Stephen Basdeo The Following was a lecture delivered by Stephen Basdeo at Richmond: The American International University on Wednesday 18 November 2020 to students in GEP4180: Organised Crime in Popular Culture. Although […]
Stephen Basdeo is a historian and writer based in Leeds, UK.
“In due time she was brought to trial before the same judge who had before condemned her. The law was imperative. Any person who, suffering a commuted sentence, broke prison, was doomed to undergo the original penalty. This was death; and Margaret, who again pleaded guilty, was again condemned to die!”
“Quick as thought he raised the pistol, and fired it point blank at his opponent. M. Durantal uttered one single cry and fell down dead. At that moment a violent rustling of the boughs was heard close by…”
This story originally appeared in “The London Journal” in 1845.
“…his head was fixed in a hole resembling those of the stocks. The priests leant forward to Whisper the last consolation of man in the malefactor’s ears, and, all being ready, the executioner pulled a string which let the fatal axe loose. Down—down the newly greased grooves it fell, quick as the eyes can wink.”
“A few remarks on that abominable traffic, the SLAVE TRADE, which, to the disgrace of Europe, has not yet ceased to exist, although the efforts of England have been so long directed to its abolition.”
“Emulative of the character of Robin Hood”: The Highwayman Thomas Rainford in the “Second Series” of The Mysteries of London (1844–48) | Stephen Basdeo
Here is a post I wrote on Reynolds’s highwaymen Thomas Rainford, alias Mr Hatfield, who is one of the most fascinating characters in the Second Series of The Mysteries of London.
Dr Rebecca Nesvet takes a look at a long, and unjustly, forgotten French Gothic mystery novel by Eugene Sue. Set in Paris, in the novel crime, revolution, and the lives of black lesbians collided.
“When the morning appointed for his execution arrived the keeper went to take him out of his cell when he was surprised to find him almost expiring through loss of blood, having cut his left arm above the elbow, and near the wrist, with a razor; but he missed an artery … when he was taken to the place of execution he was perfectly sensible, though so very weak, as to be unable to join in devotion with the clergyman who attended him. He was executed at York, August 6th, 1759, and his body was hung in chains in Knaresborough Forest.”
“He may cheat cards or snatch purses. He may forge a cheque or a will. He may beg with a painted ulcer, or float a commercial bubble. He may scheme for title and fortune by means of a worldly marriage, or pocket his hostess’s spoons. He may prey on the government as smuggler and illicit distiller, or turn counterfeit utterer. He may play quack, levy blackmail, crack a safe, or even rob on the highway.”
“Where the old Abbey stands, on the common hard by,
“His gibbet is now to be seen;
“His irons you still from the road may espy;
“The traveller beholds them, and thinks with a sigh
“Of poor Mary, the Maid of the Inn.”
In 1817 the press, politicians, and the public had Robert Southey in their sights; a play, written nearly 2 decades previously and containing “problematic” ideas, was unearthed. A media storm ensued. But instead of pandering to the media mob Southey refused to apologise and, what is more, called out his critics’ hypocrisy.
The working man was not completely at the mercy of unscrupulous employers who might withhold wages and sack them. They could use the law to get revenge.
“Whether the Robin Hood traditions are wholly fact or fiction is a matter of little moment … I prefer to take him as I find him, and I find him, according to the best traditions, a most picturesque figure moving amid noble scenery, and doing deeds of gallantry and kindness. There were so few men in his day who spoke words of ruth to the poor, who were superior to base temptations … so we will hold fast to Robin Hood, and his merry men, and his Maid Marion, and his bravery and mercy.”
The Basdeo family has a sordid murder-suicide among its Victorian ancestors. Even worse, insanity was thought “to run in the blood”….
“Something more goes to the composition of a fine murder than two blockheads to kill and be killed—a knife—a purse—and a dark lane. Design, gentlemen, grouping, light and shade, poetry and sentiment, are now deemed indispensable to attempts of this nature.”
I recently got hold of a “Commonplace Book” which dates from 1859. Commonplace books have been a feature of home life since at least the 1600s. Most often women—though not exclusively women—would compile various poems, drawings, or copy out “advice columns” from books and newspapers into these books for keeping later on.
There stood train, its three classes, first, second, and third. “Good Heavens!” I exclaimed, and are not men equal? Have not these cursed distinctions of rank been yet levelled by the roar of the speeding steam? But I, for one, will never give in to aristocratic institutions. So saying, I got into the coupée of a first-class carriage…
A thin shawl was drawn over her shoulders; her dress was ragged and worn, her face deathly pale…In her pocket was found the remnant of the crust, and a copy of verses printed on red paper.
“My father would smash everythin’ he could reach and knocked my mother round awful so I ran away.”
It would have fallen to the lot of a poorly paid Victorian governess to practice playing Robin Hood with children in the nursery.
To make more room for the procession the police constables begin pushing people back. Charles Sweet was at the front of the line and received a blow on the head from a policeman’s cutlass. His head started gushing with blood. He died a few days later.
One of my favourite writers of the nineteenth century was George William MacArthur Reynolds. Although we know him primarily as a journalist and novelist today, he composed original poetry in practically all of his novels.
Although Wat Tyler’s rebellion failed, the story was retold in plays, poetry, novels, and the rebels’ names were used as aliases in protests through the ages—this post looks at the first every play written about the events of the Peasants’ Revolt.
Unlike that other medieval hero and man of the people, Robin Hood, Wat Tyler does not enjoy an extensive ballad “afterlife.”
This song, first published in The Garland of Delight (1612), is perhaps the first proper ballad which features the famous rebel. It was subsequently published by Thomas Evans in “Old Ballads, Historical and Narrative” (1777) during the “age of ballad scholarship.” Presented here is a transcription of the song.