Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 John Jones

The Life of JOHN JONES

a Pickpocket

There is not, perhaps, a greater misfortune to young people than that too great tenderness and compassion with which they are treated in their youth, and those hopes of amendment which their relations flatter themselves with as they grow up. If they could suffer themselves to be guided by experience, they would quickly find that sagacious minds do but increase in wickedness as they increase in years. Timely services, therefore, and proper restraints are the only methods with which such persons are to be treated, for minds disposed to such gross impurities as those which lead to such wickednesses or are rendered capital by Law, are seldom to be prevailed on by gentleness, or admonitions unseconded by harsher means. I am very far from being an advocate for great severities towards young people, but I confess in cases like these, I think they are as necessary as amputations, where the distemper has spread so far that no cure is to be hoped for by any other means. If the relations of John Jones had known and practised these methods, it is highly probable he had escaped the suffering and the shame of that ignominious death to which, after a long persisting in his crimes, he at last came.

This malefactor was born in the parish of St. Andrew's, Holborn, of parents in tolerable circumstances, who, while a boy, indulged him in all his little humours from a wise expectation of their dropping from him all at once when he grew up. But this expectation not succeeding, as it must be owned there was no great probability it should, they were then for persuading him to settle in business. That he might do this with less reluctancy they were so kind as to put him out upon liking to three or four trades; but it happening unluckily that there was work to be done in all of them, Jones could not be brought to go apprentice to any, but idled on amongst his companions, without ever thinking of applying himself to any business whatever. His relations sent him to sea, another odd academy to learn honesty at, and on his return from thence, and refusing to go any more, his relations refused to support him any longer.

Jack was very melancholy on this score, and having but eighteenpence in the world when he received the comfortable message of his never being to expect a farthing more from his friends, he went out to take a walk in Hyde Park to divert his melancholy, when he ruminated on what he was to do next for a livelihood. In the midst of these reflections he espied an old schoolfellow of his, who used to have the same inclinations with himself. There had been a great intimacy between them; it was quickly renewed, and Jack Jones unburdened to him the whole budget of his sorrows. "And is this all?" says the young fellow. "Why, I will put you in a way to ease this in a minute, if you will step along with me to a house hard by, where I am to meet with some of my acquaintance." Jones readily consented, and to a little blind alehouse in a dark lane they went. The woman of the house received them very kindly, and as soon as Jack's companion had informed her that he was a newcomer, she conducted him into a little room, where she entertained him with a good dinner and a bowl of punch after it. Jack was mightily taken with the courtesy of his landlady, who promised him he should never want such usage and his friend would teach him in the evening how to earn it.

Evening came, and out walked the two young men. Jack was put upon nothing at that time, but to observe how his companion managed. He was a very dexterous youth, and at seven o'clock prayers picked up, in half an hour's time, three good handkerchiefs, and a silver snuff-box. Having this readily shown him the practice, he was no less courteous in acquainting Jones with the theory of his profession, and two or three night's work made Jones a very complete workman in their way.

He lived at this rate for some months, until going with his instructor through King Street, Westminster, and passing by a woman pretty well dressed, says the other fellow to Jones, "Now mind, Jack, and while jostle her against the wall, do you whip off her pocket." Jones performed tolerably well, though the woman screamed out and people were thick in the street. He gave the pocket, as soon as he had plucked it off, to his comrade, but having felt it rather weighty, would trust him no farther than the first by-alley before they stopped to examine its contents.

They had scarce found their prize consisted of no more than a small prayer-book, a needle case, and a silver thimble, when the woman with a mob at her heels bolted upon them and seized them. Jones had the pocket in his hand when they laid hold of him, and his associate no sooner perceived the danger, but he clapped hold of him by the collar and cried out as loud as any of the mob, "Ay, ay, this is he, good woman, is not this your pocket?" By this strategem he escaped, and Jones was left to feel the whole weight of the punishment which was ready to fall upon them. He was immediately committed to prison, and the offence being capital in its nature, he was condemned at the next sessions, and though he always buoyed himself up with hopes to the contrary, was ordered for execution. He was dreadfully amazed at death, as being, indeed, very unfit to die. However, when he found it was inevitable, he began to prepare for it as well as he was able. His relations now afforded him some little relief, and after having made as ample a confession as he was able, he suffered at Tyburn with the two above-mentioned malefactors, Hawes and Wright, being then but a little above nineteen years of age.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals