[-1-] SKETCHES IN LONDON
Begging-letter Impostors -Their supposed number - Probable amount of the money they receive - Probable number of letters they send, with the proportion of successful to unsuccessful applications-General materials of their letters-Occasional remarks on the result of their applications- Means by which they obtain available information regarding the parties to whom they apply-Modes of going to work... Illustrative anecdotes-Underwood and other begging-letter impostors-Specimens of their letters,
LONDON is proverbial all the world over for the number and ingenuity of the tricks which are daily practised in it; but perhaps there is no department of metropolitan roguery in which a greater amount of ingenuity is displayed than in that of begging.
The London beggars are divided into a great variety of classes; but I shall confine myself to the begging impostors who ply their avocation by means of letters, and to those who by the assumption of distress which they do not actually feel, endeavour, in the open streets, to enlist the sympathies of the charitable and humane in their behalf. Of the begging-letter class of impostors, it is exceedingly difficult to obtain statistical information, so copious as could be desired. I have been at great pains to possess myself of as full and accurate particulars as are accessible. If I have not succeeded to the extent of my own wishes as regards the copiousness of my facts, I have great reason for reposing an implicit reliance on the accuracy of those I have ascertained.
[-2-] I need hardly say, that it is impossible to ascertain what may be the average number of persons in the metropolis who make a trade of writing begging-letters. There can be no question that hundreds do so who are either never detected in the practice, or who if they are so by some of the individuals on whom they have sought to impose, are never publicly .exposed; and consequently their names are unknown. A guess, however, may be made at the number of these men. The great majority of them confine their attempts at deception to the nobility and gentry. The reason is obvious enough; they know, in the first place, that the aristocracy are so much occupied with other matters, that they are less likely than the middle classes of society to put themselves to the trouble, in the event of any suspicion of attempted imposition, of detecting and prosecuting the offenders; in the second place, they know that, while the chances of detection are less with the nobility and the more affluent portion of the gentry, than with persons in an humbler sphere of life, they will necessarily, in the event of success, reap a much more abundant harvest from the former than from the latter. Half a crown, or five shillings, even were their tale of distress believed, would be all that they could, taking one case with another, expect to receive from persons in the middle classes of society; whereas, with the aristocracy they never dream of a successful effort being productive of less than a sovereign; while the average produce, from calculations I have made, and which they, as a matter of course have made long before me, is about fifty shillings.
Assuming, then, as before stated, that the vast majority of people who follow the avocation of writing and sending letters soliciting charity under got-up cases of. distress, confine their business to the higher classes, I am enabled by means of data which are in my possession, to form something like a confident conjecture as to the average number of such impostors. Some time ago I saw a letter from a nobleman of a very humane and benevolent disposition, in which it was stated that, in the course of the year, he had received nearly three hundred and fifty begging letters, all of which were dated from London, and detailed trumped-up cases of the deepest distress. The noble lord, before remitting any amount of money in answer to either of the Letters, took the precaution, which he had been led to do from having been so often imposed on before, of inquiring into the individual cases. And what does the reader suppose was the result? Why that forty-nine out of every fifty of the parties were gross impostors. And as these persons are, for the most part, men of great shrewdness, it is fair presumption that they would take care to find out who were the noblemen to whom [-3-] they might apply with the greatest prospect of success, and, consequently, that the nobleman to whom I refer was not likely to be overlooked by many of them. In all the circumstances, I think it is a very moderate computation when I suppose the average number of those who live by begging-letter impositions to be about two hundred and fifty.
Another question will very naturally be asked-.. "What is the probable amount per annum which is averaged by the begging letter impostors?" If I cannot answer the question with an absolute certainty, I have facts in my possession which enable me to speak with confidence as to what is near the sum. The highest which anyone of the fraternity was in the habit of yearly deriving front his Impositions was very nearly 1000l. This may appear an incredible sum; it is nevertheless a true one, I shall have occasion to refer to the case more particularly in an after part of the chapter. The lowest sum earned by any of the supposed two hundred and fifty begging-letter impostors to whom I have alluded, cannot be under 100l. a year; but as a greater number are between this sum and that of 200l. than there are above the latter amount, I should suppose that if the average sum were estimated at the intermediate sum of 200l. we are pretty near the mark. This, then, would give no less than 50,000l., out of which the benevolent public of London, chiefly the nobility, are annually swindled by the begging-letter impostors.
I have been at some pains to ascertain the probable number of begging-letters which are, on an average, daily addressed to noblemen, gentlemen, and ladies in the metropolis. To speak with any thing like certainty on the subject were, of course, out of the question. From all the facts I have been able to learn, I should suppose that there must be at least, speaking in round numbers, 1000 such letters written every day by these impostors. Those who confine themselves to what they call the higher game, namely, the nobility and affluent gentry, do not deal to a great extent in epistles of this description, because the field is of necessity comparatively limited, and also because if they succeed in one case out of five they make a rich harvest, seldom receiving less than two sovereigns in many instances five, in some ten, and occasionally though very rarely, as high as twenty; but in my computation as to the probable number of begging-letters written daily in London, I include the class of impostors who chiefly, if not exclusively confine their labours to epistolary applications to clergymen dissenting ministers, and other persons benevolence, in the middle ranks of life. Instances consist with my own personal knowledge of an individual of this last class of impostors, writing no fewer than twenty of these letters in a day. Not long since sixteen letters of this descrip-[-4-]tion, all sealed and ready for delivery, were found in a basket at the house of one of these persons, in Blackfriars Road; and it was ascertained that all the sixteen had been intended to be forwarded to their respective destinations within a few hours after the discovery. If then some of these rogues are so indefatigable in their epistolary attempts on the pockets of the charitable and humane, as to pen twenty letters in one day, surely, considering their number, and after making every allowance for the comparatively contracted labours of the least industrious portion of the swindling community, there is nothing extravagant in the supposition that 1000 such letters are daily indited and forwarded to their several destinations in London.
As to the average proportion the successful bear to the unsuccessful applications in such cases, I have no data on which to ground even a confident conjecture. The comparative success in individual cases depends, as a matter of course, on the dexterity of the parties. To insure distinguished success as a begging-letter impostor, two things are indispensable; first, judgment in the selection of the persons on whose pockets the attempt is to be made; and secondly, skill or ingenuity in deciding on the form or mode of making it. These are just as necessary to success in this way, as the choice of a proper place and a skilful baiting of the hook, are to success in angling for any species of the finny tribe. The difference in the comparative success of the begging-letter impostors is very great. Some do not succeed in above one case out of twenty; others successfully practise their impositions every fifth time they make the attempt. I believe that this last amount of success is the most distinguished that any of them meet with. It will appear on the first blush of the thing incredible, but the fact has in various cases been established beyond all question, that some of the more successful begging-letter writers keep their clerks, and sport their horses and gigs. This was the case with blind Williams, so well known in town some years ago. It was ascertained at the time, that his annual income, from his begging epistles, averaged from 600l. to 800l. He regularly employed two clerks, at a salary, if I remember rightly, of 80l. a-year, in the one case, and 501. in the other. He also kept his horse and gig, and might often be seen "showing off" in the most fashionable parts of the town. He kept his mistress also, and on his death, his principal clerk, Joseph Underwood, of whom I shall have to speak hereafter., actually married her, regarding the printed documents and business materials* (*I shall afterwards have occasion to state of what this stock in trade consisted.) of her late "protector".-for so the term is in such cases perverted-as equivalent [-5-] to a fortune. The other clerk of Williams also afterwards established a good business, on his own account, in the begging-letter way; but it was not nearly equal to that of his late employer.
A common practice in the begging-letter business is, for a number of impostors to enter into a sort of partnership together, it being found that the trade can generally be carried on most unsuccessfully that way. In such cases, however they do not all "share and share alike." The Company, if I may so speak, is formed on the banditti principle; in other words, they have always a head who acts in the capacity of a general, and all their movements or "operations," as they themselves phrase it, must be in strict conformity with his instructions The late notorious Peter Hill, whose case was brought so prominently before the public ten or twelve years since, was the head of one of these companies or gangs. It was ascertained beyond all question, at the period to which I refer, that the average amount of which, the charitable public were daily plundered by the impositions of Peter and his gang, was upwards of 20l. His own share, after paying all the subordinates, or his "men," as he used to call them, and after deducting for expenses in the shape of paper postage, and other incidentals was not much under 600l. a-year.
Of all the begging-letter impostors of whom I have heard, Peter was unequalled in the facility and success with which he could change his personal appearance In the course of one day he could assume and sustain, with admirable effect, seven or eight different characters; so that those who saw him, and were conversing with him, at ten o'clock in the morning, might have been in his company at twelve, and never had the slightest suspicion of the fact. He had a pair of huge artificial whiskers, which he put on and off just as he pleased; and he had also a pair of moveable mustachios, which a Spanish Don would have hooked on with envious eye. Of wigs, too, he had an abundant supply, embracing every variety of colour; while his wardrobe was so extensive, that you would have thought he had the entire Contents of some Jew clothesman'5 shop in Holywell-street. By these means, coupled with great natural cleverness, he was able to assume so many different characters, and to appear so very unlike himself, if there be not an Irishism in the expression, that, though the Mendicity Society had at one time no fewer than three hundred cases of begging letter impostures against him, and though its officers had repeatedly seen him in the police offices, they passed him day after day in the public streets, without recognising him. I may mention one fact, out of hundreds, illustrative of the singular adroitness with which he managed to disguise himself and to assume different characters; namely, that he applied personally one morning to the Earl [-6-] of Harrowby, as an unbeneficed clergyman of the Church of Eng land, in great distress, when he received a sovereign, and in the evening in the character of an unfortunate portrait-painter, when he again received a sovereign from the hands of the noble Earl, after having had a personal interview with his Lordship on both occasions.
The notorious Underwood, who was brought so prominently before the public three or four years ago, under innumerable aliases, was also the head or general of a gang of this description. He is the impostor to whom I have before alluded as having netted about 1000l. per annum as his own share of the plunder. He also kept his gig, and had a private clerk at a handsome salary. Underwood made one of the most successful single hits to be found, perhaps, in the annals of the letter-begging profession. Not many years since, he swindled the late Earl of Plymouth out of 50l. by one letter. l know several instances in which 20l., 25l., and even .30l., have been got at once ; but this is the only case which has come to my knowledge of 50l. being given at a time. When I come to describe some of the ingenious expedients resorted to by these impostors in the prosecution of their avocation, I shall refer to the way in which the above benevolent nobleman was swindled out. of his 50l., and shall, at the same time, make some observations on Underwood's qualifications for his profession.
The more experienced class of begging-letter writers conduct their operations on the most approved business principles. In addition to their constantly retaining clerks in their employ, whenever the success of their schemes will justify that expense, they keep their books in the most perfect order. There is not a merchant in the city who is more regular or correct in this way. They make a memorandum of each day's proceedings, which answers to the day-book of the merchant; while they have also a book corresponding with the ledger of the mercantile man.
All the begging-letter impostors who carry on an extensive business keep a regular diary of their proceedings. The following is copied from one of the morning papers of June last, as the journal of a notorious impostor named John Douglas, who was only liberated from the House of Correction, where he had been confined for his fraudulent practices, in September. I may just observe, that I some time since saw the original of the journal, but not having access to it at present, I. am obliged to quote the extract from the morning paper referred to. It will be seen that, in most cases, the writer first mentions the name of the party applied to; then the assumed name in which the application is made; thirdly, the fictitious case of distress got up; and lastly, the result of the application where successful.
[-7-] In some cases one or two terms are made use of, as "Derry" in the first entry, which are not so intelligible
Feb. 6.-Marquis of Bristol. Derry; Mary Cole; blind; seven children; three cripples.
Feb. 8.-Admiral Curzon. Ship Pallas; Sam Bowden, mate; seized for 41. 4s. rent; paralytic stroke. Result, 2l. Feb. 15.-Admiral Curzon. Ship Douglas; Powden, Mackey, and Bill Stroud, cripples, and two stone blind. Received 2l Feb. 26.-Sir Peter Durham. Lieutenant Spratt; leg off; hard up. Result, 20l March 12.-Countess of Mansfield. Widow; nine children; hooping cough; cholera morbus; measles. March 14 -Lord Melbourne. Jane Simpson; father blind; mother dead; no money to bury her. March 18.-Countess of Mansfield. Daughter supporting mother and grandmother by needlework; lost use of both hands; furniture seized for 6l. 10.s. Received 3l March 24.-Earl Fitzwilliarn. Goods seized for 4l 4s.; no bed; wife just lying-in. Result, 2l
The above is, of course, but a mere skeleton or outline of the letters which are addressed. The writers dwell with an edifying circumstantiality and expatiate with an amazing pathos, on the pretended cases of distress; and are great adepts at that sort of flattery of the persons addressed, which, to use their own expression, is most likely to "gammon" them. Of the admirable tactics of these epistolarian impostors I shall have occasion to speak at greater length by-and-bye, when I shall give some approved specimens of their correspondence.
Some of the begging-letter writers occasionally make droll remarks in their journals, as to the result of their applications. The following is a specimen
June 29.-Addressed the Duke of Richmond under the name of John Smith; case, leg amputated, out of work for six months, and wife and seven children starving. Result, 2l. Not amiss, but hope to be more successful next time.
June 25.-Letter to Bishop of London; name, William Anderson; case, licensed clergyman of the Church of England, but unemployed for four years, and wife dead three weeks ago, leaving five motherless children. Result, no go; too old a bird to be caught with chaff; but try it on again next week.
June 28.-..Try Sir Peter Laurie; case, industrious Scotchman, but no employment; lived on bread and water for eight days, but no bread, nor anything to eat, for the last three days; name, John Laurie. Result, referred to the Mendicity Society, Sir Peter being too far north to be done; knowing rogues these Scotchmen; there is no gammoning them.
[-8-] June 30.-Addressed Sir Peter Durham; case, lost a leg and arm in the service; was one of his men on board the ship Pallas; great destitution; not even as much as to get my timber leg repaired, being broken by accident; name, Jack Scraggs. Result 5l.; Sir Peter a regular trump; drink his health in a bottle of best Madeira; have at him again in a fortnight or so; plenty more cases to be got up; plenty more names to assume.
July 4.-Address Lord Wyndford; name, Samuel Downie; case, ruined by attachment to Toryism; have often detected treasonable conspiracies, and been a proscribed man by my former acquaintances in consequence ; great hater of Reform, which means Revolution ; ready to shed my blood in defence of Church and State. Result, long letter, enclosing half a sovereign; miserable work this: won't pay for consumption of time and paper; Wyndford a stingy customer; stingy old boy to deal with; cut the connexion at once.
July 6.-Letter to Lord Holland; name, Jonathan Manson ; case, endured for a long series of years a species of living martyrdom for my zeal for Reform principles; was intimately acquainted with Muir, Palmer, and the other Scotch Reformers who suffered in 1794, for their principles; am now struck with palsy; wife dying, and six children without a bed to lie on, a rag to cover them, or a morsel of food of any kind to put into their mouths; most deplorable case altogether; dire necessity that induces to write; great outrage to feelings. Received 5l, with a very compassionate letter; the compassion may go to the dogs, but the 5l something substantial ; jolly old cock yet; long may he live to lean on his crutches; will go it again; stick it into him at least once a fortnight.
July 3.-Wrote to Lord Brougham; directed to apply to the Mendicity Society; particularly obliged to his Lordship for his advice, but would have preferred a sovereign or two; have no wish to make the acquaintance of these Society gentry ; wonder how his Lordship himself would like their bone-gruel, which they dignify with the name of soup, and to be kept to hard work at the mill to the bargain.
Unless some such journal or memoranda as this were regularly kept of the proceedings of these gentry, it would be impossible for them to do business at all. They would not only, by exposing their impostures, defeat their objects, but they would soon find themselves in Bow-street, or some other of the police-offices. The success of their schemes depends on the skill and dexterity with which they can vary their assumed names and pretended cases. If two letters were sent to any nobleman or gentleman soon after each other, with the same names or cases, their detection and consequent punishment would be a matter of almost moral certainty. Those who are not in the secret, are at a loss to understand how the begging-letter writers manage to get acquainted with such circumstances, either in the cases of the persons whose [-9-] names they assume, or in those of the parties they address, as could impose on the latter. The way in which the thing is managed is this :-They first of all ascertain who are the noblemen or gentlemen of the most benevolent disposition and ample means, and they then take care to learn what is the most probable way of procuring a favourable hearing to their got-up tale of distress. This done, their ingenuity is put to the rack, with the view of trumping-up the most plausible possible case, An instance or two will suffice to explain this more fully. Suppose I take the cases of Sir Peter Durham and Admiral Curzon, as gentlemen whose names have, been already mentioned. The begging letter writers, having in the first place ascertained that these gentlemen are distinguished for their benevolence of disposition, and for their strong attachment to the naval service, they then apply themselves to the procuring of some particulars respecting particular ships they commanded, and the men who served under them. They succeed in this by going down to Greenwich, and entering, as if it were by the merest accident, into conversation with some of the pensioners there, who, over a pot of porter or a tumbler of grog, are remarkably communicative on all matters pertaining to the naval service. They at once mention the day and date of particular engagements, and particular occurrences. They also learn who were special favourites with Sir Peter Durham, or Admiral Curzon, as the case may be; and then pretending to be one of those persons, they refer, with an edifying minuteness, to a particular occurrence. The imposition is thus in most cases effectual, and the gentlemen addressed believing the trumped-up tale of woe, and sympathising with an old sailor who served under them, naturally put their hands in their pockets, and send the applicant either one or two sovereigns to administer to his exigencies.
Where higher game is aimed at, that is to say, where the prize on which the impostor has his eye, is 10l., 20l., or 30l., something more is done, with the view of practising the imposition successfully. They find out, from the sailors, who were the most favoured officers who served under the commanders, and what their pecuniary and other circumstances now are. They also contrive to possess themselves of the autographs of these officers, and then they set to work to draw out begging-letters, written in a hand as like theirs as possible. The letters thus written have the forged autographs of the officers in question attached to them; and so closely is the handwriting imitated, that in some instances even the parties themselves can scarcely detect the imposture, in so far as mere penman-ship is concerned. I may mention, as an instance of the re-[-10-]markable skill with which these impostors imitate the handwriting of other persons, and also as a proof of the infinite dexterity with which they draw up their letters, that in June last, when the impostor Douglas, already alluded to, was brought to Bow-street Office, Sir Peter Durham, from whom he had a few days before got 20l., in answer to a begging-letter, written in the name of Lieutenant Pratt, an officer who formerly served under the gallant admiral,-the latter could not without great difficulty be made to believe that the application was not actually made by and in the handwriting of the lieutenant.
On ordinary occasions, they have four styles of penmanship. The first is a sort of handwriting which may suit "cases in general," as they are called; the second is that of an old man of education, say a clergyman or doctor, who has been reduced in circumstances; the third is that of a young lady; and the fourth; of an old lady. I have seen a great many of the original letters, written in each of these styles, which were manufactured by Underwood. They are remarkably characteristic in every point of view. The facility with which some of the impostors can, through long practice, imitate different handwritings, is of essential service to them. Indeed, the begging-letter profession could never be carried on with any measure of success without this capability of writing in a variety of hands; for being, as the rogues are, in the habit of sending a great many letters to the same parties in the course of the year, the mere assumption of different names would not, were the calligraphy the same, be a security to them against detection. I may mention, as one illustration of their skill in this way, that the impostor Douglas, already mentioned, got nearly 30l., . from Admiral Curzon, in the course of last year, in sums of 2l. and 1l. each, the letters having been all written in different names, with suitable variations in the penmanship. This consummate impostor was thus, in one sense, living as a pensioner on the bounty of the gallant and benevolent admiral, the latter supposing all the time that he had been administering to the necessities of as many different individuals as he had received different letters.
In the cases in which the begging-letter impostors give the names of men of education and respectability of character, the writers take particular precautions against detection, because the punishment, in the event of discovery, is usually much greater than it is in what are called general cases. The answers to their application are always directed to be made to some public-house, coffee-room, or hairdresser's or other shop, they having previously asked the persons in the house or shop to re-[-11-]ceive any letter which may come to their care with a particular address. This the parties, knowing nothing about the matter, and having the amount of. postage left with them, readily engage to do. The impostors then make a point of watching for the postman outside, at the time they expect, an answer, to see whether he calls at the place to which they requested their answers might be sent. Their object in watching for him is to see that no police or Mendicity Society officer accompanies him, for the purpose of pouncing on the letter-writer as an impostor. This they look for as a matter of course, in the event of their imposture being detected by the party on whom it was attempted to be practised.
'Whenever the begging-letter writers are fortunate enough, which they frequently are, in getting, along with some sum of money from a nobleman or person of distinction,. a letter expressive of sympathy with their supposed distress, such letter is looked on as quite a windfall. It is immediately enclosed, with a begging-letter from themselves, to the various affluent and charitable friends of the party, and usually insures some similar donation from them. The friends of the party take it for granted, that before such party would have written the sympathetic letter, he would have, taken special care to satisfy himself that the case was one of a. legitimate kind. One such letter has often been productive of an abundant harvest, without the impostors being put to any other ingenious shifts to make a plausible ease. The late Earl of Plymouth once wrote a letter of this kind to a consummate impostor, at the. same time enclosing a 20l. note, which enabled the rogue to levy contributions, without any trouble to himself, to an immense extent, on the aristocratic connections and acquaintances of that very benevolent nobleman.
But the most successful mode of letter-begging, when dexterously managed, yet remains to be mentioned. It is this :-The Impostor, instead of applying to the party, on whose pockets he meditates an attempt, either by means of some trumped-up case of a general nature, or by passing himself off as some given individual, pretends to be himself a man of substance, and to have drawn out, from motives of the purest benevolence, a representation of the case of some unfortunate person, whose name and designation are always given with an edifying accuracy. The impostor, in such cases, always sends to the party applied to, a hat of pretended subscriptions for the benefit of the alleged sufferer, along with the details of his afflicting case; and on this list, he himself figures as one of the most liberal of the benevolent Subscribers. The letter always winds up with an assurance that any remittance which may be made to the writer on behalf [-12-] of the unfortunate party, will be most strictly applied to his relief, and that in the way which will be least likely to wound his feelings. As clergymen in reduced circumstances are, of all other classes of men, those who excite the most deep and general sympathy, the name of some clergyman is usually preferred in such eases to that of any other individual. This mode of letter-begging is, as I said before, generally the most successful, where skilfully managed; but it requires very great ingenuity to do it well.
I alluded on a former occasion to the fact of 50l. being got on one occasion by the impostor Underwood from the late Earl of Plymouth. The mode of application which I have just described, was that which the impostor adopted. I may add that, so pleased was he with the success of his expedient, as well he might, and with the princely though mistaken liberality of the noble Earl, that immediately on receiving the 50l note, he called on two of his brother impostors, and invited them to dinner in a fashionable hotel at the west end, by way of celebrating his good fortune. Repeated bumpers were dedicated to the health of his Lordship, and the most anxious wishes were expressed that he would soon, by another proof of his unsuspicious disposition and princely liberality, give occasion for the dedication of a few more bumpers to him. Upwards of 5l. out of the 50l. were spent before the trio of rogues rose from their seats.
A few years since, one of the impositions of the kind described above was detected under very curious circumstances. The impostor-whose name I forget, though it was mentioned to me by a gentleman who was personally privy to the circumstances connected with the detection of the imposition-having trumped-up a most affecting case of distress, in which a clergyman of the Church of England, whose name I forbear to give, because he is still alive, was represented as the suffering party, applied to Lord J- for any donation he might think proper to give on behalf of the afflicted divine. Along with this application there was a pretended list of subscriptions given towards the same benevolent object; and the impostor, who on this occasion assumed the name of John Hughes, took care to call his Lordship's attention to the fact of his own name, though in comparatively limited circumstances, being on the subscription list. Knowing that there was a clergyman of the name of Mr. G , whose living was anything but large, and seeing so many names heading a subscription list on his behalf, he generously sent "John Hughes, Esq.," a 5l. note, to aid in administering to the necessities of the unfortunate clergyman; adding in the note which accompanied the donation that if, [-13-] afterwards, it should be necessary, he would have great pleasure in remitting another 5l. to alleviate the distresses of a worthy man. In precisely ten days afterwards, another letter was received by Lord J , to which was appended the signature of " John Hughes." The letter, as the reader will anticipate, was highly eulogistic of his Lordship's humanity, benevolence, and so on; and stated that the writer, "Mr. John Hughes," was so affected with the continued distress of the clergyman, that he had given him, though he could ill spare it, an additional 2l. The conclusion of the epistle of course was, that a more charitable action could not be performed by the noble Lord than that of bestowing the second 5l. on Mr. G- which he had before so generously intimated his intention to give. It is unnecessary to observe that Mr. John Hughes again expressed his readiness, from motives of the purest disinterestedness, to take the trouble of conveying the additional 5li. to the distressed clergyman. When Lord J-.. received the begging letter, he was in the act of putting on his hat to go to a public dinner in aid of the funds of a charitable institution. But for that circumstance the second 5l. note would have been immediately entrusted to the care of Mr. John Hughes. The noblemen and gentlemen who sat down to dinner were about two hundred in number; so that it was impossible for any one to see all who were present. After the cloth had been removed, oratory became the order of the evening, and at length the Rev. Mr. G- was announced as about to address the company. Lord J-.-.. was thunderstruck at the announcement: he was still more confounded when the veritable reverend gentleman stood up, with his face redolent of health, though Mr. John Hughes's letter of that morning presented him as not only bed-ridden, but unable to move either arm or leg. His Lordship waited patiently until the gentleman concluded his speech; and then, determined if possible, to have the mystery cleared up, he advanced to him and congratulated him on his "sudden recovery."
" Sudden recovery!" said the clergyman in a tone of surprise.
"Yea; from your illness."
"My Lord, you must have been misinformed: there has been nothing the matter with me."
Here again his Lordship looked unutterably confounded. "Were you not ill ten days ago?" he inquired, after a moment's hesitation.
"Not in the slightest degree," was the answer of the reverend gentleman.
"Nor this morning, either - not confined to bed this morning?"
[-14-] "Certainly not, my Lord. I have reason to be thankful, I never enjoyed better health in my life than I have done for the last few weeks."
"Well, this is certainly strange," said Lord J , emphatically.
"May I ask, my Lord, what made you think I was ill?" said. the reverend gentleman.
"Why,.your friend, Mr. Hughes, assured me you were so."
"Mr. Hughes !" exclaimed the clergyman in accents of astonishment. "Mr. Hughes !" he added, putting his two fore fingers to his lips, and looking on the floor, as if trying to recollect which of his friends rejoiced in the name of Mr. Hughes. "My Lord," he observed, after a pause of a few seconds, "I am not personally acquainted with any gentleman of that name."
"Well," said his Lordship, "you certainly do astonish me."
"Did this Mr. Hughes communicate the fact of my alleged illness to your Lordship verbally ?"
"No, it was by letter."
"Has your Lordship got the letter with you? Possibly I might know something of the handwriting."
His Lordship, fearing the nature of the contents might wound the feelings of the reverend gentleman, hesitated for a few moments to return any direct answer to the question; but the idea then flashed across his mind that the whole affair had been got up by some swindling impostor; and putting his hand into his pocket, he drew out the second letter, the one he had received that morning.
The feelings of the reverend gentleman will be better imagined than I could describe them, when he saw himself represented as if at the very gates of death, in a state of absolute destitution, and the subject of a subscription list,, on which his Lordship's name, and that. of "Mr. John Hughes" were the most prominent. Some other parties were consulted as to what ought to be done, and it was agreed that his Lordship should, with the view of detecting and punishing the fellow, enclose another cheque for 5l?. on his bankers, to Mr. John Hughes, for the benefit of his friend, the Rev. Mr. G only taking care that a police-officer should be previously instructed to be in readiness at the banking establishment. which is in Fleet-street, to take him into custody the moment he presented the cheque and received the money. The remainder of "Mr. Hughes's" history is soon told: he figured shortly after at the Old Bailey, and then quitted this country for the antipodes, the expenses of his voyage being defrayed out of the public purse.
[-15-] Other and very ingenious expedients adopted by the more enterprising of the begging-letter fraternity, in the prosecution of their deceptive purposes, yet remain to be mentioned. One of these expedients is, to have a very large quantity of warrants of distraint, for house-rent or taxes, always on hand, regularly printed, and filled up in the usual form. These they enclose in letters to persons of known charitable disposition, detailing most affecting cases of domestic misery, and supplicating assistance. At the same time they enclose a certificate as to character, and a testimony to the facts stated, either from the pretended churchwardens of the parish whence the letter is written, or from some surgeon or other professional man residing in the nei~1mbourhood. This mode of imposture, when skilfully execute , us usually a most profitable one. Another, somewhat similar, is that of having pawnbrokers' duplicates printed in the usual form, and the blanks duly filled up with dates, names, and so forth, in writing. These are sent, at any time, to charitable persons, the impostors pretending that the articles of furniture, clothing, &c., mentioned in the duplicates, have been deposited with the pawnbrokers under the most distressing circumstances, and from dire necessity, and imploring something to enable them to redeem the articles, and thus save their families from dying of cold or destitution. But though such fictitious pawnbrokers' duplicates are forwarded at any time to persons of a charitable disposition, with the view of swindling them out of their money, and are successful to a very great extent, they are found Particularly serviceable when a pawnbroker's shop has been destroyed by fire. In such cases, availing themselves of the information given by newspapers regarding the calamity, they forge the name of the party, and send the fictitious duplicates as those of valuable proper~ had pledged, and which, being all destroyed, leaves in utter destitution. The accompanying letter fervently supplicates, as a matter of course, some assistance, to enable the parties, viz, the impostors, to rescue their family from absolute starvation. This expedient is, in most cases, a peculiarly successful one. It is in many instances most abundantly productive to the impostors. Underwood used to regard the destruction of a. pawnbroker's shop by fire as a great windfall. His duplicates, on such an occurrence were diffused through all parts of town in a day or two after the accident; and rich was the harvest he reaped from his tact and ingenuity.
And this reminds me of the promise I made in an early part of the chapter, to explain what was meant by the printed materials and other stock in trade which Underwood got by way of fortune, when he married the mistress of his former employer. [-16-] Old Blind Williams, as he was always called. These materials and stock consisted chiefly of an immensely large quantity of printed warrants of distraint for rent or taxes, pawnbrokers' duplicates, the names and residences of persons most easily imposed on, with the journal of all the letter-begging transactions of his deceased master.
And here I may remark, that, taken all in all, this Underwood was one of the most ingenious impostors ever known on town. He was the natural son of one of our London aldermen, and possessed all the advantages which a classical education could give him. But mere education could never of itself have made him the man he was. He was a person of great natural talents, which had been improved by constant exercise. I have known other begging-letter impostors, who displayed very considerable resources in the practice of their profession, but they all fell far short of him. Their expedients were limited in number, his were boundless. And they were as ready as they were inexhaustible. I have referred to the four classes of penmanship used by the impostors; each of these he could vary to an incredible extent. Other contemporary impostors were generally obliged to call in the assistance of other persons to insure variety, and consequently escape detection, in their handwriting. Those of them who carried on business to any extent, were obliged to have, at any rate, some female to imitate the penmanship of a lady: Underwood needed no such assistance. He was everything himself: he was, to use another expression which a mathematical friend of mine is particularly partial to, "a self-contained personage." And not only could he write every variety of calligraphy, but his intellectual resources were ample even to excess. He could write on any subject; he had not only the ingenuity to assume every conceivable character, but he could immediately, on assuming such character, sit down and write in that strain which was most consonant to it. I have looked over a large collection of his letters, and have been at a loss to know whether I ought most to admire the mechanical dexterity which enabled him to write so great a variety of hands, or the intellectual resources, which the appropriateness of his sentiments and style to the various characters he assumed, proved him to be possessed of. His inventive powers were of the first order. If the faculty of creation be one of the principal attributes of genius, Underwood was a genius of the first magnitude. The force and felicity of his imaginative facts were remarkable. Had he turned his attention to novel-writing, instead of to the profession of a begging-letter impostor, there us no saying how high his name might at this moment have stood in the current literature of the country. United as were [-17-] his inventive powers to great facility and force of composition, he must certainly, had he applied himself to the production of works of fiction, have attained to no ordinary reputation. It can hardly be necessary to say, that a man of so much ingenuity was successful in his profession. I am assured by a gentleman whose means of ascertaining the fact must have been equal to those of any second party not one of his coadjutors in crime, that his annual income from his begging-letter practices must, as already stated, have been close on 1000l. He was repeatedly detected and imprisoned. He died in Coldbath-fields' Prison, in the spring of the present year.
Before I proceed farther in my observations on the begging-letter class of impostors, it may be right, in order to show with what ingenuity they go to work, to give a few specimens of their epistolary talents. The following letters were written by the notorious Underwood, of whom I have just spoken; and as I have seen the originals, it may be right to state, that they are given without the alteration of a single word. The first is addressed to Lord Skelmersdale, and is signed "Mary Burn." It will be seen, that in this instance Mr. Underwood assumes the character of a widow.
"My Lord, - It is with most agonised mind and heart I presume to address these few lines to your lordship's notice, whom I have had the honour of' knowing by sight for a great many years, and also your lordship's seat (Latham House), at some small distance from which I lived with some late relations, in the years 1797 and 1798. I am, however, a native of Preston, where I am descended from a respectable family, named Grimshaw. My parents have been dead many years, and I am the widow of a late respectable schoolmaster, who was proprietor of a boarding-school at Guildford, in this county, for a number of years, but who unhappily died of fever some five years ago, when I was left with four children, under eleven years of age, and obliged to dispose of my premises for the purpose of settling my husband's few debts, defraying funeral expenses, &c. Since then, my lord, I have kept a day-school, in the parish of St. George, Southwark, and held the situation of governess at a Sunday-school, although the emolument arising from the situation is scarcely worth my acceptance; but through its having pleased the Almighty to deprive me of the use of my lower extremities by rheumatic gout, during the last seventeen months, during which period I have been wholly prevented from attending to the duties of my avocation, in conjunction with the great expense attending the support of my family, have been the means of reducing me from a comfortable station in life, to that of extreme and heart-rending distress inasmuch as, being unable to pay my rent, my furniture has been distrained, and is now under the hands of my late landlord, or his broker; and I have been obliged to quit my late residence to save myself from an arrest and incarceration for a small debt [-18-] incurred for the necessaries of life. I am become a great cripple, a melancholy spectacle; and but for the kindness of a friend, I and my fatherless children would nave been driven into the workhouse, or have become poor houseless wanderers. However, through God's blessing, and the aid of humanity, I have been enabled to pay one moiety of the rent, for which my goods and chattels were seized, and I am allowed until the 24th instant to pay the rest ; but am unable to do so, except through the aid of charitable assistance. In addition to which, my lord, I am sadly fearful, and under the apprehension that my present place of abode will be discovered, and that I shall he arrested, torn away from my dear children, and incarcerated for the small debt above alluded to, which is only 1l. l7s. 6d., and which accumulated for bread only. I know not what to do, my lord; I am almost distracted, while my dear children, who are as innocent as lambs, during the last six weeks, appear to me to be quite happy with bread, potatoes, or whatever I can give them, which is a great consolation to me. In reflecting, this morning, on my unhappy situation, considering to whom I should apply, it suggested to my mind, from some little knowledge of your lordship's disposition, that your lordship would, in all probability, be pleased to afford me some small pecuniary assistance towards helping me to surmount my difficulties, and for which I humbly appeal to your lordship's goodness and generosity. I assure your lordship, that whatever assistance you may be pleased to render, I shall remember it with gratitude to the end of my life. I beg to subscribe myself, my lord, your lordship's most humble servant, "
2, Cross Street, Newington Butts. "
This letter was written in quite a lady-like hand, and was accompanied by a certificate from a pretended Mr. Mansfield, surgeon, London Road. Mr. Mansfield, alias Mr. Underwood, was, of course, very eloquent in his commendation of the excellent moral character of "Mary Burn," alias Joseph Underwood, and most earnestly recommended her distressing case to the favourable consideration of his lordship.
The following letter, from the same voluminous epistolarian, was addressed to the Earl of Stamford and Harrington, and is dated July 1st, 1883. The character assumed on this occasion is that of a young lady, who had been seduced from her "tender parent's" roof by a gentleman, under promise of marriage. But the young lady, alias Mr. Underwood, will speak much better for herself than I could: let her tale therefore, by all means, be heard.
"My Lord,-It is with shame, indescribable shame, I presume to address your Lordship with these lines; but from having a knowledge of your Lordship's person from my infancy, and through the report of your Lordship's sympathising and benevolent character, I am about entrusting a most unfortunate affair to your Lordship's honour and secrecy. I am [-19-] freally ashamed to detail my misfortunes, my Lord, but I must; I must acquaint your Lordship. I know of no other person so likely to render me some assistance in the hour of need, and to save me from perdition and a premature grave, as your Lordship, whose humanity does honour to the feelings of a susceptible' heart. Allow me to acquaint your Lordship, that I am a native of Warrington, Lancashire, and the youngest daughter of a gentleman who, for a number of years, held the rank of lieutenant in the British army, and who died in the year 1815, when I was but a year old, leaving my mother, who has for some years resided at Bolton le-Moor, with five children (all girls) to support on a small stipend; that at Christmas last, I was prevailed on, by a person calling himself a gentleman, under the most solemn promises and assurances of marrying me as soon as we arrived in London, to leave my dearly beloved mother at Bolton, without her consent or knowledge ; that he has forfeited his promises and assurances; and since I have been here, through my having frequently reproached him for his ungentlemanly and dishonourable conduct, he has left me in a most destitute condition, .A few days subsequently he sent me the enclosed letter as a sort of an excuse; but, through my having spared no pains in referring to the sheriff of this county, Surrey, Sussex, Middlesex, and the city of London, I have ascertained that no such person has been arrested or is in custody; for in fact, no writ has been issued against any person of his name, and that therefore his letter is nothing but a subterfuge for his absence.
"Oh, my Lord! I am ruined and undone. I am lost, totally lost- lost to my dear mother, who knows no tidings of me or my misfortunes-lost to my dear sisters-lost to all my young friends and acquaintances in Lancashire and Cheshire-lost to all respectable society- have lately been turned out of my lodgings for the arrears of my rent, in the sum of seven pounds, for which my trunks and wearing-apparel have been, and still are, detained and withheld from me-that I am much in want of a change of linen and dress-have no home or habitation to dwell in, with the exception of a miserable place I am allowed Just to enter and sleep in at night only at a poor widow's, who has a large family and several lodgers, and whose house I consider would be en unsafe and improper place far your Lordship's letter to be addressed to, which has induced me to take the precaution of begging your Lordship to address it as above. My sufferings are extremely great, my Lord. I have frequently walked from here to Dean Park, a distance of some miles, and there spent the whole 'of the day in solitude, without breaking my fast, or having the means to break it. Oh, my Lord! I am suffering, justly suffering, for my act of imprudence; but the art and deceptions which have been used to ensnare and ruin me are really beyond human imagination, as letters and other documents, which I have in my possession, will fully prove; yet nothing will erase the stain, the everlasting stain, from my character. This is what I feel, my Lord, above all. I hate myself, and despise the wretch, the invidious and despicable fellow, who has caused it, and all my sufferings. I am sadly fearful your Lordship will form a bad opinion of me; but, [-20-] when I inform your Lordship that I am yet under nineteen years of age, and him who thus deceived me is thirty-three years' old, and, in my opinion, prone to deceive and ruin the young and virtuous of my sex, that you will be pleased to permit my inexperience, to plead a little us extenuation of my offence, and I hope to mingle your pity with your censure. I am gradually wasting away through the want of food and nourishment, and, without the aid of humanity, must inevitably fall a victim to poverty and starvation. To acquaint my beloved parent with my unparalleled misfortunes and sufferings would, I am sure, be more than she could bear; it would certainly be the means of confining her to her bed, if not sending her to a premature grave. In this unfortunate situation, I humbly venture, in appealing to your Lordship's humanity, for a small pecuniary assistance, to help me to discharge my late landlord's demand, and to redeem my trunks and wearing-apparel; which done, I will immediately set out for Bolton, where I have no doubt of being able to prevail on a lady, a most intimate friend of mine and my family's, to call on my mother, and interpose in my behalf, and for my reconciliation with her. It is true, I acknowledge, with a sincere and contrite heart, I have erred in the respect above named, but in no other case, can the world, or any individual in it, say I have. I have honestly and candidly told your Lordship the worst of myself; and, as soon as I reach Bolton, I will take care your Lordship shall be furnished with a memorial of my abilities, qualifications, and general character, from a gentleman of unquestionable character, who at present knows nothing of my sufferings, yet has known me from my cradle, and my family a great many years, and who, I have no doubt, will exert himself, under this unfortunate affair, to obtain the situation of teacher or governess in some respectable family for me, which I trust I am competent for, and which I shall prefer, under my unhappy circumstances, to my staying at Bolton, and living with my mother and sisters, the latter of whom might in all probability, on some occasion, be induced to reproach use for my misconduct, the more particularly as I am the youngest. I consider, therefore, that I should be far happier in a situation, and am convinced I can be recommended by some few of the most respectable characters at Bolton, where, to say the truth, I shall be ashamed to be seen. Let me beseech you, my Lord, under these circumstances, to take the particulars of my misfortunes into your Lordship's most serious consideration, and to pause ere you put a negative: for on your Lordship's answer depends much-much more than I can possibly describe; my fate even depends on it, I in truth declare; and I trust, though your Lordship may in some measure blame me for my imprudence, yet, when you consider the art and deceptions that have been used against me by a most wicked man, that you will sympathise with me, and not suffer my supplications to he made in vain; assuring your Lordship that your assistance will be the means, or part of the means, of rescuing an orphan daughter of a British officer, under unparalleled distress, from entire destruction, and a miserable death; that although it perhaps may never be in my power to return it, or compensate your Lordship for it, I have no doubt but your Lordship [-21-] will feel amply satisfied and gratified in being convinced that your aid had the desired effect. This I promise shall be done, my Lord, not by my own hand, but by one whose honour, word, and testimony, none can dispute. I now beg leave to leave my case in your Lordship's hands, anxiously waiting the favour of your Lordship's reply, with the return of the enclosed letter for Mr. Henry Mannings, which, with a number of other letters and documents I have of his, will be absolutely necessary to show to my mother, and also to produce in a court of law some day; for I am convinced, he has got property both in the county of Lancaster and Cheshire. My Lord, I have the honour, to remain, with the greatest deference and respect, your Lordship's most humble servant,
This letter was written in a small neat lady-like style. Indeed, one would think it impossible that any other than a female could have written such a hand. The letter was accompanied by another, purporting to be from the pretended seducer, which was written in a gentleman's hand. The latter was as follows
"My dearest Martha-It is really most revolting to my feelings to he obliged to tell you, that, through some gambling transactions in which I have been unfortunately engaged, I have been arrested, and am now locked up in a sponging-house for a debt I am wholly unable to pay. I care but little for myself, my dear girl; but for you I feel most deeply, and I am wholly at a loss how to advise you for the best. I know well that I merit your anger for what is past, but the reproaches of my own conscience are, I assure you, sufficient punishment for the injury I have done you.. If fortune should ever shine upon me, I will acquaint you with it, and fulfil all my pledges. Pray endeavour to console yourself, my dearest Martha, and lose no time in endeavouring to return home, in' order that no greater evil may happen you. Please give the bearer my pocket-hook, which contains some memorandums and a bill of exchange, which would be of no use to you. In my portmanteau you will find a new case of surgical instruments, which you can convert into your immediate use. I have the honour to remain, my dearest girl, with unalterable truth, your unfortunate
" WILLIAM HANDS.
"George Street, Blackfriars Road.
P.S.-Don't ask the bearer any questions respecting me."
There was also, in addition to this last letter, the accompaniment of a certificate, purporting to be from a clergyman in Margate, testifying to the truth, from personal knowledge, of all the facts stated by the unfortunate pretended victim of seduction. The certificate was written in a different hand from the letter of Mr. Hands the seducer, and was an admirable specimen of the style of penmanship most characteristic of clergymen.
[-22-] I am sure my readers will concur with me, that in point of ingenious invention, the above letters might put our modern novelists to the blush. The creative powers of these writers will not stand a moment's comparison with those of the author of the above productions.
Hitherto I have spoken only of male begging-letter impostors. These characters, however, are not confined to persons of the masculine gender. Even among the female sex there are occasionally some very dexterous begging-letter impostors to be found. By far the most noted and successful of the present day, is Harriet Reid, alias Harriet Minette. Not content with getting up cases of distress of every possible variety, and reciting them in a most pathetic manner, she introduces into all her letters, more or less liberally, a dash of the romantic. The last time I heard of her, was in June 1834, when she was brought before the magistrates of Marlborough street, on a charge of endeavouring to obtain money by a fraudulent letter from the Rev. Mr. Leigh, the rector of St. George's Bloomsbury. The letter extended to four folio sheets of paper, and was written as if from some gentleman who was a mutual friend of Mr. Leigh's and of Miss Harriet Reid, alias Mrs. Harriet Minette. The penmanship was bold and masculine, and no one could ever have dreamed that it emanated from a female hand. The following was written on the envelope:-
"The enclosed, dear Leigh, tedious as it is, for Heaven's sake, peruse most carefully; the cause of it must at once excuse it. It contains a melancholy occurrence, indeed, on which, while it engages your attention, must cut you to the heart. Poor Mrs. Minette will soon be lost, unless immediately seen after. 0, Leigh I am all anxiety about her--in agonies until you receive this-then all will be well. Heaven crown your efforts with success! Even now, should the memory of the past 'be granted us, you must look down on your bounty to her with rapture!"
From the long letter, all written in a similar strain, I give the following extract, which, as in the one just given, appears without the alteration of a single word
"Poor Mrs. Minette! I shall surprise you when I tell you of what. family she is by the mother's side. She is related to yourself; but I must not explain who she is, or who I am, at present! Oh! may Heaven, in its infinite mercy, avert the blow that now seems impending over this poor unfortunate lady. Continue your bounty to her, and you will soon learn what she is. She is thoroughly amiable, Leigh, and to me somewhat dear! Her mother married a man of inferior birth, and her relations discharged her. She married Minette, a villain, who has thrown her, after riding in her carriage, on the wide world in [-23-] helpless adversity. As I told you, Leigh, in my first letter, sue is an amiable unsuspecting creature - artless - being truly warm in her friendship and love. Silly young creature as she is, we must, however, save her some pangs. Do something, dear Leigh, for her support-recommend her to your friends-set her up in a school, and get her some pupils; but don't let her teach Italian, as that would bring her sorrows to her mind. But now for the more immediate melancholy purport of my letter. She will be lost unless you save her; but I know you won't let her want. I am in an agony of mind about her. I shudder to name the subject, but I must. On Sunday, a friend of mine, on her way to church, saw Mrs. Minette walking to and fro, in an unfrequented path, by the side of the river. She accosted her, hut the unfortunate lady seemed quite lost. It is too clear, Leigh, her wicked thoughts. Dear Leigh, watch her narrowly. Things, at all events, look black. Take her under your care-reason with her-give her books-let her have a doctor, and see her take her physic; but don't hint a word to her of what you do; it might wound her sensitive feelings. She respects you-calls you her benefactor. Adopt her, then, as your prot?g?e. Let her read to you, and come to you at church. Providence must surely have thrown her in your way, and made you his agent in delivering her from the fangs of Satan. Give her a few pounds, and Heaven bless you!"
What a pity that Mrs. Harriet Minnette did not apply herself to novel writing! Why, the letter from which I have only given a short extract, in conjunction with what was written in its envelope, contains more of the romantic than will be found in many of the three volume works of fiction which ever and anon emanate from the establishments of the west end bibliopoles. There are dashes of the pathetic in the extract I have given, which even Goethe himself would have readily admitted into his "Sorrows of Werter."
Who could resist such an appeal to one's feelings? The Rev, gentleman to whom it was addressed could not. He proceeded forthwith to the residence* (*in High Street, Bloomsbury) of the lady herself. She at once appeared in her proper person, and a dashing personage she was; but though the subject of his correspondent's letter was there to be seen as large as life, the worthy divine was as much perplexed as ever, as to who his very familiar correspondent, who had taken such an intense interest in the fate of "Mrs. Minette," could be. He had not been many moments in the lady's company when he began to have some shrewd suspicious that all was not right. He, therefore, cut his visit to Mrs. Harriet Minette short, and proceeding direct to the office of the Mendicity Society, deposited the lengthened and sentimental letter with which he had been honoured from her [-24-] ladyship, in the hands of one of their officers. The result was that Mrs Minette had the honour of a public interview with the magistrates of Marlborough street office, who kindly undertook to guarantee to all parties interested, that society should not have, at least for three months to come, to .suffer the calamity of losing poor Mrs. Minette by her throwing herself into the river when under the ascendancy of "wicked thoughts." In other words, she got a quarter of a year's free lodgings provided for her in a well-known public edifice in Cold-bath-fields.
The most extensive begging-letter impostors at present, are the person Douglas already named, and another individual of the name of Johnson. Both have already been often in prison for detected attempts at imposture. Indeed, all the impostors of this kind spend a very considerable portion of their life in prison. However, this circumstance does not surprise them; for they have beforehand taken it into account, as a contingency to be expected, in their estimate of the comparative pains and pleasures which are connected with the pursuit of their profession.
Of all the begging-letter impostors of whom it has been my fortune to hear, there is none for whose fate I ever felt the slightest compassion, with the exception of one of the name of David Jones. This poor fellow had a world of spirit and enterprise in the pursuit of his self-chosen avocation, but nature never intended him for it; for he possessed no variety of mental resources, nor could he in any case disguise his hand-writing. He always, too, prosecuted his profession under the most dangerous circumstances; that is, by forging the signatures of particular individuals. About ten years ago, he adhibited the name of a Mr. Alder-son to a fraudulently got up case, and passed himself off as a Mr. James Smith. he was convicted at the Old Bailey, at! d sentenced to seven years' transportation. Will my readers believe it? On the very same day on which he returned from New South Wales, he wrote the very same letter, word for word, as that for which he had been transported, and adhibited the same name of James Smith to it! One would have thought that the lapse of seven years, especially in the capacity of a convict in New South Wales, which of course must have prevented any other than a very sparing use of his pen,-one would have thought that this would have made some considerable change in his hand- writing. But no; the penmanship of James Smith before he left England, and that of James Smith after his return, were so very similar that you would have thought both the letters, for I have seen them both, were written within an hour of each other, and with the same pen. The poor fellow was detected, and taken into custody on this his very first attempt after [-25-] his return. He was sentenced to a long term of imprisonment, before the expiration of which he died. I may mention that begging-.letter writing, by means of forged names, seems to have been, in his case, a family vice; for the poor fellow's father is now, if still alive, undergoing the sentence of transportation for life, for a fraud which he committed on the late Lord Dudley and Ward.
[nb. grey numbers in brackets indicate page number, (ie. where new page begins), ed.]