Category: History

“Emulative of the character of Robin Hood”: The Highwayman Thomas Rainford in the “Second Series” of The Mysteries of London (1844–48) | Stephen Basdeo

Here is a post I wrote on Reynolds’s highwaymen Thomas Rainford, alias Mr Hatfield, who is one of the most fascinating characters in the Second Series of The Mysteries of London.

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.

Poking Fun at Rebels

In 1714 George I of Hanover ascended to the throne of the United Kingdom. Many were unhappy with their new German king and the Earl of Mar, in 1715, raised the standard of the royal house of Stuart to win back the throne for the “true” king in exile, the son of James II. A leading journalist decided to mock the rebels.

“Saxon Grit”

St George’s Day seems as fitting time as ever to publish a “new” Robin Hood poem I found titled “Saxon Grit” in the archives of a long-defunct Christian socialist magazine titled The Labour Prophet in 1892.