The Life of THOMAS JAMES GRUNDY
When we meet with accounts of persons doubly remarkable for the multitude of their offences and the tenderness of their age, it is almost impossible for us to determine whether we should most pity or detest a mind so preternaturally abandoned to wickedness as to transcend its usual course, and make itself remarkable as a sinner, before taken notice of as a man.
This was exactly the case with the unfortunate criminal whom we are now to mention. He was the son of parents in the lowest circumstances, who yet had strained those circumstances to give him a tolerable education, which he, instead of improving, forgot as fast as it was possible, and seemed solicitous about nothing but out-doing in villainy all his contemporaries of the same unhappy cast. During his junior years he addicted himself continually to picking and stealing whatever he could lay his hands on, and although his father had been exceedingly careful in causing him to be taught his own trade of a weaver, yet he seldom or never worked at it, but went on at this rate, from one crime to another, until he at last arrived at those which brought him to the ignominious end, and thereby rendered him a subject for our memoirs.
At twelve years old, he took up the trade of housebreaking, to which he applied himself very closely, for the last six years of his life. Hampstead, Highgate, Hackney, and other villages round the town were the places which he generally made choice of to play his tricks in, and as people are much more ingenious in wickedness than ever they are in the pursuit of honest employments, so by degrees he became (even while a boy) the most dexterous housebreaker of his time; insomuch that as is usual amongst those unhappy people, the gang commended him so much, that believing himself some great person, he went on with an air of confidence, in the commission of a multitude of burglaries, in and about the streets of this metropolis.
Young as he was at that time, he plunged himself, as it were with industry, into all manner of lusts, wickedness and illegal pleasures, which, as it wasted all he acquired by the thefts he committed, so it injured his health and damaged his understanding to such a degree that when he came to die, he could scarce be looked on as a rational creature.
The offence which proved fatal to him was the breaking into the house of Mr. Samuel Smith, in the night-time, on the 31st of May, 1729, with an intent to steal. At his trial the prosecutor swore that between the hours of eleven and one of the dock of the night laid in the indictment he was called up by his neighbours, and found that his window was broken open; whereupon, searching about very narrowly, he at last found the prisoner got up the chimney, and landing on the pole whereon the pothooks hung. In his defence the prisoner told the Court that meeting with a person who said he lodged in the prosecutor's house, and it being late, he accepted the man's proposition to lie with him; thereupon his new acquaintance carried him to Mr. Smith's, let him in, and then ran away, so that he had never seen or heard of him since. This relation being every way improbable and ridiculous, the jury very readily found him guilty of the fact, and he with the rest, on the last day of the sessions received sentence of death accordingly.
While he lay in the cells, his behaviour was as stupid in all outward appearance as ever had appeared in any who came to that miserable place. However, he persuaded his companions, of whom we shall speak hereafter, to attempt breaking out and to encourage them told them that there was no brick or free stone wall in the world could keep him in, if he had but a few tools proper for loosening the stones. These were quickly procured, and Grundy put his companions into so proper a method of working, that if a discovery had not been made on the Sunday morning in a very few hours space they would have broken their way into Phoenix Court, and so have undoubtedly got off. But as soon as the keepers came to the knowledge of their design, they removed the three persons concerned in it, into the old condemned hold, and there stapled them down to the ground.
Then this lad began to repent. He wept bitterly, but said it was not so much for the fear of death as the apprehension of his soul being thrown into the pit of destruction and eternal misery. However, by degrees, he recovered a little spirit, confessed all the enormities of his past life, and begged pardon of God, and of the persons whom he had injured. If we were to attempt an account of them, it would not only seem improbable but incredible; and therefore, as there was nothing in them otherwise extraordinary than as they were committed by a lad of his age, we shall not dwell any longer upon them than to inform our readers that with much sorrow, and grievous agonies, he expired at Tyburn, on the 22nd of August, 1729, being about eighteen years old.
Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals