The “Receipts” | Stephen Basdeo

“Always keep the receipt”—that’s what my grandmother told me. It was usually uttered after she’d bought me something from a toy shop—probably because she was worried that whatever she purchased might be faulty and have to have it exchanged. Its meaning does appear to have changed over time.

A Tale of the Plague | William Harrison Ainsworth

The deepest despair now seized upon all the survivors. Scarcely a family but had lost half of its number—many, more than half—while those who were left felt assured that their turn would speedily arrive. Even the reckless were appalled, and abandoned their evil courses. Not only were the dead lying in the passages and alleys, but even in the main thoroughfares, and none would remove them. The awful prediction of Solomon Eagle that “grass would grow in the streets, and that the living should not be able to bury the dead,” had come to pass. London had become one vast lazar-house, and seemed in a fair way of becoming a mighty sepulchre.

Marriage and Feasts | Victor Hugo

A poem written by Victor Hugo in 1835: The hall is gay with limpid lustre bright/The feast to pampered palate gives delight/The sated guests pick at the spicy food,/And at that table—where the wise are few/Both sexes and all ages meet the view;/The sturdy warrior with a thoughtful face—/The am’rous youth, the maid replete with grace,/The prattling infant, and the hoary hair.

The Sculptor of Florence | G.W.M. Reynolds

But a loud and long laugh, and then a cry of rage echoed from the adjacent apartment; and they were followed by the din of a chisel and a hammer upon the marble; and then succeeded a crash, which shook the house to its foundation. Stephano, the Marquis, and his followers, ran into the studio; and as they entered, they stumbled over the shapeless pieces of broken marble which Manuel had scattered upon the floor. The statue had disappeared; but the remnants were before them!

Hungarian Literature | G.W.M. Reynolds

Bilassa and Rimai distinguished themselves in lyric poetry and odes on sacred subjects; but the imperfection of their language and their metrical measures superseded the possibility of those two eminent bards attaining any very great perfection. It was the same with Bornemisa and Goénezi; and similar defects have characterized the Hungarian translation in verse of “Pierre de Provence et la Belle Maguelove.” Notwithstanding that poverty of language and metrical imperfection which threatened to ruin all attempts at eminent literary productions, the sixteenth century also witnessed the infancy of the Hungarian drama. Dramatic songs and dialogues in verse were the primal essays. We must, however, notice that in the thirteenth century, during the reign of Ladislaus the fourth, a troop of buffoons or jesters had appeared in Hungary, and were well received by the inhabitants of the principal towns where they performed.

The Father: An Episode in the Life of a Nobleman | G.W.M. Reynolds

Great God! how galling were these reproaches. I would not have encountered them for worlds, had I dared eject the author of them from my dwelling: but his hair was whitened with age and with affliction; and I could not have harshly used him. Indeed, there was a moment, amongst the many that were dissipated during this scene, when I was ready to fall at his feet, and confess how deeply I had wronged him, and supplicate his pardon: pride alone checked me. At length he departed, and he left his curse behind him…

Napoleon the Second: An Ode | Victor Hugo

Translated from the French of Victor Hugo by G.W.M. Reynolds in The Monthly Magazine (1837): A quarter of a century has gone,/Since Gallia welcom’d her Napoleon’s son;/Before th’ imperial consort gave him birth;/And kingdoms trembled at the frolics wild/Which Nature play’d to welcome Valour’s child.

The Fatal Glove | Stephen Basdeo

At the period when our tale commences, George Hamel had more than fulfilled the great promises his infantine years seemed to afford of future greatness. His attention had been entirely devoted to the study of medicine; and at the age of five and twenty he was considered to be the most eminent physician in Nuremberg. His cousins were two of the most beautiful creatures that ever illumined this earthly sphere. Angiolina, the elder, was tall and stately—with dark blue eyes, light flaxen hair, and a clear complexion in which the white and red seemed to be struggling to decide which should obtain the conquest. Her bust was large and voluptuous—and her waist so thin, it appeared as if two hands could span it. She was a girl of a quick and fiery disposition, of strong passions, and endowed with even a masculine intellect.

The Appointment: A Tale | G.W.M. Reynolds

It was in the year 1785—on a fine evening, in the month of May —that three young students, in the uniform of the Military College of Paris, were occupied in the pleasant discussion of a repast in the restaurant at St. Cloud which overlooks the park, and which every visitor of the present day to that sacred shrine of gastronomy knows by the name of Legriel’s. The first of the three individuals, whom we have thus abruptly alluded to, was about sixteen years of age, with a peculiar expression of countenance, which inspired respect rather than any softer feeling, and a blue eye that was in itself a soul. His companions were his juniors—probably by about a few months; and they were two fine, tall, handsome young men, with commanding though graceful figures, and eagle glances which bespoke all the military enthusiasm that filled their bosoms.

Tim Hitchcock and Robert Shoemaker’s “London Lives: Poverty, Crime, and the Making of a Modern City, 1690-1800” (2015)

Hitchcock and Shoemaker’s work is well grounded in the scholarship of eighteenth-century social history, particularly in the history of crime. The need for this work comes from the fact that the history of crime and the history of poor relief have hitherto tended to constitute different subjects, but as Hitchcock and Shoemaker illustrate, the history of welfare and crime in the eighteenth century are interrelated. Moreover, even where previous scholars have attempted to build a history from below, the voices and the experiences of the poor are often marginalised and discussed instead in terms of official acts passed and the rise of charitable associations (pp.13-15). To build their argument Hitchcock and Shoemaker rely on a number of sources: the digitised MS. and trial transcripts from both London Lives and the Old Bailey Online; Workhouse and Settlement Records; Repertories of the Court of Aldermen; Parliamentary Papers; criminal biographies. The innovative feature with the online ebook version of this work is that the footnotes will link straight to the digitised sources in London Lives and the Old Bailey Online.

Website Re-branding | Stephen Basdeo

Most people have known this site as Here Begynneth a Lytell Geste of Robin Hood—that was the title I decided upon when I first set up the site in 2015. It was originally intended as a website solely devoted to crime and outlaws but, as any regular reader of this site will have probably guessed by now, its scope has organically expanded. The site now features writings by myself and other people on a range of historical and literary topics.

The History of Novels | Stephen Basdeo

Suddenly the middle classes “saw themselves” in fiction, so to speak. The next major novelist, Samuel Richardson, also wanted to give readers a “realistic” novel. In 1740, he published Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded. This novel, set in readers’ own times (the 1700s for 1700s readers) was written as though it was a series of letters written by the title character, Pamela, a servant girl in the household of Lord B——, to her poorer family in the country. This format, used by many novelists since, including Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, became known as the epistolary novel. Now, Pamela was a pure and virtuous girl, but her depraved master, Lord B, is infatuated with her. He offers her many fine things, which she refuses, because she is virtuous. He spies on her undressing through the keyhole of her room, and even attempts to rape her, but she resists him. Then at the end of the novel, Lord B is so impressed with her virtue that he marries her, to which she eventually consents, for she has in fact fallen in love with him. Richardson’s message was clear: if a woman holds on to her virtue (if she doesn’t have sex before marriage) then she will be rewarded, either in this life or the next.

Organized Crime | Stephen Basdeo

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.

[REVIEW] “Robin Hood in Outlaw/ed Spaces” (2015)

Robin Hood scholars consistently publish excellent new peer-reviewed research in edited volumes, and the latest offering from editors Valerie Johnson and Lesley Coote is no exception to this. This new book entitled Robin Hood in Outlaw/ed Spaces: Media, Performance, and Other New Directions contains essays written by a number of different scholars on varying topics. There truly is something for Robin Hood scholars and medievalists of any calling, whether they work in the field of medieval studies, nineteenth-century literature, or twentieth-century culture, and this review only picks up on a couple of the highlights from the collection.

Mary Contrary

Stephen Basdeo UPDATE 23/05/2021: I shall now be moderating all comments prior to people being able to post them. In the Communist Manifesto (1848) Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote that, in […]

“Servile Historians” (1869) | Samuel Kydd

The strongest sympathy was manifested by the men of Saxon origin for Robin Hood, whom they looked upon as their chieftain and defender,—“I would rather die,” said an old woman to him one day—I would rather die than not do all I might to save thee; for who fed and clothed me and mine but thou and Little John.”

Eugene Sue’s Epic Socialist Novel “The Mysteries of the People” (1848): “The Iron Collar” and “The Silver Cross” | Stephen Basdeo

“this carpenter of Nazareth has an audacity that passes all bounds; he respects nothing, nothing; yesterday ’twas the law, authority, he attacked in their representatives; to-day ‘tis the rich against whom he excites the dregs of the populace. Has he not dared to pronounce these execrable words: ‘It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

The Revolutionary Life of Eugene Sue (Part I) | Stephen Basdeo

It was in the early evening of 26 January 1804 (5 Pluviôse in the Year XII of the French Republic) that several eminent people from French high society were gathered at number 160 Rue Neuve de Luxembourg. Among them was Jean Baptise-François Legros, the Auditor of the Public Treasury. The French military commander Eugène Rose de Beauharnais, who was adopted son of First Consul of the French Republic, Napoleon Bonaparte, was there as well. Also in attendance was Beauharnais’s mother and Napoleon’s wife Josephine Bonaparte—later in this same year, 1804, Napoleon would crown himself Emperor of the French and Josephine would be granted the title of empress. These luminaries of French political and military life were gathered to witness the birth of a child: a novelist who went on to achieve astounding heights of fame in the French literary world–Eugene Sue.

The Comic History of the Peasants’ Revolt | Gilbert Abbot a Beckett

“Ah!” said the bookseller, after a pause; “nothing now succeeds unless it’s in the comic line. We have comic Latin grammars, and comic Greek grammars; indeed, I don’t know but what English grammar, too, is a comedy altogether. All our tragedies are made into comedies by the way they are performed; and no work sells without comic illustrations to it. I have brought out several new comic works, which have been very successful. For instance, The Comic Wealth of Nations; The Comic Parliamentary Speeches; The Comic Report of the Poor-Law Commissioners, with an Appendix containing the Comic Dietary Scale; and the Comic Distresses of the Industrious Population. I even propose to bring out a Comic Whole Duty of Man. All these books sell well: they do admirably for the nurseries of the children of the aristocracy. In fact they are as good as manuals and text-books.”

“Mysteries of the People” (1848): Eugene Sue’s Epic Socialist Novel | Stephen Basdeo

“It graphically traces the special features of class-rule as they have succeeded one another from epoch to epoch, together with the special character of the struggle between the contending classes. The “Law,” “Order,” “Patriotism,” “Religion,” “Family,” etc., etc., that each successive tyrant class, despite its change of form, fraudulently sought refuge in to justify its criminal existence whenever threatened; the varying economic causes of the oppression of the toilers; the mistakes incurred by these in their struggles for redress; the varying fortunes of the conflict;—all these social dramas are therein reproduced in a majestic series of “novels” covering leading and successive episodes in the history of the race—an inestimable gift, above all to our own generation, above all to the American working class.”