The Life of JAMES LITTLE
a Footpad and Highwayman
James Little was a person descended from parents very honest and industrious, though of small fortune. They bred him up with all the care they were able, and when he came to a fit age put him out to an honest employment. But in his youth having taken peculiar fancy to his father's profession of a painter, he thereto attained in so great a degree as to be able to earn twelve or fifteen shillings in a week, when he thought fit to work hard. But that was very seldom, and he soon contracted such a hatred to working at all that associating with some wild young fellows, he kept himself continually drunk and mad, not caring what he did for money, so long as he supplied himself with enough to procure himself liquor.
Amongst the rest of those debauched persons with whom he conversed there was especially one Sandford, with whom he was peculiarly intimate. This fellow was a soldier, of a rude, loose disposition, who took a particular delight in making persons whom he conversed with as bad as himself. Having one Sunday, therefore, got Little into his company and drank him to such a pitch that he had scarce any sense, he next began to open to him a new method of living, as he called it, which was neither more than less than going on the highway. Little was so far gone in his cups that be did not so much as know what he was saying; at last Sandford rose up, and told him it was a good time now to go out upon their attempts. Upon this Little got up, too, and went out with him. They had not gone far before the soldier drew out a pair of pistols, and robbed two or three persons, while Little stood by, so very drunk that he was both unable to have hurt the persons, or to have defended himself, he said.
He robbed no more with the soldier, who was soon after taken up and hanged at the same time with Jonathan Wild, yet the sad fate of his companion had very little effect upon this unhappy lad. He fell afterwards into an acquaintance with some of John Shepherd's mistresses, and they continually dinning in his ears what great exploits that famous robber had committed, they unfortunately prevailed upon him to go again into the same way. But it was just as fatal to him as it had been to his companion; for Little having robbed one Lionel Mills in the open fields, put him in fear, and taken from him a handkerchief, three keys and sixteen shillings in money, not contented with this he pulled the turnover off from his neck hastily, and thereby nearly strangled him. For this offence the man pursued him with unwearied diligence, and he being taken up thereupon was quickly after charged with another robbery committed on one Mr. Evans, in the same month, who lost a cane, three keys, and twenty pounds in money. On these two offences he was severally convicted at the next sessions at the Old Bailey; and having no friends, could therefore entertain little expectation of pardon; especially considering how short a time it was since he received mercy before; being under sentence at the same time with the soldier before-mentioned and Jonathan Wild, and discharged then upon his making certain discoveries.
He pretended to much penitence and sorrow, but it did not appear in his behaviour, having been guilty of many levities when brought up to chapel, to which perhaps the crowds of strangers, who from an unaccountable humour desire to be present on these melancholy occasions, did not a little contribute; for at other times, it must be owned, he did not behave himself in any such manner, but seemed rather grave and willing to be instructed, of which he had indeed sufficient want, knowing very little, but of debauchery and vice. How ever, he reconciled himself by degrees to the thoughts of death, and behaved with tranquility enough during that small space that was left him to prepare for it. At the place of execution, he looked less astonished though he spoke much less to the people than the rest, and died seemingly composed, at the same time with the other malefactors Snow, and Whalebone, being at the time of his execution in his seventeenth year.
Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals