

As a preliminary to electing him of their band, 
they asked him if he had any loure in his bung. 
Seeing his ignorance of their cant phrases, they 
said the question was, " Had he any money in his 
purse ? " 

" Eighteenpence," said he, " and you're welcome 
to it." 

This modest sum was, by unanimous vote, 
allocated for the purpose of a general booze, in 
celebration of his admission. The ceremony, the 
" gage of booze," as the historian of these things 
terms it, consisted in pouring a quart of beer over 
the head of the initiate, and the captain saying, 
" I do, by virtue of this sovereign liquor, install 
thee in the Roage, and make thee a free denizen 
of our ragged regiment, so that henceforth it shall 
be lawful for thee to cant, and to carry a doxy, or 
mort, along with thee, only observing these rules : 
first, that thou art not to wander up and down all 
countries, but to keep to that quarter which is 
allotted to thee ; and, secondly, thou art to give 
way to any of us that have borne all the offices of 
the wallet before ; and, upon holding up a finger, 
to avoid any town or country village where thou 
seest we are foraging for victuals for our army 



NEVIS ON 21 

that march along with us. Observing these two 
rules, we take thee into our protection, and adopt 
thee a brother of our numerous society." 

Having ended his oration, the captain bade 
Nevison rise, when he was congratulated by all 
the company hanging about him, like so many 
dogs about a bear, and making a hideous noise. 
The chief, silencing them, continued : " Now that 
thou art entered into our fraternity, thou must 
not scruple to act any villainies, whether it be to 
cut a purse, steal a cloak-bag or portmanteau, 
convey all manner of things, whether a chicken, 
sucking-pig, duck, goose, hen, or steal a shirt from 
the hedge ; for he that will be a quier cove (a 
professed rogue) must observe these rules. And 
because thou art but a novice in begging, and 
understandest not the mysteries of the canting 
language, thou shalt have a doxy to be thy 
companion, by whom thou mayest receive in- 
structions." 

Thereupon, he singled out a girl of about four- 
teen years of age, which tickled his fancy very 
much ; but he must presently be married to her, 
after the fashion of their patrico, the priest of the 
beggars. The ceremony consisted of taking a hen, 
and having cut off the head, laying the dead body 
on the ground ; placing him on one side and his 
doxy on the other. This being done, the " priest," 
standing by, with a loud voice bade them live 
together till death did them part. Then, shaking 
hands and kissing each other, the ceremony of the 
wedding was over, and the whole group appeared 
VOL. ii. 3 



22 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

intoxicated with joy. They could hardly, at any 
rate, be intoxicated with booze, if eighteenpence 
had been all they had to spend on liquor, and a 
quart of that wasted. 

Night approaching, they all resorted to a 
neighbouring barn, where they slept : Nevison 
slipping out secretly before morning, and continu- 
ing his journey. 

Butchers and Nevison were antipathetic, and 
he and his gang had levied much tribute in York- 
shire upon their kind. In 1684, two butchers, 
brothers, Fletcher by name, tried to capture him 
near Howley Hall, Morley. 

He shot one dead, and escaped. The spot is 
still marked by a stone near Howley Farm. Not 
long after this he was arrested at the " Three 
Houses " inn, at Sandal, near Wakefield. 

He was at the time, and for long after, a 
popular hero. The butchers, the graziers, the 
farmers, the carriers might owe him a grudge, 
but the peasantry dwelt upon his real or his 
fancied generosity to the poor, and ballads about 
him always commanded a ready sale. According 
to a very popular example, entitled Nevison's 
Garland, he pleaded " Not Guilty " : 

And when then he came to the Bench, 
"Guilty or not Guilty," they to him did cry, 
"Not Guilty," then Nevifon faid, 
" I'm clear e'er fince the fame Day, 
That the King did my Pardon Grant, 
I ne'er did rob anyone, nor kill 
But that Fletcher in all my life, 
'Twas in my Defence, I fay ftill," 



NEVISON 



To commit murder in en- 
deavouring to escape arrest 
was ever regarded by the 
highwaymen as a venial sin : 
a view not shared hy the 
law, and he was found guilty, 
sentenced to death, and 
hanged within a week from 
his trial. He suffered at 
Knavesmire, York, May 4th, 
1685, in the forty-fifth year 
of his age. 

"He was something stupid 
at the gallows," says the old 
chronicler (" probably 
drunk," adds a later com- 
mentator), " yet he confess'd 
everything." 

The older Nevison ballads, 
which had some little literary 
merit, as well as quaintness, 
to recommend them, have 
given place to vilely re- 
written verses that have not 
the merit of truth or of rhyme. 
This is how a typical ex- 
ample goes : 




NEVISON'S LEG-IRONS, IN 
YORK MUSEUM. 



Oh ! the Twenty-first day of last month, 

Proved an unfortunate day; 
Captain Milton was riding to London, 

And by mischance he rode out of his way. 



HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

He call'd at a house by the road-side, 

It was the sign of the Magpie, 
Where Nevison had been drinking, 

And the captain soon did he espy. 

Then a constable very soon was sent for, 

And a constable very soon came ; 
With three or four more in attendance, 

With pistols charged in the King's name. 

They demanded the name of this hero, 
" My name it is Johnson," said he, 

When the captain laid hold of his shoulder, 
Saying "Nevison, thou goeth with me." 

Oh ! then in this very same speech, 

They hastened him fast away, 
To a place called Swinnington Bridge, 

A place where he used for to stay. 

They call'd for a quart of good liquor, 
It was the sign of the Black Horse, 

Where there was all sorts of attendance, 
But for Nevison it was the worst. 

He called for a pen, ink, and paper, 
And these were the words that he said, 

" I will write for some boots, shoes, and stockings, 
For of them I have very great need." 

Tis now before my lord judge, 

Oh ! guilty or not do you plead ; 
He smiled into the judge and jury, 

And these were the words that he said: 

** I've now robbed a gentleman of two pence, 
I've neither done murder nor kill'd, 

But guilty I've been all my life time, 
So, gentlemen, do as you will. 



NEVISON 25 

" It's when that I rode on the highway, 
I've always had money in great store; 

And whatever I took from the rich 
I freely gave it to the poor. 

" But my peace I have made with my Maker, 
And with you I'm quite ready to go ; 

So here's adieu ! to this world and its vanities, 
For I'm ready to suffer the law." 



JOHN COTTINGTON, alias "MULLED 
SACK " 

JOHN COTTINGTON, commonly known as "Mulled 
Sack," was the son of a drunken haberdasher in 
Cheapside, who wasted his substance to such an 
extent in drinking with fellow-tradesmen of like 
tastes, that he died in poverty and was buried by 
the parish. He seems to have been in every way 
an improvident person, for it is recorded that he 
left fifteen daughters and four sons. John, our 
present hero, was the youngest of these. At eight 
years of age he was bound apprentice by the 
overseers of the poor of the parish of St. Mary-le- 
Bow to a chimney-sweep, and served his master in 
the chimney-sweeping for five years. He then 
ran away, for he was by this time thirteen years 
of age, and considered himself grown up, and as 
fully informed in the art and mystery of chimney- 
sweeping as his instructor. 

He soon acquired the nickname by which he is 
best known, from his fondness for mulled sack, 
morning, noon, and night. His earlier activities 
were exercised in that inferior branch of robbery 
known as pocket-picking, which does not, however, 

demand less skill and nerve (perhaps, indeed, it 

26 



JOHN COTTINGTON 27 

requires more) than was necessary in the nobler art 
of collecting upon the roads. He was one of the 
most expert cly-fakers and bung-snatchers in 
London, frequenting Cheapside and Ludgate Hill 
by preference ; and is said to have been so 
successful that he stole " almost enough to have 
built St. Paul's Cathedral." This is, of course, an 
amiable, but extravagant exaggeration; but the 
exploits of all heroes, in all ages, have been 
similarly magnified, and why not those of " Mulled 
Sack " ? 

Among the most robust and uncompromising of 
the E/oyalists, he remained in England to war 
with the usurpers in his own way, while the 
Cavaliers had fled across the Channel. His war- 
fare was happy, inasmuch as it emptied the pockets 
of the Commonwealth leaders, while it filled those 
of himself and his confederates. If he could not 
meet the enemies of the monarchy on the field, he 
could, and did, slip a sly hand into their pockets, 
and lighten them by many a gold watch and a 
guinea. One of his greatest achievements was 
the robbing of Lady Fairfax as she wife of the 
famous general was stepping from her carriage 
into the church of St. Martin, Ludgate, come to 
hear a famous preacher of that age. 

" Mulled Sack " was that day dressed as a gentle- 
man. He did not often affect the part, being a 
homespun fellow, and subdued from essaying fine 
flights by those easy experiences of swarming up 
the chimney-flues. But on this day he was un- 
recognisable for himself, in quiet, but rich dress. 



28 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

His associates were working with him, and had 
removed the pin out of the axle of her ladyship's 
coach, so that the heavy vehicle fell as it neared 
the church door. " Mulled Sack " pressed forward 
politely, to help her alight, and at the moment of 
her setting foot to pavement cut her watch-chain 
with a sharp pair of scissors, and gently removing 
the watch itself a handsome gold one, set with 
diamonds escorted her to the church door, raised 
his hat as gracefully as he could, and then dis- 
appeared in the crowd. 

It was not until, wearied with an inordinately 
long sermon, she sought to discover the time, that 
she missed the watch. 

"Mulled Sack" was less fortunate in an 
attempt he made to pick the august pocket of 
the Lord Protector, His Highness, Oliver, 
by the Grace of God Oliver Cromwell, 
none other as he was leaving the House of 
Parliament. He was caught in the attempt, and 
came near to heing hanged for it. This put him 
so sadly out of conceit with the art to which he 
had given his best time, that he determined to 
forsake it for the sister craft of highway robbery, 
where a man was under no craven necessity 
to sneak, and crawl, and cringe, but boldly 
confronted his quarry, and with an oath, or with a 
jest entirely according to temperament rode 
up and demanded or "requested," or even, as was 
the fashion among the most flamboyantly politef ul, 
" begged the favour of," the traveller's purse. 

He at first worked the roads in company with 



JOHN COTTINGTON 29 

one Tom Cheney, with whom, robbing upon 
Hounslow Heath, he encountered Colonel Hewson, 
a warrior of those times who had by his military 
genius raised himself from the humble station of 
a cobbler. The Colonel was upon the Heath with 
his regiment, riding some considerable distance 
away, but still within sight of his men, when the 
two highwaymen robbed him. A troop instantly 
gave chase ; Cheney desperately defended himself, 
against eighteen, and was then overpowered and 
captured, but " Mulled Sack," flying like the wind 
upon his trusty horse, escaped. Cheney was 
severely wounded in the affray, and begged that 
his trial might be postponed on that account, 
but, as it was feared he might die of his 
wounds, and so escape hanging after all, he was 
hurriedly and no doubt also illegally con- 
demned on the spot, and hanged there that same 
evening. 

A certain Captain Home was the next partner 
" Mulled Sack " took, and he too was similarly 
unfortunate in a like affair with that already 
described. An early and ignominious fate seemed 
to be the inevitable lot of those who worked with 
our heroic pickpocket turned highwayman, and 
either because the survivors grew shy of him in 
consequence, or because he thought it best to play 
a lone hand, he ever afterwards pursued a solitary 
career. 

It was a successful career, so long as it was 
continued, and affords an example to the young of 
the substantial advantages to be derived from an 

VOL. II. 4. 



30 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

industrious disposition, enthusiasm in the pro- 
fession of one's adoption, and that thoroughness in 
leaving no stone unturned which should bring 
even only a moderately-equipped young man to 
the front rank of his profession. " Mulled Sack " 
left no unturned stone, no pocket (that was likely 
to contain anything worth having) unpicked, and 
no promising wayfarer unchallenged within the 
marches of the districts he affected. And what 
was the result of this early and late application to 
to business ? Why, nothing less than the proud 
admission made by his admiring biographer, 
that " he constantly wore a watchmaker's and 
jeweller's shop in his pocket, and could at any 
time command a thousand pounds." How few 
are those who, in our own slack times, could 
say as much ! 

He wore the watches and jewellery he had 
taken on his rides just as old soldiers display the 
medals won in their arduous campaigns, and they 
implied not only the energy of the business man, 
but the pluck of the soldier on the battlefield. As 
the soldier fights for his medals, so " Mulled 
Sack " warred for his or, rather, other people's 
watches. 

His greatest deed as a highwayman is that told 
by Johnson, of his waylaying the Army pay- 
waggon on Shotover Hill. Fully advised of the 
approach of this treasure-laden wain, he lurked 
on the scrubby side of that ill-omened hill over- 
looking Oxford it was ever a place for robbers 
and, just as the waggon started to toil painfully up, 




" MULLED SACK " ROBS THE ARMY PAY WAGGON. 



JOHN COTTINGTON 33 

rose from his ambuscade with pistols presented to 
the head of the waggoner and to those of the three 
soldiers acting as escort. 

It seems that there were also two or three 
passengers in the waggon, but " Mulled Sack " was 
as generous as the liquor whence he obtained his 
name, for he " told them he had no design upon 
them." 

"'This,' says he, 'that I have taken, is as 
much mine as theirs who own it, being all extorted 
from the Publick by the rapacious Members of 
our Commonwealth to enrich themselves, maintain 
their Janizaries, and keep honest people in sub- 
jection.' ' 

The escort, never for a moment thinking it 
possible that one highwayman would have the 
daring to act thus, and dreading the onset of 
others, bolted like rabbits. 

The Republican treasure thus secured by the 
enterprising " Mulled Sack " totalled 4000, and 
by so much the expectant garrison of Gloucester, 
for whom it was intended, for a while went short. 
Cottington was at this time but twenty years of 
age. Youth will be served ! 

It is sad to record a vulgar declension in the 
practice of " Mulled Sack." He stooped to shed 
blood, and murdered, as well as robbed a gentle- 
man. With the guilt of Cain heavy on him, he 
fled to the Continent, and, by some specious 
pretence gaining access to the Court held by 
the fugitive Charles the Second, stole a quantity 
of valuable plate. Returning to England, a little 



34 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

later, he fell into the hands of the sheriff's officers 
who were keenly awaiting his re-appearance, and 
he was executed at Smithfield Rounds in 1656, for 
the crime of murder, aged forty-five. 




THOMAS RUMBOLD 

THOMAS RUMBOLD, born about 1643, at Ipswich, 
was the son of the usual " poor but honest " 
parents, and was early apprenticed to a bricklayer 
in that town. But highly coloured stories of the 
wonders of London fired his imagination and set 
him to run away from home before little more 
than a quarter of his time had been served. He 
entered upon another kind of apprenticeship in 
London : nothing less than a voluntary pupilage 
with a thieves' fraternity ; but very shortly left 
that also and set up for himself as a highwayman. 
He would seem to have had a career of about 
twenty- six years in this craft, before the gallows 
claimed him ; so it is quite evident he had found 
his true vocation. A complete account of his 
transactions would doubtless make a goodly 
volume, but they are not recorded at proper 
length. The earlier years of his highway career 
seem to be completely lost, and the painstaking 
Smith, instead of showing us how he advanced 
from small and timid successes to larger and 
bolder issues, is obliged to plunge into the midst 
of his life and begin with an adventure which, if 
it is not indeed entirely apocryphal, can only have 

35 



36 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

been the extravagant and stupid whim of a very 
impudent and ingenious fellow, long used to way- 
side escapades. 

Rumbold travelled, says Smith, from London 
towards Canterbury, along the Dover Road, with 
the intention of waylaying no less a personage than 
Dr. Sancroft, the Archbishop, who was coming to 
London, as Rumbold had been advised, in his travel- 
ling chariot. Between Rochester and Sittingbourne 
he espied the carriage and its attendant servants 
in the distance, and, tying his horse to a tree, and 
spreading a tablecloth on the grass of a field open 
to the road, he sat himself down and began playing 
hazard with dice-box and dice, all by himself, for 
some heaps of gold and silver he placed conspicu- 
ously on the cloth. Presently the Archbishop's 
carriage creaked and rumbled ponderously by, 
in the manner of the clumsy vehicles of that 
time ; and His Grace, curiously observing a man 
acting so strangely as to play hazard by himself, 
sent a servant to see what could be the meaning 
of it. 

The servant, coming near, could hear Rumbold 
swearing at every cast of the dice, about his losses, 
and asked him what was the meaning of it. To 
this Rumbold made no reply, and the servant 
returned to the Right Reverend and informed him 
the man must surely be out of his wits. 

Then the Archbishop himself alighted, and, 
looking curiously around, and seeing none but 
Rumbold, asked him whom he played with. 

" D n it, sir ! " exclaimed the player, 



THOMAS RUMBOLD 37 

" there's five hundred pounds gone." Then, as 
His Grace was about to speak again, casting the 
dice once more, " There goes a hundred more." 

" Pr'ythee," exclaimed the Archbishop, "do 
tell me whom you play with ? " 

" With the devil," replied Rumbold. 

" And how will you send the money to him ? " 

" By his ambassadors, and considering your 
Grace as one of them extraordinary, I shall beg 
the favour of you to carry it to him." He rose, 
and walking to the carriage, placed six hundred 
guineas in it, mounted his horse, and rode off 
along the way he knew the Archbishop had to 
travel; and, both he and His Grace having 
refreshed at Sittingbourne, in different houses of 
entertainment, Rumbold afterwards took the road 
to London a little in advance of the carriage. 

Halting at a convenient place, and placing 
himself on the grass, in the same manner as 
before, he again awaited the carriage, this time 
with but little money spread on the cloth. 

The Archbishop again observed him, and this 
time really believing him to be a mad gamester, 
was about to make some remark, when Rumbold 
suddenly cried out joyfully, throwing the dice, 
" Six hundred pounds ! " 

"What!" exclaimed the Archbishop, "losing 
again ? " 

" No, by G d ! " returned Eumbold, " won 
six hundred pounds this time. I'll play this hand 
out, and then leave off, while I'm well." 

" And whom have you won of P " 



38 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

"Of the same person that I left the six 
hundred pounds for with you, before dinner." 

" And how will you get your winnings, my 
friend ? " 

" Of his ambassador, to be sure," said Rumbold, 
drawing his sword. Thereupon, he advanced to 
the carriage with pistols and drawn sword, and, 
searching under the carriage-seat, found his own 
six hundred guineas, and fourteen hundred be- 
sides ; with which forty pounds weight avoirdu- 
pois of bullion, we are gravely told, he got clear 
off. 

The incident is, without a doubt, one of Smith's 
own inventions and not one of the best. It 
serves to show us how entirely lacking in criticism 
he thought his public, to set before them, without 
any criticism of his own, such a tale, in which 
a highwayman who certainly could in real life 
have been no fool, to have held his own so long 
on the road, is made to act like an idiot without 
any advantage likely to be gained by so doing. 
We see him, in this preposterous story, taking 
the trouble to carry six hundred guineas with him 
and playing the fool needlessly, when he might 
just as well have gone with empty pockets and 
searched and robbed the carriage with equal 
success. 

More easily to be credited is his robbing of 
the Earl of Oxford at Maidenhead Thicket. Rum- 
bold was no exquisite, having, as we have already 
learnt, been merely a bricklayer's apprentice 
before he assumed the crape mask, and, mounting 



THOMAS RUM BOLD 39 

a horse and sticking a pair of pistols in his helt, 
took to the road. He often assumed the appearance 
of a rough country farmer ; hut he was, at the 
same time, always a man of expedient. To say 
of him that he had ostlers and chambermaids in 
his pay, to give him information of likely travellers, 
is but to repeat the practice of every eminent 
hand in the high-toby craft. On the occasion 
which led to his great exploit here, he had been 
lurking for some well-laden travellers, who, 
luckily for them, took some other route, and he 
was just on the point of riding moodily off when 
two horsemen rode up the hill. As they drew 
near he perceived that they were the Earl of 
Oxford and a servant. That nobleman knew 
Rumbold (how the acquaintance had been made 
we are not told), and so it was necessary for the 
highwayman to assume some sort of disguise. 
Here we perceive E/umbold's readiness of resource. 
He threw his long hair over his face, and, holding 
it in his teeth, rode up in this extraordinary 
guise and demanded the Earl's purse, with threats 
to shoot both if it was not immediately forth- 
coming. 

That nobleman was Aubrey De Vere, twentieth 
and last Earl, the descendant of the old " fighting 
Veres " and colonel of the Oxford Blues, a regiment 
named after him, and not after the city of Oxford. 
Despite all these things, which might have made 
for valiance, he surrendered like the veriest woman, 
and submitted to the indignity of being searched. 
Rumbold rifled him, and at first found only dice 

VOL. II. C 



40 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

and cards, until, coming to his breeches pockets, 
he turned out a " nest of goldfinches " ; that is 
to say, a heap of guineas. Saying he would take 
them home and cage them, Rumbold recommended 
the Earl to return to his regiment and attend to 
his duty, giving him eighteenpence as an en- 
couragement. 

Prom these examples, it will readily be seen 
that Maidenhead Thicket did not obtain its ill 
repute without due cause. 

A number of incredible stories of Bumbold 
are told, both by Smith and Johnson, who seem 
to have made up for the little real information 
we have of his more than twenty years' career by 
writing absolutely unconvincing fiction around 
him. He was at last executed at Tyburn in 1689. 



"CAPTAIN' JAMES WHITNEY 

THERE is much uncertainty about the parentage 
and the career of James Whitney. The small 
quarto tract entitled The Jacobite Robber, which 
professes to give a life of Whitney by one who 
was acquainted with him, says he was born " in 
Hertfordshire, of mean, contemptible parentage, 
about two years after the Bestauration of King 
Charles." Smith particularises Stevenage as the 
place in Hertfordshire, and Johnson, who copies 
almost everything in Smith, also adopts Stevenage. 
Waylen, on the other hand, who wrote a singularly 
good and well-informed book on the highwaymen 
of Wiltshire, believed Whitney to have been a 
son of the Reverend James Whitney, of Donhead 
St. Andrews, and says the highwayman practised 
largely on Salisbury Plain. 

The majority, believing in the Hertfordshire 
origin of Whitney, fortify their statements by very 
full and particular accounts of how he was 
apprenticed to a butcher at Hitchin. We have 
here an interpolated story of how he and his master 
went to Romford to purchase calves (Essex calves 
were so famous that a native of Essex nowadays 
is still an "Essex calf"). The owner of one 

41 



42 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

particularly fine calf they greatly desired to 
purchase required too much for it. He happened 
to be also the keeper of an alehouse, as well as 
a stock-raiser. While the butcher and Whitney 
were refreshing themselves in the house and the 
butcher was grumbling because he could not 
buy the calf at what he considered a fair price, 
Whitney thought of an easier way, and whispered 
to his master that it would be foolish to give 
good money for the calf when it could be had 
for nothing. The butcher and Whitney thereupon 
exchanged knowing winks, and agreed to steal 
the calf that very night. 

Unhappily for them, a man with a performing 
bear had in the meanwhile arrived, and the land- 
lord, removing the calf from the stable where 
it had been placed, installed the bear in its place. 

At last, night having fallen, master-butcher and 
apprentice paid their reckoning and prepared to 
go. Leaving the house, they loitered about until 
all was quiet, and then, the two approaching the 
outhouse where the calf had been, Whitney went 
in to fetch it. The bear was resting its wearied 
limbs when Whitney's touch roused it. He was 
astonished in the dark to feel the calf's hair was 
so long, and was still more astonished when he 
felt the animal rear itself up on its hind legs 
and put its arms lovingly round him. Mean- 
while the butcher, wondering what could keep 
Whitney so long, began softly through the door- 
way to bid him be quick. 

Whitney cried out that he could not get away, 




WHITNEY HUGGED BY THE BEAR. 



" CAPTAIN" JAMES WHITNE Y 45 

and he believed the devil himself had hold 
of him. 

" If it is the old boy," rejoined his master, 
with a chuckle, "bring him out. I should like 
to see what kind of an animal he is." 

But Whitney's evident terror and distress soon 
brought him to the rescue, and the bear was made 
to release her prey. 

Before Whitney had served his full time with 
the butcher, his master cashiered him for idleness* 
After some little intervening time he became 
landlord of a small inn at Cheshunt. He was 
ever, says the author of The Jacobite Robber, 
a passionate admirer of good eating and drinking, 
especially at other people's expense. The inn, 
says our author, was the " Bell " or the " White 
Bear," he would not be sure which. If the 
" Bell," it was a sign he should presently make 
a noise over all England ; if the " White Bear," 
a token that the landlord was of as savage a nature 
as any wild beast. 

As a matter of fact, it appears to have been 
the " George " ; but what significance may be 
extracted from that I do not know. 

The inn did not pay its way on legitimate 
trading, and the people of Cheshunt wondered 
how Whitney could keep the pot boiling. Yet 
they need not have wondered, while they could 
see and hear, three or four times a week, a knot of 
roaring gentlemen, who sang, drank, swore, and 
revelled, the landlord himself joining in, until 
it seemed as if the place were thronged with 



46 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

old Lucifer and his club-footed emissaries. These 
guests were, in fact, highwaymen, as any one 
might have perceived, from their extravagant 
living and the unseasonable hours they kept. 

At first Whitney had no hand in his customers' 
doings. As the quaint author of the tract already 
referred to says : 

" It seems the conscientious Mr. Whitney, for 
all he was a well-wisher to the mathematicks and 
a friend to the tribe, did not at first care to 
expose his own dear person on the road ; not that 
any one can justly tax him at the same time with 
cowardice, or want of valour (for had he been 
as plentifully stock 'd with grace as he was with 
valour, he had never taken that employment upon 
him) ; but he prudently considered with himself 
that at present he ran no Bisque of hanging for 
harbouring such people, and besides made a 
comfortable penny of them : Whereas, should he 
trade for himself, and scour the Highways to the 
Tune of Dammee, Stand and Deliver, he must 
certainly at one time or another make a Pilgrim- 
age to Tybourn, and swinging in a Rope he had 
a Mortal Aversion to, because his Prophetical 
Grand-Mother had formerly told him it was a dry 
sort of a death. 

" But at last an Old Experienced Brother of the 
Pad Avon him over to his Party, for, finding our 
Inn-keeper to be notably stored with all those 
ingredients and qualifications that are requisite to 
fit a Man for such a Vocation, he was resolved to 
leave no method unattempted till he had made 



47 

an absolute conquest of him. In order to effect 
this, he represents to him the meanness and servile 
condition of his present calling, how he was 
obliged to stand cap in hand to every pitiful 
Rascal that came to spend Six-pence in his house ; 
that with all his care and diligence he only got a 
little poor contemptible Pittance, scarce sufficient 
to pay his Brewer and Baker, but on the other 
hand, if he would be adopted into their society, 
he would find Money come flowing in like a 
Spring Tide upon him ; he would live delicately, 
eat and drink of the Best, and in short, get more 
in an hour than now he did by Nicking, and 
Frothing and wrong Reckonings for a whole 
Twelve Month together. That, as for the Gallows, 
a Man of Courage and Bravery ought never to be 
afraid of it, and, should the worst come to the 
worst, better Gentleman by far than himself had 
made a Journey to the other World in their Shoes 
and Stockings." 

Thus admonished, Whitney stripped off the 
inn-keeper's apron, sold off his inn, and took 
to the road, where he distinguished himself among 
the foremost highway gentry of his time. As his 
biographer is fain to acknowledge, he proved to 
have "inherited all the Courage, Boldness, and 
Dexterity of the famous Claude Du Vail and the 
Golden Earmer, and the rest of his other noble 
Predecessors of the Pad." 

This admiring authority then proceeds to give 
us an account of Whitney's first action, and tells 
how " he encountered a Jolly E/ed-fac'd Son of 



48 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

the Church bravely Mounted, with a large 
Canonical Rose in his Ecclesiastical Hat and his 
Gown fluttering in the Wind. He looked as if he 
had been hung round with Bladders. Him, within 
two miles of St. Albans, he accosts after this 
manner, c Reverend Sir, the Gentlemen of your 
Coat having, in all conscience, enough preached 
up the edifying Doctrine of Passive Obedience 
and Non-Resistance, and now I am fully resolved 
to try the experiment, whether you Believe your 
own Doctrine, and whether you are able to 
Practise it. Therefore, worthy sir, in the name 
of the above-mentioned Passive Obedience and 
Non-Resistance, make no opposition, I beseech 
you, but deliver up the filthy Lucre you carry 
about you.' 

" Now you must know that this rosy-gilled 
Levite had the wicked sum of six-score and ten 
guineas clos'd up in the waistband of his breeches, 
designd as a present to a worthy gentleman that 
lately helped him to a fat living (for you must 
not call it Symony for all the world, but christen 
it by the name of Gratitude, and so forth) but 
Captain Whitney, who, it seems, did not understand 
any of these softening distinctions, soon eased him 
of his Mammon, but not without a great deal of 
expostulation on the Levite's part, and, what was 
more barbarous, stript him of his spick-and-span 
new sacerdotal habit, sent his Horse home before 
him, to prepare his family, and having bound him 
to his good behaviour, left him all alone to his 
contemplations in an adjoining wood." 



"CAPTAIN" JAMES WHITNEY 49 

He then met a poor clergyman in threadbare 
gown, riding a sorry Rosinante, whose poor ribs 
in a starved body looked like the bars of a bird- 
cage. "What would the typical outlaw, from the 
days of Robin Hood, onwards, have done in such 
a rencounter ? Why, he would have given the 
poor divine the new robe and some money ; and 
this Whitney did ; handing him four or five bags 
of the best, saying : " Here is that will buy you 
a dozen or so of clean bands ! " " Thus," says 
the biographer, " our brave Captain dispensed 
charities with one hand and plundered with the 
other." 

One day, patrolling Bagshot Heath, he met a 
gentleman, and desired his purse and watch. 

" Sir," said the gentleman, " 'tis well you 
spoke first, for I was just going to say the same 
thing to you." 

" Why then," quoth Whitney, " are you a 
gentleman-thief ? " 

" Yes," replied the stranger, " but I have had 
very bad success to-day, for I have been riding up 
and down all this morning, without meeting with 
any prize." 

Whitney, upon hearing this doleful tale, 
wished him better luck, and took his leave. 

That night, Whitney and this strange traveller 
chanced to stay at the same inn, but Whitney had 
so changed his dress in the meanwhile, and altered 
his manner, that he was not recognised. He 
heard his acquaintance of that morning telling 
another guest how smartly he had outwitted a 

VOL. II. 6 



So HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

highwayman that day, and had saved a hundred 
pounds by his ready wit; and this revelation of 
how easily he had been hoodwinked made him 
determined, if it were at all possible, to take his 
revenge on the morrow. Meanwhile, he listened 
to the conversation. 

The guest, who had been told of the adventure, 
replied that he also had a considerable sum upon 
him, and that he would like, if it were agreeable, 
to travel next day in company with so ready- 
witted a traveller. 

Accordingly, the next morning they set forth 
together, and Whitney followed, a quarter of an 
hour later. He soon overtook them, and then, 
wheeling suddenly about, demanded their purses. 

" We were going to say the same to you, sir," 
replied the ready-witted one. 

" Were you so ? " asked our hero ; " and are 
you of my profession, then ? " 

"Yes," they both chorused. 

" If you are," said Whitney, " I suppose you 
remember the old proverb, ' Two of a trade can 
never agree ' ; so you must not expect any favour 
on that score. But to be plain, gentlemen, the 
trick will do no longer : I know you very well, 
and must have your hundred pounds, sir ; and 
your 'considerable sum,' sir," turning to the 
other; "let it be what it will, or I shall make 
bold to send a brace of bullets through each of 
your heads. You, Mr. Highwayman, should have 
kept your secret a little longer, and not have 
boasted so soon of having outwitted a thief. There 



"CAPTAIN" JAMES WHITNEY 51 

is now nothing for you to do but to deliver or 
die I " 

These terrible words threw them into a sad 
state of consternation. They were unwilling 
enough to lose their money, but even more 
unwilling to forfeit their lives ; therefore, of two 
evils they promptly chose the least, and resigned 
their wealth. 

Whitney then met on Hounslow Heath, one 
Mr. Hull, a notorious usurer, who lived in the 
Strand. He could hardly have chosen a wretch 
more in love with money, and therefore less 
willing to part with it. When the dreadful 
words, " Stand and deliver ! " were spoken, he 
trembled like a paralytic and began arguing that 
he was a very poor man, had a large family of 
children, and would be utterly ruined if the 
highwayman were so hard-hearted as to take his 
money. Besides, it was a most illegal, also 
dangerous, action, to steal ; to say nothing of the 
moral obliquity of those who did so. 

"You dog in a doublet," exclaimed the now 
angered Whitney, " do you pretend to preach 
morality to an honester man than yourself. You 
make a prey of all mankind, and grind to death 
with eight and ten per cent. This once, however, 
sir, I shall oblige you to lend me what you have, 
without bond, consequently without interest : so 
make no more words." 

The usurer thereupon reluctantly produced 
eighteen guineas, and handed them over with an 
ill grace, scowling darkly at the highwayman, 



52 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

and telling him he hoped one day to have the 
pleasure of seeing him riding up Holborn Hill, 
backwards. 

It was a foolish thing to remind a gentleman 
of the road that he would probably some day be 
an occupant of the cart, travelling to Tyburn. 
Whitney had already turned to go when these 
words fell upon his ear ; but he now turned back, 
thoroughly enraged. 

" Now, you old rogue," said he, " let me see 
what a figure a man makes when he rides back- 
wards, and let me have the pleasure, at least, of 
beholding you first in that posture." 

With that, he pulled Hull off his horse, and 
then setting him on the animal's back again, face 
to tail, tied his legs together, and then gave the 
horse- two or three cuts, so that it cantered smartly 
away and never stopped until Hounslow was 
reached ; where the people, who knew the money- 
lender well and liked him little, had a hearty 
laugh at his expense before they untied him. 

Whitney always affected to appear generous 
and noble. Meeting one day with a gentleman 
named Long, on Newmarket Heath, and having 
robbed him of a hundred pounds in silver, which 
he found in the traveller's portmanteau, tied up 
in a great bag, the gentleman told him he had a 
great way yet to go, and, as he was unknown 
upon the road, was likely to suffer great in- 
convenience and hardship, if he had not at least 
some small sum. Would he not give him back a 
trifle, to meet his travelling expenses ? 




WHITNEY AND THE USURER. 



"CAPTAIN" JAMES WHITNEY 55 

Whitney opened the bag of silver, and held 
it out at arm's length towards him, saying : " Here, 
take what you have occasion for." 

Mr. Long then put in his hand, and took out a 
handful, as much as he could hold ; to which 
Whitney made no sort of objection, but only said, 
with a laugh : "I thought you would have had 



more conscience." 



Smith tells a long story of how Whitney and 
his band one day met a well-known preacher, a 
Mr. Wawen, lecturer at Greenwich Church, and, 
easing him of his purse, made him preach a 
sermon on the subject of thieving. A very similar 
story is told of Sir Gosselin (? Joscelin) Denville and 
his outlaws, who in the reign of Edward the 
Second did surprising things all over England, not 
least among them the waylaying and robbing of a 
Dominican monk, Bernard Sympson by name, in a 
wood between Henley-on-Thames and Marlow, 
and afterwards compelling him to preach a sermon 
to like effect. Captain Dudley is said to have done 
the same ; and indeed, whether it were the slitting 
of a weasand (" couper gorge, par ma foy" as 
Pistol might say), the taking of a purse, or the 
kissing a pretty woman, the highwaymen of old 
were all-round experts. But that they should 
have so insatiable a taste for " firstly, secondly, 
and thirdly, and then finally, dear brethren," I 
will not believe. Some ancient traditional high- 
way robber once did so much, no doubt, and the 
freak has been duly fathered on others of later 
generations : just as the antique jests at the 



5 6 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

expense of College dons at Oxford and Cambridge 
are furbished up anew to fit the present age. 

The Reverend Mr. Wawen responded as well 
as he could manage to Whitney's invitation, and, 
whether it be genuine or a sheer invention of 
Alexander Smith's, it is certainly ingenious, and 
much better reading than that said to have been 
preached by the Dominican monk, some three 
hundred and fifty years earlier. 

" Gentlemen," began the lecturer from Green- 
wich church, "my text is THEFT; which, not to 
be divided into sentences or syllables, being but 
one word, which itself is only a monosyllable, 
necessity therefore obliges me to divide it into 
letters, which I find to be these five, T. H. E. F. T., 
Theft. Now T, my beloved, is Theological ; H is 
Historical ; E is Exegetical ; F is Figurative ; and 
T is Tropological. 

" Now the theological part of my text is in two 
portions, firstly, in this world, and secondly, in the 
world to come. In this world, the effects it works 
are T, tribulation ; H, hatred ; E, envy ; F, fear, 
and T, torment. For what greater tribulation can 
befall a man than to be debarred from sweet liberty, 
by a close confinement in a nasty prison, which 
must needs be a perfect representation of the Iron 
Age, since nothing is heard there but the jingling 
of shackles, bolts, grates, and keys ; these last, my 
beloved, as large as that put up for a weathercock 
on St. Peter's steeple in Cornhill. 

" However, I must own that you highwaymen 
may be a sort of Christians whilst under this tribu- 



"CAPTAIN" JAMES WHITNEY 57 

lation, because ye are a kind of martyrs, and suffer 
really for the truth. Again, ye have the hatred of 
all honest people, as well as the envy of gaolers if 
you go under their jurisdiction without money in 
your pockets. I am sure all of your profession 
are very sensible that a gaoler expects, not only to 
distil money out of your irregularities, but also to 
grow fat by your curses ; wherefore his ears are 
stopped to the cries of others, as God's are to his, 
and good reason too ; for, lay the life of a man in 
one scale, and his fees in the other, he would lose 
the first to obtain the second. 

" Next, ye are always in as much fear of being 
apprehended as poor tradesmen in debt are of the 
Serjeant, who goes muffled like a thief too, and 
always carries the marks of one, for he steals upon 
a man cowardly, plucks him by the throat, and 
makes him stand till he fleeces him. Only the 
thief is more valiant and the honester man of 
the two. 

" And then, when ye are apprehended, nothing 
but torment ensues ; for when ye are once clapt up 
in gaol, as I have hinted before, you soon come 
under the hangman's clutches, and he hangs you 
up, like so many dogs, for using those scaring 
words, * Stand and deliver ! ' 

" The effect which theft works in the world to 
come is eternal, and there is no helping it. I 
shall therefore proceed to the historical part of my 
text, which will prove, from ancient history, that 
the art of Theft is of some antiquity, inasmuch as 
that Paris stole Helen, Theseus stole Ariadne, and 



5 8 'HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

Jason stole Medea. However, antiquity ought to 
be no plea for vice, since laws, both Divine and 
human, forbid base actions, especially theft. For 
history again informs us that Sciron was thrown 
headlong into the sea for thieving : Cacus was 
killed by Hercules : Sisyphus was cut in pieces ; 
Brunellus was hanged for stealing the ring of 
Angelicus ; and the Emperor Frederick the Third 
condemned all thieves to the galleys. 

" The Exegetical part of my text is a sort of 
commentary on what was first said, when I set 
forth that your transgressions were a breach of 
both divine and humane ordinances, which are 
utterly repugnant to all manner of theft ; where- 
fore, if ye are resolved to pursue these courses 
still, note, my respect is such to you, although 
you have robbed me, that if you can but keep 
yourselves from being ever taken, I'll engage to 
keep you always from being hanged. 

" The figurative part of my text is still to be 
set forth. Though I call you ' gentlemen,' yet 
in my heart I think ye to be all rogues ; but I 
mollify my spleen by a Charientismus, which is a 
figure or form of speech mitigating hard matters 
with pleasant words. Thus, a certain man 
being apprehended, and brought before Alexander 
the Great, King of Macedon, for railing against 
him, and being demanded by Alexander why 
he and his company had so done, he made answer: 
' Had not the wine been all drunk, we had 
spoken much worse.' Whereby he signified that 
those words proceeded rather from wine than 



"CAPTAIN" JAMES WHITNEY 59 

malice, by which free and pleasant confession 
he assuaged Alexander's great displeasure, and 
obtained remission. 

" But now, coming to the Tropological part of 
my text, which signifies drawing a word from 
its proper and genuine signification to another 
sense, as, in calling you most famous thieves ; I 
desire your most serious attention, and that you 
will embrace this exhortation of St. Paul the 
apostle. 'Let him that stole, steal no more.' 
Or else the letters of my text point towards a 
tragical conclusion ; for T, ' take care ; ' H, 
* hanging;' E, 'ends not'; P, 'felony;' T, 
' at Tyburn.' " 

The parson having ended his sermon, which 
some of Whitney's gang took down in shorthand, 
they were so well pleased with what he had 
preached, that they were contented to pay him 
tithes ; so, counting over the money they had 
taken from him, and finding it to be just ten 
pounds, they gave him ten shillings for his pains, 
and then rode away to seek whom they might 
next devour. 

He then met Lord L shortly afterwards, 

near London, and robbed him single-handed. 
Knowing that his lordship moved in close attend- 
ance upon the King, William the Third, and 
perhaps being keenly conscious that the many 
serious robberies committed by himself and his 
men were drawing the net uncomfortably close 
around them, he made an offer to compound with 
the authorities. He said if the King would give 

VOL. II. 7 



60 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

him an indemnity for past offences, he would 
bring in thirty of his gang, for military service in 
Flanders. So saying, he whistled, and, quite in 
the Roderick Dhu style, twenty or thirty mounted 
bandits at once appeared. 

Whitney, having thus given proofs of his 
words, continued that, if the King refused his 
offer, His Majesty might send a troop of Dutch- 
men to apprehend him and his, but they would 
find it a hard task to take any, and that he and 
his men would stand on their defence, and bid 
them defiance. 

There is little or nothing of the " Jacobite 
Robber " in the stories told of Whitney ; but it 
seems to have been fully recognised that he was a 
somewhat belated adherent of James the Second. 
He gathered around him a gang that varied in 
numbers according to circumstances, but was 
occasionally about thirty strong. These he was 
enabled by his superior courage and resource to 
captain ; and with the imposing mounted force 
they presented, he laid many important and wealthy 
personages under contribution near London. It 
was doubtless his gang that stopped and robbed 
the great Duke of Marlborough of five hundred 
guineas near London Colney, on the night of 
August 23rd, 1692, and as a Jacobite, Whitney 
would be particularly pleased at the doing of it. 
It is almost equally certain that the numerous other 
rich hauls about that time on the St. Albans road 
were the handiwork of Whitney's party. On 
December 6th, 1692, there was a pitched battle 



"CAPTAIN" JAMES WHITNEY 61 

between Whitney's force and a troop of dragoon 
patrols, near Barnet. One dragoon was killed, 
and several wounded, and Whitney is most cir- 
cumstantially said to have then been captured ; 
but as an even more circumstantial account tells 
us, with a wealth of detail, how he was finally 
captured in Bishopsgate Street, on December 31st, 
this cannot be altogether correct. 

Was it, we wonder, his professed Jacobite 
views that made many travellers so good-humoured 
with him as they are said to have been when he 
lightened their pockets ? A fellowship in political 
views does not in our own days necessarily make a 
stranger free of our purse. Whitney, for example, 

meeting Sir Richard B between Stafford and 

Newport, accosted him with a " How now ? 
whither away ? " 

"To London," replied the knight; whereupon 
Whitney troubled him for 4. 

Then, much to our surprise, we read of Sir 
Richard, who appears to have known Whitney 
very well by sight, saying, " Captain, I'll give 
you a breakfast, with a fowl or two." It would 
have come more naturally to read that he offered 
to give him in charge ! 

Whitney politely declined, but said he would 
drink to the knight's health then and there ; and, 
halting a passing waggon, broached a cask out of 
it on the spot. 

In spite of a conflict of testimony, it seems to 
be clearly established that Whitney was finally 
captured on December 31st, 1692. He appears to 



62 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

have at some earlier time been taken, after a 
desperate fight with a "bagonet," and lodged in 
Newgate, whence he broke out with a four-pound 
weight on each leg. On this last occasion he 
made a determined resistance at the door of the 
house in which he was beset, fighting for over an 
hour with the officers and the mob. Most of his 
gang were afterwards captured ; including a livery- 
stable keeper, a goldsmith, and a man-milliner. 

Whitney appears to have been a man of 
medium height, to have had a scarred face, and to 
have lost one thumb : sliced off, probably, in one 
of his encounters with the patrols. 

He endeavoured to purchase his liberty by 
" offering to discover his accomplices, and those 
that give notice where and when money is con- 
veyed on the road in coaches and waggons." 
This offer was not accepted, and the order went 
forth that he was to be hanged at the Maypole in 
the Strand. Then he shifted his ground to include 
more startling secrets that he was ready to divulge, 
" if he may have his pardon." Jacobite plots 
were the commonplaces of that day. King James 
was not greatly liked by even the most ardent 
Jacobite, but King William was detested, and 
even those who had placed William on the throne 
did so merely as a political expedient. Thus the 
personally unpopular King was for ever harassed 
with plots hatched to assassinate him ; and when 
Whitney hinted, not obscurely, that he could tell 
terrible tales if he would, it was thought advisable 
to have the highwayman out in a sedan-chair and 



" CAPTAIN" JAMES WHITNE Y 63 

to take him to Kensington, under escort, that he 
might be examined, touching these plots. But 
it was soon discovered that he really knew nothing 
and that his idle " confessions " and " revelations " 
had no basis in fact. 

He was not content to remain in Newgate 
in worn and shabby clothes. 

" He had his taylor," says Luttrell, " make 
him a rich embroidered suit, with perug and 
hat, worth 100 ; but the keeper refused to let 
him wear them, because they would disguise him 
from being known." 

That somewhat obscure phrase seems to mean 
that Whitney intended, under cover of his fine 
new suit, to make a dash for liberty. 

His execution was finally fixed for February 1st, 
1693, at Porter's Block, Smithfield. He made a 
very proper and a singularly restrained and 
well-chosen speech at the fatal spot : 

"I have been a very great offender, both against 
God and my country, by transgressing all laws, 
human and divine. I believe there is not one here 
present but has often heard my name before my 
confinement, and have seen a large catalogue 
of my crimes, which have been made public 
since. Why should I then pretend to vindicate 
a life stained with deeds of violence ? The 
sentence passed on me is just, and I can see 
the footsteps of Providence, which I had before 
profanely laughed at, in my apprehension and 
conviction. I hope the sense which I have of 
these things has enabled me to make my peace 



64 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

with Heaven, the only thing that is now of any 
concern to me. Join in your prayers with me, 
my dear countrymen, that God will not forsake 
me in my last moments." 

" He seem to dye very penitent," says the 
original chronicler of these things : " and was an 
hour and a halfc in the cart before heing 
turned off." 



TWM SHON CATTI 

A SINGULAR character, half mythical, and his 
exploits almost wholly so, is Twin Shon Catti ; a 
prankish creature whom, nevertheless, the people 
of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire will not 
willingly let die. 

Twm, it need hardly be said, was a Welshman. 
His name, duly translated from Cymraeg into 
English, means " Tom John Kate," i.e. " Tom, 
the son of Kate." Who was his other parent 
remains a matter of uncertainty, hut he is thought 
to have heen a local magnate, Sir John Wynne of 
Gwydir. Kate, his mother, was a country girl, of 
Tregaron, and Twm himself was horn apparently 
about the third quarter of the seventeenth 
century ; that is to say, if the half sprite and half 
human being of the legends can be said to belong 
to any easily-ascertained span of years. Some 
of his exploits certainly seem to belong to a later 
period. 

But however that may be, he is yet the hero of 
a very wide countryside, in which any peasant is 
still able to give a very fair biography of him to 
the passing stranger, and is also quite competent 
to show him Twm's cave, in Dinas Hill, or 

65 



66 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

" Llidiard-y-Ffin," overlooking the river Towy, 
near Ystrad Ffin. Composed in equal parts of 
Will-o'-Wisp, Dick Turpin (the idealised Turpin 
of legend, not the cowardly brute of cold-drawn 
fact), and Robin Hood, his career is one of marvels. 
Horse-thief, highwayman at one time and out- 
witter of highwaymen at another, special provi- 
dence to the deserving, and scourge of the wicked, 
he always comes successfully out of encounters 
and difficulties. If for that peculiarity alone, he 
might reasonably be held mythical. 

Starting in life as a farmer's boy, he after- 
wards found a place in the service of the local 
lord of the manor, in which his Puck-like pranks 
were first developed. As the secret of his birth 
was more or less an open one, these escapades 
were not often visited with the punishment 
another would almost certainly have incurred ; 
and, besides, he was generally looked upon as a 
" natural " : as one, that is to say, who is not more 
than half-witted. Thus, when he would steal the 
parson's horse in Llandovery and sell it to a 
squire some twenty miles off, he proved the truth 
of that old law which says one man may with 
impunity steal a horse, while another may not 
safely even look over the fence. 

It all depends upon the man. In Twm's case, 
such an exploit was not the criminal business that 
would have brought an ordinary man to the 
gallows, but merely an escapade serving, like 
Prince Hal and Poins' fooling of Falstaff with 
the men in buckram, as " argument for a week, 



TWM SHON CATTI 67 

laughter for a month, and a good jest for 
ever." 

At the rather uncertain period in which Twm 
flourished there also flourished a highwayman in 
the locality, who, from his daring and savage 
disposition, was known as " Dio the Devil." This 
terrific person had carried off the young and 
heautiful wife of Sir John Devereux, lord of 
Ystrad Ffin, and Twm was successful in rescuing 
her. The obvious reward for this service was, 
bearing Twm's almost gentle origin in mind, to 
receive him in his house on equal terms : or, as 
some accounts have it, he entered the service of 
Sir John as jester. But whether he went as 
such, or not, he certainly acted the part very 
thoroughly, and kept the establishment always 
well entertained. 

Twm was a perfect centaur of a horseman, and 
Sir John Devereux was almost as good in the 
saddle. Twm's custom was to back himself in 
heavy wagers to perform extraordinary feats of 
horsemanship, and then proceed, by hair-raising 
doings, to win the bets. Not only the physical, but 
the mental agility of these things took strangers 
at an utterly dumbfoundered disadvantage ; 
but the most astonishing of all was the one now 
to be related. An English guest who was staying 
with Sir John happened also to be a remarkable 
horseman, and had the advantage his Welsh host 
had not, of owning a thoroughbred. The talk ran 
high one day on the subject of horses and equita- 
tion, and the whimsical Twm promptly wagered 

VOL. II. 8 



68 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

twenty pounds he would put his horse to a jump 
where the Englishman dare not follow. Con- 
versant with the not very fine specimens of horses 
to be found in his host's stable, the Englishman 
with contempt accepted the bet, quite easy in his 
mind that he must win. 

A " numerous and distinguished company," as 
a modern chronicler of fashionable doings might 
say, assembled on the mountain-side on the 
appointed day, to see the challenger take this as 
yet unknown leap, and the stranger follow if he 
dared. They knew their Twm well enough to be 
quite convinced he had some mad project in view, 
to discomfit the Englishman ; and what Welsh- 
man was there who would not have travelled far, 
and at much discomfort, to witness the humilia- 
tion of the " Saxon." 

Twm was last upon the to-be-contested field, 
and a great shout of laughter went up as he was 
seen riding along upon a wretched horse, in the 
last stage of decrepitude. The Englishman did 
not quite know whether to feel insulted or amused, 
but Twm, once arrived on the scene, did not 
linger. Quickly he took a thick cloth and bound 
it over the head of his horse ; and then, bidding 
the Englishman follow him, put his mount at a 
rift in the mountain-side some hundreds of feet 
deep. Over leapt the horse, and was in another 
half a minute lying dead, shattered in its fall 
on the rocks below. 

Even those of his countrymen who knew the 
resourcefulness of their hero, and had backed him 



TWM SHON CATTI 69 

heavily, now lost heart; but in another minute 
up rose the head and shoulders of Twm above the 
edge, and he presently leapt among them unhurt, 
to receive his winnings from the astounded 
Englishman. He had adroitly slipped from the 
horse's back at the moment of his taking oif, and 
leapt into the bushes that grew out of the face 
of the cliff. The horse itself merely met its end 
in a different manner from that already ordained 
for it that day, when it was to have been 
slaughtered, as being past work. 

His friend and patron, Sir John Devereux, 
perceiving how well able Twm was to take care 
of himself, and being under the necessity of 
despatching a considerable amount of money in 
gold to London, and obliged at the same time to 
remain at home, he entrusted him with the 
commission. He would have given Twm an 
escort of one or two servants, but that worthy, 
shrewdly remarking that it would be as much worth 
their while as that of a highwayman to rob him, 
declined all company, and, in the oldest clothes he 
could find, set out alone on a shaggy Welsh pony. 
He had gone two-thirds of his journey without 
adventure, and put up one night, contentedly 
enough, at what is described as the " Hop Pole," 
a " lonely inn on the bleak downs near Marl- 
borough" although there really seems never to 
have been a house of that name near : perhaps 
" Shepherd's Shore," or the " Waggon and Horses " 
at Beckhampton would serve better. When he 
retired for the night, and was lying still and 



70 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

wakeful, he overheard the landlady and a strange 
man discussing him. The landlady was saying 
she did not suppose a traveller like our Twm, 
" dressed like a scarecrow and mounted on a piece 
of animated carrion, for which the rooks cawed as 
he rode along," was worth rohbing. 

" I don't know so much ahout that," he heard 
the other obviously a highwayman reply. 
" Very often these miserable-looking people you 
see on the roads disguise their wealth in this 
way, and are in reality carrying a great deal of 
money about with them : sometimes half a year's 
rent of a considerable estate. This fellow 
seems to be one of that kind. We shall see 
to-morrow." 

Twm remembered having seen a plaguey ill- 
looking fellow in the house, and lay long awake, 
wondering what he should be at, and pleased that, 
anyhow, he was not to be interfered with that 
night. But he felt sure of being followed as soon 
as ever he left the house, and bethought him, 
there and then, of an ingenious plan. Before 
their very eyes next morning, he rummaged in 
the peak of his saddle, as If to arrange it more 
comfortably, and in so doing managed to disclose 
some gold to their covetous gaze. Then he was 
soon off; not travelling very fast, as may be 
supposed, on his laden pony. So soon as he was 
out of sight of the inn, he hopped off and 
transferred the money from the saddle to his 
pockets. Then he resumed his way. 

Presently, as he had expected, he heard the 



TWM SHON CATTI 71 

highwayman thundering along in his rear. "When 
the pursuer came well in sight, Twin hurriedly 
dismounted again, and, unloosening the saddle, 
flung it as far as he was able into a pond that 
spread by the wayside. Dismounting himself, 
the highwayman, leaving Twm for the moment, 
plunged knee-deep into the pond for the treasure, 
as he supposed, and Twm leapt nimbly on his 
thoroughbred horse : no highwayman of tradition 
ever riding a horse that was not thoroughbred, 
whatever the sorry jades the real ones had often 
to bestride. 

When Twm cantered happily into Marlborough 
on the highwayman's steed, and told his story, 
the townspeople, who it appears had suffered 
much from the knights of the road, welcomed him 
as a hero, and entertained him at the Town Hall. 
If he had not been in a hurry, they might perhaps 
have presented him with the freedom of the borough. 
Perhaps they did so on his return. He sold his 
horse for a good round sum, for he thought it 
dangerous to ride up to London on so fine a mount. 
Therefore, armed with one pistol, he resumed the 
journey on foot, and to my mind it seems either a 
testimony to the honesty or the lack of enterprise 
among the burgesses of Marlborough, that some 
one or other of them did not follow him into the 
secluded glades of Savernake Forest, through 
which his road lay, and do for him. 

But he neared London without other en- 
counters, until he came upon Hounslow Heath. 
Here the tale of the confiding highwayman and 



72 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

the apparently stupid countryman, often told, but 
always fresh, had its origin. Twm was duly 
pulled up on the Heath by a robber, who appears 
to have been none other than Tom Dorbel, famous 
in his day. Dorbel was bristling with an armoury 
of pistols. Our ingenious Twm, affecting to 
be seized with the abject terror of a country 
lout, earnestly begged the ruffian, before he 
robbed him, to put half-a-dozen bullets through 
his coat, so that his master might easily see how 
good a fight he had made of it, before yielding 
his treasure. He took off his coat for the purpose, 
and the highwayman very obligingly complied 
with this very reasonable request. 

Twm capered about like the idiot he pretended 
to be. " That wass ferry coot of you yess, 
inteet," he said ; " and if you wass put another 
look you, through my hat, it wass pe petter still, 
whateffer." 

The highwayman, wondering what special kind 
of lunatic he had happened upon, fired his last 
pistol through the hat as desired, when " Now," 
said Twm, himself producing a pistol, " it iss my 
turn. Out with your coin, or I will put a pig 
hole through your pody." And Twm not only 
saved his master's coin, but robbed the highway- 
man as well. 




V w 



JOHN WITHERS AND WILLIAM 
EDWARDS 

JOHN WITHERS, one of the most ferocious of those 
highwaymen who did not scruple to add murder 
to their crimes, was born in the last quarter of 
the seventeenth century, at Lichfield. He was the 
son of a butcher, in so small a way of business 
that his father could not find employment for 
him ; and so, in order to get a start in life, he 
set off for London. Arrived there, he was drawn 
by his natural bent into the company of criminals, 
and, throwing in his lot with them, was soon 
arrested and found guilty on charges of larceny, 
with violence. He escaped punishment by accept- 
ing the offer, generally made at that time, of 
enlisting in the army, and was sent out to the 
Flanders expedition. Here, perhaps, we see an 
explanation of the well-known expression, " Our 
armies swore terribly in Flanders." If it was 
composed largely of reprieved criminals, there can 
be no doubt that its language could not have 
been choice, nor its conduct exemplary. " My 
blackguards," the Duke of Wellington styled his 
men, who fought so well and endured so greatly 
in the Peninsula ; for even so lately as that 

75 



76 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

period the rank-and-file were composed of the 
offscourings of society ; but they must have been 
well-mannered gentlemen, compared with the 
soldiers of a century earlier. 

Sacrilege presently engaged the attention of 
Withers in Flanders. Entering a church in Ghent 
during high mass, and observing the people 
placing money in a box that stood in front of 
a figure of the Virgin, he awaited a favourable 
opportunity, picked the lock, and filled his pockets 
with the contents. " Unfortunately," says his 
sympathetic biographer, " in haste to carry off his 
plunder, some of the money fell upon the pave- 
ment, ringing out sharply in the stillness of the 
church ; so that he was detected in the act." 

Taken before the venerable Cardinal, and 
examined, he was about to be taken off in custody ; 
when, falling upon his knees, with uplifted hands 
he begged the Cardinal to listen to him. He then 
declared with ready lies, that, brought up as a 
heretic, and falling into evil ways that had brought 
him to want and misery, he had seen the folly 
of his life, and offered prayers before the effigy 
of the Virgin Mary. While he was thus praying, 
he continued, the figure pointed to the box, as 
if it were giving him leave to take what was 
necessary to supply his wants. In consequence 
of this singular interposition on his behalf, he 
concluded he had made up his mind to become 
a Roman Catholic, but at the moment of this 
decision he had been arrested. 

This singular narrative was heard by the 



JOHN WITHERS AND WILLIAM EDWARDS 77 

Cardinal with much surprise, and at the close of 
it he exclaimed, fervently, " A miracle indeed ! " 
All who had heard it also shared the same opinion 
and "it being justly concluded that none had 
a hetter right to dispose of the money than the 
Virgin herself , to whom it was devoted," Withers 
was carried in solemn procession, as a convert 
singularly honoured, and placed before the high 
altar while an Ave Maria was sung. 

It is not, it may be added, necessary to believe 
this precious story in its entirety. Withers was, 
of course, as we shall see, capable of worse than 
this, and the probability is that the actual theft 
was committed by him; but we can hardly be- 
lieve the Roman Catholic clergy quite such fools 
as they figure here. 

At Antwerp, Withers made a second essay in 
sacrilege. There he stole a great silver crucifix. 
But he felt that there was really no career for 
him in these enterprises, and so, deserting from 
the army, he crossed to England, and took up the 
profession of highwayman. 

It would be of little interest to follow Withers 
in all his highway doings, but the adventure of 
himself and two companions with an actor on the 
road is perhaps worth repeating. They espied 
one morning a gentleman walking alone and 
displaying all the gestures of passion, distrac- 
tion, and fury to excess; casting his eyes to 
heaven, stretching forth his arms imploringly, 
or folding them moodily upon his breast. Near 
by was a pond. 

VOL. II. Q 



78 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

" Make haste ! " exclaimed Withers to his 
companions, " 'tis even as we thought ; the poor 
gentleman is just going to kill himself for love." 
Then, rushing towards him, two of them taking 
an arm each, Withers addressed him earnestly : 
" Pray, sir, consider what you do ! what a sad 
thing it would be to drown yourself here. Be 
better advised and consider, before it is too late." 

The actor was indignant. " What a plague is 
all this for ? " he asked. " I am not going to 
hang, stab, or drown myself. I am not in love, 
but only a player, learning a part." 

" A player, are you ? " rejoined Withers. " If 
I had thought that, you should have drowned 
yourself, or hanged yourself indeed, before we 
had taken the pains to follow you up and down. 
But, to make amends for our trouble, the least 
you can do will be to give us what money you 
have." 

So saying, they bound his hands and legs 
together, emptied his pockets of ten shillings, and 
took away a silver-hilted sword he carried. 

It is, in this connection, curious to observe the 
animus displayed against the stage. It is met 
largely in the satire of the time, and not 
merely in the literature inspired by the Puritans, 
but even in those by no means puritanical books 
and plays in which the highwaymen figure as 
heroes. Thus, in the play, the Prince of Priggs, 
written around the career of Captain Hind, but 
not intended to be staged, we find the prologue 
chiefly concerned with a sneer at those " apes and 



JOHN WITHERS AND WILLIAM EDWARDS 79 

parrots," silenced under the sour rule of the 
Commonwealth : 

Since that the Apes and Parrots of the Stage, 

Are filenc'd by the Clamours of the Age ; 

Like Conies forc'd to feed on bran and grafs, 

(The true Defciples of Pithagoras) 

Whofe Copper- Lace, 1 and Copper -Nofes once 

Made them to think themfelves great Prester-Johns : 

You'l (fure) have caufe to praife, and thank that man, 

Can make each thief a compleat Roftian : 

Then much good doe't you (Sirs) fall to and eat, 

You ne're had cheaper (perhaps) better meat. 

The last adventure of Withers was that in 
which he and a companion, William Edwards by 
name, near Beaconsfield beset a nobleman and his 
servant. Withers' horse was shot in the resistance 
they made, and, mounting behind his friend, they 
took to flight. But the horse with two riders was 
no match for the others, not so heavily burdened ; 
and, being hard pressed along the road, the two 
fugitives dismounted and ran across country in the 
direction of London. Sleeping in the hedges 
overnight, the next morning they continued their 
flight. Meeting, one mile on the London side of 
Uxbridge, with a penny postman, they robbed 
him of eight shillings ; and Withers, to prevent 
their being identified, drew a large butcher's knife 
he carried, and barbarously cut his throat. They 
then ripped up his body, filled his stomach with 
stones, and flung him into the little stream that 
here flows across the road. The burial registers of 
Hillingdon church bear witness to this and to 
1 i,e. imitation gold-lace, 



8o HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

another murder they appear to have committed at, 
or near, the same place ; " 1702, November 13. 
Will Harrison, Postman, murdered near the 
Great Bridge between Hillingdon and Uxbridge. 
November 28. Edward Symonds, Drover, mur- 
dered at the same time, and about the same place, 
and by the same hands." 

Withers and Edwards were arrested the follow- 
ing January in Norfolk, for a highway robbery 
committed there, and were tried and executed at 
Thetford, April 16th, 1703. 



PATRICK O'BEIAN 

" PATRICK O'BRIAN," says Captain Alexander 
Smith, " was a native of Ireland." Perhaps we 
might, without undue stress of mind, have guessed 
as much. It seems that his parents were very 
indigent natives of Loughrea, and so Patrick left 
his native land for England, and presently enlisted 
in the Coldstream Guards. But he was not a 
good soldier ; or, at any rate, if good in that 
profession, infinitely better in the practice of all 
kinds of vice. He was resolved not to want 
money, if there were any to be obtained, no 
matter the means to it ; but began cautiously by 
running into debt at public-houses and shops ; and 
then followed up that first step by borrowing 
from every acquaintance, until that source was 
dried up. 

When all these means to existence were 
exhausted, O' Brian went upon the road. The 
first person whom he met was, strange to say, 
another unmitigated scoundrel : none other, in 
fact, than the Reverend William Clewer, vicar of 
Croydon, who here demands a little paragraph 
entirely to himself. 

William Clewer, who was collated to the 

81 



82 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

living of Croydon in 1660, was notorious, we are 
told, for his singular love of litigation, un- 
paralleled extortions, and criminal and disgraceful 
conduct. His character became so bad, and his 
ways of life so notorious, that he was eventually 
ejected in 1684. He must have been, indeed, 
pre-eminently bad, to have been ejected in that 
easy-going age. Dispossessed of his living, on 
these substantial grounds, he at last died, in 1702, 
and was buried in St. Bride's, Fleet Street. 

"We are indebted to Smith for the account of 
the meeting of O 'Brian and this shining light 
of the clerical profession : 

" O' Brian, meeting with Dr. Clewer, who was 
try'd once and burnt in the hand at the Old 
Bailey for stealing a silver cup, coming along 
the road from Acton, he demanded his money ; 
but the 'reverend doctor having not a farthing 
about him, O' Brian was for taking his gown. At 
this our divine was much dissatisfied ; but, per- 
ceiving his enemy would plunder him, quoth he : 
' Pray, sir, let me have a chance for my gown ' ; 
so, pulling a pack of cards out of his pocket, he 
further said : ' We'll have, if you please, one game 
of all-fours for it, and if you win it, take it and 
wear it.' This challenge was readily accepted 
by the footpad ; but, being more cunning than 
his antagonist at slipping and palming the cards, 
he won the game, and the doctor went contentedly 
home without his canonicals." 

On one memorable occasion, 0' Brian happened, 
in his lurkings upon the road, to stop a man who 



PATRICK O 'BRIAN 83 

proved to be an acrobat, and who, when Patrick 
bade him " stand and deliver ! " instantly jumped 
over his head. The ignorant and superstitious 
Irishman thought he had chanced upon the 
devil himself, come to sport with him before his 
time, and while he was trembling and crossing 
himself, the acrobat, rolling along the road in 
a series of somersaults and cartwheels, got clear 
away. 

These adventures appear to have been mere 
tentative experiments, for we learn that 0' Brian 
then deserted from the army and commenced 
highwayman in earnest. He one day stopped the 
carriage of none other than Nell Gwynne and 
addressed her thus : " Madam, I am a gentleman. 
I have done a great many signal services to the 
fair sex, and have, in return, been all my life 
maintained by them. Now, as I know you to be 
a charitable woman, I make bold to ask you for 
a little money ; though I never had the honour 
of serving you in particular. However, if any 
opportunity shall ever fall in my way, you may 
depend upon it I will not be ungrateful." 

Nell, we are told, made this mercenary knight- 
errant a present of ten guineas. 

It was the same with O' Brian as with every 
other wicked man, says Smith ; he was eager to 
lead others into the evil path himself had chosen. 
In particular, he induced a young man named 
Wilt to become a highwayman ; and Wilt was 
unfortunate enough to be apprehended in his first 
experiment and to be hanged for it. 



84 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

O' Brian was also arrested, and hanged at 
Gloucester. After his body had swung the usual 
time, it was cut down and his friends were allowed 
to carry it off. When it was taken indoors, it 
was observed to move slightly, strange to say ; 
upon which a surgeon was hurriedly called ; and, 
what with being bled and his limbs being exercised, 
O'Brian was presently restored to life. 

This marvellous recovery was kept a strict 
secret for a time, and it was hoped the experience 
would have a salutary effect, the more especially 
as his friends were willing to contribute towards 
his support in some retired employment. He 
agreed to reform his life, and, indeed, while the 
memory of the bitterness of death was fresh upon 
him, kept his promise; but as that dreadful 
impression wore off by degrees, he returned to his 
former ways. Abandoning an honest life, he 
procured a horse (Smith says he purchased one, 
but we may be allowed our doubts upon that 
matter) " and other necessaries " : i.e. pistols, 
powder and ball, and sword, and again visited the 
road. 

This was about one year after his execution 
and supposed death, and the travelling public of 
the districts he had principally affected had long 
grown tired of congratulating themselves upon 
his disappearance, and were quite accustomed to 
thinking of him as a memory. It was, therefore, 
a bad shock to the gentleman whom he had last 
robbed, and for plundering whom he had been, to 
all appearance, satisfactorily turned off, when he 



PATRICK 0' BRIAN 85 

was the first person to be stopped by O' Brian in 
this second series of his adventures. 

His consternation, we are told, and may readily 
believe, was great. " Wher why ? " he asked, 
with chattering teeth, " I ther thought you had 
been hanged a twelvemonth ago." 

" So I was," rejoined O' Brian, " and therefore 
you ought to imagine that what you see now is 
only my ghost. However, lest you should be so 
uncivil as to hang my ghost too, I think the best 
way is to secure you." So saying, he discharged 
a pistol through the gentleman's head, and, 
alighting from his horse, in a fury hewed the 
body to pieces with his hanger. 

Later, he committed a fearful atrocity in Wilt- 
shire, which, although fully detailed in con- 
temporary literature, cannot be set forth here. 
He carried off at the same time no less a sum of 
money than 2,500 ; but was fortunately brought 
to justice after a further two years of miscellaneous 
plundering, chiefly through the evidence of an 
accomplice lying under sentence of death in 
Bedford gaol. He was taken at his lodgings 
in Little Suffolk Street, by the Hay market, and 
then sent down to Salisbury, to be tried for his 
Wiltshire enormity. Once lodged in gaol there, 
he confessed a series of crimes, for which he was 
executed on April 30th, 1689, aged thirty-one. 



VOL. II. 10 



JACK BIRD 

JACK BIRD was humbly born and as humbly 
educated. When it is added that he was born in 
the second half of the seventeenth century, it 
will rightly be supposed that his education did 
not include any of the sciences, and that it 
probably did not go far beyond teaching him to 
write his own name. He had no use for even 
that small accomplishment, for he was apprenticed 
to a baker, and before his indentures were expired 
had run away and 'listed for a soldier in the foot- 
guards ; being almost immediately sent out to the 
Low Countries. He served under the Duke of 
Monmouth at the siege of Maestricht, but found 
too many masters in the army, and so deserted 
and made his way to Amsterdam, where he 
commenced a new career by stealing a piece of 
silk. He was detected in the act, taken before 
a magistrate, and condemned to a term of hard 
labour in the "rasp-house," where he was set to 
rasping log-wood, and to other severe drudgeries, 
for the term of twelve months. Unaccustomed 
to such hard labour, Jack fainted at his tasks, but 
the labour-master set it down to laziness, and to 
cure it, chained him in the bottom of an empty 

86 



JACK BIRD 87 

cistern by one foot, and caused a number of taps 
to be turned on, so that the cistern began rapidly 
to fill and the prisoner to be obliged, as the cistern 
was deeper than his own height, to work vigor- 
ously at a pump fixed in it, lest the water should 
gain upon, and drown, him. An hour's experience 
of this ingenious punishment rendered him quite 
anxious to return to the labour that had before 
been too much for him. 

At the end of his term of bondage he hastened 
to take leave of Holland and the Hollanders, who 
had proved themselves such connoisseurs in quaint 
punishments. In England, justice certainly was 
more severe, and hanged men who stole quite 
trivial things, but it did not make people perform 
such hard labour, and Jack was one of those who 
would rather die than work. There are many 
of his kind even now. 

Although hard labour was distasteful to our 
hero, he was by no means satisfied to live as 
humbly as he had been born, and his thoughts 
turned lightly to the road, as a likely place on 
which to pick up a good living without over- 
exertion. There was the choice of footpad or 
highwayman, and of course he chose the higher 
branch of the profession ; for a footpad had to 
pad the hoof and be content, after all, with 
robbing the comparatively poor; while a high- 
wayman could cut a fine figure on horseback, 
plunder the best, and be at little personal 
fatigue in doing so. Many foolish fellows, 
commencing highwayman, would hire, or even 



88 HALF- HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

purchase, a horse; not so Jack Bird. "Thorough" 
was his motto, and he began business by stealing 
the mount he fancied. At the same time he took 
excellent good care to go fully armed, for we 
read that he provided himself with six good pistols 
and a broadsword. In this fortified condition, 
and in the dress of a gentleman, he opened his 
campaign. His first few attempts were highly 
successful, but he soon learned, in a painful 
adventure on the Dover Road, between Gravesend 
and Chatham, that fortune is fickle. There he 
encountered one Joseph Pinnis, a pilot, who was 
returning from London, where he had received 
ten or twelve pounds for piloting a Dutch ship 
up-river. He had been so unfortunate as to 
lose both hands during an engagement in the 
Dutch war, some years earlier, and it seemed 
to our callous highwayman an easy task to rob 
him. 

Summoned to " Stand and deliver ! " the pilot 
replied, " You see, sir, that I have never a hand, 
so cannot take my money out of my pocket. Be 
so kind, therefore, as to take the trouble to search 
me." 

The highwayman, without the slightest mis- 
giving, complied with this very reasonable request, 
and securing the pilot's purse, began to examine 
its contents, when he found himself suddenly 
seized around the waist by the traveller, who 
appeared to have enormous strength in his arms, 
even though he had no hands. He succeeded in 
overthrowing the highwayman, and falling upon 



JACK BIRD 89 

him, beat him fearfully about the face with his 
metal-shod wrists. 

Presently some other travellers approached, 
and, asking the cause of the struggle, Pinnis told 
them : asking them to take a hand and give the 
ruffian a further drubbing, and adding that he 
was almost out of breath with what he had done 
already. 

The travellers then, informed of the whole 
affair, conducted Bird in custody to a magistrate, 
who committed him to Maidstone gaol, where he 
was tried and condemned to death, but was after- 
wards, for some reason that has escaped the 
historian, pardoned and set at liberty, to work 
more outrages upon unarmed and inoffensive folk. 

At first, however, the danger and indignity 
he had passed through, of being so completely 
vanquished by a handless man, whom he had at 
first foolishly despised, quite put him out of 
conceit with himself and the road, and he resolved 
to abandon an employment which had at first 
promised so well, only to turn out so ill. But 
work real work was uncongenial as ever, and as 
he had to exist somehow, it happened that the 
road called him successfully again, after all. 

The first person he encountered in his new 
series of adventures was a "Welsh drover, who 
proved to be a muscular man, and the very devil 
of a fellow with that nasty weapon, the quarter- 
staff. "Once bit, twice shy," murmured Jack, 
withdrawing swiftly out of reach. " If a villain 
of a sailor without hands can overthrow me, I 



90 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

shall not venture my carcase within reach of one 
that has hands, for fear of something worse." So, 
he pulled a pistol from the armoury he carried in 
his belt, and from a safe distance shot the drover 
through the head. He then searched the body 
and found, to his disgust, only eighteenpence. 
But he summoned what philosophy he could over 
this disappointment, and, cynically remarking 
that " 'Tis a price worth killing a man for, any 
time," rode off without the least remorse. 

On another occasion he met the original 
" Poor Robin," the almanac- writer and humorous 
prognosticator ; and as he did not disdain to exact 
contributions from the poor, as well as the rich 
(although " Poor Robin " probably was by no 
means so poor as his name would imply), he desired 
the calendar-maker to halt and surrender. As 
this was the first time Poor Robin had heard such 
language, and as he had received no hint of this 
occasion from the stars, he stood and stared, as if 
himself had been planet-struck. 

" Come now," said Jack, " this is no child's 
play : I am in earnest." 

Robin pleaded the poverty to which, he said, 
his nickname bore witness. 

" That," returned Bird, " is a miserable, thread- 
bare excuse, and will not save your bacon." 

" But," pleaded the almanac-maker, " as 
author of those calendars that yearly come out 
in my name, I have canonised a great many 
gentlemen of your profession ; look in them for 
their names, and let this be my protection." 



JACK BIRD 91 

But all in vain; Bird ransacked his pockets, 
and from them extracted fifteen shillings, took a 
new hat from his head, and requested him, as he 
had now given him cause, to canonise him also. 

" Ay ! " exclaimed Poor E/obin grimly, " that 
will I, when you have suffered martyrdom at 
Tyburn, which will not be long hence." 

" Poor Robin's " publications, it may be said, 
in this connection, are well worth examination. 
In an age when Lilly, Perkins, and a host of 
others issued prophetic almanacs, divining future 
events from the stars, and were extensively be- 
lieved in, " Poor Robin's " almanac, year by year, 
made much fun out of those pretensions; fun 
that sometimes reads curiously modern. Seven- 
teenth-century humour is, as a rule, as flat to the 
modern taste as champagne opened and left to 
stand, but much of " Poor Robin's " wit and 
humour still sparkles. While Perkins, with a 
provoking solemnity, would give a chronological 
table of events from the Year One and would 
proceed by degrees from " Adam, created 1, B.C., 
3962," and would continue by way of "Methu- 
selah, born 687, B.C., 2306," to " The Tyrant Oliver 
began his government, December 16th, 1653 " ; 
" Poor Robin " would devote his attention largely 
to the days when highwaymen were hanged, and 
would draw farcical conclusions from planetary 
dispositions. Thus we find him saying : 

" Now the effects of the conjunction of Saturn 
and Mars will much operate : such conjunctions 
are always attended with remarkable accidents. 



92 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

There was one in the year 1672, and the German 
Princess rode up Holborn Hill ; another in 1673, 
and Du Vail visited the three-legged tenement at 
Hyde Park Corner. I might instance in divers 
other examples, but these shall suffice." 

The so-called " German Princess " was an 
adventuress, really a native of Canterbury, and a 
daughter of one of the choristers in the Cathedral 
there, named Moders. She was hanged at Tyburn, 
in 1678 (not in 1672), and so was Du Vail (not at 
Hyde Park Corner, and not in 1673). 

In his burlesque monthly forecasts of the 
weather and public events, he evidently reflects 
upon his serious contemporaries, whose predictions 
would occasionally go wrong, and who, like our 
modern " Old Moore," would in consequence grow 
less cocksure and more cautious, and would then 
more or less cleverly tell readers to " expect " 
something or other, together with such eminently 
safe remarks for February and March as, " Wind 
and rainstorms are to be looked for by the 
farmer." 

In February 1664, for example, " Poor Robin," 
in burlesque of this kind of thing, warns his readers 
to " expect some showers of rain, either this month 
or the next, or the next after that, or else we shall 
have a very dry spring. . . . The twenty-seventh 
day of this month died Cardinal Mazarine, and if 
you would know the reason why he died, then, I 
answer, it was because he could live no longer." 

Under June, he declares that, " If the frost nips 
the fruit trees, there will be no apples." In July, 



JACK BIRD 93 

" Fleas will grow troublesome, and will lie with 
you without leave," and elsewhere we find that 
" Tyburn shall be a great eye-sore to High- way 
men and cut-purses," and that " The leafless tree 
betwixt London and Paddington will this month 
bear fruit, but it will be only Medlers, and they 
are stark naught until they are rotten." The 
which extracts fully illustrate the allusions in the 
short life of Jack Bird. 

Made bold by a long series of successes, Bird 
procured a good horse and determined never again 
to stoop to robbing for mere shillings. A meeting 

with the Earl of , rolling along in his 

carriage, accompanied by his chaplain, and at- 
tended by two servants, gave him his first oppor- 
tunity of putting this excellent determination 
into practice. 

" You must stop, my lord ! " exclaimed Bird, 
threatening him with one pistol, and the coach- 
man with the other. 

" The devil I must ! " said his lordship ; " who 

the " here the chaplain gave a loud cough, 

and the word was lost in the throaty rasp he pro- 
duced " what the " (" ahem ! " from the chap- 
lain) " are you then, fellow, that you bid me pull 
up on the roadway for you, you ? " 

" An honest collector of tolls, your lordship," 
said Bird : " your purse this instant ! " 

" So ! that is the way of it ? " replied his lord- 
ship. " I am very little anxious about the small 
sum I have about me, but I intend you shall fight 
for it." 

VOL. II. II 



94 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

Bird then flew into a passion, and swore 
terribly, after the low fashion then proverbially 
prevalent among our soldiers in the Low Countries. 
He waved his pistols excitedly. 

" Don't lose your temper," said my lord. 
" When I said * fight,' I meant boxing, and not 
shooting, and I will fight you fairly for all the 
money I have, against nothing." 

" That is an honourable challenge, my lord," 
replied Bird, " provided none of your servants be 
near us." 

His lordship then commanded them to with- 
draw to a distance. The chaplain, however, could 
not endure the thought of the Earl fighting while 
he was but an idle spectator, and requested the 
honour of being his patron's champion. 

Matters were arranged : the divine stripped off 
his gown, and in another half a minute the scene 
resounded with the thuds and grunts of the com- 
batants, as they planted blows home on each other's 
faces and bodies. In less than a quarter of an 
hour the chaplain was knocked out of time, with 
only breath enough remaining to exclaim, " I'll 
fight no more ! " Bird was unquestioned victor. 
" Now, my lord," said he, turning to the carriage, 
" if it please your lordship, I will take a turn with 
you." 

"Not I ! " earnestly replied the Earl, "for if 
you can beat my chaplain, you will surely beat 
me, for we have tried it out before." So saying, 
he handed the highwayman the sum of twenty 
guineas he was xjarrying. 




JACK BIRD FIGHTS THE CHAPLAIN. 



JACK BIRD 97 

Bird's career was closed by a foolish act. He, 
in company with a woman, knocked down and 
robbed a man in Drury Lane. The woman was 
seized on the spot, but Bird escaped. Going, how- 
ever, to visit her in prison, he himself was 
arrested ; and, being found guilty, he was executed 
at Tyburn, March 12th, 1690, aged forty-two. 



WILL OGDEN, JACK BRADSHAW, AND 
TOM REYNOLDS 

WILL OGDEN, who was born in Walnut Tree 
Alley, Tooley Street, Southwark, now claims our 
attention. He was a waterman by trade and a 
highwayman by inclination, so that he presently 
exchanged the river for the road. But he did not 
blossom out all at once as a fully-equipped high- 
wayman. He passed a kind of transition period 
of about two years in the plundering of ships lying 
in the Pool, between Southwark and Billingsgate, 
and in the rifling of waterside shops. In these 
activities he was associated with one Tom 
Reynolds, a native of Cross Key Alley, Barnaby 
Street, and admiral of a sludge-barge. Being 
apprehended in the burglary of a watch-maker's 
shop, they were lodged in Newgate, and tried and 
convicted at the Old Bailey ; but received a 
pardon, on what grounds does not appear. 

This ended their burgling experiences, and 
they then agreed to go upon the road, in the 
humbler, padding form of the highwayman's 
trade. 

Early in their experiences, Ogden one evening 

met a parson walking home by the light of the 

9 8 



OGDEN, BRADSHAW, AND REYNOLDS 99 

moon, and approached him in the character of a 
distressed seaman walking the highway to the 
nearest port, where he might chance to get a ship. 
His dismal story excited the compassion of the 
parson, who gave him sixpence and passed on. 

He had not proceeded far when Ogden, who 
had hurried round in advance of him by a side 
lane, approached him again, and renewed his 
story. 

"You are the most impudent beggar I ever 
met," exclaimed the parson ; but Ogden told him 
he was in very great want, and that the sixpence 
he had received would not carry him very far. 
The parson then gave him half-a-crown, which 
Ogden gratefully accepted, adding : " These are 
very sad times, and there's horrid robbing 
abroad ; so, if you have any more money about 
you, you may as well let me have it, as another 
who don't deserve it so much, and may perhaps 
even ill-use you, and, binding you hand and foot, 
make you lie in the cold all night. If you'll 
give me your money, I'll take care of you, and 
conduct you safely home." 

An offer of this kind, so delicately and yet 
so significantly framed, had only to be made to 
be accepted by any prudent man, who did not 
feel himself equal to knocking that impudent 
humorist on the head ; and so the parson made 
a virtue of necessity, and, as cheerfully as he 
could, handed him all his money ; about forty 
shillings. 

Ogden then remarked, " I see you have a 



ioo HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

watch, sir ; you may as well let me have that 
too." Whereupon the watch also changed hands. 

As they were thus plodding along two or three 
men, accomplices of the ingenious Ogden, came 
out of the wayside bushes; but Ogden calling 
out their pass-words, " The moon shines bright," 
they let them proceed. A little further on, the 
same incident was repeated, by which the parson 
could clearly see that, had he not met with the 
gentle and persuasive Ogden, he might in all 
likelihood have fallen into far worse hands, and 
have been ill-used and tied up, even as he had 
been warned. 

The clergyman was at last brought safely to 
his own door, and so greatly appreciated this 
safe-conduct though at the loss of some forty 
shillings and a watch that he invited Ogden in ; 
but that person was as cautious as ingenious, 
and declined. He thought the clergyman was 
laying a trap for him; but he said he had no 
objection to taking a drink outside. The good 
parson then brought a bottle of wine, and, drink- 
ing to Ogden, gave him the bottle and the glass 
to help himself, upon which he ran off with both. 

A little later, Ogden met a well-known dandy 
of that time, Beau Medlicott by name. He 
commanded the Beau to stand and empty his 
pockets, but instead of doing so, he drew his 
sword and made some half-hearted passes with it. 
Ogden thereupon drew his pistols, and the Beau 
was obliged to yield to superior armament. But 
Ogden might haye left that fashionable person 



OGDEN, BRADSHAW, AND REYNOLDS 101 

alone, for he had little ahout him. Like the more 
or less famous music-hall character, " La-di-da," 
of whom he must surely have been the ancestor, 
he was scarcely worth robbing. Of what was that 
music-hall celebrity possessed ? 

He'd a penny papah collah round his throat, la-di-da; 

A penny papah flowah in his coat, la-di-da; 

In his mouth a penny pick, in his hand a penny stick, 

And a penny in his pocket, la-di-da, la-di-da, 

And a penny in his pocket, la-di-da ! 

The contents of Beau Medlicott's pockets were 
pitiful enough to draw tears of rage from any 
self-respecting highwayman : consisting only of 
two half-crowns ; and one of them was a brass 
counterfeit ! 

Ogden very rightly gave that cheap toff a good 
thrashing. 

Reynolds does not appear in the stories 
just narrated; but in addition to another ally, 
Bradshaw by name, said to have been a grandson 
of that Serjeant Bradshaw who was one of the 
regicides, he now appears lurking in the woods on 
Shooter's Hill, one night in 1714, for whatever 
fortune might be pleased to send them. It was 
poor sport that evening, for only a servant-girl, 
one Cecilia Fowley, came along the road, carrying 
her box ; but these low-down footpads despised 
nothing, and were ready to rob any one. 

It was not worth the while of the three, they 
thought, to rush out of their lurking-place for 
the sake of one servant-girl, and so they deputed 
Bradshaw for the job. He accordingly sprang 






102 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

into the road, seized the box, and broke it into 
fragments. It contained the girl's clothes, " and 
fifteen shillings, being all her wages for three 
months' service." (Servants were cheap then, it 
seems.) 

Turning over these things, Bradshaw turned 
out a hammer, which the girl seized, and suddenly 
dealt him a blow with it upon the temple, followed 
by another with the claw of the hammer upon 
his neck, which tore his throat open. He fell 
down in the road, and died there. 

At that moment, up came a gentleman, to 
whom the girl narrated the circumstances. He 
searched the dead man's pockets, and found in 
them a large sum of money and a whistle. 
Putting the whistle to his mouth, he blew upon it 
a rash enough thing to do and thereupon Ogden 
and Reynolds leapt out from the wayside coverts. 
Finding, however, that something disastrous had 
happened, and that it was a stranger who had 
whistled them, they fled. 

Odgen and Reynolds at a later date met a 
tallyman, who was a well-known trader in St. 
Giles, and demanded his money. " Money ! " he 
exclaimed ; he was merely a poor man, who had 
the greatest difficulty in earning his daily bread. 

" Thou spawn of h 11 ! " exclaimed Ogden, 
in a violent passion or, at least, an excellent 
imitation of it " have pity on thee, shall I P No, 
sirrah, I know thee too well, and I would almost 
as soon be kind to a bailiff or an informing 
constable, as to you. A tallyman and a rogue 



OGDEN, BRADSHAW, AND REYNOLDS 103 

are terms of similar import. Every Friday you 
set up a tenter in the Marshalsea Court, upon 
which you rack and stretch poor prisoners like 
English broadcloth, beyond the staple of the wool, 
till the threads crack ; which causes them, with 
the least wet, to shrink, and presently to wear 
threadbare. I say that you, and all your calling, 
are worse rogues than ever were hanged at 
Tyburn." 

After this abominable abuse, Ogden went over 
his pockets, stripped him naked, and bound him 
hand and foot, and left him in a ditch, "to 
ruminate on his former villainies." By which 
it would seem quite evident that tallymen shared 
the hatred felt for attorneys. 

Ogden and Reynolds were the particular 
friends of Thomas Jones and John Richardson, 
the one a butler and the other a footman, in the 
employ of a gentleman living at Eltham. They 
instructed the footman and the butler in their 
own business, and it was not long before they 
took to robbing on Blackheath, whenever their 
master was away from home. On one of these 
occasions, they plundered a gentleman, and left 
him bound on the heath, and, their master coming 
home unexpectedly, found him there, and after 
the manner of a Good Samaritan, took him to his 
own house, and gave him a glass of wine, to 
recruit his spirits. The butler no sooner appeared, 
than the ill-used traveller, much to the astonish- 
ment of himself and his master, recognised him 
as one of the men who had attacked and robbed 

VOL. II. 12 



io 4 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

him. The guilty pair were eventually hanged at 
Rochester, on April 2nd, 1714. 

Ogden and Reynolds ended at last at Kingston, 
on April 23rd, 1714 ; Ogden himself dying with 
an air of complete indifference. He threw a 
handful of small change among the crowd, with 
the remark : " Gentlemen, here is a poor Will's 
farewell." 



JACK OVET 

JACK OVET was born at Nottingham, and after 
serving his time as apprentice to a shoemaker, 
took up that useful employment for a livelihood. 
But he soon grew tired of his awl and his 
cobblers '-wax, and disregarding the old saw which 
advises cobblers (and, no doubt, also boot and shoe 
makers) to " stick to their last," deserted his last 
and his bench, and took to the highway. A shoe- 
maker newly emancipated from his useful, but 
not romantic, trade does not impress us as a figure 
of romance ; but that is merely prejudice ; and 
really he started off at score, and at his first essay 
robbed a gentleman of twenty of the best, without 
a moment's hesitation. The dispute as to whom 
the guineas should belong took place on the road 
to London from his native Nottingham, so you 
will perceive how quickly Ovet fell into his stride. 
Ovet argued that the guineas were rightly his, 
"by the law of capture"; thus following the 
theory of the poet who put the law of ownership 
in property so neatly in declaring it : 

His to take who has the power, 
And his to keep who can. 

" Yours, you impudent scoundrel ! " bellowed 

105 



io6 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

the traveller ; " if I had not been taken unawares, 
we would have seen about that." 

Ovet, already prepared to take the ancient 
traditional line of chivalric consideration, said he 
would fight fairly for the money. " Here it is 
again, and whoever is best man, let him keep it." 
The enraged traveller agreed to this proposal, and 
they fell to fighting with swords, with the result 
that the gentleman was mortally wounded, and 
Ovet went off with the purse. 

Our ex-shoemaker was a quarrelsome fellow, 
and soon after this killed another man in a heated 
dispute, but escaped capture. Skulking in remote 
places, afraid of being taken at a disadvantage, he 
soon found himself short of money, and waylaid a 
train of pack-horses. Cutting open their packs, he 
discovered a number of guineas among the goods, 
and finally went off with a hundred and eighty, 
and three dozen silver knives, forks, and spoons. 

One day Jack Ovet, drinking at a wayside inn, 
overheard a soapboiler and a carrier consulting 
how the carrier could most securely carry a 
hundred pounds to a friend in the country. It 
was finally decided to convey the money in a 
barrel of soap. The carrier was highly pleased 
with the notion, and laughingly remarked that if 
any rogue were to rob his waggon, " the devil's 
cunning must be in him if he looks for any money 
in the soap -barrel." 

Jack Ovet, later in the day, overtook him upon 
the road and commanded him to stop, else he 
would shoot both him and his horses. 



JACK OVET 107 

" I must make bold to borrow a little money 
out of your waggon," he said ; " therefore, if you 
have any, direct me to it, that I may not lose any 
time, which, you know, is always precious." 

The carrier, quite unmoved in his fancied 
security, replied that he had none, and if he did 
not believe him, he might, if he would, search 
every box and bundle in his waggon. 

Ovet then, simulating a violent passion, began 
to toss down every box, parcel, and barrel in the 
waggon, until at last, coming to the soap-barrel, he 
flung it down with all his force, so that it broke 
in pieces, the money-bag appearing in midst of 
the soap scattered on the road. 

Then, jumping down, he exclaimed, " Is not 
he that sells this soap a cheating villain, to put 
this bag of lead into it, to make the barrel weigh 
heavier ? However, that he may not succeed in 
his roguery, I'll take it and sell it in the next 
house I come to, for it will wet my whistle to the 
tune of two or three shillings." 

So saying, he was making off, when the poor 
carrier cried out, " Hold, hold, sir ! that is not 
lead. It is a bag with a hundred pounds in it, 
for which I must be accountable." 

" No, no," returned Ovet, " this can't be 
money ; but if it is, tell the owner that I'll be 
answerable for it, if he'll come to me." 

" To you ! Where, then, sir, may one find 
you ? " 

" Why, truly," rejoined Ovet, with a chuckle, 
"that's a question soon asked, but not so soon 



io8 HALF- HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

answered. The best answer I can give you is 
that you'll probably find me in a gaol before night, 
and then perhaps you may have what I have 
taken, and forty pounds more." 

The highwaymen were generally susceptible 
creatures, and Ovet not less so than his brethren. 
One day, robbing the Worcester stage-coach, filled 
on that occasion with young women, he was 
violently smitten with one in particular. 

"Madam," he declared, "your charms have 
softened my temper. Cast not your eyes down, 
nor cover your face with those modest blushes ; 
and, believe me, what I have taken from necessity 
is only borrowed, and shall be honourably restored, 
if you will let me know where you may be found." 

The young woman gave him her address, and 
a week later, overcome by the most violent 
passion, he wrote her a love-letter in which, in 
the most bombastic and ridiculous style, he ex- 
pressed his love. "Although I had the cruelty 
to rob you of twenty guineas," he concluded, " you 
committed at the same time a greater robbery, 
by taking my heart. Do, I implore you, direct a 
favourable answer." 

But this was the discouraging reply : 

" SlE,- 

" Yours I received with as great dis- 
satisfaction as when you robbed me. I admire 
your impudence in offering yourself to me as a 
husband, when I am sensible it would not be long 
ere you made me a hempen widow. Perhaps 



JACK OVET lag 

Some foolish girl or another may be so bewitched 
as to go in white, to beg the favour of marrying 
you under the gallows ; but, indeed, I shall 
neither venture there, nor in a church, to marry 
one of your profession, whose vows are treacherous, 
and whose smiles, words, and actions, like small 
rivulets, through a thousand turnings of loose 
passions, at last arrive at the dead sea of sin. 

" Should you, therefore, dissolve your eyes into 
tears; were every accent in your speech a sigh; 
had you all the spells and magic charms of love, 
I should seal up my ears. You have already 
broken your word, in not sending what you 
villainously took from me ; but, not valuing that, 
let me tell you, for fear you should have too great 
a conceit of yourself, that you are the first, to 
my recollection, whom I ever hated ; and, sealing 
my hatred with the hopes of quickly reading your 
dying speech, in case you die in London, I 
presume to subscribe myself. 

"Yours, never to command." 

Soon after this harrowing dismissal, Jack Ovet 
was taken, tried, and executed, ending in May 
1708, in the thirty-second year of his age. 



JOHN HALL, born in 1675 of poor parents in 
Bishop's Head Court, off Gray's Inn Lane, was 
one of those late seventeenth and very early 
eighteenth-century evildoers, who anticipated the 
sordid career of the modern thief, without any 
redeeming qualities. A chimney-sweep by trade, 
he was, among other things, a highwayman, but 
he more often padded the hoof upon the highway 
than rode along it, and he would turn his hand, 
according to what he deemed the necessities of 
the moment, to pocket-picking, shop-lifting, or 
ringing the changes, with equal facility. At the 
same time, he was not altogether a fortunate 
malefactor. As a pickpocket, he was frequently 
detected and, we learn, " treated in the usual 
manner, by ducking in the horsepond," by those 
who did not want the trouble of prosecuting him. 
Happening upon more vindictive persons, he was 
arrested, time after time, and thrown into Bride- 
well and often whipped. Which was the more de- 
sirable, to be flung into a horsepond, or be whipped, 
it must be left to individual tastes to decide. It 

depends largely, no doubt, upon the comparative 

no 



HALL, LOW, AND BUNCE in 

filthiness of the pond and the kind of lash in use 
hy the brawny warders of Bridewell. 

He was eminently versatile, but the public 
has ever looked with suspicion upon versatility ; 
and perhaps for this, among other reasons, his 
name is scarcely famous : only notorious in a small 
way as a jack-of -all- trades, except honest ones, 
and a great master in no particular one. 

He was, it may be at once granted, industrious 
enough in his perverted way, and was for always 
frequenting churches, fairs, markets, and public 
assemblies : he had also generally a confederate 
at hand, to whom he would swiftly pass on the 
swag, to be himself found empty-handed when 
searched, and with nothing on him to prove his 
guilt ; quite in the modern style. 

He had, as a shoplifter, the same painfully 
chequered fortunes that studded his pocket- 
picking career with deplorable incidents. In 
January 1682 he was convicted at the Old Bailey 
of stealing a pair of shoes, and was whipped at 
the cart's tail. A little later, still smarting from 
that correction, he was back at the same trade, 
and in the long span of eighteen years suffered 
a series of duckings, whippings, and the distressing 
indignities that are the common rewards of clumsy 
rogues, sufficient to have cured many an one. But 
Jack Hall was clearly an "habitual." The de- 
light of sport gilded his occupation, and salved 
his moral and physical hurts ; and, after all, 
although he was a more than commonly blunder- 
ing criminal, it was in itself no mean feat in those 

VOL. II. 13 



ii2 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

severe times to follow the course he steered, 
and yet for so long to keep his neck out of the 
noose. 

After eighteen years of miscellaneous villainy, 
he was convicted of breaking into the house of one 
Jonathan Bretail, and for this was sentenced to be 
hanged. With so lengthy a record as this, he 
was fortunate indeed in receiving a pardon con- 
ditional upon his being transported within six 
months to the American colonies. Fortunate 
colonies ! But he escaped at the last moment 
from the convict ship, and England therefore did 
not lose her Hall. 

Having tried many kinds of petty robbery 
with no very great or continued success, and being 
too well known as a pickpocket and shoplifter, 
against whom every pocket was buttoned, all tills 
locked, and goods carefully secured, he struck 
out a new line ; robbing country waggons and 
stealing portmanteaus off coaches. But even here, 
in this arduous branch of a thief's varied business, 
ill-luck malevolently pursued him; for he was 
caught in the act and convicted in 1702. This 
brought him a period of two years' enforced 
seclusion in Bridewell, and the painful and 
disfiguring sentence of branding in the cheek, 
by which all men might know him on sight for 
a convicted felon, and be warned accordingly. 
This inevitable carrying his own condemnation 
with him wherever he went severely handicapped 
him when he was again at liberty ; and it was 
probably for this reason that he returned tq 



HALL, LOW, AND BUNCE 115 

burglary, which, conducted at night-time, might 
reasonably offer inducements to a man with a 
scarred face. 

With Stephen Bunce, Dick Low, and others, 
he broke into the shop of a baker named Clare, at 
Hackney, soon after midnight. They proceeded 
at once to the bakehouse, where they surprised 
the journeyman and apprentice at work, and, 
tying them neck and heels, threw them into the 
kneading-trough. One stood guard over them 
with a drawn sword, while the others went 
upstairs to rob the house. 

The elderly Mr. Clare was awakened from 
sleep and bidden disclose where his money lay, 
but he stoutly refused, in spite of all their threats, 
until Hall seized a little girl, the baker's grand- 
daughter. " D n me ! " he said, " if I won't 

bake the child in a pie and eat it, if the old rogue 
won't be civil." 

Mr. Clare seems to have been alarmed by this 
extravagant threat. Perhaps the flaming " F ' 
for felon, or " T " for thief, on Hall's cheek, made 
him appear exceptionally terrible. At any rate, 
Mr. Clare then revealed his hoard of gold, which 
amounted to between seventy and eighty guineas ; 
and with that, very satisfied, the midnight band 
departed. 

Although this daring raid was naturally the 
subject of much excited comment, the robbers 
were not captured, and they were presently bold 
enough to break into the house of a man named 
Saunders, a chairman in the same locality. 



n6 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

Saunders was informed that Hall was one of the 
thieves, and, knowing him well by sight, he 
pursued him and his gang at three o'clock in the 
morning, accompanied by a watchman. The gang 
fired at their pursuers, and the watchman fell, 
wounded in the thigh. Hall escaped altogether, 
and although some of his accomplices were 
captured, they were acquitted, from lack of 
sufficient evidence. 

In 1705 Hall was again in trouble, under the 
alias of " Price," but was acquitted on the charge 
of housebreaking then brought against him. He 
was similarly fortunate in October 1706, when 
he was charged in company with Arthur Chambers 
with being concerned in stealing a handkerchief. 
Such a trivial theft would seem hardly to need 
collaboration. 

Later on, he was again in custody, but meanly 
obtained his liberty by turning evidence against 
two accomplices. 

Finally, in 1707 he was arrested with his old 
pals, Stephen Bunce and Dick Low, for a burglary 
committed at the house of Captain Gruyon, near 
Stepney. All three were convicted, and suffered 
in company at Tyburn, on December 7th, 1707. 

Dick Low was a not very distinguished person, 
and indeed his name, except in association with 
Hall and Bunce, is utterly unworthy of record in 
these annals. He was more expert at stealing 
from shops and emptying tills than in any other 
branch of the thieving profession, and would have 
made an expert area-sneak had areas been then in 



HALL, LOW, AND BUNCE 117 

existence. Unfortunately they came in about a 
century later. But he was an expert at the 
" running-smohble," which consisted in two or 
three confederates planning to rob a shop after 
dark : one going in with an exaggerated pretence 
of drunkenness and creating a disturbance ; while 
the others would enter on the excuse of seeing 
what the matter could be, and then, turning out 
the lights, clearing out the till, and laying hands 
on any light articles of value that might be 
within reach. One of them would come provided 
with pepper, or handfuls of mud and throw it in 
the faces of the shopkeeper and his assistants, 
when they began to cry " Stop, thief ! " 

Eor the rest, Dick Low was a violent, sullen 
brute, often, like his two allies, in Newgate, and 
when there generally in the bilboes for savage 
assaults on his fellow-prisoners. 

Stephen Bunce, or Bunch, began his iniquities 
as soon as he could toddle, and, according to the 
Reverend Mr. Thomas Pureney, the Ordinary of 
Newgate, was old in crime while he was yet an 
infant in years. Another biographer picturesquely 
says he was "born a thief," which, as his parents 
were the inevitably " poor but honest " folk of the 
conventional type of biography, seems an extreme 
criticism. 

The depravity of Stephen Bunce was, however, 
so precocious that, as a child, he would go and play 
with the children of a charcoal-man, who lived 
near his native London alley, for the express 
purpose of filling his pockets with the charcoal, 



u8 HALP-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

and then selling it, for hot codlins, to a woman who 
kept an apple-stall. One day, when the codlins 
were more than ever tempting and the charcoal 
not so easily to be stolen, he asked the woman for 
some apples on trust, but she refused, and Stephen 
resolved upon revenge. 

On the next opportunity, pocketing a larger 
quantity of charcoal than usual, he filled the 
holes in it with gunpowder and then stopping 
them with black sealing-wax, sold the charcoal to 
the unsuspecting woman, who presently replen- 
ished her fire with it, with the natural result that 
her brazier was blown to pieces and herself almost 
frightened out of her wits. 

Graduating in crime as he grew up, Stephen 
naturally worked his way through picking and 
stealing at the coffee-houses to practising on the 
road. " Amongst others of his notorious pranks, he 
often played several comical tricks, the most 
remarkable whereof is this, viz. : One day being 
upon some prospect in Essex, and destitute of 
money, as he was coming along a footpath from 
Brent wood to London, he espied over the hedges a 
gentleman mounted upon a very fine gelding, 
valued at above forty pounds. Bunce presently 
gets the length of two or three fields before the 
gentleman, and going over a stile at the turning 
of a lane, he there lays himself down by a ditch- 
side, with his ear close to the ground, till the 
gentleman was come up with him. Seeing him 
lie in that posture, he asked him the meaning 
of it. 



HALL, LOW, AND BUNCE 119 

" Bunce, in a sort of admiration, holding up his 
hands, as much as to say, ' Don't disturb me,' 
gave no answer for some time, and then, rising, 
said, * Sir, I have heard much talk of fairies, but 
could never believe there were any till now ; 
for, upon my word, under this spot of ground there 
is such a fine harmony of melodious tunes play- 
ing, upon all sorts of charming instruments, so 
ravishing to the ears, that a man with the great 
transports thereof (providing they were con- 
tinually to play ) could lie here for ever.' 

" The gentleman, eager to hear these fine 
raptures, alights from his gelding, and lays his 
ear to the ground, with his face towards Bunce, 
but told him he could hear nothing. 

" * Oh ! sir,' replied Bunce, ' lay the other ear to 
it.' With that the gentleman very attentively 
lays his other ear to the ground, to hear these 
harmonious sounds, and his back being then 
towards Bunce, he presently mounts the gelding, 
and rid as fast as he could away. 

" When being come within a quarter of a mile 
of Romford, he alights and turns the gelding loose, 
thinking if the gentleman used any inn in that 
town, the gelding would make to it; and it did 
accordingly run into the ' B.ed Lion.' At the 
same time, the ostler happened to come out, and, 
seeing the gelding running in without a rider, 
cried out, ' ! master, master ; here's Mr. What- 
d'ye-call-him's gelding come without him ' (calling 
him by his name). 

" Bunce being just by, takes the advantage qf 



120 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

hearing what the gentleman's name was, and 
replied that he was engaged with some gentleman 
at Brentwood, desiring the innkeeper to send him 
10, and had sent his gelding for pledge, as 
designing to he there himself in two or three 
hours' time. 

"'Ay, ay,' quoth the innkeeper, a hundred 
pounds was at his service, if he had sent for it, 
and accordingly gave Bunch 10, with which 
he came up to London. 

" Ahout four or five hours later, the gentleman 
came up to the inn, puffing and blowing, in his 
jack-boots, asking the innkeeper if he had seen 
any one with his gelding. 

" The innkeeper bid him not fret, for his man 
had left his gelding there, and he had given him 
10, according to his desire. 

" * Hat him for a dog,' quoth the gentleman, 
' he's none of my man ; but I'm glad he's left my 
gelding here and raised no more money than that 
upon him. However, it shall be a warning to me 
for ever, alighting from my horse to hear fairies 
play upon musick.' ' 



'MR." AVERT AND DICK ADAMS 

THEN there was Avery, who appears in the 
chronicles as " Mr." Avery. He had in his youth 
been apprenticed to a bricklayer, and followed 
that trade when out of his indentures. He also 
followed that of a highwayman, and it is recorded, 
in sub-acid manner, that he worked so hard at it 
that it killed him at last, against his will : which 
is an oblique way of saying that it finally brought 
him to Tyburn tree. 

Questing one day up and down the road, like the 
ravens in search of food, he met an honest trades- 
man. They rode together for some time, when 
Avery asked him what trade he followed. The 
man replied that he was a fishmonger, and, with 
a polite show of interest, asked Avery 's trade. 

" Why," said the highwayman, " I am a limb of 
St. Peter also." 

" What ! " exclaimed the other, astonished, 
" are you a fishmonger too ? Indeed, I don't 
understand your meaning, sir." 

Whereupon Avery, pulling out his pistol, 
coolly observed : " My meaning may soon be 
comprehended, for there's not a finger upon my 
hand but will catch gold or silver, without any 
bait at all." 

VOL. II. 121 14 



122 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

So, taking all the unfortunate man possessed, 
and cutting the girth and bridle of his horse, to 
delay any likelihood of pursuit, he rode off for 
London. 

On another occasion he met an exciseman on 
Finchley Common. The exciseman would not 
deliver his money until Avery had shot his horse 
dead and threatened to do the like to him. Then, 
daunted by Avery's terribly high words, and almost 
frightened out of his wits to hear what dreadful 
volleys of oaths came out of his mouth, he stopped 
it as soon as he could with twelve pounds, saying : 
" Here, take what I have, for if there be a devil, 
certainly thou art one." 

" It maybe so," replied Avery, " but yet much 
of a devil though I am, I see an exciseman is not 
so good a bait to catch him as some people would 
make out." 

" No, he is not," returned the exciseman ; " the 
hangman is the only bait to catch such devils as 
you." 

It was ill work, as a rule, exchanging insults 
with a highway gentleman, but Avery, content 
with the main thing, rode off unmoved. He was 
hanged at last, at Tyburn, January 31st, 1713. 

Dick Adams, who derived from Gloucestershire 
and at an early age was in the service of a respect- 
able Duchess (their Graces, you know, were not all 
what they might have been, in the way of personal 
character, in the seventeenth century), at last 
found his way into the Life Guards, but as his 
pay did not suffice to support his extravagance, he 



"MR." A VERY AND DICK ADAMS 123 

sometimes collected upon the highway. "With 
some of his companions of the road, he on one 
occasion rohbed a gentleman of a gold watch and 
a purse of a hundred and twenty guineas. Now 
observe how the greedy are made to suffer for 
their greediness ! Not content with their fine 
booty, he must needs covet the gentleman's coat ; 
and so cantered after him, saying : " Sir, you have 
got a very fine coat on ; I must make bold to ex- 
change with you ; " and off the coat had to come, 
and the traveller went angry away. Presently 
however, as he was riding along in that shabby 
misfit, he thought he heard something jingling in 
a pocket ; something that sounded very differently 
from the jingling of his horse's bridle. Thrusting 
in his hand, he, to his astonishment, found his 
watch and all his money that Adams in his hurry 
had forgotten to remove out of the pockets of his 
own coat when this exchange, which certainly 
proved, after all, to be no robbery, was made. 

We may dwell a moment upon the rage of 
Adams and his party, when they came to the 
next hedgeside inn and sat down to examine their 
gains, which had thus vanished away, like the 
early dews of morning. 

It is pleasant to read of honest men occasionally 
coming to their own again, and of incidents of 
painful retribution. Such an incident as that 
recorded above deserves a fellow, and we find it 
in the painful adventure in which Tom Taylor 
was the luckless sufferer. We do not hear much 
of Tom Taylor, who was, indeed, more of a pick- 



i2 4 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

pocket than a highwayman. We do learn, how- 
ever, that he was the son of a clergyman, and 
that " he was executed along with Moll Jones." 
Clearly, Tom Taylor was an undesirable and the 
companion of undesirables. He was accustomed 
to dress himself in smart clothes and attend 
theatres and public entertainments, and there 
an unsuspected fine gentleman to pick pockets. 
On one such occasion he emptied a gentleman's 
pocket of forty guineas, and we are told that, in 
a disguise, he seated himself the next night beside 
the same person, who recognised him but made 
no sign, having this time come prepared. He had, 
in fact, baited his pocket with a handful of guineas, 
which set up a pleasant jingling and made poor 
Tom's mouth water. Poor Tom, we say advisedly, 
bearing in mind the sequel. He began presently 
to " dive " for those guineas and found, to his 
dismay, that the gentleman had really in the 
truest sense, " baited " his pocket, for it had been 
sewn all round with fish-hooks, and the wretched 
Taylor's hand was held fast. 

Having in vain attempted to disentangle him- 
self, he said to the gentleman : " Sir, by a mistake, 
I have somehow put my hand into your pocket, 
instead of into my own " ; but, without taking the 
least notice, that merciless person rose from his 
seat and made for the " Rose " tavern, Tom 
helplessly along with him, his hand all the while 
remaining in the pocket. Arrived there, it was 
no difficult matter to make him cry " Mercy ! " 
and to induce him to send for one of his comrades, 



"MR" A VERY AND DICK ADAMS 125 

to bail him out, so to say. It cost the unfortunate 
Tom Taylor eighty guineas to get free again. The 
account of these things then concludes on the 
proper note of poetic justice : " Nor was the 
gentleman satisfied with this, but caned him in 
a most unmerciful manner, and then turned him 
out to the mob, who ducked him in a pond, and 
broke one of his legs." 

The succeeding chapters of Tom Taylor's 
chequered career do not concern us, but we learn, 
without surprise, that this ferocious buffeting and 
bruising to say nothing of the fish-hooks de- 
termined him to abandon the " diving " trade. 



JONATHAN WILD 

To cheat that arch-rogue and cunning friend and 
betrayer of rogues, Jonathan Wild, out of a place 
in these pages would be too mean an action. He 
towers above the ordinary run of bad men as a 
very giant in wickedness. Although he was 
himself no highwayman, he was friend of and 
associate with all of their trade, and as such 
has a right here. 

Jonathan Wild was a native of Wolverhamp- 
ton, the son, according to some, of a carpenter ; 
but, by more trustworthy records, his father was 
a wig-maker. He was born about 1682. His 
father apprenticed him to a Birmingham buckle- 
maker. While at Birmingham he married, but, 
deserting his wife and child, he made for London, 
and was for a short period a gentleman's servant. 
Returning for a brief space to the buckle-making 
trade, he soon found himself in debt, and then, 
by what was a natural transition in those times, 
lodged in the Poultry Compter. The Compter 
(it is also styled the Wood Street Compter) was 
something over and above a prison for debtors 
and others : and was indeed nothing less than an 

academy and forcing-house of villainies, where 

126 



JONATHAN WILD 127 

incipient scoundrels were brought on early in 
season, like cucumbers under glass. It was not 
singular in this, for all the prisons of that age 
shared the like well-earned reputation. Some- 
thing of the horrors of imprisonment for debt, 
as then practised, may be judged by the fact 
that Wild was here for four years ; but for a 
portion of the time he had the advantage over 
his fellow-prisoners of being appointed assistant- 
gaoler. Wild never at any time lacked address 
and tact, and these qualities here stood him in 
good stead. 

It was in this abode of despair that he first 
met Mary Milliner, who was ever afterwards 
associated with him. She was already old in 
crime, though not in years, and was his initiator 
into the first practical rogueries he knew. But 
he was a criminal by instinct, and needed only 
introductions to the world of crime. Once shown 
the methods in vogue, he not only became a 
master in their use, but speedily improved upon 
them, to the wonderment and admiration of all 
the cross-coves in London. 

Released at length from durance, he and Mary 
Milliner set up a vile establishment in Lewkenor's 
Lane, and later took a low public-house, a resort 
of the padding-culls of the City the sign of the 
" Cock," in Cock Alley, Cripplegate. 

Wild had also made acquaintance, while in the 
Wood Street Compter, of a deep-dyed scoundrel, 
a certain Charles Hitchen, an ex-City marshal, 
who had lost his post through irregular practices, 



128 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

and had become an associate with and director 
of thieves, and an expert blackmailer. Hitchen 
was his early instructor in the curious art of 
acting as intermediary between the thieves and 
those persons who had been robbed of goods, or 
had had their pockets picked of watches and 
other valuable jewellery ; but Wild was a genius 
in his own way, with a talent for organisation 
never equalled in his line, before or since, except 
perhaps by Moll Cutpurse, who flourished a 
century earlier. Moll, however, was ever staunch 
to her friends and accomplices, but Wild was 
always ready to sell his intimates and to send 
them to the cart, if it were made worth his 
while. So their careers run parallel for only a 
little distance and then widely separate. 

Wild in a very little time broke with Hitchen. 
He left his instructor far behind, and did business 
on so Napoleonic a scale that he speedily aroused 
the furious jealousy of his sometime associate, 
who, unable to contain himself at the thought 
of Wild, once his pupil, taking nearly all his 
profitable business away, published a singular 
pamphlet, intended to expose the trade. This 
was styled " The Regulator ; or, a Discovery of 
Thieves, Thief -takers, and Locks " : " locks " being 
receivers of stolen property. It had not the 
desired effect of spoiling his rival's trade ; and 
Jonathan continued to thrive amazingly. As a 
broker and go-between in nearly all the felonies 
of his time committed in and immediately around 
London, he speedily came to the front, and he 



JONATHAN WILD 129 

was exceptional in that he most adroitly and 
astonishingly doubled the parts of R-eceiver- 
General of stolen property and self-styled " Thief- 
catcher- General of Great Britain and Ireland." 

It might at the first blush, and indeed even after 
long consideration, seem impossible to pose with 
success at one and the same time as the friend 
and the enemy of all who get their living on 
the cross, but Jonathan Wild achieved the ap- 
parently impossible and flourished exceedingly on 
the amazing paradox. 

The first steps in this mesh of scoundrelism 
that Wild drew are not sufficiently detailed, and 
Fielding's " History of the Late Mr. Jonathan 
Wild the Great " is rather an effort in whimsical, 
satirical imagination than in sheer biography. 
The considerable number of chap-book " Lives " 
of this arch-villain are also absolutely untrust- 
worthy. But it is abundantly evident that he 
was a man of imagination and a master at 
organising, for we find him the brain-centre of 
all the robberies committed at that time in and 
around London, himself the secret, supreme 
director of them all, and at the same time the 
apparently " honest broker " who, for a considera- 
tion (quite after the old manner of Moll Cutpurse), 
would undertake to restore missing property. 
This self-appointed " Thief -taker " had numerous 
contingents, to each of which was allotted its 
special work. One attended churches, another 
visited the theatres, yet another detachment de- 
voted their best energies to the art of shop-lifting, 

VOL. II. 15 



130 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

and another still took situations as domestic 
servants, and in that capacity made away with 
their employers' plate and jewellery. It all seems 
like the fantastic imagining of a novelist, but it 
is sufficiently real, and the theory of mutual 
benefits accruing to Wild and his gang by this 
unnatural alliance is quite sound. He received 
the stolen property and held it to ransom, 
dividing (more or less unfairly) the amounts re- 
ceived with his thieves, who could not, without 
running great risks, sell it. All concerned 
benefited : the plundered citizens repurchased 
their valuables cheaply, Wild took an excellent 
commission, and the thieves, pickpockets, and 
highwaymen made a good living without much 
risk. The reverse of this charming picture of 
distributed benefits was the alarming increase 
of robberies and the decrease of arrests and con- 
victions ; and another serious outcome of Wild's 
organisation was that he absolutely commanded 
the lives of those who worked with him. None 
with impunity offended the great man, who 
was merciless in his revenge, swearing away 
the lives of those who dared cross him. Among 
the numerous satirical old prints relating to 
Jonathan Wild there is a gruesome picture of 
devils lighting him with flaring torches on the 
red way to Hell, together with a trophy of 
twenty-five hanging persons, men and women, 
all duly named, whom he brought to the gallows 
as a result of differences of opinion in the business 
matters between them, or merely for the reason 



JONATHAN WILD 131 

that they had outlasted their use and had become 
inefficient thieves, and it would pay him better 
to secure their conviction. And it is to be 
observed that in all this while he was well known 
to be a director of robberies and receiver of 
stolen goods. It was scandalously notorious that, 
while he advertised himself in the newspapers 
as " Thief -catcher- General of Great Britain and 
Ireland," he was colleague of those he professed 
to catch. And, as the law then stood, he could 
not be brought to book. Everything was possible 
to the cunning and daring of Jonathan Wild, 
who could not merely bring a man to trial, but 
could snatch him from the very jaws of death 
by making the prosecutor so drunk that he was 
not present to give evidence at the trial ; where- 
upon the accused was discharged. 

In fifteen years' activities of this kind, Wild 
amassed enormous sums. He established himself 
in a fine house in the Old Bailey, conveniently 
opposite Newgate, and there lived in fine style 
with his Molly, the widow of a criminal who had 
been hanged at Tyburn. A footman followed 
him in livery ; he dined in state : " His table was 
very splendid, he seldom dining under five Dishes, 
the Reversions whereof were generally charitably 
bestow'd on the Commonside felons." Jewellery 
and valuables not ransomed were shipped by him 
to Holland, in a sloop he regularly maintained 
for the purpose, bringing contraband goods on the 
return voyage. 

There is this undoubted tribute to Jonathan 



1 3 2 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

Wild's greatness, that Parliament was at last 
moved to pass an Act especially designed to cope 
with his villainies, and to lay him by the heels. 
This was the Act of 1718, "For the farther 
preventing Robberies, Burglaries, and other 
Felonies, and for the more effectual transportation 
of Felons." A portion of this measure constituted 
it a felony for any one to solicit or to accept 
a reward on the pretence of restoring stolen 
property to the owners, unless they prosecuted 
the thieves. 

But this clause was evaded without much 
difficulty by the astute Wild. He merely recon- 
stituted his business, and made it an Enquiry 
Office, where no money was accepted. Clients 
still came in numbers to him, seeking their lost 
property, for it was certain, all the while, that he 
had really a guilty knowledge of at least three- 
quarters of the robberies committed in London. 
This revised procedure was for the owners who 
called upon him to be informed that he had made 
enquiries, and that he had heard the articles might 
be recovered if a reward was despatched to a place 
named. The owners would then generally, acting 
on his advice, send out, by the hands of a ticket- 
porter (ticket-porters were the " commissionaires " 
of that period) the reward agreed upon. The porter 
was instructed to wait at a street- corner until 
a person delivered a package into his hands, 
whereupon he was to hand over the reward. 
The celerity attending these transactions was 
remarkable. 



JONATHAN WILD 133 

In other instances Wild would advise his 
clients to advertise their loss and to offer a reward 
payable to any person who should deliver the lost 
property to Mr. Jonathan Wild, or at his office ; 
and no questions asked. Perhaps the most mar- 
vellous thing in these negotiations was the assumed 
disinterestedness of Mr. Jonathan Wild himself, 
who, although the most notorious evil-doer in 
London, posed delightfully as the instrument of 
good, restoring the lost valuables of utter strangers 
entirely without fee or reward, from the Christian 
love he bore the human race. Eielding truly 
styled him " the Great Man." 

Wild's impudence increased with his success, 
and he is found petitioning the Corporation for 
the freedom of the City to be conferred upon him, 
in recognition of his great services in bringing 
criminals to justice. It does not appear that the 
City responded. 

Wild's career first became seriously threatened 
early in 1724, when, greatly alarmed for his own 
safety, he is found imploring the Earl of Dart- 
mouth to shield him from what he styles the 
" persecution " of the magistrates, who, he declares, 
had procured thieves and other bad characters to 
swear false evidence against him. The scandal of 
Wild's continued existence had at last become 
too gross for even that age. But his time was 
not yet come, and he continued as before ; mindful 
perhaps of the old adage, " threatened men live 
long." He nearly ended, however, by a more 
summary process than any known to the law ; and 



134 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

entirely through his own bloodthirsty treatment 
of " Blueskin," one of his own associates. 

Joseph Blake, better known in all the stories 
of the highwaymen as " Blueskin," who was 
hanged at Tyburn on November llth, 1724, was 
an expert highwayman, thief, and pickpocket 
or, to speak in the professional terms then in 
use among these fraternities, a " bridle- cull," a 
" boman," and a " diver." He had long been a 
busy servant of Jonathan, and frequently worked 
in company with Jack Sheppard, but he would 
perhaps be little known in these later times were 
it not for his having come very near sending the 
Great Man out of the world, and thus cheating 
the gallows, already growing ripe for him. 

" Blueskin," rebelling, it may be presumed, 
against Wild on some question of money, was 
promptly arrested by that astute Director-General 
of Thieves, in his character of thief-taker, and 
committed to Newgate on a charge of house- 
breaking. It was almost invariably fatal to 
quarrel, or even to have a mere difference of 
opinion, with that powerful and revengeful man. 
Wild was in court at the Old Bailey, to give 
evidence, when " Blueskin " beckoned him over to 
ttie dock. Inclining his ear to gather what the 
prisoner was pretending to whisper, Wild instantly 
found himself seized in " Blueskin's " frenzied 
grasp, and the court with horror saw his throat 
cut from ear to ear. The deed was done with a 
penknife, and the wound was severe and danger- 
ous, but Wild eventually recovered, much to the 




JONATHAN WILD IN THE CONDEMNED CELL. 

From an old Print. 



136 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

surprise of those who saw the ferocity of the 
attack, and greatly to the sorrow of the criminal 
classes of London, who knew right well that they 
were suffered to live only as long as they were 
useful and profitable to Wild, and careful to 
exercise a due subservience to him. 

Indeed, it was at first thought that Wild must 
certainly die, and Swift at that moment wrote the 
famous Blueskin's Ballad, of which here are two 
verses : 

Then, hopeless of life, 

He drew his penknife, 

And made a sad widow of Jonathan's wife. 
But forty pounds paid her, her grief shall appease, 
And ev'ry man round me may rob, if he please. 

Some rob in the customs, some cheat in the 'xcise, 
But he who robs both is esteemed most wise. 
Churchwardens, who always have dreaded the halter, 
As yet only venture to steal from the altar. 

But now to get gold 

They may be more bold 

And rob on the highway, since honest Wild's cold ; 
For Blueskin's sharp penknife has set you at ease, 
And ev'ry man round me may rob, if he please. 

Swift, however, was in too great a hurry : 
Jonathan Wild did not die then, and the thieves 
were not yet released from his iniquitous bondage. 
His wife was not then made a " sad widow," 
although she was soon to become one ; and thus 
earned the remarkable distinction of having been 
twice a " hempen widow." 

In January of the following year, 1725, the 
captain of Wild's sloop, a man named Roger 



JONATHAN WILD 137 

Johnson, who had been arrested on a charge of 
contraband trading with Holland, sent hurriedly 
to him. Wild, never at a moment's loss, assembled 
a mob, and provoked a riot, by which the prisoner 
was rescued. 

Himself arrested at his own house in the Old 
Bailey, on February 15th, 1725, on a charge of 
being concerned in the theft of fifty yards of lace 
from the shop of Catherine Stetham, in Holborn, 
on January 22nd, he was, after considerable delay, 
put upon his trial at the Old Bailey on May 15th. 
The lace stolen was valued at 50. 

He was further charged with feloniously 
receiving of Catherine Stetham " ten guineas on 
account, and under colour of helping the said 
Catherine Stetham to the said lace again; and 
that he did not then, nor at any time since, 
discover or apprehend, or cause to be apprehended 
and brought to Justice, the persons that committed 
the said felony." 

The evidence adduced at the trial is first-hand 
information of Wild's method in organising a 
robbery. Henry Kelly, one of the chief witnesses 
against him, told how he went on that day to see a 
Mrs. Johnson who then lived at the prisoner's house. 
He found her at home, and with her the great 
Jonathan and his Molly, and they drank a quartern 
of gin together. By-and-by, in came a certain 
woman named Peg Murphy with a pair of brocaded 
clogs, which she presented to Mrs. Wild. After 
two or three more quarterns of gin had passed 
round, Murphy and Henry Kelly rose to leave. 

VOL. II. 1 6 



138 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

" Which way are you going ? " asked Wild. 

" To my lodging in ' Seven Dials/ ' replied 
Kelly. 

" I suppose," remarked Wild, " you go along 
Holborn ? " 

Both Kelly and Murphy answered that they 
did. 

" Why, then," he said, " I'll tell you what : 
there's an old blind bitch that keeps a shop within 
twenty yards of Holborn Bridge and sells fine 
Flanders lace, and her daughter is as blind as 
herself. Now, if you'll take the trouble of calling 
upon her, you may speak with a box of lace. I'll 
go along with you, and show you the door." 

The Judge at this moment intervened with the 
question, " What do you understand by * speaking 
with a box of lace ' ? " 

Even in our own day judges are commonly 
found enquiring the meaning of phrases whose 
significance is common knowledge which one 
might reasonably suppose to be shared even on 
the Olympian heights of the King's Bench and 
other exalted divisions of the High Court. Every 
one in Jonathan Wild's day understood perfectly 
well that to " speak with " a thing was to steal 
it, and this was duly expounded to his lordship. 

Then Kelly went on to explain how Wild, 
himself, and Murphy went along Holborn Hill until 
they came within sight of the lace-shop, which 
Wild pointed out to them. 

" You go," he said, " and I'll wait here and 
bring you off, in case of any disturbance." 



'o u><vre nerely dcwd 
acccmp 




SATIRICAL INVITATION-CARD TO EXECUTION OP JONATHAN WILD. 



i 4 o HALF-HOVRS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

Murphy and Kelly accordingly entered, in the 
character of purchasers, and turned over several 
kinds of lace, pretending to be very difficult to 
please. This piece was too broad, that too narrow, 
and t'other not fine enough. At last the old 
woman went upstairs to fetch a finer piece, when 
Kelly took a tin box of lace and gave it to 
Murphy, who hid it under her cloak. Then the 
old woman came down with another box and 
showed them several more pieces, but the con- 
federates made as if they could not agree about 
the price, and so left the shop and joined Wild, 
where they had parted from him. They told him 
they had " spoke " ; whereupon they all returned 
to his house and opened the box, in which they 
found eleven pieces of lace. " Would they have 
ready money ? " asked Wild, " or would they wait 
until the advertisement for the stolen lace came 
out ? " 

Funds were very low at the time with Murphy 
and Kelly, and they asked for ready money, 
Wild then giving them about four guineas. 

" I can't afford to give any more," he said, 
" for she's a hard-mouthed old bitch, and I shall 
never get above ten guineas out of her." 

Kelly took the lion's share of the money 
three guineas and Murphy had the remainder. 

Wild was acquitted on the first charge, of being 
concerned in the actual theft, but for feloniously 
receiving the ten guineas the trial was continued. 

Catherine Stetham the elder said that on 
January 22nd she had a box of lace, valued 



JONATHAN WILD 141 

at 50, stolen out of her shop. She went, that 
same night, to the prisoner's house to enquire 
after it ; but, not finding him at home, she 
advertised the stolen goods, offering a reward 
of fifteen guineas, and no questions to be asked. 
There was no reply to her advertisement, and she 
went again to the prisoner's house, and saw him 
there. He asked her to give a description of the 
persons she suspected, which she did, as nearly 
as she could, and he promised to make enquiries, 
and suggested she should call again in three days. 

She did so, when he said he had heard some- 
thing of her lace, and expected to hear more in 
a little time. Even as they were talking a man 
came in and said that, by what he had learned, 
he believed a man named Kelly, who had already 
stood his trial for passing gilded shillings, had 
been concerned in stealing the lace. 

She then went away, and returned on the day 
the prisoner was apprehended. She had told him 
that, although she had advertised a reward of only 
fifteen guineas for the lace, she would be prepared 
to give twenty, or even five-and-twenty, rather 
than lose it. 

" Don't be in such a hurry, good woman," 
he rejoined ; " perhaps I may help ye to it for 
less, and if I can, I will. The persons that have 
got your lace are gone out of town ; I shall set 
them quarrelling about it, and then I shall get it 
the cheaper." 

On March 10th he sent her word that if she 
would go to him at Newgate, with ten guineas in 



i4 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

her pocket, he would be able to help her to her 
lace. She went. He asked her to call a porter, 
but she told him she did not know where to find 
one, so he sent out and obtained a ticket-porter. 
The porter was given ten guineas, to call upon the 
person who was said to have the lace, and he 
returned in a little while with a box which was 
said to contain all the lace, with the exception of 
one piece. 

" Now, Mr. Wild," said she, " what must I 
give you for your trouble ? " 

" Not a farthing, madam," said he. " I don't 
do these things for worldly interest, but for the 
benefit of poor people who have met with mis- 
fortunes. As for the piece of lace that is missing, 
I would not have ye be uneasy, for I hope to get 
it for you ere long ; nay, and I don't know but in 
a little time I may not only help ye to your ten 
guineas again, but to the thief too. And if I can, 
much good may it do you ; and as you are a 
widow and a good Christian, I desire nothing of 
ye but your prayers ; and for them I shall be 
thankful. I have a great many enemies, and God 
knows what may be the consequences of this 
imprisonment." 

The consequences were the most serious known 
to the law. Wild was sentenced to death. No 
sentence in that court had ever been so popular. 
When asked if he had anything to say why this 
judgment should not be passed upon him, he 
handed a paper to the Judge, setting forth the 
numbers of criminals he had been instrumental in 



JONATHAN WILD 143 

bringing to Justice, and in a very feeble voice 
said : " My lord, I hope I may, even in the sad 
condition in which I stand, pretend to some little 
merit, in respect of the services I have done 
my country, in delivering it from some of the 
greatest pests with which it was ever troubled. 
My lord, I have brought many a bold and daring 
malefactor to just punishment, even at the hazard 
of my own life, my body being covered with scars 
received in these undertakings. I presume, my 
lord, to say I have some merit, because, at the 
time these things were done, they were esteemed 
meritorious by the Government ; and therefore I 
beg, my lord, some compacsion may be shown, 
upon the score of these services. I submit myself 
wholly to His Majesty's mercy, and humbly beg a 
favourable report of my case." 

But the law had too long been waiting for 
him, and his enormities were too great, for any 
mercy to be hoped for ; and he was left to die. 
He did not afford an edifying spectacle in that 
condemned hold to which he had consigned so 
many, reflecting that, as " his Time was but short 
in this World," it was necessary to improve it 
to the best advantage " in Eating, Drinking, 
Swearing, Cursing, and talking to his Visit- 
ants." His old crony, the Reverend Thomas 
Pureney, the Ordinary, he flouted ; and, for the 
little spiritual consolation he at the last moment 
required, he called in an outsider. But this 
did not prevent Pureney from concocting a 
lying account and offering it for sale after his 



144 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

execution. Therein we read, as though in Wild's 
own words : 

"Finding that there was no room for mercy (and 
how could I expect Mercy, who never show'd any?), 
as soon as I came into the condemned Hole, I began 
to think of making a preparation for my Soul ; and 
the better to bring my stubborn Heart to Repent- 
ance, I thought it more proper to have the advice 
and the Council and Directions of a Man of 
Learning, a Man of sound Judgment in Divinity, 
and therefore Application being made to the 
reverend Mr. Nicholson, he very Christian-like 
gave me his Assistance : And I hope that my 
Repentance has been such as will be accepted in 
Heaven, into which Place, I trust in God, my Soul 
will quickly be received. To part with my Wife, 
my dear Molly, is so great an Affliction to me, 
that it touches me to the Quick, and is like 
Daggers entering into my Heart. As she is 
innocent, and I am the Guilty Man, let her not 
suffer in her Charracter and R/eputation for my 
Crimes : Consider that she is a Woman, and how 
ungenerous it would be to reflect upon one whose 
weakness will not permit her to defend herself 
so well as her Innocence will carry her. 

" And now, good People, you see to what a 
shameful End my Wickedness has brought me; take 
warning therefore by my Example, and let my 
unhappy Fate deterr you from following wicked 
Courses, and cause such of you to forsake your 
Crimes, who are now fallen into them. Remem- 
ber that though Justice has leaden feet, yet she 




( ",r 



JONATHAN WILD ON THE WAY TO EXECUTION. 



JONATHAN WILD 147 

has Iron hands, and sooner or later will overtake 
the unwary Criminal. I am now upon the point 
of departing out of this World ; joyn with me, 
therefore, in Prayer while I have life, and pray to 
God to receive my poor Soul into his blessed 
Arms, and to make us all happy with our Saviour 
Jesus Christ. Amen." 

All the foregoing was the sheer invention of 
the egregious Pureney, and Wild really went 
unrepentant to his end at Tyburn, May 24th, 1725. 
He sought, by taking laudanum, to cheat the 
gallows of its due, but failed in the attempt. The 
day of his execution was one of great rejoicings in 
London, and huge crowds lined the way, pelting 
Wild, as he rode in the cart, with stones and dirt. 



VOL. II. 17 



NICHOLAS HOKNEE, 

NICHOLAS HORNER was a younger son of the vicar 
of Honiton, in Devonshire, and was born in 1687. 
He was wild and unmanageable almost from 
infancy, and showed little promise of remaining in 
the humble post of attorney's clerk, in which his 
father placed him, in London, when he was seven- 
teen or eighteen years of age. He remained, 
however, with the attorney for three years, learn- 
ing more in the way of drinking and dicing at the 
" Devil " and the " Apollo " taverns in the Strand, 
than of law in Clement's Inn. He then ran away, 
and remarked when he exchanged his quill-pen, 
his parchments, and his stool in the lawyer's office, 
for the pistols, the crape mask, and the mettle- 
some horse of the highwayman, that he was 
only exchanging one branch of the profession to 
which he had been articled for another and a higher 
becoming a "highway lawyer," a "convey- 
ancer " and a " collector." Unfortunately for him, 
he began to practise in this new branch before he 
had properly made himself acquainted with the 
rudiments of its procedure, and was in consequence 
taken in an interview with his first client, and 

lodged in Winchester gaol, where he remained for 

148 



NICHOLAS HORNER 149 

three months before his trial came on. In the 
meanwhile, the friends of his family, seeing how 
scandalous a thing it would be if a clergyman's 
son were convicted of highway robbery, and sen- 
tenced to die by the rope of the hangman, strongly 
endeavoured to persuade the gentleman whom he 
had robbed to fail in identifying him. But their 
efforts were fruitless, for he was determined to 
prosecute, and the trial in due course was held, 
and the prisoner found guilty and formally sen- 
tenced to death. 

His friends were more successful in the 
petitions they forwarded to the Queen, herself 
an excellent Churchwoman, and disposed to stretch 
a point that its ministers might be saved from 
unmerited reproach. Horner was pardoned on 
condition that his friends undertook that he 
should be sent out of the kingdom within three 
months, and that they should undertake to keep 
him in exile for seven years. It was an excellent 
offer, and they accepted, shipping him to India, 
where he remained for the stipulated time, passing 
through many adventures which, although de- 
tailed by Smith, are not concerned with the 
highway portion of his career, and are not even 
remotely credible. 

Returning to his native shores, he found both 
his father and mother dead, and received from the 
executors of his father's will the amount of 500, 
all his father had to leave him. That sum did not 
last him long. What are described as "the 
pleasures of town " soon brought him again to his 



150 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

last guinea ; and he, of course, once more took 
to the road. 

"Well overtaken, friend," he said to a farmer 
he came up with on the road. " Methinks you 
look melancholy ; pray what ails you, sir ? If 
you are under any afflictions and crosses in the 
world, perhaps I may help to relieve them." 

" Ah ! my dear sir," replied the farmer, " were 
I to say I had any losses, I should lie, for I have 
been a thriving man all my life, and want for 
nothing ; but indeed I have crosses enough, for I 
have a d d scolding wife at home, who, though 
I am the best of husbands to her, and daily do my 
best to make her and my children happy, is always 
raving and scolding about the house like a mad- 
woman. I am daily almost nagged out of my 
life. If there be such a thing as perpetual motion, 
as some scientific men say, I'm sure it is in my 
wife's tongue, for it never lies still, from morning 
to night. Scolding is so habitual to her that she 
even scolds in her sleep. If any man could tell 
me how to remedy it, I have a hundred pounds in 
gold and silver about me which I would give him 
with all my heart, for so great a benefit which 
I should receive by the taming of this confounded 
shrew." 

Horner, listening to this most pleasant tune 
of a hundred pounds, said : " Sir, I'll just tell the 
ingredients with which nature first formed a scold, 
and thus, the cause of the distemper being known, 
it will be easier to effect a cure. You must under- 
stand, then, that nature, in making a scold, first 



NICHOLAS HORNER 151 

took of the tongues and galls of bulls, bears, 
wolves, magpies, parrots, cuckoos, and nightin- 
gales, of each a like number ; the tongues and tails 
of vipers, adders, snails, and lizards, six each ; 
aurum fulminans, aqua fortis, and gunpowder, of 
each a pound ; the clappers of seventeen bells, and 
the pestles of thirty apothecaries' mortars, which 
becoming all mixed, she calcined them in Mount 
Stromboli and dissolved the ashes in water, distilled 
just under London Bridge at three-quarters flow- 
tide, and filtered through the leaves of Calepin's 
dictionary, to render the operation more verbal ; 
after which she distilled it again through a 
speaking-trumpet, and closed up the remaining 
spirits in the mouth of a cannon. Then she 
opened the graves of all recently-deceased petti- 
foggers, mountebanks, barbers, coffeemen, news- 
mongers, and fishwives at Billingsgate, and with 
the skin of their tongues made a bladder, covered 
over with drumheads and filled with storms, 
tempests, whirlwinds, thunder and lightning. 
Lastly, to irradiate the whole elixir, and make 
it more churlish, she cut a vein under the tongue 
of the dog-star, drawing thence a pound of the 
most choleric blood ; and from which sublimating 
the spirits, she mixed them with the foam of a 
mad dog; and then, putting all together in the 
before-mentioned bladder, stitched it up with 
the nerves of Socrates' wife." 

" A damned compound, indeed," said the 
farmer ; " and surely it must be impossible for any 
man to tame a shrew at this rate." 



152 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

" Not at all," replied Homer, " for when she 
first begins to he in her fits, you shall perceive it 
by the bending of her brows ; then apply to her a 
plaster of good words : after that, give her a 
wheedling potion ; and if that will not do, take a 
bull's tail, and, applying the same with a strong 
arm from shoulder to flank, it shall infallibly 
complete the cure." 

The farmer was very well pleased with this 
prescription, and, giving Homer many thanks and 
treating him liberally at the next inn, they con- 
tinued to ride on together. At last, coming to 
a convenient place, Homer said, " Please pay me 
now, sir, for my advice." 

" I thought the entertainment I provided for 
you just now at the inn was all the satisfaction 
you required," retorted the surprised farmer. 

"No, sir," said Horner, "you promised a 
hundred pounds if any one would find you a remedy 
for your scolding wife ; and a bargain is a bargain 
all the world over, in the market or on the road " : 
so presenting his pistol at the farmer's head, 
" d n me, sir," he continued, " presently deliver 
your bag, or you are a dead man ! " 

The farmer delivered the bag, which, if it did 
not contain quite a hundred pounds, formed an ex- 
cellent recompense for the time Horner had spent 
in exercising his fantastic imagination upon him. 

Shortly after this exploit, Horner met a gentle- 
man on Hounslow Heath, saluting him with the 
customary demand to hand over his dibs. 

The traveller gave him six guineas, all he had, 



NICHOLAS HORNER 153 

saying : " Sir, you love money better than I do, to 
thus venture your neck for it " ; to which Horner 
rejoined, " I follow the way of the world, sir, 
which now prefers money before friends, or 
honesty; yea, some before the salvation of their 
souls ; for it is the love of money that makes the 
unjust judge take a bribe, the corrupt lawyer to 
plead an evil cause : the physician to kill a man 
without fear of hanging, and the surgeon to pro- 
long a cure. "Pis this that makes the tradesman 
tell a lie in selling his wares ; the butcher to blow 
his veal ; the tailor to covet so much cabbage ; the 
miller to cheat in his corn-grinding ; the baker to 
give short weight, and to wear a wooden cravat 
for it ; the shoemaker to stretch his leather, as he 
does his conscience : and the gentlemen of the pad 
such as myself to wear a Tyburn tippet, or old 
Storey's cap on some country gallows. So good- 
day to you, sir, and thank you, and never despise 
money in a naughty world." 

Horner now experienced a sad blow to his 
self-esteem, in an adventure in which he was 
made to play a ridiculous part, and to be the butt 
afterwards of his acquaintances. A lady of con- 
siderable position and wealth was travelling from 
Colchester to London by stage-coach, and happened 
to be the only passenger for a considerable distance. 
At Braintree the coachman very politely warned 
her that, if she had anything of value about her, 
she had better conceal it, for there were several 
gay sparks about the neighbouring heath, whom 
he thought to be highwaymen. Thanking him, 



154 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

the lady placed her gold watch, a purse full of 
guineas and some valuable lace under the seat ; 
and then disarranged her hair, like poor Ophelia, 
to act the part of a lunatic. 

Presently, Homer rode up to the coach, 
presented a pistol, and demanded her money. 
Instantly she opened the coach-door, leapt out, 
and taking the highwayman by the leg, cried in 
a very piteous voice, " Oh, dear cousin Tom, I am 
glad to see you. I hope you'll now rescue me 
from this rogue of a coachman, for he's carrying 
me, by my rogue of a husband's orders, to Bedlam, 
for a mad woman." 

"D n me," replied Homer, "I'm none of 
your cousin. I don't know you, but you must 
be mad, and Bedlam is the best place for you." 

" Oh ! cousin Tom," said she, clinging to him, 
" but I will go with you, not to Bedlam." 

" Do you know this mad creature ? " asked 
the now distracted highwayman of the coachman. 

" Yes," he replied, entering into the spirit of 
the thing ; " I know the lady very well. I am 
now going, by her husband's orders, to London, 
to put her in a madhouse, but not into Bedlam, as 
she supposes." 

" Take her, then," exclaimed Horner, " even 
if it were to the devil." So saying, he set spurs 
to his horse, and made off as fast as he could, for 
fear of her continuing to claim cousinship with 
him. 

This story, afterwards appearing in the Weekly 
Journal, or British Gazetteer, of December 27th, 




1 



^ 7/ ,. / - q/jUll 

HORNER MEETS HIS MATCH. 



NICHOLAS HORNER 157 

1718, and coming to Horner's knowledge, he was 
almost beside himself with rage, at being so easily 
tricked. The tale enjoyed a wide circulation, 
and seems to have impressed other travellers ; for 
when Horner soon afterwards adventured down 
into the West of England, and stopped a carriage 
near Honiton, in which was a lady travelling 
from Exeter to London, he beheld another frantic 
creature with dishevelled hair, who greeted him 
as " cousin." 

" You hypocritical ! " he roared out ; 

" because I was once bit this way by one of your 
d d sex, d'ye think I must always be bit so ? " 

Saying this he turned over every cushion in 
the carriage, and found under them sufficient for 
his trouble : a gold watch, and other valuables 
and money, in all to the value of some two hundred 
pounds. 

But this was Horner's very last stroke of 
business. He was taken only two hours later, 
in attempting to rob two gentlemen, and after 
a patient trial at Exeter, was hanged there on 
April 3rd, 1719, aged thirty-two. 



VOL. II. 1 8 



WALTER TRACEY 

" THE adventures of this individual," says Johnson, 
" are neither of interest nor importance." He then 
proceeds to recount them at considerable length, 
sufficiently disproving his own words in the course 
of his narrative. 

Tracey was heir to an estate of 900 annual 
value, in Norfolk. His father, himself a man of 
liberal education, wished his son to share the like 
advantage, and sent him to Oxford, where he 
hoped he would take a degree and then enter the 
Church. But "Walter was a gay and idle blade ; 
thoughtless and reckless. His character was 
otherwise gentle, open, and generous : so it will 
be noted that if his recklessness suited him for 
the profession of highwayman, his alleged mild- 
ness of disposition was distinctly a drawback. At 
the least of it, he seems to have been singularly 
unfitted for the Church, and, indeed, had never 
an opportunity of entering it, for his wild life as 
a student led to his being expelled from the 
University. 

Our precious, delightful humbug, Johnson, 
greedily telling the story of the highwayman and 

omitting no scandalous detail from the task in 

158 



WALTER TRACEY 159 

which he revelled, halts at this point to make an 
insincere moral reflection, which he felt would 
be called for by some of his readers, even in the 
middle of the eighteenth century, when morals 
and improving discourses were alike at a heavy 
discount. 

" The road to vice," he remarks, with his 
tongue in his cheek, " is of easy access, and, 
fascinating as it appears when you proceed, it 
closes behind, and leaves nothing on the retro- 
spect but ruggedness and gloom. Tracey had 
entered the delusive path, and though he had 
the wish, possessed not the fortitude, to retrace 
his steps." 

That was bad for Tracey. He and his com- 
panions, we learn, for some time amused their 
parents with various artifices ; " but were at last 
denied any further pecuniary assistance." In 
this Micawberish high-falutin style, are Tracey 's 
experiences told. 

To fill their pockets, Tracey and his friends went 
upon the road. Expelled from the University, he 
reformed for awhile, and made his way through 
England until he arrived in Cheshire, where he 
took service with a wealthy grazier. He soon 
became fond of the country, and reconciled to his 
now humble lot, and being a youth of elegant 
appearance, and possessing very pleasing and 
fascinating manners, his friendship was courted 
by every one. He was proficient in music and 
singing, and often, when the toils of the day were 
over, the villagers would assemble at his master's 



160 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

door, and " measure their gay steps to the sound 
of his violin ; ' in fact, as Mr. Micawber might 
say,' they danced to his fiddling." 

The country girls vied with one another for 
his attention ; but the grazier's daughter (or 
perhaps the prospect of the grazier's money) was 
the object of his choice ; and so firmly had he 
gained the esteem of his master, that their 
marriage was agreed upon, and at length cele- 
brated with every mark of happiness and satis- 
faction. 

Eor a time he remained happy in this condition 
of life ; especially as his wife had brought a part 
of her father's property with her. He managed 
farm and stock with skill and industry, and 
might have become an ornament and a shining 
light in the Cheshire cheese-farming, only for the 
vagabond blood in him. He found a respectable 
life insufferably dull after his early riotous days ; 
and was so loud in his praise of town and its 
delights, that he at length disturbed the content 
of his wife and his father-in-law as well, and 
induced them to realise all their property, and to 
accompany him to London, where, he said, he 
expected to procure some lucrative situation. 

Johnson, perhaps thinking this to be too great 
a demand upon the credulity of his readers, feels 
constrained to add at this point a criticism of his 
own. " It was no small proof of the influence 
he had over the resolutions and actions of others, 
that he could thus induce a country farmer to 
forget his accustomed habits, and follow an 



WALTER TRACEY 161 

adventurous son-in-law into scenes with which 
he was altogether unacquainted." We may 
heartily agree with him here. 

Having disposed of their joint stock and other 
property, they proceeded to London hy way of 
Trentham, in Staffordshire, where they intended 
to rest for a day or two. In the house where they 
stayed Tracey met some of his old college 
friends, with whom he spent a jovial time. This 
confirmed him in his desire to return to his former 
extravagant way of living, and he seems instantly 
to have lost all his new-found honesty and sense 
of responsibility, under the influence of this old 
acquaintance. 

Early next morning he arose and, stealing his 
father-in-law's pocket-book, and every thing of value 
that lay handy, went off on his horse, and thus, 
without a word of farewell, disappeared. " Thus," 
remarks our author, ready with the moralising 
reflections we know he really detested, "he in a 
moment blasted the good hopes which the reader 
must have entertained of him ; and his future 
serves only to confirm that contempt which every 
honourable mind must feel for him, after so 
infamous an action. Every endeavour to discover 
his retreat proved ineffectual, and his wife and 
father-in-law never heard of him again, until he 
expiated his crimes by an ignominious death." 

It appears that Tracey proceeded to Coventry, 
where he alighted at an inn, in which he observed 
an unusual stillness. Entering the house, and 
hearing sounds of quarrelling upstairs, his curiosity 



1 6a HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

led him to enquire what was amiss, and walking 
abruptly into one of the rooms, surprised the 
innkeeper and his wife in a heated dispute. The 
innkeeper, an elderly man, had married a woman 
much younger than himself, and had discovered, 
too late, that she had really heen angling for his 
money, rather than for himself : hence these 
disagreements. 

The dispute ran high as Tracey entered. Both 
husband and wife were eager to state their 
respective grievances, and he listened patiently. 
Having heard both sides, he summed up judicially. 

" Money," he said, " has been the cause of this 
confusion. Without it you may live in peace 
and quietness ; so, for your own sakes, hand me 
at once the money you possess " ; handling a 
loaded pistol significantly the while. He took 
first eighty-five guineas, and then his farewell. 

On his way south he met a young Oxonian, 
whom he accompanied as far as Ware, where they 
passed the evening in great harmony and friend- 
ship. Proceeding next day, Tracey frequently 
remarked that his companion's valise a pros- 
perous-looking article was certainly too weighty 
for him. But, in constantly recurring to the 
subject, he aroused his companion's suspicions that 
this pleasant fellow, whom he had picked up on 
the road, was none other than a highwayman. 
He said nothing of his suspicion, but was 
resolved to be even with him. Presently, remark- 
ing that he was travelling to take up his degree 
of Master of Arts, he hinted that he had with 



WALTER TRACEY 163 

him, in his portmanteau, sixty pounds for his 
expenses. 

" Have you so ? " said Tracey. " That is very 
convenient for me at this time, for I want to 
horrow just such a sum, and you could not lend 
it to a better person than myself." 

So, without more ado, he helped himself to the 
valise, untying it from the other's horse and 
strapping it on his own. 

The student poured forth the most lamentable 
entreaties, and begged Tracey not to thus deprive 
him of what was to establish his future prospects 
in life. The money, he declared, was all borrowed, 

and if it were sto er ! borrowed from him at 

this juncture, he had not the least prospect of 
ever being able to repay it. 

All these tears and protestations moved Tracey 
only so far as to give him his own purse, contain- 
ing some four pounds, to carry him on for a few 
days. He then disappeared down a bye-road with 
the valise, and the student saw him no more, and 
perhaps had no wish to see him again; for, as 
Tracey discovered when he halted at the next 
hedge-row alehouse and unstrapped the valise, 
the sixty pounds was purely imaginary, and its 
contents were nothing but two old shirts, half 
a dozen dirty collars, a ragged and threadbare 
student's gown, a pair of stockings minus the feet, 
a pair of shoes with but one heel between them, 
a comb, some needles and thread, and a ham. 
The picturesque force of the sucking highway- 
man's language when he discovered these treasures, 



164 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

and how simply he had been taken in, must have 
considerably astonished the landlord of that way- 
side tavern. 

The biographers of Ben Jonson mention his 
once being robbed by Tracey in very humorous 
style. Tracey met the poet, whom he knew well 
by sight, on a road in Buckinghamshire, and 
demanded his purse. To this " Rare Ben, " as 
his epitaph in "Westminster Abbey styles him, 
answered in the following impromptu : 

" Fly, villain ! hence, or by thy coat of steel, 
I'll make thy heart my leaden bullet feel ; 
And send that thricely thievish soul of thine 
To Hell, to be the Devil's valentine." 

Upon which Tracey is supposed to have 
replied : 

" Art thou great Ben ? or the revived ghost 

Of famous Shakespeare ? or some drunken host, 

Who, being tipsy with thy muddy beer, 

Dost think thy rhymes will daunt my soul with fear? 

"Nay, know, base slave, that I am one of those 
Can take a purse as well in verse as prose ; 
And when thou'rt dead, can write upon thy hearse, 
' Here lies a poet who was robbed in verse.' " 

This ingenious reply disarmed Jonson, who 
thus discovered that he had both a wit and a 
knave to contend with. He endeavoured to save 
his money, but to no purpose, and had to resign 
it to the man who, it seemed, could rhyme better, 
impromptu, than himself, and at greater length. 
This was not the only misfortune that befel Jonson 



WALTER TRACEY 165 

on this journey ; for, when within two or three 
miles of London, he was attacked by a gang of 
thieves, who knocked him from his horse, bound 
him hand and foot, and threw him into a park, 
where some other wayfarers who had shared the 
same fate were lying. One of his unfortunate 
companions calling out that he and his wife and 
children were undone, another, who was tied up 
also, said, " Pray, if you are all undone come and 
undo me " ; which afforded Ben a hearty laugh, 
and a subject upon which he afterwards expressed 
his poetical powers. 

Tracey was not one of your common highway- 
men who expended their money as fast as they 
earned it. He was of a saving disposition, and 
after some time amassed sufficient to keep him in 
comfort during the rest of his life. Unfortunately 
there is little dependence to be placed upon the 
honesty of the world, as Tracey found, for the 
person to whom he had entrusted his savings 
embezzled them ; and so our highwayman's inten- 
tion to retire was upset, and he was reduced to 
going once more upon the road. His hand seems 
by this time to have lost its cunning, or else he 
had the very worst luck, for he was soon taken, in 
an attempt to rob the Duke of Buckingham ; and, 
after being brought to trial at Winchester, was 
executed there in 1634, aged thirty-eight. 



VOL. II. 19 



NED WICKS 

THE famous Edward Wicks more famous as 
" Ned," one of the favourites of the romancing 
Harrison Ainsworth was born in 1684, and was 
the son of an innkeeper at Coventry. His father 
had him properly grounded in reading, writing, 
and 'rithmetic, with the ambition of seeing him a 
clerk, but the youthful Edward shunned the desk, 
and for a few months filled the post of exciseman. 
The excisemen of that day were looked upon 
with that suspicion and hatred with which tax- 
gatherers, tithe-collectors, landlords, people who 
render accounts for payment, and the like vermin, 
have ever been regarded from the earliest times, 
and ever will be by all right-minded folk ; and 
Edward soon quitted the unpopular post of gauger, 
not only because of its unpopularity, but for 
reasons not altogether unconnected with an in- 
ability to make his accounts balance. His reasons 
for the change are, however, put in a different 
light by Smith, who, with sardonic humour, says : 
" Not thinking that a post sufficient to cheat Her 
Majesty's subjects, he was resolved to impose upon 
'em more by taking all they had on the highway." 
Or, in milder fashion, according to Johnson, " he 

1 66 



NED WICKS 167 

chose rather to gather contributions for himself 
than for the King." For " King " read " Queen," 
for Wicks practised in the reign of Queen Anne. 

The first two interviews he held with travellers 
upon the highway were successful, hut the third 
brought him misfortune, for he was apprehended 
near Croydon, and sent to prison in the Marshalsea, 
a doleful hold, at that time said to be "a lively 
representation of the Iron Age, since nothing but 
gingling of keys and rattling of shackles and bolts 
and grates are here to be heard." 

His third attempt would no doubt have 
remained also his last, had it not been for the 
exertions of his friends, who, during the interval 
between his arrest and the trial at Sessions, got at 
the prosecutor and bribed him with sixty guineas, 
to fail in identifying him. As the prosecutor had 
been robbed of only thirty shillings, he profited 
largely by the transaction and was doubtless sorry 
it could not be often repeated. 

Wicks was accordingly acquitted, on the failure 
of this suborned prosecutor to swear to him ; and 
was immediately on the road again ; this time in 
partnership with a certain Joe Johnson, alias 
Saunders. Near Colnbrook they held up a stage- 
coach containing four gentlemen, one of whom 
discharged a blunderbuss at the luckless Joe, who 
received seven or eight bullets, and was thus 
wounded so severely that he was easily seized : 
the more easily in that Wicks instantly made off, 
with the speed of the wind. The "chivalry" of 
the highwaymen, of which we read so much in 



168 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

novels, was an elusive thing, and was apt to be 
altogether missing in the stress of danger. The 
highwayman who would stand by a wounded 
comrade was a very rare bird : so rare, indeed, 
that we are inclined to doubt his existence. 

Joe Johnson, committed to prison, was charged 
by one Woolley with an earlier robbery, of a silver 
watch and some money, and was found guilty 
and hanged at Tyburn, February 7th, 1704, aged 
twenty- two. 

The fate of the companion whom he had so 
basely deserted in the moment of his greatest need 
did not warn Wicks from his perilous career, and 
we are assured that he " pursued his wicked 
courses with a great deal of pleasure and satisfac- 
tion." One day he overtook the Duke of 
Marlborough at St. Albans, but His Grace had 
too large a retinue for it to be safe to venture an 
attack, and so the great Churchill escaped, for 
once in a way. 

Then, riding on towards Cheshunt, he found 
his way to a little cottage in a bye-road, where 
he discovered a poor old woman, bitterly weeping. 
She told him she was a poor widow, with no 
money to pay her rent, and expected the landlord 
every moment to come and seize what few goods 
she had. 

Wicks bade her rest contented, and he would 
make things easy; and, pulling off the richly 
laced clothes he wore, and putting on an old coat 
the woman lent him, he awaited the arrival of the 
hard-hearted landlord j who presently came ancl 



NED WICKS 169 

demanded payment. Ned thereupon, rising out of 
the chimney-corner with a short pipe in his mouth, 
said, " I understand, sir, that my sister here, poor 
woman, is behindhand for rent, and that you 
design to seize her goods, but as she is a desolate 
widow and hath not wherewithal to pay you at 
present, I hope you will take so much pity and 
compassion on her mean circumstances as not to 
be too severe : pray let me persuade you to have a 
little forbearance." 

Said the landlord, " Don't talk to me of for- 
bearance ; I'll not pity people to ruin myself. I'll 
have my money. I want my rent, and if I am 
not paid now, I'll seize her goods forthwith, and 
turn her out of my house." 

When Ned found that no entreaties or per- 
suasions would prevail, he said, " Come, come, 
let's see a receipt in full, and I'll pay it." 

Accordingly the receipt was given, and the 
rent paid, and the landlord made ready to go. 

But Wicks warned him of the dangers of the 
roads. " 'Tis drawing towards night, sir, and there 
are many robbers about. I would advise you to 
stay here till to-morrow, and go in the morning." 

" No, no ! " exclaimed the landlord impatiently, 
" I'll go now. I can go seven miles before dark. 
I don't care what robbing there is abroad. 
Besides, I am not afraid of being robbed by any 
one man, be he whom he may." 

So, taking his horse, away he rode, and Wicks, 
hastily re-assuming his fine clothes, quietly after 
Jum, at a cautious interval, 



170 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

Taking a circuitous course and putting his 
mare to a hand-gallop, Wicks was already waiting 
the landlord at the edge of a dark pond on a 
lonely stretch of road, when the old man rode 
by. In that situation, as the shades of night 
were falling, he rohhed him of the rent and of as 
much beside, which he later kept for his honest 
brokerage, after making the widow a present of 
the original amount. Hastening back to the 
cottage, he had already resumed the rustic clothes 
and was seated in the chimney corner, when a 
knocking came at the door. It was the landlord 
returning to tell the story of his woes. He said 
he had been robbed by a rogue in a lace coat, who 
swore a thousand oaths at him. 

" I told you how unsafe it was," said Wicks, 
from his corner ; " but you would not take my 
advice." 

The landlord begged leave to stay the night, 
and went the following morning upon his way. 

The obvious criticism of this is that, having 
already been robbed, his best and safest course 
would have been to make haste on his way 
home, the remainder of the journey, without 
turning back. 

Ned Wicks one day met Lord Mohun on the 
road between Windsor and Colnbrook, attended 
by only a groom and a footman. He commanded 
his lordship to " stand and deliver ! " for he was 
in great want of money, and money he would 
have, before they parted company. Lord Mohun, 
a noted bully and rustler of that age, proposed 



NED WICKS 171 

that, if the highwayman was so insistent, they 
should fight for it, and Wicks very readily accepted 
this proposal ; whereupon, my lord, seeing him 
husily preparing his pistols for the engagement, 
hegan to hack out of the bargain. Wicks, per- 
ceiving this, said contemptuously : " All the 
world knows me to be a man, and such a man 
am I that, although your lordship could, in a 
cowardly manner, murder Mumford the actor, 
and Captain Gout, I am by no means afraid of 
you. Therefore, since you will not fight, I 
order you to down with your gold, or expect 
no quarter ! " 

Thus meeting with more than his match, Lord 
Mohun fell into a passionate fit of swearing. 
" My lord," said Wicks, when he could get a word 
in edgeways, " I perceive you swear perfectly 
well, extempore : come, I'll give your honour a 
fair chance for your money, and that is, he that 
swears best of us two shall keep his own, and the 
money of he who loses as well." 

My lord, an expert in this line, through long 
cursing over losses at cards, eagerly agreed to this 
new bargain, and threw down a purse of fifty 
guineas. Wicks staked a like sum, and the 
competition started. 

After a quarter of an hour's prodigious swearing 
on both sides, it was left to his lordship's groom 
to declare the winner. 

He said : " Why, my lord, your honour swears 
as well as ever I heard any Person of Quality in 
my life ; but, indeed, to give the Strange Gentle- 



172 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

man his due, he has done better than yourself, 
and has won the wager, even if it were for a 
thousand pounds." 

After a few successful years of constant atten- 
tion to his profession, Wicks was at last executed 
at Warwick, on August 29th, 1719, aged twenty- 
nine. 



DICK TURPIN 

RICHARD TURPIN, the hero of half a hundred 
plays, and of many hundred ballads and chap-book 
histories, now demands our attention. His name 
stands out, far and away above that of any other 
of the high-toby fraternity. Not Claude Du Vail 
himself owns half his celebrity, nor Hind, nor 
Whitney, nor Sixteen - String Jack. Ballad- 
mongers, playwrights of the old penny-gaff order, 
and novelists, with Harrison Ainsworth at their 
head, have ever united to do him honour and have 
conspired innocently as a rule to deprive 
another and a worthier highwayman of his due, in 
order to confer it upon " Dick." The familiar 
" Dick " itself shows us how the great public long 
ago took Turpin to its ample bosom, and cherished 
him, but the student of these things smiles a little 
sourly as he traces the quite unheroic doings of 
this exceptionally mean and skulking scoundrel, 
and fails all the time to note anything of a 
dashing nature in his very busy but altogether 
sordid career. 

Turpin never rode that famous Ride to York 
upon Black Bess : another and an earlier than he 
by some sixty years the bold and daring Nevison 

VOL. II. 173 2O 



174 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

performed that ride, as we have already shown ; 
and the chivalry, the courtesy, and consideration, 
generally so much in evidence in the plays and 
the stories, are hy no means found in the many 
contemporary reports of his doings. 

Richard Turpin was born on September 21st, 
1705, at the village of Hempstead, in Essex. 
There are those who find a fanciful appropriate- 
ness in the fact, that a man, whose wife was to 
become a "hempen widow," should have been 
born at a place so significantly named. Those 
who are curious enough to seek it, may duly find 
the record of the future highwayman's baptism in 
the parish register, and will find the baptism of 
an elder sister, Maria, recorded nearly three years 
and a half earlier, April 28th, 1702. 

The Reverend William Sworder, vicar of 
Hempstead, who performed the baptism, and 
thereafter made an entry of it in his register, was 
evidently proud of his acquaintance with the 
language of the ancients, and less pleased with 
his native tongue, for his entries are generally in 
Latin : and thus we find the infant Dick and his 
parents figuring, " Richardus, filius Johannis et 
Mariae Turpin" 

John Turpin at that time kept the inn that 
even now, somewhat altered perhaps in detail, 
looks across the road to the circle of pollard trees 
known as " Turpin's Ring," and thence up to the 
steep church-path. It was then, it appears, known 
as the " Bell," but at times is referred to as the 
" Royal Oak," and is now certainly the " Crown." 



a 



DICK TURPIN 175 

Such are the difficulties that beset the path of the 
historian. Nor has this mere nomenclature of 
the ancestral roof-tree heen the only 
difficulty. Were there not seven cities ^ 
that claimed to be the birthplace of 
Homer ? In like manner at least one 
other place, Thaxted, is said to have 
been Turpin's native home ; but with 
the register as witness we can flatly 
disprove this, and give the honour of 
producing the famous person to Hemp- 
stead. 

The youthful Turpin was appren- 
ticed to a butcher in Whitechapel, 
and soon afterwards set up in business ^ 
for himself at Waltham Abbey, at "v> 
the same time marrying at East Ham v> 

a girl named Hester Palmer, whose s g 

j^ 

father is said to have kept the " Rose yi 
and Crown " inn at Bull Beggar's 
Hole, Clay Hill, Enfield. 

As a butcher, he introduced a novel 7S g 
method of business by which, except 
for the absurd and obstinate old- 
fashioned prejudices that stood in his 
way, he might soon have made a 
handsome competence. This method 
was simply that of taking your cattle 
wherever they might best be found, 
without the tiresome and expensive formality of 
buying and paying for them. It might con- 
ceivably have succeeded, too, except that he 



*t 



i 7 6 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

worked on too Napoleonic a scale, and stole a 
herd. It was a herd belonging to one " Farmer 
Giles," of Plaistow, and unfortunately it was 
traced to his door, and he had to fly. More 
restrained accounts, on the other hand, tell us it 
was only two oxen that were taken. 

The Plaistow-Waltham Abbey affair rendered 
Turpin's situation extremely perilous, and he 
retired north-east in the Rodings district, generally 
called in those times " the Hundreds of Essex " 
to " Suson," say old accounts, by which Seward- 
stone is meant. 

But although a comparatively safe retreat, it 
was exceedingly dull, and nothing offered, either 
in the way of the excitements he now thirsted for, 
or by way of making a living. He was reduced to 
the at once mean and dangerous occupation of 
robbing the smugglers who then infested this, and 
indeed almost every other, country district. It was 
mean, because they, very like himself, warred with 
law and order; and dangerous, because although 
he might only attack solitary " freetraders," there 
was that strong fellow-feeling among smugglers 
that made them most ferociously resent interfer- 
ence with their kind. Turpin probably ran 
greater risks in meddling with them than he 
encountered at any other period in his career. 

Sometimes he would rob them without any 
beating about the bush : at others he would make 
pretence of being a " riding-officer," i.e. a 
mounted Revenue officer, and would seize their 
goods " in the King's name." 



DICK TURPIN 177 

But that line of business could not last long. 
Writers on Turpin generally say he wearied of it : 
but the truth is, he was afraid of the smugglers' 
vengeance, which, history tells us, could take 
fearful forms, scarcely credible in a Christian 
country, did we not know, by the irrefragible 
evidence of courts of justice, and by the terrible 
murders by smugglers in Hampshire, duly expi- 
ated in 1749, to what lengths those desperate men 
could go. 

He turned again, therefore, to the neighbour- 
hood of Waltham, and, with a few chosen spirits, 
haunted Epping Eorest. There they established 
themselves chiefly as deer-stealers, and soon 
formed an excellent illicit connection with un- 
scrupulous dealers in game in London, to whom 
they consigned many a cartload of venison, which 
generally travelled up to town covered over with 
an innocent-looking layer of cabbages, potatoes, or 
turnips. 

But the prices they obtained for these supplies 
did not, in their opinion, pay them sufficiently for 
the work they did, or the risks they ran, and they 
then determined to throw in their lot with a 
notorious band of housebreakers and miscellaneous 
evil-doers, dreaded in Essex and in the eastern 
suburbs of London as " Gregory's Gang." The 
earliest of their exploits in this new class of 
venture was the robbing of Mr. Strype, who kept 
a chandler's shop at Watford, a district hitherto 
unaffected by them. They cleared the house of 
everything of any value, without offering Mr. 



178 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

Strype any violence (which was thought to be 
very good of them) and so disappeared ; to re- 
appear always unexpectedly in widely-sundered 
districts. 

Nothing came amiss to them. In one night 
they rohhed both Chingford and Barking churches, 
but found little worth their while; and then, 
in a manner most baffling to the authorities of 
those times, would for a time disband themselves 
and work separately, or some of them would lie 
entirely by for a while. An odd one or two would 
even be taken and hanged, which rendered it more 
than ever desirable for their surviving brethren 
to make themselves scarce for a time. But want 
of money was not long in bringing such generally 
spendthrift and improvident rogues back again to 
the calling they had chosen. Several among them 
were already too well and too unfavourably known 
as deer-stealers to the verderers of Epping Forest 
for their reappearance in those glades to be safe, 
but Turpin, among others, ventured. Mr. Mason, 
one of the chief of these verderers, rangers, or 
keepers, was especially active in putting down this 
poaching, and the gang vowed they would repay 
him for it. But more immediate schemes claimed 
their attention. First among these was a plan for 
robbing a farmhouse at R/ippleside, near Barking. 
There would seem to have been eight or nine of 
them on this occasion. After their manner, they 
knocked at the door at night, and when, properly 
afraid of strangers coming after dark, the people 
refused to open, they rushed forward in a body 




TURPIN AND HIS GANG IN THEIK CAVE IN EPPING FOREST. 



DICK TURPIN 181 

and broke the door in. Having bound the farmer, 
his wife, his son-in-law, and the servant-maid, 
they ransacked the house, and stole 700. 

" This will do I " exclaimed Turpin, captaining 
the band ; adding regretfully, "if it were always 
so!" 

The attack then made by the gang upon the 
house of Mr. Mason, the vigilant keeper of Epping 
Eorest, was probably determined upon in the first 
instance from a desire rather to be revenged upon 
him for interfering with their earlier deer-stealing 
operations, than from the idea of plunder. Turpin 
was not present on this occasion, for although he 
had intended to take part in the act of vengeance, 
he was at the time in London, squandering his 
share of the Rippleside robbery, and in too 
advanced a state of intoxication to meet his 
accomplices as he had arranged to do. 

Rust, Rose, and Eielder were the three con- 
cerned in the affair, and it clearly shows the spirit 
in which they entered upon it, when it is said that, 
before starting, they bound themselves by oath 
not to leave anything in the house undamaged. 
An oath would not necessarily be of any sacred 
quality of irrevocability with scoundrels of this or 
any other type, but when the compact fitted in 
with their own earnest inclinations, there was no 
difficulty in adhering to it. 

Fielder gained admission to the house by 
scaling the garden wall and breaking in at the back 
door, then admitting the other two by the front 
entrance. Mason was upstairs, sitting with his 



i8* HALF-HOURS WITH THE 

aged father in his bedroom, when the three suddenly 
hurst in upon them, and, seizing them, hound them 
hand and foot. They asked the old man if he knew 
them : he said he did not, and they then carried 
him downstairs and laid him, helplessly tied up, 
under the kitchen dresser. Mason, the keeper, 
had a sack forced over his head and tied round his 
waist ; his little daughter, terrified at what she 
heard, slipping hurriedly out of hed and out of 
doors, and hiding in a pigstye. 

The revengeful three then entered upon the 
work of wanton destruction upon which they had 
come. They first demolished a heavy fourpost 
bedstead, and then, each armed with a post, 
systematically visited every room in the house and 
battered everything to pieces. Carpets, curtains, 
bedclothing, and linen, and everything that could 
not be broken, were cut to shreds. Money had 
not been expected, but in smashing a china punch- 
bowl that stood somewhat out of the way, on a 
high shelf, down fell a shower of a hundred and 
twenty-two guineas, with which they went off, 
doubly satisfied with revenge and this unlooked- 
for plunder. They hastened up to London and 
joined Turpin at the Bun-House in the Rope 
Fields, and shared their booty fairly with him, 
although he had not been present to earn his 
portion an unusual support of that generally 
misleading proverb, " There is honour among 
thieves." 

From 1732 and onwards a solitary inn, on the 
then desolate, remote, and often flooded Hackney 



DICK TURPIN 183 

Marshes was greatly frequented by Turpin on his 
way to and from Epping and London. This inn, 
the " White House " by name, then kept by one 
Beresford, was the resort of sportsmen interested 
in cock-fighting. Turpin was known there as 
a private gentleman. The house was demolished 
and entirely rebuilt in 1900 ; but another at 
Tyler's Eerry, Temple Mills, also a white-faced 
house, remains, and claims a similar association. 

On January llth, 1735, Turpin and five of his 
companions, Ned Rust, George Gregory, Eielder, 
E-ose, and Wheeler, went boldly to the house of 
a Mr. Saunders, a rich farmer at Charlton, Kent, 
between seven and eight o'clock in the evening, 
and, having knocked at the door, asked if Mr. 
Saunders were at home. When they learned that 
he was within, they rushed immediately into the 
house and found the farmer, with his wife and 
some friends, playing at cards. They told the 
company they would not be injured if they 
remained quiet, and then proceeded to ransack 
the house. Eirst seizing a trifle in the way of 
a silver snuff-box that lay on the card-table, they 
left a part of their gang to stand guard over the 
party, while the rest took Mr. Saunders and forced 
him to act the part of guide, to discover the where- 
abouts of his valuables. They broke open some 
escritoires and cupboards, and stole about 100, 
exclusive of a quantity of plate. Meanwhile, the 
maid-servant had retreated into her room upstairs 
and bolted the door, and was calling " Thieves ! " 
at the top of her voice, out of window. But the 

VOL. II. 21 



184 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

marauders presently found their way upstairs, 
broke open the door and secured and silenced her : 
not, apparently, doing her any considerable injury : 
and then at leisure thoroughly searched every 
corner of the house, and gleaned everything of 
a portable nature that was worth taking. There 
was no hurry. They discovered some relics of 
the late Christmas festivities in the larder, in the 
shape of mince-pies, and sat down impudently, 
with the master of the house and his friends, to 
partake of them. One of the gang, by careful 
foraging, had found a bottle of brandy, and 
broached it at the table, hospitably offering some 
to Mr. Saunders and his friends, and assuring 
them, with a quaint humour, that they were as 
welcome as could be to it. Mrs. Saunders did not, 
however, see the humour of it, and was fainting 
from terror ; and so they mixed her some brandy - 
and-water, to revive her. 

At length, having taken everything possible, 
and thoroughly enjoyed themselves, they made 
off, declaring that if any of the family gave the 
least alarm within two hours, or if they dared to 
advertise the marks on the stolen plate, they 
would infallibly return at some future period, and 
murder them. 

It was afterwards ascertained that they then 
retired to a public-house in Woolwich, near by, 
where the robbery had been planned, and soon 
afterwards crossed the river and resorted to an 
empty house in Ratcliffe Highway, where they 
deposited the plunder until they had found a 



DICK TURPIN 185 

purchaser ready to buy without asking any 
inconvenient questions. 

A week later, the same gang visited the house 
of a Mr. Sheldon, near Croydon church. They 
arrived at about seven o'clock in the evening, and, 
finding the coachman in the stable, immediately 
gagged and bound him. Then, leaving the stable, 
they encountered Mr. Sheldon himself, in the 
yard, come to hear what the unaccustomed sounds 
of scufflLing and struggling in the stable could 
mean. The unfortunate Mr. Sheldon was then 
compelled to act as guide over his own house, 
and to show the gang where all his valuables 
resided. Jewels, plate, and other valuable articles 
were removed, together with a sum of eleven 
guineas ; but at the last moment, they returned 
two guineas, and apologised more or less hand- 
somely for their conduct. They then had the 
effrontery to repair to the " Half Moon " tavern, 
close at hand, and to each take a glass of spirits 
there, and to change one of the guineas of which 
they had robbed Mr. Sheldon. 

The manners of the gang would thus appear to 
be mending, but their unwonted politeness did not 
last long, as we shall presently see. 

In giving some account of the doings of Turpin, 
either singly or in association with others, it is 
desirable, as far as possible, to tell his story largely 
by the aid, and in the exact words, of the news- 
papers of the time. Only in this manner is it 
likely that a charge of exaggeration can be 
avoided. Where all have boldly enlarged upon 



1 86 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

the popular theme and have as richly brocaded it 
as their imaginations permit, to revert to plain 
facts becomes a healthy exercise. 

The London Evening Post of February 6th, 
1735, is the original authority for the next two 
incidents ; two of the foremost in all popular 
accounts of Turpin's life. So much extravagant 
nonsense has been written, and is still being 
written, and will yet continue to be written about 
Dick Turpin, that any original documents about 
him are particularly valuable. They help to 
show us what we must discredit and what we may 
safely retain. Indeed, without such newspaper 
paragraphs, the conscientious writer, faced with the 
flood of indubitably spurious Turpin " literature," 
might in his impatience with its extravagance, 
refuse to credit any portion of it. But the news- 
papers of that day serve amply to show that in 
this case, truth is equally as strange as fiction. 
Not stranger, as the proverb would have us 
believe, but certainly as strange. 

Thus we read in the London Evening Post : 
" On Saturday Night last, about Seven o'Clock, 
five Rogues enter'd the House of the Widow 
Shelley, at Loughton in Essex, having Pistols etc., 
and thr eaten 'd to murder the old Lady, if she did 
not tell them where her Money lay, which she 
obstinately refusing for some Time, they threaten'd 
to lay her across the Fire if she did not instantly 
tell them, which she would not do ; but her Son 
being in the Room, and threaten'd to be murder'd, 
cry'd out, he would tell them if they would not 




TURPIN HOLDS THE LANDLADY OVER THE FIRE. 



DICK TURPIN 189 

murder his Mother, and did ; whereupon they 
went up Stairs and took near 100, a Silver 
Tankard, and other Plate, and all Manner of 
Household Goods ; they afterwards went into the 
Cellar, and drank several Bottles of Ale and Wine, 
and broil'd some Meat, eat the Relicts of a Fillet 
of Veal, etc. While they were doing this, two of 
their Gang went into Mr. Turkle's, a Farmer's, 
who rents one End of the Widow's House, and 
rohb'd him of above 20 and then they all went 
off, taking two of the Farmer's Horses to carry 
off their Luggage ; the Horses were found on 
Sunday Morning in Old Street ; they staid (the 
Rogues, not the horses) about three Hours in the 
House." 

This house, still in existence, although part of 
it has been rebuilt, is identified with a place now 
styled " Priors," but at that time known as " Traps 
Hill Farm." The heavy outer door, plentifully 
studded with nail-heads, is said to have been 
added after this visit. 

This incident is probably the original of the 
story told of Turpin holding the landlady of the 
" Bull " inn, Shooter's Hill, over the fire ; although 
it is inherently possible that he and his scoundrelly 
crew, having certainly threatened to do as much 
at Loughton, and having done the like to a 
farmer at Edgeware, actually perpetrated the 
atrocity. 

The startling paragraph already quoted is 
followed immediately by another report, a good 
deal more startling : " On Tuesday Night," it 



190 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

says, very circumstantially, " about Eight o'Clock, 
five Villains " it will be noticed that by this time 
the " Rogues " of the earlier narration have 
become " Villains," and their conduct, by natural 
consequence, infinitely more heinous " came to 
the House of Mr. Lawrence, a Farmer at Edgeware- 
bury, near Edgeware, in Middlesex, but the Door 
being bolted, they could not get in, so they went 
to the Boy who was in the Sheep-house, and 
compell'd him to call the Maid, who open'd the 
Door ; upon which they rush'd in, bound the 
Master, Maid, and one Man-Servant, and swore 
they would murder all the Family, if they did not 
discover their Money, etc. ; they trod the bedding 
under foot, in case there should be money hidden 
in it, and took about 10 in Money, Linnen etc., 
all they could lay their Hands on, broke the old 
Man's Head, dragg'd him about the House, 
emptied a kettle of water from the fire over him, 
which had fortunately only just been placed on it, 
and ravish'd the Maid, Dorothy Street, using her 
in a most barbarous Manner, and then went off, 
leaving the Family bound, lock'd the Door, and 
took the key away with them : The Son, who came 
Home soon after they were gone, call'd the Boy 
to take his Horse, but could make nobody hear, 
but at last the old Man call'd out, and told him 
Rogues had been there " (surely, he meant " Vil- 
lains"), "as they were all bound, and that the 
Rogues said they would go rob his Brother ; 
whereupon he rode and alarm'd the Town, went 
to his Brother's, but they had not been there ; they 



DICK TURPIN 191 

pursued them to the Turnpike, and found they 
had been gone through for London about an Hour. 
They were all arm'd with Pistols, and one had a 
Handkerchief all over his Pace." 

Neither of these accounts mentions the name 
of Turpin, but these outrages were immediately 
ascribed to a gang of which he was a member. 

The same evening journal of February llth 
has a later account : " Mr. Lawrence, the Farmer 
at Edgeware-Bury, who was robb'd last Week (as 
we mention'd) lies so ill, of the Bruises etc., he 
receiv'd, that its question'd whether he'll recover : 
the Rogues, after he had told them where his 
Money was, not finding so much as they expected, 
let his Breeches down, and set him bare on the 
Fire, three several times ; which burnt him pro- 
digiously." 

There seems, by this account, to have been 
much in common between this gang and those 
" chauffeurs " described by Vidocq in his Memoirs ; 
bands of robbers who pervaded the country dis- 
tricts of France, and adopted the like methods of 
persuasion with people who could not otherwise be 
made to disclose the whereabouts of their hoards. 

This ferocious attack upon the farm at Edge- 
ware-bury was the first of a series in which the 
gang appeared on horseback. They had already 
done so well that they felt they could no longer 
deny themselves the luxury of being fully-furnished 
highwaymen. But they did not purchase; they 
merely hired ; and imagination pictures some of 
them as very insufficient cavaliers, holding on by 



i 9 2 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

their horses' necks. For it is not given to a 
footpad, graduating in the higher branch of his 
profession, instantly to command an easy seat 
in the saddle ; and the scene at the " Old Leaping 
Bar " inn, High Holborn, whence they set out 
to ride to the " Ninepin and Bowl " at Edge ware, 
must have been amusing in the extreme. 

Six of Turpin's gang assembled next on the 
7th of February at the " White Bear " inn, Drury 
Lane, and planned to rob the house of a 
Mr. Francis, a farmer in the then rural fields of 
Marylebone. Arriving at the farm about dusk, 
they first saw a man in a cowshed and seized and 
bound him, declaring they would shoot him if 
he should dare to make any attempt to break 
loose, or to cry out. In the stable they found 
another man, whom they served in the like manner. 
Scarcely had they done this when they met 
Mr. Francis at his own garden gate, returning 
home. Three of the gang laid their hands upon 
his shoulders and stopped him ; and the farmer, 
thinking it to be a freak of some silly young 
fellows, out for the evening, was not at all 
alarmed. " Methinks you are mighty funny, 
gentlemen," he said good-humouredly ; upon 
which, showing him their pistols in a threatening 
manner, he saw his mistake. 

No harm, they said, should come to him if he 
would but give his daughter a note by one of 
them, authorising her to pay bearer a hundred 
pounds in cash. 

Mr. Francis declared he could not do so; he 



DICK TURPIN 193 

had not anything like that amount in the house ; 
upon which they ran him violently into the stable 
and tied him up also. Then, knocking at the 
door of the house, and Miss Francis opening it, 
they pushed into the passage and secured her as 
well. The foremost men were particularly rude 
and violent, but Turpin, who came in at the 
rear, appears to have remonstrated with them 
about this gross usage, and to have stopped it : 
only assuring her that it would be best she 
remained quiet, and that if she made any resist- 
ance she would be treated even worse. 

A maid-servant, hearing this, cried out, " Lord, 
Mrs. Sarah ! what have you done ? " 

One of the gang then struck the maid, and 
another hit Miss Francis, and swore they would 
be murdered if they did not hold their peace. 

Mrs. Francis, hearing the disturbance from an 
inner room, called out, " What's the matter ? " 

on which Fielder ran forward, and crying " D n 

you, I'll stop your mouth presently ! " broke 
her head with the handle of a whip he carried, 
and then tied her to a chair. 

Miss Francis and the maid were tied to the 
kitchen-dresser, and Gregory was deputed to watch 
them, with a pistol in his hand, lest they should 
cry out for assistance or try to struggle free while 
the others were raiding the house. 

A not very considerable reward met their un- 
hallowed industry ; including a silver tankard, 
a gold watch and chain, a silver medal of Charles 
the First, a number of minor silver articles, and 

VOL. II. 22 



194 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

four or five gold rings. A find of thirty-seven 
guineas was more to the point, and a brace of 
pistols was not to be despised. They were even 
so particular about details, in the hour-and-a- 
half search they made, that they took away with 
them such inconsiderable items as a wig, six 
handkerchiefs, four shirts, a velvet hat, and some 
pairs of stockings. A frugal and meticulous gang, 
this! 

As a result of these bold attacks in the suburbs 
of London, a great feeling of indignation and 
insecurity arose, and a reward of 100 was at once 
offered for the apprehension of the gang, or of 
any members of it. Information having come 
to some of the "Westminster peace-officers that 
these confederates were accustomed to meet in an 
alehouse situated in a low alley in Westminster, 
the place was beset, and Turpin, Fielder, Rose, 
and Wheeler were found there. After a short 
fight with cutlasses, the last three were secured. 
No one appears to have been seriously hurt in 
this affray, except the usual harmless, innocent 
person, present by mere chance; in this case, 
a certain Bob Berry, who received a dangerous 
cut on the arm, below the elbow. Turpin 
dexterously escaped out of window, and, obtaining 
a horse (not the celebrated " Black Bess," who 
never existed outside the imagination of Harrison 
Ainsworth and the pages of his Rookwood), rode 
away to fresh fields and pastures new. Fielder 
and Rose were tried and found guilty, chiefly on 
the testimony of Wheeler, who turned King's 



DICK TURPIN 195 

evidence. They were hanged at Tyburn, and 
afterwards gibbeted. 

The Gentleman's Magazine refers shortly to 
the execution, and includes a certain, or an 
altogether uncertain, Saunders : "Monday, 
March 10th, the following malefactors, attended 
by a guard of fifty soldiers, were executed at 
Tyburn, appearing bold and undaunted ; viz. Rose, 
Saunders, and Eielder, the Country Robbers." 
It is significant of the horrors of that era that ten 
others were hanged in company with them, for 
various crimes. 

The gang was thus broken up, but rogues 
have, as it were, a magnetic attraction for one 
another, and Turpin was not long alone. It must 
have been a dull business waiting solitary on 
suitable, i.e. dark or foggy, nights in lonely 
situations for unsuspecting wayfarers ; an ex- 
perience calculated to get on the nerves, and so 
it is scarcely remarkable that many highwaymen 
elected to hunt in couples ; although in the long 
run it was safer to work alone and unknown. 
No fear then of treachery on the part of a trusted 
comrade, always ready to "make a discovery," 
as the technical phrase ran, to save his own neck 
from the rope, a little while longer. 

But Turpin seems to have sought, and found, 
one companion for a little while, for he duly 
appears in an account of how two gentlemen were 
robbed about eight o'clock on the evening of 
July 10th, between Wandsworth and Barnes 
commons, "by two Highwaymen, suppos'd to be 



196 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

Turpin the Butcher, and Rowden the Pewterer, 
the remaining two of Gregory's Gang, who robb'd 
them of their Money and dismounted them ; made 
them pull off their Horse's Bridles, then turning 
them loose, they rode off towards Roehampton, 
where a Gentleman was robb'd (as suppos'd by 
the same Highwaymen), of a Watch and 4 in 
Money." 

Old maps of this district hint, not obscurely, 
that this was no mere isolated, chance danger in 
the neighbourhood ; for the eye, roaming along 
those charts, towards Richmond, notes " Thieves' 
Corner " boldly marked at what is now the 
junction of the Sheen Road and Queen's Road, 
where the " Black Horse " of old, a very shy and 
questionable kind of brick-built, white-washed 
alehouse, stood until it was pulled down about 
the year 1902 and rebuilt in the flashy modern 
style. Adjoining, was, and still is, for that matter, 
" Pest House Common " : cheerful name ! while 
Rocque's map of 1745, not marking that inimical 
corner, transfers the affected area to the stretch 
of highway between Marshgate and Manor Road 
and Richmond Town, and styles it "Thieves' 
Harbour." On the opposite side, in sharp contrast, 
is marked " Paradise Row." Rocque also styles 
the common, " Pestilent Common." Altogether, 
in fact, a pestilent neighbourhood. 

How well-named was " Thieves' Corner " we 
may perhaps judge from a brief and matter-of-fact 
account (as though it were but an ordinary 
occurrence, demanding little notice) of a Reverend 



DICK TURPIN 197 

Mr. Amey, " a country clergyman who lodges at 
the * Star' inn, in the Strand," being robbed two 
nights earlier than the foregoing robbery " two 
miles this side of Richmond in Surrey, of his 
Silver Watch, four Guineas, and some Silver, by 
two Highwaymen, well-mounted and well-dress 'd. 



f'./f^ 




BOLD DICK TURPIN. 
(According to Skelt.) 

The Rogues turn'd his Horse loose and went off 
towards Richmond." 

Again, this time in the Grub Street Journal of 
July 24th, 1735, we find a trace of the busy Dick, 
in the following : " Monday, Mr. Omar, of South- 
wark, meeting between Barnes-Common and 
Wandsworth, Turpin the butcher, with another 



i 9 8 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

person, clapt spurs to his horse, hut they coming 
up with him, oblig'd him to dismount, and Turpin 
suspecting that he knew him, would have shot 
him, but was prevented by the other, who pull'd 
the pistol out of his hand." 

On Sunday, August 16th, Turpin and Eowden 
the Pewterer seem to have been particularly busy 
and to have had a good day ; for it is recorded by 
the same authority that they robbed several gentle- 
men on horseback and in coaches. The district 
they favoured on this occasion was the Portsmouth 
Road between Putney and Kingston Hill. 

In another fortnight's time or so, having made 
these parts of Surrey too hot to hold them longer, 
and being apparently unwilling to transfer their 
activities beyond ten or twelve miles' radius from 
London, they opened a most aggressive campaign 
in suburban Kent. "We hear," says the Grub 
Street Journal of October 16th, " that for about 
six weeks past, Blackheath has been so infested 
by two highwaymen (suppos'd to be E-owden and 
Turpin) that 'tis dangerous for travellers to pass. 
On Thursday Turpin and Rowden had the insolence 
to ride through the City at noonday, and in Watling 
Street they were known by two or three porters, 
who had not the courage to attack them ; they 
were indifferently mounted, and went towards 
the bridge ; so 'tis thought are gone the Tonbridge 
road." 

It was while patrolling the road towards 
Cambridge (on Stamford Hill, according to some 
historians) that Turpin first met Tom King. 




TURPIN MEETS TOM KING. 



DICK T UK PIN 201 

Observing a well-dressed and well -mounted 
stranger riding slowly along, Turpin spurred up 
to him, presented a pistol, and demanded his 
money. The stranger merely laughed, which 
threw Turpin into a passion, and he threatened 
him with instant death if he did not comply. 
King for it was he laughed again, and said, 
" What ! dog eat dog ? Come, come, brother 
Turpin ; if you don't know me I know you, and 
shall be glad of your company." 

This was the beginning of an alliance. These 
brethren in iniquity soon struck up a bargain, 
and, immediately entering on business, committed 
so large a number of robberies that no landlord of 
any wayside inn of the least respectability cared 
to welcome them, for fear of being indicted for 
harbouring such guests. Thus situated, they 
fixed on a spot between the King's Oak and the 
Loughton road, in Epping Forest, where they 
made a cave, " large enough to receive them and 
their horses," says an old account. This was 
enclosed within a thicket of bushes and brambles, 
through which they could look, without themselves 
being observed. Erom this station they used to 
issue, and robbed such numbers of persons that at 
length the very pedlars who travelled the road 
carried firearms for their defence. At such times 
when they could not safely stir from this hiding- 
place, Turpin's wife was accustomed to secretly 
convey to them such articles of food and such 
other things as might be necessary to their 
comfort. When, at a later period, Turpin's cave 



202 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

was discovered, and he was reduced to skulking 
about the forest, it was found to be by no means a 
despicable retreat. It was dry, and carpeted with 
straw, hay, and dry leaves ; and such articles as 
two clean shirts, two pairs of stockings, a piece of 
ham, a bottle of wine, and some feminine apparel, 
served to show that this was not altogether an 
anchorite's cell. Some old accounts go so far as 
to say that Turpin altogether occupied this cave 
for six years, but that is not credible. 

One day, as Turpin and Tom King were spying 
up and down the road from their cave, through 
the screen of furze and bramble that hid them 
from passers-by, they saw a gentleman driving 
past whom King knew very well as a rich City 
merchant, of Broad Street. He was on his way to 
his country estate at Fairmead Bottom, in a 
carriage with his children. King made after him, 
and on the Loughton road called upon the coach- 
man to stop. The merchant, however, was a man 
of spirit, and offered a resistance, supposing there 
to be only one highwayman; upon which, King 
called Turpin, by the name of "Jack," and bid 
him hold the horses' heads. They then proceeded 
to take his money, which he parted with, without 
any further trouble ; but strongly demurred to 
parting with his watch, which he said was a 
family heirloom, the gift of his father. The 
altercation, although short, was accompanied by 
threats and menaces and frightened the children, 
who persuaded their father to give up the watch ; 
and then an old mourning ring became an object 



DICK TURPIN 203 

of dispute. Its value was very small, but King 
insisted upon having it, when Turpin interposed 
and said they were not so ungentlemanly as to 
deprive a traveller of such a relic, and bade King 
desist. This concession prompted the merchant to 
ask whether they would not, as a favour, permit 
him to repurchase his watch from them ; upon 
which King said : " Jack, he seems to be a good, 
honest fellow ; shall we let him have the 
watch ? " 

" Aye," said Turpin ; " do as you will." 
The merchant, then inquiring the price, King 
replied, " Six guineas," adding, " we never sell 
one for more, even though it be worth six-and- 
thirty." Then the merchant promised not to 
discover them, and said he would leave the money 
at the " Sword Blade " coffee-house in Birchin 
Lane, and no questions asked. 

The Country Journal for April 23rd, 1737, says 
that on Saturday, April 16th, as a gentleman of 
West Ham and others were travelling to Epping, 
" the famous Turpin and a New Companion of his 
came up and attack'd the Coach, in order to rob 
it; the Gentleman had a Carbine in the Coach, 
loaded with Slugs, and seeing them coming, got it 
ready, and presented it at Turpin, on stopping the 
Coach, but it flash'd in the Pan ; upon which says 

Turpin ' G d D you, you have miss'd me, 

but I won't you,' and shot into the Coach at him, 
but the Ball miss'd him, passing between Him 
and a Lady in the Coach ; and then they rode off 
towards Ongar, and dined afterwards at Hare 

VOL. II. 23 



204 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

Street, and robbed in the Evening several 
Passengers on the Forest between Loughton and 
Romford, who knew him ; he has not robb'd on 
that Road for some Time before." 

It is possible that this adventure gave Turpin 
the idea of providing himself with a carbine and 
slugs in addition to his pistols, for, following the 
contemporary newspaper record of his movements, 
we learn from several London papers, notably the 
London Daily Post and the Daily Advertiser, 
that when a servant of Thompson, one of the 
under-keepers of Epping Forest, went in search of 
him and his retreat in those leafy recesses, with a 
higgler on Wednesday, May 4th, Turpin shot the 
man dead with a charge of slugs from a carbine. 
Detailed accounts set forth how Mr. Thompson's 
servant, animated with hopes of a hundred pounds 
reward, went out, armed with a gun, in company 
with the higgler, in search for Turpin. When 
they came near his hiding-place, the highwayman 
saw them, and, taking them for sportsmen, called 
out that there were no hares near that thicket. 

" No," replied Mr. Thompson's man, " but I 
have found a Turpin ! " and, presenting his gun, 
required him to surrender. 

Turpin, replying to him in a friendly manner, 
and at the same time gradually retreating into the 
cave, slyly seized his carbine, and shot him in the 
stomach. 

He then fled from the Forest, and was reported, 
by the London Daily Post of May 12th, to have 
been very nearly captured in the small hours of 



DICK TURPIN 205 

the morning of the llth by three peace-officers, 
who, late the night before, received information 
that he proposed to sleep at a certain house near 
Wellclose Square, Three men accordingly beset 
the house, but they were observed by a woman on 
the look-out, and Turpin, hurriedly aroused, fled 




TOM KINO. 
(From SkelCs Drama.) 



through the roof, and over the chimneypots of the 
adjoining houses. 

It will be observed by these various newspaper 
paragraphs and scattered notices, that Turpin 
was always changing his associates, and it is 
obvious that the stories which would have us believe 
he and Tom King set up an exclusive partnership, 



206 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

are not to be implicitly believed. Turpin and the 
many of his kind, with whom he associated from 
time to time, no doubt, worked together or apart, 
or in alliance with others, just as changing 
circumstances from week to week dictated. 

Tom King is usually said to have been killed 
under dramatic circumstances in the yard of the 
" Bed Lion" inn, at the corner of the Whitechapel 
Road and Leman Street ; but although we read 
much of him in the picturesque romances of the 
highway, it is by no means easy to trace Tom's 
movements, and he remains, whatever brave 
figure he may be in fiction, a very shadowy figure 
as seen in recorded facts. He, it appears, was 
one of three brothers. The other two were named 
Matthew and Robert, and it was really Matthew 
King who was mortally wounded in the yard of 
the " Red Lion " in 1737, in the affray with the 
Bow Street runners. The newspapers of the time 
record how, a week later, he died of his wounds 
in the New Prison, Clerkenwell, on May 24th. 

The affair was the outcome of Turpin having 
stolen a fine horse of considerable celebrity at 
that time, a racehorse named " White Stockings," 
belonging to a Mr. Major, who, riding it, was 
overtaken one evening by Turpin, Tom King, and 
a new ally of theirs, named Potter, near the 
" Green Man," Epping. Turpin made him dis- 
mount and exchange horses, and took away his 
riding-whip; and then the three confederates 
went their way to London. 

Mr. Major immediately made his loss known 



DICK TURPIN 207 

at the " Green Man," to Mr. Bayes, the landlord, 
who at once said : " I daresay Turpin has done it, 
or one of that crew," and then advised him the 
hest thing to do would be to get a number of 
handbills immediately printed, describing the 
horse, and offering a reward. It was characteristic 
of the thoroughpaced rascality of Turpin, that the 
very horse he had compelled Mr. Major to change 
with him was stolen. It was identified as one 




DICK TURPIN. 
(Sfcett.) 

that had been missing from Plaistow marshes. 
And the saddle had been stolen too, and was 
afterwards claimed. 

Although this was on Saturday night, the 
handbills were at once struck off and put into 
circulation, and by Monday morning information 
was brought to the " Green Man," that a horse 
answering the description of " White Stockings," 
had been left at the " Red Lion," in the White- 
chapel Road. The innkeeper went to the house 
with some Bow Street runners, determined to 



2o8 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

wait there until some one called for the horse; 
and about eleven o'clock at night Matthew King 
came for it. When he was seized, he declared 
he had bought the animal ; but a whip he held 
in his hand proved to be the identical one stolen 
by Turpin, and although a portion of the handle 
had been broken off, Mr. Major's name could still 
be read on it. An offer was made to Matthew 
King, that he would be released if he would 
disclose the actual robber, and he thereupon said 
it was a stout man in a white duffel coat, who 
was at that moment waiting in the street. 

A movement was then made to capture the 
man in the duffel coat, who proved to be Tom 
King ; but he resisted and fired at his would-be 
captors. The pistol merely flashed in the pan, and 
King then attempted to draw another ; but it got 
twisted in his pocket, and Bayes' hands were 
being laid upon him, when he cried out to Turpin, 
who was waiting on horseback at a little distance, 
" Dick, shoot him, or we are taken, by God ! " 

Turpin was heavily armed. Nothing less than 
three brace of pistols contented him, in addition 
to a carbine slung across his back. He fired, 
and shot (the stories say) Tom King. 

" Dick, you have shot me ; make off," the 
wounded man is represented as saying, but is 
afterwards said to have cursed him for a coward, 
and to have informed the authorities that if they 
wanted him, he might most likely be found at a 
certain place on Hackney Marsh : indicating, no 
doubt, the " White House." 



DICK TURPIN 



209 



Turpin is indeed said to have at once made for 
that retreat and to have exclaimed, " What shall 

I do ? where shall I go ? d n that Dick Bayes, 

I'll be the death of him, for I have lost the best 
fellow I ever had in my life. I shot poor King 
in endeavouring to kill that dog." 

That is the accepted version, but it seems to be 
incorrect in several particulars. As before men- 
tioned, Matthew King was the victim of that 
ill-considered aim. A 
somewhat different 
account is given in 
Turpin's alleged con- 
fessions to the hang- 
man, printed in the, in 
most respects, reliable 
pamphlet narrating his 
life and trial, published 
in York in four editions 
in 1739. In those 
pages Turpin " said he 
was confederate with 
one King, who was executed in London some 
time since, and that once, being very near taken, 
he fired a pistol in the crowd, and by mistake, 
shot the said King in the thigh, who was coming 
to rescue him." 

That entirely reverses the position, and may or 
may not be an imperfectly recollected account of 
what Turpin said. 

There is no doubt that a Tom King, a highway- 
man, was executed at Tyburn, in 1753, many 




210 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

years after the Tom King who was supposed to 
have been shot dead. 

If Turpin had been really so terrified for his 
safety after the Whitechapel affair as represented, 
he must speedily have recovered himself, for he 
was busy all that month in his vocation. Com- 
rades might die tragically, but his own pockets, 
always leaking like a colander, must be replenished. 
Really, however narrowly the career of this much- 
discussed highwayman is scanned, it seems hope- 
less to paint a consistent picture of him. He 
was, by the testimony of many witnesses, a 
cowardly fellow, not often with sufficient resolu- 
tion to rob unaccompanied, and even on those 
occasions when he did play a lone hand, he wore a 
perfect armoury of weapons and attacked only the 
unarmed. One Gordon, lying at Newgate on a 
charge of highway robbery, told how he had once 
proposed to Turpin that himself and his brother, 
Turpin, and another should seize the money going 
down to pay the King's ships at Portsmouth. 
They were to stand in a very narrow pass and 
with swords and pistols attack the convoy. The 
scheme recalls the fine mid-seventeenth century 
exploits of " Mulled Sack " and his contemporaries, 
and if the enterprise had been undertaken, a 
splendid booty might have become theirs. But 
Turpin's courage failed him, and he backed out. 
Gordon said he was sure Turpin would be guilty 
of many cowardly actions, and die like a dog. His 
career, although a busy one, never touched great 
heights, and was commonly concerned with mean 



DICK TURPIN 



211 



thefts and raids, but he must have been possessed 
of some nerve to continue actively robbing iii the 
neighbourhood of London where he was so well 
known, after a hundred pounds was advertised 
to be waiting for any one who brought about his 
arrest. It is not merely a tradition that he so 
continued : we have the facts abundantly in the 
public prints of the time. 

Thus, the London Magazine has this note 
respecting him : " The noted 
Highwayman, Turpin the 
Butcher, (who lately kill'd 
a Man who endeavour'd to 
take him on Epping Forest) 
this Night robbed several 
Gentlemen in their Coaches 
and Chaises at Holloway and 
the back Lanes at Islington, 
and took from them several 
Sums of Money. One of the 
Gentlemen signified to him 
that he had reigned a long 
Time, and Turpin replied, ' 'Tis no matter for 
that. I am not afraid of being taken by you; 
therefore don't stand hesitating, but give me the 
Cole.' " (Or, by another account, " the coriander- 
seed.") 

A London newspaper of the close of May is 
found stating that " Turpin, the renown'd Butcher- 
Highwayman, committed a robbery almost every 
day this month." 

But these were his last exploits in the neigh- 

VOL, n. 24 




212 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

bourhood of London. The position presently grew 
so difficult that the merest elementary instincts 
of self-preservation suggested a flight to other 
scenes. 

By a proclamation issued in the London 
Gazette of June 25th, 1737, " His Majesty was 
pleased to promise his most gracious pardon to 
any of the Accomplices of Richard Turpin who 
shall discover him, so that he may be apprehended 
and convicted of the Murder, or any of the 
Robberies he has committed ; as likewise a Reward 
of 200 to any Person or Persons who shall 
discover the said Criminal, so that he may be 
apprehended and convicted as aforesaid ; over and 
above all other Rewards to which they may be 
entitled." In this proclamation, Turpin is de- 
scribed as being 5 feet 9 inches in height, and it 
further appears that he was not by any means 
the prepossessing and even elegant figure he 
presents in the engraving that shows him reclining 
exquisitely in his cave ; dainty boots on his feet, 
and a ladylike hand thrown over his carbine. He 
had high cheekbones, his face tapered to a narrow 
point at his chin, and he was deeply pitted with 
small-pox. 

Really, he was, it will be gathered, not an 
engaging ruffian ; but there is, unfortunately, no 
portrait existing which can lay the slightest claim 
to be authentic. A rough woodcut, no doubt from 
the strictly unauthentic imagination of the wood 
engraver, or the wood-chopper who engraved, or 
rather hewed it out, appears in one of the popular 




TUUPIN IN HIS CAVE. 



roiii an old Engraving. 



DICK TURPIN 



old chap-books, and shows him to have rather a 
plentiful development of chin and an expression 
that somewhat baffles description, but which 
conveys the very decided impression that he was 
not the kind of person one would much like to 
meet in a lonely lane on a dark night. 

Rowden the Pewterer, whom we have shown 
to have accompanied Turpin so frequently in 1735, 
chiefly in his adventures in Surrey, was taken 
about this time and trans- 
ported in July 1737. 

With the price of 
200 upon his head, and 
with the additional pro- 
mise of a pardon for any 
accomplice who would 
betray him, Turpin 's 
position was now more 
than ever desperate. He 
fully realised this, and 
took the only possible 
course, that of removing himself into the country, 
far away from his accustomed haunts. After 
three months at Long Sutton, in Lincolnshire, 
he appears to have selected Yorkshire as the safest 
part, and staying some time at the ferry-house. 
Brough, and then at Market Cave and North 
Cave, to have settled at Welton, ten miles from 
Beverley, in October 1737. There he posed as 
a gentleman horse-dealer, Palmer by name. 
Sometimes he would range southward to Long 
Sutton in Lincolnshire, but always where he went 




DICK TURPIN. 
(From a strictly unauthentic source.) 



2i6 HALF- HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

the farmers and others missed their horses, in 
the most mysterious way. No one suspected the 
" gentleman " horse-dealer, who mixed freely in 
the company of the Yorkshire yeomen and knew 
a thing or two about cockfighting and proved 
himself a singularly good judge of stock qualities 
which would render tiny one popular at that time, 
with the Yorkshire tykes. His ugly mug was a 
mere accident, and as for his rough manners, why 
the tykes themselves were rough and ready, and 
so they easily excused, or perhaps even did not 
notice, his overbearing ways. 

But his evil temper got the better of him one 
day, when, returning from a shooting expedition, 
and being perhaps half-drunk, he wantonly shot 
one of his neighbour's fowls. When the owner 
resented this, Turpin, or " Palmer," threatened to 
serve him in the same way (i.e. " if he would only 
stay till he had charged his piece, he would shoot 
him too "), and in the result he was arrested on a 
charge of brawling, at the " Green Man " inn. 
When he came before the magistrates in Quarter 
Sessions at Beverley, the singular fact was dis- 
covered that this man, so well known in the 
neighbourhood, had many acquaintances, but no 
friends who would speak to his character or go 
bail for him. It then appeared that he had come 
as an entire stranger to the district less than two 
years earlier ; and in short, in one way and 
another, it was all at once discovered that he was 
a suspicious character, whose doings had better be 
investigated. He was accordingly remanded, and 



DICK TURPIN 217 

enquiries resulted in his being charged with 
stealing a black mare, blind of the near eye, off 
Heckington Common, in Lincolnshire, near Slea- 
ford. He had declared himself a native of Long 
Button, and said his father lived there and his 
sister kept house for him. He had been, he 
continued, in business there, but had been obliged 
to abscond, owing to his having contracted some 
debts he found himself unable to pay, in an 
unfortunate transaction in which he had bought 
some sheep that had proved to be diseased. 
Enquiries proved these statements to be entirely 
false. He had no relations at Long Sutton, 
but he was known there, and badly wanted, 
as a sheep - stealer, suspected also of horse - 
stealing. 

It is significant of Turpin's activity in horse- 
stealing that the Worcester Journal of Sep- 
tember 29th, 1738, has the following curious item : 
" A few days since, the Father of the noted 
Turpin was committed to Chelmsford Gaol, for 
having in his Possession a Horse supposed to be 
stolen out of Lincolnshire, which, he pleads, was 
left with him by his Son, to pay for Diet and 
Lodging." Research fails to discover the result 
of this committal. 

John Palmer, or Richard Turpin, was sent 
from Beverley to York Castle to stand his trial at 
the assizes for stealing the horse from Heckington ; 
and from his grim dungeon cell, still in existence 
in the Castle, he wrote a letter to his brother, or, 
according to the evidence at his trial, his brother- 



218 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

in-law, at Hempstead, asking him to be a referee as 
to character : 



YORK, Feb. 6, 1639. 

" DEAR BROTHER, 

" I am sorry to acquaint you that I am 
now under confinement in York Castle, for horse- 
stealing. If I could procure an evidence from 
London to give me a character, that would go a 
great way towards my being acquitted. I had not 
been long in this county before my being appre- 
hended, so that it would pass off the readier. For 
heaven's sake, my dear brother, do not neglect me; 
you will know what I mean when I say, 

" I am, your's, 
"JOHN PALMER." 



The letter was not prepaid, and the recipient, 
not recognising the handwriting of the address, 
refused to receive it and pay the sixpence 
demanded. As it happened, Mr. Smith, the 
schoolmaster who had taught Turpin to write, 
saw the letter, and recognising the handwriting, 
carried it to the magistrates, so that it might 
legally be opened, and perhaps the very much 
wanted Turpin be arrested from the information 
it possibly contained. Perhaps this public-spirited 
person really thought he saw a chance of obtain- 
ing the 200 reward offered ; but, however that 
may be, the letter disclosed the fact that Turpin 
was lying in prison at York, and Smith eventu- 
ally appeared at the trial and identified him. It 



DICK TURPIN 



219 



is not known who, if indeed any one, received the 
reward. 

The rumour that Turpin had been taken, and 
was a prisoner in York Castle, was no sooner 
circulated than people nocked from all parts to 
get a sight of him, and debates ran very high 
whether he was the real person or not. This 
making a holiday show of a prisoner in his cell 




SIB RALPH ROOKWOOD AND SIMON SHARPSCENT. 

(Skelt.) 

seems odd to us moderns ; but it was then, as we 
see constantly in these pages, the usual thing, and 
a practice that greatly enriched the turnkeys ; or 
the warders, as we should call them. 

Among others who visited Turpin was a young 
fellow who pretended to know the famous high- 
wayman. After having looked for a considerable 
time at the prisoner, he turned to the warder on 
duty, and said he would bet him half a guinea this 
was not Turpin ; whereupon Turpin, in his turn 



220 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

inclining to the warder, whispered, with cynical 
humour, " Lay him the wager, you fool, and I'll 
go you halves ! " 

The trial of " John Palmer, alias Paumer, alias 
Richard Turpin," as the official account of the 
proceedings has it, took place at the York Assizes, 
March 22nd, 1739, " before the Hon. Sir William 
Chappie, one of His Majesty's Justices of the 
Court of King's Bench, for stealing a black geld- 
ing, the property of Thomas Creasy. 

Thomas Creasy deposed that in the August 
of 1738 he was owner of the black gelding, and 
missed it on the eighteenth of the month. He 
had hired men and horses, and had ridden some 
forty miles to try and obtain news of its where- 
abouts, and had paid criers to cry it in different 
market towns. He had also told one Richard 
Grasby of his loss, and described the animal to 
him, and at a later date Grasby told him his horse 
was at an inn called the "Blue Bell" at Beverley. 
He then went to Beverley and saw the landlord of 
the " Blue Bell," and described the horse to him 
as a black gelding, with a little star on his fore- 
head. The landlord then took him to the stable 
and showed him the horse. 

James Smith was then called, and asked if he 
knew the prisoner at the bar. He said he did. 
He had known him at Hempstead,'in Essex, where 
he was born. He had known him since he was a 
child. His name was Richard Turpin, and his 
father kept the " Bell " inn in that village. 
Richard Turpin had married one of his maids. It 



DICK TURPIN 221 

was about five years since he had last seen him. 
He had taught him at school, and there was no 
doubt whatever that this was the same man. 

Asked how it happened that, living so far 
distant as Essex, he came to be present as a 
witness at this trial, he said that at the Hempstead 
post-office one day he observed a letter directed 
to Turpin's brother-in-law, who had refused to 
pay the postage on it. Looking narrowly at the 
handwriting, he thought he recognised it as that 
of Richard Turpin, whom he had taught to write. 
Turpin then being very much in demand by the 
magistrates, he took the letter forthwith to a local 
Justice of the Peace, who opened it, and found it 
was sent from York Castle, and purported to come 
from one " John Palmer." 

The justices had sent him a subpoana to appear 
for the prosecution at York. He had been shown 
into the prison yard, and there he had seen and 
recognised Turpin, who was there under the name 
of Palmer. 

"Palmer," then informed that he might ask 
Mr. Smith any questions he desired, merely 
replied he did not know him. 

Mr. Edward Saward, of Hempstead, then 
called and asked if he knew prisoner, said he did. 
He was born and brought up at the " Bell," kept 
by his father, John Turpin. He had known him 
twenty-two years. (" Upon my soul, I have," 
he added ; to which counsel rejoined, " My friend, 
you have sworn once already ; you need not swear 
again.") " I knew him ever since he was a boy 

VOL. II. 25 



222 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

and lived at the ' Bell.' He lived with his 
father there, and I was friendly with him. I 
knew him also after he had set up for himself, 
and I have bought a great many good joints of 
meat from him." The prisoner had at first 
affected not to know him ; but afterwards had 




TUBPIN'S CELL IN YORK CASTLE. 

acknowledged the acquaintance, and had added : 
" Let's bung our eyes up with drink." 

The prisoner's sole defence was that he had 
bought the horse; but he could produce no 
evidence to show he had actually done so, and 
could not mention the name of the person from 
whom he had bought him, nor the place where 
the transaction had been completed. 

The jury ha4 no difficulty in returning a 



DICK TURPIN 223 

verdict of " guilty," and, indeed, did so without 
leaving the court. Turpin was then formally 
sentenced to death. 

He wrote to his father, and made great efforts 
to obtain a reduction of his sentence to trans- 
portation ; hut without result. A letter received 
from his father was a feature of a pamphlet, 
detailing his trial and adventures, published at 
York in April 1739. There is no reason to doubt 
its genuine character : 

March 29, 1739. 

"DEAR CHILD, 

" I received you Letter this Inftant, with 
a great deal of grief ; according to your Requef t, 
I have writ to your Brother John, and Madam 
Peek, to make what interceffion can be made to 
Col. Watfon, in order to obtain Tranfportation 
for your Misfortune ; which, had I 100 I would 
freely part with it to do you good ; and for God's 
Sake, give your whole Mind to beg of God to 
pardon your many Tranfgreffions, which the Thief 
upon the Crofs received Pardon for at the laft 
Hour, tho' a very great Offender. The Lord be 
your Comfort, and receive you into his eternal 
Kingdom. 

" I am yours Diftrefs'd, 

" Yet Loving Father, 

" JOHN TURPIN. 

" HEMSTEAD. 

" All our Loves to you, who are in much Grief 
to fubfcribe ourfelves your diftreffed Brother 
and Sifter, with Relations." 



224 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

Turpin principally concerned himself in those 
twenty-six days that bridged the distance between 
sentence and execution in joking, drinking with 
the many visitors who came to see him, and telling 
stories of his adventures. He turned a deaf ear 
to the ministrations of the Ordinary, and was 
infinitely more concerned that he should make 
a last " respectable " appearance in this world, 
on the scaffold, than for his welfare in the next. 
Nothing would satisfy him but new clothes, a 
brand-new fustian frock, and a smart pair of 
pumps to die in. On the morning before the 
fatal April 17th he gave the hangman 3 10s. Od., 
to be divided among five men, who were to follow 
him as mourners, and were to be furnished with 
black hat-bands and mourning gloves. When 
the time came, and he went in the tumbril to be 
turned off upon York's place of execution at 
Knavesmire, he bowed to the ladies and flourished 
his hat like a hero. It is true that when he had 
arrived at the tragic place his leg trembled, but 
he stamped it down impatiently. He talked for 
half an hour with the hangman, until the crowd 
began to grow impatient, but then mounted the 
ladder provided, and threw himself off in the 
most resolute fashion. He had the reward of his 
courage, for he died in a moment. 

It should here be explained that hanging in 
those old times, before the drop had been intro- 
duced, was generally a cruel and clumsy method. 
As a rule, the culprit was driven up in the cart 
immediately under the gallows, and the noose then 



DICK TURPIN 



225 



adjusted round his neck. When all was ready, 
the cart was simply drawn away and the victim 
left hanging, to be slowly and agonisingly 
suffocated. Thus the horrible spectacle was often 
witnessed of compassionate persons and some- 
times the relations of the hanging man pulling 
his legs to more speedily end his sufferings. In 
the museum at Dorchester there may to this day 
be seen two heavy weights made for the purpose 
of thus shortening the misery of 
criminals hanged at the gaol there, 
and bearing the word MERCY. 

It sometimes happened, in 
those days, that a criminal would 
be ineffectually hanged, and after- 
wards cut down and revived. 
" Half - hanged Smith " was a 
burglar who obtained his nick- 
name in this manner at Tyburn; 
but he was convicted, a few years 
later, of a similar crime, and 
effectually hanged on that occasion. Another, 
cut down and revived, declared the sensation of 
being hanged was sufficiently bad, but that of 
being restored to life was indescribably agonising, 
and said he wished those hanged who had cut 
him down. 

The shocking old alternative to being slowly 
hanged when the cart was withdrawn was the 
method by which criminals with sufficient courage 
were enabled to anticipate the modern drop, by 
throwing themselves off the ladder, and so securing 




RALPH OSTLEB. 
(Skelt.) 



226 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

an instant and practically painless death. But 
this was making the condemned their own execu- 
tioners, and, to all intents and purposes, suicides. 
It also required a considerable amount of resolu- 
tion. 

Turpin's body lay in state for a day and a 
night at the " Blue Boar " inn, Castlegate, York, 
and was buried the following morning in the 
churchyard of St. George's, Fishergate Postern. 
That evening it was disinterred by some of the 
city surgeons, for dissection, but the mob, with 
whom Turpin had already become a hero, deter- 
mined that his remains should not be dishonoured, 
rescued the body and reinterred it in lime, so as 
to effectually prevent any other attempts. 

The Ride to York and Black Bess are alike 
myths, but the spot was long pointed out upon 
the racecourse at York (perhaps it still is), where 
that gallant mare sank down exhausted and died. 
So strong a hold have myths upon the imagination, 
that it is hardly possible the most painstaking 
historian will succeed in popularly discrediting 
the bona fides of that ride, invented and so 
stirringly described by Harrison Ainsworth in 
1834, in his Rookwood. 

Ainsworth was the unconscious predisposing 
cause of much of Skelt's Juvenile Drama, that 
singular collection of remarkably mild plays for 
toy theatres, allied with terrific scenes and the 
most picturesque figures conceived, drawn and 
engraved in the wildest spirit of melodrama, and 
in the most extravagant attitudes. No such 




TURPIN'S WAIST-GIRDLE, WRIST-SHACKLES, AND LEG IRONS, 



228 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

scenery ever existed as that drawn by Skelt's anony- 
mous artists. It was a decided improvement upon 
Nature ; and no heroes so heroic and no villains 
so villainous could possibly have lived and moved 
as those imagined by his staff of draughtsmen. 
Dick Turpin was of course in the forefront of 
the thirty-three plays published by Skelt, and the 
pictured characters do full justice and perhaps 
a trifle over to the entirely illegitimate fame 
Turpin has acquired. You see 
them reproduced here, engraved 
line for line from Skelt, scattered 
over the pages of this recon- 
sideration of Turpin. Firstly, you 
have the great brethren, Turpin 
and Tom King, themselves, 
mounted on noble steeds that 
stretch themselves gallantly in 
their stride ; and then you have 
MAID OF THE INN. Sir Ralph Rookwood and that 
intelligent officer, Simon Sharp- 
scent, also on horseback, hurrying off in company, 
but upon the trail of the highwaymen. Simon 
Sharpscent, you will observe, has in his hand a 
something that looks not unlike a Field Marshal's 
baton. It is the police-officer's crown-tipped 
staff of office ; and producing it he will pre- 
sently say, dramatically : "I arrest you in the 
King's name 1 " 

Always, with the remarkable exception of the 
group of " Highwaymen Carousing," these char- 
acters are intensely dramatic in their attitudes ; 




DICK TURPIN 229 

hut the carousing highwaymen are unexpectedly 
wooden; although they look capable of being 
daredevil fellows when the generous wine, or the 
old ale whichever it may be has done its work. 
Even the " Maid of the Inn " is a creature of 
romance. 

Although Ainsworth invented Turpin's Ride to 
York, he certainly did not invent Black Bess, nor 
did he conceive the ride as an attempt to establish 
an alibi ; for he shows him hotly pursued by the 




HIGHWAYMEN CAROUSING. 
(Skelt.) 

officers of the law, nearly all the way. In 
Ains worth's pages you find no reason why the 
ride should have been undertaken. I have else- 
where remarked that Ainsworth invented Black 
Bess, as well as robbed Swiftnicks of the glory of 
the ride ; but a further acquaintance with the 
literature of the early part of the nineteenth 
century discloses the curious fact that Horace 
Smith in 1825, in a volume entitled Gaieties and 
Gravities, included a story called " Harry Halter," 
in which that highwayman hero is represented as 

VOL. II. 26 



2 3 o HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

sitting at the " Wig and Water Spaniel," in 
Monmouth Street, with his friends of the same 
persuasion, Ned Noose, and Old Charley Crape, 
and singing the ballad of 

TURPIN AND THE BlSHOP 

Bold Turpin upon Hounslow Heath 

His black mare Bess bestrode, 
When he saw a Bishop's coach and four 

Sweeping along the road ; 
He bade the coachman stop, but he, 

Suspecting of the job, 
His horses lash'd but soon roll'd off, 

With a brace of slugs in his nob. 

Galloping to the carriage- door, 

He thrust his face within, 
When the Chaplain said " Sure as eggs is eggs, 

That is the bold Turpin." 
Quoth Turpin, "You shall eat your words 

With sauce of leaden bullet " ; 
So he clapp'd his pistol to his mouth, 

And fired it down his gullet. 

The Bishop fell upon his knees, 

When Turpin bade him stand, 
And gave him his watch, a bag of gold, 

And six bright rings from his hand. 
Rolling with laughter, Turpin pluck'd 

The Bishop's wig from his head, 
And popp'd it on the Chaplain's poll, 

As he sate in the corner dead. 

Upon the box he tied him then, 

With the reins behind his back, 
Put a pipe in his mouth, the whip in his hand, 

And set off the horses, smack ! 
Then whisper'd in his black mare's ear, 

W T ho luckily wasn't fagg'd, 
"You must gallop fast and far, my dear, 

Or I shall be surely scragg'd." 



DICK TURPIN 231 

He never drew bit, nor stopp'd to bait, 

Nor walk'd up hill or down, 
Until he came to Gloucester's gate, 

Which is the Assizes town. 
Full eighty miles in one dark night, 

He made his black mare fly, 
And walk'd into Court at nine o'clock 

To swear an Alibi. 

A hue and cry the Bishop raised, 

And so did Sheriff Foster, 
But stared to hear that Turpin was 

By nine o'clock at Gloucester. 
So all agreed it couldn't be him, 

Neither by hook nor crook; 
And said that the Bishop and Chaplain was 

Most certainly mistook. 

Here we certainly find Black Bess, not treated 
to two capital letters, and only referred to as " his 
black mare Bess " (it was reserved 
for Ainsworth to discover the 
worth of the alliteration and the 
demand it made for two capital 
B's), but we thus have traced the 
invention of that coal-black steed 
one remove further back, and there 
it must rest, for a time, at any 
rate. 

It seems pretty clear that Smith 

. , j .,-, ,i -, ., INNKEEPER. 

was acquainted with the exploit 
of Swiftnicks, but why he trans- 
ferred the ride to Turpin, and the purpose of 
establishing an alibi to Gloucester, does not appear, 
unless indeed he wanted a rhyme to " Poster." 
Dickens, who wrote Pickwick in 1836, eleven 




232 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

years after Gaieties and Gravities was published, 
had evidently read Smith's book, for in Chapter 
XLIII. we find Sam Weller represented as singing 
to the coachman a condensed and greatly altered 
version, beginning : 

Bold Turpin vunce, on Hounslow Heath 
His bold mare Bess bestrode er ; 
Ven there he see'd the Bishop's coach 
A-coming along the road er. 

That Swiftnicks actually performed the famous 
ride was generally believed, as elsewhere described 
in these pages ; and unless any later evidence can 
be adduced to deprive him of the credit, he must 
continue to enjoy it. But it is curious to note 
that riding horseback between York and London 
under exceptional circumstances has often been 
mentioned. A prominent instance is the wager 
accepted by John Lepton, esquire to James the 
First, that he would ride six times between London 
and York on six consecutive days. Puller, in his 
Worthies, tells us all about it. He first set out 
on May 20th, 1606, from Aldersgate, London, and 
completed the journey before nightfall, returning 
the next day ; and so on until he had won the 
wager, " to the great praise of his strength in 
acting, than to his discretion in undertaking it," 
says Fuller, with an unwonted sneer. 

Turpin was certainly described in his own life- 
time as "the noted," "the renowned," "the 
famous," but those were merely newspaper phrases, 
and the notability, the renown, or the fame 



DICK TURPIN 233 

commented upon in to-day's paper is, we are by 
way of seeing in our own age, the oblivion of next 
week. The London Magazine, commenting briefly 
on his execution, styles him a " mean and stupid 
wretch," and that estimate of him is little likely 
ever to be revised, although it may readily and 
justly be amplified by the epithets " brutal " and 
"cowardly." The brutalities of himself and his 
associates kept the suburbs of London for a while 
in terror, but he evidently had made little impres- 
sion on the mind of Captain Charles Johnson, 
whose book on The General History of Highway- 
men, published in 1742, three years after Turpin's 
execution, has no mention of him. 

Yet, side by side with these facts, we are 
confronted with the undoubted immediate ballad 
fame he acquired in the north, of which here are 
two pitiful specimen verses : 

For shooting of a dunghill cock 
Poor Turpin he at last was took ; 
And carried straight into a jail, 
Where his misfortune he does bewail, 

O rare Turpin hero, 

O rare Turpin ! 

Now some do say that he will hang 
Turpin the last of all the gang ; 
I wish the cock had ne'er been hatched, 
For like a fish in the net he's catched. 

Pedlars hawked these untutored productions 
widely over the country, and it will be noticed 
with some amusement that, just as Robin Hood 
had been made a popular ballad hero, robbing the 
rich to give to the poor, and succouring the widow 



234 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

and the orphan, and just as Nevison had been 
similarly enshrined, so Turpin, who would have 
heen mean enough to rob a poor man of his beer, 
a poor widow of her last groat, or to steal a penny 
out of a blind man's pannikin (the worst of crimes), 
was instantly converted into a blameless martyr. 
We may, however, readily imagine the ill-treated 
Mr. Lawrence of Edge ware-bury, rubbing his 
roasted posteriors and vehemently dissenting from 
that estimate of Turpin. 

But the ballad-writers did not pretend to 
historical accuracy, or to grammar, scansion, or 
anything but a rude way of appealing to the 
feelings of the rustics, whose lives of unremitting 
toil for poor wages embittered them more than 
they knew against the rich ; to this extent, that 
they imagined virtue resided solely in the lowly 
cot, and vice and oppressive feelings exclusively in 
the lordly hall. Those who were poor were 
virtuous, and the highwayman who emptied the 
pockets of the rich performed a meritorious service. 
Hence ballads like the following grievous example, 
in which Turpin appears, in spite of well-ascer- 
tained facts, to have been executed at Salisbury : 

TURPEN'S APPEAL TO THE JUDGE IN HIS DEFENCE; OR THE 
GEN'ROUS ROBBER 

Printed and sold by J. Pitts, 6, Great St. Andrew Street, Seven Dials 

Come all you wild and wicked young men 

A warning take by me, 
A story now to you I'll tell 

Of Turpen of Salisbury. 



DICK TURPIN 235 

He was a wild and wicked blade 

On the High road did he hie, 
But at last was tried, and cast, 

And condemn'd he was to die. 
When before the Judge he came 

And at the Bar he did stand, 
For no pardon he did ask, 

But boldly he held up his hand, 
Declared the truth before the Judge 

Who was to try him then : 
"I hope, my Lord, you'll pardon me, 

I'm not the worst of men, 
I the Scripture have fulfilled, 

Tho' a wicked life I led, 
When the naked I've beheld, 

I've cloathed them and fed ; 
Sometimes in a Coat of Winter's pride, 

Sometimes in a russet grey, 
The naked I've cloathed, the hungry fed, 

And the Rich I've sent empty away. 
As I was riding out one day, 

I saw a Prisoner going to Jail, 
Because his debts he could not pay, 

Or yet sufficient bail. 
A true and faithful friend he found 

In me that very day ; 
I paid the Creditor forty pounds 

Which set the Prisoner free. 
When he had my guineas bright, 

He told them into his purse, 
But I could not be satisfied: 

To have 'em again I must. 
Boldly I mounted my prancing steed, 

And crossing a point of land, 
There I met the Creditor, 

And boldly bade him stand. 
Sir, the debt you owe to me 

Amounts to Forty pounds 
Which I am resolved to have 

Before I quit this ground, 



236 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

I search'd his pockets all around, 

And robb'd him of his store, 
Wherein I found my forty pounds 

And Twenty Guineas more. 
What harm, my Lord Judge, he said, 

What harm was there in this, 
To Rob a Miser of his store, 

By my stout heartedness. 
I never rob'd or wrong'd the poor, 

As it plainly does appear ; 
So I hope you'll pardon me 

And be not too severe." 
Then the Judge unto bold Turpen said 

"Your stories are but in vain, 
For by our laws you are condemn'd, 

And must receive your pain. 
Repent, repent, young man, he said, 

For what is done and past, 
You say the hungry you've cloathed and fed, 

But you must die at last." 

It is of course possible that this ballad was 
not meant for Dick Turpin at all ; for, so wide- 
spread in rural districts had his fame early grown, 
that " Turpin " became almost a generic name for 
local highwaymen, just as after Julius Caesar all 
the Emperors of Rome were Caesars. It was 
a name to conjure with : and this no doubt goes 
some way to explain the infinitely many alleged 
" Turpin's haunts " in widely separated districts : 
places Turpin could not have found time to haunt, 
unless he had been a syndicate. 

Away down in Wiltshire, in the neighbourhood 
of Trowbridge, between Keevil and Bulkington, 
and in a soggy level plain watered by an affluent 
of the Wiltshire Avon, there stands in a wayside 



DICK TURPIN 



237 



ditch a hoary object called "Turpin's Stone," 
inscribed, in letters now almost entirely obliter- 
ated, 

Dick Turpin's dead and gone, 
This Stone's set up to think upon. 

This curious wayside relic may be found on the 
boundary-line of the parishes of Bulkington and 




TURPIN'S STONE. 



Keevil, near a spot oddly named Brass Pan Bridge, 
and standing in an evil- smelling ditch that receives 
the drainage of the neighbouring pigsties. It is 
a battered and moss-grown object, and its in- 
scription, despite the local version of it given 
above, is not really decipherable, as a whole. 

VOL. II. 27 



238 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

" Turpin " may be read, easily enough, but if the 
word above it is meant for " Dick," why then 
the sculptor of it spelled the name " Dicq," a feat 
of illiterate ingenuity that rather staggers belief. 
Brake-loads of Wiltshire archaeologists have visited 
the spot in summer, when county antiquaries 
mostly archseologise, and, braving typhoid fever, 
have descended into the ditch and sought to 
unravel the mystery of this Sphinx : without 
result. 

The village of Poulshot, birthplace of Thomas 
Boulter, a once-dreaded highwayman, is not far 
off, and it is possible that Boulter, who had a very 
busy and distinguished career on the highways of 
England in general, and of Salisbury Plain in 
particular, 1 may have been named locally " Dick 
Turpin," after the hero who died at York under 
tragical circumstances, with the aid of a rope, in 
1739. Boulter himself ended in that way in 1778, 
at "Winchester, and so the transference of names 
was quite possible. He, it is significant to note, 
had a mare named " Black Bess," which he stole in 
1736 from Mr. Peter Delme's stables at Erie Stoke. 

There are Turpin " relics " and associations at 
the " Spaniards," on Hampstead Heath, and we 
find the Times of August 22nd, 1838, saying : 
" The rear of the houses on Holborn Bridge has for 
many years been the receptacle for characters of 
the most daring and desperate condition. There, 
in a secret manage (now a slaughter-house for her 
species), did Turpin suffer his favourite Black 

' See the " Exeter Road," pp f 217-228, 



DICK TURPIN 



239 



Bess to repose for many a night previously to her 
disastrous journey to York." The Times had 
evidently swallowed the Ride to York story 
whole, and relished it. 

Another, and more cautious commentator says, 
" He shot people like partridges. Many wild and 
improbable stories are told of him, such as his 
rapid ride to York, his horse chewing a beef-steak 
on the way ; but, setting these aside, he was hardy 




PORTMANTEAU, FOEMEBLY BELONGING TO TURPIN, DISCOVERED 
AT CLERKENWELL. 

and cruel enough to shine as a mighty malefactor. 
He seems, to quote the Newgate jest, to have been 
booked, at his very birth, for the Q-ravesend Coach 
that leaves at eight in the morning." 

"Many years ago," we read in Pink's History 
of Clerkenwell, " a small leather portmanteau was 
found at the ' Coach and Horses ' tavern, at 
Hockley-in-the-Hole, with the ends of wood, 
large enough to contain a change of linen, besides 
other little etceteras. On the inner side of the 
lid, lightly cut in the surface of the leather, is the 



2 4 o HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

name, ' R. TVRPIN.' Whether or no this portman- 
teau (such an one as horsemen formerly carried 
behind them, strapped to the saddle), belonged to 
that famous highwayman," says Pink, " we will 
not attempt to decide." 

But here there should not be much room for 
doubt. The relic was probably genuine. It was 
illustrated in Pink's book, but the whereabouts of 
it are not now known. 

The irons worn by Turpin in his cell at York 
Castle are now preserved in the York Museum, 
together with those used for Nevison. They have 
a total weight of 28 Ib. 



WILLIAM PABSONS, THE BARONET'S 

SON 

WILLIAM PARSONS, born in 1717, was the youngest 
son of a respectable baronet, Sir William Parsons, 
of Nottingham ; and was so well connected that 
he could claim no less a personage than the 
Duchess of Northumberland for aunt. Sent to 
Eton, to complete his education, he left " Henry's 
holy shade " in considerable disfavour, and on a 
visit to an uncle at Epsom so misconducted him- 
self, that he was bidden never show his face there 
again. His behaviour was no better at Cheshunt, 
where another relative had the misfortune to 
receive him for a time. He was then packed off 
to sea, as midshipman, aboard the Drake. Re- 
turning at the end of a cruise to England, he 
continued in the gaming habits he had early 
learnt, and, to provide funds for his amusements, 
called upon his highly-placed aunt and stole a 
gold-mounted miniature from her dressing-room. 
This he was obliged to sell for one-fourth its 
value. We next find him at Buxton, stealing a 
gold-buckled pair of shoes in the assembly-room 
belonging to a Mr. Graham, and realising on them 
while the owner, vainly seeking, lost all his 

dances. 

241 



2 4 2 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

A cruise aboard the Romney then took him 
to Newfoundland. He played cards and cheated 
aboard ship, and acquired so bad a character that 
it was plainly intimated the Navy was not his 
vocation and he had better leave it. He accord- 
ingly left the service and soon found himself 
deserted by his friends and without a stiver in his 
breeches pockets. 

Realising his wild nature, his father thought 
it best to secure him some post that should take 
him abroad for at least a few years, by which time 
his hot blood might have cooled down. To this 
end, he procured him a billet with the Royal 
African Company, on the West Coast of that then 
very Dark Continent; but the scapegrace was 
soon back in England, having quarrelled with the 
governor of James Port on the Gambia River, to 
whom he had been accredited. He landed even 
more destitute, if possible, than before, and of 
necessity lived the simple life, by existing for four 
whole days on three half -penny worth of bread. 
The public fountains supplied him freely with 
water, wherewith to wash down those frugal 
meals. 

He dared make no more applications to his 
father for assistance, for that father was then 
smarting at having paid 70 to redeem his honour 
over a discreditable affair that had taken place in 
Africa, where the reckless youth had forged a 
letter purporting to come from his aunt, the 
Duchess, saying she would be answerable for any 
debts her nephew might incur, up to that amount. 




WILLIAM PARSONS. 



WILLIAM PARSONS 245 

It was folly of the worst, and most unremunera- 
tive, kind, for that aunt, with whom he had 
originally been a favourite, revoked the will she 
had made in his favour, and left the 25,000, that 
would have come to him, to his sister. 

It is evident that William Parsons was what 
would be called in modern times a " degenerate." 
In 1740 he borrowed a large sum of money by a 
pretence that he was his elder brother, who was 
the prospective owner of a considerable legacy. 
He then succeeded in making a respectable 
appearance for a time, and married a young lady 
of good family and fortune. By that marriage he 
acquired a sum of 4,000, but his wife's trustees, 
being not quite satisfied with him, took care to 
secure the bulk of her property in such a manner 
that he could not touch it. Entering the Army 
in 1741, as an ensign in a foot regiment, he 
embarked upon an extravagant manner of living : 
obtained a quantity of gold and silver plate from 
confiding tradesmen, and kept a large number of 
servants. He could never resist the gaming- 
tables, and although himself a rogue and a 
swindler, always found others there who proved 
more finished than himself, and thoroughly fleeced 
him. 

He would then turn to forgery, and success- 
fully negotiate forged bills under well-known 
names. The Duke of Cumberland's signature was 
used for 500. Nothing came amiss to his per- 
verse ingenuity ; and he would even, as an army 
officer, call upon tailors and pretend to having a 



246 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

contract for the supply of uniforms. He would 
pocket a handsome commission and receive the 
goods and sell them for what they would fetch. 
To be his friend was to be marked down for being 
defrauded, and often to be placed in the most em- 
barrassing situations. Thus in 1745, when the 
Jacobite rebellion was disturbing the country, he 
borrowed a horse of a brother officer and rode 
away with it, intending to desert to the rebels. 
But, thinking better of it, he went no further than 
Clerkenwell, where he sold the horse. The late 
owner was, in consequence, arrested on charges 
of desertion and high treason, and things might 
quite conceivably have gone hard with him. 

Accounts of Parsons' next doings do not quite 
agree. By one of them we learn that he went 
to Florida as a lieutenant, but according to 
another and a more probable version, he was 
shipped to the plantations in Virginia as a con- 
vict, who had been found guilty of forgery at 
Maidstone Assizes, and sentenced to be transported. 
Family influence had no doubt prevented his 
being hanged. 

Working as a slave in the plantations belong- 
ing to Lord Fairfax, he attracted the attention of 
that nobleman, who took him from the gang of 
convicted malefactors, with whom, under strict 
supervision, he hoed and delved under the blazing 
sun, and befriended him. It did not pay to 
befriend William Parsons. He stole one of the 
best horses belonging to his benefactor, and, going 
upon those early colonial roads, soon accumulated, 



WILLIAM PARSONS 



247 



as a highAvayman, a sufficient sum to buy himself 
a passage back to old England. 

By fraud, backed up with consummate 
assurance, he obtained 70 at his port of landing, 
and came at once to London. A scheme for plun- 
dering his sister, who 
by this time had 
succeeded to her 
aunt's legacy of 
25,000, then en- 
gaged his attention. 
He hatched a plot 
with a discharged 
footman, for that man 
to pose as a gentle- 
man of fortune, and 
to make advances to 
her, and even to 
forcibly carry her off 
and marry her against 
her will, if needs 
were. Some women 
servants were also in 
the plot, and were 
even given duly 




WILLIAM PARSONS. 



signed bonds in 500 

and lesser sums, to lend their aid. The footman 
and Parsons were, in the event of this scheme 
proving successful, to share the 25,000 in 
equal parts. 

By a mere accident, the plot was discovered in 
a milliner's shop in the West End, where a lady 

VOL. II. 28 



248 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

friend of Miss Parsons had pointed out to her 
a finely dressed gentleman, " who was going to 
marry Miss Parsons." This led to enquiries, and 
an exposure of the whole affair. 

The last resource of this thorough-paced 
scoundrel was the road. He chiefly affected the 
western suburbs and Hounslow Heath, and it was 
in a robbery on that widespreading waste that he 
was captured. He had obtained information that 
a servant, with a valise containing a large sum in 
notes and gold, was to leave town and meet his 
master at Windsor ; and so set out to lie in wait 
for him. But he had already been so active on 
the Heath that his face was too well known, and 
he was recognised at Brentford by a traveller who 
had suffered from him before. Following him 
into Hounslow Town, this former victim suddenly 
raised an alarm and caused him to be seized. 
Taken to the " Rose and Crown " inn, Parsons 
was recognised by the landlord and others, as one 
who had for some time scoured the Heath and 
committed robberies. His pistols were taken from 
him, and he was committed to Newgate, and in 
the fulness of time tried, convicted, and sentenced 
to death. The efforts of his family connections 
were again used to save him from the gallows, 
and themselves from the stigma of it ; but his 
career was too notorious for further leniency, and 
he was hanged at Tyburn on February llth, 1751. 



WILLIAM PAGE 

" THERE is always room on top " has long been 
the conclusive reply to complaints of overcrowding 
in the professions. However many duffers may 
already be struggling for a bare livelihood in 
them, there yet remains an excellent career for 
the recruit with energy and new methods. The 
profession of highwayman aptly illustrates the 
truth of these remarks. It was shockingly over- 
crowded in the middle of the eighteenth century, 
even though the duffers were generally caught in 
their initial efforts and hanged ; and really it is 
wonderful where all the wealth came from, to 
keep such an army of " money-changers " in 
funds. 

William Page, who for twelve years carried on 
a flourishing practice in the " Stand and Deliver ! " 
profession, was one of those few who lived very 
near the top of it. His name is not so familiar as 
those of Du Vail, Hind, Maclean, or Turpin, but 
not always do the really eminent come down to us 
with their eminence properly acknowledged. He 
was born about 1730, the son of a bargeman to 
a coal merchant at Hampton-on-Thames. The 

bargeman was unfortunately drowned at Putney 

249 



2 5 o HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

in 1740, and his widow was reduced to eking out 
a meagre livelihood by the distilling of waters 
from medicinal herbs. She is described as "a 
notable industrious woman," and certainly it was 
not from her example that William learned the 
haughty and offensive ways that would not permit 
him long to keep any of the numerous situations 
he took, after leaving the Charity School at 
Hampton, where he acquired what small education 
he had. He started life as tapster's boy at the 
" Bell " alehouse, in his native town, and thence 
changed to errand-boy in the employment of 
" Mr. Mackenzie," apothecary. Soon his youthful 
ambition took him to London, where he obtained 
a situation in the printing-office of Woodfall, in 
Little Britain, who became in after-years notorious 
as printer of the " Letters of Junius " ; but " that 
business being too great a confinement for his 
rambling temper, he left it, and went footboy 
to Mr. Dalrymple, Scots Holland warehouse in 
London." 

He rapidly filled the situations of footman to 
one Mr. Hodges, in Lincoln's Inn Fields ; porter 
to a gentleman in Cork Street, and footman to 
Mr. Macartney in Argyle Buildings. He then 
entered the service of the Earl of Glencairn, but 
left that situation to become valet to a certain 
Captain Jasper. Frequently discharged for " his 
proud and haughty spirit, which would not brook 
orders from his masters," and prevented him, on 
the other hand, being on good terms with his 
fellow-servants, he at last found himself unable to 



WILLIAM PAGE 251 

obtain another place. This was a sad time for 
William Page. In service he had learned ex- 
travagant habits, the love of fine clothes and the 
fascination of gambling; but his arrogant ways 
had brought him low indeed. 

" Being by such means as these extremely 
reduced in his circumstances, without money, 
without friends, and without character, he could 
think of no better method of supplying his wants, 
and freeing himself from a servile dependency, 
than by turning Collector on the Highway. This 
he imagined would not only take off that badge of 
slavery, the livery he had always worn with 
regret, but would set him on a level with 
gentlemen, a figure he was ever ambitious of 
making." 

His first steps were attended with some diffi- 
culty, for he laboured under the disadvantage, at 
the moment of coming to this decision, of having 
no money in his pockets ; and to commence 
highwayman, as to begin any other business or 
profession, it was necessary to have a small 
capital, for preliminary expenses. But a little 
ingenuity showed him the way. Pistols and a 
horse were the tools of his trade, and pistols, of 
course, first. A servant of his acquaintance 
knew a person who had a brace of pistols to sell, 
and Page took them, " to show a friend on 
approval." He then hired a horse for deferred 
payment, and with the pistols went out and 
immediately and successfully robbed the Highgate 
coach. Thus, with the 4 he in this manner 



252 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

obtained, he paid for the pistols and settled with 
the livery-stable keeper for his horse-hire. In 
another day or two he had touched the wayfaring 
public for a sum sufficient to purchase a horse of 
his own ; and thus commenced his twelve-years' 
spell of highway adventure, in which, although he 
had many exciting experiences, he was arrested 
only once before the final escapade that brought 
him to the gallows. 

An early freak of his was the robbing of his 
former master, Captain Jasper, on Hounslow 
Heath. The Captain was crossing the ill-omened 
place with a lady in a post-chaise, when Page rode 
up, bade the postilion stop, and ordered the 
Captain to deliver. 

"That may be, sir," retorted the Captain 
angrily, " but not yet," and, pulling out a pistol, 
fired at him. His aim was not good, but he hit 
somebody : none other, indeed, than his own 
postilion, who was struck in the back, " and 
wounded very much." 

Then said Page, " Consider, sir, what a rash 
action you have been guilty of. You have killed 
this poor fellow, which I would not have done for 
the world. And now, sir, I repeat my orders, and 
if you refuse any longer to comply, I will actually 
fire upon you." 

The Captain then snapped his second pistol at 
him, but it missed fire. Page then swore he 
would shoot the lady ; intending to do nothing of 
the kind, but only to alarm the Captain the more. 
But in Captain Jasper our highwayman had met 




WILLIAM PAGE. 



WILLIAM PAGE 255 

sterner stuff than common, and the gallant 

7 O 

soldier, the better to protect her, forthwith sat 
himself in her lap. On Page continuing to declare 
he would shoot him, the Captain leapt out of the 
chaise at him, and at that moment Page fired, hut 
with intention to miss, and the shot passed 
harmlessly by. Again the Captain pulled the 
trigger of his pistol, and again it missed fire. 

Then Page declared his ultimatum : " You 
must now surrender, or I absolutely will shoot 
you." Whereupon the Captain, having done all 
he possibly could, delivered up his gold watch and 
ten or eleven guineas. Page then demanded his 
sword, but he quite rightly, as a soldier, demurred 
to such a humiliation. 

" You may see by my cockade I am an officer, 
and I would sooner part with my life and soul 
than with my sword," he bravely declared. 

Page generously acknowledged his spirit. " I 
think myself," he said, " thou art the bravest 
fellow that ever crossed these plains, but thou 
art an obstinate fellow ; and so, go about your 
business." 

He introduced some interesting novelties into 
the well-worn business. The chief of these was 
the distinctly bright idea of driving from London 
in a phaeton with a pair of horses and at some 
lonely spot disguising himself with a wig and 
another suit of clothes. Then, saddling one of 
the horses and leaving the phaeton, he would 
carefully emerge upon the high road and hold up 
coaches, post-chaises, or solitary equestrians. This 



256 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

accomplished, he returned to his phaeton, harnessed 
the horse again, resumed his former attire, and 
drove back to town, like the gentleman of fashion 
and leisure he pretended to be. One day, pursuing 
this highly successful programme, he was nearly 
undone by the action of some countryfolk who, 
finding an abandoned phaeton and one horse 
strangely left in a coppice, went off with it. The 
simple people, making along the road with this 
singular treasure-trove, were themselves followed 
by some unlucky travellers whom Page had just 
robbed, and violently denounced as confederates. 
Page was fully equal to the occasion. Nearly 
stripping himself, and casting his clothes down a 
convenient well, he returned to London in that 
plight and declared himself to have been treated 
like the man in the Scriptures, who " fell among 
thieves " ; although it does not appear that the 
traveller in question had a carriage. His phaeton 
had been stolen, and himself robbed and left almost 
naked. 

This precious story was fully believed, and 
the country people themselves stood in some con- 
siderable danger. They were flung into prison 
and would no doubt have been convicted had Page 
appeared against them. This he, for obvious 
reasons, refused to do, and they found themselves 
at liberty once more, resolved to leave any other 
derelict carriages they might chance to see severely 
alone. 

Page, in course of time, married a girl of his 
native town. She could not long remain ignorant 



WILLIAM PAGE. 257 

of his means of livelihood, and earnestly begged 
him to leave the road and take to honest work. 
Few, however, quitted the highway except for the 
" three-legged mare " at Tyburn, and the one- or 
two-legged mares of other places ; and he held 
on his way. Now and again he would disappear 
for a time, after some particularly audacious 
exploit, to reappear when the excitement it had 
caused was over. On one of these occasions he 
shipped to Barbados and Antigua, stayed there 
for seven or eight months, and then returned to 
England, desperately in want of money. The 
line of least resistance indicated the road once 
more. 

His first exploit after this reappearance was 
the robbing of one Mr. Cuffe, north of Barnet. 
The traveller, being driven along the road alone 
and unarmed in a post-chaise, had no choice but 
to surrender his purse, and held it out from the 
window at arm's length. But Page's horse, not 
being used to this kind of business, shied violently, 
and Page thereupon ordered the postilion to dis- 
mount and hand it him, which he did, and he 
then gracefully and at leisure retired. 

On his return to town, leading this high- 
mettled horse down Highgate Hill, Page was 
followed by three men on horseback, who, having 
heard of this robbery down the road, suspected he 
might be the man. They immediately planned 
how they were to take him, and then, one of them 
riding quietly up, said, " Sir, I have often walked 
my horse up Highgate Hill, but never down ; 

VOL. II. 29 



2 5 3 HALF- HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

but since you do, I will also, and bear you 
company." 

Page readily agreed, without the least suspicion 
of any design against him, and so they entered 
into a very friendly conversation. After walking 
in this manner some little distance, the gentleman 
finding a fit opportunity, keeping a little behind, 
suddenly laid hold of his arms and pinioned them 
so tightly behind him that he was not able to stir ; 
seeing which, the other two, then on the opposite 
side of the road, crossed over and secured him 
beyond any possibility of escape. They found in 
his pockets four loaded pistols, a powder-horn, and 
some bullets, a crape mask, and a curious and 
ingenious map himself had drawn, showing all the 
main roads and cross roads for twenty miles round 
London. * 

They then took him before a Justice of the 
Peace at Highgate, who put many searching 
questions, without gaining any information. He 
was, however, committed to Clerkenwell Bride- 
well, and was afterwards examined by none other 
than Henry Eielding, magistrate and novelist. 
Sent from the Old Bailey to stand his trial at 
Hertford Assizes, he was acquitted for lack of 
exact evidence, although every one was fully 
satisfied of his guilt, for, however strange the 
times, they were not so strange that honest gentle- 
men carried such a compromising collection of 
things about with them on the roads. 

His narrow escape did not disturb him, and he 
was soon again on his lawless prowls. On Houn- 



WILLIAM PAGE 259 

slow Heath he robbed a Captain of one of the 
Guards regiments, and was pursued into Hounslow 
town by that officer, shouting " Highwayman ! " 
after him. No one took any notice. Page got 
clear away, and afterwards boasted of having, the 
following night at a theatre in London, sat next 
the officer, who did not recognise him. 

An interlude followed in the activities of our 
high-spirited highwayman. He and an old 
acquaintance struck up a more intimate friendship 
over the tables of billiard-rooms in London, and 
there they entered into an alliance, with the 
object of rooking frequenters of those places. 
But their returns were small and precarious, and 
did not even remotely compare with the rich 
harvest to be gathered on the road, to which he 
accordingly returned. 

It was Page's ill-fortune to meet with several 
plucky travellers, who, like Captain Jasper, would 
not tamely submit to be robbed, and resisted by 
force of arms. Among them was Lord Downe, 
whose post-chaise he, with a companion, one day 
stopped at Barnet. Presenting his pistol, he 
issued the customary orders, but, to his surprise, 
Lord Downe himself drew a pistol, and discharged 
it with such excellent aim, that Page was shot 
in the body, and bled very copiously. His com- 
panion's horse, alarmed at the shot, grew restive, 
and thus his friend was for a while unable to 
come to his aid. Page, however, again advanced 
to the attack; but my lord was ready with 
another pistol, and so the highwaymen thought 



260 HAL f- HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

it best to make off. They hurried to London, and 
Page sought a doctor, who found the wound so 
dangerous, that he refused to treat him without 
consultation. The other doctor, immediately on 
arriving, recognised Page, and asked him how he 
came by the wound ; to which Page replied, that 
he had received it in a duel he had just fought. 

" I will extract the ball," replied the doctor ; 
" but," he added significantly, " I do not wish to 
see your face again, for I believe you fought that 
duel near Barnet." 

Shortly after his recovery from this untoward 
incident, he and one ally, Darwell, by name, 
an old schoolfellow, waiting upon chance on 
Shooter's Hill, met two post-chaises, in one of 
which was a " supercargo " belonging to the East 
India Company, and in the other a person, who 
is simply described as a " gentleman." 

Page's accomplice opened the encounter by 
firing a pistol, to which the supercargo replied in 
like manner ; but with a better aim, for the bullet 
tore away a portion of his coat, under the armpit. 
A second shot from the highwayman was also 
ineffective. Then Page rode up and attacked the 
other chaise. A desperate fusillade followed ; but 
the only damage done was that Page's horse 
was slightly wounded. At last, the post-chaise 
travellers having expended all their ammunition, 
the two highwaymen compelled them to alight, 
and the postilions to dismount ; and then, having 
bound the hands of all of them with rope, they 
ordered these unfortunate persons, on peril of 



WILLIAM PAGE 261 

their lives, to remain on that spot for one hour. 
They then returned to the chaises, removed the 
travelling trunks, and, carrying them off on horse- 
hack, hid them securely. 

Then they hastened back to London. The 
next morning, in two chaises, they returned to 
the spot, and in security brought back the trunks, 
which contained, not only a large amount of 
money, but a mass of important documents 
belonging to the East India Company. 

A reward of forty guineas was offered, by 
advertisement in the newspapers of the time, for 
the return of the documents, " and no questions 
asked." The advertisers themselves, by so doing, 
risked a fine of 50 for compounding a felony ; 
but, in any case, the reward was never claimed, 
although Page carefully returned the papers 
anonymously. 

The fact which at last cut the knot of William 
Page's existence was the robbing of Captain 
Earrington in 1757, on Blackheath. Among other 
things the Captain was compelled to render to 
this Caesar of the roads was a gold repeater watch. 
Hotly pursued, Page gave the hue-and-cry a long 
chase for it, and finally, arriving at Richmond, 
had himself and his exhausted horse ferried across 
to Twickenham. 

Soon after, finding the south of England ringing 
uncomfortably with the fame of his doings, he 
took ship for Scotland, but landed at Scarborough, 
where, at the fashionable spa, he gambled heavily 
and strutted awhile as a man of considerable 



262 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

fortune. But he must have been at last really 
alarmed and prepared to consider turning over 
a new leaf, for he went north to see his former 
master, the Earl of Glencairn, who, he thought, 
would be able to recommend him to employment 
in the plantations. The Earl, however, received 
him coldly, and he came south again, to resume 
his chosen profession, in company with Darwell, 
whom he had by constant alternate threats and 
persuasions seduced from the reformed life he 
was leading and the respectable situation he 
held, to take up again this hazardous calling. 

Together they scoured the road to Tonbridge, 
Darwell forming, as it were, a rearguard. Page 
was pursued beyond Sevenoaks by five mounted 
men armed with pistols, and a blunderbuss, who 
dashed past Darwell, and after a struggle seized 
his leader, who presently escaped again. In their 
return, disappointed, they made a prisoner of 
Darwell, who, suspecting something of the kind 
would happen, had already thrown away his pistols. 
In spite of his indignant protestations that he 
was a private gentleman, and would not endure 
such an outrage, he was searched and a part of 
Captain Farrington's watch was found upon him, 
with the maker's name and most of the distinguish- 
ing marks more or less carefully obliterated. 
Questioned closely, he declared he had picked it up 
upon the road. As for the highwayman they had 
just now nearly captured, he knew nothing of 
him : had never set eyes on him before. 

But, in spite of these denials, Darwell was 



WILLIAM PAGE 263 

taken off in custody and examined before a magis- 
trate, who so plied him with questions, threats 
of what would happen to him if he continued 
obstinate, and promises of clemency if he would 
make discovery of his companion, that he at last 
turned King's evidence. During the interval, he 
was lodged in Maidstone gaol. 

A fortnight later, Page was arrested in one 
of their old haunts in London, the " Golden Lion," 
near Grosvenor Square. He was at first taken 
to Newgate, but afterwards remitted to Maidstone, 
and tried there for the robbery of Captain 
Earrington. Convicted and sentenced to death, 
he was hanged on Penenden Heath, April 6th, 
1758. 



ISAAC DARKIN, ALIAS DUMAS 

ISAAC DARKIN was the son of a cork-cutter in 
Eastcheap, and was born about 1740 ; too late to 
appear in the stirring pages of Alexander Smith 
or Charles Johnson, in which he would have made, 
we may be sure, an admired figure. All those 
who knew him, on the road or in the domestic 
circle, agreed that he was a handsome fellow ; and 
travellers, in particular, noticed his taking ways. 
These were first displayed in 1758, when he robbed 
Captain Cockburn near Chelmsford. No less 
taking, in their own especial way, were the police 
of the neighbourhood in that time, for they 
speedily apprehended Isaac, and lodged him in 
Springfield gaol. He was duly arraigned at the 
next assizes, and no fewer than eight indictments 
were then preferred against him. He pleaded 
guilty to the robbing of Captain Cockburn, but 
not guilty on the other counts ; and was, after a 
patient trial, found guilty on the first and 
acquitted on the others. He was then sentenced 
to death, but was eventually respited on account 
of his youth, and finally pardoned on condition 
that he enlisted in the 48th Regiment of foot, 

then serving in the West Indies, at Antigua. 

264 



ISAAC DARKIN 265 

Drafted with others ahoard a ship lying in the 
lower reaches of the Thames, presently to set sail 
for that distant shore, he effected his escape, 
almost at the moment of up-anchor, by dint of 
bribing the captain of a merchant vessel lying 
alongside, to whom he promised so much as a 
hundred pounds to help him out. He was 
smuggled aboard the merchantman, and so cun- 
ningly disguised that when a search-party, sus- 
pecting his whereabouts, boarded the ship, and 
searched it, even to the hold, they did not recog- 
nise him in a particularly rough and dirty sailor 
who was swearing nautical oaths among the ship's 
company on deck. So the transport- vessel sailed 
without him, and he, assuming the name of 
Dumas, rioted all through the West of England, 
robbing wealthy travellers and gaily spending his 
takings on what he loved best : fine clothes and 
fine ladies. He was so attentive to business that 
he speedily made a name for himself, the name 
of a daring votary of the high toby. This reputa- 
tion rendered it politic on his part to enlist in the 
Navy, so that in case of being arrested for high- 
way robbery, he could prove himself to have a 
respectable occupation, that would help to dis- 
credit the charge of being a highwayman. 

He soon became a valued recruit, and was 
promoted to midshipman ; and it is quite likely 
that if he had been sent on active service he 
would have distinguished himself in a more 
reputable career than that in which he was so 
soon to die. But his duties kept him for consider- 
VOL. ii. 30 



266 HALF- HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

able periods in port, and he seems to have had 
ample leave from them ; for we find him hovering 
near Bath and gaily robbing the wealthy real 
or imagined invalids going to, or returning from, 
the waters. 

On the evening of June 22nd, 1760, he fell in 
with Lord Percival, travelling by post-chaise over 
darken Down, near Bath, and robbed him of 
twelve, thirteen, or fourteen guineas my lord 
could not positively swear to the exact amount. 
He then made off in the gathering twilight, and 
galloped across country, to Salisbury Plain and 
the little village of Upavon, where he was arrested 
in a rustic alehouse, and sent thence to Salisbury 
gaol. At his trial he indignantly denied being a 
highwayman, or that he was an Englishman. He 
declared his name was Dumas, that he had lately 
come from Guadaloupe, where he had taken a part 
in the late military operations ; and said that the 
so-styled " suspicious behaviour " and damaging 
admissions he was charged with, when arrested at 
the inn, were merely the perplexities of a foreigner, 
when suddenly confronted by hostile strangers. 

This special pleading did not greatly deceive 
judge or jury, but the prosecution broke down 
upon a technical detail, and Darkin was acquitted ; 
not, however, without an affecting address to the 
prisoner from the judge, Mr. Justice Willmott, 
who urged him to amend his ways, while there 
was yet time. 

It is thus quite sufficiently evident that, 
although the Court was bound to acquit the 



ISAAC DARKIN 267 

prisoner, no one had the least doubt of his guilt. 
His narrow escape does not appear to have im- 
pressed Darkin, or " Dumas " ; but he was anxious 
enough to be off, as we learn from a contemporary 
account of the proceedings, in which it is quaintly 
said : " He discovered great Impatience 'till he 
had got off his Fetters and was discharged, which 
was about five o'clock in the evening, when he 
immediately set out for London in a post-chaise." 
The fair ladies of Salisbury sorrowed when he 
was gone. They had been constant in visiting 
him in prison, and had regarded him as a hero, 
and Lord Percival as a disagreeable hunks. 
The hero-worship he received is properly noted 
in the account of his life, trial, and execution, 
issued in haste from an Oxford press in 1761, 
shortly after the final scene had been enacted. 
In those pages we read : " During Mr. Dumas' 
imprisonment at Salisbury, we find his sufferings 
made a deep impression upon the tender Hearts 
of the Ladies, some of whom, having visited him 
in his Confinement, his obliging Manner, genteel 
Address, lively Disposition, and whole Deportment 
so struck them that his Fame soon became the 
Discourse of the Tea Table ; and at the happy 
Termination of His Affair with my Lord Percival, 
produced between them the following Copy of 
Verses : 

Joy to thee, lovely Thief ! that thou 

Hast 'scaped the fatal string, 
Let Gallows groan with ugly Rogues, 

Dumas must never swing. 



268 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

Dost thou seek Money ? To thy Wants 

Our Purses we'll resign ; 
Could we our Hearts to guineas coin 

Those guineas all were thine. 

To Bath in safety let my lord 

His loaded Pockets carry ; 
Thou ne'er again shall tempt the Road, 

Sweet youth ! if thou wilt marry. 

No more shall niggard travellers 

Avoid thee We'll ensure them : 
To us thou shalt consign thy Balls 

And Pistol ; we'll secure 'em. 

Yet think not, when the Chains are off, 

Which now thy Legs bedeck, 
To fly : in Fetters softer far 

We'll chain thee by the Neck." 

But in the short space of six weeks from his 
acquittal at Salisbury and his triumphal exit in 
a post-chaise for London, he was again arrested on 
a charge of highway robbery, this time for robbing 
a Mr. Gammon at Nettlebed, on the road to 
Oxford. Committed to trial at Newgate, he was 
transferred to Oxford gaol, and tried there on 
March 6th. He had up to now been phenome- 
nally fortunate, but things at this crisis looked 
a great deal more serious. He acknowledged " he 
had experienced many narrow scrapes, but never 
such a d d one as this," and he was presently 
found guilty and condemned to death, this time 
without any extenuating circumstances being 
found. 

Isaac Darkin was what in our times would be 
called a " superior person." Slang he disdained 



ISAAC DARKIN 269 

to use, bad language was anathema to him ; and 
if he did, indeed, condescend to describe a person 
of mean understanding as " a cake," or " a flat," 
that was the most he permitted himself. His 
delicacy was so great that he never mentioned a 
"robbery," a "robber," or a "highwayman," but 
spoke instead of persons who had been "injured," 
or of " the injured parties." And as he was so 
nice in his language, so he was particular in his 
dress and deportment. As an eulogist of him said, 
not without a little criticism : " He was possessed 
of too great a share of pride for his circumstances 
in life, and retained more of it to the last than 
was becoming in a person in his unhappy situation. 
He had a taste for elegance in every respect ; was 
remarkably fond of silk stockings, and neat in his 
linen ; had his hair dressed in the most fashionable 
manner every morning ; his polished fetters were 
supported round his waist by a sword-belt, and 
tied up at his knees with ribbon." 

Although but the son of a cork-cutter, he had 
lived, in the estimation of his contemporaries, like 
a gentleman. Like a gentleman he spent his last 
days, and if he did indeed seem to boast a little 
when, a few days before his execution, he declared 
he had been nine times in gaol, and seven times 
tried on a capital charge, that was merely a 
pardonable professional exaggeration. His claim 
to have gleaned over six hundred guineas from 
the road has, on the other hand, the look of an 
under-estimate. The rumbustious fellows of a 
hundred years earlier would have thought that 



270 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

very bad business ; they often took much more in 
a single haul. But times were changing, and not 
for the better, from the highwaymen's point of 
view. 

Isaac Darkin died like a gentleman, without 
apparent fear, and without bravado, at Oxford, on 
March 23rd, 1761, and was at that time, as him- 
self remarked, without apparent pathos or truck- 
ling to weak sentiment, " not twenty-one." 



JAMES MACLAINE, THE " GENTLEMAN' 5 
HIGHWAYMAN 

THE career of James Maclean, or Maclaine, shows 
that it was not really difficult to become a 
" gentleman " highwayman. Born at Monaghan 
in 1724, he was the second son of Lauchlin 
Maclaine, a Presbyterian minister, who, although 
settled in Ireland, was a Scotsman of unmixed 
Scottish blood, and of undoubted Scottish sym- 
pathies. There are plenty of materials for a life 
of his son James, the highwayman, for the story 
of his career had a remarkable attraction for all 
classes of people at the time when he went to 
die at Tyburn, in 1750; and consequently the 
" Lives " and " Memoirs " of him are numerous. 
There are also several portraits of him, most of 
them showing a distinctly Scottish type of coun- 
tenance, but not one solving the mystery of his 
extraordinary fascination for women. Indeed, 
the full-length portrait of him engraved in Caul- 
field's Remarkable Characters, in which he is 
styled " Macleane, the Ladies' Hero," shows a 
heavy- jowled person, with dull, yet staring fish- 
like eyes ; exactly the kind of person who might 

be expected to create an unfavourable impression. 

271 



272 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 



Perhaps the artist does him an injustice, but none 
of the several artists and engravers who have 
handed down to us their respective versions of 
his features have succeeded in imparting the 
slightest inkling of good looks to him, and few of 
the portraits agree with one another. He was tall 

above the average, 
as the various 
prints show ; and 
he wore fine 
clothes. It was 
these exceedingly 
fine feathers, and 
the fashionable re- 
sorts he affected, 
that gave him the 
distinction of 
' gentleman '' 
highwayman; and 
it is to be feared 
that his exquisite 
dress, in larger 
measure than the 
quality of his man- 
ners, influenced 
the ladies of 1750, who wept over his fate just as 
the equally foolish women of 1670 had wept over 
the hanging of Du Vail. 

The Ordinary of Newgate saw nothing re- 
markable in Maclaine. He speaks of him as " in 
person of the middle-size, well-limbed, and a 
sandy complexion, a broad, open countenance 




JAMES MACLAINE. 

From a contemporary Portrait. 




MACLAINE, THE LADIES' HERO. 



JAMES MACLAINE 275 

pitted with the small-pox, but though he was 
called the Gentleman Highwayman, and in his 
dress and equipage very much affected the fine 
gentleman, yet to a man acquainted with good 
breeding, and that can distinguish it from im- 
pudence and affectation, there was very little in 
his address or behaviour that could entitle him 
to the character." 

Archibald, the elder brother of this fashionable 
hero, was an entirely respected and blameless 
person, who entered the Church, and was pastor 
of the English community at The Hague for 
forty-nine years, from 1747 to 1796. 

James, the future knight of the road, was 
intended by his father for a merchant; but that 
pious father died when James was eighteen 
years of age, and so the youthful " perfect master 
of writing and accompts," as he is styled, in- 
stead of proceeding, as intended, to a Scottish 
merchant in Rotterdam, received a modest in- 
heritance, with which he immediately took himself 
off to Dublin, where he lost or expended it all 
inside twelve months, in dissipation, after the 
example of the Prodigal Son in the Scriptures. 

Only, unfortunately for him, when the money 
was gone, and he would, given the opportunity, 
perhaps have returned, like that illustrious ex- 
emplar, from his husks and his harlots, to 
partake of the fatted calf, there was no father, 
no home, and no fatted calf to which he might 
return. 

But he had still some relatives left in Mon- 

VOL. II. 31 



276 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

aghan, and he thought he might be received by 
them. In this he was altogether mistaken when 
he tried to put it to the proof, and was reduced 
almost to the point of starvation there, when he 
attracted the attention of a gentleman, who offered 
him a footman's place in his service. He did 
not keep this situation long. He was too im- 
pudent to his master, and too patronising towards 
the other servants. He was discharged, and for 
a time subsisted upon a scanty allowance from 
his brother. 

In this extremity he found a gentleman of 

Cork, a " Colonel F n," who was confiding 

enough to engage him as butler. But he appar- 
ently did not make a good butler ; and was, more- 
over, discovered making away with his master's 
property, and discharged. "We next find him in 
London, thinking of joining the Irish Brigade 
in the French service ; but abandoning the idea 
from conscientious scruples against being em- 
ployed in Popish surroundings. Maclaine had 
a very tender conscience and a timid nature, and 
what with his religious scruples and the fear of 
being shot (to which he does not allude, but 
which was very vivid to him), he had to abandon 
the notion of wearing a fine uniform, which we 
may suspect had originally given him the im- 
pulse to a military life. 

Maclaine did not at this period keep very 
reputable society ; but was in 1746 again occupy- 
ing a position with the forgiving " Colonel 
F n." The Colonel seems to have, on this 




JAMES MACLAINK. 



JAMES MACLAINE 279 

second occasion, found him an undesirable servant ; 
whereupon, "being prepossessed with the per- 
fections of his person," he proposed to enlist in 
Lord Albemarle's troop of horseguards. The 
Colonel, as an old soldier, thought this, no doubt, 
the best thing, and, with an advance of ten 
pounds, bade him go where glory waited him. 

Maclaine accordingly enlisted. He had visions 
of being seated on a prancing steed " steed " 
being the superlative of " horse " and, dressed 
in something with plenty of blue or scarlet and 
gold in it, taking part in ceremonial processions 
and escorts. Unhappily, soon after he had en- 
listed, he heard that the troop was to proceed at 
once to Flanders on active service, and hurriedly 
got, somehow, out of the dangerous position. 

He then made some attempt to settle down 
and live respectably, for he married the daughter 
of a Mr. Maclagen, a horsedealer in the Oxford 
Road the Oxford Street of to-day. His wife 
brought a small dowry of 500, and with this 
they set up business in the grocery and chandlery 
way in Welbeck Street. Unhappily for any views 
he may have entertained of a settled life as a 
tradesman, his wife died in 1748. It appeared 
then that the business had not prospered, or 
that their style of living had been beyond their 
means, for the stock and furniture were then 
found to be worth only 85. 

Maclaine's first idea after this domestic 
catastrophe was one very prevalent at that time : 
the notion of posing as a gentleman of fortune 



2 8o HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

and of fashion, with the object of ensnaring the 
affections of some susceptible young lady of means 
and marrying her for her money. He accord- 
ingly realised all his effects, and, placing his two 
infant daughters in the care of his mother-in-law, 
burst upon the town as one of the elegants of 
the day. 

A needy neighbour, like himself a tradesman, 
Plunkett by name, who had failed as a chemist, 
was induced by this hopeful widower to act a 
part as his footman, and together they frequented 
places of fashionable assemblage, both in London 
and at Tunbridge Wells, on the look-out for 
heiresses. But the game was shy, and meanwhile 
the small capital of 85 was fast melting away. 
Eine clothes were ten times more expensive in 
that age than the finest clothes of to-day, 
and although it was possible to obtain a good 
deal on credit, it was not at all workable to visit 
Vauxhall and such expensive places, and to cut 
a dash there, for any considerable time on so 
inconsiderable a capital. 

It was Plunkett who at this stage of affairs, 
when their funds were nearly exhausted, sug- 
gested the road as a place where money might 
usually be had for the asking. 

" A brave man," said Plunkett, " cannot want. 
He has a right to live, and need not want the 
conveniences of life. While the dull, plodding, 
busy knaves carry cash in their pockets, we must 
draw upon them to supply our wants. Only 
impudence is necessary, and the getting better 



JAMES MACLAINE 281 

of a few idle scruples. Courage is scarcely 
necessary, for all we have to deal with are 
mere poltroons." But when poltroon meets pol- 
troon, when the timid traveller, ready to hand 
over his purse on demand, cannot do so because 
the coward highwayman dare not reach out and 
take it, what happens ? It is an embarrassing 
moment, whose fortunes are (or were) determined 
only by chance. 

Plunkett did not know the manner of man 
he had to deal with until they had taken the 
road together. He had always seemed a bold, 
swaggering fellow, and big enough in all con- 
science; but when it came to highway robbery 
he was a helpless companion. 

Their first affair was with a grazier, going 
home from Smithfield with the proceeds of his 
day's business in his pocket. Plunkett, suddenly 
enlightened as to Maclaine's want of nerve, took 
the conduct of the incident firmly in hand at 
once, or the results might have been disastrous 
for both. He took 60 from the grazier, while 
Maclaine looked on and spoke no word, inwardly 
in greater fear than he, and ready, had there 
been any sign of resistance, to fly. 

Their next attempt was to stop and rob a 
coach on the St. Albans road. 

It was agreed that Maclaine should stop the 
coachman and present his pistol on one side, 
while Plunkett did the same on the other. But 
although he rode up several times, intending to 
challenge the Jehu with the traditional cry of 



282 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

the bold and fearless fellow's who did the like 
every night, his heart failed him; so Plunkett 
had to carry it off as best he could, while Maclaine 
sat shivering with cowardice in the background, 
in spite of the " Venetian mask " that covered the 
upper part of his face and concealed his identity 
sufficiently well. 

But Plunkett, as may have been already 
gathered, was a man with sufficient resolution 
for two, and although Maclaine was quaking with 
terror on every occasion, he brought him in some 
fashion up to the scratch in a long series of 
robberies. They frequently hired or stabled 
horses at Hyde Park Corner, and thence rode out 
for a day and a night upon Hounslow Heath, or 
elsewhere. 

" In all this while," we learn, he scarcely ever 
thought of his daughters, " and seldom visited his 
mother-in-law." O villain ! 

When in town, he had lodgings on the first 
floor over a shop in St. James's Street, and pre- 
sented a gorgeous figure to morning callers. He 
was even more gorgeous in the evening, when 
he frequented places of public entertainment, 
and obtained the freedom of some fashionable 
houses. But the morning picture he presented 
will probably suffice. He then wore a crimson 
damask ban j an, a silk shag waistcoat turned with 
lace, black velvet breeches, white silk stockings, 
and yellow morocco slippers. 

On one exceptional occasion, Plunkett and 
Maclaine went as far as Chester, and did good 



JAMES MACLAINE 283 

business on the way ; but their best haul was 
on Shooter's Hill, where they stopped and robbed 
an official of the East India Company of a large 
sum. 

With his share of the plunder, Maclaine took 
a little holiday on the Continent, and visited his 
brother at The Hague, probably astonishing that 
worthy man by his sudden magnificence. He then 
returned and rejoined Plunkett. 

Horace Walpole wrote at different times several 
accounts of how he was once stopped by these 
brothers-in-arms. It was a moonlight night, in 
the beginning of November 1749, nearly a year 
before Maclaine's career was brought to a close, 
that Horace was returning from Holland House, 
Kensington, to London. The hour was ten o'clock, 
the place Hyde Park. What trifles, or what 
amount of money Messrs. Maclaine and Plunkett 
took on this occasion we are not told ; for Walpole 
does not take his correspondents so completely 
and voluminously into his confidence over this 
affair as he generally did. He only tells them, 
and us, that the pistol of " the accomplished 
Mr. Maclean," as he calls him, went off by 
accident, he is careful to say and that the bullet 
passed so close as to graze the skin beneath his 
eye and stun him. The bullet then went through 
the roof of the carriage. 

The incident that so nearly brought the life of 
Horace Walpole to an untimely end, and might 
thus have left the world much poorer in eighteenth- 
century gossip, was conducted, as he tells us, 



284 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAVMEN 

" with the greatest good-breeding on hoth sides." 
He further adds that the reason of Maclaine being 
out that night and taking a purse that way was, 
he had only that morning been disappointed of 
marrying a great fortune. It does not seem at all 
an adequate reason ; but that was the eighteenth 
century and this is the twentieth, and perhaps we 
cannot see eye to eye on all these matters. 

But, at any rate, Maclaine afterwards behaved 
very nicely about the articles he had taken ; 
sending a note to Walpole as soon as ever he had 
returned to his lodgings, in which he made his 
excuses, if not with the witty grace of a Voiture, 
at least expressed in a manner ten times more 
natural and easily polite. He declared that, had 
the bullet found its billet in Walpole 's head, he 
would certainly have put one through his own. 
Then, in a postscript, which, like the postscripts 
in letters written by feminine hands, contained 
the whole substance of and reason for the letter, 
Maclaine added that he would be pleased to meet 
the gentleman at Tyburn (O ominous tryst !) at 
twelve at night, where the gentleman might 
purchase again any trifles he had lost. 

There, if not particularly elsewhere, Maclaine 
seems to have indeed proved himself, in one brief 
moment, a " gentleman " highwayman. You see 
the argument passing in his mind. The trifles 
were indeed trifles intrinsically, but they might 
have had some sentimental worth, of old or new 
association, that would have made the loss of 
them a grievous thing to their rightful owner. 



JAMES MACLAINE 285 

Well, then, if that owner liked to ransom them 
for a trifling sum, here was his chance. A very 
considerate offer. 

But Horace Walpole did not accept the 
rendezvous. Possibly he doubted the honour of 
a highwayman met at such a spot. 

The " gentleman highwayman " resented criti- 
cism, as will be seen by the following story : 
Maclaine frequented Button's Coffee House, in 
Hussell Street, Covent Garden, and paid particular 
attention to the barmaid there, daughter of the 
proprietor. The attentions of such a fine gentle- 
man as he appeared to be were very flattering to 
the girl, and very noticeable to other frequenters 
of the house, one of whom, a certain Mr. Donald- 
son, knew Maclaine, and took the opportunity of 
warning the girl's father of his real character. 
The father in his turn cautioned his daughter, 
and foolishly let slip the name of the person 
who had warned him ; and she, of course, 
passed on the information to the engaging 
Maclaine. 

On the next occasion when Donaldson visited 
Button's, and while he was sitting in one of the 
boxes, Maclaine entered, and in a loud voice, and 
the pronounced Irish brogue that was ever on 
his tongue, said : " Mr. Donaldson, I wish to spake 
to you in a private room." 

Mr. Donaldson, being unarmed, and naturally 
afraid of being alone with such a man as he knew 
Maclaine to be, said that as there could not 
possibly be anything pass between them that the 

VOL. II. 32 



286 ffALF-ffOURS WITH THE* HIGHWAY MEtf 

whole world was not welcome to know, he begged 
leave to decline the invitation. 

" Very well," rejoined Maclaine, " we shall 
meet again." 

A day or so later, as Mr. Donaldson was 
walking near Richmond in the evening, he saw 
Maclaine on horseback, approaching him ; but 
fortunately at that moment a gentleman's carriage 
appeared, and Maclaine rode after it ; Donaldson 
hastening into the protection that the streets of 
Richmond town afforded. It is probable that, 
but for this timely diversion, Maclaine would 
have shot the man who dared tell the truth 
about him. 

But the end of the alliance of Maclaine and 
Plunkett was now at hand. On June 26th, 1750, 
at two o'clock in the morning, they stopped the 
Salisbury stage on Turnham Green. The courage 
of the coach passengers was at a low ebb at that 
unconscionable hour, and they suffered themselves 
to be robbed, without making the least resistance. 
They numbered five men and one woman. The 
men were bidden step out, and, doing so, were 
searched and robbed at leisure. A Mr. Higden 
had an exceptionally fine waistcoat, and had to 
part with even that to Maclaine, who was a 
connoisseur in waistcoats. A Mr. Lockyer also 
was constrained to give up a wig. From the lady 
was taken " only what she chose to give." Here, 
at any rate, is a faint sweet relic of an older 
courtesy. 

As an afterthought, Maclaine went back for 



JAMES MAC LAI NE 289 

two or three of the portmanteaux stored away in 
the boot. 

They then, riding off westward, met the Earl 
of Eglinton, travelling in his postchaise. He had 
an escort of two mounted servants, but as they 
were over half a mile behind at the time, he 
might equally well have been travelling alone. 

Maclaine, riding up to the postboy, threatened 
him with a pistol and told him to stop instantly ; 
but, at the same time, was sufficiently cautious to 
so place himself that the occupant of the post- 
chaise would be unable to fire at him without 
hitting the postboy. The highwaymen were, as 
a rule, exceedingly well-informed persons ; and 
Maclaine knew perfectly well that Lord Eglinton 
carried a blunderbuss with him, and had the 
reputation of always being ready and willing to 
use it. 

But in the strategic position he had taken up, 
he was quite safe, and meanwhile Plunkett had 
advanced from the rear and taken his lordship 
completely by surprise. He threatened, indeed, 
instantly to shoot him, if he did not throw the 
blunderbuss away ; and my lord flung the weapon 
from him at once, as though it had been red-hot. 
Plunkett then took seven guineas from him. 

Maclaine was not behindhand, and seized his 
lordship's overcoat and the blunderbuss which 
was lying upon the heath. He was a frugal 
person, and in that particular did credit to his 
Scots ancestry. A curious old print shows this 
robbery, famous in its day, and in it Maclaine and 



2 9 o HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

Plunkctt do certainly look most awe-inspiring in 
their attitudes : Maclaine, in particular, being 
apparently engaged in pushing his pistol through 
the postboy's head. But that is doubtless artistic 
licence. 

Maclaine did a very foolish thing when he 
returned to his St. James's Street rooms, early 
that same day. He sent for a Jew dealer to come 
and make an offer for some clothes he wished to 
sell ; none other, in fact, than those he had taken 
from the coach, and when they were shortly 
advertised as having been stolen, the mischief 
was done. As if that were not folly enough, 
Maclaine's frugality had led him also to remove 
the gold lace from one of the stolen coats and to 
offer it for sale. He chanced to take it to the 
very laceman who had recently sold it. His 
arrest was then a matter of course. Equally of 
course, he strongly protested against the indignity 
of a " gentleman " being arrested for theft, and 
then he broke down and wept in " a most dastardly 
and pusillanimous manner, whimpering and crying 
like a whipt schoolboy." 

Maclaine declared that the absconded Plunkett 
had left the clothes with him, in part satisfaction 
of a debt he owed, and that he, Maclaine, was to 
have sold them for what they would fetch, as part 
liquidation of the debt. 

Any so-called confession he might have made, 
he now declared impossible. What should a 
gentleman like himself know of highway robbery ? 
" It is true enough that when first apprehended, 



JAMES MACLAINE 291 

the surprise confounded me and gave me a most 
extraordinary shock. It caused a delirium and 
confusion in my hrain which rendered me in- 
capable of being myself, or knowing what I said 
or did. I talked of robberies as another man 
would do in talking of stories ; but, my Lord, 
after my friends had visited me in the Gate-house, 
and had given me some new spirits, and when I came 
to be re-examined before Justice Lediard, and was 
asked if I could make any discovery of the robbery, 
I then alleged I had recovered my surprise, that 
what I had talked of before concerning robberies 
was false and wrong, and was entirely owing to a 
confused head and brain." 

He called nine witnesses to character ; among 
them Lady Caroline Petersham, who is represented 
in a curious print of the trial at the Old Bailey, 
under examination. 

The elegant Maclaine stands prominently in 
the dock handsomely attired, but, alas ! heavily 
fettered, with his laced hat under his left arm. 
One hand holds his lengthy written defence, the 
other is affectedly spread over his breast, in 
gentlemanly protestation of his being an injured 
person. His is a tall, upstanding figure ; but he 
appears, by the evidence of the print, to have had a 
face like a pudding : and the majority of the 
counsel seated at a table in front of him are shown 
regarding it with easily understood curiosity and 
astonishment. 

One of the dignified persons on the bench is 
represented addressing Lady Caroline : " What has 






2 9 2 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

your Ladyship to say in favour of the Prisoner at 
y' Bar ? " 

With a dramatic gesture, she replies : " My 
Lord, I have had the Pleasure to know him well : 
he has often been about my House, and I never 
lost anything." 

In spite of this cloud of witness, our gentle- 
man was convicted, and that with the utmost 
dispatch, for the jury returned their verdict of 
" guilty " without leaving the box. 

The time between his condemnation and 
execution was spent in an affectation of repentance, 
that does not read very pleasantly. He suddenly 
found himself a great sinner, and indeed revelled 
luxuriantly in the discovery. But there was not 
the true note of abasement and conviction in all 
this ; for he went among his fellow- criminals like 
a superior person, and offered them consolation 
from the rarefied heights of his " gentility," that 
must have been excessively galling to them. Their 
profanity and callousness shocked him profoundly. 
Probably their behaviour was not less profane 
when he, condemned to die for misdeeds similar 
to their own, presumed to lecture them on the 
error of their ways. But preaching was in his 
blood, and would find expression somehow, and he 
found excuse for his almost consistent lack of 
courage on the road in the moral reflection that 
it was conscience made a coward of him. But 
conscience did not prevent him sharing in the 
swag when the enterprise was carried through. 

He said it was true that, since he had entered 




MACLAINE IN THE DOCK. 



JAMES MACLAINE 295 

upon the highway, he had never enjoyed a calm 
and easy moment ; that when he was among ladies 
and gentlemen they observed his uneasiness, and 
would often ask him what was the matter, that he 
seemed so dull. And his friends would tell him 
that surely his affairs were under some embarrass- 
ment ; " But they little suspected," said he, " the 
wound I had within." 

He protested in a good cause he believed there 
was not a man of greater natural courage than 
himself, but that in every scheme of villainy he put 
Plunkett on the most hazardous post. " There," 
said he, " I was always a coward my conscience " 

always that sickly, unconvincing iteration. 

But the insistence of conscience that Plunkett 
should always be placed in the way of the bullets 
is at least amusing. 

Walpole tells how Maclaine had rooms in 
St. James's Street, opposite White's Club, and 
others at Chelsea. Plunkett, he says, had rooms 
in Jermyn Street. Their faces were as well known 
in and about St. James's as that of any of the 
gentlemen who lived in that quarter, who might 
also be in the habit of going upon the road, if the 
truth were known about everybody. Maclaine, 
he said, had quarrelled, very shortly before his 
arrest, with an army officer at the Putney Bowling 
Green. The officer had doubted his gentility, and 
Maclaine challenged him to a duel, but the 
exasperating officer would not accept until Mac- 
laine should produce a certificate of the noble 
birth he claimed. 



296 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

" After his arrest," says Walpole, " there was 
a wardrobe of clothes, three-and-twenty purses, 
and the celebrated blunderbuss found at his 
lodgings, besides a famous kept-mistress." Wai- 
pole concluded he would suffer, and as he wished 
him no ill, he did not care to follow the example 
of all fashionable London, and go to see him in 
his cell. He was almost alone in his thus keeping 
away. Lord Mountfield, with half White's Club 
at his heels, went to Newgate the very first day. 
There, in the cell, was Maclaine's aunt, crying 
over her unhappy nephew. When those great and 
fashionable frequenters of White's had gone, she 
asked, well knowing who they were, but perhaps 
not fully informed of their ways, beyond the fact 
that they gambled extravagantly : " My dear, 
what did the Lords say to you? Have you ever 
been concerned with any of them ? " 

"Was it not admirable? " asks Walpole; adding, 
" but the chief personages who have been to 
comfort and weep over their fallen hero are Lady 
Caroline Petersham and Miss Ashe : I call 
them ' Polly ' and ' Lucy,' and asked them if he 
did not sing : ' Thus I stand like the Turk with 
his doxies around ' ? " 

In that last passage, Walpole refers to Gay's 
Beggar's Opera, written in 1716 and produced 
in 1728 ; a play written around an imaginary 
highwayman, " Captain Macheath," who might 
very well have stood for Maclaine himself. Polly 
and Lucy were two of Macheath's friends in the 
opera. 



JAMES MACLAINE 299 

We have Walpole's own authority for the 
otherwise almost incredible statement that three 
thousand people went to see Maclaine in his 
cell, the first Sunday after he was condemned. 
He fainted away twice with the heat of the 
cell. " You can't conceive the going there is to 
Newgate, and the prints that are published of 
the malefactors and the memoirs of their lives 
and deaths, set forth with as much parade as 
Marshal Turenne's." 

The fatal October 3rd came at last, when he 
was to die. A curious etched print published at 
the time, at the small price of threepence, entitled 
" Newgate's Lamentation, or the Ladies' Last 
Farewell of Maclaine," shows the parting, and 
bears the following verses : 

Farewell, my friends, let not your hearts be fill'd, 
My time is near, and I'll with calmness yield. 
Fair ladies now, your grief, I pray, forbear, 
Nor wound me with each tender-hearted tear. 

Mourn not my fate ; your friendships have been kind, 
Which I in tears shall own, till breath's resign'd. 
Oh ! may the indulgence of such friendly love, 
That's been bestowed on me, be doubled from above. 

Thus fortified, and giving his blessing, for what it 
might be worth, he went to Tyburn diligently 
conning his prayer-book all the way, and not once 
glancing at the crowds. 

To the constable who had arrested him, and 
who now came to beg his forgiveness, he replied 
earnestly : " I forgive you, and may God bless 
VOL. ii. 33 



300 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

you, and your friends ; may He forgive my enemies 
and receive my soul." And then he was turned 
off, and died quite easily. There was a great sale 
for the many more or less truthful lives of him 
hawked round the gallows. 



JOHN POULTEB, ALIAS BAXTER 

THE story of John Poulter is one of the saddest 
that here present themselves to he recorded. He 
was horn at Newmarket, of poor parents, and 
was given a sufficient schooling for his station. 
At thirteen years of age he was taken into service 
in the stahles of the Duke of Somerset, and re- 
mained there for six years, leaving with an 
excellent character for smartness and industry. 
He then went into the employ of Colonel Lumley, 
and was on three occasions sent to France, in 
charge of racehorses ; always giving complete 
satisfaction. But this slight experience of foreign 
travel seems to have unsettled him, and he craved 
for adventures under alien skies. We next find 
him, accordingly, sailing on a Bristol merchant 
ship and voyaging to the West Indies, to the 
American Colonies, and to Newfoundland ; seeing 
life in a humble but effective way. 

Returning to England at last, and, sailor-like 
or at any rate, like sailors of those times 
falling at once into abandoned company, he met, 
at Lichfield on February 1749, a dissolute set of 
persons living disreputably upon their wits ; 
among them a certain John Brown, alias Dawson, 

301 



302 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

who, with an experience of the highway trade, 
easily persuaded the adventurous Poulter to join 
him and his associates. 

Brown, Poulter, and company, fully armed, 
then set out to prey upon all and sundry ; devot- 
ing themselves more particularly to thefts from 
houses. At Lichfield, while one diverted the 
attention of the landlord of the " George " inn, 
another rifled a chest and stole a sum of money 
and many valuable articles. At Chester, Poulter 
distinguished himself by stealing some black plush 
that he fancied might make him a fine stylish 
waistcoat; and sent off at once to a tailor, to 
call at the " Black Dog " inn, where he and the 
gang were lodging, that he might be measured, 
and enabled to appear forthwith as a person 
of elegance and distinction. We may here fitly 
pause a moment to admire, or to be astonished 
at, the child-like vanity and delight in fine 
clothes displayed by nearly all the highwaymen 
at that time. They could not resist seizing every 
and any opportunity that offered, of dressing 
themselves in the best that could be obtained. 

Unfortunately, the manners of a highwayman 
were not exactly those of a gentleman. There 
was something overdone in the affected elegance 
of deportment, a certain exaggeration and a 
decided " loudness " that made reflective people 
suspicious. Thus, the tailor to whom Poulter sent 
for his stolen plush to be made up was not 
altogether satisfied with his strange customer, and 
when a pistol that Poulter carried in his pocket 



JOHN \PO ULTER 303 

went off accidentally during the process of 
measurement, he was convinced that a person 
who carried loaded firearms in this manner was 
not only a dangerous, but also a suspicious, 
person. The bullet had harmlessly sped into the 
ceiling, but the tailor was unnerved by the in- 
cident, and Poulter, rather lamely apologetic, 
endeavoured to explain away this concealed 
armoury by accusing Brown of putting crackers 
in his pockets. As for the tailor, he hurried off 
to the Mayor with the story that a dangerous 
person, evidently a highwayman, had taken lodg- 
ings in the city, and was one of a queer gang, 
whose suspicious movements had already attracted 
attention. The Mayor sent some trusty emissaries 
to examine Poulter and his associates, but they 
had already taken the alarm, and had embarked 
at Parkgate for Ireland. 

Poulter had already had enough of this 
criminal life, and, tired of adventure of all kinds, 
desired nothing better than to settle down to 
some business. He accordingly, in the name of 
Baxter, took a small alehouse in Dublin, and, 
entirely dissociating himself from his companions 
for a time, did a comfortable and fairly prosperous 
trade, averaging five barrels a week. Here he 
might have continued, and would have been 
glad to do so, only for a most unfortunate 
circumstance. 

There were at that time a number of Irish 
rogues in London, obtaining a hazardous livelihood, 
chiefly by picking pockets, but not disdaining 



304 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

any form of villainy that might promise to be 
profitable. General Sinclair was robbed of a gold 
watch by one or other of this gang, as he was 
leaving a party at Leicester House, and William 
Harper and Thomas Tobin, two suspicious char- 
acters, were arrested for being concerned, and 
taken to the Gatehouse at Westminster, whence 
they were presently rescued by their gang, to 
the number of a couple of dozen ; all of them 
making off to Ireland. 

This affair would not appear to concern Poulter 
in any way, engaged as he was at Dublin in earn- 
ing an honest livelihood ; but it had a very tragical 
result on his fortunes. Among the fugitives 
was one James Field, who had known Poulter 
in London ; and he, as ill-fortune would have it, 
chanced one day to walk down that Dublin Street 
where Poulter 's inn was situated. By the ac- 
cursed malevolence of fate, Poulter himself 
happened at that moment to be standing at the 
door of his house. Field immediately recognised 
him and stopped to enquire what his old con- 
federate was doing. He drank there and wished 
him good day, but soon after brought all that 
escaped gang of scoundrels to the spot ; and there, 
much to Poulter's dismay, they established them- 
selves, day by day, making his inn, once so 
respectable and well-conducted, a byword for 
riotous drinking, and the haunt of characters that 
it would be flattery to describe as merely "suspi- 
cious." Field and others were actually taken into 
custody there. Decent trade deserted the inn, 



JOHN POULTER 305 

and, despairing of being rid of the scoundrels, 
whom he dared not forbid the house, lest they 
should turn upon and denounce him, he absconded 
across Ireland to Cork, where he at first con- 
templated taking another inn. He at last, how- 
ever, settled upon Waterford, and took an inn 
there, remaining for six months, when he was 
induced to return to Dublin by his former brewer, 
who, sorry to have lost a good customer by 
Poulter's enforced flight, wanted him back. 

He eventually settled two miles outside 
Dublin, at an inn called the " Shades of Clontarf," 
looking upon the sea ; and became part inn- 
keeper, part fisherman, and led a very happy, 
honest, and contented life, making, moreover, an 
average profit of 3 a week. 

But here he was found towards the close of 
1751 by Tobin, who foisted himself and a dissolute 
woman companion upon the unfortunate man. 
Poulter generously received them, but earnestly 
implored Tobin not to bring his evil associates 
into the neighbourhood. He wanted, he declared, 
to live an honest life, and to be done with the 
past. Tobin assured him he would not appear in 
the neighbourhood again ; but in a few days he 
was back at Clontarf, with a select company of 
rascals, and from that time the unhappy Poulter 
knew no peace. His determination to lead a 
respectable life they took as a direct challenge to, 
and slur upon, themselves. There is nothing that 
so greatly enrages the habitual criminal as the 
reclamation of one of his own kind, and it is 



306 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

doubtless the influence of hardened evil-doers 
that prevents many a criminal, really disgusted 
with crime, from reforming. These wretches 
set themselves deliberately to ruin Poulter. They 
practically lived at his house, and, as had been 
done before, they soon changed the character of 
it from a decent alehouse to a thieves' boozing- 
ken, to which the police-officers came at once 
when they Avanted to find some bad character, or 
to trace stolen property. Poulter was a mere 
cipher under his own roof. 

But they were not content with wrecking his 
trade : they must needs blast that good character 
he had been so patiently acquiring. They did it 
by making him out a smuggler. Six pounds of tea 
and twelve yards of calico and muslin placed 
secretly in his boat, and information then lodged 
with the Revenue officers, was sufficient. Poulter's 
boat was seized and condemned, and Poulter him- 
self, convinced that he would not be able to 
establish his innocence, fled from the scene and 
hurried aboard a vessel bound for Bristol, where 
he landed penniless. There, in Bristol streets, he 
met two early criminal acquaintances, Dick Bran- 
ning and John Roberts, and as there seemed to be 
no likelihood of being allowed to live within the 
law, he agreed to take part with them and a 
number of confederates, whose headquarters were 
at Bath, in a campaign of highway and other 
robberies. 

Their operations were of the most roving 
description. By way of Trowbridge, they made 



JOHN POULTER 307 

for Yorkshire, raiding the country as they went 
with all manner of rogueries. Nothing came 
amiss. At Halifax they netted twenty-five 
guineas from a clergyman by an eighteenth- 
century ancestor of the thimble-rigging fraud, 
called " pricking in the belt." At last they 
found themselves at Chester : place of evil omen 
for Poulter. There, at the house of a confederate, 
they heard on the evening of their arrival of a 
train of pack-horses laden with Manchester goods, 
due to pass that night. Watch had been kept 
upon them, said the confederate, and a man would 
point out to our friends which, among all the 
animals of the pack-horse train, was best worth 
robbing of his load. It would be best, he said, to 
do the work on the country road, and to take the 
horse into a field. 

As it happened, they pitched upon the wrong 
horse, and got only a load of calamancoes, fabrics 
woven of wool with an admixture of silk, popular 
in those times ; but the pack contained over a 
thousand yards, and they cut it off after some 
difficulty in the dark, and got away safely with 
it ; although greatly alarmed by the horse's loud 
neighing when he found himself separated from 
his companions. 

The robbers went off at once out of the 
neighbourhood, and that same night reached a 
village near Whitchurch, eighteen or twenty miles 
distant. There they obliterated all distinguishing 
marks on the goods, and divided them. 

At Grantham, which Poulter and Tobin next 
VOL. u. 34 



3 o8 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

favoured with a visit, they relieved a credulous 
farmer of fifteen guineas by the " pricking in the 
belt " device. At Nottingham several of the 
accomplices met, but they had bad luck, and 
Poulter went on the sneak and stole a silver 
tankard, [without a lid, from the " Blackamoor's 
Head " inn : and that was all the scurvy town of 
Nottingham yielded them. They then made for 
Yorkshire, where they remained for a considerable 
period, . and then left, only because their wide- 
spread thefts of all kinds made a continued 
stay dangerous. York, Durham, and the north, 
including Newcastle, comprised a tour then 
undertaken. 

They then made their way to Bath, the general 
rendezvous of the gang, and thence in what 
Poulter calls " three sets," or gangs, moved in- 
dependently and by easy stages into Devonshire : 
attending the cattle-fair at Sampford Peverell, 
with marked success to themselves, and grievous 
loss to the farmers and graziers there assembled. 
Thence they moved on to Torrington and Exeter, 
and so back again to Bath, where twelve of them 
met at Roberta's house. 

Poulter and two confederates named Elgar and 
Allen then went into the north of England again, 
attending fairs, horse-races and cock-fighting 
matches on the sharping lay ; winning about 30 
or 40 at cards. Returning to Bath, and being 
looked upon with suspicion, living as they were 
with a number of riotous men in B/oberts's house, 
they hit upon the dodge of passing for smugglers, 



JOHN POULTER 39 

and thus at once explaining their association and 
enlisting public sympathy. Every one, except the 
Revenue officers, was in those times well-affected 
towards smugglers. 

They were not only at considerable pains, but 
at great expense also, to create this impression. 
" We used," says Poulter, in his confessions, " to 
give seven shillings a pound for tea, and sell it 
again for four shillings and sixpence, on purpose 
to make people believe we were smugglers." 

While they were thus staying at Bath, they 
would go now and then to a fair, and try " the 
nob," or " pricking in the belt." If that did not 
succeed, they would buy a horse or two, give 
lOU's for the money and false addresses, and then 
sell the horses again. " This," says Poulter, " is 
called ' masoning.' ' 

This was followed by a raid into Dorset. A 
visit of the gang to Blandford races was highly 
successful. They attended numerously, and while 
some robbed the booths, others devoted their 
attention to the sportsmen, and yet others 
lightened the pockets of the crowds engrossed 
in watching the cock-fighting. They wound 
up a glorious day by dining in style at the 
" Rose and Crown," and there chanced upon the 
best luck of all those gorgeous hours : finding a 
portmanteau from which they took eighteen 
guineas, four broad pieces, and diamonds, jewels, 
and clothes to a great amount. Many of these 
articles were taken to London by Poulter, and 
sold there to Jews in Duke's Place, Aldgate, on 



310 HALF- HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

behalf of self and partners. The proceeds were 
duly divided at Roberts's house at Bath. 

The next activities of these busy rogues were 
at Corsham, near Bath. They then appeared at 
Farringdon in Berkshire, and there robbed the 
Coventry carrier. Newbury and Bristol then 
suffered from them. At last, they grew so 
notorious in the West of England that they 
judged it only prudent to alter their methods 
for a time, and to devote themselves exclusively 
to horse-stealing : an art they had not hitherto 
practised with any frequency. 

An amusing incident was that in which 
Poulter robbed a man of 20. The foolish fellow, 
an utter stranger, had been rash enough to display 
his money to Roberts one night in a country 
alehouse. It had just been paid to him, he said. 
"And it will presently be taken from you," 
Roberts might truly have retorted. But he 
merely in a sly manner drew Poulter's attention, 
who later followed the man and presenting a 
metal tinder-box to his head, roared out, " Your 
money or your life." The tinder-box in the 
darkness looked so like a pistol that the money 
was meekly handed over. 

Poulter then went off to Trowbridge, in 
company with a new recruit, Burke by name, 
an Irishman, who had been confidential ostler to 
Roberts, and was now advanced to full member- 
ship of this body of raiders. Meeting a postchaise 
near darken Down, Burke proposed to attack it, 
but Poulter would agree only on condition that 



JOHN POULTER 311 

no violence were used. Poulter then led the 
attack, but in the darkness put his hand with 
accidental force through the window, and cut 
it severely. In doing so, his pistol went off, and 
Burke thinking it was the occupant of the chaise 
who had fired, replied with his own firearms. 
Fortunately, no one was hit. 

The chaise was occupied by Dr. Hancock and 
his little girl. Poulter took up the child and 
kissed her, and then, setting her down, robbed 
the Doctor of one guinea and a half in gold, six 
shillings, a gold watch, and some clothes : a booty 
not worth all the trouble, and certainly not by a 
long way worth the further trouble the affair 
was presently to bring. 

After seeing the postchaise disappear in the 
darkness, Poulter and his companion made their 
way to a neighbouring inn, and coolly displayed 
their takings to the landlord and his wife, who 
appear to have been, if not actual confederates, 
at least better disposed to self-revealed robbers 
than honest innkeepers should be. The landlady 
gave the highwaymen a bag for the clothes, and 
the landlord, when they lamented the fact of all 
their powder and ball being fired off, obligingly 
removed the charge from his loaded fowling- 
piece, and melted down two pewter spoons for 
casting into bullets. The landlady, when Poulter 
and Burke asked her if these preparations for 
arming did not alarm her, said : " No, they are not 
the first pistols I have seen loaded by night in 
this kitchen." Evidently an inn that the solitary 



312 HALF- HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

and unarmed traveller with money about him 
should avoid. 

She added thoughtfully that, after this robbery, 
they had better travel as far away as they could, 
that night from the spot. She would send them 
any news. 

They then left, and, taking a horse they 
chanced to see in an adjacent meadow, proceeded 
to Exeter, where they sold the stolen articles to a 
receiver. 

It was not more than three weeks later when 
Poulter was arrested on suspicion of being con- 
cerned in the robbery of Dr. Hancock. He was 
thrown into Ilchester gaol, brought to trial, and 
condemned to death. He made a full confession 
and disclosed the names of no fewer than thirty- 
one of his associates, their places of meeting, and 
their methods. He was not only anxious to save 
his life by thus turning evidence against the gang, 
but he was genuinely wearied of the manner of 
life into which he had been hounded. 

Many members of the gang, he said, lived 
to all appearances respectably. Their general 
meeting-place was Bath. He added that it was 
on every account desirable that the messenger to 
the police at Bath, entrusted with these disclosures, 
should keep all these things secret, except to the 
Mayor ; but some one had gossiped, for within one 
hour of his arrival those revelations were the talk 
of the town, and the names of those implicated in 
them were freely mentioned. The next day they 
were even printed, in accounts of the disclosures 



JOHN POULTER 313 

hastily struck off and sold in the streets. The 
very natural result was that most of the persons 
named escaped before justice could lay hands upon 
them. A list of nineteen not taken, and twelve in 
various gaols all over the country, is printed in 
the Discoveries. 

Dr. Hancock's property was found and re- 
turned to him. His conduct was one of the most 
astonishing features in this amazing case, and 
reflected considerable discredit upon him ; for 
although he visited Poulter in Ilchester gaol, 
before the trial, and assured the prisoner that 
although he was obliged to be a prosecutor, he 
would bear lightly upon the facts, and would 
in the event of a conviction use his best efforts to 
obtain the Royal pardon, he treacherously used 
every effort to secure his being hanged. There 
seems to have been no motive for this double- 
dealing, except his own natural duplicity. His 
treachery was thorough, for he even used his 
influence with the judge to obtain a shortening of 
the period between sentence and execution. 

The trial and the revelations made by Poulter 
excited keen and widespread public interest, and 
the lengthy pamphlet account of them, entitled 
" The Discoveries of John Poulter, otherwise 
Baxter, apprehended for robbing Dr. Hancock on 
darken Down, near Bath," had a large and long- 
continued sale. A copy of the fourteenth edition, 
issued in 1769, fourteen years later, is in the 
British Museum library. 

He was respited for six weeks, in consideration 



3 i4 HALF- HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

of the further disclosures he was to make, or of 
any evidence he might be required to give, and in 
this time, so moving was his tale, and so useful 
was the information he had given, that the 
corporations of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, and Taunton, 
together with numerous private gentlemen of 
considerable influence, petitioned that he might 
be reprieved. It is probable that these efforts 
would have been successful ; but Poulter was an 
unlucky man, and at this particular crisis in his 
affairs happened in some way to rouse the ill-will 
of the gaoler, who was never tired, in all those 
days of suspense, of assuring him that he would 
certainly be hanged, and serve him right ! 

It is not surprising that, under these circum- 
stances, the unhappy Poulter endeavoured to 
escape. With the aid of a fellow-prisoner, com- 
mitted to gaol for debt, he forced an iron bar out 
of a window, and the two, squeezing through the 
opening, broke prison at nightfall of Sunday, 
February 17th, 1755. They intended to make for 
Wales. All that night they walked along the 
country roads, Poulter with irons on his legs as 
far as Glastonbury, where he succeeded in getting 
them removed. When day came, they hid in 
haystacks, resuming their flight when darkness 
was come again. They next found themselves at 
Wookey, near Wells, much to their dismay, having 
intended to bear more towards the north-west. 
Poulter was by this time in a terribly exhausted 
condition, and his legs and ankles were so sore 
and swollen from the effects of being chafed with 



JOHN POULTER 315 

the irons he had walked with for ten miles, that it 
was absolutely necessary he should rest. He did 
so at an alehouse until two o'clock in the after- 
noon, and was about to leave when a mason at 
work about the place entered, and recognised him. 
Calling his workmen to help, he secured Poulter, 
who was then taken back to Ilchester. Nine days 
of his respite were left, but a strong and murder- 
ous animus was displayed against this most 
unfortunate of men, and it was decided to hang 
him out of hand. The execution could not, how- 
ever, take place earlier without a warrant from 
London, and the trouble and expense of sending 
an express messenger to the local Member of 
Parliament, then in town, demanding his instant 
execution, were incurred, in order to cut shorter 
his already numbered days. The messenger must 
have been phenomenally speedy, for he is said to 
have returned with the warrant within twenty-four 
hours ; and Poulter was at once taken out of his 
cell and hanged, February 25th, 1755. 



VOL. ii. 35 



PAUL LEWIS 

PAUL LEWIS, who was, like Nicholas Horner, 
the son of a clergyman, was born at Hurst- 
monceaux, in Sussex, and was originally put to 
the profession of arms, and became an officer 
of artillery. The usual career of gambling and 
debauchery, so productive of highwaymen, led 
him first into difficulties with his creditors, and 
then caused him to desert from the army. He 
left one service only to enter another, for he 
joined the navy, and rose from the rank of 
midshipman to that of lieutenant. 

None doubted his courage, nor, on the other 
hand, was there any mistaking his depravity. 
He robbed his brother officers of the small sum 
of three guineas, and made off with that meagre 
amount to begin the life of the road in the 
neighbourhood of Newington Butts. He levied 
contributions from a gentleman travelling in a 
chaise on this spot, but this, his initial effort, 
resulted in his capture. The plea of an alibi 
set up for him, however, secured his acquittal. 
Later he was seized at night by a police-officer 
while in the act of robbing a Mr. Brown, whose 

horse he had frightened by discharging a pistol. 

316 




PAUL LEWIS. 



PAUL LEWIS 319 

Mr. Brown was flung violently to the ground, 
and Lewis was in the act of going over his 
pockets when Pope, the police-officer, who had 
been on the look-out for him, secured him, after 
a struggle. 

Lewis was duly sentenced to death at the 
ensuing Sessions. 

The Newgate Calendar, recounting all these 
things, says : " Such was the baseness and un- 
feeling profligacy of this wretch that when his 
almost heart-broken father visited him for the 
last time in Newgate, and put twelve guineas 
into his hand to repay his expenses, he slipped 
one of the pieces of gold into the cuff of his 
sleeve by a dexterous sleight, and then, opening 
his hand, showed the venerable and reverend old 
man that there were but eleven ; upon which 
his father took another from his pocket, and gave 
it him to make the number intended. Having 
then taken a last farewell of his parents, Lewis 
turned to his fellow-prisoners, and exultingly 
exclaimed : "I have flung the old fellow out of 
another guinea ! " 

Lewis said' he would die like a man of 
honour; no hangman should put a halter round 
his neck. He would rather take his own life. 
But this he had not, after all, sufficient courage 
to do. A knife he had secreted in his pillow 
fell out one day, either by accident or design, 
and was taken away from him. He was exe- 
cuted at Tyburn on May 4th, 1763, aged twenty- 
three. 



THE WESTONS 

THE careers of George and Joseph Weston read 
like the imaginings of a romantic novelist, and, 
indeed, Thackeray adopted some of the stirring 
incidents of their lives in his unfinished novel, 
Denis Duval. 

George Weston was horn in 1753, and his 
"brother Joseph in 1759 ; sons of George Weston, a 
farmer, of Stoke, in Staffordshire. Early in 1772, 
George was sent to London, where a place in a 
merchant's office had been secured for him, and 
there he was fortunate enough to be promoted to 
the first position, over the heads of all the others, 
upon the death of the chief clerk, eighteen 
months later. He was then in receipt of 200 a 
year, and on that amount contrived to take part 
pretty freely in the gaieties and dissipations of 
Vauxhall and similar resorts. At this period he 
introduced his brother Joseph to town, and also 
began a series of peculations in the office, in order 
to support the extravagances into which a passion 
for gambling and " seeing life " had led him. 
WTien he could no longer conceal his defalca- 
tions, he fled to Holland, and Joseph, suspected of 

complicity, was obliged to leave London. 

320 



THE WESTONS 321 

Within three months George had returned to 
England in disguise. He made his way to Durham 
and there entered the service of a devout elderly 
lady of the Methodist persuasion. Pretending to 
have adopted the religious convictions of George 
Whitefield's followers, he affected the religious 
life, with the object of marrying the lady and 
securing her ample fortune. But he was recog- 
nised on the very eve of the wedding, and exposed. 
He then fled southward, with as much of the old 
lady's money and valuables as he could manage to 
secure at the moment. 

But he speedily lost nearly all his plunder in 
backing outsiders at York and Doncaster races, 
and entered Nottingham with only one guinea. 
There he fell in with a company of strolling 
players, managed by one James Whiteley, who 
offered him the post of leading gentleman. He 
accepted it, and under the name of Wilford, 
remained with them a little while. 

It was not a distinguished troupe, which 
perhaps accounts for his having been so promptly 
given a leading part in it. It consisted of two 
runagate apprentices, a drunken farrier, a stage- 
struck milliner, two ladies whose characters it 
were well not to study too closely, the manager's 
wife, a journeyman cobbler, a little girl seven 
years of age, and a stage-keeper, who alternated 
his stage-keeping with acting and barbering. 

The theatre was a decrepit and almost roofless 
barn, and the stage consisted of loose boards 
propped up on empty barrels ; while the scenery 



322 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

and the curtains were chiefly dilapidated blankets. 
Barn-storming in such pitiful circumstances did not 
suit our high-minded hero, who soon made his way 
to Manchester, where he became a schoolmaster, and 
a leading member of a local club, where he read 
the papers and conducted himself with such a 
show of authority that the parson, the lawyer, and 
the apothecary, who had before his coming disputed 
for pre-eminence over their fellow-members, yielded 
before his masterful ways. He shortly became 
High Constable, and soon began to abuse the 
position by blackmailing innkeepers and forging 
small drafts upon them. The more timid and easy- 
going submitted for a while to this, but others 
resented it in the very practical way of taking 
steps to secure his arrest. George then obeyed the 
instinct of caution and disappeared. 

About the year 1774 the brothers met at a fair 
in Warwickshire, where Joseph hadbeen playing the 
game of " hiding the horse," and had hidden three 
so effectively from their owners that he was pre- 
sently able to sell them, unsuspected, for over 70. 
They then had thoughts of purchasing a farm, and 
travelled to King's Lynn, where, in the name of 
Stone, they lodged some time with a farmer. 
Pretending to be riders (i.e. travellers) to a London 
distiller, they wormed themselves into the con- 
fidence of the farmer and appointed him local 
agent for the non-existent firm, showing him 
tricks by which he would be able to water down 
the spirits he was to receive, and so cheat the 
retailers. On the strength of these confidences, 



THE WESTONS 323 

they borrowed over a hundred pounds, and then 
decamped, leaving only their " sample bottles " of 
brandies and rums behind. 

They thought it wise to travel far, and so made 
their way into Scotland, and in the name of Gilbert 
took a small farm, where they remained for only a 
few months, leaving secretly and at night with all 
the movables, and with two geldings belonging 
to a neighbour. 

Cumberland had next the honour of affording 
them shelter. In October 1776 they were 
apprehended on a charge of forgery at Bishop's 
Castle, Shropshire, and must have received an 
altogether inadequate sentence, or perhaps escaped, 
for they are next found in Ireland, in the following 
summer, at Baltinglass, county Wicklow. They 
were shortly afterwards at Dublin, frequenting 
the clubs under the name of Jones. There they 
met a noted plunger of that time, one " Buck " 
English, and fooled him in the highest degree ; 
cheating at hazard, and obtaining money from him 
in exchange for forged bills and drafts. At length, 
after a fierce quarrel with English, who fought 
with George in the Dublin streets and wounded him 
in the right hand, the Westons left for Holyhead. 
Landing there with plenty of ready money, they 
toured Wales at leisure; Joseph as "Mr. Watson," 
and George as his valet. 

In May 1778 they were at Tenby. On leaving 
the inn, where they had stayed and run up a bill 
of 30, they paid the landlord with a forged 
cheque and departed grandly with the change, in 



3 24 HALF- HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

a postchaise and four. They then visited Brecon 
and Bidcford ; George now posing as master, in 
the name of Clark, and Joseph acting as Smith, 
his valet. Next they are found at Sutton Cold- 
field, then on the Sussex and Kentish coasts, 
where they purchased a vessel and became known 
to the fishermen of Folkestone, Deal, and Dover 
as the " Gentlemen Smugglers," trading between 
those parts and Dunkirk. They did very well, 
too, until an interfering Revenue cutter chased 
them and forced them to run their craft ashore. 

After this exciting episode, they made their 
way to London, and led a fashionable life, strongly 
flavoured with gambling and forgery. George 
took a house in Queen Anne Street, and the two 
" commenced gentlemen," as we are told ; George 
passing for a wealthy squire of sporting tastes. 
Hounds and whippers-in were almost daily at the 
door in the morning, and at night the rooms were 
filled with callow young men about town, attracted 
by the brilliant card-parties given at which, it is 
scarcely necessary to add, they were thoroughly 
rooked. 

The brothers lived here in great style, on the 
proceeds of forgery and cheating at cards. They 
induced a lady next door to lend a sideboard full 
of valuable silver plate, on the pretence that their 
own had not arrived from the country, and sold 
it; and, advertising largely that they were pre- 
pared to purchase plate, jewellery, and annuities, 
did, in fact, make several such purchases, paying 
for them in worthless bills. A good deal of the 



THE WESTONS 325 

property thus obtained was stored at a residence 
they had hired at Beckenham, in the name of Green. 

At length warrants were issued against them, 
and they fled to Scotland. At Edinburgh they 
posed as merchants trading with Holland, and 
acted the part with such complete success that 
they secured a considerable amount of credit. 
After forging and cashing numerous acceptances, 
they left for Liverpool, where, in the guise of 
" linen merchants," they repeated their Edinburgh 
frauds ; and then, transferring themselves to 
Bristol, they became " African merchants." There 
they did a little privateering with one Dawson, 
but that, being legalised piracy, did not appeal to 
these instinctive criminals, to whom crime was a 
sport, as well as a livelihood. 

London called them irresistibly, and they re- 
ponded. 

Biding up to town from Bristol to Bath, and 
then along the Bath Road, they overtook the 
postboy in the early hours of January 29th, 1781, 
driving the mailcart with the Bristol mails, 
between Slough and Cranford Bridge, and bidding 
him " good night," passed him. Arriving at 
the " Berkeley Arms," Cranford Bridge, they 
halted for refreshment, and then turned back, 
with the object of robbing the mail. 

George took a piece of black crape from his 
pocket and covered his face with it ; and then they 
awaited the postboy. 

Halting him, George ordered him to alight, 
and when he meekly did so, seized and bound him, 

VOL. II. 36 



326 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

and then flung him into a field. The two then 
drove and rode off to Windmill Lane, Sion Corner, 
and thence on to the Uxbridge road, through Baling, 
and up Hanger Hill to Causeway Lane. There, 
in " Farmer Lott's meadow," they rifled the con- 
tents of the cart and took the bags bodily away. 

Having disposed the mails carefully about their 
persons, they hurried off on horseback for London, 
to a house in Orange Street, near Piccadilly, where 
they were well known. The bags proved to con- 
tain between ten and fifteen thousand pounds, in 
notes and bills. 

A clever plan for immediately putting a great 
part of the notes in circulation was at once agreed 
upon ; and in the space of an hour or two, George 
left the house fully clothed in a midshipman's 
uniform, with Joseph following him dressed like 
a servant. They went to the "White Bear," in 
Piccadilly, and, hiring a post-chaise, set out upon 
what was nothing less than a hurried tour of the 
length and breadth of England ; tendering notes 
at every stage, and taking gold in exchange. By 
way of Edgeware, they went to Watford, Northamp- 
ton, Nottingham, Mansfield, Chesterfield, Sheffield, 
York, Durham, Newcastle, and Carlisle. Thence 
they returned, on horseback, by way of Penrith, 
Appleby, Doucaster, Bawtry, and Betford, to Tux- 
ford, where they arrived February 1st. Putting up 
for a much-needed rest there, with an innkeeper well 
known to them, they were informed that the Bow 
Street runners had only that day passed through, 
in search of them, and had gone towards Lincoln. 



THE WESTONS 327 

Early in the morning, the Westerns resumed 
their express journey, making for Newark, where 
they were favoured hy some exclusive information 
from an innkeeper friend, which enahled them 
narrowly to escape the runners, who had doubled 
back from Lincoln. 

Thence, post-haste, they went to Grantham, 
Stamford, and Huntingdon, to Royston, halting 
two hours on the way at the lonely old inn known 
as " Kisby's Hut." 

At Ware they took a postchaise and four, and 
hurried the remaining twenty miles to London ; 
arriving at the " Red Lion," Bishopsgate, at 
eleven o'clock on the night of February 2nd. The 
officers of the law were not remiss in the chase, 
and were at the " R/ed Lion " only one hour 
afterwards. 

Once in London, the brothers separated ; 
Joseph taking another postchaise, and George 
a hackney-coach. They were traced to London 
Bridge, but there all track of them vanished. 

Meanwhile, the Post Office had issued a long 
and detailed notice of the robbery, and had offered 
a reward of two hundred pounds for the appre- 
hension of the guilty person, or persons : 




"General Post Office, Jan. 29th, 1781. 

" The Postboy bringing the Bristol Mail this morning 
from Maidenhead was stop't between two and three 
o'clock by a single Highwayman with a crape over his 



328 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 



face between the llth and 12th milestones, near to 
Cranford Bridge, who presented a pistol to him, and 
after making him alight, drove away the Horse and 
Cart, which were found about 7 o'clock this morning in a 
meadow field near Farmer Lett's at Twyford, when it 
appears that the greatest part of the letters were taken 
out of the Bath and Bristol Bags, and that the following 
bags were entirely taken away : 



Newbury. 

Melksham. 

Maidenhead. 

Wantage. 

Wotton-under-Edge. 

Tewkesbury. 

Leominster. 

Cheltenham. 

Hay. 

Cardigan. 

Haverfordwest. 



" The person who committed this robbery is supposed 
to have had an accomplice, as two persons passed the 
Postboy on Cranford Bridge on Horseback prior to the 
Robbery, one of whom he thinks was the robber; but 
it being so extremely dark, he is not able to give 
any description of their persons. 

" Whoever shall apprehend and convict, or cause to 
be apprehended and convicted, the person who committed 
this Robbery will be entitled to a reward of TWO 
HUNDRED POUNDS, over and above the Reward 
given by Act of Parliament for apprehending Highway- 
men ; or if any person, whether an Accomplice in the 
Robbery or knoweth thereof, shall make Discovery 
whereby the Person who committed the same may be 
apprehended and brought to Justice, such discoverer will 



Pewsy. 
Ramsbury. 
Bradford. 
Henley. 
Cirencester. 


Calne. 
Trowbridge. 
Wallingford. 
Reading. 
Stroud. 


Gloucester. 
Ross. 


Ledbury. 
Hereford. 


Presteign. 
Fairford. 


Northleach. 
Lechlade. 


Aberystwith. 
Carmarthen. 
Pembroke. 


Lampeter. 
Tenby. 
Abergavenny. 



THE WESTONS 329 

upon conviction of the party be entitled to the Same 
Beward of TWO HUNDRED POUNDS and will also 
receive His Majesty's most gracious Pardon. 

" By Command of the Postmaster-General, 

" ANTH. TODD, Sec." 

It was soon ascertained that the Westons were 
the robbers, and careful descriptions of them were 
at once circulated : 

" George "Weston is about twenty-nine years of age, 
five feet seven inches high, square-set, round-faced, 
fresh-coloured, pitted with small-pox, has a rather thick 
nose, his upper lip rather thick, his hair of lightest 
brown colour, which is sometimes tied behind, and at 
other times loose and curled ; has much the appearance 
of a country dealer, or farmer. One of his thumb-nails 
appears, from an accident, of the shape of a parrot's 
bill, and he is supposed to have a scar on his right 
hand, from a stroke with a cutlass." 

The younger brother was just as closely de- 
scribed : 

" Joseph Weston is about twenty-three years of age, 
five feet nine inches high, slender made, of a fair and 
smooth complexion, genteel person, has grey eyes and 
large nose with a scar upon it; his hair is of a light 
brown colour, sometimes tied behind, at other times 
loose and curled ; his voice is strong and he speaks 
a little through his nose ; has a remarkable small hand 
and long fingers." 

While these descriptions were staring from 
every blank wall, George and Joseph were hiding, 
in disguise, in the Borough. They had a large 
amount of money, realised by their tremendous 



330 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

exertions over that long journey, and they added 
judiciously to their store by carrying on their 
business of lending money on plate and jewellery, 
and paying for the articles in the remaining notes 
stolen from the Bristol mail. The famous " Per- 
dita " Robinson was one of those victimised in this 
way ; and, as a contemporary account says, " lost 
her diamond shoebuckles which a certain Heir 
Apparent presented her with." 

It was in October 1781, when paying for some 
lottery tickets in Holborn, with stolen notes, that 
George and Joseph became acquainted with two 
pretty girls, cousins, employed as milliners near 
Red 'Lion Square. George gallantly bought some 
shares for them, and in the evening took them 
to Vauxhall Gardens. The delighted girls were 
told the two gentlemen w^ere Nabobs just returned 
from India; and, dazzled with the wealth they 
flung about, readily consented to go and live with 
them. They were soon, accordingly, all four in 
residence in a fine house near Bromptou ; George 
adopting the name of " Samuel Watson," and 
Joseph passing as " William Johnson." 

They left Brornpton for a while and migrated 
to ' Winchelsea, where they took the " Friars," 
a fine house with beautifully wooded grounds. The 
foremost furnishers in London, Messrs. Elliot 
& Co., of 97, New Bond Street, were given 
orders for furniture, cutlery, and a generous 
supply of plate, and from other firms they pro- 
cured horses and carriages, finally establishing 
themselves at the mansion in December 1781. 



THE WEST ON S 331 

While in residence there the ladies conducted 
themselves with such propriety, and the gentle- 
men appeared so distinguished and so wealthy, 
that they soon moved in the hest society of the 
neighbourhood. It did not, apparently, take long 
in those times, or in the neighbourhood of Win- 
chelsea, for strangers to obtain a footing in local 
society, for all this short-lived social splendour 
began in December, and ended in the middle of 
the following April. The last, sealing touch of 
respectability and recognition was when George 
was elected churchwarden of the parish church 
in Easter 1782. Erom that pinnacle of parochial 
ambition, however, he and his were presently 
cast down, for Messrs. Elliot & Co., growing 
anxious about their unpaid bills for goods de- 
livered, sent two sheriff's officers down to Win- 
chelsea to interview the brothers. The officers 
met them at llye on horseback, and endeavoured 
to arrest Joseph. When he refused to surrender, 
they tried to dismount him, but the two brothers 
overawed them by presenting pistols, and escaped ; 
making their way back to Winchelsea, and thence 
travelling at express speed to London, in their 
own handsome chariot. Their identity with 
the Westons and the robbers of the mail was 
revealed in that encounter with the sheriff's 
officers, one of whom had observed George's 
peculiarly distorted thumb-nail. Information 
was thereupon given, and a redoubled search 
begun. 

They went at once to their old hiding-place 



332 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

in the Borough, and might again have escaped 
detection had they been sufficiently careful. 
But, gambling for high stakes at the " Dun 
Horse," they quarrelled violently, and in the 
hearing of the ostler used some remarks that led 
him to suspect them. He communicated his 
suspicions to the police at Bow Street, and 
although they appear to have become uneasy and 
to have then left the Borough, they were traced on 
April 17th to Clements' Hotel, in Wardour Street. 
Mr. Clark, the officer sent to arrest them, met Mrs. 
Clements at the entrance and asked if two gentle- 
men of the description he gave were in the house. 
She said she would see, and went and warned 
them. Down they came, and, with pistols cocked 
and presented at him, walked past as he was 
standing in the passage, and, without a word, into 
the street. Once out of the house, they ran 
swiftly up Wardour Street, into Oxford Street, and 
then doubled into Dean Street and into Richmond 
Buildings. Unfortunately for them, this proved 
to be a blind alley, and an unpremeditated trap. 
They hurried out again, but already the mob was 
coming down the street after them, and they had 
only reached Broad Street when they were over- 
taken. Both fired recklessly upon the crowd ; 
no one but a butcher-boy being hit, and he only 
slightly grazed under the left ear. 

G eorge was then knocked down by a carpenter, 
with a piece of wood. The carpenter, we learn, 
" afterwards jumping upon him, kept him down 
till his pistols were taken away." 



THE WESTONS 333 

Meanwhile Joseph had been vanquished in an 
equally unsportsmanlike way by a carrier, " who 
had a large stick, with which he beat him about 
the legs." 

George was then pitched neck and crop, and 
still struggling, into a hackney coach ; but Joseph, 
being more tractable, was permitted to walk to 
Bow Street, where, on being searched, he was 
found to have 240 in his pockets, all in bank- 
notes that had been stolen from the mail. 

On the day of their arrest they gave a bill of 
sale to one Lucius Hughes, who disposed of plate 
to the amount of 2,500, at the price of old silver ; 
and jewels to the value of 4,000 were said to 
have been sold to a Jew in St. Mary Axe. 

After a preliminary examination, the brothers 
were committed to separate prisons : Joseph to 
Tothill Fields Bridewell, and George to the New 
Prison. They behaved with great insolence to 
the Bench, and seemed to build much upon the 
postboy having died since the robbery. In court 
they actually told Clark, who had arrested them, 
he was fortunate in still having his brains in his 
skull that morning. Their coachman and footman, 
attending upon them in the court, in livery, made 
an imposing show. They were then remanded, 
and their wenches were in the meanwhile arrested 
at Brompton, and appeared in court on the next 
hearing. No evidence being forthcoming against 
them, they were discharged ; but the Westons 
were duly committed for trial, which began on 
May 15th, 1782. 

VOL. ii. 37 



334 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

They made a brave appearance in the dock, 
George being dressed quietly but fashionably, in 
black, with his hair finely curled in the latest style; 
while Joseph, whose taste was not so subdued, 
was radiant in a scarlet coat with gold buttons, 
and hair " queued a 1'Artois." 

The trial was unexpectedly postponed, on the 
application of counsel for the prosecution, owing 
to the death of Samuel Walker, and the difficulty 
of collecting sufficient evidence ; and so they were 
taken back to Newgate. There they led a life 
typical of prison-life all over England in those 
days. They entertained their fellow-prisoners, 
gambled, and drank, and received their friends. 
They had plenty of money, and as Newgate was 
then no ill place for those whose pockets were 
well furnished, they were provided with every 
luxury that money could buy. Unfortunately, 
however, they were heavily ironed : the one 
circumstance that seared the souls of those gallant 
fellows. But, in spite of these encumbering 
circumstances, they dreamt of liberty, and a 
well-planned attempt to escape was made on 
July 2nd, the day before the opening of the 
new sessions. 

Their faithful young women took breakfast 
with them that morning, and then left, whereupon 
one of the brothers called Wright, the warder on 
duty at the time, and asked him to get a bottle 
of port and make a bowl of negus for some 
expected company. He then handed him a 
guinea. 



THE WESTONS ESCAPING FROM NEWGATE. 




THE WES TONS 337 

Wright had no sooner gone about this business 
than they slipped off their fetters, which they had 
secretly and with much labour, filed through. 
Then they calmly awaited the return of Wright, 
with the bowl. It was too large to go through 
the hatch of their locked and bolted door, as they 
had foreseen, and Wright was persuaded to unlock 
and open the door and bring it in. When he had 
done so, the jovial highwaymen hospitably in- 
vited him to take the first drink, and while he 
was engaged in thus pleasing himself and them- 
selves at the same time, they made suddenly at 
him and pushed him violently over; then slam- 
ming the door and fastening it securely upon 
him. 

An old woman who sold porter and such-like 
plebeian drinks to the meaner prisoners, was at 
the head of the stone stairs up which they then 
rushed, and stood still with amazement at sight 
of them, whereupon they overset her and her cans, 
and then, by a short passage-way, came to the 
outer door. They were each armed with a pistol, 
which their thoughtful girls had smuggled into 
their cell. Escaping with them were also one 
Lepierre, a suspected spy, and a certain Prancis 
Storey. 

The warder whose post was at this doorway 
was at that moment washing down the steps. At 
once the fugitives flung themselves upon him, 
and downed him as he shouted " Stop thief ! " 
The cry was heard, and by the time the Westons 
had emerged upon the street, they were followed 



338 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

by a " runner," John Owens by name. The brothers 
very cleverly separated ; Owens following George, 
who ran into Newgate Street, doubled into 
Warwick Lane, and made for Newgate Market. 
Here, however, he was felled by the fist of a 
market-porter, but struggled again to his feet, 
and desperately resisted until Owens and a crowd 
of excited spectators arrived and dragged him back 
to Newgate. 

Joseph was not more fortunate, and had only 
reached Cock Lane when his flight also was 
stopped by a market-porter, one John Davis, who 
flung down a sack of peas in his path. This 
Joseph easily avoided, but Davis then laid hold 
of him by the collar. 

" Let go ! " said the highwayman, " or I will 
shoot you." 

The porter did not let go, and Joseph fired and 
hit him in the neck. But Davis held on until 
the crowd closed in, and Joseph also was soon in 
his cell again. 

So, too, was Lepierre, who was taken in 
Newgate Street. Storey was more successful, and 
escaped altogether, although he had fetters on his 
legs. The crowd, seeing him calmly walking 
along, thought he was being re-conducted to gaol, 
and so did not interfere with him. 

The brothers were brought to trial on July 6th, 
1782, charged with robbing the Bristol mail near 
Cranford Bridge, on January 29th, 1781. Over 
a hundred witnesses appeared for the prosecution, 
among them, people who had been given stolen 



THE WESTONS 339 

notes by them. But the postboy, Samuel Walker, 
having died, the prosecution failed. 

They were then charged with forgery in respect 
of the notes and bills stolen : George being con- 
victed and sentenced to death. Joseph was 
acquitted, but was then charged in the third 
instance with maliciously wounding John Davis, 
for which he was found guilty and condemned. 
They were executed at Tyburn on September 3rd, 
1782. 

Clothed quietly but fashionably in black, they 
went to the place of execution in two carts, in 
company with several other condemned criminals, 
but held themselves haughtily apart, as " gentle- 
men " should. They refused the ministrations of 
the Ordinary, declaring themselves to be Roman 
Catholics ; and died firmly, and without any 
appearance of contrition. 



JACK RANN: " SIXTEEN-STRING JACK' 

JOHN RANN, better known as " Sixteen-string 
Jack," was born in the neighbourhood of Bath, 
midway in the eighteenth century. As a boy he 
earned a meagre but honest living by peddling 
articles of everyday household consumption in the 
villages round about. He and his donkey were well 
remembered in after years, and aroused the envious 
anticipations of other small boys who, reckless of 
the appointed end of highwaymen, looked forward 
to some happy day when they too might perhaps 
blossom out from such obscure beginnings into 
such fame as his. He was but twelve years of 
age when his handsome face attracted the atten- 
tion of a lady prominent in the neighbourhood. 
She offered him a situation, and he gratefully 
accepted. A little later we find him in London, 
occupied as a stable-helper in Brooke's Mews. 
Prom that he became a postilion, and then an 
officer's servant. About the year 1770 he was coach- 
man to a gentleman living in the neighbourhood 
of Portman Square, and was at one time in the 
service of the Earl of Sandwich. In this situation 
he obtained the nickname of " Sixteen-string Jack," 
from the bunches of eight parti- coloured ribbons 

340 



JACK RANN 341 

he gaily wore at the knees of his breeches ; but 
by some intimates it was supposed that these 
"sixteen strings" were a covert allusion to his 
having been sixteen times arrested and charged, 
but on as many occasions acquitted. Such were 
the legends that enwrapped the career of him whom 
Dr. Johnson described as "above the common 
mark " in his line. 

It was this love of finery that led to the 
undoing of Jack Rann, but before it sent him 
down into the company of those who lived by 
their wits, employed in unlawful enterprises, it 
raised him to better situations. For Rann was 
a tall, smart fellow, and good clothes well became 
him. 

But flowered-satin waistcoats, and full-skirted 
damasked coats of silk, elaborately embroidered, 
are not paid for out of a coachman's wages, and 
Eann soon found himself deeply in debt. And, 
moreover, of what possible use are brave costumes, 
but to flaunt and flourish about in ? And when 
you do so flourish, you must needs go the pace 
altogether. There were excellent companions in 
those places to which Rann most resorted, as a 
gentleman of fashion, at Vauxhall, and elsewhere; 
and there were the card-tables, where he had a 
passing run of luck ; and there were the women. 
In spite of being pitted somewhat with the small- 
pox, he was still a handsome fellow, and he played 
the very Cupid with the girls. 

All these items totted up to a very costly sum- 
total, and the gaming-tables did not long stand 



him in good stead. At the moment when he was 
in the sorest straits, he became acquainted with 
three men : Jones, Clayton, and Colledge (this last 
known as "Eight-string Jack"), in whose company 
he very speedily grew more and more reckless, 
and at last was dismissed from his situation with 
a long-suffering nobleman, and refused a character. 
Thus turned adrift upon the world, he began, 
with those three companions, a career of pocket- 
picking, and thence drifted by easy stages into 
the society of highwaymen and of receivers of 
stolen goods. 

In these circles there moved at that time a 
certain Eleanor Roche, originally a milliner's 
apprentice, but who, from a somewhat unfortunate 
friendship with an officer of the Guards, had 
declined upon the condition of " fence," and 
generally, the fair friend and ally of the nimble- 
fingered, and the speakers with travellers on 
the highways. Jack Rann was a free-lover. 
Pretty faces, rosy lips, infallibly attracted him, 
and although he loved his Nelly best, he scarce 
knew the meaning of faithfulness. 

But to Ellen Roche, " Sixteen-string Jack " 
was her own Jack, her hero ; and when once she 
had met him, she had eyes for none other. 

Rann was first in custody in April 1774, at 
the Old Bailey, in company with two others, 
named Clayton and Shepherd, on a charge of 
robbing William Somers and Mr. Langford on 
the highway. All three were acquitted, but on 
May 30th Rann was at Bow Street, charged with 



JACK RANN 343 

robbing Mr. John Devall of his watch and money, 
near the ninth milestone on the Hounslow Road. 
It was the watch brought him there. The gallant 
Rann had brought it back with him from the 
road just as the hunter, home from the hill, 
returns with the day's spoil to his domestic circle. 
He handed it to Ellen, who in turn sent out 
a certain Catherine Smith to offer it in pledge 
with the nearest pawnbroker. The pawnbroker, 
distrustful man, sent for the police, who, seeing 
at once that Catherine Smith was merely an 
intermediary, apprehended Rann and Ellen. 

" Sixteen-string Jack " made a proud, defiant 
figure in the dock before Sir John Fielding. He 
was dressed not only in, but in advance of the 
fashion. He was in irons, but the grimness of 
those fetters was disguised in the blue satin bows 
in which they were tricked out, and in his fine 
coat he carried a nosegay as big as a birch-broom. 
Beside him, but not so collected as he, stood 
Ellen, charged with receiving. 

Ellen Roche had, indeed, lost her nerve 
altogether when Catherine Smith deposed to 
having been told by her how Rann was expected 
home that evening with some money; that he 
returned about ten o'clock, when Roche told 
her he had brought ten guineas and a watch, 
and that she was sent out to pawn the watch. 
Crying, and hardly aware of what she was doing, 
Ellen at the first hearing owned that Rann had 
given her the watch, and the two were thereupon 
committed. 

VOL. II. 38 



344 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

At the trial, after having had plenty of time 
for reflection, she stoutly declared that she never 
before had set eyes upon him, and that her former 
evidence was a mistake I 

Jack himself carried it off bravely, and, indeed, 
insolently. " I know no more of the matter than 
you do," he replied to Sir John Fielding, and 
added impudently, " nor half so much, neither." 

The prosecution, on some technicality, broke 
down, and the pair were released. They celebrated 
the happy occasion by dining extravagantly and 
then spending the evening at Vauxhall, where 
Rann was the gayest of the gay, and returned 
home with two watches and three purses. 

An absurd burglary charge brought him into 
the (Jock again, that July. The watch discovered 
him half-way through the window of a house in 
which lodged one Doll Frampton, and not only 
hauled him out, but marched him off to prison ; 
but it appeared that he was only keeping an 
appointment to supper with the weary Doll, who, 
tired of waiting for him, had gone to bed. The 
Bench, assured of as much by the shameless minx 
herself, dismissed the charge, and, in addition to 
some pertinent remarks about this unconventional 
method of entry, gave him some excellent advice 
on conduct. Although Hann had escaped so far, 
Sir John Fielding said, his profession was perfectly 
well known, and he urged the prisoner to leave 
his evil courses while yet there was time. 

So far from paying attention to this well- 
meant discourse, Rann put in an appearance the 



JACK RANN 



345 



next Sunday, not with Doll, but with Ellen, at 
Bagnigge Wells, then a famous place for dining 
and drinking. They drove thither in a carriage 
and dressed in the slang phrase " up to the 
nines." Jack was splendid in a scarlet coat, 
tambour waistcoat, white silk stockings, and a 
laced hat. Of 
course there flew 
at his knees the 
already famous 
sixteen strings. 

He was by 
nature boastful, 
and when the 
drink was in him 
bragged without 
restraint or ordin- 
ary prudence. On 
this occasion he 
drank freely, and, 
with an oath, de- 
clared himself a 
high w ayman. 
Bather more of 
a pickpocket, 
perhaps. The company trembled : some sought 
the way out. " No fear, my friends," quoth he, 
" this is a holiday." Then he fell to quarrelling, 
and presently lost a ring from his finger, and 
declared those present had stolen it. Then again 
his mood changed. " 'Tis no matter," he exclaimed; 
" 'tis but a hundred guineas gone, and one evening's 




JACK RANN. 



346 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

work will replace it." Then, growing more 
drunken and incapable, they threw him out, and 
he was not in a fit condition to resist. So, Ellen 
the gentle Ellen scratching the faces of the 
foremost, as they were put out, they drove back 
to their lodgings near Covent Garden. 

" Fine treatment for a gentleman ! " he 
hiccupped ; and indeed a gentleman he considered 
himself. But his highwayman's takings, large 
though they occasionally were, did not keep pace 
with his gentlemanly expenses. Debts accumulated, 
and sheriff's officers dogged his footsteps. He was 
arrested for a debt of 50, and thrown into the 
Marshalsea prison ; but so much of a hero had he 
already become among those of his calling that 
they clubbed together and liquidated the debt ; 
and handsome Jack was again free. 

The sheriff's officers he affected to regard as 
low, churlish fellows, but they would not be 
denied. His creditors were soon after him again, 
and he was arrested when drinking in an ale-house 
in the then suburban Tottenham Court Road. He 
shrank with horror from the touch of the two 
" vulgar " bailiffs, but there was little help for it. 
He must pay up, or be taken up. His drinking- 
companions found between them three guineas, 
and he gave up his watch. Together, these 
involuntary contributions made up more than the 
amount due. The bailiffs, on their part, agreed 
to refund the balance when Rann was sufficiently 
in funds to redeem the ticker ; and cordiality then 
reigned. " Lend me five shillings," said Rann to 



JACK RANN 347 

the bailiffs, " and I will treat you to a bowl of 
punch." They fell in with the proposal, and 
a merry carouse ensued. Such were the manners 
and customs of about a hundred and forty years 
ago. 

Still, in the course of this merry evening, the 
subject of the manner peculiar to bailiffs recurred 
to our Jack and rankled. " You have not," he 
grumbled, " treated me like a gentleman. When 
Sir John Fielding's people come after me, they 
only hold up a finger, beckon, and I follow like 
a lamb. There's your proper civility 1 " 

It was soon after this that he visited Barnet 
races, fashionably dressed ; with waistcoat of blue 
satin trimmed with silver, and other finery to 
match. Crowds followed him, eager to set eyes 
upon so famous a person. Shortly afterwards, 
with perhaps some melancholic foreshadowing of 
approaching doom, he attended a public execution 
at Tyburn. In spite of opposition, he thrust 
through the ring formed by the constables round 
the gallows. "For, "'said he, " perhaps it is very 
proper I should be a spectator on this occasion." 
Why, he did not say, but the inference was under- 
stood by some of the crowd. 

In September 1774 he was arrested, together 
with one William Collier, for a robbery on the 
Uxbridge road, and brought the next Wednesday 
before Sir John Fielding, when Dr. Bell, chaplain 
to the Princess Amelia, gave evidence that, between 
three and four o'clock in the afternoon of Monday, 
when taking horse-exercise near Ealing , he 



348 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

observed two men of mean (!) appearance and 
suspicious looks, who rode past him. Presently, 
one of them he thought it was Rann turned his 
horse's head and demanded his money. " Give it 
me," he said, " and take no notice, or I'll blow 
your brains out ! " 

Dr. Bell handed over one shilling and sixpence, 
all he had about him, and a common watch in a 
tortoiseshell case. So much tremendous bluster, 
so paltry a booty: so poor a thing for which to 
throw away a life. For that day's doings served 
to bring Rann to the gallows. 

That evening, Ellen Roche and her servant 
took the watch to pawn with one "Mr. Cordy," 
in the Oxford Road, or, as we should now say, 
Oxford Street. Cordy was a suspicious man. He 
communicated with the watchmaker, Grigman 
by name, of Russell Street, Covent Garden, who 
had made it for Dr. Bell, who, when called upon, 
told how he had parted with it. 

The next day, Jack Rann and his doxy were 
arrested, and with them Collier and Ellen Roche's 
servant, Christian Stewart. They all figured in 
Bow Street dock, and later appeared on trial at the 
Old Bailey. 

Handsome Jack was no less a dandy on this 
occasion than he had been on others, and he took 
the centre of the stage in his drama with a fine 
air. To be sure, there were none who envied him 
the principal part. He was dressed in pea-green 
coat and waistcoat, with unblemished white buck- 
skin breeches, and again his hat was silver-laced. 




" SIXTEEN-STRING JACK " AND ELLEN EOCHE IN THE DOCK. 



JACK RANN 351 

He stood there with every assurance of acquittal, 
and had taken thought to order a splendid supper, 
wherewith to entertain his friends that evening, 
to celebrate his release. But, as the grey day 
wore on, he grew less confident. Dr. Bell's 
evidence was again taken, and a Mr. Clarke told 
how, going to Miss Roche's lodging on that 
Monday night of the robbery, 'he found two pairs 
of men's boots there, in a wet and dirty condition, 
having evidently been worn that day. A Mr. 
Haliburton also swore that he had waited at 
Miss Roche's lodgings that night until Rann and 
Collier arrived. 

William Hills deposed that he was servant to 
the Princess Amelia. He had observed Rann, 
whom he knew well by sight, ascend the hill at 
Acton, about twenty minutes before the robbery 
was committed. 

This spot would be about where the Police 
Station now stands, in the main road : less 
troubled nowadays with highwaymen than with 
electric tram-cars. 

In the end, Rann was found guilty and 
sentenced to die. Collier was also found guilty, 
but recommended to mercy, and was afterwards 
respited. Ellen Roche was sentenced to fourteen 
years' transportation, and her servant was ac- 
quitted. 

Thus the supper grew cold and was not eaten. 
The brave figure moved in pea-green glory to his 
prison cell, and hoped there for a rescue that 
never came. His last days were full-packed with 



352 H ALP-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

the revelry the lax prison regulations of the age 
permitted, and on Sunday, October 23rd, he had 
seven girls to dine with him in gaol ; and he the 
gayest of the party. " Let us eat, drink, and be 
merry, for to-morrow we die." Or, at any rate, 
in a month's time. So, with an air and a jest, 
behold him on the fatal day, November 30th, 1774, 
the most admired figure in the three-miles' journey 
from Newgate to Tyburn. Was it the cold 
November air made him shiver, or the shadow of 
death, as, ladies' man to the last, he raised his 
hat to the crowded windows lining Holborn and 
thought how he would never come back ? What- 
ever it was, it was no more than involuntary : 
for, arrived at the fatal tree, he ended manfully 
in his finery and his famous sixteen strings. 



EGBERT FERGUSON " GALLOPING 
DICK " 

ROBERT FERGUSON, who in after life became 
famous as " Galloping Dick," was a native of 
Hertfordshire. His father, a gentleman's servant, 
proposed a like career for him, and had a mental 
picture of his son gradually rising from the posi- 
tion of stable-boy, in which he was placed, to 
that of coachman. In such respectable obscurity 
would Robert have lived and died, had his own 
wild nature not pioneered a career for him. He 
had proved a dull boy at school, but proud, and 
out of school-hours showed a strange original 
spirit of daring, so that he was generally to be 
found captaining his fellows in some wild exploit. 
As a stable-boy, however, he proved efficient 
and obedient, and was found presentable enough 
to take the postilion's place when the regular man 
had fallen ill, on the eve of the family's journey 
to London in their chariot. He performed that 
task to the satisfaction of every one, but the other 
servant recovered, and the lad was obliged to 
return to his stables and work in shirt sleeves or 
rough stable-jacket, instead of titupping in beauti- 
fully white buckskin breeches, silk jacket, and 

VOL. H. 353 39 



354 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

tall beaver hat, on one of the leading horses that 
drew the carriage to town. The return to an 
inferior position through no fault of his own was 
a bitter disappointment, and he determined to 
seek another situation. 

Oddly enough, at this juncture of affairs, a 
neighbouring lady who was in want of a postilion 
chanced to ask the family who employed young 
Robert what had become of their smart young 
man, and, when informed of the situation, engaged 
him. 

At this time he was close upon twenty years 
of age. Described as being by no means hand- 
some, he was of a cheerful and obliging tempera- 
ment, and might have long retained the post, had 
his employer not discovered him in a discreditable 
love-affair with one of the maid-servants. He 
was dismissed, but soon found another situation : 
but he never afterwards kept a place for any 
length of time. Roystering companions unsettled 
him and made him undesirable as a postilion. 

Coming up to London, he found employment in 
a livery-stable in Piccadilly, but presently his 
father died and he found himself the owner of his 
savings, amounting to 57. Alas ! poor Robert. 
He had never before possessed at one time the 
half of what he had now, and he acted as though 
the sum of 57 was an endowment for life. He 
threw up the Piccadilly livery-stable, and came 
out upon the world as a " gentleman " ; or in 
other words, ruffled it in fine clothes in fashion- 
able places. He frequented theatres in this 




GALLOPING DICK." 



ROBERT FERGUSON 357 

novel character, and seems to have impressed a 
number of perhaps not very critical people. 
Amongst these was a dissolute woman whom he 
met at Drury Lane. She believed him to be a 
man of wealth, and sought to obtain a share of it. 
Ferguson flung away all his money on her. It 
could not have been a difficult task, one would 
say, nor have occupied him long. And when all 
the money was gone, he went back, sadder possibly, 
but still not wiser, to his livery- stable situation in 
Piccadilly, as postilion. It was in this employ- 
ment that he observed the debonair gentlemen 
who had been his rivals in the affections of this 
woman calling upon her, and received, where he 
had been thrust forth with contumely when his 
money was at an end, and when she discovered 
that he was no man about town, but only one who 
got his living in the stables. False, perfidious 
Nancy ! 

It was some time before the true character of 
those visitors was revealed to him ; but one day, 
acting as a postilion on the Great North Road, the 
chaise he was driving was stopped by two high- 
waymen, duly masked. One stood by the horses, 
while his companion robbed the occupants of the 
chaise. It was a windy day, and a more than 
usually violent gust blew the first highwayman's 
mask off. Instantly Ferguson recognised the man 
who stood by the horses as one of his Nancy's 
visitors. 

Seeing this, the unmasked robber perceived, 
clearly enough, that the situation was peculiarly 



358 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

dangerous, and, when he had galloped off with his 
companion, laid the facts before him. They 
agreed that there was nothing for it hut to await 
Ferguson's return at a roadside inn, and to hribe 
him to silence. There, accordingly, they remained 
until the chaise on its return journey drew up at 
the door. 

Two gentlemen, said the landlord, particularly 
desired to see the postilion. He entered and 
accepted a price for his silence ; further agreeing 
to meet them that night at supper in the Borough. 
Meeting there, according to arrangement, Fer- 
guson was persuaded to throw in his lot with the 
highway blades. His imagination took fire at the 
notion of riding a fine horse, and, dressed in hand- 
some clothes, presenting a figure of romance ; but 
his new-found friends were cool men of business, 
and had nothing of that kind in view for their 
fresh associate. To cut a fine figure was, no 
doubt, all very well, but the more important thing 
was to know which travellers were worth robbing, 
and which were not. If they could be reasonably 
well advised on that point, much useless effort, 
and a considerable deal of risk, would be avoided, 
in not stopping those whose pockets were so nearly 
next to empty as to be not worth " speaking to " 
on the road. Their idea was that Ferguson should 
continue in his employment of postilion, and, as a 
confederate, keep them well informed of the 
movements of his clients. 

Ferguson was disappointed in not being 
allowed a spectacular part, but the profitable 



ROBERT FERGUSON 359 

nature of the scheme appealed to him, and he 
agreed to this distinctly well-conceived plan. So 
a long series of unsuspecting travellers driven by 
him owed their extraordinary ill-luck on the road 
entirely to the agency of their innocent-looking 
postilion, who was so professionally interested in 
their movements, who was so obliging with the 
portmanteaus and valises, and who secretly kept a 
keen eye upon the contents of his customers' 
purses. Quite often it would happen that a trace 
would be broken in some lonely situation, and 
then, strange to say, while it was being mended, a 
couple of highwaymen would infallibly appear, 
and threatening the postilion with horrid oaths 
when he pretended to show fight, would at their 
leisure ransack all the luggage and coolly request 
all money and personal adornments to be handed 
over. 

Wine, women, and cards were Ferguson's 
downfall. Success in his new line of life brought 
reckless conduct, and he grew so impossible that 
the livery-stable, without in the least suspecting 
his honesty, dismissed him for general unreliability. 
He then took to the road for a while as a high- 
wayman, and thus indulged his natural liking for 
finery. 

He was an excellent horseman, and daring to 
the verge or beyond the verge of recklessness. 
On one occasion, he and two companions " spoke 
to " and were robbing two gentlemen on the road to 
Edgeware, but were interrupted by the appearance 
pf three other well-mounted travellers, who gave 



360 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

chase. Ferguson escaped, but his two companions 
were caught, brought to trial, and executed. It 
was this exploit that first procured him the name 
of " Galloping Dick," although his name was 
Robert. Complimented by admiring friends on 
his escape, he declared he would gallop a horse 
with any man in the kingdom. 

The name of " Galloping Dick " soon became well 
known, and was a name of dread. No clattering 
horseman could come hurriedly along the road 
without stirring the pulses of nervous travellers, 
who immediately fancied " Galloping Dick " was 
upon them. Indeed, he soon became too well 
known for any reasonable degree of safety, and he 
would then for a while, for prudential reasons, find 
temporary employment as a postilion. Frequently 
in custody at Bow Street, on various charges, he 
was many times acquitted, on insufficient evidence ; 
but was at last arrested, at the beginning of 1800, 
on a charge of highway robbery, sent for trial to 
the Lent Assizes at Aylesbury, convicted, and 
executed. 



JERRY ABERSHAW 

THE southern suburbs of London were haunted 
during the last quarter of the eighteenth century 
by a youthful highwayman of a very desperate 
kind. He was as successful as reckless, and 
captained a gang that made Putney Heath and 
Wimbledon Common places to be dreaded as much 
as were Hounslow Heath on the west, and 
Finchley Common in the north, and brought the 
name of " Jerry Abershaw " into exceptional 
prominence. 

The real name of this highwayman was Louis 
Jeremiah Avershaw, and he was born in 1773, of 
the usual " poor but honest " parents. Indeed, 
it would seem, in enquiring into the lives of the 
highwaymen, that they in general came of such 
stock, whose only crime was their poverty : 
although that, as we well know in this happy 
land of ours, is a very heinous offence, it being 
the duty of every English man and woman to 
pay rates and taxes to keep a constantly 
growing official class in well-paid and easy em- 
ployment. 

We so rarely hear of a highwayman deriving 
from dishonest parents that, it would seem, even 

361 



362 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

in the more adventurous centuries, ill-led lives 
were as a rule so short and sordid as to impress 
the children of those who led them with the idea 
that honesty was not only really, in the long run, 
the best policy, but that for evil courses there was 
no long run at all. Otherwise, the life of the high- 
wayman, if not by any means, as a general rule, 
so gay as usually it was represented to be, was 
sufficiently full of that spice of excitement which 
to the youthful makes amends for much danger 
and discomfort, and sons might often have 
succeeded fathers in the liberal profession of 
highway robbery. 

The boyhood of Jerry Abershaw has never 
been dragged from the obscurity that enwraps it. 
No slowly-budding flower he, but one that in one 
brief day flung open its petals. Or rather, in less 
flowery language, we learn nothing of the first 
steps that led him to the highway, and find him at 
the very first mention of his doings already a cool 
and assured character, robbing with impunity, and 
making one place in especial a spot to be dreaded. 
This was the hollow of Putney Bottom, through 
which the Portsmouth Hoad runs on its way 
to Kingston. The little Beverley Brook trickles 
by, to this day, in the hollow ; and Combe Wood, 
whose thickets formed so convenient a lair for 
Abershaw, and a rallying-place for his gang, is 
still very much what it was then. 

Abershaw was not, of course, the first to see 
the strategic value of the heath, and of such woody 
tangles as these, bordering the road for quite 




JEKHY ABEKSHAW ON PUTNEY HEATH. 



JERR Y ABERSHA W 365 

three miles; for we read in Ogilby's great book 
on the roads, published in 1675, of Kingston Hill, 
hard by as " not rarely infested with robbers" ; 
and a gibbet long stood near at hand, to remind 
those robbers, and others who succeeded them, 
of their own probable fate. But, if by no means 
the first, or even the last, who practised here, 
he is easily the most famous, even though it be 
merely a pervasive fame, not crystallised into many 
anecdotes. 

The " Bald Paced Stag," that then stood, a 
lonely tavern, by the . roadside near the Beverley 
Brook, was a favourite meeting-place of Abershaw 
and his fellows. It was afterwards rebuilt, as 
a superior hostelry, in the days when the growth 
of travel and of coaching had rendered the old 
roadside accommodation insufficient. This later 
house may still be seen, standing nowadays as 
a private residence, with imposing pillared portico, 
by the way. 

Whether the landlord of the original " Bald 
Faced Stag," was in league with Abershaw and 
his gang, or not, is impossible to say. Very 
generally, the tavern-keepers of that age were 
suspected, and rightly suspected, of a guilty 
acquaintance with the highwaymen, but it would 
be too much to assume that they were all of that 
character; and indeed we find in the sad story 
of one John Poulter, otherwise Baxter, who was 
hanged in 1754 for highway robbery, that the 
frequenting by highwaymen against his wish of 
an inn he kept in Dublin first ruined his trade 

VOL. II. 40 



366 HALf -HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

and compelled him in self-defence at last to seek 
a living on the road. 

An innkeeper situated like him who kept the 
" Bald Faced Stag " in the days of Abershaw 
would have no choice but to harbour the gang 
whenever they felt inclined to confer their 
patronage upon him; but, to be quite just, it 
would certainly appear that he was a willing 
ally, for, in the most outstanding among the few 
stories told of Abershaw, it appears that once, 
when taken ill on the road, the highwayman was 
put to bed in the house and cared for while 
a doctor was procured. It was a Dr. William 
Roots who answered the call, from Putney. The 
ailing stranger, whose real name and occupation 
the doctor never for a moment suspected, was 
bled, after the medical practice of the time, 
and the doctor was about to leave for home, 
when his patient, with a great appearance of 
earnestness, said : " You had better, sir, have some- 
one to go back with you, as it is a very dark 
and lonesome journey." This thoughtful offer 
the doctor declined, remarking that " he had not 
the least fear, even should he meet with Abershaw 
himself." The story was a favourite with 
Abershaw : it afforded him a reliable criterion 
of the respect in which the travelling public 
generally held him. 

The notoriety Abershaw early attained led to 
his early end. The authorities made especial 
efforts to arrest him, and, learning that he fre- 
quented a public-house in Southwark, called the 



JERR Y ABERSHA W 367 

" Three Brewers," set a watch upon the place. 
One day the two officers detailed for this duty 
discovered him in the house, drinking with some 
of his friends, and entered to arrest him. But 
Ahershaw was on the alert, and, as they stood in 
the doorway, arose with a pistol in either hand, 
and, with a curse, warned them to stand clear, or 
he would shoot them. Disregarding this threat, 
they rushed in, and Abershaw, firing both pistols 
at once, mortally wounded one officer and severely 
wounded the landlord in the head. 

But he did not escape. He was tried at 
Croydon Assizes, on July 30th, 1795, before Mr. 
Baron Penryn, for murder ; the wounded officer, 
David Price, having died in the interval. A 
second indictment charged him with having 
attempted to murder the other, by discharging 
a pistol at him. 

Abershaw was taken by road from London to 
Croydon, and passing Kennington Common, then 
the principal place of execution in Surrey, he 
laughingly asked those in charge of him, if they 
did not share his own opinion that he would 
himself be " twisted " there on the following 
Saturday. That was the conventionally callous 
way in which the highwaymen approached their 
doom. 

To prove the charge of killing Price was 
naturally the simplest of tasks, and the jury, 
returning from a three-minutes' deliberation, duly 
found him guilty. Prisoner's counsel, however, 
raising an objection on some legal quibble as to 



368 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

a flaw in the indictment, the point was argued 
for two hours and not decided ; the judge 
desiring to consult his learned brethren on the 
point. There is a certain grim humour about 
these proceedings ; because, whatever the result 
of this was likely to be, there was yet the second 
indictment to be tried, and on that alone there 
could be no doubt of Abershaw being capitally 
convicted. It was then proceeded with, and 
Abershaw himself, seeing how he must inevitably 
be found guilty, and hanged, threw off all 
restraint. He insolently inquired of the judge, 
if he were to be murdered by perjured witnesses, 
and in violent language declared his contempt 
for the Court. Even at that solemn moment, 
when, having been found guilty on the second 
count, the judge, in passing sentence, assumed 
the black cap, he was not affected, except by 
rage and the spirit of mockery, and followed the 
action of the judge by putting on his own hat. 
The gaolers were at last compelled by his violence 
to handcuff him, and to tie his arms and legs. 
In that condition he was removed to gaol, to 
await execution. 

There he must soon have realised the folly of 
resistance ; for he became quiet and apparently 
resigned. In the short interval that remained 
between his sentence and that appearance on 
Kennington Common he had accurately foreseen, 
he occupied himself with drawing rough pictures 
on the whitewashed walls of his cell with the 
juice of black cherries that had formed part of 



JERR Y ABERSHA W 369 

the simple luxuries his purse and the custom of 
the prison permitted. These idle scribblings 
represented his own exploits on the road. In one 
he appeared in the act of stopping a post-chaise 
and threatening the driver : the words, " D n 
your eyes ! Stop ! " appended. The remainder 
of this curious gallery pictured the other incidents 
common in a highwayman's life. 

The time then allowed convicted criminals 
between their sentence and execution was very 
short. On August 3rd he was hanged on Ken- 
nington Common ; game or, rather, callous to 
the last. Arrived there, he kicked off his boots 
among the great crowd assembled, and died 
unshod, to disprove an old saying of his mother's, 
that he was a bad lad, and would die in his shoes. 
He was but twenty-two years of age when he met 
this fate, not actually for highway robbery, but 
for murder. His body was afterwards hanged in 
chains in Putney Bottom, the scene of his chief 
exploits, and an old and nasty legend was long 
current in those parts of a sergeant in a regiment 
soon afterwards marching past firing at the dis- 
tended body, by which (to make short of an 
offensive story) the neighbourhood was nearly 
poisoned. The sergeant was reduced to the ranks 
for this ill-judged choice of a target. 



JOHN AND WILLIAM BEATSON 

THE very general idea that the highwayman ended 
with the close of the eighteenth century is an 
altogether erroneous one, and has already been 
abundantly disproved in these pages. They not 
only continued into the nineteenth century, but 
were very numerously executed for their crimes. 
Early among those who belong to that era were 
John Beatson and William Whalley. Theirs is a 
sad tale of business failure and of a desperate 
recourse to the road, rather than the story of 
professional highwaymen. 

John Beatson was a Scotsman, who had in his 
youth been a sailor in the merchant service, and 
had made many voyages to India and other tropical 
countries. Tired at last of the sea, he settled at 
Edinburgh, where he established himself as an 
innkeeper at the " College Tavern." There he 
carried on a successful business for many years, 
and only relinquished it at last in favour of his 
adopted son, William Whalley Beatson, who for 
some time carried it on happily and profitably 
with his wife. Unhappily, his wife died, and 
when he was left alone it was soon seen, in 
the altered circumstances of the house, that it 

370 



JOHN AND WILLIAM BEATSON 371 

was she, rather than her husband, who had in the 
last few years kept the inn going. Left alone, 
and incapable of managing the domestic side of 
the house, he was taken advantage of by the 
servants, who robbed him at every opportunity; 
and, in short, in every respect the " College 
Tavern " declined and ceased to pay its way. He 
gave it up and went to London, with the idea of 
entering the wine and spirit trade there. Arrived 
in London, he took a business in Bedford Street, 
Covent Garden, and, finding it uncongenial, sold 
it to a man and accepted six months' bills in 
payment. The purchaser went bankrupt within 
three months, throwing Beatson himself into 
difficulties. At this juncture of affairs he con- 
sulted with his adopted father as to what was to 
be done, and the upshot of their long and anxious 
deliberations was that there was no help for it but 
to try and retrieve their fortunes by robbing upon 
the King's highway. Their first essay in this new 
business was begun on July 18th, 1801, when they 
travelled from London to the " Rose and Crown " 
at Godstone, Surrey, staying there the night. 
The next morning they set off on foot, and at 
midday were at the " Blue Anchor," on the road 
to East Grinstead. They dined there, and asked 
questions about the mail, and did not leave until 
six o'clock. Between eight and nine o'clock they 
were seen on East Grinstead Common. Half an 
hour after midnight, the postboy who drove the 
mail-cart was stopped by two men near Forest 
Row, south of East Grinstead. They produced a 



372 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

pistol and threatened him with it if he refused to 
give up the hags. Then, he unresisting, they led 
the horse into a meadow, where they took the bags 
and carried them off. It was afterwards found that 
they had walked no less a distance than six miles 
with them. They were afterwards found in a 
wheatfield near the village of Hartfield, the letters 
strewn about in the corn. 

They had taken all the Bank of England notes, 
and notes issued by country banks, and had left 
drafts and bills of exchange worth upwards of 
9,500. 

The next morning the two Beatsons appeared 
at the " Chequers " at Westerham, in a very 
exhausted condition, and had breakfast. With the 
excuse that they were Deptford people, and under 
the necessity of reaching the dockyard there in a 
hurry, they hastily hired a horse and trap, paying 
for their refreshment with a 2 note, and for the 
hire with one for 5. 

The people of the " Chequers " inn thought it 
strange, when their man returned, to hear that he 
had driven them, not to the dockyard at Deptford, 
but to a coach-office in the town, where they had 
at once taken places in a coach for London. 

The fugitives did not hurry themselves when 
they reached town. On the evening of their 
arrival, it was afterwards discovered, the elder 
purchased a pair of shoes at a shop in Oxford 
Street, paying for them with a 10 Bank of 
England note. They employed their time in 
London in a shopping campaign, purchasing 



JOHN AND WILLIAM BEATSON 373 

largely and always tendering bank-notes, with the 
object of accumulating a large sum of money in 
gold, by way of change. 

At the end of this week they procured a horse 
and gig and left London, saying they intended to 
travel to Ireland. Meanwhile, the loss of so 
many bank-notes had been widely advertised and 
the good faith of persons who presented any of 
them for payment enquired into. The movements 
of the men who had stopped the driver of the 
mail-cart and robbed him were traced, and soon 
the Holyhead Road was lively with the pursuit of 
them. 

They arrived at Knutsford, in Cheshire, only a 
short time before the coming of the mail-coach 
bringing particulars of the robbery. Before that, 
however, they had attracted a considerable deal 
of notice by their singular behaviour at the 
" George " inn, where they had put up. To draw 
attention by peculiarities of dress or demeanour is 
obviously the grossest folly in fugitive criminals, 
whose only chance of safety lies in unobtrusive 
manners and appearance. That would appear to 
be obvious to the veriest novices in crime. But 
the Beatsons were no doubt by this time agitated 
by the serious position in which they had irretriev- 
ably placed themselves, and in so nervous a state 
that they really had not full command of their 
actions. They adopted a hectoring manner at the 
inn, and on the road had attracted unfavourable 
notice by the shameful way in which they had 
treated their horse. 

VOL. II. 41 



374 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

On the arrival of the mail containing the 
official notices of the robbery and descriptions of 
the two men concerned in it, the appearance of 
these two men with the gig seemed so remarkably 
like that of the robbers, that a Post Office surveyor 
was sent after them. They had already left 
Knutsford, and had to be followed to Liverpool, 
where they were discovered at an inn, and 
arrested. 

The mere hasty preliminary inspection of their 
travelling valise was sufficient to prove that these 
were the men sought for. Bank-notes to the 
amount of 1,700 were discovered, wrapped round 
by one of the letters stolen; and the purchases 
of jewellery and other articles carried with them 
were valued at another 1,300. 

Taken back to London, the prisoners were 
charged in the first instance at Bow Street, and 
then committed for trial at Horsham. An attempt 
they made to escape from Horsham gaol was 
unsuccessful, and they were found hiding in a 
sewer. Their trial took place before Mr. Baron 
Hotham on March 29th, 1802. No fewer than 
thirty witnesses were arrayed against them ; chiefly 
London tradesmen, from whom they had made 
purchases and tendered notes in payment. There 
could hardly ever have been a clearer case, and 
the result of the trial was never for a moment in 
doubt. 

The affectionate efforts of the elder man to 
shield his adopted son drew tears from many 
eyes, but the readiness of that " son " to take 



JOHN AND WILLIAM BEATSON 375 

advantage of them and to throw the guilt upon 
him excited, naturally enough, much unfavourable 
comment. Two statements had been prepared 
and written by the prisoners, and both were read 
by the younger in court. The first was by 
John Beatson, who declared himself to be guilty, 
but his " son " innocent. Whalley's own state- 
ment, to the same effect, went into a detailed 
story of how his " father " had given him a large 
number of the notes, and had told him they were 
part of a large remittance he had lately received 
from India. 

The story was so clumsy and unconvincing, 
and the story told by the prosecution so complete 
in every detail, that both prisoners were speedily 
found guilty. They were condemned to death, 
and were hanged on Saturday, April 7th, 1802, at 
Horsham, before a crowd of three thousand people. 
The elder Beatson was seventy years of age and 
the younger but twenty-seven. 



ROBERT SNOOKS 

THE careers of the highwaymen were, in the vast 
majority of cases, remarkably short, and they 
were, for the most part, cut off in the full vigour 
of their manly strength and beauty. The accursed 
shears of Fate or, to be more exact, a rope 
dangling from a beam ended them before ex- 
perience had come to revise their methods and fit 
them out with the artistry of the expert. 

But few were so summarily ended as the 
unfortunate Robert Snooks. This person, a native 
of Hungerford, was in the year 1800 living at 
Hemel Hempstead, in Hertfordshire, in the 
immediate neighbourhood of Boxmoor. He had 
often observed the postboy carrying the well-filled 
mail-bags across the lonely flat of Boxmoor, and 
(he is described as having been of remarkably fine 
physical proportions) thought how easy a thing 
it would be to frighten him into giving them up. 
Accordingly, on one sufficiently dark night, he 
waited upon the moor for the postboy, stopped 
him, and, adopting a threatening demeanour, in- 
structed him to carry the bags to a solitary spot 
and then go about his business. The frightened 
official immediately hurried off to the postmaster 

376 



ROBERT SNOOKS 377 

of the district : one Mr. Page, of the " King's 
Arms," Berkhamstead, and told his tale ; leaving 
Snooks to ransack the bags and take what he 
thought valuable. 

The bags, turned inside out, were found, the 
next morning, with a heap of letters, torn open 
and fluttering in all directions across the fields. 
It subsequently appeared that the highwayman 
had secured a very considerable booty, one letter 
alone having contained 5 in notes. The post- 
boy did not know the man who had terrorised 
him: only that he was a "big man"; but the 
simultaneous disappearance of Snooks left no 
reasonable doubt as to who it was. 

This was Snooks's first essay in the dangerous 
art, and it proved also his last. Hurrying to 
London, he took up his abode in Southwark, and 
presently had the dubious satisfaction of reading 
the reward-bills issued, offering 300 for his 
capture. After a while he thought himself com- 
paratively safe, and was -emboldened to make an 
effort at negotiating one of the notes he still held. 
Afraid to do this in person, he thought he might 
see what would happen if he tried to pass one of 
the notes through the intermediary of the servant 
of the house where he was lodging, and accordingly 
sent her to purchase a piece of cloth for a coat, 
handing her a five-pound note. The tradesman 
evidently found something suspicious about the 
note thus tendered, and returned it, with the 
message that " there must be some mistake." 
Whether the tradesman would have followed this 



378 HALF- HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

up by communicating any suspicions he may have 
had to the authorities does not appear ; but " the 
wicked flee when no man pursueth," and Snooks 
hurried off to what was undoubtedly the most 
dangerous place for him. He fled to Hungerford, 
his birthplace ; yet, strange to say, he long evaded 
capture, and it was not until 1802 that he was 
arrested, on the information of a postboy who had 
been to school with him. He was in due course 
brought to trial at Hertford Assizes, found guilty, 
and sentenced to death. It was judged expedient, 
as a warning to others, that he should be executed 
on the scene of his crime, the selection of the spot 
falling to Mr. Page, who, besides being postmaster 
of Berkhamstead, was High Constable of the 
Hundred of Dacorum. As a further warning, 
and one likely to be of some permanence, it was 
originally proposed to gibbet the body of the 
defunct Snooks on the same spot ; so that, swinging 
there in chains on the moor, it might hint to 
others the folly of doing likewise. But the time 
was growing full late for such exhibitions ; the 
inhabitants of the district protested, and this 
further project was abandoned. 

Journeying from Hertford gaol on the morning 
of the fatal March llth, 1802, Snooks, according 
to a surviving tradition, was given a final glass 
of ale at the " Swan " inn, at the corner of Box 
Lane, and is said to have remarked to the rustics 
hastening to the scene of execution : " Don't hurry ; 
there'll be no fun till I get there." 

The usual large and unruly crowd, that could 




SNOOKS ADDRESSING THE CROWD AT HIS EXECUTION. 



ROBERT SNOOKS 381 

always be reckoned upon on such melancholy 
occasions, was present, and seemed to regard the 
event as no more serious than a fair. To those 
thus assembled, Robert Snooks, standing in the 
cart under the gallows, held forth in a moral 
address : 

" Good people, I beg your particular attention 
to my fate. I hope this lesson will be of more 
service to you than the gratification of the curiosity 
which brought you here. I beg to caution you 
against evil doing, and most earnestly entreat you 
to avoid two evils, namely, ' Disobedience to 
parents ' to you youths I particularly give this 
caution and ' The breaking of the Sabbath.' 
These misdeeds lead to the worst of crimes : 
robbery, plunder, bad women, and every evil 
course. It may by some be thought a happy state 
to be in possession of fine clothes and plenty of 
money, but I assure you no one can be happy 
with ill-gotten treasure. I have often been riding 
on my horse and passed a cottager's door, whom 
I have seen dressing his greens, and perhaps had 
hardly a morsel to eat with them. He has very 
likely envied me in my station, who, though at 
that time in possession of abundance, was miser- 
able and unhappy. I envied him, and with most 
reason, for his happiness and contentment. I can 
assure you there is no happiness but in doing 
good. I justly suffer for my offences, and hope 
it will be a warning to others. I die in peace 
with God and all the world." 

The horse was then whipped up, the cart 



382 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

drawn away from beneath the galjows-tree, and 
Robert Snooks had presently paid the harsh 
penalty of his crime. He had behaved with 
remarkable courage, and, espying an acquaintance 
in the crowd, offered him his watch if he would 
promise to see that his body received Christian 
burial. But the man, unwilling to be recognised 
as a friend of the criminal, made no response, and 
Snooks 's body was buried at the foot of the gallows. 
A hole was dug there, and a truss of straw 
divided. Half was flung in first; the body upon 
that, and the second half on top. The hangman 
had half-stripped the body, declaring the clothes 
to be his perquisite, and would have entirely 
stripped it, had not the High Constable interfered, 
insisting that some regard should be had to 
decency. 

A slow-moving feeling of compassion for the 
unhappy wretch took possession of some of the 
people of Hemel Hempstead, who on the following 
day procured a coffin, reopened the grave, and, 
placing the body in the coffin, thus gave it some 
semblance of civilised interment ; but, those being 
the times of the body-snatchers, doubts have been 
expressed of the body being really there. It is 
thought that the body-snatchers may afterwards 
have visited the lonely spot and again resur- 
rected it. 

Two rough pieces of the local " plum-pudding 
stone " were afterwards placed on the grave, and 
remained until recent years. 

Boxmoor is not now the lonely place it was. 



ROBERT SNOOKS 



383 



The traveller who seeks Snooks's grave may find 
it by continuing northward from Apsley End, 
passing under the railway bridges, and coming 
to a little roadside inn called the " Friend at 
Hand." Opposite this, on the right-hand side 
of the road, and between this road and the railway 
embankment runs a long narrow strip of what 
looks like meadow land, enclosed by an iron fence, 







SNOOKS'S GRAVE. 

This is really a portion of Boxmoor. At a point, 
a hundred and fifty yards past the inn, look out 
sharply for a clump of five young horse-chestnut 
trees growing on the moor. Close by them is a 
barren space of reddish earth, with a grassy 
mound, a piece of conglomerate, or " pudding- 
stone," and a newer stone inscribed " Robert 
Snooks, 11 March, 1802." This has been added 
since 1905, and duly keeps the spot in mind. 



VOL. II. 



HUFFUM WHITE 

THE decay of the highwayman's trade and its 
replacement by that of the burglar and the hank- 
robber is well illustrated by the career of Huffum, 
or Huffy, White, who was first sentenced for 
burglary in 1809. Transportation for life was 
then awarded him, and we might have heard no 
more of his activities, had not his own cleverness 
and the stupidity of the authorities enabled him 
to escape from the hulks at Woolwich. Thus 
narrowly missing the long voyage to Botany Bay, 
he made direct for London, then as now the best 
hiding-place in the world. He soon struck up 
an acquaintance with one James Mackcoull, and 
they proposed together to enter upon a course of 
burglary; but at the very outset of their agree- 
ment they were arrested. Mackcoull, as a rogue 
and vagabond, was sent to prison for six months, 
and White was sentenced to death as an escaped 
convict, the extreme penalty being afterwards 
reduced to penal servitude for life. 

On January 20th, 1811, Mackcoull was re- 
leased, and at once, like the faithful comrade he 
was, set about the task of securing White's escape 

384 




HUFF0M WHITE ESCAPING FBOM THE HULKS. 



HUFFUM WHITE 387 

from the convict ship to which he had again been 
consigned. Dropping overboard in the fog and 
darkness that enshrouded the lower reaches of the 
Thames on that winter's evening into the boat 
that Mackcoull had silently rowed under the bows 
of the ship, White was again free. 

An astonishing enterprise now lay before "White, 
Mackcoull, and a new ally : a man named Erench. 
This was nothing less than a plan to break into 
the premises of the Paisley Union Bank at 
Glasgow. Arrived in Glasgow, they at length, 
after several disappointments, succeeded in forcing 
an entry on a Saturday night, selecting that time 
for the sake of the large margin it gave them for 
their escape, until the re-opening of the bank on 
the Monday morning. Their booty consisted of 
20,000 in Scotch notes : a large sum, and in that 
form an unmanageable one, as they were eventually 
to discover. 

The burglary accomplished, their first care 
was to set off at once for London, posting thither 
by post-chaise, as fast as four horses could take 
them. At every stage they paid their score, 
which they took care should be a generous one, 
as beseemed the wealthy gentlemen they posed 
as, with a 20 note : thus accumulating, as they 
dashed southward along those four hundred miles, 
a heavy sum in gold. 

On the Monday morning the loss of the notes 
was of course at once discovered. Information 
was easily acquired as to the movements of the 
men who were at once suspected, and they were 



3 88 HALF HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

followed along the road, and some days later 
White was arrested in London by a Bow Street 
runner, at the house of one Scoltock, a maker of 
burglars' tools. None of the stolen property was 
found upon White, Mackcoull having been suffi- 
ciently acute to place all the remaining notes in 
the keeping of a certain Bill Gibbons, who com- 
bined the trade of bruiser with that of burglars' 
banker. 

Mackcoull himself went into hiding, both 
from the law and from his associates, he having 
had the counting and custody of the notes, and 
told White and French the amount was but 
16,000. 

It now became quite evident to French, at 
least, that, so far as he and his friends were 
concerned, the remaining notes were merely so 
much waste-paper. Their numbers were bound 
to be known, and they could not safely be 
negotiated. So he suggested to Mrs. Mackcoull 
that they should propose to return the paper- 
money to the Bank, and save further trouble, 
on the understanding that they should not be 
prosecuted. 

Mrs. Mackcoull appears to have had an in- 
fluential friend named Sayer, employed in close 
attendance upon the King, and by his good offices 
secured a pardon for all concerned, on the condi- 
tions already named. Unfortunately, she could 
not fully carry out the bargain agreed upon, for, 
on the notes being counted, it was discovered that 
only 11,941 remained. 



HUFFUM WHITE 389 

White, already in custody, was once more 
condemned to transportation for life. The pro- 
cedure must by this time have become quite 
staled by familiarity, and we picture him going 
asrain to the hulks with an air of intense 

O 

boredom. 

He, of course, again escaped, and was soon again 
on his burglarious career : this time at Kettering 
among other places. But the exploit which 
concluded his course was the almost purely high- 
wayman business of robbing the Leeds mail-coach, 
on October 26th, 1812, near Higham Ferrers. He 
had as accomplices a certain Richard Kendall and 
one Mary Howes. White had booked an outside 
seat on the coach, and had, in the momentary 
absence of the guard in front, cleverly forced open 
the lock of the box in which the mail-bags were 
kept, extracted the bags, and replaced the lid. 
At the next stage he left the coach. The accom- 
plices, who had a trap in waiting, then all drove 
off to London, White immediately afterwards 
making for Bristol, where he was soon located, 
living with two notorious thieves, John Goodman 
and Ned Burkitt. A descent was made upon the 
house, and the two arrested, but White escaped 
over the roof of a shed, and through the adjoining 
houses. 

He was traced in April 1813 to a house in 
Scotland Road, Liverpool, where, in company 
with a man named Hayward, he was medi- 
tating another burglary. The officers came upon 
them hiding in a cellar, and a desperate 



390 HALF-HOURS WITH THE HIGHWAYMEN 

struggle followed ; but in the end they were 
secured. 

Richard Kendall and Mary Howes, alias 
Taylor, were already in custody, and White was 
arraigned with them at the ensuing Northampton 
Assizes, for the rohbery of the Leeds mail. Wit- 
nesses spoke at this trial to having seen the men 
in the gig on the evening of October 26th, on the 
road near Higham Ferrers, and afterwards at the 
house of Mary Howes, who lived close by, and 
the keeper of the turnpike deposed to only one 
gig having passed through that evening. There 
were no fewer than forty witnesses, and the trial 
occupied fourteen hours. 

Mary Howes was acquitted, not from lack of 
evidence, but merely on a technical flaw in the 
indictment ; her offence having been committed in 
another county. White and Kendall were con- 
victed and sentenced to death. 

White again came near to escaping. By some 
unknown means, a file had been conveyed to him, 
and on the night before the execution he filed 
through his irons, and then forced a way through 
several doors, being only stopped at the outer gate. 
The following morning, August 13th, 1813 
unlucky date, with two thirteens he met his 
fate with an unmoved tranquillity. He declared 
Kendall to be innocent. When the chaplain 
asked him earnestly if he could administer any 
comfort to him at that solemn moment, he re- 
plied : " Only by getting some other man to be 
hanged for me." 



HUFFUM WHITE 



39 * 



Kendall was then brought to the gallows, 
declaring himself to be innocent, and a murdered 
man. 

Mackcoull, the earlier associate of White, 
disappeared for years, but was arrested for a 
robbery in 1820, and died in prison soon after 
receiving sentence. 





INDEX 



Abershaw, Jeremiah, i. 104 ; ii. 

361-369 

Adams, Richard, ii. 122 
Allen, , i. 123 
- Robert, i. 276, 278-281 
Arnott, Lieut., i. 97 
Avery, , ii. 121 

Beatson, John and William, ii. 

370-375 

Beggar's Opera, The, i. 240 ; ii. 296 
Belchier, William, i. 224 
Berkeley, 5th Earl of, i. 237-240 
Bird, Jack, ii. 86-97 
Blake, Joseph (" Blueskin "), ii. 

134-136 

Boulter, Thomas, ii. 238 
Bow Street Patrol, i. 123 
" Bowl " Inn, St. Giles-in-the- 

Fields, i. 166, 177-181 
Bracy, , i. 76 
Bradshaw, Jack, ii. 101 
Brown, Thomas, i. 211 
Bunce, Stephen, ii. 117-120 

Carrick, Valentine, i. 145 
Catnack, James, i. 127-130 
Caxton, Gibbet, i. 201-204 
Cherhill Gang, i. 117 
Clarke, Sir Simon, Bart., i. 97 
Clavel, John, i. 307-316 
" Clever Tom Clinch," i. 166, 177 
Clewer, Revd. William, ii. 81 
" Clibborn's Post," i. 119-121 

VOL. II. 393 



Cottington, John ("Mulled Sack"), 

i. 158 ; ii. 26-34, 210 
Cox, Tom, i. 166, 254 
" Cutpurse," Moll (Mary Frith), 

i. 262-268 ; ii. 128, 129 

Darkin, Isaac, ii. 264-270 
Davis, William (the " Golden 

Farmer "), i. 317-332, 341 
Denville, Sir Josselin, i. 17 ; ii. 55 
Dickson, Christopher, i. 102 
Dorbel, Tom, ii. 72 
Dowe, Robert, i. 148, 153, 154 
Drewett, Robert, i. 211 
William, i. 211 
Dudley, Captain Richard, i. 387- 

397 ; ii. 55 

Dun, Thomas, i. 17-22 
Du Vail, Claude, i. 175, 214, 224, 

254, 334, 342-355 ; ii. 173, 249, 

272 

Edwards, William, ii. 79 
Elms, The, Smithfield, i. 157 
St. Giles-in-the-Fields, i. 
158, 165 

Lane, Lancaster Gate, i. 158 

Tyburn, i. 162 

Everett and Williams, i. 254 

Falstaff, i. 62, 64, 217, 221 
Ferguson, Robert (" Galloping 

Dick "), i. 105 ; ii. 353-360 
Finchley Common, i. 245-249, 

253-255, 319 ; ii. 122 

43 



394 



INDEX 



Frith, Mary ("Moll Cutpuree"), 
i. 262-268 ; ii. 128, 120 

Gad's Hill, i. 02, 214, 217-221, 314; 
ii. 10 

" Galloping Dick " (Robert Fer- 
guson), i. 105 ; ii. 353-360 

Gibbets, i. 122, 199-212, 214, 363 

Gibson, John, i. 202 

Giles, St., i. 157 

" Golden Farmer," The (William 
Davis), L 317-332, 341 

Hackney Marshes, i. 91 ; ii. 182, 

208 

Haggarty, , i. 243 
Hal, Prince, i. 62, 64, 217 
Hall, John, i. 154 ; ii. 110-116 
" Hand of Glory," The, i. 49-57, 

210 
" Hangman's Highway," i. 156- 

198 

Harris, James, i. 89 
Hartley John, i. 101 
Hawes, Nathaniel, i. 253 
Hawke (or Hawkes), William, i. 

147, 224 
Hawkins, John, i. 229-236 

- William, i. 229, 231, 232, 236 
Hill, Thos., i. 66 
Hillingdon Heath, i. 323, 324 
Hind, Capt. James, i. 65, 214, 

273-306, 334 ; ii. 173, 249 
Holborn, i. 163-175 

- Bars, i. 172 

-Hill, i. 164, 170, 171 
Holloway, i. 243 
Hood, Robin, i. 23-48, 57 
Horner, Nicholas, ii. 148-157 
Hounslow Heath, i. 89, 121, 122, 

123, 224-244, 267, 346, 388 ; ii. 
29, 51, 71, 248, 252, 259 

Jackson, Francis, i. 356-386 



Johnson, Charles, Historian of 
Highwaymen, i. 14, 17, 18, 
124, 235, 270, 335, 339, 392 ; 
ii. 41, 158, 166, 233 

Joe, ii. 167 

Joiner, Abraham, i. 67 

King, Augustine, i. 84 

- Matthew, ii. 206, 208, 209 

- Robert, ii. 206 

- Tom, ii. 198-203, 205-210, 228 
Knightsbridge, i. 222-224 

Lansdowne Passage, i. 1 10 
Lewis, Paul, ii. 316-319 
Lorrain, Rev. Paul, i. 132-134 
Low, Richard, ii. 115-117 

Maclaine, James, ii. 249, 271-300 
Maidenhead Thicket, i. 59, 295 ; ii. 

38 

Marlborough Downs, i. 118 
Mary-le-Bourne, St., i. 159-161 
Mellish, Mr., Murder of, by high- 
waymen, i. 121 
Miles, Edward, i. 210 
Morgan, , i. 99-101 
" Mulled Sack " (Cottington, 
John), i. 158 ; ii. 26-34, 210 

Nevison, John, or William 

(" Swiftnicks "), ii. 1-25, 229, 

231, 232, 234 
Newgate, i. 145, 146, 148-154, 156 

246, 249-254, 302 ; ii. 62, 63, 

131, 268, 296, 334-338, 352 
Ordinaries of, i. 124-126, 131- 

139, 142-145, 169, 187, 365 ; 

ii. 117, 143, 272 
Newmarket, i. 78-82, 173-175 ; ii. 

301 
New Oxford Street, i. 163, 176 



INDEX 



395 



j'Brian, Patrick, ii. 81-85 
Ogden, Will, ii. 98-104 
" Old Mob " (Thomas Simpson), i. 

254, 333-341 
Ovet, Jack, ii. 105-109 
Oxford Street, i. 163, 181, 192 ; ii. 

279, 332 

Page, William, ii. 249-263 
Parsons, Wniiam, ii. 241-248 
Peace, Charles, i. 6-11 
Peine forte et dure, i. 249-254 
Phillips, Thos., i. 249-253 
Piccadilly, Highwaymen in, i. 109 
Plunkett, , ii. 280-283, 286-290 
" Poor Robin," ii. 90-93 
Popham, Sir John, i. 62 
Porter's Block, Smithfield, i. 158 ; 

ii. 63 

Poulter, John, ii. 301-315 
Pressing to Death, i. 249-254 
Price, James, i. 211 
Pureney, Rev. Thos., i. 132, 133, 
135-139, 142 ;ii. 117, 143, 147 

Rann, John (" Sixteen-string 

Jack "), ii. 340-352 
Ratsey, Gamaliel, i. 14-17 
Reresby, Sir John, i. 82 
Reynolds, Capt., i. 66 
- Tom, ii. 98, 104 
Rizpah, i. 204-206 
Robin Hood, i. 23-48, 57 ; ii. 233 
" Rowden the Pewterer," ii. 196, 

198, 215 
Rumbold, Thomas, ii. 35-40 

St. Giles-in-the-Fields, i. 157, 176- 

181 

St. Mary-le-Bourne, i. 159-161 
St. Sepulchre, i. 148-155, 163, 165 



Salisbury Plain, i. 114, 117, 214, 

318 ; ii. 41, 266 
Shakespeare, Highwaymen in, i. 

62-64, 217, 221 
Sheppard, Jack, i. 137, 140, 183, 

246, 247 
Shooter's Hill, i. 214-217, 276 ; ii. 

101, 189, 260 

Shotover Hill, i. 255 ; ii. 30 
Shrimpton, John, i. 256-258 
Simms, Harry, i. 97 
Simpson, Thomas (" Old Mob "), i. 

254, 333-341 
" Sixteen-string Jack " (Rann, 

John), ii. 340-352 
Smith, Capt. Alexander, Historian 

of Highwaymen, i. 11-14, 75, 

124, 235, 270, 335, 339, 391 ; 

ii. 41, 81-83 

Smith, Rev. Samuel, i. 132, 367 
Smithfield, i. 157 ; ii. 63, 281 
Rounds, i. 158 ; ii. 34 
Snooks, Robert, ii. 376-383 
Spiggott, Wm., i. 248-253 
Stafford, Capt. Philip, i. 269-272 
Steele, Mr., Murder of, i. 240-244 
Stratford Place, i. 158-161 
Sunday Trading Act, i. 60 
" Swiftnicks " (Nevison, John, or 

William), ii. 1-25, 229, 231, 

232, 234 
Sympson, George, i. 229, 231 



Taylor, Tom, ii. 123-125 
Tooll, " Captain " Edmund, i. 246 
Tracey, Walter, ii. 158-165 
Turpin, Richard, i. 124, 129, 215. 

245,247; ii. 1, 173-240,249 
Turpin's Oak, i. 245 
Twm Shon Catti, ii. 65-72 
Twysden, Bishop of Raphoe, i. 230 



396 



INDEX 



Tyburn, i. 133, 146, 153, 155, 150- 
198, 245, 249, 254, 281, 354 
397 ; ii. 46, 59, 97, 116, 122, 
147, 168, 248, 257, 284, 299, 
319, 339 

Waltham Cross, i. 87 
Watling Street, i. 159 
Westons, The, ii. 320-339 
Weymouth, Charles, i. 102 
White, Huffum, ii. 384-391 



Whitney, Capt. James, i. 86, 158 ; 

ii. 41-64, 173 

" Who goes Home ? " i. 92-95 
Wickes, Edward, i. 254; ii. 100-172 
Wild, Jonathan, i. 137, 187, 265 ; 

ii. 126-147 

Wild, Robert, i. 70-74 
Wilson, Ralph, i. 231,232, 235,230 
Witherington, Thos., i. 171 
Withers, John, ii. 75-80 
Wright, , i. 231 



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HV Harper, Charles George 
6665 Half-hours with the 

G7H35 highwaymen 
v.2