The Life of WILLIAM HOLLIS
a Thief and an Housebreaker
This unhappy lad was born in Portugal, while the English army served there in the late war. His father was drum-major of a regiment, but had not wherewith to give his child anything but food, for intending to bring him up a soldier, he perhaps thought learning an unnecessary thing to one of that profession. During the first years of his life the poor boy was a constant campaigner, being transported wherever the regiment removed, with the same care and conveniency as the kettle [drum] and knapsack, the only thing besides himself which make up the drum-major's equipage. When he grew big, he got, it seems, on board a man-of-war in the squadron that sailed up the Mediterranean. This was a proper university for one who had been bred in such a school; so that there is no wonder he became so great a proficient in all sorts of wickedness, gaming, drinking, and whoring, which appear not to such poor creatures as sins, but as the pleasures of life, about which they ought to spend their whole care; and, indeed, how should it be otherwise, where they know nothing that better deserves it.
When he came home to England his father dying, he was totally destitute, except what care his mother-in-law was pleased to take of him, which was, indeed, a great deal, if he would have been in any degree obedient to her instructions. But instead of that he looked upon all restraints on his liberty as the greatest evil that could befall him. Wherefore, leaving his mother's house, he abandoned himself to procuring money at any rate to support those lewd pleasures to which he had addicted himself.
It happened that he lodged near one John Mattison, a working silversmith, into whose house he got, and stole from thence no less than one hundred and forty silver buckles, the goods of one Samuel Ashmelly. For this offence he was apprehended, and committed to Newgate; at the next sessions he was tried, and on the evidence of the prosecutor, which was very full and direct, he was convicted, and having no friends, he laid aside all hopes of life, and endeavoured as far as poor capacity would give him leave to improve himself in the knowledge of the Christian Faith, and in preparing for that death to which his follies and his crimes had brought him. The Ordinary, in the account he gives of his death, says that he was extremely stupid, a thing no ways improbable considering the wretched manner in which he had spent the years of his childhood and his youth. However, at last either his insensibility or having satisfied himself with the little evil there is in death compared with living in misery and want, furnished him with so much calmness that he suffered with greater appearance of courage than could have been expected from him. Just before he died he stood up in the cart, and turning himself to the spectators, said, "Good people, I am very young, but have been very wicked. It is true I have had no education, but I might have laboured hard and lived well for all that; but gaming and ill-company were my ruin. The Law hath justly brought me where I am, and I hope such young men as see my untimely fate will avoid the paths which lead unto it. Good people, pray for our departing souls, as we do, that God may give you all more grace than to follow us thither." He suffered with the malefactors before-mentioned, being at the time of his execution between seventeen and eighteen years old.
Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals