Once pretended to be the Bishop of London's Nephew in order to escape from a Man he had robbed. Executed at Tyburn, 1713
THIS unhappy person, Richard Adams, was born of very good and reputable parents in Gloucestershire, who bestowed some small matter of education upon him, as reading, writing and casting of accounts. Coming up to London, he got into the service of a great duchess at St James's, in which he continued about two years, when for some misdemeanour quitting his place, he contrived to live by his wits.
Having a general key which opened the lodgings in St James's Palace, he went one day to a certain mercer's on Ludgate Hill and desired him to send, with all speed, a parcel of the richest brocades and satins, and other silks, he had in his shop, for his duchess to make choice of some for an extraordinary occasion. The mercer, knowing him to have come often upon such a like errand before, presently sent away several pieces by his man and a porter, and being come to St James's, Dick Adams brought them up to a door of some of the Royal lodgings, where he ordered them to wait while he, seemingly, went to acquaint his duchess of their being without.
Coming out again, some short time after, quoth he: "Let's see the pieces presently, for my duchess is just now at leisure to look on them." So, the mercer's man giving him the whole bundle, he conveyed it away backwards, and went clear off through St James's Park. The mercer's man and the porter, having waited two or three hours and received no answer about their goods, began to make a strict inquiry after them; and finding they were tricked, were forced to go home much lighter than they went out.
About a month after, Dick Adams, having been drinking somewhat hard in the city, and forgetting the prank he had played the mercer, came past his house one afternoon, and he being accidentally standing at the door, and espying his chapman, presently seized him, saying: "Oh, sir, have I caught you? You are a fine spark indeed to cheat me out of two hundred pounds' worth of goods; but before I part with you I believe I shall make you pay dearly for them."
Mr Adams was much surprised at his being so suddenly apprehended, and, without doubt, cursed his fate to himself for being so forgetful as to come into the very mouth of his adversary; but seeing the late Bishop of London at some distance riding along in his coach, and having a good presence of mind at the same time, quoth he to the mercer: "I must acknowledge I have committed a crime, to which I was forced by mere necessity, but I see my uncle, the Bishop of London, is coming this way in his coach; therefore, hoping you'll be so civil as not to raise any hubbub of the mob about me, whereby I shall be exposed and utterly undone, I'll go speak to his lordship about the matter, if you please to step with me and I'll engage he shall make you satisfaction for the damage I've done you."
The mercer, liking his proposal, and thinking it far better than sending him to jail, stepped along with Mr Adams, who boldly called out to the coachman to stop, approached the side of the coach, and desired the favour of speaking a few words with the Bishop. His lordship, seeing him have the mien and habit of a gentleman, was pleased to hear what he had to say; so leaning over his coach door, quoth Adams: "Begging your lordship's pardon for my presumption, I make bold to acquaint your honour that the gentleman standing behind me is an eminent mercer, keeping house just by here, and is a very upright godly man; but being a great reader in books of divinity, especially polemical pieces, he hath met therein with some intricate cases, which very much trouble him, and his conscience cannot be at rest till his doubts and scruples are cleared about them; therefore I humbly request your lordship would vouchsafe him the honour of giving him some ease before he runs farther to despair."
The Bishop, being ready to serve any person in religious matters, ordered Adams to bring his friend to him the next day. But said Adams again: "It will be more satisfactory to him if your lordship would be pleased to speak yourself to the gentleman to wait upon you." Whereupon his lordship beckoned to the mercer, who stood some distance off whilst they discoursed together. When he came up to the side of the coach, quoth the Bishop: "The gentleman has informed me of all the matter about you, and if you please to give yourself the trouble of coming to my house at Fulham I will satisfy you then in every point." The mercer, making twenty bows and cringes, was very well pleased with his security; and taking Adams to the tavern gave him a very good treat.
Next morning Adams came again to the mercer, who was drawing out his bill to give to the Bishop, and pretending that his coming in haste to go along with him to his uncle had made him forget to put money in his breeches, he desired the mercer to lend him a guinea, and put it down in his bill; which he did very willingly. And then taking water, away they went to Fulham, where, acquainting the Bishop's gentleman that according to his lordship's order overnight they were come to wait upon him at the time appointed, the gentleman introduced them into the hall, and having regaled them there with a bottle or two of wine and a neat's tongue, the mercer was admitted into his lordship's presence, and in the meantime Mr Adams made the best of his way by water again.
The mercer being before the Bishop, quoth his lordship: "I understand that you are, or at leastwise have been, much troubled. How do you find yourself now, sir?" The mercer replied: "My trouble is much abated since your lordship was pleased to order me to wait on you." So pulling out a pocket book, he gave his lordship the following bill: Mr. Adams's Bill, 20th of April, 1711
For a piece of green flowered brocade, containing 23 yards, L1, 9s. per yard 3370
For a piece of white striped damask, containing 20 yards, at 14s. per yard 1840
For a piece of cloth-of-gold tissue, containing 18 yards, at L4, 15s. per yard 85100
For a piece of black watered tabby, containing 29 yards, at 4s. 8d. per yard 15 4
For a piece of blue satin, containing 21 yards, at 16s. per yard 16160
For a piece of crimson velvet, containing 17 yards, at L1, 3260
For a piece of yellow silk, containing 25 yards, at 8s. per yard 1000
17th of May. Lent your lordship's nephew116
Sum total L2031910
His lordship, staring upon this large bill, quoth: "What is the meaning of all this? The gentleman last night might very well say your conscience could not be at rest; and I wonder how it should when you bring a bill to me which I know nothing of."
Said the mercer then, bowing and scraping: "Your lordship last night was pleased to say that you would satisfy me to day."
"Yes," replied his lordship, "and so I would, as to what the gentleman told me, who said that you, being much troubled about some points of religion, desired to be resolved therein; and in order thereto, I appointed you to come to me to-day."
"Truly," said the mercer again, "your lordship's nephew told me otherwise, for he said you would pay me this bill off, which goods, upon my word, he had of me, and in a very clandestine manner, if I was to tell your lordship all; but only in respect of your honour I would not disgrace your nephew."
Quoth his lordship: "My nephew! He is none of my nephew. I never, to my knowledge, saw the gentleman in my life before." Thus when they came to unriddle the matter on both sides they could not forbear laughing, the Bishop at his nephew, and the mercer for lending a man who had once cheated him a guinea to cheat him again.
After this Dick Adams got into the Life Guards, but his extravagance not permitting him to live on his pay, he went on the highway. One day he and some of his accomplices meeting with a gentleman on the road, took from him a gold watch, and a purse in which were one hundred and eight guineas. But Adams, not contented with this booty and seeing that the gentleman whom they robbed had a very fine coat on, rode a little way back again, and saying to him, "Sir, you have a very good coat on, I must make bold to change with you," he stripped him of it and put on his.
As the gentleman was riding along after he was robbed, hearing something jingle in the pocket of the coat which Adams had put on him, felt therein, and, to him great joy, found his watch and guineas again, which Adam in the hurry and confusion had forgotten to put into the other coat pocket when he changed coats with the gentleman. Dick Adams, going out the same day again with his comrades, stopped the Canterbury stage coach on the road betwixt Rochester and Sittingbourne, in which were several gentlewomen; and for the last mistake they had made they were very severe and boisterous upon these passengers.
Thus having rifled all the gentlewomen to above the value of two hundred pounds in money and goods, they left them to proceed on their journey, with very sorrowful hearts for their sad mischance.
But at last, Dick robbing a man by himself, between London and Brainford, the person robbed met with his neighbour on the road, who closely pursued this highwayman. He made a running fight of it, shooting Tartar-like behind him; but they at last apprehended him, and carried him before a magistrate, who committed him to Newgate.
Though he was very wicked before his affliction fell upon him, yet whilst he lay under condemnation he was very devout. He was executed at Tyburn, in March, 1713.