If Twitter was around in 1819, this angry letter writer named Robin Hood–who railed against corrupt and tyrannical MPs–would probably have had an account.
Hark ye! My Merry Men all and listen to me!
Of a very bad bishop who was a Tory!
“…the most selfish hearts should be humanized, and a feeling of love kept alive, reciprocating and reciprocated, between the rich and the poor, the politically great and the socially defenceless, for ever.”
In The 19th-Century Underworld: Crime, Controversy & Corruption, historian and novelist Stephen Carver, drawing upon a wide range of archival and literary sources, takes us on a journey through the seedy courts and sinister alleyways of the criminal underworld which existed during the nineteenth century.
I recently came into possession of a book written by Thomas Cooper (1805-92), a famous Chartist activist, which he gave to his friend, the newspaper proprietor and fellow Chartist, John Cleave (1790-1847).
“Up at the League, says a friend, there had been one night a brisk conversational discussion, as to what would happen on the Morrow of the Revolution, finally shading off into a vigorous statement by various friends of their views on the future of the fully-developed new society … [William Guest] found himself musing on the subject-matter of discussion, but still discontentedly and unhappily. “If I could but see it!” … “If I could but see it! If I could but see it!”
According to an ancient custom in India, widows would voluntarily mount their dead husbands’ funeral pyres and be burned alive. The British put a stop to this practice in 1829.
Chartists writers loved drawing inspiration from England’s medieval past; in their campaign for political reform, which better figure could they choose than England’s famous outlaw from the Middle Ages?
“I only strive to arouse the grovelling spirit of the industrious millions to a sense of the wrongs under which they labour.”
“I will warn him that he will not find my robbers such romantic, generous characters as those who occasionally figure in the fields of fiction. He will meet with men strangers to that virtue of robbing the rich to give to the poor. They give to the poor indeed, but it is as spies and instruments of their own crimes, or at least in order to avoid detection.” –Charles Macfarlane, 1833.
“A general spirit of discontent has long been increasing among the people: it has at last broken out among the lower class in London.”
Pierce Egan’s “Quintin Matsys” is like the Belgian “Les Miserables”; the people of Antwerp rise up and take to the barricades to overthrow the evil aristocrats who oppress them.
“A plebeian fighting for the poor and rewarded with poverty.”
“The distance is never great between contempt of the laws and open resistance to them.” – Justice Fitzgerald.
Mike Leigh has produced a visually impressive movie, but the characters are a bit flat.
Young lads have always enjoyed playing football, but sometimes their love for it can land them in trouble with the police. This is as true today as it was in the Victorian era, where in court records we find two residents from Richmond, London, William Ford, aged 19, and Henry Hold, aged 15, arrested for having broken into a shop and stealing a football.
Shrouded in mystery, eerie in sound, mysterious in origin, menacing in the images it provoked, the word ‘mafia’ came into common usage in c. 1875.
Whenever a politician proposes raising a new tax or cutting a public service, a newspaper columnist will often respond that the proposed changes are ‘Reverse Robin Hood’. Alternatively, those who look favourably upon governmental tax and finance reforms might attempt to portray the politician in question as embodying Robin Hood values.
If you were a criminal, what would you choose – a life sentence in prison, the death sentence, or to be surgically blinded?
On the same night that Mary Shelley conceived the idea for Frankenstein, her friend, Dr John Polidori, conjured another frightening creature – the vampire. Yet his malevolent vampire was no match for some Italian bandits, it seems.
In WW1, Conscientious Objectors under sentence of death left their mark in their cells detailing their thoughts and prayers before in what they imagined were their final hours.
G. W. M. Reynolds, the “vicious republican” of the Victorian era, attributed the cause of all crime to the the existence of the royal family and the political establishment.
In the Victorian era, New York was a large industrial city with ‘dark Satanic mills’ in which the poor and the rich lived “cheek by jowl”; paupers lived a hand-to-mouth existence and for many, a life of crime as part of an organised criminal gang.
Stephen Basdeo takes a look at the life of one of New York’s pioneering social reformers, Jacob A. Riis.