“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.”
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.
With hideous face, and tuneless note, A ballad-singer strains his throat; Roars out the life of Betty Saunders, With Turpin Dick, and Molly Flanders; Tells many woeful tragic stories, Recorded of our British worthies.
I rose cautiously from the bed…One look, and the blood chilled in my veins, and I could feel the hair rising upon my head!
Organized crime groups have been a menace to society for hundreds of years. Everything from a simple group of Robin Hood-style highwaymen in seventeenth-century England, to the infamous Sicilian Mafia can be considered as organized crime groups. The first recorded incident of Sicilian-influenced organized crime in the United States occurred in October of 1890 when a New Orleans Police Superintendent was executed by a group of Sicilian immigrants. But how does organise crime emerge and flourish in some parts of the world and not others? And how can we even define the term? After all, many crimes, in fact, almost all of them, require a degree of method for their execution, but not all criminals are members of organised crime gangs.
“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.”
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 […]
“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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
We live in an era in which, increasingly, governments in many western countries are realising that they are losing the so-called “War on Drugs”. Some countries have completely decriminalised certain substances, while in some states in the USA, you can buy marijuana over the counter for both medicinal and recreational use. Our attitude to illicit substances is increasingly looking not too dissimilar from that held by many people in the early nineteenth century.
“…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!”
“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.”
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.
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.