Author Archives

Stephen Basdeo

Stephen Basdeo is a historian and writer based in Leeds, UK.

Margaret Catchpole (1762-1819) | G.W.M. Reynolds

“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!”

The Assassin | G.W.M. Reynolds

“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.

When the Upper Classes Commit Crime: Eugene Aram (1704–59)

“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.”

Rise of the Rogues

“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.”

Remarks on Robin Hood by Robert Blatchford | Stephen Basdeo

“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 Man in the Moon

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…

Poetry: The Rebellion of Wat Tyler and Jack Straw (c.1612)

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.