At a time when Henry Mayhew ventured like an explorer into the ‘darkest’ parts of London to publish London Labour and the London Poor (1851), social investigators such as Jacob A. Riis and Helen Campbell did the same for New York city. And just as French policemen such as Vidocqu published their recollections of their time in the police—a book which inspired the characters of Jean Valjean and Javert in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables—so too did one Scottish-American detective, named George McWatters, publish his memoir of policing.
“John Hewlet was born in Warwickshire, the son of Richard Hewlet, a butcher, and though not bred up with his father, he was yet bred to the same employment at Leicester, from which, malicious people said he acquired a bloody and barbarous disposition.”
“when our happy credulity in all things is woefully abated, and our faith in the supernatural fled, we still retain our taste for the adventurous deeds and wild lives of brigands.”
Ratsey was a hardened offender who disdained honest work and turned to crime to live extravagantly. Little did he know that the account his life, a pamphlet titled “The Life of Gamaliel Ratsey” (1605) kick-started the “true” crime genre of popular literature.
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.”
“I will warn him that he will not find my robbers such romantic, generous characters as those who occasionally figure in the fields of fiction. He will meet with men strangers to that virtue of robbing the rich to give to the poor. They give to the poor indeed, but it is as spies and instruments of their own crimes, or at least in order to avoid detection.” –Charles Macfarlane, 1833.
“Do not be deceived: bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15: 33, ASV)
Contrary to stories of Robin Hood, an outlaw’s life was not a merry one: in the 1820s, banditry in Italy was rife; at this time, a young travel writer named Charles Macfarlane was touring the country and managed to obtain a rare interview with one of these brigands.
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.
Salvatore Giuliano was the last true outlaw in history. Known as the Robin Hood of Sicily, he stole from the rich to give to the poor.
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.
When William Hawke moved to London in the 18th century, little did he know that he would fall in with the criminal world, be transported to America, return to London and be hanged.
A FAMOUS man is Robin Hood / The English ballad-singer’s joy! / And Scotland has a thief as good, / An outlaw of as daring mood; / She has her brave ROB ROY!
He stole from the rich and gave to the poor, and commanded an army of over 600 men.
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.
This post sheds light upon another Robin Hood serial written by George Emmett entitled Robin Hood and the Archers of Merrie Sherwood which was serialised between 1868 and 1869.
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’.
In 1865 the penny dreadul “Little John and Will Scarlet” appeared, full of ideas of democracy and egalitarianism.
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.
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.
During the late-Victorian and Edwardian period many children’s books telling the story of Robin Hood were published, such as John B. Marsh’s Robin Hood (1865), Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (1883), Henry Gilbert’s Robin Hood and the Men of the Greenwood (1912), and Paul Creswick’s Robin Hood and his Adventures (1917). Stephanie Barczewski argues that Robin Hood in late Victorian children’s books is an anti-imperialist figure, and she bases this assertion largely upon the fact that Robin Hood children’s books are critical of Richard I’s foreign adventures. Yet the situation was more nuanced than that: many of the late Victorian Robin Hood children’s works that were published in the period projected Robin Hood and his fellow outlaws as men who lived up to the Public School Ethos, cultivating the virtues of athleticism, fair play, chivalry, and devotion to duty. Indeed, Edward Gilliatt’s novel In Lincoln Green (1898) is even set in a very ‘Victorianised’ medieval public school. Thus these works represented the ideal qualities that young men would need if they were to serve the country, and thus, as the proposed paper argues, were subtly imperialist.
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.
A little-known Robin Hood poem from 1870.