“My father would smash everythin’ he could reach and knocked my mother round awful so I ran away.”
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.”
Jack ‘Sixteen-String’ Rann (1750–74)
“Do not be deceived: bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15: 33, ASV)
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.
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.
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.
Curteous Outlaws and Elizabethan Rogues: The 16th-Century Context of “A Gest of Robyn Hode”
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.
The Legend of Robin Hood
A forthcoming public talk to be delivered at Pontefract Castle on 8 May 2016.
The Newgate Calendar | Stephen Basdeo
The lives of murderers, ravishers, thieves, highwaymen, burglars, forgers, Pirates, and Street Robbers adorned the pages of “The Newgate Calendar”.
Edgworth Bess, a Prostitute (fl. 1723-24)
Jack Sheppard’s lover and 18th-century sex worker.
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.
Rogues in Early Modern England
The word ‘rogue’ was not invented until the 1560s.
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 […]
The Rogue Academic: William Dodd, L.L.D. (1729-1777)
Dr. William Dodd: A learned academic who turned to crime to pay his debts.
James MacLean (1724-1750): The Gentleman Highwayman
James Maclean (1724-1750) – the last ‘heroick’ highwayman.
Jack Sheppard (1702-1724)
16 Nov 1724 Jack Sheppard was executed. Here is a brief overview of his life and legend.
Daniel Defoe’s “The History and Real Adventures of Robin Hood”
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),
Did any women ever rob people in the 17th and 18th centuries?
Robin Hood the Brute: The Outlaw in Eighteenth-Century Criminal Biography
This is a copy of the paper that I presented at the International Association for Robin Hood Studies ‘Outlaws in Context’ Conference, 30 June – 1 July 2015.