Who started thieving at the Age of Eleven. Executed at Tyburn in 1707, when twenty-five years old
DICK LOW was an expert thief at the age when others usually begin.
One time, when he was about eleven or twelve years old, creeping privately one evening behind a goldsmith's counter in Cheapside, the goldsmith comes from a back room and goes behind the counter, insomuch that Dick Low had no opportunity of going out invisible; whereupon he cries: "Whoop, whoop!" At this the goldsmith cried: "Hey, hey, is this a place to play at Whooper's hide? Get you gone, you young rogue, and play in the streets." But Dick, yet lying still, cried again: "Whoop, whoop!" --which made the goldsmith in a great passion cry: "Get you gone, sirrah, or I'll whoop you with a good cane, if you want to play here." Whereupon Dick went away with a bag of fifty pounds, which the goldsmith missed next day.
But as he grew up in years his stature made him past those exercises which they call the morning, noon or night sneak, which is privately sneaking into houses at any of those times and carrying off what next comes to hand; for all is fish that comes to net with them, who are termed Saint Peter's children, as having every finger a fish- hook. He went also upon other lays, such as "taking lobs from behind rattlers" -- that is to say, trunks or boxes from behind coaches; and upon the "mill," which is breaking open houses in the night, for which purpose they have their tinder-boxes, matches, flints, steels, dark lanterns, bags, cords, betties and chisels to wrench.
This was then the manner; but at present they have a new way of using a large turning gimlet, or auger, boring holes with which through a wooden window they presently, with a knife, cut out a hole big enough to put in their hand to unbolt it, whereby an honest man is soon undone by these sly rascals, who call themselves "prigs," which, in their canting language, denotes a thief.
After being a soldier for a short time Dick came home again, and there being one Mr Pemmell, an apothecary, living in Drury Lane, it was his misfortune to have a wife who kept company with one Davis, a glazier; but bad circumstances obliging him to fly for sanctuary to Thornbury, in Gloucestershire, his madonna was in great want of another gallant. However, she being naturally prone to liberality, and always extravagantly rewarding kindnesses of this nature, it was not long ere a particular acquaintance of hers undertook to supply her with a new lover, which was Dick.
As soon as he was introduced into the company of the apothecary's wife she took a huge fancy to him, for he behaved himself so pleasantly, and his caresses were so agreeable, that his mistress esteemed herself the happiest woman in the world in the enjoyment of a person so facetious, and accomplished with all the mysteries of love. Whenever he came to her house, which was always when her husband was from home, she entertained him with such an unreserved freeness that she concealed nothing from her spark that might please either his fancy or curiosity.
But one day, opening a chest of drawers, Dick espied a couple of bags of money, at which his mouth instantly watered; and although his mistress told him that as long as one penny was in them his pockets should never be unfurnished, yet he wanted to be master of them presently -- and indeed it was not long before he had them at his command, for business requiring the apothecary in the country for about a week, Dick then lay in his house at rack and manger; and having two other rogues like himself at a great supper prepared for them there, they began about twelve of the clock at night to declare their intention with sword and pistol, saying that whoever presumed to speak but one word suffered present death.
To work they now went, gagging and tying first the procurer. In the meantime the apothecary's wife, seeing how her friend was served, fell on her knees and heartily beseeched them not to use her so.
Quoth Dick: "No, no, madam; we'll only tie your hands, lest you should ungag that serious, and now silent, bawd there."
After she was secured they went down into the kitchen and gagged and tied the maid and apprentice; then, rifling the house, they carried away two hundred and fifty pounds, and some plate to a considerable value. But Dick, thinking it unmannerly to go away without saying anything, went to his late beloved mistress, and giving her a Judas kiss, quoth he: "Dear madam, farewell; and when I am gone, say I've done more than ever your husband did, for I've bound you to be constant now."
Dick also industriously applied himself to picking of pockets; and one day he and two others of that profession, having been eight or nine miles in the country, where they were so extravagant as to spend all their money, as they were coming into Hammersmith bethought themselves on the following stratagem to get more before they entered London. Two of them acted the parts of drunken men in the town, reeling, tumbling and abusing several people, who, believing them to be really drunk, let them pass on without much interruption. Hereupon their sober companion, Dick Low, seeing nobody would take them up, resolved to do it himself; so, meeting them as if by chance, they gave him the jostle; which not taking so patiently as the others had done, he not only had high words with them, but from words they fell to blows.
At last, two being against one, it was thought unequal, and they having been abusive to others a great company was assembled, and among them the constable, who, seizing all three, carried them before a justice, who hearing the matter, and finding by the testimony of the people who went with them that only the two who were drunk were wholly to blame, ordered them to be set in the stocks for two hours, and discharged Dick Low.
This order was obeyed, and the delinquents were presently put into the stocks, where they behaved themselves so pleasantly in foolish discourse that a great number of people hovered about them.
In the meantime Dick was not idle, for he had made such havoc among their pockets that in the two hours' time they were in the stocks he had gained about eight pounds by the frolic; then coming to London they fell into hard drinking, like so many drunken Germans, but in the midst of their cups they had the civility, every now and then, to drink the health of all them by whom they had fared the better.
This fellow, though he was not above twenty-five years of age when he was hanged at Tyburn, with Jack Hall and Stephen Bunce, in 1707, had reigned long in his villainy; and the fortunate success which he had had in his manifold sins only made him repent that he had not practised them sooner.