The Life of ALICE GREEN
a Cheat, Thief and Housebreaker
Amongst these melancholy relations of misery and death, I fancy it is some ease to my readers, as well as to myself, when the course of my memoirs leads me to mention a story as full of incidents, and followed by a less tragic end than the rest. This woman, whose life I am about to relate, was the daughter of an under-officer to one of the colleges at Oxford. As the doctrine of making up small salaries by taking up large perquisites prevails there as well as elsewhere, Alice's father made a shift to keep himself, his wife and five children in a handsome manner out of L60 a year, and what he made besides of his place.
An affectation of gentility had infected the whole family, the old man had a good voice and played tolerably well on the fiddle. This drew abundance of the young smart fellows of the university to his house, and that of course engaged his three daughters to take all the pains they were able to make themselves agreeable. The mother had great hopes that fine clothes and a jaunty air might marry her daughters to some gentlemen of tolerable fortunes, and that one of them, at least, might have a chance of catching a fellow commoner with a thousand or two "per annum", for which reason Miss Molly, Miss Jenny, and Miss Alice were all bred to the dancing school, taught to sing prettily, and to touch the spinet with an agreeable air. In short, the house was a mansion of politeness, and except the two brothers, one of which was put out apprentice to a carpenter, and the other to a shoemaker, there was not a person to be seen in it who looked, spoke or acted as became them in their proper station of life. But it is necessary that we should come to a more particular description.
Old Peter, their father, was a man of mean birth, and of a sort of accidental education. From his youth up he had lived in Oxford, and from the time he was able to know anything, within the purlieus of a college, from whence he had gleaned up a few Latin sentences, scraps of poetry, and as the masterpiece of his improvements, had acquired a good knack of punning. All these mighty qualifications were bent to keep a good house, and drinking two or three quarts of strong ale, accompanied with a song, and two or three hours' scraping at night. The mother, again, was the last remnant of a decayed family, who charged its ruin on the Civil Wars. She was exceedingly puffed up with the notions of her birth, and the respect that was due to a person not sprung from the vulgar. Her education had extended no farther than the knowledge of preserving, pickling and making fricasees, a pretty exact knowledge in the several kinds of points and a judgment not to be despised in the choice of lace, silks and ribbons. She affected extravagance that she might not appear mean, and troublesomely ceremonious that she might not seem to want good manners. Clothes for herself and her daughters, a good quantity of china and some other exuberances of a fancy almost turned mad with the love of finery, made up the circle of what took up her thoughts, the daughters participating in their parents' tempers. But what was wonderful indeed, the sons were honest, sober, industrious young men.
In the midst of all this mirth and splendour, the father died, and left them all totally without support other than their own industry could procure for them, slender provision indeed! Miss Molly, the eldest, was about twenty-two at the time of her father's death, and her sisters were each of them younger than her, and Alice a year younger than Jenny, and about eighteen. The mother was at her wits' end to know how to procure a living for herself and them, but an old gentleman in one of the colleges, to whom Peter had been very useful, and who therefore retained a grateful sense of his service, was so kind as to give fifty pounds towards putting out the daughters, and took care to see the youngest Alice placed with a mantua-maker in London. Molly fell into a consumption, as was generally said, for the love of a young gentleman who used to spend his evenings at her father's, and who marrying a young lady of suitable birth and fortune to himself, was retired into Shropshire. Jenny ran away with a servitor, and was lost to her mother and her friends; so that Alice had it in her power to be tolerably provided for, if she had inclined to have lived virtuously, and not to have frustrated the offers of a good fortune. But she was wild and silly from her cradle, born without capacity to do good to herself, and indued only with such cunning as served her to ruin others.
The first intrigue she had after her coming up to London was with a young fellow who was clerk to a Justice of the Peace in the neighbourhood. Before be saw Alice he had been a careful, industrious young man, and through his master's kindness had picked up some money; but from the time that his master had a suit of clothes made up with Alice's mistress, and which occasioned her first coming about the house, poor Mr. Philip became the victim of her charms, and moped up and down like a hen that had lost her chickens. It was not long before the Justice's daughters found out his passion, and having communicated their discovery to the maids, exposed him to be the laughing stock of the whole house. Never was a poor young fellow so pestered! One asked him whether he liked the wife with three trades? Another was enquiring whether he had cast up the amount of remnants of silk, shreds of lace, and the savings that might be made out of linings, facings, and robings? The Justice took notice that Philip had left off reading the news, and the old lady wondered whether he had forgotten playing upon the organ in her husband's study. But all this served rather to increase than to abate his passion, so that he neglected no opportunity of meeting and paying his addresses to his mistress.
Alice was no less careful on her side, and in a short space it was agreed that she should run away from her mistress, of whom she was grown heartily weary, and that Philip should counterfeit most excessive grief at his loss, in order to prevent the least suspicion of his being privy thereto. Having adjusted this, it was not long before they put their design into execution, and Philip first having provided a lodging for her in Brewer Street, she, on a Sunday in the evening, when all the rest of the family were out, removed from her mistress's house in a court near the Strand, taking all that belonged to her in a hackney-coach, leaving the key at an alehouse. Philip had so good a character that the grief he affected on this occasion passed for reality upon all the house, and the flight of Alice had no other effect than to excite a new spring of railery on the loss of his mistress. He laid out the greatest part of what he had saved during five years' service in furnishing out two rooms for her very neatly, passing himself, where she lodged, for the son of a gentleman of fortune in the country, who had married against his friends' consent, and was therefore obliged to keep his wife in a place of privacy until things at home could be made easy.
For some time the lovers lived mighty happily together, and nothing was wanting to complete Philip's wishes than that they were married, for Alice never making such a proposal, now and then disturbed his thoughts, and put him a little out of humour. Things remained in this state with a little alteration for about five months, until an Irish captain coming to lodge pretty near where Philip had placed Alice, he found a way to see her twice or thrice, and being a fellow of a smooth tongue, a handsome person and an immoderate assurance, it was not long before he became master of her affections. The temper of Philip having been always too grave for her, in about three weeks' time she let the captain into the truth of the whole story, and at his persuasion, during the time Philip was at Surrey assizes, sold off the furniture of her lodgings, and directing a letter to be left for him at his master's house by the Penny Post, moved off with her new gallant.
It would be impossible, should I attempt to describe it, to describe the agony the poor young fellow was in at the receipt of Alice's epistle, in which she told him flatly she was weary of him and had got another gallant; and saying that if he tried to look after her or give her any other uneasiness, she would send a full account of all things to his master. The jilt was sensible this would keep him quiet, for as he depended solely upon his favour, so a story of this sort would have inevitably deprived him of it for ever. It answered her intent, and the force he put upon his passions cost him a severe fit of sickness.
Alice, in the meanwhile, indulged for about a week with her Irish captain, at the end of which he beat her and turned her out of doors. It was in vain for her to talk of her goods and her clothes; the captain had carried her amongst a set of his acquaintance, who on the first quarrel called her a thousand foolish English whores, and bid her go back to her Justice's clerk again. In the midst of her affliction, with nothing on but a linen gown, and about three shillings in her pocket, the watchman coming his rounds, found her sitting on the steps at the door where the captain lodged. He asked her what she did there, she said her husband and she had quarrelled and he had shut her out. The watchman was going away, satisfied with the answer, when the captain called out at the window, told him she was a street-walker, and bid him take her away. The landlady confirmed this, and the fellow laying fast hold of her shoulder, compelled her to go with him to the watch-house. However, a shilling procured her liberty and a favourable report to the constable that she was an honest young woman, who had the misfortune to be married to a bad husband, who turned her into the street, and she was afraid would not suffer her to come in again that night. Upon hearing this, the constable bid her sit down by the fire, gave her a glass of brandy and promised her she should be as safe and as easy as the place would allow her for that night.
But unluckily for Alice, as she went to take the glass out of the constable's hand, he knew her face, and happening to be the baker who served the mantua-maker with bread, where she lived, the next morning he conducted Mrs. Alice, much against her will, home to her mistress. One of her fellow-apprentices ran with the news to the Justice's, and one of the daughters whispered it in Philip's ears, as he was writing a recognizance in the Justice's book. Philip no sooner heard it but he fell down in a swoon, and about half an hour was spent before they could bring him again to himself. The young lady who had played him the trick, immediately quitted the room, and he opening his eyes, and perceiving her gone, pretended it was a sudden fit, and that he had been used to them when a child.
Much as he had suffered by this ungrateful woman, he took the first opportunity to go to a coffee-house within a door or two of her mistress, in order to learn what had become of her. There was but one person who had been trusted with his ever having visited her at all, and they too, were ignorant that she had ever run away with him. Philip therefore sent for his confidant, from whom he received information, that after snivelling and crying for a hour or two, she took advantage of being left alone in a parlour (although the door was locked), and getting out at the window into the backyard, made a shift to scramble over the top of the house of office into the court, and so made her escape to the waterside, where her mistress found she had taken a pair of oars. But though they followed her to Falcon Stairs, yet they were not able to retrieve her. Philip at this news was exceedingly grieved, and returned home again very disconsolate on this occasion.
Alice, in the meantime, lurked about in St. George's Fields till evening, and then crossing the bridge, walked on towards St. James's. However dirty and despicable her dress, yet as she had a very pretty face and a very engaging manner of speaking at first sight, she drew in a merchant's book-keeper, as she walked down Cornhill, to carry her to a certain tavern at the corner of Bishopsgate Street; where, after a good supper and a bottle or two of wine, she engaged him to take her to a lodging, and by degrees to give her a great deal of fine clothes, in return for which she flattered him so greatly that he grew as fond of her and as much a fool as ever Philip had been.
In the meantime her sister, who was much of her disposition, had been turned off by a young fellow she had run away with from Oxford, and in a miserable condition had trotted up to town, in order to see whether she could have better luck with another gallant. One night, as she was strolling through Leadenhall Street in her vocation, she saw her sister Alice and the book-keeper who kept her, walking home with a servant, and a candle and lanthorn before them. Jenny did not think fit to speak to them, but dogging them privately home, called upon her sister the next day and was mighty well received. The couple now took every opportunity (notwithstanding the allowance of the book-keeper) to enable Alice to stroll out with her together, and wandered about nightly in quest of adventures, till it began to grow towards ten o'clock, and the fear of a visit from her keeper drove Alice to her lodgings.
This trade, without any remarkable accident, was practised for about three months, when on a sudden the book-keeper vanished, and for three weeks' time Alice heard not a word of him. This threw both the sisters into a heavy peck of troubles, and the more because he had always kept it a secret in whose family he lived and went to the people where Alice lodged by another name than his own. However they got money enough by sparks they picked up to live pretty easily together, and that no misfortune might go too near their hearts, they fell to drinking a quart of brandy a day. It seems the woman at whose house they lodged was herself given to drinking, and so by treating her they fell into the same vice. The landlady in return was mighty civil to them, and every now and then invited them downstairs to drink with her.
One evening when they were below stairs, there happened to be some discourse about a trial at the Sessions House, whereupon Alice expressed her desire of seeing the trials, and her sister agreeing in the request, their landlady agreed to carry them the next morning. Accordingly they were at Sessions House by the time the Court was set, and the two young sluts were exceedingly merry at the wretched appearances the poor creatures made at the bar. In the midst of their mirth, a man was brought up to plead to his indictment, who had only a blanket wrapped over his shirt to keep him from the weather; they were laughing and talking to some of the people behind them, when Jenny patted her sister to take notice of what the man was charged with. Alice listened and heard the indictment read, which was for breaking open an escritoire and taking out of it ninety guineas, two diamond rings and a good tweezer. When the clerk had done reading, the criminal answered with a low voice, "Not Guilty", and the keeper thereupon took him from the bar. As he turned, his face being towards them, Alice saw that it was the book-keeper who had lived with her, and in a low voice whispered her sister, "As I hope to live, it is our Tom." They did not stay much longer, but began to consider as soon as they got home what was to be done. Alice was sensible that the tweezer-case mentioned in the indictment had been given her, and was under a thousand frights and fears that it should be discovered and was above all wondrous careful of her landlady, that she did not go any more to the trials that Sessions.
The day they heard that sentence was passed, Jenny went to one of the runners at Newgate, and giving him a shilling, asked what had become of such a person. The fellow answered that he was to be transported. Jenny came immediately home with the news to her sister. She shed a few tears and said, what if he should want in Newgate? "Nay", says Jenny, "let him want what he will, I'm sure you shall not be fool enough to pawn your things to relieve him"; and as her fit of compassion was soon over, so they determined to remove their lodgings for fear that if he were under necessity, as they could not well doubt he was, considering the figure he made at his trial, he might send to her. But they needed not to have been under any apprehensions of that sort, for shame and grief had brought him so low that the gaol distemper seizing on him, he died the same week he had been tried, and the runner to whom Jenny had given the shilling, remembering her face, stopped her in the street, and told her the news. When Alice heard it, she pretended to fall into fits, and express abundance of sorrow and concern. The sorrows were not, however, so deep but that brandy and two days' time effaced them so well that she dressed in the best manner she was able, in order to go out and look for a spark.
Unfortunately for her, her amours produced the usual consequence, a loathsome distemper, which seizing about the same both her sister and herself, through want of proper care, ruined both their constitutions; and the ill consequence being increased by the use of improper food, they were soon after in such a condition that their infamous trade of prostitution fell off, and they were in danger of starving and rotting. In this distress they knew not what to do, till at last advising with an old woman whom they had scraped acquaintance with, she readily offered them the use of her house, and to engage for them a surgeon, who should complete their cure. The sisters were overjoyed at this, and in a hurry accepted her offer, removing themselves and what little valuable movables they had the next week.
They were received with great courtesy and kindness, and the old woman, from an acquaintance of three weeks, assured them that they were no less dear to her than if they had been her own daughters. This treatment continued until they were in the height of a salivation, and then they were acquainted with usage of another sort. This distemper was very expensive, their course of physic very troublesome, it required much attendance, they were strangers to her, and so by degrees the old woman got from them most of the trinkets they brought with them. So that when they were come a little to themselves, and nourishing food was proper to restore them to perfect soundness, they had no way left to procure it but by pawning or selling their clothes, which being quickly done and the money spent, nakedness and poverty became their companions.
Thus plunged in misery, they were exposed to the daily insults of the bawd, who treated them with great cruelty now she had them absolutely in her power. Alice was so very uneasy under it, that having one night got a few clean things about her, she resolved to venture out in a thin linen gown, to see what might be done to free them from these difficulties. She had not got lower than Southampton Street, in the Strand, before a gentleman well dressed, though much in liquor, invited her to go with him to his chambers. He carried her as far as Essex Street, and then turning down to the Temple, brought her into rooms up two pair of stairs, richly furnished. She saw nobody that he had to attend him, but everything seemed in very exact order, and so without further ceremony to bed they went. His weight of liquor soon forced him to sleep, but Alice, whose head was full of the miseries she had so long gone through, arose, put on her clothes and searching his pockets, found a gold watch, nineteen guineas and a large gold medal. She was so much surprised with the richness of this booty, and yet this being her first fact, so confounded within herself, that she knew not well what to do. At last, with great difficulty she forced open the chamber door, which he had locked (and laid the key where she could not find it). Next she came to the outer doors of the chambers, in which the key was, and so there was no difficulty in getting out; but then finding it impossible to shut the door after her without locking it, she even did so, and carried away the key.
She made all the haste she could home to her landlady, and without considering the consequence, paid her six pounds which she demanded, and got some clothes out of her hands, which she had retained as a security for the money. Then she removed with her sister, as secretly as she could, to an inn in Smithfield, and from thence, the next day, they removed to a little lodging in narrow lane by St. John's, where downright fear made them keep so much within doors that they had almost spent all their money in six weeks' time, without thinking of any method to get more.
At last, Jenny, as being least in danger, equipped herself as well as she could, and ventured about nine o'clock one evening into the streets. She walked about half an hour without meeting with any adventure, but at last picked up an innocent country lad. They had not gone far towards a tavern before the constable and his body-guard of watchmen surprised and hurried them away to the Wood Street Compter. There she remained until the next day, when it was intimated to her that if she could produce a couple of guineas they would be looked upon as good bail. She sent for her sister Alice, who not having so much money, foolishly offered the gold medal as a security. Some of the limbs of the Law thereabouts, were acquainted with the gentleman of the Temple who lost it, and it being shown up and down to know its value, they declared it was stolen, and Alice, instead of procuring her sister's liberty, was forced into the same prison, and confined with her. As it was about three weeks to sessions, they were permitted to remain at the Compter during that time.
This was a deeper plunge into misfortune than they had ever yet known, and the fear of hanging was so strong that Alice, in order to avoid it, resolved upon making an application to a person to whom otherwise she would never have made herself known. Who should this be but Philip, who was lately married, but still did the business of his old master the Justice, and therefore was always to be met with at his house, though he had now got a little place upon which he was capable of living pretty handsomely. Alice's letter reached him just as he was sitting down to dinner. The surprise he was in was so great that it could not be hid from the company. However, to cover the cause of it, he pretended that it brought him news of a person being gone off for whom he was bail, and which obliged him not to lose a minute in going to see what might be done. So putting on his hat, and entreating some gentlemen who were at the table with him not to disturb themselves, for he should be back in half an hour, away he went directly to the Compter. And having influence over the people in power there, he prevailed to have her let out to an adjacent tavern.
The affliction she had gone through had altered but not impaired her beauty. Philip, ill-used as he had been by her, could not forbear bursting into tears at the sight of the miserable condition in which she was. As soon as his surprise was a little over, she acquainted him with the true state of the case, and begged his assistance in prevailing on the injured gentleman to soften the prosecution. He promised her all that was in his power, but desired to know after what manner she intended to live, in case her liberty could ever be regained. She cried and promised to work hard for her living rather than fall into that miserable plight again, and then told him how unfortunately it happened that her sister also was involved in the same calamity. At parting, Philip presented her with a guinea, and told her she should have the same every week while she remained there, assuring her also that he would not fail coming to her the next day at noon, and informing her of the temper in which he found her antagonist.
It happened that the Templar was Philip's intimate acquaintance, and had a seat near his father's house in the country. Philip told him the truth of the story, and how he came to interest himself so far in the affair. The gentleman was not hard to be prevailed on, and said he did not conceive it would be of any service to the women to let them be set at liberty, considering the course of life they would be obliged immediately to fall into for bread; that for his part, he inclined rather to procure them liberty to transport themselves, and that they might not be destitute in a strange country, he was not averse, notwithstanding his loss, to give them something towards putting them in a condition of getting their livelihood when they got over. Philip readily agreed to this, though he was fearful of its proving an expedient little agreeable to the women. However, the next day, when he went, he sent for them both to the tavern, and proposed it. Alice said it was the most agreeable thing that could have befallen her. She was sensible of the manner in which she had lived in her native country, and of the difficulty there would be of her amending here, and though her sister Jenny was at first very averse, yet she quickly brought her to be as complying as herself and to wish nothing more than the possibility of living honest in any of the plantations.
Philip carried this news at night to the Temple and the gentleman there, who was a great humorist, was so much taken with the temper and spirit of Alice, that he would needs see her again, and thereupon accompanied Philip the next day to the place of her confinement. There everything was soon settled, the Templar procured their discharge, put them to board at a house which he could command, and bargained with a captain of a New England vessel for their passage thither; not as for persons who had been guilty of any misdeeds here, but as of young women of good families, who were unwilling to go to service here, and had therefore got their friends to raise as much money as would send them over there, where perhaps they might meet with better fortune.
In short, their two benefactors furnished then with things to the amount of two hundred pounds, accompanied them themselves on board the vessel, and recommended them to the captain with as much earnestness as if they had been near relations. Coming in this light into the abroad, they were received with great hospitality, and treated with much kindness and respect; and in fine, after remaining here about a year, Jenny married a gentleman of as good fortune as any in the country, and her sister, not long after, had the same luck. Jenny did not indeed survive it long, but Alice outlived her first husband, and marrying a second, returned into England where she is still living in as much respect and esteem as any gentlewoman in the county where she inhabits.
Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals