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.
Edgworth Bess, a Prostitute (fl. 1723-24)
Jack Sheppard’s lover and 18th-century sex worker.
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),
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.
The Novel and 18th-Century Criminal Biography
The novel emerged as the dominant literary form in the 1700s, but one of its influences was the contemporary genre of criminal biography.
The Rise and Fall of Highwaymen in Print
In 1751 the novelist and Magistrate of Westminster, Henry Fielding (1707-1754) published An Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase of Robbers. ‘The great Increase of Robberies within these few years,’ […]
Jonathan Wild – London’s First Mob Boss
Whilst most people generally conceive of organised crime as being a distinctly modern, 20th-century, phenomenon, it has a longer history than first assumed. This post uses the theoretical framework of modern-day criminology to analyse the organised crime network established by Jonathan Wild in London in the early 18th century.