Page images


house-breaking, and returned to street-robbing; but did not confine himself as formerly to the single article of snatching pockets, for taking in one who was known by the name of Will the Sailor, to be his assistant, they ventured upon robbing men as well as women. Will

very long sword: it was his part when they met a gentleman alone to pick a quarrel with him, and while they were engaged, it was Oakey's business to run away with the gentleman's hat and wig.

Some difference arising between Oakey and Will, they parted, and Oakey fell in with Reading, Haws, Milksop, Lincoln, and Wilkinson, all of whom have since been executed. He was concerned with them in about twenty robberies, though at his first admittance, Nai. Haws told him, he was a size too little for a hero, and fit for nothing but to clean pistols, and sell the goods they stole.”

The last observation of Nat. Hawes was, unfortunately for its force and truth, made before Napoleon signalized himself, and established the heroism of little bodies. Dick Oakey died with a very pye-bald sort of repentance; picking of pockets did not seem to have afflicted his conscience very heavily, and therefore he escaped much ponderous penitence. He had burnt a widow's will, and for this he sorrowed stoutly.

Humphrey Angier, who was cut off in the bloom of his youth at Tyburn, on the 9th of September, 1723, was about as arrant a villain as ever clapped muzzle to muzzle, or induced a gentleman to stand on the highway to witness a transfer of property. The name of Humphry does not blare through Fame's impudent trumpet very grandly; but it is attached to crimes sufficient to recommend it to the most curious reader. Angier was indicted for robbing a Mr. Lewin, the then city marshal, on the 23d of December, 1720, and was convicted principally on the evidence of John Dyer, his companion in arms.

On a second indictment for robbing one John Sibley, Dyer again gave evidence, and with the utmost nonchalance.

John Dyer. The prisoner and I stopped a waggon near Hydepark-corner, and robbed Mr. Sibley of nine or ten shillings.

Court. Did you rob him in the waggon?
Dyer. No, we made him come out.
Court. What time was this done?
Dyer. Early in the morning.
Court. How long ago?
Dyer. About ten years.
Court. The waggoner says twelve years.

Dyer. Twelve years ? Let me see. Yes, I believe I have been in a mistake, it might be twelve years. But it being so long ago, I do not remember the time exactly; though I could have been very punctual, if I had had my pocket-book here; but I had the misfortune to lose it. For in that book I had entered down a particular account of all the robberies I was ever concerned in, and the time, place, and manner, in which they were committed.

Court. What was your design in keeping such a journal ? Was it, that upon the perusal of your robberies, you might the more particularly repent of them.

Dyer. No, I thought nothing of repentance; but I did it to save myself from the gallows, that I might be the more exact whenever I should have an opportunity of securing my own life, by becoming an evidence against my companions. The same day that the prisoner and I robbed Mr. Sibley, we went to Southwark făir, and from thence to Blackheath, where we committed another robbery; but were so closely pursued, that I was obliged to shoot the pursuer's horse, after which, with much difficulty, we made our escape.

Prisoner. God grant that I may find no mercy in this world, or the world to come, if I was any ways concerned in either of the robberies which I am now tried for.”

Sheridan has said, that when they do agree upon the stage their unanimity is wonderful. He might as safely have said, that where they do disagree amongst rogues, their disagreement is extreme.

The Ordinary is no niggard of biography in his account of Humphrey. Angier was an Irishman-aye, and a bold one too!. After much curious information, the preacher proceedeth.

“ He often asserted, that he was not acquainted with John Dyer so early as the year 1711, and consequently was not guilty of robbing Mr. Sibley; but that their acquaintance began something, though not much later, at the house of one Strickland, in the Old Bailey. Angier, it seems, had frequented that house but a little while before he took notice of a man who appeared now and then, but always muffled up in a great coat, and looking very shy. Upon observing this, he one day took an opportunity of asking Strickland who that man was? Strickland answered, “ his name is Dyer, he is under a cloud about shooting a gentleman's footman, and therefore he conceals himself here all day, and lodges at another house at night." Angier swore he should be glad of his company, and Strickland soon brought them together. They quickly agreed to be joint adventurers, and it was not long

before they tried their

fortunes upon Blackheath, where they met with several prizes, though none very considerable. Angier afterwards got several other companions, with whom he robbed in most of the roads near London.”

At the place of execution, Humphrey turned to at a confession, as is usual with gentlemen of his persuasion; and delivered the following maudlin acknowledgement.

“ I confess, with great grief, that I have been extremely guilty of disobedience to my parents, which I believe was the first cause of my

unhappiness. I was not acquainted with John Dyer till about nine months after Mr. Sibley was robbed. I have committed many robberies, but never any murder. I justly merit the shameful death I must suffer. I beg all young men to be warned by me, and reject the solicitations of vicious companions."

Passing over Dick Whiting, “as audacious a dog," to quote the Ordinary's impressive words, “ as ever stretched a halter," we come to the account of John Stanley, for murder. There is nothing more than mere cruelty to distinguish this gentleman's feats from those of several of his calendar associates; but after the case is brought home to the very bone, and Mr. Stanley gets fairly into the condemned hole,

“ He gave an account of his being once attacked and robbed by foot-pads in Hampstead-road, as he was returning from Belsize; and another time by highwaymen, as he was going into Gloucestershire, and upon drawing his sword, one of them shot, and narrowly missed him; and after that they beat him in so violent a manner, that he was hardly able to stand. "And is it not hard now, says he, that I, whom no sword could dispatch, no gun could kill, and no storm could drown, must at last die like a dog in an ignoble halter? That I, who have lived like a gentleman, been a companion for officers, and the favourite of the ladies, must die with street robbers ?

The Ordinary is extremely sprightly and particular in his account of Stanley. The following is written with a delightful pen—plucked, it should seem, from the wing of no common goose.

“ He declared before several, that he would never die by a rope, offering in his airy way to lay wagers upon that matter. But afterwards being convinced that there was no bravery in not being able to sustain misfortunes, but getting from under them, he changed his intent, and said, he would die like a gentleman, and a soldier, though in the manner of a dog : that his enemies should see he could appear with the same face at the time of his death, as during the time of his life.”

Stanley died suddenly at Tyburn on the 23d of December, 1723, aged twenty-five years.

In the account of Stephen Gardiner for a burglary (a fellow of no great likelihood), the following curious fact is related. The verses exhibit a strange mixture of coarse strength and disgusting doggrelism (if we may use such a word). We who live under the very gloom of Newgate-i.e. in the backshop of our publisher, never heard these admonitory lines doled out. They are the bell-man's verses with a vengeance.

“ It has long been a custom for the bell-man of St. Sepulchre's parish (on the night before the prisoners are to be executed) to come under Newgate and ring his bell, and repeat the following verses to the criminals in the condemned-hold.


that in the condemn'd-hold do lie,
Prepare you, for to-morrow you shall die.
Watch all and pray, the hour is drawing near,
That you before th' Almighty must appear.
Examine well yourselves, in time repent,
That you may not t' eternal flames be sent:
And when St. 'Pulcre's bell to-morrow tolls,
The Lord above have mercy on your souls!

Past twelve o'clock ! According to Stow's Survey, [edit. 1618, 4to. p. 195,] it appears, that the Ordinary, or some holy man, ought to exhort thus poetically to the hopeless men. We do, however, think, that it was an uncharitable deed in any person to compel a dying man to listen to such shabby heroic verses. Mr. Fitzgerald, the tavern poet, could hardly be guilty of a more atrocious poetical misdemeanour.

Stow thus quaintly writes.

“ Robert Dove, citizen and merchant-tailor, of London, gave to the parish church of St. Sepulchre, the sum of 501. That after the several sessions of London, when the prisoners remain in the gaol, as condemned men to death, expecting execution on the morrow following: the clerk (that is, the parson) of the church should come in the nighttime, and likewise early in the morning, to the window of the prison where they lye, and there ringing certain tolls with a hand-bell, appointed for the purpose, he doth afterward (in most Christian manner) put them in mind of their present condition, and ensuing execution, desiring them to be prepared therefore as they ought to be. When they are in the cart, and brought before the wall of the church, there he standeth ready with the same bell, and after certain tolls rehearseth an appointed prayer, desiring all the people there present to pray for them. The beadle, also, of merchant-tailors-hall, hath an honest allowed stipend, to see that this is duely done.”

We wonder whether the beadle of merchant-tailors attends to his duty; surely, Mr. Brougham ought to make this one of the subjects of inquiry into charitable abuses. Is the stipend dead?

Skipping over Fred. Schmidt, for forgery, Lewis Houssart, for murder, Constantine Magennis, for the like impropriety, and Peter Curtis, for burglary, we come full bolt upon Jack Sheppard ! the gallant, famous, infamous, muscular Jack Sheppard ! — Such burglaries never graced the Newgate Annals before or since his time! He was, indeed, the Beau Ideal of a housebreaker!

Jack was convicted, thanks to Jonathan Wild; and then follows an ample and able account, from the Ordinary's acute pen, of this eminent varlet. After much preliminary wickedness, which, no doubt, must have been pointed and pleasant enough at the time, we come to Sheppard's active days. Jack robs away through several pages,-at length,

“On Monday morning, August 30, the warrant came down to Newgate, for the execution of Joseph Ward, for robbery, Anthony Upton, for burglary, and John Sheppard.

“A little within the lodge at Newgate there was, on the left hand, a hatch, with large iron spikes: this opened into a dark passage, from whence you went up a few steps into the condemned-hold. The prisoners were permitted to come down to this hatch to speak with their friends. Sheppard being provided with implements, found means to cut one of the spikes in such a manner, that it would easily break off. In the evening two women of his acquaintance coming to see him, he broke off the spike, and thrusting his head and shoulders through the space, the women pulled him down, and so he made his escape undiscovered, though some of the keepers were at the same time drinking at the farther end of the lodge."

Jack no sooner escapes, than he dashes his hand through a watchmaker's window, and his fingers being professionally hooked, he snatches out three watches,-and, for this daring robbery, he is again “returned to the place from whence he


“ On Wednesday, October 14, the sessions began at the Old Bailey, and Jack knew that the keepers would then have so much business in attending the court, as would leave them but little leisure to visit him; and therefore thought, that this would be the only time to make a push for his liberty.

“ The next day, about two in the afternoon, one of the keepers carried Jack his dinner, and, as usual, examined his irons, and found all fast, and so left him.—He had hardly been gone an hour, before Jack went to work. The first thing he did, he got off his hand-cuffs, and then with a crooked nail, which he found upon the floor, he opened the great padlock that fastened his chain to the staple. Next he twisted asunder a small link of the chain between his legs, and drawing up his feet-locks as high as he could, he made them fast with his garters. He attempted to get up the chimney, but had not advanced far, before his progress was stopped by an iron bar that went across withinside, and therefore being descended, he went to work on the outside, and with a piece of his broken chain picked out the mortar, and removing a small stone or two about six feet from the floor, he got out the iron bar, which was an inch square, and near a yard long, and this proved of great service to him. He presently made so large a breach, that he got into the Red-room over the castle. Here he found a great nail, which was another very useful implement. The door of this room had not been

« PreviousContinue »