chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON
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what an ominous sound has that word. And yet the horror exists not in the name
itself; for it is a very simple compound, and would not grate upon the ear nor
produce a shudder throughout the frame, were it applied to any other kind of
It is, then, its associations and the ideas which it conjures
up that render the word NEWGATE fearful and full of dark menace.
At the mere mention of this name, the mind instantaneously
becomes filled with visions of vice in all its most hideous forms, and crime in
all its most appalling shapes ;- wards and court-yards filled with a population
peculiar to themselves, - dark gloomy passages, where the gas burns all day
long, and beneath the pavement of which are interred the remains of murderers
and other miscreants who have expiated their crimes upon the scaffold,- shelves
filled with the casts of the countenances of those wretches, taken the moment
after they were cut down from the gibbet, - condemned cells, - the chapel in
which funeral sermons are preached upon men yet alive to hear them, but who are
doomed to die on the morrow, - the clanking of chains, the banging of huge
doors, oaths, prayers, curses, and ejaculations of despair!
Oh! if it were true that the spirits of the departed are
allowed to revisit the earth for certain purposes and on particular occasions, -
if the belief of superstition were well founded, and night could be peopled a
with the ghosts and spectres of those who sleep in. troubled graves, - what a
place of ineffable horrors - what a scene of terrible sights, would Newgate be
at midnight! The huge flag-stones of the pavement. would rise, to permit the
phantoms of the murderers to issue from their graves. Demons would erect a
gibbet at the debtor's door; and, amidst the sinister glare of torches, an
executioner from hell would hang those miscreants over again. This would be part
of their posthumous punishment, and would occur in the long - long nights of
winter. There would be no moon; but all the windows of Newgate looking upon the
court-yards (and there are none commanding the streets) would be brilliantly
lighted with red flames, coming from an unknown source. And throughout the long
passages of the prison would resound the orgies of hell; and skeletons wrapped
in winding sheets would shake their fetters; and Greenacre and Good -
Courvoisier and Pegsworth - Blakesley and Marchant, with all their predecessors
in the walks of murder, would come in fearful procession from the gibbet,
returning by the very corridors which they traversed in their way to death on
the respective mornings of their execution. Banquets would be served up to them
in the condemned cells; demons would minister to them; and their food should be
the flesh, and their drink the gore, of the victims whom they had assassinated
All would be horrible - horrible!
But, heaven be thanked! such scenes are impossible; and never
can it be given to the shades of the departed to revisit the haunts which they
loved or hated - adored or desecrated, upon earth!
NEWGATE! - fearful name!
And Richard Markham was now in Newgate.
He found, when the massive gates of that terrible prison
closed behind him, that the consciousness of innocence will not afford entire
consolation, in the dilemma in which unjust suspicions may involve the victim of
circumstantial evidence. He scarcely knew in what manner to grapple with the
difficulties that beset him ;- he dared not contemplate the probability of a
condemnation to some infamous punishment ;- and he could scarcely hope for an
acquittal in the face of the testimony that conspired against him.
He recalled to mind all the events of his infancy and his
boyish years, and contrasted his present position with that which he once
enjoyed in the society of his father and Eugene.
His brother ? - aye - what had become of his brother? - that
brother, who had left the paternal roof to seek his own fortunes, and who had
made so strange an appointment for a distant date, upon the hill-top where the
two trees were planted? Four years and four months had passed away since the day
on which that appointment was made; and in seven years and eight mouths it was
to be kept.
They were then to compare notes of their adventures and
success in life, and decide who was the more prosperous of the two, - Eugene,
who was dependent upon his own resources, and had to climb the ladder of fortune
step by step ;- or Richard, who, placed by his father's love half-way up that
ladder, had only to avail himself, it would have seemed, of his advantageous
position to reach the top at his leisure?
But, alas! probably Eugene was a miserable wanderer upon the
face of the earth; perhaps he was mouldering beneath the sod that no parental
nor fraternal tears had watered ;- or haply he was languishing in some loathsome
dungeon the doors of which served as barriers between him and all communion with
It was strange - passing strange that Eugene had never
written since his, departure; and that from the fatal evening of his separation
an the hill-top all traces of him should have been so suddenly lost.
Peradventure he had been frustrated, in his sanguine
expectations, at his very outset in life! - perchance he had terminated in
disgust an existence which was blighted by disappointment?
[-68-] Such were the topics of
Markham's thoughts, as he walked up and dawn the large paved court-yard
belonging to that department of the prison to which he had been consigned ;-
and, of a surety, they were of no pleasurable description. Uncertainty with
regard to his own fate - anxiety in respect to his brother - and the dread that
his prospects in this life were irretrievably blighted - added to a feverish
impatience of a confinement totally unmerited - all these oppressed his mind.
That night he had nothing but a basin of gruel and a piece of
bread for his supper. He slept in the same ward with a dozen other prisoners,
also awaiting their trials: his couch was hard, cold, and wretched; and he was
compelled to listen to the ribald talk and vaunts of villany of several of his
companions. Their conversation was only varied by such remarks as these:-
"Well," said one, " I hope I shan't get before the Common-Serjeant:
he's certain to give me toko for yam."
"I shall be sure to go up the first day of sessions, and
most likely before the Recorder, as mine is rather a serious matter,"
observed a second. " He won't give me more than seven years of it, I
"For my part," said a third. "I'd much sooner
wait till the Wednesday, when the Judges comedown: they never give it so severe
as them City beaks."
"I tell you what," exclaimed a fourth, " I
shouldn't like to have my meat hashed at evening sittings before the
Commissioner in the New Court. He's always so devilish sulky, because he has
been disturbed at his wine."
"Well, you talk of the regular judges that come down on
a Wednesday," cried a fifth; " I can only tell you that Baron Griffin
and Justice Spikeman are on the rota for next sessions; and I'm blowed if I
wouldn't sooner go before the Common-Serjeant a thousand times, than have old
Griffin meddle in my case. Why- if you only look at him, he'll transport
you for twenty years."
At this idea, all the prisoners who had taken part in this
conversation, burst out into a loud guffaw - but not a whit the more hearty for
being so boisterous.
"Is it possible," asked Markham, who had listened
with some interest to the above discourse,- "is it possible that there can
be any advantage to a prisoner to be tried by a particular judge?"
"Why, of course there is," answered one of the
prisoners. " If a swell like you gets before Justice Spikeman, he'll let
you off with half or a quarter of what the Recorder or Common-Serjeant would
give you: but Baron Griffin would give you just double, because you happened to
"Indeed!" ejaculated Markham, whose ideas of the
marvellous equality and admirable even-handedness of English justice, were a
little shocked by these revelations.
"Oh! yes," continued his informant, " all the
world knows these things. If I go before Spikeman, I shall plead Guilty, and
whimper a bit, and he'll be very lenient indeed; but if I'm heard by Griffin.
I'll let the case take its chance, because he wouldn't be softened by any show
of penitence. So you see, in these matters, one must shape one's conduct
according to the judge that one goes before."
"I understand," said Markham : "even justice
is influenced by all kinds of circumstances."
The conversation then turned upon the respective merits of
the various counsel practising at the Central Criminal Court.
"I have secured Whiffins," said one: "he's a
capital fellow - for if he can't make anything out of your case, he instantly
begins to bully the judge."
"Ah! but that produces a bad effect," observed a
second; "and old Griffin would soon put him down. I've got Chearnley - he's
such a capital fellow to make the witnesses contradict themselves."
"Well, I prefer Barkson," exclaimed a third;
"his voice alone frightens a prosecutor into fits."
"Smouch and Slike are the worst," said a fourth:
"the judges always read the paper, or fall asleep when they address
"Yes - because they are such low fellows, and will take
a brief from any one," exclaimed a fifth; " whereas it is totally
contrary to etiquette for a barrister to receive instructions from any one but
"The fact is that such men as Smouch and Slike do a case
more harm than good, with the judges," observed a sixth. " They
haven't the ear of the court - and that's the real truth of it."
These remarks diminished still more the immense respect which
Markham had hitherto entertained for English justice; and he now saw that the
barrister who detailed plain and simple facts, did not stand half such a good
chance of saving his client as the favoured one "who possessed the ear of
By a very natural transition, the discourse turned upon petty
"I think it will go hard with me," said one,
"because I am tried in the City. I wish I had been committed for the
Middlesex Sessions at Clerkenwell."
"Why so!" demanded another prisoner.
"Because, you see, I'm accused of robbing my master; and
as all the jurymen are substantial shopkeepers, they're sure to convict a man in
my position, - even if the evidence isn't complete."
"I'm here for swindling tradesmen at the West-End of the
town," said another.
"Well," exclaimed the first speaker, "the jury
will let you off, if there's the slightest pretence, because they're all
City tradesmen, and hate the West-End ones."
"And I'm here for what is called 'a murderous assault
upon a police-constable.' said a third prisoner.
"Was he a Metropolitan or a City-Policeman?"
"Oh! well - you're safe enough; the jury are sure to
believe that he assaulted you first."
"Thank God for that blessing!"
"I tell you what goes a good way with Old Bailey Juries
- a good appearance. If a poor devil, clothed in rags and very ugly, appears at
the bar, the Foreman of the Jury just says, 'Well, gentlemen, I think we may
say GUILTY; for my part I never saw such a hang-dog countenance in my
life.' But if a well- dressed and good-looking fellow is placed
in the dock, the Foreman is most likely to say, 'Well, gentlemen, for my part
I never can nor will believe that the prisoner could be guilty of such meanness;
so I suppose we may say NOT GUILTY, gentlemen.' "
"Can this be true?" ejaculated Markham.
"Certainly it is," was the reply. " I will
tell you more, too. If a prisoner's counsel don't tip the jury plenty of soft
sawder, and tell them that they are enlightened Englishmen, and that they are
the main prop, not only of justice, but also of the crown itself, they will be
certain to find a verdict of Guilty."
[-69-] "What infamy!"
cried Markham, perfectly astounded at these revelations.
"Ah! and what's worse still," added his informant,
" is that Old Baily juries always, as a matter of course, convict those
poor devils who have no counsel."
"And this is the vaunted palladium of justice and
liberty!" said Richard.
In this way did the prisoners in Markham's ward contrive to
pass away an hour or two, for they were allowed no candle and no fire, and had
consequently been forced to retire to their wretched couches immediately after
The night was thus painfully long and wearisome.
Markham found upon enquiry that there were two methods
of living in Newgate. One was to subsist upon the gaol allowance: the other to
provide for oneself. Those who received the allowance were not permitted to have
beer, nor were their friends suffered to add the slightest comfort to their
sorry meals; and those who paid for their own food were restricted as to
quantity and quality.
Such is the treatment prisoners experience before they
are tried ; - and yet there is an old saying, that every one must be deemed
innocent until he be proved guilty. The old saying is a detestable
mockery. Of course Markham determined upon paying for his own food; and
when Whittingham called in the morning, he was sent to make the necessary
arrangements with the coffee-house keeper in the Old Bailey who enjoyed the
monopoly of supplying that compartment of the prison.
The most painful ordeal which Richard had to undergo during
his captivity in Newgate, was his first interview with Mr. Monroe. This
gentleman was profoundly affected at the situation of his youthful ward, though
not for one moment did he doubt his innocence.
And here let us mention another revolting humiliation, and
unnecessary cruelty to which the untried prisoner is compelled to submit.
In each yard is a small enclosure, or cage, of thick iron bars, covered with
wire-work; and beyond this fence, at a distance of about two feet, is another
row of bars similarly interwoven with wire. The visitor is compelled to stand in
this cage to converse with his relative or friend, who is separated from him by
the two gratings. All private discourse is consequently impossible.
What can recompense the prisoner who is acquitted, for all
the mortifications, insults, indignities, and privations he has undergone in
Newgate previous to that trial which triumphantly proclaims his innocence?
Relative to the interview between Markham and Monroe, all
that it is necessary to state is that the young man's guardian promised to adopt
all possible means to prove his innocence, and spare no expense in securing the
most intelligent and influential legal assistance. Mr. Monroe moreover intimated
his intention of removing the case from the hands of Mac Chizzle to those of a
well-known and highly respectable solicitor. Richard declared that he left
himself entirely in his guardian's hands, and expressed his deep gratitude for
the interest thus demonstrated by that gentleman in his behalf.
Thus terminated the first interview in Newgate between
Markham and his late father's confidential friend.
He felt somewhat relieved by this visit, and entertained
strong hopes of being enabled to prove his innocence upon the day of trial.
But it then wanted a whole month to the next sessions -
thirty horrible days which he would be compelled to pass in Newgate!
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON
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