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Johnson was of opionion that all children were thieves and liars: and somebody, we believe a Scotchman, answered a fond speech about human nature, by exclaiming, that “ human nature was a rogue and a vagabond, or so many laws would not have been necessary to restrain it.” We venture to differ, on this occasion, with both Englishman and Scotchman. Laws in particular, taking the bad with the good, are quite as likely to have made rogues, as restrained them. But we see, at any rate, what has been suspected of more orthodox persons than Rousseau; to say nothing of less charitable advantages which might be taken of such opinions. He committed a petty theft; and miserably did his false shame, the parent of so many crimes, make him act. But he won back to their infants' lips the bosoms of thousands of mothers. He restored to their bereaved and helpless owners thousands of those fountains of health and joy : and before he is abused, even for worse things than the theft, let those whose virtue consists in custom, think of this.
As we have mixed fictitious with real thieves in this article, in a manner, we fear, somewhat uncritical (and yet the fictions are most likely founded on fact; and the life of a real thief is a kind of dream and romance) we will dispatch our fictitious English thieves before we come to the others. And we must make shorter work of it than we intended, or we shall never come to our friend Du Vall. The length to which this article has stretched out, week after week, will be a warning to us how we render our paper liable to be run away with in future.
fine story of Three Thieves in Chaucer, which we must tell at large another time. The most prominent of the fabulous thieves in England is that bellipotent and immeasurable wag, Falstaff. If for a momentary freak, he thought it villainous to steal, at the next moment he thought it villanous not to steal.
“ Hai, I prythee, trouble me no more with vanity. I would to God thou and I knew where a commodity of good names were to be bought. An old lord of the council rated me the other day in the street, about you, Sir; but I marked him not. And
yet wisely, but I regarded him not. And yet he talked wisely; and in the streets, too.
P. Henry. Thou didst well; for · Wisdom cries out in the streets, and no man regards it.' : Falstaff. O, thou hast damnable iteration; and art, indeed, able to corrupt a saint. Thou hast done much harm upon me, Hal; God forgive thee for it! Before I knew thee, Hal, I knew nothing; and now am I, if a man should speak truly, little better than one of the wicked, I must give over this life, and I will give it over : By the Lord, an I do not, I am a villain: I'll be damned for never a king's son in Christendom. P. Henry. Where shall we take a purse to·morrow,
Jack? Falstaff. Where thou wilt, lad; I'll make one: an I do not, call me villain, and basle me.”
We must take care how we speak of Macheath, or we shall be said
There is a very
he talked very
to be getting political again. Fielding's Jonathan Wild the Great is also, in this
sense, caveare to the multitude.". But we would say more of him, if we had room. Count Fathom, a deliberate scoundrel, compounded of the Jonathan Wilds and the more equivocal Cagliostros and other adventurers, is a thief not at all to our taste. We are con-, tinually obliged to call his mother to our recollection, in order to bear him. The only instance in which the character of an absolute profligate pickpocket was ever made comparatively welcome to our graver feelings, is in the extraordinary novel of Manon L'Escaut by the Abbè Prevost. It is the story of a young man so passionately in love with a profligate female, that he follows her through every species of vice and misery, even when she is sent as a convict to New Orleans. His love indeed is returned. He is obliged to subsist upon her vices; and in return, is induced to help her with his own, becoming a cheat and a swindler to supply her outrageous extravagances. On board the convict ship (if we recollect) he waits on her through every species of squalidness; the convict-dress and her shaved head only redoubling his love by the help of pity. This seems a shocking and very immoral book; yet multitudes of very reputable people have found a charm in it. The fact is, not only that Manon is beautiful, sprightly, really fond of her lover, and after all, becomes reformed; but that it is delightful, and ought to be so, to the human heart, to see a vein of sentiment and real goodness looking out through all this callous surface of guilt. It is like meeting with a tree in a squalid hole of a city,-a flower, or a frank face, in a reprobate purlieu. The capabilities of human nature are not compromised. The virtue alone seems natural; the guilt, as it so often is, seems artificial, and the result of some bad education or other circumstance. Nor is any body injured. It is one of the shal, lowest of all shallow notions to talk of the harm of such works. Do we think nobody is to be harmed but the virtuous ! Or that there are not privileged harms and vices to be got rid of, as well as unprivileged? No good-hearted person will be injured by reading Manon L'Escauta There is the belief in goodness in it;--a faith, the want of which does so much harm both to the vicious and to the over-righteous.
The prince of all robbers, English or foreign, is undoubtedly Robin Hood. There is a worthy Scottish namesake of his, Rob Roy, who has been lately had justice done to all his injuries by a countryman; and the author, it seems, has now come down from the borders the Rob of the elder times well treated. We were obliged to tear ourselves away from his first volume,* to go to this ill-repaying article, But Robin Hood will still remain the chief and “gentlest of thieves." He acted upon a larger scale, or in opposition to a larger injustice, to a whole political system. He “shook the superflux” to the poor, and shewed the heavens more just. However, what we have to say of him we must keep till the trees are in leaf again, and the greenwood shade delightful.
We dismiss, in one rabble-like heap, the real Jonathan W Ayer
s to see
* Of Ivanhoe.
shaws, and other heroes of the Newgate Calendar, who have no redemption in their rascality. And after them, for gentlemen-valets, may go the Barringtons, Major Semples, and other sneaking rogues, who held on a tremulous career of iniquity betwixt pilfering and repenting Yet Jack Shepherd must not be forgotten, with his ingenious and daring breaks out of prison; nor Turpin, who is said to have ridden his horse with such swiftness from York to London, that he was enabled to set up an alibi.
We have omitted to notice the celebrated Buccaniers of America; but these are fellows, with regard to whom we are willing to take Dogberry's advice, and steal out of their company."
All hail, thou most attractive of scape-graces ;=thou most accomplished of gentlemen of the road;—thou, worthy to be called one of “ the minions of the moon," —Monsieur Claude Du Vall --whom we have come such a long and dangerous journey to see!
Claude Du Vall, according to a pleasant account of him in the Harleian Miscellany, was born at Domfront in Normandy, in the year 1643, of Pierre Du Vali, miller, and Marguerite de la Roche, the fair daughter of a tailor. Being a sprightly boy, he did not remain in the country, but became servant to a person of quality at Paris; and with this gentleman he came over to England at the time of the Restoration. It is difficult to say, which came over to pick the most pockets and hearts, Charles the Second, or Claude Du Vall. Be this as it may, his « courses” of life, (“ for," says the conteniporary historian, “I dare not call them vices,”) soon reduced him to the necessity of going upon the road; and here « he quickly became so famous, that in a proclamation for the taking several notorious highwaymen, he had the honour to be named first.” 1.6 He took,” says his biographer, “the generous way of padding;" that is to say, he behaved with exemplary politeness to all coaches, especially those in which there were ladies; making a point of frightening them as amiably as possible; and insisting upon returning any favourite trinkets or keepsakes, for which they chose to appeal to him with “ their most sweet voices."
It was in this character that he performed an exploit, which is the eternal feather in the cap of highway gentility. We will relate it in the words of our informer. Riding out with some of his confederates, « he overtakes a coach, which they had set over night, having intelligence of a booty of four hundred pounds in it.
In the coach was a knight, his lady, and only one serving-maid, who, perceiving fire horsemen making up to them, presently imagined that they were beset; and they were confirmed in this apprehension, by seeing them whisper to one another, and ride backwards and forwards. The lady, to shew she was not afraid, takes a flageolet out of her pocket, and plays: Du Vall takes the hint, plays also, and excellently well, upon a flageolet of his own, and in this posture he rides up to the coach-side.
Sir,' says he, to the person in the coach, your lady plays excellently, and I doubt not but that she dances as well; will you please to walk out of the coach, and let me have the honour to dance one currant with her upon the heath?' Sir,' said the person in the coach, 'I dare not deny any thing to one of your quality and good
mind; you seem a gentleman, and your request is very reasonable: which said, the lacquey opens the boot, out comes the knight, Du Vall leaps lightly off his horse, and hands the lady out of the coach. They danced, and here it was that Du Vall performed marvels; the best master in London, except those that are French, not being able to shew such footing as he did in his great riding French boots. The dancing being over, he waits on the lady to her coach. As the knight was going in, says Du Vall to him, Sir, you have forgot to pay the music: No, I have not,' replies the knight, and putting his hand under the seat of the coach, pulls out a hundred pounds in a bag, and delivers it to him; which Du Vall took with a very good grace, and courteously answered, “Sir, you are liberal, and shall have no cause to repent your being so; this liberality of yours shall excuse you the other three hundred pounds; and giving him the word, that if he met with any more of the crew, he might pass undisturbed, he civilly takes his leave of him.
“ This story, I confess, justifies the great kindness the ladies had for Du Vall; for in this, as in an epitome, are contained all things that set a man off advantageously, and make him appear, as the phrase is, much a gentleman. First, here was valour, that he and but four more durst assault a knight, a lady, a waiting-gentlewoman, a lacquey, a groom that rid by to open the gates, and the coachman, they being six to five, odds at football; and besides, Du Vall had much the worst cause, and reason to believe, that whoever should arrive, would range themselves on the enemy's party. Then he shewed his invention and sagacity, that he could sur le champ, and, without studying, make that advantage of the lady's playing on the flageolet. He evinced his skill in instrumental music, by playing on his flageolet; in vocal, by his singing; for (as I should have told you before) there being no violins, Du Vall sung the currant himself. He manifested his agility of body, by lightly dismounting off his horse, and with ease and freedom getting up again, when he took his leave; his excellent deportment, by his incomparable dancing, and his graceful manner of taking the hundred pounds; his generosity, in taking no more; his wit and eloquence, and readiness at repartees, in the whole discourse with the knight and lady, the greatest part of which I have been forced to omit."
The noise of the proclamation made Du Vall return to Paris; but he came back in a short time for want of money. His reign however did not last long after his restoration. He made an unlucky attack, not upon some ill-bred passengers, but upon several bottles of wine, and was taken in consequence at the Hole-in-the-Wall, in Chandos-street. His life was interceded for in vain: he was arraigned and committed to Newgate; and executed at Tyburn in the 27th year of his age; showers of tears from fair eyes bedewing his fate, both while alive in prison, and while dead at the fatal tree.
Du Vall's success with the ladies of those days, whose amatory taste was of a turn more extensive than enlarged, seems to have made some very well dressed English gentlemen jealous. The writer of Du Vall's life, who is a man of wit, evidently has something of bitterness in bis railleries upon this point; but he manages them very pleasantly. He pretends that he is an old bachelor, and has never been able to make bis
way with his fair countrywomen, on account of the French valets that have stood in his way. He says he had two objects in writing the book. « One is, that the next Frenchman that is hanged may not cause an uproar in this imperial city; which I doubt not but I have effected.
6. The other is a much harder task: To set my countrymen on even terms with the French, as to the English ladies affections. If I should bring this about, I should esteem myself have contributed much to the good of this kingdom.
« One remedy there is, which, possibly, may conduce something towards it.
“ I have heard, that there is a new invention of transfusing the blood of one animal into another, and that it has been experimented by putting the blood of a sheep into an Englishman. I am against that way of experiments; for, should we make all Englishmen sheep, we should soon be a prey to the loure.
“ I think I can propose the making that experiment, a more advantageous way. I would have all gentlemen, who have been a full year, or more, out of France, be let blood weekly, or oftener, if they can bear it. Mark how much they bleed; transfuse so much French lacquey's blood into them; replenish these last out of the English footmen, for it is no matter what becomes of them. Repeat this operation toties quoties, and, in process of time, you will find this event: Either the English gentlemen will be as much beloved as the French lacqueys, or the French lacqueys as little esteemed as the English gentlemen.
Butler has left an Ode, sprinkled with his usual wit, “ To the Happy Memory of the Most Renowned Du Val,” who
Like a pious man, some years before
And how to hang in a more graceful fashion.
Than e'er was known before to the dull English nation. As it may be thought proper that we should end this lawless article with a good moral, we will give it two or three sentences from Shakspeare worth a whole volume of sermons against thieving. who belongs to Falstaff's companions, and who begins to see through the shallowness of their cunning and way of life, says that Bardolph stole a lute-case, carried it twelve miles, and sold it for three halfpence.
Orders received by the Newsmen, by the Booksellers, and by the Publisher,
Joseph APPLEYARD, No. 19, Catharine-street, Strand.-Price 2d. ::: Printed by C. H. REYNELL, No. 45, Broad-street, Golden-square, London.