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!
Blind Justice in Eugene Sue’s “The Mysteries of Paris” (1842–3)
If you were a criminal, what would you choose – a life sentence in prison, the death sentence, or to be surgically blinded?
Jack ‘Sixteen-String’ Rann (1750–74)
“Do not be deceived: bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15: 33, ASV)
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.
‘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.
When “Upperworld” and “Underworld” Meet: Social Class and Crime in “The Mysteries of London (1844-46)
Rich people commit greater crimes than their poorer counterparts, but they are at their most dangerous when members of the “upperworld” and “underworld” work together.
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.
E. L. Blanchard’s “The Mysteries of London” (1849-50)
After G W M Reynolds and Thomas Miller decided to stop writing Victorian crime novel “The Mysteries of London”, E. L. Blanchard took up the narrative with a brand new story with original characters.
Thomas Miller’s “The Mysteries of London; or, Lights and Shadows of London Life” (1849)
The Robin Hood novelist Thomas Miller was chosen by George Vickers to continue writing “The Mysteries of London” in 1849.
Society Gets the Criminals it Deserves: The Resurrection Man from G. W. M. Reynolds’ “The Mysteries of London” (1844-45)
What makes a person commit crime? How does a person become a hardened criminal? These are questions which we ask today and which the Victorians also asked of their society? This post examines G W M Reynolds’ answer to these questions.
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’.
Capt. Charles Johnson’s “General History of the Pyrates” (1724)
In 1724 a book appeared entitled A General and True History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates (1724) which was written by a “Captain” Charles Johnson. The name […]
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.
“Lazarillo de Tormes” (1554)
The first rogue novel entitled “Lazarillo de Tormes” was published in Spain in 1554. Taking for its subject socially marginal protagonists, it kickstarted a genre which would lead ultimately to the birth of the novel.
Pierce Egan the Younger (1814-1880): Biography of a Penny Dreadful Author | Stephen Basdeo
My own research has brought to light further information on the life of penny dreadful author Pierce Egan the Younger (1814-1880), who has only recieved very brief attention in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Capt. Alexander Smith’s “A History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, Footpads, Shoplifts, and Cheats” (1714) | Stephen Basdeo
Alexander Smith’s A History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, Footpads, Shoplifts, and Cheats (1714), with its combination of excessive moralism and sensational reporting, set the tone for all successive ‘true’ crime writing.
Historic Yorkshire Criminals: William Knipe’s “Criminal Chronology” (1867)
In 1867 William Knipe authored “The Criminal Chronology of York Castle” – the most comprehensive survey of crime in Yorkshire from the medieval period to the Victorian era.
Judging Robin Hood: Negotiating Outlawry in Nineteenth-Century Texts
Abstract. Robin Hood needs no introduction. He is the noble outlaw who steals from the rich to give to the poor, living a merry life in Sherwood Forest. Yet people often forget that Robin Hood was a criminal. Indeed, Robin Hood Studies are often seen as a class apart from traditional legal and criminal histories, perhaps because of their ‘popular’ nature. Undoubtedly, by the nineteenth century, Robin Hood emerged as a national hero, partly due to his glorification by Romantic-era writers such as Sir Walter Scott. Yet as my paper will show, there was always uneasiness in some Robin Hood texts between judging Robin’s good deeds on the one hand, and his criminality on the other. Writers explained this in various ways. Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe (1819) disapproved overall of Robin’s outlawry, but concluded that his actions were necessary for the safeguarding of the nation. Thomas Love Peacock in Maid Marian (1822) gave Robin an a detailed backstory, explaining that he was outlawed only because he was guilty of resisting oppressive Forest Laws, and hence there was justification for his criminal career. Pierce Egan, in Robin Hood and Little John (1840), chose not to portray Robin as an outlaw at all, but as a radical political fighter. Yet in these texts also, other outlaws who are not part of Robin’s band are depicted as murderous brutes. My paper thus argues that these moral judgments (and sometimes the absence of any type of judgment) upon Robin Hood’s outlawry were a way of separating one of England’s foremost national heroes, who was ultimately a criminal, from the ‘criminal class,’ a notion which gained currency during the nineteenth century and held that there was a certain underclass in society which was responsible for the majority of crime.
Charles Johnson’s ‘Lives of the Highwaymen’ (1734)
Johnson’s Lives of the Highwaymen was part of one of the most popular genres of early eighteenth-century literature: the criminal biography.
Sir John Falstaff, the Notorious Highwayman
Criminal biographers were so committed to historical accuracy that they gave us The Life of the notorious highwayman, Sir John Falstaff.
“The Noble Birth of Robin Hood” (1662)
“The Noble Birth and Gallant Atchievements of that Remarkable Out-Law Robin Hood. Together with a True Account of the Many Merry and Extravagant Exploits he Play’s in Twelve Several Stories” (1662)
Captain James Hind (1616-1652): The Royalist Highwayman
William Harrison Ainsworth’s novel Rookwood (1834) is the work which, along with Edward Bulwer Lytton’s lesser novel Paul Clifford (1830) imbued eighteenth-century highwaymen to legendary status. Ainsworth wanted to write a novel […]
Jackson’s Recantation (1674)
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)