Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: Mary Standford


a Pickpocket and Thief

This unfortunate woman was born of very good parents, who sent her to school, and caused her to be bred up in every other respect so as to be capable of performing well in her station of the world, and doing her duty towards God, from a just notion of religion. But it happening, unluckily, that she set her mind on nothing so much as the company of young men and running about with them to fairs and such other country diversions, her friends were put under the necessity of sending her to London, a thing which they saw could not be avoided.

When she came to town, she got in one or two good places, which she soon lost from her forward behaviour; and having been seduced by a footman, she soon became a common street walker, and practised all the vile arts of those women who were a scandal to their sex. When she was young, she was tolerably handsome, and associated herself with one Black Mary, whose true name was Mary Rawlins, a woman of notorious ill-fame, and who, from being kept by a man of substance in the City, by her own ill-management was turned upon the town, and reduced to getting her bread after the infamous manner of the inmates of Drury. These two Marys used to walk together between Temple Bar and Ludgate Hill, where sometimes they met with foolish young fellows out of whom they got considerable sums, though at other times their adventures produced so little that they were obliged to part with almost every rag of clothes they had; nay, they were now and then reduced so low that one was obliged to stay at home while the other went out.

Mary Rawlins, contrary to the rules established amongst the sisterhood, married a man who had been a Life-Guardsman, and so was obliged to remove her lodgings to go with him into a little court near King Street, Westminster. Some of my readers may perhaps imagine that either her love for her husband, or the fear of his authority, might work a reformation, but therein they would be highly mistaken for he proposed no other end to himself than plundering her of those presents she received from gallants, so that whenever evening drew on, he was very assiduous for her to turn out (as they phrase it), that is to go upon the street-walking account picking pockets. She had not followed this trade long before she became so uneasy under it that one night meeting with her old companion Standford, she persuaded her to remove into a new quarter of the town, whither she fled to her from her husband. They there carried on their intrigues together, and lived much more at their ease then they had done before; for being now got towards Wapping, they drew in the sailors when they had any money to part with for their favours, and getting into acquaintance with some navy solicitors, they found means to raise them cash, at the rate of 60 per cent. to the broker, and as much to the whore.

Thus they lived till Standford took it in her head to serve her partner as she had done her before, for finding a man mad enough to marry her, she was fool enough to consent to the marriage. But after living with the man for about a year, she repented her bargain, and left him, as Rawlins had done hers. Some time after this she contracted an acquaintance with another man, at that time servant to a person in the City. By him she had a child, which as it increased her necessary expense, so it plunged her into the greater difficulty of knowing how to supply it. However, fancying her gains would be larger if she plied by herself, she totally left the company of her former associates, and applied herself with an infamous industry to her shameful trade of prostitution.

Not long after she had entered upon this single method of street-walking, she fell into the company of a gentleman who was more than ordinary amorous of her, and who after treating her with a supper, lay with her, and (as she said) gave her four guineas; but he on the contrary charged her with picking his pocket of a shagreen book, a silk handkerchief, and the money before mentioned. For this fact she was committed to Newgate, and soon after tried and convicted, notwithstanding her excuse of the man bestowing it on her as a present.

After she had received sentence, some of her friends gave her hopes of having it changed into a transportation pardon, but this she rejected utterly, declaring that she had rather die not only the most ignominious, but the most cruel death that could be invented at home, rather than be sent abroad to slave for her living. Such strange apprehensions enter into the head of these unhappy creatures, and hinder them from taking the advantage of the only possibility they have left of tasting happiness on this side of the grave; and as this aversion to the plantations has so bad effects, especially in making the convicts desirous of escaping from the vessel, or of flying out of the country whither they were sent, almost before they have seen it, I am surprised that no care has been taken to print a particular and authentic account of the manner in which they are treated in those places. I know it may be suggested that the terror of such usage as they are represented to meet with there has often a good effect in diverting them from such acts as they know must bring them to transportation; yet though I confess I have heard this more than once repeated, yet I am far from being convinced, and I am thoroughly satisfied that instead of magnifying the miseries of their pretended slavery, or rather of inventing stories that make a very easy service pass on these unhappy creatures for the severest bondage, the convicts should be told the true state of the case, and be put in mind that instead of suffering death, the lenity of our Constitution permitted them to be removed into another climate no way inferior to that in which they were born, where they were to perform no harder tasks than those who work honestly for their bread in England do. And this, not under persons of another nation, who might treat them with less humanity, but with those who are no less English for their living in the New, than if they dwelt in Old England, people famous for their humanity, justice, and, piety,[1] and amongst whom they are sure of meeting with no variation of manners, customs, etc., unless in respect of the progress of their vices which are at present more numerous there than in their motherland. I say if pains were taken to instil into these unhappy persons such notions, at the same time demonstrating to them that from being exposed either to want and necessity from the loss they had sustained of this reputation, and being thereby under a kind of force in following their old courses, and as soon as discharged from the fears of death (supposing a free pardon could be procured) obliged to run a like hazard immediately after, they might probably conceive justly of that clemency which is extended towards them, and instead of shunning transportation, flying from the country where they are landed as soon as they have set their foot in them, or neglecting opportunities they might have on their first coming there, and be brought to serve their masters faithfully, to endure the time of their service cheerfully, and settle afterwards in the best manner they are able, so as to pass the close of their life in an honest, easy and reputable manner. Now it too often happens that their last end is worse than their first, because those who return from transportation being sure of death if apprehended, are led thereby to behave themselves worse and more cruelly than any malefactors, whatsoever.

But to return to Mary Standford, who led us into this digression. She showed little or no regard for anything; no, not even for her own child, who, she said, she hoped would be well taken care of by the parish, and added that she had been a great sinner, for which she hoped God would forgive her, praying as well as she could, both while under sentence and at the place of execution. She declared that she bore no malice either against her prosecutor, or any other person, and in this disposition she finished her life at Tyburn, the same day with the afore-mentioned malefactors, being at that time near thirty-six years of age.


[1] A New Hampshire law regulating the behaviour of masters towards their white servants enacts, "if any man smite out the eye or tooth of his manservant or maid-servant or otherwise maim or disfigure them much, unless it be mere casualty, he shall let him or her go free from his service and shall allow such further recompense as the Court of Quarter Sessions shall adjudge them." A good example of New England humanity and justice.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals