Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: John Cartwright


a Thief

This unhappy young man was born in Yorkshire, of a tolerable family, who had been sufficiently careful in having him instructed in whatever was necessary for a person of his condition, breeding him up to all works of husbandry in general, and also qualifying him in every respect for a gentleman's service; in one of which capacities they were in hopes he would not find it difficult to get his bread. He lived with several persons in the country with unspotted reputation, until at last a whim came into his head of coming up to London. An uncle of his procured him a very good service with one Mr. Charvin, a mercer in Paternoster Row, with whom he Stayed for some time with great satisfaction on both sides; for his master was highly pleased with the careful industry of the young man's temper, and Cartwright on the other side had not the least reason to complain, considering the great kindness and indulgence with which he was used. But some young fellows of loose principles taking notice of Cartwright's easy and tractable temper, quickly drew him into becoming fond of their company and conversation.

Every other Sunday he was permitted to go out where he would, until nine o'clock at night, and these young fellows meeting at a fine alehouse not far from his master's house, whither they began to bring Yorkshire John (as they called him), there they usually ran over the description of the diversions of the town, and of those places round it which are most remarkable for the resort of company. These were new scenes to poor John, who was unacquainted with any representation better than a puppet show, or recreation of a superior nature to bullbaitings at a country fair; and therefore his thoughts were extremely taken up with all he heard, and his companions were so obliging that they took abundance of pains to satisfy such questions as he asked them, and were often soliciting him to go and partake with them at plays, dancing-bouts, and all the various divertisements to which young unthinking youths are addicted. He wanted not many intreaties to comply with their request, but money, the main ingredient in such delights, was wanting, and of this he at last acknowledged the deficiency to one of the young men his companions. This fellow took no notice of it at that time, farther than to wish he had more, and to tell him that a young man of his spirit ought never to be without and that there were ways and means enough to get it, if a man had not as much cash as courage.

He repeated these insinuations often, without explaining them at all, until frequent stories of the fine sights at the theatres and elsewhere had so far raised poor John's curiosity that one evening he entreated his companion to let him into the bottom of what he meant. The cunning villain turned it at first into a jest and continued to banter him about his being a country put, and so forth, until he perceived it was past twelve o'clock, and knew that it was too late for him to get in at home; then he told him that if he promised never to reveal it, he would tell him what he meant. John being full of liquor swore he would not, and the other replied, "Why, here you stand complaining of the want of money, while I warrant you, there's a hundred or two pounds in your master's drawer under the counter. Maybe there may", said Cartwright, "but what's that to me? Nay", replied the other, "nothing, if you have not the courage to go and fetch it; why now, you can get in I'm sure. Come, I'll put you in a way of never being taken."

Cartwright, who was half drunk, remembered that there was a parcel of gold in the drawer, and that it was in his power to get at a silver watch and some plate, so that he fatally yielded to the temptations of his companion, and thereupon the next morning, conveyed to him the watch, fourscore pounds in money, and three silver spoons. They shared the greatest part of the booty, of which Cartwright was quickly cheated, and though he fled with the remainder as far as Monmouthshire, in Wales, yet some way or other he was there detected, committed prisoner to the county gaol and then sent up to London, where a few days after his arrival he was tried and convicted.

Never poor wretch suffered deeper affliction than he did, in the reflection of his follies, for giving up all hopes of life, he spent the whole interval of time between sentence and execution in grieving for the sorrows he had brought upon himself and the stain his ignominious death would leave upon his family. His companion, in the meantime, was fled far enough out of the reach of Justice, so that Cartwright had nothing to expect but death to which he patiently submitted, acknowledging upon all occasions the justice of that sentence which had befallen him, and wishing that his death might be sufficient to warn other young men in such circumstances, as his once were, from falling into faults of that kind, which had brought him to ruin and shame. Yet though he laid aside all desires relating to worldly things, he yet expressed a little peevishness from the neglect shown towards him by his friends in the country, who though they knew well enough of his misfortunes, yet they absolutely declined doing anything for him, from a notion perhaps that it might reflect upon themselves. Above all things Cartwright manifested a due sense of the ingratitude he had been guilty of towards so good a master as the gentleman whom he robbed had been to him, he therefore prayed for his prosperity, even with his last breath, and declared he died without malice or ill-will against any person whatsoever.

At the place of his execution he attended very devoutly to the prayers, but did not say anything to the people more than to beg of them to take warning by him, after the rope was fixed about his neck. He was executed at Tyburn, on Monday, the 21st of September, 1726, being then about twenty-three years of age, a remarkable instance of how far youth, even of the best principles, is liable to be corrupted, if they are not carefully watched over and may justify those restraints which parents and masters, from a just apprehension of things, put upon their children or servants.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals