“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.”
Luke Hutton’s “Black Dogge of Newgate” (1596) | Stephen Basdeo
During the sixteenth century a new genre of popular literature arrived in England. Adapted from literature that was flourishing in Spain, a stream of printed books and pamphlets shined a light on the seedy underworld in England’s capital city. The genre — Rogue Literature.
The Black Dog of Newgate (1596) | Luke Hutton
Written in Early Modern English, The Black Dogge of Newgate begins as a long poem and was allegedly written by one Luke Hutton (d.1598). Hutton was a highwayman who robbed someone on St Luke’s Day in 1598, was captured, and subsequently hanged. It was said that ‘he feared not men nor laws’.
“The Pixy; or the Unbaptised Child” by G.W.M. Reynolds | Jessica Elizabeth Thomas
‘“The Christmas season, which to others is a blessing, shall become to thee a curse: for thou hast forfeited all claim to that salvation and that mercy which He … ensure[d] on behalf of his elect!”’
How the Albanian Mafia Infiltrated the Government | Logan Lafferty
“It is painfully obvious that the modus vivendi that has been reached between state and political institutions and organized crime is causing a permanent deformation of the democratic system.”
The Urban Mysteries: Organised Crime in Victorian Popular Literature | Stephen Basdeo
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 […]
Hanging the Slave Traders | Anonymous
“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.”
A Murder-Suicide in Stephen Basdeo’s Victorian Ancestors: The Case of George Leedham (1871)
The Basdeo family has a sordid murder-suicide among its Victorian ancestors. Even worse, insanity was thought “to run in the blood”….
The Fine Art of Murder | Stephen Basdeo
“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.”
Lines Written by a New York Homeless Woman
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.
Jack’s Story: The True Story of a Poor Boy in 19th-Century New York
“My father would smash everythin’ he could reach and knocked my mother round awful so I ran away.”
Stephen Carver’s “Author Who Outsold Dickens” (2020): Biography of a Crime Novelist
This book, highly recommended, is an excellent buy for any general reader who wishes to find out about the life of a famous forgotten Victorian crime novelist.
“The Truth and Nothing But the Truth”: Its first use in popular culture | Stephen Basdeo
‘The truth and nothing but the truth’—it’s a well-known phrase used in courts of law and most of us have heard it on TV dramas. But where did the phrase first come from?
Gamaliel Ratsey (d.1605): The Man whose Life Kick-started the “True Crime” Genre
Ratsey was a hardened offender who disdained honest work and turned to crime to live extravagantly. Little did he know that the account his life, a pamphlet titled “The Life of Gamaliel Ratsey” (1605) kick-started the “true” crime genre of popular literature.
Claude Du Vall: The Ladies’ Highwayman
As Du Vall approached the carriage he and looked into the window flashing his huge pistol, he exclaimed: “Those eyes of yours, madam, have undone me. I am captivated with that pretty good-natured smile.”
Detective Robert Fabian meets Perverts and Rubber Suits | Stephen Basdeo
“A man begins to commit murder from the moment he indulges sadistic day dreams…and begins to buy sadistic novelettes, or seek out a prostitute or masochistic amateur to share his perverted interests.”
Red Katy and her Customers
The room contains an assortment of devices for inflicting pain. All the time, the client is pleading with Katy for her forgiveness, promising “he will be good,” while she lays into him with the whiplash of her tongue, and afterwards with her collection of implements.
The Female Vagrant
“…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.”
Review: “The 19th-Century Underworld: Crime, Controversy & Corruption” by Stephen Carver
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.
Thomas Cooper’s “Prison Rhyme” (1845)
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).
Crime in a Communist Utopia
“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!”
Bandits and Robbers of India
“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.
Blind Justice in Eugene Sue’s “The Mysteries of Paris” (1842–3)
If you were a criminal, what would you choose – a life sentence in prison, the death sentence, or to be surgically blinded?
Outlaws vs. Vampires
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.