or game? or, turnpikes, horse races & further distractions on the way to
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1: a description of the traffic on the roads, footpaths and pikes to the
north-west of London, connecting the capital to Islington and Kentish Town and
the hilltop villages of Hampstead and Highgate on the Northern Heights, and
from thence to neighbouring counties and the Great North Road; dealing also
with some of the pleasures to be found in the roadside inns and the field
resorts, ranging from the healthful taking of fresh air and exercise, the
thrills of competitive sport, and the most debilitating vices: feat. the
turnpikes; horse racing; the northern heights; Belsize House & park; ‘a
scandalous, lewd house’; wheel barrows & geneva
2: an account of ‘the gentlemen of the road’: the men who robbed on horseback,
though sometimes in alliance with lesser heroes on foot, relating deeds of
daring and intrepidity and likewise of despicable thuggery; making also the
acquaintance of some of the families that lived in the farmhouses, petty inns
and cottages around the Battle Bridge and Tottenham Court, while visiting the
local bear gardens and a cockpit: feat. the highwaymen; Dick Turpin; the bear
gardens; gladiators; women fighters; the Gray’s Inn cockpit; 'on the account'; the
Marshes, Tows, Lewises & Rhodes; some deaths & more scandals
3: the methods and manners of several local highwaymen, and of their professionally inferior
colleagues (whatever their class origins) in the footpad gangs dwelling in
the rookeries and roaming the West End of London (the streets, taverns and
theatres of Clerkenwell, Covent Garden, Soho, St Giles’s, Marylebone,
Bloomsbury and Holborn, and their neighbouring fields), some of whom graduated
to horse-borne robbery and almost all of whom ended their days hanging by the
neck on a rope (with also an investigation into the thief-takers who stalked
them): feat. Baker & Wager; another
butcher; an heir & a bogus baronet; the Sutton brothers; rookeries &
bad houses; breaking the gangs; ponds, fences & fields
4: the narratives, rituals and meanings of Tyburn as exemplified by the fates
of four (plus one) cartloads of the condemned who one morning in the winter of
1737 passed along Holborn and the Road to Oxford to the gallows at what is now
Marble Arch; about some of whom we already know much, their adventures and
those of their fellows ranging beyond the hinterland of London to distant
reaches of the kingdom and overseas, while connecting to very local
circumstances and consequences; with other miserable and tragic tales: feat.
the roads to Tyburn; the fifth cart; ‘dunghill or game?’; the gallows; further
5: more crimes in the fields, but with also an account of the growing number
and variety of pleasures and distractions to be had there, with new families
settling locally as the metropolis awaits an unprecedented expansion that will
in just a few decades replace the open countryside with streets of bricks and
mortar: feat. the Adam & Eve; crime in the fields; pleasure in the fields;
development in the fields, the Clerkenwell pleasure resorts
A tavern near Newgate.
Twitcher: …Why are the laws levell’d at us? Are we more dishonest than the rest
of mankind? What we win, gentlemen, is our own by the law of arms, and the
right of conquest.
Jack: Where shall we find such another set of practical philosophers, who to a
man are above the fear of death?
Dreary: Sound men and true!
of Bagshot: Of try’d courage, and indefatigable industry!
Ned: Who is there here that would not die for his friend?
Padington: Who is there here that would betray him for his interest?
of the Mint: Show me a gang of courtiers that can say as much.
Budge: We are for a just partition of the world, for every man has a right to
of the Mint: We retrench the superfluities of mankind. The world is avaricious,
and I hate avarice. A covetous fellow, like a jack-daw, steals what he was
never made to enjoy, for the sake of hiding it. These are the robbers of
mankind, for money was made for the free-hearted and generous, and where is the
injury of taking from another, what he hath not the heart to make use of?”
Beggar’s Opera, John Gay (1728)