“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.”
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.”
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.
Jack ‘Sixteen-String’ Rann (1750–74)
“Do not be deceived: bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15: 33, ASV)
“Robin Hood’s Rescue of the Three Squires” and the Political Economy of Banditry
Robin Hood hated the sheriff of Nottingham and everything he stood for, but that doesn’t mean that he objected to the sheriff keeping law and order.
Pierce Egan’s “Robin Hood Ballads” (1840)
Pierce Egan’s “Robin Hood” was an early Victorian bestseller. In the first edition, Egan also appended a collection of Robin Hood ballads alongside his novel, for which he provided the illustrations.
Passo di Lupo: An Italian Bandit
Contrary to stories of Robin Hood, an outlaw’s life was not a merry one: in the 1820s, banditry in Italy was rife; at this time, a young travel writer named Charles Macfarlane was touring the country and managed to obtain a rare interview with one of these brigands.
Mack the Knife: The “True” Story Behind the Song | Stephen Basdeo
By Stephen Basdeo. The popular song “Mack the Knife” was based upon the story of an eighteenth-century highwayman named Captain Macheath. This post traces the literary life of this fictional character.
Post-Apocalyptic Bandits: Mary Shelley’s “The Last Man” (1826)
The year is 2073, England is a republic, but an incurable disease is sweeping the earth, decimating its population.
Salvatore Giuliano (1922-1950): The Last Outlaw
Salvatore Giuliano was the last true outlaw in history. Known as the Robin Hood of Sicily, he stole from the rich to give to the poor.
‘The Prince of Pick-Pockets’: George Barrington (1755-1804)
Expelled from school after stabbing his classmate, G. Barrington became an actor, then a pickpocket, until he was transported to Botany Bay and died of insanity.
In the 18th century, people asssumed that if you shunned work and acted like an idle apprentice, you would become a criminal.
Oleksa Dovbush (1700-1745): Robin Hood of the Ukraine
Oleksa Dovbush was an outlaw/freedom fighter who robbed from the rich to give to the poor.
Thomas Dun: A Medieval Pirate & Highwayman
Robin Hood was not the only famous law breaker in medieval times. Alongside Robin Hood were figures such as Adam Bell and the subject of this blog post, the medieval pirate Thomas Dun.
From Barman to Highwayman: The Case of William Hawke (d.1774)
When William Hawke moved to London in the 18th century, little did he know that he would fall in with the criminal world, be transported to America, return to London and be hanged.
Rob Roy (1671-1734)
A FAMOUS man is Robin Hood / The English ballad-singer’s joy! / And Scotland has a thief as good, / An outlaw of as daring mood; / She has her brave ROB ROY!
The Roman Robin Hood: Bulla Felix (fl. AD 205-207)
He stole from the rich and gave to the poor, and commanded an army of over 600 men.
My Forthcoming Book: “The Lives and Exploits of the Most Noted Highwaymen, Rogues, and Murderers” (2018)
In addition to my PhD thesis entitled ‘The Changing Faces of Robin Hood, c.1700-c.1900’ and my forthcoming book, “The Mob Reformer: The Life and Legend of Wat Tyler” (2018), I have also been contracted to author another book entitled “The Lives and Exploits of the Most Noted Highwaymen, Rogues, and Murderers” which is due to be published by Pen & Sword Books in September 2018.
George Emmett’s “Robin Hood and the Archers of Merrie Sherwood” (1868-69)
This post sheds light upon another Robin Hood serial written by George Emmett entitled Robin Hood and the Archers of Merrie Sherwood which was serialised between 1868 and 1869.
Pernicious Trash? “The Prince of Archers, or, The Boyhood Days of Robin Hood”(1883)
In the late-Victorian period The Edinburgh Review wrote that ‘There is now before us such a veritable mountain of pernicious trash, mostly in paper covers, and “Price One Penny”; so-called novelettes, tales, stories of adventure, mystery and crime; pictures of school life hideously unlike reality; exploits of robbers, cut-throats, prostitutes, and rogues, that, but for its actual presence, it would seem incredible’.
Radical Robin Hood: “Little John and Will Scarlet” (1865)
In 1865 the penny dreadul “Little John and Will Scarlet” appeared, full of ideas of democracy and egalitarianism.
Last Dying Speeches, Trials, and Executions: The Changing Format and Function of Crime Broadsides, c.1800 – c.1840
A paper delivered at Pernicious Trash? Victorian Popular Fiction, c.1830-c.1880, Leeds Trinity University 12 September 2016.
G. W. M. Reynolds on Robin Hood
The “vicious republican” of the Victorian era on Robin Hood.