Victorian London - Crime - Thieves - Pickpockets

George Cruikshank (in 'Oliver Twist') 1837


Sir, - As The Times is always open for the insertion of any remarks likely to caution the unwary or to put the unsuspecting on their guard against the numerous thefts and robberies committed daily in the streets of London, I am induced to ask you to insert a case which happened on Saturday last, and which I trust may serve as a warning to those of your lady readers who still carry purses in their pockets.
    A young lady (and, as the police reports add,) of very prepossessing appearance, a relation of the narrator's, was walking between 12 and 1 o'clock with another young lady, a friend of hers, in Albany-street, where she resides, when she was accosted by a boy about 11 years of age, who asked her in the most beseeching tones "to buy a few oranges of a poor orphan who hadn't a bit of bread to eat." She told him to go away, but he kept alongside, imploring assistance, and making some cutting remarks about "the ingratitude of the world in general and of young ladies in particular." As his manner became very troublesome the lady threatened to give him in charge of a policeman, and looked down every area to find one; but there was not one even there, and the boy kept up his sweet discourse and slight pushes alternately (the latter with the basket on which he carried his oranges), until the lady reached her own door-step. It then occurred to her that in the boy's ardour to sell his oranges he might have taken her purse; her friend thought so too. A trembling hand was inserted into the pocket; the purse was gone, and so was the lady's happiness. She flew after the thief, who, knowing young ladies were not made for running, coolly deposited his basket on a door-step a little way off and ran away whistling. This brave young lady ran also, shouting "Stop thief! stop thief!" (but then young ladies are not made for shouting, God forbid!) and she looked in the fond hope that a policeman might be found. But no such luck, the culprit got safely off with the purse and its contents; and no kind passer by tried to help the young lady, who was thus shamefully duped and robbed. Ladies, young and old, never carry your purses in your pockets; beware of canting beggars, and beggars of all sorts, that infest the streets; and, above all, keep a watchful eye about you and give the widest possible berth to        THE ORANGE BOY. 

letter to The Times, March 5, 1850

see also Henry Mayhew, Letter V, Morning Chronicle, on pickpockets - click here

see also Henry Mayhew, Letter XXVII, Morning Chronicle, on pickpockets - click here

see also Clarence Rook in The Hooligan Nights - click here