Crime historians often pay little regard to medieval outlaw literature, but my paper aims to use the history of crime in the early modern period to add a new context to their study. The ballad A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode was first printed in the early sixteenth century. Around the same time also we see other outlaw ballads printed such as Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesly (c.1530). My paper explores one reason why the figure of the outlaw hero became popular in print during the sixteenth century. Could it be that the idealisation of the outlaw occurred during the sixteenth century because another, more sinister criminal figure was also emerging in print: the ‘rogue’? Whilst outlaws such as Robin Hood were ‘curteyse’ and ‘dyde pore men moch god’, the figure of the rogue was more menacing. The word ‘rogue’ was first coined in 1561. Unlike the relatively good greenwood outlaw who lived apart from mainstream society, however, rogues were part of it, describing somebody who would rob, cheat, and swindle people indiscriminately, all the while effecting the disguise of a law-abiding citizen. Thus there was a need for people to believe in a good outlaw, because real-life offenders were ultimately more menacing. Hence the proposed paper explores the dichotomy between outlaws and rogues in print, in the process highlighting how changes in the nature of crime in the early modern period might have affected medieval outlaw myths.
A paper read at Chethams Library, Manchester – 20 May 2016.
A forthcoming public talk to be delivered at Pontefract Castle on 8 May 2016.
The lives of murderers, ravishers, thieves, highwaymen, burglars, forgers, Pirates, and Street Robbers adorned the pages of “The Newgate Calendar”.
Jack Sheppard’s lover and 18th-century sex worker.
Walter Scott’s novel “Ivanhoe” (1819) is perhaps the best Robin Hood story ever written.
This is the text of a public talk given at Abbey House Museum, Kirkstall, Leeds on 1 March 2015 to complement their Crime and Punishment Exhibition.
Johnson’s Lives of the Highwaymen was part of one of the most popular genres of early eighteenth-century literature: the criminal biography.
The word ‘rogue’ was not invented until the 1560s.
Criminal biographers were so committed to historical accuracy that they gave us The Life of the notorious highwayman, Sir John Falstaff.
In 1863 a reporter decided to experience what it was like to spend Christmas Day amongst the felons in Newgate.
John Dryden (1631-1700) is a significant figure in the literary history of the 17th century. In the Sixth Part of his Miscellany Poems he included an old ballad of Robin Hood. This post seeks to explain why he did this.
or, The Life and Death of the Notorious High-Way-Man, Now Hanging in Chains at Hampstead, Delivered to a Friend a Little before Execution: Wherein is Truly Discovered the Whole Mystery of that Wicked and Fatal Profession of Padding on the Road (1674)
James Maclean (1724-1750) – the last ‘heroick’ highwayman.
Examining how Scott’s fictional interpretation of the Middle Ages, in particular the notion that Robin Hood was a Saxon yeoman, influenced historical scholarship in the early-to-mid nineteenth century.
I recently came across an obscure little book entitled The History and Real Adventures of Robin Hood and his Merry Companions. Written by Captain Charles Johnson. To Which are added, some of the most favourite ballads from an old book, entitled Robin Hood’s Garland (1800). The archival entry lists the author as Daniel Defoe (c.1660-1731),
“A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode” (c.1450): Alleviating the Fear of Crime in Late Medieval & Early Modern England?
Did people *need* the myth of a good outlaw?
Do we read ‘books,’ or do we read texts? What is a book?
This is a copy of the paper I gave at the British Association for Romantic Studies International Conference, 19 – 19 July 2015.
In Henry Fielding’s novel, there was no difference between the great men in high life and those in low life.
I feel bad writing about something like this, like I’m betraying my eighteenth-century roots.
Pierce Egan the Younger (1814-1880) was like the George R. R. Martin of his day. He loved the medieval period,
The 19th-century criminal was an altogether different species of villain compared to the romantic highwayman a century previously.
Exorbitancy and Necessity frequently compelled him to perpetrate Villainy; And no wonder, since he lived in the most infectious Air of the worst of most Licentious Times.