Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: Lumley Davis


a Highwayman

Such is the frailty of human nature that neither the best examples nor the most liberal education can warrant an honest life, or secure to the most careful parents the certainty of their children not becoming a disgrace to them, either in their lives or by their deaths.

This malefactor, of whom the course of our memoirs now obliges us to make mention, was the son of a man of the same name, viz., Lumley Davis, who was, it seems, in circumstances good enough to procure his sons being brought up in one of the greatest and best schools in England. There his proficiency procured him an election upon the establishment, and he became respected as a person whose parts would do honour even to that remarkable seminary of learning where he had been bred. But unaccountably growing fond, all on a sudden, of going to some trade or employment and absolutely refusing to continue any longer at his studies, his friends were obliged to comply with the ardency of his request and accordingly put him apprentice to an eminent vintner at the One Tun Tavern, in the Strand.

He continued there but a little while before he was as much dissatisfied with that as he had been with learning, so that leaving his master, and leading an unsettled kind of life, he fell into great debts, being unable to satisfy which, when demanded, he was arrested and thrown into the Marshalsea. There for some time he continued in a very deplorable condition, till by the charitable assistance of a friend, his debt was paid and the fees of the prison discharged. After this he went into the Mint,[1] where drinking accidentally at one of the tap-houses in that infamous place, and being very much out of humour with the low and profligate company he was obliged to converse with there, he took notice of a very genteel man, who sat at the table by himself. He inquired of some persons with whom he was drinking, who that man was. They answered that they could not tell themselves; he was lately come over for shelter amongst them; he was a gentleman, as folks said, of much learning, and though he never conversed with anybody, yet was kind enough to afford them his assistance, either with his pen, or by his advice when they asked it. On this character Davis was very industrious to become his acquaintance, and Harman, which was the other man's name, not having been able to meet with anybody there with whom he could converse, he very readily embraced the society of Davis; with whom comparing notes, and finding their case to be pretty much the same, they often condoled one another's misfortunes and as often projected between themselves how to gain some supply without depending continually upon the charity of their friends.

In the meantime, Davis was so unfortunate as to fall ill of a languishing distemper, which brought him so low as to oblige him to apply for relief to that friend who had discharged him out of the Marshalsea. He was so good as to get him into St. Thomas's Hospital, and to supply him while there with whatever was necessary for his support. When he was so far recovered as to be able to go abroad, this kind and good friend provided for him a country habitation, where he might be able to live in privacy and comfort and indulge himself in those inclinations which he began again to show towards learning.

Some time after he had been there, not being able to support longer that quiet kind of life which before he did so earnestly desire, notwithstanding the entreaties of his friends, he came up to London again, where falling into idle company, he became addicted to the vices of drinking and following bad women, things which before he had both detested and avoided. Not long after this, he again found out Mr. Harman, and renewed his acquaintance with him. He enquired into his past adventures and how he had supported himself since they last had been together, and on perceiving that they were far from being on the mending hand with him, the fatal proposal was at last made of going upon the road, and there robbing such persons as might seem best able to spare it, and at the same time furnish them with the largest booty.

The first person they attacked was one John Nichols, Esq., from whom they took a guinea and seventeen shillings, with which they determined to make themselves easy a little, and not go that week again upon any such hazardous exploits. But alas, their resolutions had little success, for that very evening they were both apprehended and on full evidence at the next sessions were convicted and received sentence of death, within a very short time after they had committed the crime.

Davis all along flattered himself with the hopes of a pardon or a reprieve and therefore was not perhaps so serious as he ought, and as he otherwise would have been. Not that those hopes made him either licentious or turbulent, but rather disturbed his meditations and hindered his getting over the terrors which death always brings to the unprepared. But when, on his name being in the death warrant, he found there was no longer any hopes, he then, indeed, applied himself without losing a moment to the great concern of saving his soul, now there was no hopes of preserving his body.

However, neither his education nor all the assistance he could receive from those divines that visited him, could bring him to bear the approach of death with any tolerable patience. Even at the place of execution, he endeavoured as much as he could to linger away the time, spoke to the Ordinary to spin out the prayers, and to the executioner to forbear doing his office as long as it was possible. However, he spoke with great kindness and affection to his companion, Mr. Harman, shook hands with those who were his companions in death, and at last submitted to his fate, being then about twenty-three years of age.


[1] The Southwark Mint was a sanctuary for insolvent debtors and a nest of infamy in general. It stood over against St. George's church.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals