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A Book of Scoundrels

Charles Whibley

Book Overview: 

An ironic history of British criminals, mostly pre-Victorian pickpockets, highwaymen and thieves. Here we meet Moll Cutpurse the Queen of thieves, Jonathan Wild the Thief-taker General, Captain Hind the gallant highwayman and many others. The book begins with an essay on the artistic achievements of thievery followed by a sequence of short biographies.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .s he neared the town-gate, an old beldame begged an alms of him, and though Hind, not liking her ill-favoured visage, would have spurred forward, the beldame's glittering eye held his horse motionless. 'Good woman,' cried Hind, flinging her a crown, 'I am in haste; pray let me pass.' 'Sir,' answered the witch, 'three days I have awaited your coming. Would you have me lose my labour now?' And with Hind's assent the sphinx delivered her message: 'Captain Hind,' said she, 'your life is beset with constant danger, and since from your birth I have wished you well, my poor skill has devised a perfect safeguard.' With this she gave him a small box containing what might have been a sundial or compass. 'Watch this star,' quoth she, 'and when you know not your road, follow its guidance. Thus you shall be preserved from every peril for the space of three years. Thereafter, if you still have faith in my devotion, seek me again, and I will renew the virtue of the charm.'

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