Director of a Corporation of Thieves, and a most famous Receiver. Executed at Tyburn, 24th of May, 1725
OF all the thieves that ever infested London this man was the most notorious. That eminent vagabond, Barnfylde Moore Carew, was recognized as 'King of the Beggars:' -- in like manner may the name and memory of Jonathan Wild be ever held in abhorrence as 'The Prince of Robbers.'
The history of the arts, deceptions, cruelty, and perfidy of this man, have alone filled a volume; and, should he occupy more room in our epitome than may be deemed necessary, we have only to observe, that the whole catalogue of other crimes exposed in this Chronology, centred in one individual, would scarcely produce a parallel with this thief-taker, and most finished thief.
Jonathan Wild was born at Wolverhampton, in Staffordshire, about the year 1682. He was the eldest son of his parents, who, at a proper age, put him to a day-school, which he continued to attend till he had gained a sufficient knowledge in reading, writing, and accounts, to qualify him for business. His father had intended to bring him up to his own trade; but changed that design, and, at about the age of fifteen, apprenticed him for seven years to a buckle-maker in Birmingham. Upon the expiration of this term be returned to Wolverhampton, married a young woman of good character, and gained a tolerable livelihood by working at his business.
About two years after, in the course of which time his wife gave birth to a son, he formed the resolution of visiting London, deserted his wife and child, and set out for the metropolis, where he got into employment, and maintained himself by his trade: being, however, of an extravagant disposition, many months had not elapsed after his arrival before be was arrested for debt, and thrown into Wood Street Compter, where he remained upwards of four years. In a pamphlet which he published, and which we shall more particularly mention hereafter, be says that during his imprisonment 'it was impossible but he must, in some measure, be let into the secrets of the criminals there under confinement, and particularly Mr. Hitchin's management.'
Whilst in the Compter, Wild assiduously cultivated the acquaintance of his fellow-captives, and attended to their accounts of the exploits in which they had been engaged with singular satisfaction. In this prison was a woman named Mary Milliner, who had long been considered as one of the most abandoned prostitutes and pickpockets in the town. After having escaped the punishment due to the variety of felonies of which she had been guilty, she was put under confinement for debt. An intimacy soon commenced between this woman and Wild, and they had no sooner obtained their freedom than they lived under the denomination of man and wife. By their iniquitous practices they quickly obtained a sum of money, which enabled them to open a little public house in Cock Alley, facing Cripplegate church.
Milliner being personally acquainted with most of the depraved characters by whom London and its environs were infested, and perfectly conversant as to the manner of their proceedings, she was considered by Wild as a most useful companion; and indeed very materially contributed towards rendering him one of the most accomplished proficients in the arts of villainy. He industriously penetrated into the secrets of felons of every description, who resorted in great numbers to his house, in order to dispose of their booties; and they looked upon him with a kind of awe, arising from the consciousness that their lives were at all times in his power.
Wild was at little trouble to dispose of the articles brought to him by thieves at something less than their real value, no law existing at this period for the punishment of the receivers of stolen goods; but the evil increased at length to so enormous a degree, that it was deemed expedient by the legislature to frame a law for its suppression. An act was passed, therefore, consigning such as should be convicted of receiving goods, knowing them to have been stolen, to transportation for the space of fourteen years.
Wild's practices were considerably interrupted by the above-mentioned law; to elude the operation of which, however, he adopted the following plan -- he called a meeting of all the thieves known to him, and observed that, if they carried their booties to such of the pawnbrokers as were known to be not much affected by scruples of conscience, they would scarcely receive on the property one-fourth of the real value; and that if they were offered to strangers, either for sale, or by way of deposit, it was a chance of ten to one but the parties offering were rendered amenable to the laws. The most industrious thieves, he said, were now scarcely able to obtain a livelihood, and must either submit to be half starved, or live in great and continual danger of Tyburn. He informed them that he had devised a plan for removing the inconveniences under which they laboured, recommended them to follow his advice, and to behave towards him with honour; and concluded by proposing that, when they made prize of any thing, they should deliver it to him, instead of carrying it to the pawnbroker, saying he would restore the goods to the owners, by which means greater sums might be raised, while the thieves would remain perfectly secure from detection.
This proposal was received with general approbation, and it was resolved to carry it into immediate execution. All the stolen effects were to be given into the possession of Wild, who soon appointed convenient places wherein they were to be deposited, rightly judging that it would not be prudent to have them left at his own house.
The infamous plan being thus concerted, it became the business of Wild to apply to persons who had been robbed, pretending to be greatly concerned at their misfortunes, saying that some suspected property had been stopped by a very honest man, a broker, with whom he was acquainted, and that, if their goods happened to be in the hands of his friend, restitution should be made. But he failed not to suggest that the broker ought to be rewarded for his trouble and disinterestedness; and to use every argument in his power towards exacting a promise that no disagreeable consequences should ensue to his friend, who had imprudently neglected to apprehend the supposed thieves.
Happy in the prospect of regaining their property, without the trouble and expense necessarily attending prosecutions, people generally approved of the conduct of Wild, and sometimes rewarded him even with one half of the real value of the goods restored. It was not, however, uniformly so; and sundry pertinacious individuals, not satisfied with Wild's superficial statement, questioned him particularly as to the manner of their goods being discovered. On these occasions he pretended to feel hurt that his honour should be disputed, alleging that his motive was to afford all the service in his power to the injured party, whose goods he imagined might possibly be those stopped by his friend; but since his honest intentions had been received in so ungracious a manner, and himself interrogated respecting the robbers, he had nothing further to say on the subject, but must take his leave; adding, that his name was Jonathan Wild, and that he was every day to be found at his house in Cock Alley, Cripplegate. This affectation of resentment seldom failed to answer the purposes proposed by it; and a more favourable estimate of his principles and character thus formed, he had an opportunity of advancing his demands.
WILD received in his own name no gratuity from the owners of stolen goods, but deducted his profit from the money which was to be paid the broker: thus did he amass considerable sums without danger of prosecution, his offences coming under the operation of no law then in existence. For several years indeed he preserved a tolerably fair character, so consummate was the art employed in the management of his schemes.
Our hero's business greatly increasing, and his name becoming well known, he altered his mode of action. Instead of applying directly to parties who had been plundered, he opened an office, to which great numbers resorted, in hopes of recovering their effects. Re made a great parade in his business, and assumed a consequence which enabled him more effectually to impose upon the public. When persons came to his office, they were informed that they must each pay a crown in consideration of receiving his advice. This ceremony being dispatched, he entered in his book the name and address of the applicants, with all the particulars they could communicate respecting the robberies, and the rewards that would be given provided the goods were recovered: they were then desired to call again in a few days, when he hoped he should be able to give them some agreeable intelligence. Upon returning to know the success of his inquiries, he told them that he had received some information concerning their goods, but that the agent he had employed to trace them had apprised him that the robbers pretended they could raise more money by pawning the property than by restoring it for the promised reward; saying, however, that, if he could by any means procure an interview with the villains, he doubted not of being able to settle matters agreeably to the terms already stipulated; but, at the same time, artfully insinuating that the safest and most expeditious method would be to make some addition to the reward.
Wild, at length, became eminent in his profession, which proved highly lucrative. When he had discovered the utmost sum that it was likely would be given for the recovery of any property, he requested its owner to apply at a particular time, and, meanwhile, caused the goods to be ready for delivery.
Considerable advantages were derived from examining the person who had been robbed; as he thence became acquainted with particulars which the thieves might omit to communicate, and was enabled to detect them if they concealed any part of their booties. Being in possession of the secrets of every notorious thief, they were under the necessity of complying with whatever terms he thought proper to exact, being aware that, by opposing his inclination, they should involve themselves in the most imminent danger of being sacrificed to the injured laws of their country.
Through the infamous practices of this man, articles which had been before considered as of little use but to the owners now became matters claiming particular attention from the thieves, by whom the metropolis and its environs were haunted. Pocket-books, books of accounts, watches, rings, trinkets, and a variety of articles of but small intrinsic worth, were at once esteemed very profitable plunder. Books of accounts, and other writings, being of great importance to the owners, produced very handsome rewards; and the same may be said of pocket-books, which generally contained curious memorandums, and sometimes banknotes and other articles on which money could be readily procured.
Wild accumulated cash so fast, that he considered himself a man of consequence; and, to support his imaginary dignity, dressed in laced clothes and wore a sword, which martial instrument he first exercised on the person of his accomplice and reputed wife, Mary Milliner, who having on some occasion provoked him, e instantly struck at her with it and cut off one of her ears. This event was the cause of a separation; but, in acknowledgment of the great services she had rendered him, by introducing him to so advantageous a profession, he allowed her a weekly stipend till her decease.
Before Wild had brought the plan of his office to perfection, he for some time acted as an assistant to Charles Hitchin, once city-marshal, a man as wicked as himself. These celebrated co-partners in villainy, under the pretext of controlling the enormities of the dissolute, paraded the streets from Temple-bar to the Minories, searching houses of ill fame, and apprehending disorderly and suspected persons; but those who complimented these public reformers with private douceurs were allowed to practise every species of wickedness with impunity. Hitchin and Wild, however, grew jealous of each other, and, an open rupture taking place, they parted, each pursuing the business of thief-taking on his own account.
In the year 1715 Wild removed from his house in Cock Alley to a Mrs. Seagoe's, in the Old Bailey, where he pursued his business with the usual success, notwithstanding the efforts of Hitchin, his rival in iniquity, to suppress his proceedings.
The reader's astonishment will increase when we state that these two abandoned miscreants had the daring effrontery to appeal to the public, and attacked each other with all possible scurrility in pamphlets and advertisements. Never, surely, was the press so debased as in disgorging time filth of their pens.
Hitchin published what he called 'The Regulator; or a Discovery of Thieves and Thief-takers.' It is an ignorant and impudent insult to the reader, and replete with abuse of Wild, whom he brands, in his capacity of thief-taker, with being worse than the thief. Wild retorts with great bitterness; and his pamphlet containing much curious information, we shall incorporate a part of it, requesting the reader to bear in mind that it refers to a previous part or our hero's career.
Hitchin having greatly debased the respectable post of city marshal, the lord mayor suspended him from that office. In order to repair his loss, he determined, as the most prudent step, to strive to bury his aversion, and confederate with Wild. To effect this, he wrote as follows:
'I am very sensible that you are let into the knowledge of the secrets of the Compter, particularly with relation to the securing of pocket- books; but your experience is inferior to mine: I can put you in a far better method than you are acquainted with, and which may be done with safety; for, though I am suspended, I still retain the power of acting as constable, and, notwithstanding I cannot be heard before my lord mayor as formerly, I have interest among the aldermen upon any complaint.
'But I must first tell you that you spoil the trade of thief-taking, in advancing greater rewards than are necessary. I give but half-a-crown a book, and, when the thieves and pickpockets see you and I confederate, they will submit to our terms, and likewise continue their thefts, for fear of coming to the gallows by our means. You shall take a turn, with me, as my servant or assistant, and we'll commence our rambles this night.'
Wild, it appears, readily accepted the ex-marshal's proposals: towards dark they proceeded to Temple-bar, and called in at several brandy- shops and alehouses between that and Fleet Ditch; some of the masters of these houses complimented the marshal with punch, others with brandy, and some presented him with fine ale, offering their service to their worthy protector. Hitchin made them little answer; but gave them to understand all the service he expected from them was, to give information of pocket-books, or any goods stolen, as a pay-back: 'For you women of the town,' addressing himself to some females in one of the shops, 'make it a common practice to resign things of this nature to the bullies and rogues of your retinue; but this shall no longer be borne with. I'll give you my word both they and you shall be detected, unless you deliver all the pocket-books you meet with to me. What do you think I bought my place for, but to make the most of it? and you are to understand this is my man (pointing to our buckle-maker to assist me. And if you at any time, for the future, refuse to yield up the watches or books you take, either to me or my servant, you may be assured of being all sent to Bridewell, and not one of you shall be permitted to walk the streets longer. For, notwithstanding I am under suspension (chiefly for not suppressing the practices of such vermin as you), I have still a power of punishing, and you shall dearly pay for not observing deference to me.'
Strutting along a little farther, he on a sudden seized two or three dexterous pickpockets, reprimanding them for not paying their respects, asking to what part of the town they were rambling, and whether they did not see him? They answered that they saw him at a distance, but he caught hold of them so hastily that they had no time to address him. 'We have been strolling' said they, 'over Moorfields, and from thence to the Blue Boar, in pursuit of you; but not finding you, as usual, were under some fears that you were indisposed.' The marshal replied, he should have given them a meeting there, but had been employed the whole day with his new man. 'You are to be very careful,' said he, 'not to oblige any person but myself, or servant, with pocket-books; if you presume to do otherwise you shall swing for it, and we are out in the city every night to observe your motions.' These instructions given, the pickpockets left, making their master a low congee and promising obedience. Such was the progress the first night with the buckle-maker, whom he told that his staff of authority terrified the ignorant to the extent of his wishes.
Some nights afterwards, walking towards the back part of St. Paul's, the ex-marshal thus addressed Jonathan: -- 'I will now show you a brandy-shop that entertains no company but whores and thieves. This is a house for our purpose, and I am informed that a woman of the town who frequents it has lately robbed a gentleman of his watch and pocket-book: this advice I received from her companion, with whom I have a good understanding. We will go into this house, and, if we can find this woman, I will assume a sterner countenance (though at best I look like an infernal), by continued threats extort a confession, and by that means get possession of the watch and pocket-book; in order to which, do you slily accost her companion.' -- Here he described her. -- 'Call to her, and say that your master is in a damned ill humour, and swears if she does not instantly make a discovery where the watch and pocket-book may be found, at farthest by to-morrow, he will certainly send her to the Compter, and thence to the workhouse.'
The means being thus concerted to obtain the valuable goods, both master and man entered the shop in pursuit of the game, and, according to expectation, found the person wanted, with several others; whereupon the marshal, showing an enraged countenance becoming the design, and Wild being obliged to follow his example, the company said that the master and man looked as sour as two devils. 'Devils!' said the marshal; 'I'll make some of you devils, if you do not immediately discover the watch and pocket-book I am employed to procure.' 'We do not know your meaning, Sir,' answered some. -- 'Who do you discourse to?' said others; 'we know nothing of it.' The marshal replied in a softer tone, 'You are ungrateful to the last degree to deny me this small request, when I was never let info the secret of any thing to be taken from a gentleman but I communicated it to you, describing the person so exactly that you could not mistake your man; and there is so little got at this rate, that the devil may trade with you for me!'
This speech being made, the marshal gave a nod to his man, who called one of the women to the door, and, telling the story above directed, the female answered, 'Unconscionable devil! when he gets five or ten guineas, not to bestow above as many shillings upon us unfortunate wretches! but, however, rather than go to the Compter, I'll try what is to be done.'
The woman, returning to Hitchin, asked him what he would give for the delivery of the watch, being seven or eight pounds in value, and the pocket-book, having in it various notes and goldsmiths' bills: to whom the marshal answered, a guinea; and told her it was much better to comply than to go to Newgate, which she must certainly expect upon her refusal. The woman replied that the watch was in pawn for forty shillings, and if he did not advance that sum she should be obliged to strip herself for its redemption; though, when her furbelowed scarf was laid aside, she had nothing underneath but furniture for a paper-mill. After abundance of words, he allowed her thirty shillings for the watch and book, which she accepted, and the watch was never returned to the owner!
Some little time after this, a gentleman in liquor going into the Blue Boar, near Moorfields, with a woman of the town, immediately lost his watch. Tie applied to the ex-marshal, desiring his assistance; but the buckle-maker, being well acquainted with the walk between Cripplegate and Moorfields, had the fortune to find the woman. The master immediately seized her on notice given, and by vehement threatenings obliged her to a confession. She declared that she had stolen the watch, and carried it to a woman that kept a brandy-shop near, desiring her to assist in the sale of it. The mistress of the brandy- shop readily answered that she had it from an honest young woman who frequented her house, whose husband was gone to sea; whereupon she pawned the watch for its value, and ordered the sale.
This story seeming reasonable, a watchmaker had purchased the watch, and gave the money agreed for it, which was fifty shillings. Thus the sale of the watch being discovered, the marshal, with his staff and assistants, immediately repaired to the watchmaker's house, and, seizing the watchmaker in the same manner as a person would do the greatest criminal, carried him to a public house, telling him that if he did not forthwith send for the watch he should be committed to Newgate.
The watchmaker, not being any ways accustomed to unfair dealings, directly answered that he bought the watch, and the person he had it of would produce the woman that stole it if it were stolen, the woman being then present. The marshal replied he had no business with the persons that stole the property, but with him in whose possession it was found; and that, if he did not instantly send for the watch, and deliver it without insisting upon any money, but on the contrary return him thanks for his civility, which deserved five or ten pieces, he would without delay send him to Newgate.
Hereupon the innocent artisan, being much surprised, sent for the watch, and surrendered it; and since that it has sufficiently appeared that the owner made a present to Hitchin of three guineas for his trouble, whilst the poor watchmaker underwent a dead loss of his fifty shillings. This story and the following afford a pretty good example of the honesty of this city-marshal:
A biscuit-baker near Wapping having lost a pocketbook, wherein was, among other papers, an exchequer-bill for 1001. applied himself to the marshal's man, the buckle-maker, for the recovery thereof: the buckle- maker advised him to advertise it, and stop the payment of the bill, which he did accordingly; but having no account of his property, he came to Wild several times about it; and, at length, told him that he had received a visit from a tall man, with a long peruke and sword, calling himself the city-marshal, who asked him if he had lost his pocket-book. The biscuit-baker answered yes; and desiring to know his reasons for putting such a question, or whether he could give him any intelligence; he replied, no, he could not give him any intelligence of it as yet, but wished to be informed whether he had employed any person to search after it. To which the biscuit-baker answered, he had employed one Wild. Hereupon the marshal told him he was under a mistake; that he should have applied to him, who was the only person in England that could serve him, being well assured it was entirely out of the power of Wild, or any of those fellows, to know where the pocket-book was (this, says the pamphlet, was very certain, he having it at that time in his custody); and begged to know the reward that would be given. The biscuit-baker replied he would give 10L. The marshal said that a greater reward should be offered, for that exchequer-bills and those things were ready money, and could immediately be sold; and that, if he had employed him in the beginning, and offered 40L. or 50L. he would have served him.
The biscuit-baker having acquainted Wild with this story, the latter gave it as his opinion that the pocketbook was in the marshal's possession, and that it would be to no purpose to continue advertising it, he being well assured that the marshal would not have taken the pains to find out the biscuit-baker, unless he knew how to get at it.
Upon the whole, therefore, he advised the owner rather to advance his bidding, considering what hands the note was in, especially as the marshal had often told his servant how easily he could dispose of banknotes and exchequer-bills at gaming-houses, which he very much frequented.
Pursuant to this advice, the losing party went a second time to the marshal, and bid 401. for his pocket-book and bill. ' Zounds, sir,' said the marshal, 'you are too late! ' which was all the satisfaction he gave him. Thus was the poor biscuit-baker tricked out of his exchequer-bill, which was paid to another person, though it could never be traced back; but it happened, a short time after, that some of the young fry of pickpockets under the tuition of the marshal fell out in sharing the money given them for this very pocketbook; whereupon one of them came to Wild, and discovered the whole matter, viz, that he had sold the pocket-book, with the 100L. exchequer-note in it, and other bills, to the city-marshal, at a tavern in Aldersgate Street, for four or five guineas.
A person standing in the pillory, near Charing Cross, a gentleman in the crowd was deprived of a pocketbook, which had in it bills and lottery-tickets to the value of several hundred pounds; and a handsome reward (30L.) was at first offered for it in a public advertisement. The marshal, having a suspicion that a famous pickpocket, known by his lame hand, had taken the book, he applied to him; and, to enforce a confession and delivery, told him, with a great deal of assurance, that he must be the person, such a man, with a lame hand, having been described by the gentleman to have been near hint, and whom he was certain had stolen his book. 'In short,' says he, 'you had the book, and you must bring it to me, and you shall share the reward; but, if you refuse to comply with such advantageous terms, you must never expect to come within the city gates; for, if you do, Bridewell, at least, if not Newgate, shall be your residence.'
After several meetings, the marshal's old friend could not deny that he had the pocket-book: but he said to the marshal, I did not expect this rigorous treatment from you, after the services I have done you, in concealing you several times, and by that means keeping you out of a gaol. It is not the way to expect any future service, when all my former good offices are forgotten.' Notwithstanding these reasons, Hitchin still insisted upon what he had at first proposed; and at length the pickpocket, considering that he could not repair to the Exchange, or elsewhere, to follow his pilfering employment, without the marshal's consent, and fearing to be made a mark of his revenge, condescended to part with the pocket-book upon terms reasonable between buyer and seller. Whereupon says the marshal, 'I lost all my money last night at gaming, except a gold watch in my pocket, which I believe there will be no inquiry after, it coming to hand by an intrigue with a woman of the town, whom the gentleman will be ashamed to prosecute for fear of exposing himself. I'll exchange goods for goods with you.' So the pickpocket, rather than he would risk the consequence of disobliging his master, concluded the bargain.
One night, not far from St. Paul's, the marshal and his man met with a detachment of pickpocket boys, who instantly, at the sight of their master, took to their heels and ran away. The buckle-maker asked the meaning of their surprise. To which the marshal answered, 'I know their meaning, a pack of rogues! they were to have met me in the fields, this morning, with a book I am informed they have taken from a gentleman and they are afraid of being secured for their disobedience. There is Jack Jones among them. -- We'll catch the whore's bird.' Jack Jones, running behind a coach to make his escape, was taken by the marshal and his man. The master carried him to a tavern, and threatened him severely, telling him he believed they were turned housebreakers, and that they were concerned in a burglary lately committed by four young criminals. This happened to be the fact, and the boy fearing the marshal had been informed of it, he, for his own security, confessed, and the marshal promised to save his life on his becoming evidence: whereupon the marshal committed the boy to the Compter till the next morning, when he carried him before a justice of the peace, who took his information, and issued a warrant for the apprehension of his companions.
Notice being given where the criminals were to be found, viz, at a house in Beech Lane, Hitchin and Wild went privately in the night thither, and, listening at the door, they overheard the boys, with several others, in a mixed company. Entering the house, they met ten or twelve persons, who were in a great rage, inquiring what business the marshal had there, and saluting him with a few oaths, which occasioned the marshal to make a prudent retreat, pulling the door after him, and leaving his little man to the mercy of the savage company.
In a short time the marshal returned with eight or ten watchmen and a constable; and, at the door, out of his dastardly disposition, though his pretence was a ceremonious respect, obliged the constable to go in first; but the constable and marshal were both so long with their compliments that the man thought neither of them would enter in: at last the constable appearing, with his long staff extended before him, the marshal manfully followed, crying out, 'Where are the rebel villains? Why don't ye secure them?' Wild answered that they were under the table; upon which the constable pulled out the juvenile offenders, neither of whom were above twelve years of age. The two boys now taken were committed to Newgate; but the fact having been perpetrated in the county of Surrey, they were afterwards removed to the Marshalsea prison. The assizes coining en at Kingston, and Jones giving his evidence against his companions before the grand jury, a true bill was found, and the marshal endorsed his name on the back of it, to have the honour of being an evidence against these monstrous housebreakers. On the trial, the nature of the fact was declared; but the parents of the offenders appeared, and satisfied the Court that the marshal was the occasion of the ruin of these boys, by taking them into the fields, and encouraging them in the stealing of pocket-books; and told him, on his affirming they were thieves, that he had made them such. The judge, observing the marshal's views were more to get the reward than to do justice, summed up the charge to the jury in favour of the boys, who were thereupon acquitted, and the marshal reprimanded. He was so enraged at this, and so angry with himself for not accusing them of other crimes, that he immediately returned to London, leaving his man to discharge the whole reckoning at Kingston.
A gentleman, who had lost his watch when in company with a woman of the town, applied to a person belonging to the Compter, who recommended him to the buckle-maker, to procure the same; and the gentleman applying accordingly to him, and giving him a description of the woman, the buckle-maker, a few days after, traversing Fleet Street with his master in an evening, happened to meet with the female (as he apprehended by the description of the gentleman) who had stolen the watch, and, coming nearer, was satisfied therein.
He told his master that she was the very person described: to which the master answered, with an air of pleasure, 'I am glad to find we have a prospect of something to-night to defray our expenses,' and immediately, with the assistance of Wild, seized the female and carried her to a public house, where upon examination, she confessed it was in her power to serve the marshal in it; telling him that if he would please to go with her home, or send his man, the watch would be returned, with a suitable reward for his trouble. The man asked his master his opinion, whether he thought he might pursue the woman with safety?
To which the other replied, Yes, for that he knew her, at the same time giving hints of his following at a reasonable distance, for his security, which he did with a great deal of precaution, as will appear; for, proceeding with the female, she informed him that her husband, who had the watch about him, was at a tavern near Whitefriars, and, if he would condescend to go thither, he might he furnished with it without giving himself any farther trouble, together with the reward he deserved, --
To which Wild consenting, they came to the tavern, where she made inquiry for the company she had been with but a short space before; and, being informed they were still in the house, she sent in word by the drawer that the gentlewoman who had been with them that evening desired the favour to speak with them. The drawer going in, and delivering the message, immediately three or four men came from the room to the female: she gave them to understand that the marshal's man had accused her of stealing a watch, telling them she supposed it must be some other woman who had assumed her name, and desired their protection: upon this the whole company sallied out, and attacked the marshal's man in a very violent manner, to make a rescue of the female, upbraiding him for degrading a gentlewoman of her reputation. The marshal having followed at a little distance, and observed the ill success of his man, fearing the like discipline, made off, hugging himself that he had escaped the severe treatment he had equally deserved. Jonathan in the struggle showed his resentment chiefly against the female; who, after a long contest, was thrust out at the back door; and immediately the watch being called, he and the rest of the party were seized.
As they were going to the Compter, the marshal overtook them near Bow church, and, coming up to Wild in great haste, asked him the occasion of his long absence: the man said, that he had been at a tavern with the woman, where he thought he saw him: the master answered, that indeed he was there; but seeing the confusion so great, he went off to call the watch and constables. The marshal used his interest to get his servant off, but to no purpose, he being carried to the Compter with the rest of the company, in order to muke an agreement there.
The next morning the woman sent to her companions in the Compter, letting them know that, if they could be released, the watch should he returned without any consideration, which was accordingly done, and a small present made to the marshal's man for smart-money. They were now all discharged, paying their fees.
The watch being thus ready to be produced to the owner, the marshal insisted upon the greatest part of the reward, as being the highest person in authority: the man declared this unreasonable, he himself having received the largest share of the bastinado. 'But, however,' says the marshal, 'I have now an opportunity of playing my old game; I'll oblige the gentleman to give me ten guineas to save his reputation, which is so nearly concerned with a common prostitute.' But the gentleman knew too much of his character to be thus imposed upon, and would give him no more than what he promised, which was three guineas. Hitchin at first refused; but his man (who had the most right to make a new contract) advising him to act cautiously, he at last agreed to accept the reward first offered, giving Jonathan only one guinea for his services and the cure of his wounds. The above is a farther instance of the marshal's cowardice and inhumanity.
The marshal, going one night up Ludgate Hill, observed a well-dressed woman walking before, whom he told Wild was a lewd woman, for that he saw her talking with a man. This was no sooner spoke but he seized her, and asked who she was. She made answer that she was a bailiff's wife. ' You are more likely to be a whore,' said the marshal, and as such you shall go to the Compter.'
Taking the woman through St. Paul's Church-yard, she desired liberty to send for some friends; but he would not comply with her request. He forced her into the Nag's Head tavern in Cheapside, where he presently ordered a hot supper and plenty of wine to be brought in; commanding the female to keep at a distance from him, and telling her that he did not permit such vermin to sit in his company, though he intended to make her pay the reckoning.
When the supper was brought to the table, he fell to it lustily, and would not allow the woman to eat any part of the supper with him, or to come near the fire, though it was extreme cold weather. When he had supped, he stared round, and, applying himself to her, told her that if he had been an informer, or such a fellow, she would have called for eatables and wine herself, and not have given him the trouble of direction, or else would have slipped a piece into his hand; adding, 'You may do what you please: but I can assure you it is in my power, if I see a woman in the bands of informers, to discharge her, and commit them. You are not so ignorant but you must guess my meaning.' She replied, that she had money enough to pay for the supper, and about three half-crowns more. This desirable answer being given, he ordered his attendant to withdraw, while he compounded the matter with her.
When Wild returned, the gentlewoman was civilly asked to sit by the fire, and eat the remainder of the supper, and in all respects treated very kindly, only with a pretended reprimand to give him better language whenever he should speak to her for the future; and, after another bottle drank at her expense, she was discharged. This is an excellent method to get a good supper gratis, and to fill an empty pocket.
The marshal, previous to his suspension, had daily meetings with the pickpocket boys in Moorfields, and treated them there plentifully with cakes and ale; offering them sufficient encouragement to continue their thefts: and at a certain time it happened that one of the boys, more cunning than his companions, having stolen an alderman's pocket-book, and finding, on opening it, several bank bills, he gave the marshal to understand that it was worth a great deal beyond the usual price; and, the notes being of considerable value, insisted upon five pieces. The marshal told the boy that five pieces were enough to break him at once; that if he gave him two guineas he would be sufficiently paid; but assured him that, if he had the good luck to obtain a handsome reward, he would then make it up five pieces. Upon this present encouragement and future expectation the boy delivered up the pocketbook, and a few days afterwards, being informed that a very large reward had been given for the notes, he applied to the marshal for the remaining three guineas, according to promise; but all the satisfaction he got was, that he should be sent to the house of correction if he continued to demand it; the marshal telling him that such rascals as he were ignorant how to dispose of their money.
This conniving at the intrigues of the pickpockets, taking the stolen pocket-books, and sending threatening letters to the persons that lost them, under pretence that they had been in company with lewd women; extorting money also from persons in various other ways; were the causes of the marshal's being suspended; and this most detestable villain having subsequently been fined twenty pounds, and pilloried, for a crime too loathsome to be named in these pages, left Wild at length alone to execute his plans of depredation on the public.
We shall now, quitting Mr. Wild's recriminating pamphlet, proceed in our regular account of the hero of this narrative. -- When the vagabonds with whom he was in league faithfully related to him the particulars of the robberies they had committed, and intrusted to him the disposal of their booties, he assured them that they might safely rely on him for protection against the vengeance of the law; and indeed it must be acknowledged that in cases of this nature he would persevere in his utmost endeavours to surmount very great difficulties rather than wilfully falsify his word.
Wild's artful behaviour, and the punctuality with which he discharged his engagements, obtained him a great share of confidence among thieves of every denomination; insomuch, that if he caused it to be intimated to them that he was desirous of seeing them, and that they should not be molested, they would attend him with the utmost willingness, without entertaining the most distant apprehension of danger, although conscious that he had informations against them, and that their lives were absolutely in his power; but if they presumed to reject his proposals, or proved otherwise refractory, he would address them to the following effect: 'I have given you my word that you should come and go in safety, and so you shall; but take care of yourself, for, if ever you see me again, you see an enemy.'
The great influence that Wild obtained over the thieves will not be thought a very extraordinary matter, if it is considered that, when he promised to use his endeavours for rescuing them from impending fate, he was always desirous, and generally able, to succeed. Such as complied with his measures he would never interrupt; but on the contrary, afford them every encouragement for prosecuting their iniquitous practices; and, if apprehended by any other person, he seldom failed of procuring their discharge. His most usual method (in desperate cases, and when matters could not be managed with more ease and expedition) was to procure them to be admitted evidences, under pretext that it was in their power to make discoveries of high importance to the public. When they were in prison he frequently attended them, and communicated to them from his own memorandums such particulars as he judged it would be prudent for them to relate to the Court. When his accomplices were apprehended, and he was not able to prevent their being brought to trial, he contrived stratagems (in which his invention was amazingly fertile) for keeping the principal witnesses out of Court; so that the delinquents were generally dismissed in defect of evidence.
Jonathan was ever a most implacable enemy to those who were hardy enough to reject his terms, and dispose of their stolen effects for their own separate advantage. He was industrious to an extreme in his efforts to surrender them into the hands of justice; and, being acquainted with all their usual places of resort, it was scarcely possible for them to escape his vigilance.
By his subjecting such as incurred his displeasure to the punishment of the law, he obtained the rewards offered for pursuing them to conviction; greatly extended his ascendancy over the other thieves, who considered him with a kind of awe; and, at the same time, established his character as being a man of great public utility.
It was the practice of Wild to give instructions to the thieves whom he employed as to the manner in which they should conduct themselves; and, if they followed his directions, it was seldom that they failed of success. But if they neglected a strict observance of his rules, or were, through inadvertency or ignorance, guilty of any kind of mismanagement or error in the prosecution of the schemes he had suggested, it was to be understood almost as an absolute certainty that he would procure them to be convicted at the next sessions, deeming them to be unqualified for the profession of roguery.
He was frequently asked how it was possible that he could carry on the business of restoring stolen effects, and yet not be in league with the robbers; and his replies were always to this purpose -- 'My acquaintance among thieves is very extensive, and, when I receive information of a robbery, I make inquiry after the suspected parties, and leave word at proper places that, if the goods are left where I appoint, the reward shall be paid, and no questions asked. Surely no imputation of guilt can fall upon me; for I hold no interviews with the robbers, nor are the goods given into my possession.'
We will now give a relation of the most remarkable exploits of the hero of these pages; and our detail must necessarily include many particulars relating to other notorious characters of the same period.
A lady of fortune being on a visit in Piccadilly, her servants, leaving her sedan at the door, went to refresh themselves at a neighbouring public house. Upon their return the vehicle was not to be found; in consequence of which the men immediately went to Wild, and having informed him of their loss, and complimented him with the usual fee, they were desired to call upon him again in a few days. Upon their second applications Wild extorted from them a considerable reward, and then directed them to attend the chapel in Lincoln's Inn Fields on the following morning, during the time of prayers. The men went according to the appointment, and under the piazzas of the chapel perceived the chair, which upon examination they found to contain the velvet seat, curtains, and other furniture, and that it had received no kind of damage.
A young gentleman, named Knap, accompanied his mother to Sadler's Wells, on Saturday, March 31, 1716. On their return they were attacked, about ten at night, near the wall of Gray's Inn Gardens, by five villains. The young gentleman was knocked down, and his mother, being exceedingly alarmed, called for assistance; upon which a pistol was discharged at her, and she instantly fell down dead. A considerable reward was offered by proclamation in the Gazette for the discovery of the perpetrator of this horrid crime; and Wild was remarkably assiduous in his endeavours to apprehend the offenders. From a description given of some of the villains, Wild immediately judged the gang to be composed of William White, Thomas Thurland, John Chapman alias Edward Darvel, Timothy Dun, and Isaac Rag.
On the evening of Sunday, April 8, Wild received intelligence that some of the above-named men were drinking with their prostitutes at a house kept by John Weatherly, in Newtoner's Lane. He went to Weatherly's, accompanied by his man Abraham, and seized White, whom he brought away about midnight, in a hackney-coach, and lodged him in the round-house.
White being secured, information was given to Wild that a man named James Aires was then at the Bell Inn, Smithfield, in company with a woman of the town. Having an information against Aires, Wild, accompanied by his assistants, repaired to the inn, under the gateway of which they met Thurland, whose person had been mistaken for that of Aires. Thurland was provided with two brace of pistols; but, being suddenly seized, he was deprived of all opportunity of making use of those weapons, and taken into custody.
They went on the following night to a house in White Horse Alley, Drury Lane, where they apprehended Chapman, alias Darvel. Soon after the murder of Mrs. Knap, Chapman and others stopped the coach of Thomas Middlethwaite, Esq., but that gentleman escaped being robbed by discharging a blunderbuss, and wounding Chapman in the arm, on which the villains retired.
In a short time after, Wild apprehended Isaac Rag at a house which he frequented in St. Giles's, in consequence of an information charging him with a burglary. Being taken before a magistrate, in the course of his examination Hag impeached twenty-two accomplices, charging them with being housebreakers, footpads, and receivers of stolen effects; and, in consequence thereof, was admitted an evidence for the crown. This man had been convicted of a misdemeanour in January, 1714-15, and sentenced to stand three times in the pillory. He had concealed himself in the dust-hole belonging to the house of Thomas Powell, where being discovered, he was searched, and a pistol, some matches, and a number of pick-lock keys, were found in his possession. His intention was evidently to commit a burglary; but, as he did not enter the house, he was indicted for a misdemeanour in entering the yard with intent to steal. He was indicted on October, 1715, for a burglary, in the house of Elizabeth Stanwell, on the 24th of August; but he was acquitted of this charge.
White, Thurland, and Chapman, were arraigned on the 18th of May, 1716, at the sessions-house in the Old Bailey, on an indictment for assaulting John Knap, Gent, putting him in fear, and taking from him a hat and wig, on the 3ist of March, 1716. They were also indicted for the murder of Mary Knap, widow: White by discharging a pistol loaded with powder and bullets, and thereby giving her a wound, of which she immediately died, March 31st 1716. They were a second time indicted for assaulting and robbing John Gough. White was a fourth time indicted with James Russel for a burglary in the house of George Barklay. And Chapman was a fourth time indicted for a burglary in the house of Henry Cross. These three offenders were executed at Tyhurn on the 8th of June, 1716.
Wild was indefatigable in his endeavours to apprehend Timothy Dun, who had hitherto escaped the hands of justice by removing to a new lodging, where he concealed himself in the most cautious manner. Wild however, did not despair of discovering this offender, whom he supposed must either perish through want of the necessaries of life, or obtain the means of subsistence by returning to his felonious practices; and so confident was he of success, that he made a wager of ten guineas that he would have him in custody before the expiration of an appointed time.
Dun's confinement, at length, became exceedingly irksome to him; and he sent his wife to make inquiries respecting him of Wild, in order to discover whether he was still in danger of being apprehended. Upon her return Wild ordered one of his people to follow her home. She took water at Blackfriars, and landed at the Falcon; but suspecting the man was employed to trace her, she again took water, and crossed to Whitefriars: observing that she was still followed, she ordered the waterman to proceed to Lambeth, and having landed there, it being nearly dark, imagined she had escaped the observation of Wild's man, and therefore walked immediately home. The man traced her to Maid Lane, near the Bankside, Southwark, and perceiving her enter a house, he marked the wall with chalk, and then returned to his employer, with an account of the discovery he had made.
Wild, accompanied by a fellow named Abraham, a Jew, who acted the part himself had formerly done to the worthless marshal, one Riddlesden, and another man, went on the following morning to the house where the woman had been seen to enter. Dun, hearing a noise, and thence suspecting that he was discovered, got through a back- window on the second floor upon the roof of the pantry, the bottom of which was about eight feet from the ground. Abraham discharged a pistol, and wounded Dun in the arm; in consequence of which he fell from the pantry into the yard; after his fall Riddlesden fired also, and wounded him in the face with small-shot. Bun was secured and carried to Newgate, and being tried at the ensuing sessions, was soon after executed at Tyburn.
Riddlesden was bred to the law, but he entirely neglected that business, and abandoned himself to every species of wickedness. His irregular course of life having greatly embarrassed his circumstances, he broke into the chapel of Whitehall, and stole the communion-plate. He was convicted of this offence, and received sentence of death; but, through the exertion of powerful interest, a pardon was obtained, on condition of transporting himself for the term of seven years. He went to America, but soon returned to England, and had the address to ingratiate himself into the favour of a young lady, daughter to an opulent merchant at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Before he could get his wife's fortune, which was considerable, into his hands, he was discovered and committed to Newgate. She followed him, and was brought to bed in the prison. Her friends, however, being apprised of her unhappy situation, caused her to return home. He contracted an intimacy with the widow of Richard Revel, one of the turnkeys of Newgate; and, being permitted to transport himself again, that woman went with him to Philadelphia, under the character of his wife. In consequence, however, of a disagreement between them, Mrs. Revel returned, and took a public house in Golden Lane; but what became of Riddlesden does not appear.
One night, during the connexion of Wild with Hitchin the city marshal, being abroad in their walks, not far from the Temple, they discovered a clergyman standing against the wall, in an alley, to which he had retired, as persons frequently do, on account of modesty and decency. Immediately a woman of the town, lying in wait for prey, brushing by, the clergyman exclaimed aloud, 'What does the woman want?' The marshal instantly rushed in upon them, and seized the clergyman, bidding his man secure the woman. The clergyman resisted, protesting his innocence which his language to the woman confirmed; but, finding it to no purpose, he at last desired that he might be permitted to go into an ironmonger's house near. This the marshal refused, and dragged the clergyman to the end of Salisbury Court, in Fleet Street, where he raised a mob about him; and two or three gentlemen, who knew the parson, happening to come by, asked the mob what they were doing with him, telling them be was chaplain to a noble lord. The rough gentry answered, 'Damn but, we believe he's chaplain to the devil, for we caught him with a whore.'
Hereupon the gentlemen desired the marshal to go to a tavern, that they might talk with him without noise and tumult, which he consented to. When they came into the tavern, the clergyman asked the marshal by what authority he thus abused him. The marshal replied he was a city officer (pulling out his staff), and would have him to the Compter, unless he gave very good security for his appearance next morning, when he would swear that he caught him with a whore.
The clergyman seeing him so bent upon perjury, which would very much expose him, sent for other persons to vindicate his reputation, who, putting a purse of gold into the marshal's hand (which they found was the only way to deal with such a monster in iniquity), the clergyman was permitted to depart.
A thief of most infamous character, named Arnold Powel, being confined in Newgate, on a charge of having robbed a house in the neighbourhood of Golden Square of property to a great amount, was visited by Jonathan, who informed him that, in consideration of a sum of money, he would save his life; adding that, if the proposal was rejected, he should inevitably die at Tyburn for the offence on account of which he was then imprisoned. The prisoner, however, not believing that it was in Wild's power to do him any injury, bade him defiance. Powel was brought to trial; but, through a defect of evidence, he was acquitted. Having gained intelligence that Powel had committed a burglary in the house of Mr. Eastlick, near Fleet Ditch, Wild caused that gentleman to prosecute the robber. Upon receiving information that a bill was found for the burglary, Powel sent for Wild, and a compromise was effected according to the terms which Wild himself had proposed, in consequence of which Powel was assured that his life should be preserved. Upon the approach of the sessions, Wild informed the prosecutor that the first and second days would be employed in other trials, and, as he was willing Mr. Eastlick should avoid attending with his witnesses longer than was necessary, he would give timely notice when Powel would be arraigned. But he contrived to have the prisoner put to the bar; and, no persons appearing to prosecute he was ordered to be taken away; but after some time he was again set to the bar, then ordered away, and afterwards put up a third time, proclamation being made each time for the prosecutor to appear. At length the jury were charged with the prisoners and, as no accusation was adduced against him, he was necessarily dismissed and the Court ordered Mr. Eastlick's recognisances to be estreated.
Powel was ordered to remain in custody till the next sessions, there being another indictment against him; and Mr. Eastlick represented the behaviour of Wild to the Court, who justly reprimanded him with great severity.
Powel put himself into a salivation, in order to avoid being brought to trial the next sessions; but, notwithstanding this stratagem, he was arraigned and convicted, and executed on the 20th of March, 1716-7.
At this time Wild had quitted his apartments at Mrs. Seagoe's, and hired a house adjoining to the Coopers' Arms, on the opposite side of the Old Bailey. The unexampled villainies of this man were now become an object of so much consequence, as to excite the particular attention of the legislature. In the year 1718 an act was passed, deeming every person guilty of a capital offence who should accept a reward in consequence of restoring stolen effects without prosecuting the thief. It was the general opinion that this law would effectually suppress the iniquitous practices of Wild; but, after some interruption to his proceedings, he devised means for evading it, which were for several years attended with success.
He now declined the custom of receiving money from the persons who applied to him; but, upon the second or third time of calling, informed them that all he had been able to learn respecting their business was, that, if a sum of money was left at an appointed place, their property would be restored the same day.
Sometimes, as the person robbed was returning from Wild's house, he was accosted in the street by a man who delivered the stolen effects, at the same time producing a note, expressing the sum that was to be paid for them.
In cases wherein he supposed danger was to be apprehended, he advised people to advertise that whoever would bring the stolen goods to Jonathan Wild should be rewarded, and no questions asked.
In the two first instances it could not be proved that he either saw the thief, received the goods, or accepted of a reward; and in the latter case he acted agreeably to the directions of the injured party, and there appeared no reason to criminate him as being in confederacy with the felons.
When he was asked what would satisfy him for his trouble, he told the persons who had recovered their property that what he had done was without any interested view, and merely from a principle of doing good; that therefore he made no claim; but, if he accepted a present, he should not consider it as being his due, but as an instance of generosity, which he should acknowledge accordingly.
Our adventurer's business increased exceedingly, and he opened an office in Newtoner's Lane, to the management of which he appointed his man Abraham. This Israelite proved a remarkably industrious and faithful servant to Jonathan, who intrusted him with matters of the greatest importance.
By too strict an application to business Wild much impaired his health, so that he judged it prudent to retire into the country for a short time. he hired a lodging at Dulwich, leaving both offices under the direction of Abraham.
A lady had her pocket picked of bank-notes to the amount of seven thousand pounds. She related the particulars of her robbery to Abraham, who in a few days apprehended three pickpockets, and conducted them to Jonathan's lodgings at Dulwich. Upon their delivering up all the notes, Wild dismissed them. When the lady applied to Abraham, he restored her property, and she generously made him a present of four hundred pounds, which he delivered to his employer. These three pickpockets were afterwards apprehended for some other offences, and transported. One of them carefully concealed a bank-note for a thousand pounds in the lining of his coat. On his arrival at Maryland, he procured cash for the note, and, having purchased his freedom, went to New York, where he assumed the character of a gentleman.
Wild's business would not permit him to remain long at Dulwicb; and being under great inconvenience from the want of Abraham's immediate assistance, he did not keep open his office in Newtoner's Lane for more than three months.
About a week after the return of Jonathan from Dulwich, a mercer in Lombard Street ordered a porter to carry to a particular inn a box containing goods to the amount of two hundred pounds. In his way the porter was observed by three thieves, one of whom, being more genteelly dressed than his companions, accosted the man in the following manner: 'If you are willing to earn sixpence, my friend, step to the tavern at the end of the street, and ask for the roquelaure I left at the bar; but, lest the waiter should scruple giving it to you, take my gold watch as a token. Pitch your burden upon this bulk, and I will take care of it till you return; but be sure you make haste.' The man went to the tavern, and, having delivered his message, was informed that the thing he inquired for had not been left there; upon which the porter said, 'Since you scruple to trust me, look at this gold watch, which the gentleman gave me to produce as a token.' What was called a gold watch, being examined, proved to be only pewter lacquered. In consequence of this discovery, the porter hastened back to where he had left the box; but neither that nor the sharpers were to be found.
The porter was, with reason, apprehensive that he should incur his master's displeasure if be related what had happened; and, in order to excuse his folly, he determined upon the following stratagem -- he rolled himself in the mud, and then went home, saying he had been knocked down, and robbed of the goods. The proprietor of the goods applied to Wild, and related to him the story he had been told by his servant. Wild told him he had been deceived as to the manner in which the trunk was lost, and that he should be convinced of it if he would send for the porter. A messenger was accordingly dispatched for him, and, upon his arrival, Abraham conducted him into a room separated from the office only by a slight partition. 'Your master,' said Abraham, 'has just been here concerning the box you lost; and he desired that you might be sent for, in order to communicate the particulars of the robbery. -- What kind of people were the thieves, and in what manner did they take the box away? ' In reply the man said, 'Why, two or three fellows knocked me down, and then carried off the box.' Hereupon Abraham told him, that, ' if they knocked him down, there was but little chance of the property being recovered, since that offence rendered them liable to be hanged. 'But,' continued he, 'Let me prevail on you to speak the truth; for, if you persist in a refusal, be assured we shall discover it by some other means. Pray, do you recollect nothing about a token? Were you not to fetch a roquelaure from a tavern? and did you not produce a gold watch as a token to induce the waiter to deliver it?' -- Astonished at Abraham's words, the porter declared 'he believed he was a witch,' and immediately acknowledged in what manner he had lost the box.
One of the villains concerned in the above transaction lived in the house formerly inhabited by Wild, in Cock Alley, near Cripplegate. To this place Jonathan and Abraham repaired, and when they were at the door, they overheard a dispute between the man and his wife, during which the former declared that he would set out for Holland the next day. Upon this they forced open the door; and Wild, saying he was under the necessity of preventing his intended voyage, took him into custody, and conducted him to the Compter. 0mm the following day, the goods being returned to the owner, Wild received a handsome reward; and he contrived to procure the discharge of the thief.
On the 23d or 24th of January, 1718-19, Margaret Dodwell and Alice Wright went to Wild's house, and desired to have a private interview with him. Observing one of these women to be with child, he imagined she might want a father to her expected issue; for it was a part of his business to procure persons to stand in the place of the real fathers of children born in consequence of illicit commerce. Being shown into another room, Dodwell spoke in the following manner:-- 'I do not come, Mr. Wild, to inform you that I have met with any loss, but that I wish to find something. If you will follow my advice, you may acquire a thousand pounds, or perhaps many thousands.' Jonathan here expressed the utmost willingness to engage in an enterprise so highly lucrative, and the woman proceeded thus: 'My plan is this: you must procure two or three stout resolute fellows who will undertake to rob a house in Wormwood Street, near Bishopsgate.
This house is kept by a cane chair maker, named John Cooke, who has a lodger, an ancient maiden lady, immensely rich; and she keeps her money in a box in her apartment; she is now gone into the country to fetch more. One of the men must find an opportunity of getting into the shop in the evening, and conceal himself in a sawpit there: he may let his companions in when the family are retired to rest. But it will be particularly necessary to secure two stout apprentices, and a boy, who lie in the garret. I wish, however, that no murder may be committed.' Upon this Wright said, 'Phoo! phoo! when people engage in matters of this sort, they must manage as well as they can, and so as to provide for their own safety.' Dodwell now resumed her discourse to Jonathan. 'The boys having been secured, no kind of difficulty will attend getting possession of the old lady's money, she being from home, and her room under that where the boys sleep. In the room facing that of the old lady, Cooke and his wife lie: he is a man of remarkable courage; great caution, therefore, must be observed respecting him; and indeed I think it would be as well to knock him on the head; for then his drawers may be rifled, and he is never without money. A woman and a child lie under the room belonging to tho old lady, but I hope no violence will be offered to them.'
Having heard the above proposal, Wild took the women into custody, and lodged them in Newgate. It is not to be supposed that his conduct in this affair proceeded from a principle of virtue or justice, but that he declined engaging in the iniquitous scheme from an apprehension that their design was to draw him into a snare.
Dodwell had lived five months in Mr. Cooke's house, and, though she paid no rent, he was too generous to turn her out, or in any manner to oppress her. Wild prosecuted Dodwell and Wright for a misdemeanour, and, being found guilty, they were sentenced each to six months' imprisonment.
Wild had inserted in his book a gold watch, a quantity of fine lace, and other property of considerable value, which one John Butler had stolen from a house at Newington Green; but Butler, instead of coming to account as usual, had declined his felonious practices, and lived on the produce of his booty. Wild, highly enraged at being excluded his share, determined to pursue every possible means for subjecting him to the power of justice.
Being informed that he lodged at a public house in Bishopsgate Street, Wild went to the house early one morning, when Butler, hearing him ascending the stairs, jumped out of the window of his room, and, climbing over the wall of the yard, got into the street. Wild broke open the door of the room; but was exceedingly disappointed and mortified to find that the man of whom he was in pursuit had escaped. In the mean time Butler ran into a house, the door of which stood open, and, descending to the kitchen, where some women were washing, told them he was pursued by a bailiff, and they advised him to conceal himself in the coal-hole.
Jonathan, coming out of the ale-house, and seeing a shop on the opposite side of the way open, he inquired of the master, who was a dyer, whether a man had not taken refuge in his house. The dyer answered in the negative, saying he had not left his shop more than a minute since it had been opened. Wild requested to search the house, and the dyer readily complied. Wild asked the women if they knew whether a man had taken shelter in the house, which they denied; but, informing them that the man he sought was a thief, they said he would find him in the coal-hole.
Having procured a candle, Wild and his attendants searched the place without effect, and they examined every part of the house with no better success. He observed that the villain must have escaped into the street; on which the dyer said that could not be the case; that if he had entered, he must still be in the house, for he had not quitted the shop, and it was impossible that a man could pass to the street without his knowledge; advising Wild to search the cellar again. They now all went into the cellar, and, after some time spent in searching, the dyer turned up a large vessel, used in his business, and Butler appeared. Wild asked him in what manner he had disposed of the goods he stole from Newington Green, upbraided him as being guilty of ingratitude, and declared that he should certainly be hanged.
Butler, however, knowing the means by which an accommodation might be effected, directed our hero to go to his lodging, and look behind the head of the bed, where he would find what would recompense him for his time and trouble. Wild went to the place, and found what perfectly satisfied him; but, as Butler had been apprehended in a public manner, the other was under the necessity of taking him before a magistrate, who committed him for trial. He was tried the ensuing sessions at the Old Bailey; but, by the artful management of Wild, instead of being condemned to die, he was only sentenced to transportation.
Being at an inn in Smithfield, Wild observed a large trunk in the yard, and, imagining that it contained property of value, he hastened home, and instructed one of the thieves he employed to carry it off. The man he used in this matter was named Jeremiah Rann, and he was reckoned one of the most dexterous thieves in London. Having dressed himself so as exactly to resemble a porter, he carried away the trunk without being observed.
Mr. Jarvis, a whipmaker by trade, and the proprietor of the trunk, had no sooner discovered his loss than he applied to Wild, who returned him the goods, in consideration of receiving ten guineas. Some time after, a disagreement taking place between Jonathan and Rann, the former apprehended the latter, who was tried and condemned to die. The day preceding that on which Rann was executed he sent for Mr. Jarvis, and related to him all the particulars of the trunk. Wild was threatened with a prosecution by Mr. Jarvis; but all apprehensions arising hence were soon dissipated by the decease of that gentleman.
Wild, being much embarrassed in endeavouring to find out some method by which he might safely dispose of the property that was not claimed by the respective proprietors, revolved in his mind a variety of schemes; but at length he adopted that which follows: he purchased a sloop, in order to transport the goods to Holland and Flanders, and gave the command of the vessel to a notorious thief, named Roger Johnson.
Ostend was the port where this vessel principally traded but, when the goods were not disposed of there, Johnson navigated her to Bruges, Ghent, Brussels, and other places. He brought home lace, wine, brandy, etc., and these commodities were landed in the night, without making any increase to the business of the revenue officers. This trade was continued about two years, when, five pieces of lace being lost, Johnson deducted the value of them from the mate's pay. Violently irritated by this conduct, the mate lodged an information against Johnson for running a great quantity of various kinds of goods.
In consequence of this the vessel was exchequered, Johnson cast in damages to the amount of 700L. and the commercial proceedings were entirely ruined.
A disagreement had for some time subsisted between Johnson and Thomas Edwards, who kept a house of resort for thieves in Long Lane, concerning the division of some booty. Meeting one day in the Strand, they charged each other with felony, and were both taken into custody. Wild bailed Johnson, and Edwards was not prosecuted. The latter had no sooner recovered his liberty than he gave information against Wild, whose private warehouses being searched, a great quantity of stolen goods were there found. Wild now arrested Edwards in the name of Johnson, to whom he pretended the goods belonged, and he was taken to the Marshalsea, but the next day procured bail. Edwards determined to wreak his revenge upon Johnson, and for some time industriously sought him in vain; but, meeting him accidentally in Whitechapel Road, he gave him into the custody of a peace-officer, who conducted him to an adjacent alehouse. Johnson sent for Wild, who immediately attended, accompanied by his man, Quilt Arnold. Wild promoted a riot, during which Johnson availed himself of an opportunity of effecting an escape.
Information being made against Wild for the rescue of Johnson, he judged it prudent to abscond, and he remained concealed for three weeks; at the end of which time, supposing all danger to be over, he returned to his house. Being apprised of this, Mr. Jones, high-constable of Holborn division, went to Jonathan's house in the Old Bailey, on the 15th of February, 1725, apprehended him and Quilt Arnold, and took them before Sir John Fryer, who committed them to Newgate on a charge of having assisted in the escape of Johnson.
On Wednesday, the 24th of the same month, Wild moved to be either admitted to bail or discharged, or brought to trial that sessions. On the following Friday a warrant of detainer was produced against him in Court, and to it was affixed the following articles of information:
I. That for many years he had been a confederate with great numbers of highwaymen, pickpockets, housebreakers, shop-lifters, and other thieves.
II. That he had formed a kind of corporation of thieves, of which he was the head or director; and that notwithstanding his pretended services, in detecting and prosecuting offenders, he procured such only to be hanged as concealed their booty, or refused to share it with him.
M. That he had divided the town and country into so many districts, and appointed distinct gangs for each, who regularly accounted with him for their robberies. That he had also a particular set to steal at churches in time of divine service: and likewise other moving detachments to attend at Court on birthdays, balls, &c, and at both houses of parliament, circuits, and country fairs.
IV. That the persons employed by him were for the most part felon convicts, who had returned from transportation before the time for which they were transported was expired; and that he made choice of them to be his agents, because they could not be legal evidences against him, and because he had it in his power to take from them what part of the stolen goods he thought fit, and otherwise use them ill, or hang them, as he pleased.
V. That he had from time to time supplied such convicted felons with money and clothes, and lodged them in his own house, the better to conceal them: particularly some against whom there are now informations for counterfeiting and diminishing broad pieces and guineas.
VI. That he had not only been a receiver of stolen goods, as well as of writings of all kinds, for near fifteen years past, but had frequently been a confederate, and robbed along with the above-mentioned convicted felons.
VII. That in order to carry on these vile practices, and to gain some credit with the ignorant multitude, he usually carried a short silver staff, as a badge of authority from the government, which he used to produce when he himself was concerned in robbing.
VIII. That he had, under his care and direction, several warehouses for receiving and concealing stolen goods; and also a ship for carrying off jewels, watches, and other valuable goods, to Holland, where he had a superannuated thief for his factor.
IX. That he kept in pay several artists to make alterations, and transform watches, seals, snuff-boxes, rings, and other valuable things, that they might not be known, several of which he used to present to such persons as he thought might be of service to him.
X. That he seldom or never helped the owners to the notes and papers they had lost unless he found them able exactly to specify and describe them, and then often insisted on more than half the value.
XI. And, lastly, it appears that he has often sold human blood, by procuring false evidence to swear persons into facts they were not guilty of; sometimes to prevent them from being evidences against himself, and at other times for the sake of the great reward given by the government.
The information of Mr. Jones was also read in Court, setting forth that two persons would be produced to accuse the prisoner of capital offences. The men alluded to in the above affidavit were John Follard and Thomas Butler, who had been convicted; but, it being deemed expedient to grant them a pardon on condition of their appearing in support of a prosecution against Wild, they pleaded to the same, and were remanded to Newgate till the next sessions.
Saturday, the 12th of April, Wild, by counsel, moved that his trial might be postponed till the ensuing sessions; and an affidavit made by the prisoner was read in Court, purporting that till the preceding evening he was entirely ignorant of a bill having been found against him that he knew not what offence he was charged with, and was unable to procure two material witnesses, one of them living near Brentford, and the other in Somersetshire. This was opposed by the counsel for the crown, who urged that it would be improper to defer the trial on so frivolous a pretext as that made by the prisoner; that the affidavit expressed an ignorance of what offence he was charged w1th, and yet declared that two nameless persons were material witnesses.
The prisoner informed the Court that his witnesses were Hays, at the Pack Horse, on Turnham Green, and Wilson, a clothier, at Frome; adding that he had heard it slightly intimated that he was indicted for a felony upon a person named Stretham. Wild's counsel moved that the names of Hays and Wilson might be inserted in the affidavit, and that it should be again sworn to by the prisoner. The counsel for the prosecution observed that justice would not be denied the prisoner, though it could not be reasonably expected that he would be allowed any extraordinary favours or indulgences. Follard and Butler were, at length, bound each in the penalty of 500L. to appear at the ensuing sessions, when it was agreed that Wild's fate should be determined.
Saturday, May 15, 1725, Jonathan Wild was indicted for privately stealing in the house of Catherine Stretham, in the parish of St. Andrew, Holborn, fifty yards of lace, the property of the said Catherine, on the 22nd of January, 1724-5. He was a second time indicted for feloniously receiving from the said Catherine, on the 10th of March, ten guineas, on account, and under pretence, of restoring the said lace, without apprehending and prosecuting the felon who stole the property.
Previous to his trial Wild distributed among the jurymen, and other persons who were walking on the leads before the Court, a great number of printed papers, under the title of 'A List of Persons discovered, apprehended, and convicted of several Robberies on the Highway; and also for Burglary and Housebreaking; and also for returning from Transportation: by Jonathan Wild.' This list contained the names of thirty-five for robbing on the highway, twenty-two for housebreaking, and ten for returning from transportation. To the list was annexed the following Nota Bene:--
'Several others have been also convicted for the like crimes, but, remembering not the persons' names who had been robbed, I omit the criminals' names.
'Please to observe that several others have been also convicted for shop-lifting, picking of pockets, &c., by the female sex, which are capital crimes, and which are too tedious to be inserted here, and the prosecutors not willing of being exposed.
'In regard, therefore, of the numbers above convicted, some, that have yet escaped justice, are endeavouring to take away the life of the said
The prisoner, being put to the bar, requested that the witnesses might be examined apart, which was complied with. Henry Kelly deposed that by the prisoner's direction he went, in company with Margaret Murphy, to the prosecutor's shop, under pretence of buying some lace; that he stole a tin box, and gave it to Murphy in order to deliver to Wild, who waited in the street for the purpose of receiving their booty, and rescuing them if they should be taken into custody; that they returned together to Wild's house, where the box, being opened, was found to contain eleven pieces of lace; that Wild said he could afford to give no more than five guineas, as he should not be able to get more than ten guineas for returning the goods to the owner; that he received, as his share, three guineas and a crown, and that Murphy had what remained of the five guineas.
Margaret Murphy was next sworn, and her evidence corresponded in every particular with that of the former witness.
Catherine Stretham, the elder, deposed that, between three and four in the afternoon of the 22d of January, a man and woman came to her house, pretending that they wanted to purchase some lace; that she showed them two or three parcels, to the quality and price of which they objected; and that in about three minutes after they had left the shop she missed a tin box, containing a quantity of lace, the value of which she estimated at 50L.
The prisoner's counsel observed that it was their opinion he could not be legally convicted, because the indictment positively expressed that he stole the lace in the house, whereas it had been proved in evidence that he was at a considerable distance when the fact was committed. They allowed that he might be liable to conviction as an accessory before the fact, or guilty of receiving the property, knowing it to be stolen; but conceived that he could not be deemed guilty of a capital felony unless the indictment declared (as the act directs) that he did assist, command, or hire.
Lord Raymond presided when Wild was tried, and, in summing up the evidence, his lordship observed that the guilt of the prisoner was a point beyond all dispute; but that, as a similar case was not to he found in the law-books, it became his duty to act with great caution; he was not perfectly satisfied that the construction urged by the counsel for the crown could be put upon the indictment; and, as the life of a fellow-creature was at stake, recommended the prisoner to the mercy of the jury, who brought in their verdict Not Guilty.
Wild was indicted a second time for an offence committed during his confinement in Newgate. The indictment being opened by the counsel for the crown, the following clause in an act passed in the 4th year of Geo. I. was ordered to be read:
'And whereas there are divers persons who have secret acquaintance with felons, and who make it their business to help persons to their stolen goods, and by that means gain money from them, which is divided between them and the felons, whereby they greatly encourage such offenders: -- Be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that whenever any person taketh money or reward, directly or indirectly, under pretence, or upon account, of helping any person or persons to any stolen goods or chattels, every such person so taking money or reward as aforesaid (unless such person do apprehend or cause to be apprehended, such felon who stole time same, and give evidence against him) shall be guilty of felony, according to the nature of the felony committed in stealing such goods, and in such and the same manner as if such offender had stolen such goods and chattels in the manner, and with such circumstances, as the same were stolen.'
Catherine Stretham deposed to the following effect: A box of lace being stolen out of my shop on the 22d of January, I went in the evening of the same day to the prisoner's house, in order to employ him in recovering my goods; but, not finding him at home, I advertised them, offering a reward of fifteen guineas, and saying no questions should be asked. The advertisement proved ineffectual. I therefore went again to the prisoner's house, and by his desire gave the best description that I was able of the persons I suspected to be the robbers; and, promising to make inquiry after my property, he desired me to call again in two or three days. I attended him a second time, when he informed me that he had learnt something concerning my goods, and expected more particular information in a short time.
During this conversation we were joined by a man who said he had reason to suspect that one Kelly, who had been tried for circulating plated shillings, was concerned in stealing the lace. I went to the prisoner again on the day he was apprehended, and informed him that, though I had advertised a reward of no more than fifteen, I would give twenty or twenty-five guineas, rather than not recover my property; upon which he desired me not to be in too great a hurry, and said the people who had the lace were gone out of town, but that he would contrive to foment a disagreement between them, by which means he should be enabled to recover the goods on more easy terms. He sent me word, on the 10th of March, that if I would attend him in Newgate, and bring ten guineas with me, the goods should be returned. I went to the prisoner, who desired a person to call a porter, and then gave me a letter, saying it was the direction he had received where to apply for the lace. I told him I could not read, and gave the letter to the man he had sent for, who appeared to be a ticket-porter.
The prisoner then told me I must give the porter ten guineas, that he might pay the people who had my goods, otherwise they would not return them. I gave the money, and the man went out of the prison; but in a short time he returned with a box sealed up, though it was not the box I lost. I opened it, and found all my lace, excepting one piece. I asked the prisoner what satisfaction be expected; and he answered, Not a farthing; I have no interested views in matters of this kind, but act from a principle of serving people under misfortune. I hope I shall soon he able to recover the other piece of lace, and to return you the ten guineas, and perhaps cause the thief to be apprehended. For the service I can render you I shall only expect your prayers. I have many enemies, and know not what will be the consequence of this imprisonment.'
The prisoner's counsel argued that as Murphy had deposed that Wild, Kelly, and herself, were concerned in the felony, the former could by no means be considered as coming within the description of the act on which the indictment was founded, for the act in question was not meant to operate against the actual perpetrators of felony, but to subject such persons to punishment as held a correspondence with felons.
The counsel for the crown observed that, from the evidence adduced, no doubt could remain of the prisoner's coming under the meaning of the act, since it had been proved that he had engaged in combinations with felons, and had not discovered them.
The judge recapitulated the arguments enforced on each side, and was of opinion that the case of the prisoner was clearly within the meaning of the act for it was plain that he had maintained a secret correspondence with felons, and received money for restoring stolen goods to the owners, which money was divided between him and the felons, whom he did not prosecute. The jury pronounced him guilty, and he was executed at Tyburn on Monday, the 24th of May, 1725, along with Robert Harpham.
Wild, when he was under sentence of death, frequently declared that he thought the service he had rendered the public in returning the stolen goods to the owners, and apprehending felons, was so great as justly to entitle him to the royal mercy. He said that, had he considered his ease as being desperate, he should have taken timely measures for inducing some powerful friend at Wolverhampton to intercede in his favour; and that he thought it not unreasonable to entertain hopes of obtaining a pardon through the interest of some of the dukes, earls, and other persons of high distinction, who had recovered their property through his means. It was observed to him that he had trained up a great number of thieves, and must he conscious that he had not enforced the execution of the law from any principle of virtue, but had sacrificed the lives of a great number of his accomplices, in order to provide for his own safety, and to gratify his desire of revenge against such as had incurred his displeasure.
He was observed to be in an unsettled state of mind, and, being asked whether he knew the cause thereof, he said he attributed his disorder to the many wounds he had received in apprehending felons, and particularly mentioned two fractures of his skull, and his throat being cut by Blueskin.
He declined attending divine service in the chapel, excusing himself on account of his infirmities, and saying that there were many people highly exasperated against him, and therefore he could not expect but that his devotions would he interrupted by their insulting behaviour. He said he had fasted four days, which had greatly increased his weakness. He asked the Ordinary the meaning of the words 'Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree;' and what was the state of the soul immediately after its departure from the body. He was advised to direct his attention to matters of more importance, and sincerely to repent of the crimes he had committed.
By his desire the Ordinary administered the sacrament to him, and during the ceremony he appeared to be somewhat attentive and devout. The evening preceding the day on which he suffered he inquired of the ordinary whether self-murder could be deemed a crime, since many of the Greeks and Romans, who had put a period to their own lives, were so honourably mentioned by historians. He was informed that the most wise and learned heathens accounted those guilty of the greatest cowardice who had not fortitude sufficient to maintain themselves in the station to which they had been appointed by the providence of Heaven; and that the Christian doctrines condemned the practice of suicide in the most express terms.
He pretended to be convinced that self-murder was a most impious crime; but about two in the morning he endeavoured to put an end to his life by drinking laudanum: however, on account of the largeness of the dose, and his having fasted for a considerable time, no other effect was produced than drowsiness, or a kind of stupefaction. The situation of Wild being observed by two of his fellow-prisoners, they advised him to rouse his spirits, that he might be able to attend to the devotional exercises, and, taking him by the arms, they obliged him to walk, which he could not have done alone, being much afflicted with the gout. The exercise revived him a little, but he presently became exceedingly pale, then grew very faint; a profuse sweating ensued, and soon afterwards his stomach discharged the greatest part of the laudanum. Though he was somewhat recovered, he was nearly in a state of insensibility; and in this situation he was put into the cart and conveyed to Tyburn.
On his way to the place of execution the populace treated this offender with remarkable severity, incessantly pelting him with stones, dirt, &c. and execrating him as the most consummate villain that had ever disgraced human nature.
Upon his arrival at Tyburn he appeared to be much recovered from the effects of the laudanum; and the executioner informed him that a reasonable time would be allowed him for preparing himself for the important change that he must soon experience. Tie continued sitting some time in the cart; but the populace were at length so enraged at the indulgence shown him, that they outrageously called to the executioner to perform the duties of his office, violently threatening him with instant death if he presumed any longer to delay. He judged it prudent to comply with their demands, and when he began to prepare for the execution the popular clamour ceased.
About two o'clock on the following morning the remains of Wild were interred in St. Pancras Churchyard; but a few nights afterwards the body was taken up (for the use of the surgeons, as it was supposed). At midnight a hearse and six was waiting at the end of Fig Lane, where the coffin was found the next day.
Wild had by the woman he married at Wolverhampton a son about nineteen years old, who came to London a short time before the execution of his father. He was a youth of so violent and ungovernable a disposition, that it was judged prudent to confine him while his father was conveyed to Tyburn, lest he should create a tumult, and prove the cause of mischief among the populace. Soon after the death of his father he accepted a sum of money to become a servant in one of our plantations.
Besides the woman to whom he was married at Wolverhampton, five others lived with him under the pretended sanction of matrimony: the first was Mary Milliner; the second Judith Nun, by whom he had a daughter; the third Sarah Grigson, alias Perrin; the fourth Elizabeth Man, who cohabited with him above five years; the fifth, whose real name is uncertain, married some time after the death of Wild.
History can scarcely furnish an instance of such complicated villainy as was shown in the character of Jonathan Wild, who possessed abilities which, had they been properly cultivated, and directed into a right course, would have rendered him a respectable and useful member of society; but it is to be lamented that the profligate turn of mind which distinguished both in the early part of his life disposed him to adopt the maxims of the abandoned people with whom he became acquainted.
During his apprenticeship Wild was observed to be fond of reading; but, as his finances would not admit of his buying books, his studies were confined to such as casually fell in his way; and they unfortunately happened to contain those abominable doctrines to which thousands have owed the ruin of both their bodies and souls. In short, at an early period of life he imbibed the principles of deism and atheism; and the sentiments he thus early contracted he strictly adhered to nearly till the period of his dissolution.
Voluminous writings were formerly beyond the purchase of persons in the inferior classes of life; but the great encouragement that has of late years been given to the publication of weekly numbers has so liberally diffused the streams of knowledge, that but few even of the lower ranks of society can be sensible of any impediment to the gratification of the desire of literary acquirements.
Wild trained up and instructed his dependants in the practice of roguery; and, when they became the objects of his displeasure, he laboured with unremitting assiduity to procure their deaths. Thus his temporal and private interest sought gratification at the expense of every religious and moral obligation. We must conceive it to be impossible for a man acknowledging the existence of an Almighty Being to expect his favour, while devising the means of corrupting his fellow-creatures, and cutting them off even in the blossom of their sins: but the atheist, having nothing after this world either to hope or fear, is only careful to secure himself from detection; and the success of one iniquitous scheme naturally induces him to engage in others, and the latter actions are generally attended with circumstances of more aggravated guilt than the former.
There is a principle implanted in our nature, which will exert itself when we are approaching to a state of dissolution, and impress our minds with a full confidence in the existence of an eternal God, who will reward or punish us according to our deserts or demerits. Thus it happened to the miserable subject of these pages, who, when he had relinquished the hope of surviving the sentence of the law, anxiously inquired into the meaning of several texts of scripture, and concerning the intermediate state of the soul.
The horrors of his guilt rushed upon his conscience with such force that reflection became intolerable; and, instead of repenting of his enormous crimes, he employed the last of his moments that were enlightened by reason (the distinguished characteristic of humanity) in meditating the means of self-destruction.