chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF LONDON
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THE OLD BAILEY
THE sessions of the Central Criminal Court
The street of the Old Bailey was covered with straw; and the
pavement in the neighbourhood of the doors of the court on one side, and of the
public-houses on the other, was crowded with policemen, the touters of the
barristers and attornies practising criminal law, and the friends of the
prisoners whose trials were expected to come on that day.
The press-yard, which is situate between the solid granite
wall of Newgate and the Court-house, was also flooded with living waves, which
rolled onwards from the street to the flight of steps leading into the gallery
of the Old Court. In former times, prisoners who refused to plead, were pressed
beneath immense weights, until they would consent to declare themselves guilty
or not guilty. This odious punishment was inflicted in that enclosure : hence
its name of the press-yard.
It cannot be necessary to describe the court-house, with its
dark sombre walls, and its huge ventilator at the top. Alas! the golden bowl of
hope has been broken within those walls, and the knell of many a miserable
wretch has been rung upon its tribunals from the lips of the judge!
The street of the Old Bailey presents quite an animated
appearance during the sessions ;- but it is horrible to reflect that numbers of
the policemen who throng in that thoroughfare upon those occasions, have trumped
up the charges for which prisoners have been committed for trial, in order to
obtain a holiday, and extort from the county the expenses of attending as
At the time of which our tale treats, the sheriffs were
accustomed to provide two dinners for the judges every day ; one at three, and
the other at five o'clock, so that those who could not attend the first, were
enabled to take their seats at the second. Marrow puddings, beef-steaks, and
boiled rounds of beef, invariably formed the staple commodities of these repasts
; and it was the duty of the ordinary chaplains of Newgate to act as
vice-presidents at both meals. This ceremony was always performed by those
reverend gentlemen the ecclesiastical gourmands contrived, during sessions, to
eat two dinners every day, and wash each down with a very tolerable allowance of
We said that the Sessions commenced. On the Monday and
Tuesday, the Recorder in the Old Court, and the Common Sergeant in the New,
tried those prisoners who were charged with minor offences: on the Wednesday the
Judges upon the rota took their seats on the bench of the Old Court.
Richard Markham's name stood first for trial upon the list on
that day. He was conducted from Newgate by means of a subterraneous passage,
running under the Press-yard, into the dock of the Court.
The Hall was crowded to excess, for the case had produced a
profound sensation. The moment Markham appeared in the dock, every eye was fixed
upon him. His countenance was very pale; but his demeanour was firm. He cast one
glance around, and then looked only towards the twelve men who were to decide
upon his fate. Close by the dock stood Mr. Monroe : Whittingham was in the
gallery ;- the Baronet, Chichester, and Talbot lounged together near the
The Jury were sworn, and the counsel for the prosecution
stated the case. He observed that the prisoner at the bar was a young man who,
upon his [-87-] majority, would become possessed of
a considerable fortune; but that in the mean time he had no doubt fallen into
bad company, for it would be proved that he was arrested by the police at a
common gambling house in the evening of the very same day on which he had
committed the offence with which he was now charged. it was but natural to
presume that this young man had imbibed the habit of gaming, and, having thereby
involved himself in pecuniary embarrassments, had adopted the desperate and
fatal expedient of obtaining money by means of forged Bank-notes, rather than
communicate his situation to his guardian. Where he procured these forged notes,
it was impossible to say it would, however, be satisfactorily proved to the jury
that he passed a forged note for five hundred pounds at the banking-house of
Messrs , and that when he was arrested a second note for fifty pounds was found
upon his person. Several concurrent circumstances established the guilt of the
prisoner. On the evening previous to his arrest, the prisoner dined with Sir
Rupert Harborough, Mr. Chichester, and Mr. Talbot; and when these gentlemen
proposed a walk after dessert, the prisoner requested them to accompany him to a
common gaming-house in the Quadrant. They refused ; but finding him determined
to visit that den, they agreed to go with him, with the friendly intention of
taking care that he was not plundered of his money, he being considerably
excited by the wine he had been drinking. Ere he set out, the prisoner enquired
if either of his companions could change him a fifty pound note; but neither
gentleman had sufficient gold to afford the accommodation required. Now was it
not fair to presume that the prisoner intended to pass off upon one of his
friends the very forged fifty-pound note subsequently found upon him ! On the
following day, the prisoner - the moment he was released from custody on the
charge of being found in a common gaming-house - hurried home, and ordered his
servants to prepare for his immediate departure for the continent. He moreover
wrote two letters, which would be read to the jury, - one to a lady, and the other
to his guardian, - and both containing unequivocal admission of his guilt. The
learned counsel then read the letters, and commented upon their contents at some
length There were several expressions (he said) which clearly tended to
self-crimination.- "Circumstances of a very peculiar nature, and which I cannot at present
explain, compel me to quit London thus abruptly." "1 could ,sot
have remained in London another minute with safety to myself." "I
conceive it to be my duty - in consequence of rumours which may shortly
reach you concerning me - to
inform you that I have this moment only awoke to the fearful perils of the
career in which I have for some weeks past been blindly hurrying along, till at
length yesterday ." "l am penitent, deeply
penitent: let this
statement induce you to defend and protect my reputation." The last paragraph
but one which concluded so abruptly with the words, "till at
length yesterday " clearly pointed to the crime with
which the prisoner was now charged and the last paragraph of all undeniably
implored Mr. Monroe, the young man's guardian, to hush up the matter the moment
it should reach his ears.
clerk at the banking-house, who changed the five hundred pound note for the
prisoner, then gave his evidence.
length Sir Rupert Harborough was called into the witness-box; and he deposed that
the prisoner had dined with him on the evening previous to his arrest; that he very
pressingly solicited him (Sir Rupert), and Mr. Chichester, and Mr. Talbot, to accompany him to the gambling-house;
and that he moreover, enquired if either of them could accommodate him with
change for a fifty pound note.
Mr. Chichester was called next. He stated the line of defence adopted by the
prisoner at Bow-street, and positively denied having ever given the prisoner any
notes to change for him.
Markham's counsel cross-examined this witness with great severity.
are you, sir ?"
"A private gentleman."
are your means of subsistence?"
"I receive an allowance from my father."
"Who is your father? Now, take care, sir,, how you answer that question."
"He is a commercial man, sir."
"Is he not a tradesman?"
"Well, - he is a tradesman, then - if you like it."
"Yes, - I do like it. Now - upon your oath - is he not a pawnbroker in
Brick-lane, Bethnal Green?"
"He is a goldsmith in a large way of business, and lends money
"Ha!" complacently observed the counsel for the defence. "Go on,
sir: lends money occasionally "
"Upon real security, I suppose," added Chichester, taken considerably
aback by these questions.
"Upon deposits; let us give things their proper names. He lends money upon
flannel petticoats - watches - flat-irons, &c." observed the barrister, with
withering sarcasm. " But I have not done with you yet, sir. Was your father
- this very respectable pawnbroker - ever elevated to the peerage?"
"He was not, sir."
"Then how come you by the distinction of Honourable prefixed to
Chichester hung down his head, and made no reply. The counsel for the prisoner
repeated the question in a deliberate and emphatic matter. At length, Mr.
Chichester was fairly bullied into a humble acknowledgment "that he had no right to the
distinction, but that he had assumed it as a convenient West-End
appendage." The cross examination then proceeded.
"Did you not travel under the name of Winchester?"
"I did - in Germany."
"With what motive did you assume a false name?"
"I had no particular motive."
you not leave England in debt? and were you not afraid of your bills of
exchange following you abroad?"
"There is some truth in that; but the most honourable men are
frequently involved in pecuniary difficulties."
my questions, sir, and make no observations. You will leave me to do that, if
you please. Now sir - tell the jury whether you were not accompanied by a valet or
coachman in your German trip?"
am always accustomed to travel with a domestic."
"A man who runs away from his creditors should have more delicacy than to waste
his money in such a manner. When you were at Baden-baden, were you not
involved in some gambling transactions which compelled you to quit the
[-88-] "I certainly had a dispute with a gentleman at
and I left the town next morning."
"Yes - and you left your clothes and your servant behind
you - and your bill unpaid at the hotel?"
"But I have since met my servant, and paid him more than
double the wages then due."
"You may stand down, sir," said the counsel for the
defence - a permission of which the witness availed himself with surprising
The counsel for the prosecution now called Mr. Whittingham.
The poor butler ascended the witness-box with a rueful countenance; and, after
an immense amount of badgering and baiting, admitted that his young master had
meditated a sudden and abrupt departure from England, the very day upon which he
was arrested, in his cross-examination he declared that the motives of the
journey were founded upon certain regrets which Richard entertained at having
permitted himself to be led away by Messrs. Chichester and Talbot, and Sir
"And, my Lords," ejaculated the old domestic,
his voice, "Master Richard is no more guilty of this here circumwention
than either one of your Lordships; but the man, that did it all is that there
Chichester, which bilked his wally-de-shamble, and that wulgar fellow,
Talbot, which called me a tulip."
This piece of eloquence was delivered with much feeling; and
the Judges smiled - for they appreciated the motives of the honest old
The officer who arrested Markham, proved that he found upon
his person, when he searched him at Bow Street, a pocket-book, containing
between thirty and forty pounds. in notes and gold, together with a note for
A clerk from the Bank of England proved that both the note
for five hundred pounds changed at the bankers, and the one for fifty just
alluded to, were forgeries.
The case for the prosecution here closed; and the Judges
retired to partake of some refreshment.
Markham had leisure to think over the proceedings of the
morning. He was literally astounded when he contemplated the diabolical perjury
committed by Sir Rupert Harborough and Mr. Chichester; but he entertained the
most sanguine hope that the discredit thrown upon the character of the latter
would render his testimony worthless. He shuddered when he reflected how
ingeniously the counsel for the prosecution had grouped together those
circumstances which told against him; and then again a ray of satisfaction
animated his countenance, when he remembered that his counsel would speedily
show those circumstances in a new light.
The Judges returned: silence prevailed throughout the hall;
and the prisoner's counsel rose for the defence. Richard seated himself in the
dock, and prepared to listen with the greatest attention to the speech of his
advocate ; and Whittingham placed his hand in a curved position behind
his ear, in order to assist that organ on the present important occasion.
The counsel for the defence began by giving some account of
the family and social position of the prisoner, who was born of parents
accustomed to move in the first rank of life, and who was the heir to a fortune
of no inconsiderable amount. During his minority, his guardian, who was then
present, had promised to allow the prisoner six hundred rounds a-year. With
these pecuniary advantages it was absurd to suppose that young man of education
- a young man
whose noble and honourable feelings had been the object of remark on the part of all his
friends, and who had only to express a want to his guardian, in order to receive
its immediate gratification - it was absurd to imagine that such an individual
would either enter into a conspiracy with others, or plan by himself, for the
purpose of raising money upon forged notes. No - this young man was one of a most
generous and confiding disposition; and, as he had seen but little of the world,
he was totally unacquainted with its wiles and artifices. Thus was he made the
dupe of some designing villains, at his very outset upon life. The whole
history of the present transaction was to be summed up in a few words. A gang of
conspirators had hit upon the desperate mode of passing forged notes, in order
to retrieve their ruined fortunes. Not as magnanimous as the highwayman who
perils his own existence while he perpetrates a crime, these men required a tool
of whom they might make use, and who could be at any time sacrificed to save
them. This instrument - this scapegoat, was the prisoner at the bar. The witness,
whose real name was Chichester. but who, by his own confession, had travelled on
the Continent under another denomination, was not a person on whom the Jury
could place any reliance. He had assumed a distinction to which he as by no
means entitled - he had affected all the arrogance and importance of a man of rank
and fashion, - whereas he was the son of a pawnbroker in the refined locality of
Brick-Lane, Bethnal Green! Endowed with much impudence, clever in imitating the
manners of his superiors, and well versed in all the intricacies and subtleties
of the world, this possessor of assumed distinctions - this swaggering imitator of
a class far above him - this adventurer, with fascinating conversation, ready wit,
amusing anecdote, and fashionable attire,- this roué of the present
day, with jewellery about his person, and gold in his pocket - allowing ever an
engaging smile to play upon his lips, and professing unmitigated disgust at the
slightest appearance of vulgarity in another,- this individual - this Mr.
Chichester was the principal witness whom the counsel for the prosecution had
brought forward. But no English Jury would condemn a fellow creature upon such
testimony - the testimony of one who was compelled to fly ignominiously and
precipitately from Baden, on account of some rascality at cards, and who left
his domestic in a strange land, pennyless, ignorant of the language, and
surrounded by the odium which also attached itself to the name of his master.
The prisoner had no motive in passing forged notes, because he was wealthy ;-
Mr. Chichester had a motive, because he evidently lived far beyond the means
which his father could allow him.
The learned counsel here related the manner in which Richard
had been induced to change the larger note, and had become possessed of the
He then proceeded to observe, that the letters addressed to
Mrs. Arlington and Mr. Monroe related to the fact that the prisoner's eyes had
been suddenly opened to the characters of his associates, and to the career of
dissipation in which they were leading him. The phrase upon which so much stress
had been laid- "till at length yesterday" alluded to the
a young officer, which had taken place while the prisoner was at the gambling-
house, whither he had been inveigled instead of inveigling others. "He
could not have remained in London another minute with safety to himself." And
why? because these associates whom he had [-89-]
accidentally picked up, would not leave him quiet. They regularly beset him. "He
was penitent;" and he hoped that Mr. Monroe would "defend
and protect his reputation." Yes-when the newspaper reports conveyed to the
knowledge of that gentleman the fact that his ward had been arrested in a common
gambling-house, and fined for being there. The letters were written hurriedly,
and were ambiguous: thus they were susceptible of more than one interpretation. Let the jury interpret them in favour of the prisoner. It was better to
a dozen guilty men back again into society, terrible as that evil would be, than to condemn
one innocent person. Then, with regard to the precipitate departure: the witness Whittingham had shown, in his a cross-examination, that the
prisoner's object was to escape from the three men whose characters were
suddenly unveiled to him. It was a said, that the prisoner had requested those
three individuals to accompany him to the gaming-house, and that they at first
refused. Oh! amazing fastidiousness - especially on the part of Mr. Arthur
Chichester, who had been [-90-] compelled
to decamp from Baden, for cheating at a cards! Then it was stated that the
prisoner asked for change for a fifty-pound note; and it was said, that he would
have availed himself of that accommodation to pass a forged note. Why - he (the
learned counsel) had already explained how that fifty-pound note came into the
prisoner's possession - his own gold having been transferred by Mr. Chichester to Sir Rupert
Harborough's writing desk! The learned counsel concluded, by asking how it
happened that no other forged Bank of England notes - no copper-plates to print
them with - no materials for such a fraud, were found at the prisoner's
house? Could it be supposed that a young man with his prospects would risk his
reputation and his safety for a few hundreds of pounds? The idea was
preposterous. The prisoner's counsel entered into a few minute points of the
evidence which told in favour of his client, and a wound up with a powerful
appeal to the jury in his behalf.
Richard followed, with a absorbing interest, the able defence made for him by his counsel; and his soul was filled with hope as
each fact and argument in his favour was divested of all mystery, and lucidly exhibited to the consideration of the court.
Mr. Monroe was summoned to the witness box, and he proved the statements
made by the prisoner's counsel relative to the pecuniary position of his ward.
Snoggles, the ostler, followed, and very freely stated all the particulars of
his late master's precipitate decampment from Baden.
Thus terminated the case for the defence.
The counsel of the prosecution - according to that odious right which gives the
accusing party the last word in those instances where the defendant has called
witnesses - rose to reply. He stated that neither the wealth nor the social
position of an a individual afforded a certain guarantee against crime. Besides,
the law must not always be swayed by the apparent absence of motives; because
some of the most extraordinary deeds of turpitude upon record had never been
traced to a source which could satisfactorily account for their origin. The perpetration
was the, object which the jury had to keep in view; and the use of
evidence was to prove or deny that perpetration by some particular individual.
A forgery had been committed, and money obtained by the prisoner at the bar
through the agency of that forgery. The defence had not attempted to deny that
the prisoner was the individual a who had thus obtained the money. The point
to be considered was, whether the prisoner knew the note to be a forged one; and
be (the learned counsel) considered that an assemblage of circumstances of a
most unequivocal nature stamped the prisoner a with that guilt. Mr. Chichester's
evidence went to show that he himself never gave any notes to the prisoner. Even
if Chichester were proved to be a disreputable person, there was nothing beyond
the prisoner's mere assertion (made through his counsel) to prove that he had
received the two notes from Chichester. Mr. Chichester had certainly assumed another name during his German tour, but it was
for the purpose of avoiding
arrest in a foreign land upon bills of exchange which might have been sent from
England after him. He had, moreover, assumed the distinction of Honourable
- a foolish vanity, but by no means a crime; for half the Englishmen who
were called Captain, were no more captains than he (the learned counsel)
The senior judge now summoned up the evidence to the jury; and the most
profound interest was still manifested by all present in the proceedings. The learned judge
occupied nearly two hours in hit charge to the jury, whom he put in possession
of all the points of the case which it was necessary to consider.
The jury retired, and debated for a considerable a time upon their verdict.
This was the dread interval of suspense. Richard's countenance was deadly
pale; and his lips were firmly compressed in order to prevent any sudden
ebullition of feeling - a weakness to which he seemed for a moment inclined to
yield. Mr. Monroe did not entertain much hope; the summing up of the judge had
been unfavourable to Markham. As for Whittingham, he shook his head
dolefully from time to time, and murmured, loud enough to be heard by those near
him, "Oh! Master Richard, Master Richard! who would ever have
propulgated an opinion that you would have been brought into such a fixture as
this? It's all along of them fellers which call butlers tu1ips!"
How singularly reckless is the mind of man with regard to the destinies of
those to whom he is not connected by any ties of blood or friendship! While the
jury were absent, discussing their verdict, the various barristers assembled
round the table, began chattering together, and laughing, and telling pleasant
anecdotes, as if the fate of a fellow-creature was by no means compromised at
that moment. The counsel for the prosecution, who had done his duty by
exerting all his talents, all his energies, and all his eloquence, to obtain
the conviction of a youth who had never injured him, and whom he had never seen
before, coolly took up a newspaper and perused it with evident gratification;
while, at a little distance from him, stood the individual whom he had so
zealously and earnestly sought to render miserable for life!
How strange! - how horribly depraved and vitiated must be that state of
society in which hundreds of talented men are constantly employed, with large
recompense, in procuring the condemnation of their fellow-creatures to the
scaffold, the hulks, or eternal banishment! And what an idea must we entertain
of our vaunted condition of consummate civilization, when we behold these
learned men calling to their aid every miserable chicanery, every artificial
technicality, and every possible exaggeration, to pursue the accused prisoner
either to the platform of the gibbet, to loathsome dungeons, or to the horrors
of Norfolk Island. Does society avenge? - or does it a merely make examples of
the wicked to warn others from sin? If the enquirer who asks himself or us these
questions, would only attend the Central Criminal Court, he would hear the
barrister for the prosecution imploring, coaxing, and commanding the a jury
to return such a verdict as will either condemn a human being to the scaffold,
or separate him for ever from home, wife, children, kindred, and friends! He
would find men straining every nerve, availing themselves of every miserable
legal quirk and quibble, torturing their imaginations to find arguments, calling
subtlety and mystification to their aid, shamefully exaggerating trivial
incidents into important facts, dealing in misrepresentation and false deduction,
substituting and dovetailing facts to suit their purposes, omitting others which
tell against their own case, almost falling upon their knees to the jury, and
staking their very reputation on the results, - and all these dishonourable,
disgraceful, vile, and inhuman means and efforts exerted and called into
action for the sake of sending a fellow-creature to the scaffold, or
separating him for ever from the family that is [-91-]
dependant upon him, and that will starve without him!
O God! is it possible that man can have been made for such sad purposes? is
it possible that the being whom thou hast created after thine own image, should
be so demon-like in heart?
Oh! if the prisoner standing in the dock had inflicted some terrible injury
upon the honour or the family of the barrister who holds a brief against him, then were it easy to comprehend that profound anxiety on the part of this
barrister, to send the a trembling criminal to the gallows! But, no - that
barrister has no revenge to gratify - no hatred to assuage - no malignity to
appease; he toils to take away that man's life, with all his strength, with all his talent, and with all his energy, because he has received gold to do
best to obtain a conviction!
Ah! what a hideous traffic in flesh and blood!
And if any one were to say
to that barrister, "Thou art a blood-thirsty and merciless wretch," he
would answer coolly and confidently, "No: on the other hand, I subscribe
to philanthropic institutions !"
The jury returned and the feeling uppermost in their minds was
satisfaction at the prospect of being so speedily dismissed to their respective
homes, where they would pursue their efforts after wealth, and speedily forget
the youth whom they had condemned to punishment, and whose prospects they had
For their verdict was Guilty!
And the judges hastened to terminate the proceedings.
Richard was commanded to rise, and receive the sentence of the court. He
obeyed with a kind of mechanical precision - for his mental energies were
entirely prostrated. The voice of the judge addressing him rang like the
chimes of distant bells in his ears ;- the numerous persons whom he beheld
around, appeared to be all moving and agitating like an immense crowd
assembled to witness an execution.
He stood up as he was commanded ; and the Judge proceeded to pass
sentence upon him. He said that the court took his youth into consideration,
and that there were circumstances which would render a very lenient sentence
satisfactory to that society which had been outraged. The court accordingly
condemned him to two years' imprisonment in the Giltspur Street Compter,
without hard labour.
"That's all!" said the spectators to each other; and they
The audience then separated.
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