Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: William Bourn


a Notorious Thief

As the want of education, from a multitude of instances, seems to be the chief cause of many of those misfortunes which befall persons in the ordinary course of life, so there are some born with such a natural inaptitude thereto, that no care, no pains, is able to conquer the stubborn stupidity of their nature, but like a knotty piece of wood, they defy the ingenuity of others to frame anything useful out of such cross-grained materials. This, as he acknowledged himself upon all occasions, was the case of the malefactor we are now speaking of, who was descended of honest and reputable parents, who were willing in his younger years to have furnished him with a tolerable share of learning; but he was utterly incorrigible, and though put to a good school, would never be brought to read or write at all, which was no small dissatisfaction to his parents, with whom in other respects he agreed tolerably well.

When of age to be put out apprentice, he was placed with a hatter in the city of Dublin, to whom he served his time honestly and faithfully; as soon as he was out of his time, he came up to London in order to become acquainted with his business. He had the good luck, though a stranger, to get into good business here, but was so unfortunate as to fall into the acquaintance of two lewd women, who fatally persuaded him that thieving was an easier way of getting money to supply their extravagant expenses than working. He being a raw young lad, unacquainted with the world, was so mad as to follow their advice, and in consequence thereof snatched a show-glass out of the shop of Mr. Lovell, a goldsmith in Bishopsgate Street, in which there was four snuff-boxes, eight silver medals, six pairs of gold buttons, five diamond rings, twenty pairs of ear-rings, sixty-four gold rings, several gold chains, and other rich goods, to the amount of near L300, with all of which he got safe off, though discovered soon afterwards by his folly in endeavouring to dispose of them.

He threw aside all hopes of life as soon as he was apprehended, as having no friends to make intercession likely to procure a pardon. He was, indeed, a poor young creature, rather stupid than wicked and his vices more owing to his folly than to the malignity of his inclinations. He seemed to have a just notion both of the heinousness of that crime which he had committed and of the shame and ignominy he had brought upon himself and his relations. He was particularly affected with the miseries which were likely to fall upon his poor wife for his folly, and when the day of his death came, he seemed very easy and contented under it, declaring, however, at last that he died in the communion of the Church of Rome. This was on the 27th of June, 1726, being then not much above eighteen years old.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals