A Brief History of Crime Literature | Stephen Basdeo

By Stephen Basdeo, a historian and writer based in Leeds, UK.[1] Unless otherwise stated, all images are from books in my private collection.

There are few subjects that interest us more generally, than the adventures of robbers and banditti. In our infancy they awaken and rivet our attention as much as the best fairy tales, and when our happy credulity in all things is woefully abated, and our faith in the supernatural fled, we still retain our taste for the adventurous deeds and wild lives of brigands.

Charles Macfarlane, Lives of the Banditti (1833)


Macfarlane’s words above generally ring true. In our youths, many of us were entertained with tales of robbers and bandits. Ask many people their favourite Robin Hood story, for instance, it is likely that they will refer to Disney’s Robin Hood (1973). As people grow older, they may develop an interest in watching crime films and television shows featuring the suave mobster, or cop show which depicts the lives of those who catch criminals.

 As a genre, crime sells, and it has been the same since the early modern period. In works such as Alexander Smith’s A Complete History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen (1719), Charles Johnson’s Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals (1735), The Newgate Calendar (1774), and The Criminal Recorder (1804) the lives of notorious offenders were sensationalised for an enthusiastic audience hungry to gain a glimpse into the lives of the criminal ‘other’.

Essentially, notorious criminals in every age are products of popular culture: their life stories are told in print culture, in television dramas, and in movies. For many of the medieval and early modern outlaws, much of what we know of their lives comes, not from trial reports (although transcripts do exist for some criminals), but from ballads, criminal biographies, books, and newspaper reports.

The Ancient World

There are few writings pertaining to bandits that have survived from the ancient world, and were it not for the various laws enacted against highway robbers during the period, we would have very little information on these early rogues at all.[2]

Roman Bandits

The Bible tells us that bandits and highway robbery was a common feature of life in the ancient world, of which we shall read more in the first chapter. The only works from the Classical period that enter into any significant detail upon the lives of individual bandits are the writings of Cassius Dio (155-235 AD) and Herodian (170-240 AD).

These men’s writings certainly cannot be classed as crime literature as we would understand the genre today, but they do provide a small amount of information on two highway robbers named Bulla Felix and Maternus. Felix’s story offers some interesting parallels to medieval and early modern Robin Hood stories.

Early images of Robin Hood

Medieval England

It is in medieval Europe that we first see the emergence of a popular culture connected to outlaws. In an age when there was no organised system of law enforcement and imprisonment, it was much easier for the authorities to proclaim that a certain offender was an outlaw. The sentence literally placed the offender beyond the protection of the law. This allowed him (and outlaws were usually male) to be pursued and killed on sight by anyone.[3]

A Gest of Robyn Hode (1495)

The most famous medieval outlaws are Earl Godwin, Hereward the Wake, Eustache the Monk, Fouke Fitzwarren, Adam Bell, and of course Robin Hood.[4] Tales of Robin Hood circulated orally from at least the fourteenth century, and likely before that as well.

Robin Hood

The first written reference to stories of an outlaw named Robin Hood appears in the B text of William Langland’s poem, The Vision of Piers Plowman (c. 1377), in which a lazy clergyman named Sloth says

‘I can noughte parfitly my Paternoster as the prest it syngeth, but I can rymes of Robyn Hood, and Randolf Erle of Chestre’.[5]

Some manuscript versions of these oral tales survive, and there are five early ballads which all date in their final form to the fifteenth century: Robin Hood and the Monk, Robin Hood and the Potter, A Gest of Robyn Hode, Robin Hood’s Death, and Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne.

Of these early tales the Gest is the most significant, although in none of the early ballads does Robin Hood actually steal from the rich to give to the poor. All that is said of Robin’s social mission in A Gest of Robyn Hode is that there are certain people whom the outlaws must leave alone:

“But loke ye do no husbonde harme,

That tylleth with his plough.

“No more ye shall no good yeman

That walketh by grene wode shawe,

Ne no knyght ne no squyer

That wol be a gode felawe.”[6]

At the end of the poem is that Robin Hood ‘dyde pore men moch god’.[7] It would be up to sixteenth century chroniclers, as we shall see in the entry upon Robin Hood in this book, to present Robin Hood as the ‘Prince of Thieves’ who redistributes his wealth to the destitute. Robin Hood’s Death and Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne were not discovered until the early modern period, but they are believed to be medieval in their content. Some scholars also believe that another ballad entitled Robyn and Gandelyn relates to Robin Hood, although this has been questioned by other historians.[8] With the arrival of printing, some of the outlaw tales began to be published.

From Pierce Egan’s Adam Bell

Five printed editions of A Gest of Robyn Hode survive from the sixteenth century.[9] Six editions of Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudeslie appeared in the same century, with several more printings occurring in the next century.[10] Clearly, sixteenth-century readers wanted to believe in the myth of a good outlaw.

Early Modern England

In the same century that A Gest of Robyn Hode and Adam Bell were being published, another type of crime writing appeared, known as the rogue pamphlet. Works such as Gilbert Walker’s A Manifest Detection of Diceplay (1552), John Awdley’s The Fraternity of Vagabonds (1561), and Thomas Dekker’s Lantern and Candlelight (1608) gave readers a glimpse into the sinister practises of cony-catchers, rogues, vagabonds, and thieves in Tudor and Stuart England.

 They were meant to titillate respectable readers, as well as warn of them of the many dastardly schemes that they could fall foul of if they were to visit the capital. For example, a Courtesy Man is one who walks about the streets of London and ingratiates himself into a naïve gentleman’s service. Once admitted into the gentleman’s house, he steals from them early in the morning then takes his leave.[11]

The Black Dog of Newgate

A whipjack would steal from tradesmen’s stalls in the marketplaces, while the ruffler would ‘rob poor wayfaring men and women’.[12] These men were not the good outlaws of medieval ballads who wore suits of Lincoln-green and robbed only corrupt clergyman and sheriffs. Instead, rogues and vagabonds in Tudor England would rob from people indiscriminately.

Designated as ‘masterless men’ by the authorities, these people were a law unto themselves.[13] They were not easily identifiable as the greenwood outlaws of the past were, but were indistinguishable from the law-abiding. They even had their own canting language. Thus, the works of Awdley, Dekker, and others presented readers with a glimpse of a criminal underworld.[14] The message contained in rogue pamphlets was clear: read these works and do not fall foul of the artful designs of these sinister figures.

Rogue Literature

Connected to the above works was the picaresque novel, named after the Spanish word picaro meaning ‘rogue’ or ‘rascal’.[15] The first of these novels was the anonymously authored Lazarillo de Tormes (1554). The novel is narrated in the first person, as if to imply that it is an autobiography. It tells the story of Lázaro, a poor boy from Tejares near Salamanca, who spends his youth in the service of various masters (although not relevant for our purposes here, the novel is also significant in that it is one of the first literary works that sympathetically depicts an interracial marriage between Lázaro’s mother and a slave).

Title page to Lazarillo de Tormes

While Lázaro is not a criminal himself, throughout his life he comes into contact with many unsavoury characters. Having suffered what we might now term child abuse at the hands of several masters, such as a blind man, a priest, and a gentleman, he enters the service of a pardoner, which is someone who sells papal indulgences. The pardoner is a veritable crook who employs several tricks to con the pious out of their money. For example, one of his tricks is to heat a metal crucifix before saying Mass. When the village folk come to Mass and kiss the crucifix it burns them. The pardoner then tells them that if they have been burned by the cross they have been punished by God, and that the only way to mitigate this punishment is through buying an indulgence.[16]

More picaresque novels were published throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The genre eventually made an appearance in England, with the first English rogue novel being Thomas Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveller; or, The Life of Jack Wilton (1594). Wilton is a page in the court of King Henry VIII in the year 1513, who tricks money out of the people he meets, but the story that he tells also shines a light on the shady, borderline criminal practices of the Royal court.

English Rogue Title Page

One of the most famous English picaresque novels appeared in the next century. Richard Head’s The English Rogue Described in the Life of Meriton Latroon (1665) is a fictionalised, seriocomic depiction of roguery and excess in the life of the protagonist, Latroon, and his associates. It caused quite the stir when first published: an unlicensed edition printed in 1664 was suppressed for obscenity, although there was no significant opposition to the first ‘official’ edition printed in the following year.[17]

Latroon’s depravity begins when he is a young boy. He beats the brains out of one of the turkeys that his father keeps.[18] Later on, he absconds from his parents’ house and falls in with some gypsies who con people by reading their fortunes at markets and fairs.[19] Prefaced to Head’s narrative of vice and crime is a moral injunction:

Read, but don’t practice: for the author findes,

They which live honest have most quiet mindes.

Dixero si quid forte jocosius hoc mihi juris

Cum & enia dalis.[20]

There is no need to take this moral commandment too seriously, even though it is marketed as a book that would be useful for the reformation of licentious people.[21] Instead, the primary purpose of Head’s English Rogue is to provide sensational, titillating, and violent entertainment.

The Eighteenth Century: The Golden Age of the Highwayman

Henry Fielding

As the fear of crime increased during the eighteenth century, we see popular culture giving expression to these anxieties. The novelist and magistrate of Westminster, Henry Fielding, for example, authored a pamphlet entitled An Enquiry into the Causes of the Great Increase of Robbers (1751), in which, speaking of London, he says that,

I make no doubt, but that the streets of this town, and the roads leading to it, will shortly be impassable without the utmost hazard; nor are we threatened with seeing less dangerous gangs of rogues among us, than those which the Italians call the banditti.[22]

Highwayman Claude DuVall

Many of these fears were connected to the increased urbanisation occurring in and around the metropolis. While London had always had unsavoury areas, the growth of poor quality housing with their courts and back alleys, as well as the fact that many people lived on the breadline, allowed crime to fester in these areas. This is why Fielding, later on in his Enquiry, remarks that,

Whoever indeed considers the cities of London and Westminster, with the vast addition of suburbs; the great irregularity of their buildings, the immense number of lanes, alleys, courts, and bye-places, must think, that, had they been intended for the very purpose of concealment, they could scarce have been better contrived. Upon such a view, the whole appears as a vast wood or forest, in which a thief may harbour with great security.[23]

In addition, there was no police force during the eighteenth century. The capture and punishment of thieves was left to part time and unpaid constables, as well as some shady characters known as thief takers who ‘controlled’ crime in the capital by arranging for the return of stolen goods for a price. Even Fielding’s Bow Street Runners, a small team of constables operating out of Bow Street Magistrate’s Court, could not effectively combat what seemed to be an ever-rising crime wave.

Concomitant with these concerns over rising crime rates this was the lapse of the Licensing Act in 1695, in which the pre-publication censorship of printed works came to end, which resulted in a proliferation of literature of all kinds, with crime being one of the most popular genres of literature.

The sheer amount of crime writing published during the eighteenth century attests to the public interest in crime. Lincoln B. Faller, a scholar who has written extensively upon the genre, records that the British Library alone contains over 2,000 criminal biographies.[24] And all classes enjoyed such entertainment. The aforementioned works by Smith and Johnson, which are compendiums of short biographies of notorious criminals, were published in folio format with fine engravings.

Alexander Smith’s A History of the Most Noted Highwaymen, Footpads, Shoplifts, and Cheats (1714)

Shorter pamphlets were published which told the lives of individual criminals, and these could sell for anything between four pence and a shilling. Broadsides containing the supposed ‘Last Dying Speech’ of an offender were sold at public executions, while periodicals such as The Proceedings of the Old Bailey provided readers with news of the latest notorious trials occurring in the capital.

Daniel Defoe

Even novelists capitalised upon the public’s interest in crime. For example, Daniel Defoe (c. 1660-1731), the author of Robinson Crusoe (1719), which is widely regarded as the first English novel, authored several novels which drew inspiration from picaresque fiction and criminal biography. Such works include Colonel Jack (1722), Moll Flanders (1722), and Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress (1724).

Eighteenth-century works of all kinds often carried longer titles than books typically do today, which served the equivalent function that the book blurb does for modern readers. If we take a brief look at the full title of Moll Flanders, we can see the influence of picaresque and rogue literature:

The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders Who was born in Newgate, and during a Life of Continu’d Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Years a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her brother) Twelve Years a Thief, Eight Years a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, Liv’d Honest and died a Penitent.

Told in the first person, Defoe’s Moll Flanders is the story of a marginalised woman progressing through life, becoming a criminal, until at last, in true picaresque style, she redeems herself by living honest.

Some late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scholars in the past thought that Charles Johnson was one of Defoe’s pseudonyms, and that it was he who authored some of Johnson’s works such as A General and True History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates (1724). However, concerns have been raised over this by modern literary critics, and two scholars in particular, P. N. Furbank and W. R. Owens, have attempted to de-attribute many works that have hitherto been assumed to have been written by Defoe.

Rob Roy

Later in the century, the aforementioned Henry Fielding also authored Jonathan Wild (1743), a novel based upon the life of the eponymous thief taker whose life story is also featured in this volume, while another eighteenth-century author, Tobias Smollett, also drew upon the model laid down by earlier picaresque novels in his work The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (1751).

Even the renowned novelist Walter Scott (1771-1832), an avid collector of criminal biographies (his copy of The Highland Rogue is currently on display at Abbotsford visitors’ centre), drew upon the genre for two of his novels: Rob Roy (1818) and The Pirate (1822).[25]

The Newgate Calendar

The market for collections of short biographies of criminals’ lives lasted throughout the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In 1774, we see the first Newgate Calendar published, which is essentially a collection of the texts of various ‘last dying speeches’ broadsides that had been popular since the sixteenth century.

Newgate gaol

Further editions were published in five volumes by two lawyers named Andrew Knapp and William Baldwin in 1824, and a two volume edition entitled Chronicles of Crime; or, The New Newgate Calendar appeared in 1841.

Frontispiece to the Newgate Calendar

And editions of Charles Johnson’s Highwaymen book continued to be published in the early part of the century. The historian Charles Macfarlane also authored The Lives and Exploits of Banditti and Robbers in all Parts of the World (1833), which is a light-hearted emulation of Smith and Johnson’s infamous works, and his tongue-in-cheek attitude to his subject is revealed in many of the witticisms that are interspersed throughout his works. For example, in his preface he says that,

‘were I a despot as potent as a Chinese Emperor, I would decree a destruction of all the ballads relating to brigandism, and would punish every teller of a story, or a tradition on that subject.’[26]

As it happens, Macfarlane had no qualms about publishing a lengthy two volume work which showcased the lives of rascals from all parts of the world.

The Nineteenth-Century Crime Novel

However, what we see beginning in the 1830s is fictional accounts of thieves beginning to dominate the market, and superseding the ‘factual’ accounts of thieves. This was marked by the emergence of the so called Newgate novel in 1830, when Edward Bulwer Lytton authored a phenomenally successful novel entitled Paul Clifford about the life of an eighteenth-century highwayman.

The same author followed up his success with another novel entitled Eugene Aram (1832), which is an embellished account of the life of the eponymous murderer who features in one of our chapters. It seemed as though the public wanted nothing else but Newgate novel. The author William Harrison Ainsworth went on to write Rookwood (1834), which transformed the highwayman Dick Turpin (1705-39) from a petty thug into a dashing, gentlemanly highwayman. Ainsworth next turned his attention to another historical criminal in Jack Sheppard (1839).

Jack Sheppard has his portrait taken

Jack Sheppard caused a great deal of controversy in the press, however, because a murderer in 1840 admitted at his trial that the idea for committing his crime came to him as a result of having read Ainsworth’s novel (in order to avoid repetition, for further details on the controversy surrounding Jack Sheppard, please see the chapter ‘Jack Sheppard: the Original “Jack the Lad”’). The days of historical criminals enjoying the limelight in the middle-class three-volume novel were over.

Dick Turpin’s ride to York

The Urban Mysteries

Yet crime literature did not die with Ainsworth’s novel, for another genre came to prominence at this time: the penny blood. These were periodicals which were published weekly and sold, as their name suggests, for a penny, and marketed towards adults from the working and lower middle classes. A staple of their output included supernatural gothic tales, as well as crime.

From Reynolds’s Mysteries of London

And it is in 1844 that the serialisation of George William MacArthur Reynolds’s The Mysteries of London began.

Reynolds was inspired to write this after having read a French novel by Eugene Sue entitled The Mysteries of Paris (1842-43), which is a fictional portrayal of the Parisian criminal underworld.

Title page to Eugene Sue’s “Mysteries of Paris”

In Reynolds’s novel, every type of crime conceivable is portrayed. There is an aristocrat who lives with four prostitutes at his beck and call. MPs and members of the aristocracy conspire to defraud investors by setting up phony railway companies.

A conman sets up his own church, proclaiming himself to be a messenger sent from God, who declares that he must sleep with the youngest and prettiest maidens from his congregation because God has told him that he must spread the ‘seed’ of the gospel.

Bodysnatchers in The Mysteries of London

A loose aristocratic lady seduces a goodly young vicar, after which he changes from being virtuous to being a completely degenerate, lustful, depraved, and libidinous cad. Low-life thugs from the criminal underworld not only rob and kill people of their own volition, but they are often employed by members of the criminal “upperworld” to carry out dastardly deeds.

A mother and her husband plot to take out their four-year-old daughter’s eye, because she will look like more of a charity case when she is begging on the street. Reynolds’s novel is not simply a picture of crime in low life. Instead, he gives readers a glimpse of both “white collar” crime and underworld crime, and shows the interactions between the two spheres of criminality. And the Victorian public loved this novel: although scarcely known to the general public today, it was one of the biggest-selling novels of the Victorian era.

Reynolds then published a follow up to The Mysteries of London entitled The Mysteries of the Court of London (he had fallen out with the publisher of the original Mysteries and left him for another). The second serial was even longer than Reynolds’s Mysteries of London, for the latter eventually ran into eight volumes of double-columned, minute typeface. Low life crime is featured in this serial, and in the novel we see child prostitution rings, organised crime gangs, abductions, and robberies.

Penny Medievalism

Another famous penny blood author was Pierce Egan the Younger (1814-80), one of Reynolds’s lifelong friends. In his early years, Egan tended to focus upon tales of medieval and early modern outlaws: Robin Hood and Little John; or, The Merry Men of Sherwood Forest was serialised between 1838 and 1840; Wat Tyler; or, The Rebellion of 1381 appeared in 1842, as did Adam Bell; or, The Archers of Englewood, and Egan’s Captain Macheath, adapted from John Gay’s highwayman musical entitled The Beggar’s Opera (1727), also appeared in the early 1840s.[27]

The John Dicks edition of Pierce Egan’s Robin Hood and Little John

Egan’s novels were full of violence: the killing and maiming of soldiers of the law accompanied attempted rapes and kidnappings.[28] Both Egan, and especially Reynolds, came in for a lot of criticism in the press. In 1861, The Times remarked that ‘Lust was the Alpha and Murder the Omega’ of both Reynolds’s and Egan’s novels.[29] Although Egan countered this accusation by writing an open letter to newspaper, ‘flatly and emphatically contradicting this mendacious slander’, neither of the two writers seemed particularly bothered about the criticism, and both of them continued writing in the same manner as they had always done.[30]

The Sensation Novel

At the beginning of the 1860s, the sensation novel burst onto the scene. The genre was influenced by earlier gothic writing as well as the Newgate novel, sensation fiction usually depicts tales of adultery, bigamy, theft, kidnapping, seduction, and murder in middle-class spheres of life.[31]

(Wikimedia Commons)

The first sensation novel is assumed to be Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White (1859-60), which involves cases of mistaken identity, presumed deaths, and white collar crime in the form of fraud and embezzlement. Other authors were quick to capitalise upon Collins’s success: Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations was serialised between 1860 and 1861; Ellen Wood authored East Lynne (1861), and Mary Elizabeth Braddon penned Lady Audley’s Secret (1862).

The themes of the genre were hardly new, as stories of vice and iniquity among members of the upper and middle classes had been around for a while. However, the genre was innovative in one respect: it paved the way for the foregrounding of the detective as the main protagonist in fiction.

The Detective Novel

In tracing the ‘first’ detective novel, one encounters some quite heated academic debates. Various stories have been claimed as the original detective novel. Edgar Allen Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841) is often credited as one of the first American examples.[32]

Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone (1868) has also been credited as having started the genre. It should be noted however, as Ronald R. Thomas states,

‘that almost every Victorian novel has at its heart some crime that must be uncovered, some false identity that must be unmasked, some secret that must be revealed, or some clandestine plot that must be exposed.’[33]

Whoever started it, it is clear that the genre reaches its high point with Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, who first appeared in A Study in Scarlet (1887). Doyle presented middle-class Victorian readers with thrilling tales of crime in which the hero, Holmes, solved crimes in a ‘scientific’ manner, and the fictional detective anticipated several advances in police science before they were actually implemented by forces, notably the study of fingerprints.[34]

The Penny Dreadful

However, while the heroes of middle-class crime fiction were by the latter half of the century those who pursued criminals, the highwayman and the street robber remained the hero in penny dreadfuls.

Jack Sheppard penny dreadful

These were cheap weekly magazines, similar to penny bloods, but targeted towards youngsters. Within their ranks were tales such as The Wild Boys of London; or, The Children of the Night (c. 1866), which was deemed to be so violent that it was banned for its scenes of nudity and flagellation.[35]

We can add to the wild boys’ ranks stories such as the epic Dick Turpin saga Black Bess; or, The Knight of the Road (c. 1866-68). The heroes of these tales did not have to be either fictional, as in the Wild Boys, or dead, as in the case of Turpin, for they often made heroes out of contemporary criminals: it took just one year from the death of Ned Kelly in 1880 for a penny dreadful to appear about him entitled Ned Kelly: The Ironclad Australian Bushranger (1881). Evidently, Kelly’s fame travelled at lightning fast pace throughout the British Empire.

The Victorian Children’s Book

The rise in juvenile crime was attributed to penny dreadfuls by sanctimonious commentators in the Victorian press. Thus, with the backing of the middle-class press behind her, moralists such as Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901), to name but one example, with her What Books to Lend and What Books to Give (1887), sought to police the reading habits of young children:

Wholesome and amusing literature has become almost a necessity among the appliances of parish work. The power of reading leads, in most cases, to the craving for books. If good not be provided, evil will only too easily be found […] If the boy is not to betake himself to ‘Jack Sheppard’ literature, he must be beguiled by wholesome adventure. If the girl is not to study the ‘penny dreadful,’ her notions must be refined by the tale of high romance or pure pathos.[36]

Consequently, a whole range of tedious, snooze-inducing books appeared, all of which had moralist undertones, such as A. L. O. E.’s The Robber’s Cave: A Tale of Italy (1882).

Other examples include those children’s books written by Christian missionaries, such as A. Delver’s Below the Surface; or, Life in the Slums (1885), a condescending portrayal of life among the so-called criminal classes of London’s East End.

Even Robert Louis Stevenson, as talented as he was, could not equal Egan for excitement in his own medieval outlaw narrative The Black Arrow (1888).

This is not to say that penny dreadfuls featuring criminals as their heroes completely died out by the late 1800s, but it is clear that the direction of travel was favouring those narratives which either featured the detective as the protagonist, or the late Victorian children’s book.

In a later post I shall trace the development of crime fiction through the twentieth century.

[1] This has been adapted from my book The Lives and Exploits of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, Rogues, and Murderers (2018).

[2] See B. D. Shaw, ‘Bandits in the Roman Empire’, Past & Present, No. 105 (1984), pp. 3-52.

[3] Timothy S. Jones, ‘The Outlawry of Earl Godwin from the Vitae Ædwardi Regis’, in Medieval Outlaws: Ten Tales in Modern English ed. by Thomas Ohlgren (Stroud: Sutton, 1998), pp. 1-11 (p.2).

[4] For more information on all of these outlaws see the following works: James C. Holt, Robin Hood (London: Thames & Hudson, 1982); A. J. Pollard, Imagining Robin Hood: The Late Medieval Stories in Historical Context (Abingdon: Routledge, 2007); Stephen Knight, Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003); Stephen Knight, Reading Robin Hood: Content, Form and Reception in the Outlaw Myth (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015); Stephen Knight, Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994); Michael Swanton, ‘The Deeds of Hereward’, in Medieval Outlaws: Ten Tales in Modern English ed. by Thomas Ohlgren (Stroud: Sutton, 1998), pp. 12-60; Thomas E. Kelly, ‘Eustache the Monk’, in Medieval Outlaws: Ten Tales in Modern English ed. by Thomas Ohlgren (Stroud: Sutton, 1998), pp. 61-98; Thomas E. Kelly, ‘Fouke FitzWarren’, in Medieval Outlaws: Ten Tales in Modern English ed. by Thomas Ohlgren (Stroud: Sutton, 1998), pp. 106-67; Thomas Hahn, ‘Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesley’, in Medieval Outlaws: Ten Tales in Modern English ed. by Thomas Ohlgren (Stroud: Sutton, 1998), pp. 239-52.

[5] William Langland, Piers Plowman ed. by Elizabeth Robertson & Stephen H. A. Shepherd (New York: Norton, 2006), pp. 82-3.

[6] ‘A Gest of Robyn Hode’, in Robin Hood: A Collection of All the Ancient Poems, Songs, and Ballads ed. by Joseph Ritson 2 Vols. (London: T. Egerton, 1795), pp. 1-81 (p.5).

[7] ‘A Gest of Robyn Hode’, p. 80.

[8] Dobson & Taylor, Rymes of Robyn Hood, p. 256; ‘by no stretch of the imagination can the ‘Robyn’ of this lyric be properly identified with the Robin Hood of the other ballads’.

[9] Thomas Ohlgren, ‘A Gest of Robyn Hode’, Medieval Outlaws: Ten Tales in Modern English ed. by Thomas Ohlgren (Stroud: Sutton, 1998), pp. 216-38.

[10] Hahn, ‘Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesley’, p. 239.

[11] John Awdley, ‘The Fraternity of Vagabonds’, in Rogues, Vagabonds and Sturdy Beggars: A New Gallery of Tudor and Early Stuart Rogue Literature ed. by Arthur F. Kinney (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1990), pp. 85-102 (pp.94-5).

[12] Awdley, ‘The Fraternity of Vagabonds’, p. 92.

[13] See A. L. Beier, Masterless Men: The Vagrancy Problem in England 1560-1640 (London: Methuen, 1985).

[14] Hal Gladfelder, Criminality and Narrative in Eighteenth-Century England: Beyond the Law (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), p. 26.

[15] See O. F. Best, ‘Para la Etimología de Pícaro’, Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica 17: 3/4 (1963/1964), pp. 352-57.

[16] Michael Alpert (Trans.), Lazarillo de Tormes and The Swindler: Two Spanish Picaresque Novels (London: Penguin, 2003), pp. 54-5.

[17] C. W. R. D. Moseley, ‘Richard Head’s “The English Rogue”: A Modern Mandeville?’, The Yearbook of English Studies Vol. 1 (1971), pp. 102-7 (p.102).

[18] Richard Head, The English Rogue Described in the Life of Meriton Latroon (London: Henry Marsh, 1665), p. 16.

[19] Head, The English Rogue, pp. 40-1

[20] Head, The English Rogue, p. i.

[21] Moseley, ‘Richard Head’s “The English Rogue”’, p. 103.

[22] Henry Fielding, An Enquiry Into the Causes of the Late Increase of Robbers, &c. (London: A. Millar, 1751), p. 2.

[23] Ibid., p. 116.

[24] Lincoln B. Faller, Turned to Account: The Forms and Functions of Late Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth-Century Criminal Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. x.

[25] Stephen Basdeo, ‘Robin Hood the Brute: Representations of the Outlaw in 18th-Century Criminal Biography’, Law, Crime, and History 6: 2 (2016), pp. 54-70 (p.69n).

[26] Charles MacFarlane, The Lives and Exploits of the Banditti and Robbers of all Nations 2 Vols. (London, 1833 repr. London: R. W. Pomeroy, 1836), 1: 16.

[27] It is notoriously difficult to date some penny bloods as, like Egan’s Captain Macheath, their publishers did not place the date of publication on the title page, and neither do any of the author’s journals or diaries survive which might give a hint as to when they were working on certain ones.

[28] Kevin Carpenter, ‘Robin Hood in Boys’ Weeklies to 1914’, in Popular Children’s Literature in Britain ed. by M. O. Grenby, Julia Briggs & Dennis Butts (Abingdon: Routledge, 2008), pp. 47-68 (p.51).

[29] Anon. ‘Great Expectations’, The Times 17 October 1861, p. 6

[30] Pierce Egan, ‘To the Editor of The Times’, The Times 23 October 1861, p. 4.

[31] Philip V. Allingham, ‘The Victorian Sensation Novel, 1860-1880: “Preaching to the Nerves Instead of the Judgment”’, in The Victorian Web: Literature, History and Culture in the Age of Victoria ed. by George P. Landow [Internet <> Accessed 25 June 2017].

[32] Kenneth Silverman, Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance (New York: Harper Perennial, 1998), p. 171

[33] Ronald R. Thomas, ‘Detection in the Victorian Novel’, in The Cambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel ed. by Deidre David (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 169-91 (p.169).

[34] Ibid., p. 187.

[35] John Adcock, ‘The Wild Boys of London; or, The Children of the Night’, Yesterday’s Papers 25 March 2008 [Internet <> Accessed 9 July 2017].

[36] Charlotte M. Yonge, What Books to Lend and What to Give (London: [n.p. n.d.]), pp. 5-6.