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Researching Dick Turpin

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  • Researching Dick Turpin

    Eventually I expect we'll have to move this thread to the comics forum, but I'll start it off here.

    I very much enjoyed Alan Moore's V for Vendetta (book and movie) recently and long ago I read The Watchmen. I took interest in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but because I was starting in the middle of the story decided to wait until the graphic novels were available and recently picked up the first volume. I read V after I saw the movie and realized it was a lucky thing. I saw parts of the LOEOG movie before reading the comic and I have decided to research the comic before reading it. WAR AMONGST THE ANGELS was full of references that I don't really get, so I thought I'd begin with the LOEOG comic to develop a research method before pursuing WATA research. I'd like to be more familiar with the back stories and research, so I can savor the density of the storytelling.

    So I began my research of LOEOG with none other than the front cover:

    The first image in the upper left hand corner brings nothing up when I search for "The Steel Giant" that seems relevant, so I moved to the next image on the right "Sapathwa". Sapathwa or The Blue Dwarf was an apparent sidekick to Dick Turpin, an aristocratic outcast due to his uncomely appearance. I immeadiately think of Elric, but also Jermays the Crooked.

    My research of Dick Turpin reveals that he was a real person, highly fictionalized, documented in biography. But my search hasn't revealed books that contain him as a main or secondary character. To the question at hand: where can I read of Dick Turpin's adventures so that I can better appreciate that character?

    Odd that the first two inches of my research would lead back to WAR AMONGST THE ANGELS, one of your most stimulating narratives.
    Last edited by Reinart der Fuchs; 10-13-2006, 03:56 PM.
    Infinite complexity according to simple rules.

  • #2
    Berry, I highly recommend Jess Nevin's website 'Comic Book Annotations', which contains his very detailed annotations for both League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series - Vol 1 & Vol 2 - as well as annotations for Top 10 and other non-Moore series, such as Mark Waid & Alex Ross' Kingdom Come (which does however contain some thematic parallels with Moore's unpublished mini-series Twilight of the Superheroes).

    You can also find annotations for V For Vendetta and Watchmen (second set here also).

    Dick Turpin was, as you say, a real-life highwayman but is more of a British 'folk-hero' than a fictionalised character in books - a bit like Robin Hood. You might try a ballad called Turpin's Rant, but you'll probably find more historical books on Turpin than fictional ones. (The romantic image of the 'gentleman highwayman' is pretty much at odds with the thug Turpin was in reality.) There was a UK TV series in the early '80s starring Richard O'Sullivan which was a highly fictionalised portrayal aimed at the afternoon/tea-time children audience.

    I have to say that Sapathwa was never a sidekick character that I ever heard about as a child when I heard stories of Dick Turpin, so I don't know where he comes from.
    Last edited by David Mosley; 10-13-2006, 12:55 AM.
    _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
    _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
    _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
    _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."


    • #3
      There's an entry on Sapathwa here that gives his literary history and his connection to the Turpin character:

      The site is down right now, but you can access googles text cache

      Here's the entry:

      Blue Dwarf. Sapathwa, a.k.a. the “Blue Dwarf,” appeared in two separate penny dreadfuls: The Blue Dwarf. A Novel (1860-1), and The Blue Dwarf: A Tale of Love, Mystery and Crime: Introducing Many Startling Incidents in the Life of That Celebrated Highwayman, Dick Turpin (1874-5). He may or may not have been created by Percy Bolingbroke St. John (1819?-1889), a successful short story and penny dreadful author and the editor of various journals.
      The story of Sapathwa is interesting, but not nearly so interesting as the very tangled and unclear publication history of the character, so you’ll indulge me if I take a different tack than usual with this entry and give the real life information first and then describe the character.
      The Blue Dwarf. A Novel (hereafter Blue Dwarf (1)) was published in 1861 by E. Harrison and was credited to “Lady Esther Hope.” It also spawned two different stage productions in 1862. The Blue Dwarf: A Tale of Love of Love, Mystery and Crime (hereafter Blue Dwarf (2)) was published in 1874-5 by Hogarth House and was credited to Percy B. St. John.
      This much is true. But beyond that, we run into difficulties.
      The first is that “Lady Esther Hope” may or may not have been St. John’s pseudonym. As with so many other questions about penny dreadful authors, the answer to this will never be known for certain. “Lady Esther Hope” wrote other works besides The Blue Dwarf (1). “Hope” also wrote the anti-Mormon potboiler Jessie, The Mormon’s Daughter (1860-1). Traditionally St. John has been identified as “Hope,” but recent scholars have separated the two.
      I tend to agree with those who argue that “Lady Esther Hope” and St. John were two different authors. The relevant pieces of data for the two being different are these:
      a) Jessie is unlike St. John’s usual work in content, being filled with anti-Mormon stereotypes.
      b) There is a marked difference in quality between Blue Dwarf (1) and Blue Dwarf (2). The former is much superior to the latter, so much so that they read as if written by different authors.
      c) St. John had an interest in frontier Ohio; he wrote Queen of the Woods, or the Shawnee Captives (1868) and The Silent Hunter (1869), both novels with an Ohio setting. But Jessie is based in part on Orvilla Belisle’s Mormonism Unveiled, or a History of Mormonism (1855), and “Hope” could have taken any information on frontier Ohio and the Mormon from Mormonism Unveiled.
      d) St. John was aware of the work of “Hope;” he reprinted “her” Jessie in 1861, when he was the editor of the London Herald. If St. John was “Hope,” then his bringing back the Blue Dwarf, an obscure character from a obscure dreadful over a decade old, is explained by his personal stake in the character. But even if St. John was not “Hope,” it’s clear that he knew of her work. If St. John was not “Hope,” his use of Sapathwa can be explained by his desire to make use of a character he liked or who at least intrigued him.

      There are several differences between Blue Dwarf (1) and Blue Dwarf (2). (1) was published by E. Harrison, (2) by Hogarth House. St. John changed the character of Sapathwa in (2) as well as altering the plot. But the basic premise–blue-colored dwarf is robbed of his inheritance–remains the same. St. John essentially lifted the figure of Sapathwa from (1). We might reasonably assume that St. John was looking for an interesting story to tell about Dick Turpin and decided to incorporate Sapathwa into the story in the same way that post-Rookwood writers (see the Turpin entry for more on this) made use of the Ride to York, which Ainsworth created. The reason St. John wanted to tell a Dick Turpin story is that Turpin had been the star of Edward Viles’ Black Bess, or the Knight of the Road (1861-1865), an enormously popular serial.
      The second problem is that there are not only differences between Blue Dwarf (1) and Blue Dwarf (2), but that Blue Dwarf (1) was reprinted in 1875 (the same year Blue Dwarf (2) was published) but was altered and abridged, coming to a much more abrupt halt than the original version of Blue Dwarf (1). (I will call this altered edition Blue Dwarf (3)). Steve Holland, who I owe much in this entry to, speculates that Thomas Taylor, the publisher of (3), had some connection with Taylor & Greening, the printers of (1). One obvious reason for this reprinting would have been to cash in on the popularity of Blue Dwarf (2). (3) might have been abridged due to the different style of writing in (1)–the audience of 1875 might have found “Hope”’s writing style old-fashioned and slow-moving–and due to the difference in portrayals of Sapathwa (see below). Disenchanted with (3), fans of Turpin might have stopped buying it, and the publisher would have altered the ending so that it finished much more quickly.
      The third problem is that, over the years, different writers have described the content of the various Blue Dwarfs in varying ways that are, at times, contradictory. Some of these writers most likely had not read the original stories and were instead relying on secondary material, but some of these writers had read the originals, which makes the contradictions all the more problematic.
      The final problem is caused by Montague Summers. Over the years a great deal of confusion has been caused by Summers’ identification, in Gothic Bibliography (1941), of Blue Dwarf (1) as the "original 'Gentleman George' edition.” As with so much else about the Blue Dwarfs, the true answer to this may never be known, but I have one possible answer for this. The Dick Turpin-like character in Blue Dwarf (1) is named “Captain George.” I believe that Summers was conflating “Captain George” with the “Gentleman George” who appears in Black Bess as well as James Skipp Borlase’s Gentleman George, the King of the Road (The Boy’s Standard, 1875-6).
      I have read Blue Dwarf (1), and so can provide accurate details on that, at least.
      The Blue Dwarf. A Novel is very much in the mode of the Gothics, as were many of the penny dreadfuls published in the 1860s. Sir Edgar Blakesley is forced to go to sea to make his fortune, due to his cruel and rapacious stepfather, who refuses to give Edgar his inheritance. But before Edgar can get there he is stabbed in the back by his evil foster brother Dick, who inherits the father’s fortune and takes Edgar’s identity. (They’re nearly twins, you see). Most of the story involves Edgar’s struggle to regain his rightful fortune and defeat the schemes of the vile Dick. Napoleon himself is brought into the story before justice is done and evil defeated.
      Sapathwa, the Blue Dwarf, enters this story as something of a wild card, interjecting himself into Edgar’s struggle with Dick. Sapathwa’s motives are not initially clear, but eventually his story is revealed. Sapathwa is actually Sir John Stewart Blakesley, Sir Edgar’s brother. The first wife of Sir William Blakesley, their father, gave birth to Sapathwa in Malaysia, where his mother raised him. But an attack by the “savage” Dyaks killed Sapathwa’s mother, and so Sapathwa returned to England to claim his heritage. On finding out that Sir Edgar had been cheated out of the Blakesley fortune, Sapathwa began helping him and plotting against Dick. In this Sapathwa is helped by the highwayman Captain George and by a gang of Romany, who he commands and who call him “Prince.” To them he is known as “Goldy Gordon.”
      Sapathwa, despite his appearance, is actually a good person. Although he is feared by everyone in the English countryside, he never gives them cause to–it’s just his ugliness that sets off people. But he is a good and honorable man, articulate and a good friend. He’s smart, too; he doesn’t get personally involved in the Edgar/Dick struggle, but rather plots and uses others for muscle and to carry out his version of vigilante justice. He’s four feet high with short legs, ape-like arms, a hideous face, red eyes, filed teeth, skin that is equal parts jet black and indigo, and quite shaggy hair. At the end of the story he retires to a country estate to live happily ever after.
      The Blue Dwarf (1) is actually an entertaining read. “Lady Esther Hope” did not rely upon the one line dialogue exchanges and stilted dialogue which so pad out many dreadfuls. Although Blue Dwarf (1) is hardly great literature, it is enjoyable. It has some very nice illustrations and is filled with songs, Romany patter, and Thieves Cant, complete with footnotes explaining them. The only real downside is the Jewish moneylender characters, which are anti-Semitic as can be.
      The Blue Dwarf (2) is quite different. (I should note that I’m relying on secondary sources for the following description, as I haven’t read the work in question. On my next trip to the British Library, in mid-March, I’ll remedy that). Blue Dwarf (2) involves Dick Turpin, Tom King, Sixteen String Jack Rann, and the rest of the Turpin menagerie, setting, and story. Unlike Blue Dwarf (1), which takes place during the Napoleonic years, Blue Dwarf (2) takes place a century earlier, during Turpin’s time. The secondary sources, in speaking of Blue Dwarf (2), are contradictory.:
      - Turpin, Sapathwa, et al go to America as well as England. They are comrades in arms. Sapathwa lives happily ever after.
      - Sapathwa is an evil creature who manipulates Turpin et al. They are enemies. Sapathwa’s plan is to avenge himself on his younger brother, who has stolen his inheritance. Sapathwa dies at Turpin’s hands.
      - Sapathwa dies in the Berlin Cathedral, clutching the coffin of “Miriam Blakesley.” Complicating this is Blue Dwarf (3), which changed the ending to Blue Dwarf (1). Until I’ve read Blue Dwarfs (2) and (3) I’ll be unable to resolve this.


      • #4
        Thanks to you both. David, I'd read the wikipedia article some time ago, and it's pretty good, especially if it's accurate.

        I surmise from what I've just read that:

        1) Blue Dwarf is a fictional gentleman highwayman who appeared in a couple of penny dreadfuls

        2) Dick Turpin appeared in those dreadfuls, borrowed from history as it were, much in the same way that Dick Turpin turns up in WAR AMONGST THE ANGELS

        My new question is, where can I see a list of fiction wherein Dick Turpin is featured? There must be a number of books and stories wherein the idea of "gentleman highwayman" was developed. Where does the idea come from?
        Infinite complexity according to simple rules.


        • #5
          Dick Turpin! What a very good and lively subject! (He said in the very best and most endearing Professor Pop tones).

          Why indeed does Mike use Dick Turpin in WAA? How, specifically, does Dick Turpin as political exponent fit under the overarching mythographic insight (or method) that drives the entire Second Ether project?

          Originally posted by Reinart der Fuchs
          There must be a number of books and stories wherein the idea of "gentleman highwayman" was developed. Where does the idea come from?

          I shouldn't be surprised if Dick Turpin was one of the original sources of this idea. Also, Robin Hood has some noble connections, if I am not mistaken? I might try searching Robin Hood, and then do an ancillary search for Robin Hood characters in European literature.

          With Stoic notions of an established cosmic order, duty and responsibility to the state, could it have even been possible for the Roman mind to conceive of a Robin Hood figure? If not, then in Europe, anyway, the concept might be an entirely mediveal construction? Or an artifact of the Reformation? Mmmm! See what Christopher Hill has to say about Dick Turpin in Liberty Against the Law: Some Seventeenth-Century Controversies (Penguin, 1996. pp. 113, 123, 129-30, 221-2, 306-7). The exercise of an extra-legal morality represented and acted out by the "good" gentleman highwayman--whose morality is determined by his conscience and Christian inspiration rather than by worldly authority and corrupt convention--is central to post-Calvinist thinking in England and in the Netherlands at this time: Arminius, Milton, Locke and so on. This radical Christian morality is under girded as well by English notions of common law. Anyway, these highly individualistic concepts of right and wrong as represented by the Dick Turpin figure are very important in the shaping of early-modern thought regarding such things as the nature of law, the separation of church and state and the ultimate origins of political authority.

          And this invites an essay of the picaresque. What do our good friends Cervantes and Rabelais teach us about these problems!

          I suspect also there must be gentleman highwayman stories in Chinese and Japanese medieval literature. Could be? Wish I knew, and I should love for some person to teach me all about it. Again, as with the Romans, the notion was probably an awkward one for the Confucian mind to contemplate.

          As for the Greeks? Well, in this respect it is a most exciting question! Take Odysseus as our first example. Is he somehow representative of the notion of the true gentleman who must hide himself under various physical and linguistically-constructed disguises so that justice can be done in a world that is by its nature full of tyrants and false pretenders?

          One more thing: you might check the theme of "nobles as outcasts in hiding and working behind the scenes" in King Lear--was Shakespeare drawing on folklore as he develops this theme in this play? It is certainly present, and for Shakespeare it represents a significant problem. Hmm. Maybe the Elizabethans couldn’t solve this one, and it took the emergence of the puritans (and I mean the thread leading through Shaftsbury to Locke) to figure this one out.

          Wonderful stuff!


          • #6
            Someone already mentioned Rookwood in passing, it's a fictionalization about Turpin. I think someone else mentioned the invention of the ride to York?

            True, Turpin didn't ride to York in a night, but "Swift Nick" Nevison did.

            Here's Turpin's entry on that site:
            They have a section at the bottom of the page about Turpin books.


            • #7
              I thought I'd offered some clues about Turpin in War Amongst the Angels. Anyway he was first popularised in Rookwood by Harrison Ainsworth, who was in some ways the first historical novelist of his kind, though of course Scott precedes him. His adventures then became the stuff of the penny dreadfuls, of which I have many of the main examples, including the second partwork of The Blue Dwarf. Highwayman stories were extremely popular following Ainsworth and continued to do well into the 1960s. Several publishers had weekly or monthly Dick Turpin series, much as they had Buffalo Bill and Robin Hood series. These also continued into comic form. I was writing them by the late 50s. They died out as popular familiar characters of popular fiction by the 60s, though a few highwayman movies and such continued to appear. In my own work I'm using them to establish roots and links, mostly employing characters I wrote about as a young man. The Blue Dwarf also, if I remember correctly, introduces Claude Duval, who actually lived about a century before Turpin. The 'true' stories of these highwaymen and others can be found in The Newgate Calendar. As I recall, the Calendar (a kind of guide to the great English criminals) is on line. All this is from memory as my library of penny dreadfuls is not to hand (I'm still in Paris). Turpin is famous for his 'ride to York' which might be Ainsworth's invention.
              Ainsworth supplied a lot of the material for early historical horror films such as The Tower of London, which was based on one of his books. There were a lot of Turpin films, both American and English, made in the years before WW2.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by cuchlann
                Someone already mentioned Rookwood in passing, it's a fictionalization about Turpin. I think someone else mentioned the invention of the ride to York?

                True, Turpin didn't ride to York in a night, but "Swift Nick" Nevison did.

                Here's Turpin's entry on that site:
                They have a section at the bottom of the page about Turpin books.
                Here is that article in full (these pages disappear so quickly):

                Dick Turpin

                "The Spurious Highwayman"
                Dick Turpin is probably the most famous highwayman of all. Mention the name to most people, and they will tell you he was a daring and dashing highwayman who famously rode from London to York on his faithful mare, Black Bess, in less than 24 hours. However, the popular Turpin legend contains not a grain of truth. In reality, Turpin's fictitious great ride was made by 17th-century highwayman John 'Swift Nick' Nevison, who early one morning in 1676 robbed a homeward-bound sailor on the road outside Gads Hill, Kent. Deciding he needed to establish an alibi, Nevison set off on a ride that took him more than 190 miles in about 15 hours. In addition, it was only at the very end of his life, while waiting to be hanged at York racecourse, that Turpin exhibited any of the swaggering nonchalance, heroism, or derring-do usually attributed to him. Prior to that, both his existence and his criminal ventures had been squalid, to say the least.
                The Essex Gang

                Dick Turpin was born in 1706 in rural Essex, the son of John Turpin, a small farmer and some-time keeper of the Crown Inn. Some biographers say he was born in Thackstead, others name Hempstead. Young Dick probably served an apprenticeship with a butcher in Whitechapel- in those days, a village on the fringes of the capital. During his apprenticeship he "conducted himself in a loose and disorderly manner." When his apprenticeship was over, he opened a butcher shop, and began to steal sheep, lamb and cattle. Caught in the act of stealing two oxen, he fled into the depths of the Essex countryside to save himself. After resurfacing, he tried his hand at smuggling, but proved as inept at this venture as he had at cattle rustling. Before long customs agents compelled Turpin and his gang to lay low. Many people think of Dick Turpin as a lone highwayman, however for the majority of his criminal career he was a member of the Essex Gang (also known as the Gregory Gang). Members of Turpin's gang are known to have included: Thomas Barnfield, Mary Brazier, John Fielder, Jasper Gregory, Jeremy Gregory, Samual Gregory, Herbert Haines, John Jones, James Parkinson, Joseph Rose, Thomas Rowden, Ned Rust, William Saunders, Richard Turpin, Humphry Walker, and John Wheeler. There may have been other members who were either not identified or who were only occasional associates of the Gang.

                Turpin and his gang invaded isolated farmhouses, terrorizing and torturing the female occupants into giving up their valuables. A typical attack took place at Loughton, in Essex, where Turpin heard of an old widow woman rumoured to keep at least £700 in the house. When the woman gamely resisted all of Turpin's efforts to discover the money's hiding place, he hoisted her into the open fire until she gave up her treasure. Robbing remote farmhouses was the Gang's speciality, and it was only towards the end of his criminal career that Turpin was actually involved in highway robbery.

                Flushed with success-and money-Turpin and his mates proceeded to rob their way around the Home Counties, frequently employing torture as a weapon of persuasion. By 1735, the London Evening Post regularly reported the exploits of Turpin and 'The Essex Gang' and the King had offered a reward of £50 for their capture. Eventually, local constables captured two of the gang, Turpin himself narrowly missing capture by bursting out a window.
                Epping Forest

                Turpin headed back into the familiar East Anglian countryside and lived rough for some time., until he began working with 'Captain' Tom King, one of the best-known highwaymen of the day and the kind of swashbuckling, devil-may-care character into which legend would later transform Turpin. From a cave in Epping Forest from which they could watch the road without being seen, they robbed virtually anyone who passed their hiding place. Even local peddlers started to carry weapons for protection. By 1737, Turpin had achieved such notoriety that another bounty of £100 was placed on his head- a reward that unwittingly transformed him from a common footpad into a murderer. On 4th May, 1737, a gamekeeper named Morris tracked Turpin to Epping Forest, but when he challenged him at gunpoint, Turpin drew his own gun and shot Morris dead.

                The fugitive's next exploit was nothing less than bizarre. One night, while on the road to London, he took a fancy to a particularly fine horse ridden by a man called Major and forced him to exchange it for his own jaded mount. Mr. Major didn't take the loss lying down. He issued handbills around the pubs of London, describing the horse and naming Turpin as the thief. The horse was traced to the Red Lion pub in Whitechapel, where Turpin had stabled it. When Tom King came to collect the horse, he was arrested. Turpin, who had been waiting nearby, rode toward the constables holding King and fired at them. Unfortunately, he was a dreadful shot, and the bullets hit King rather than his captors.
                The End of the Road

                Before he died, King provided the constables with sufficient information to force Turpin to again live rough in Epping Forest. Realizing that he could not long escape capture if he remained in the London area, Turpin set off for Yorkshire., where he settled under the name of John Palmer, financing his fancy lifestyle with frequent excursions into Lincolnshire for more horse and cattle rustling and the occasional highway robbery. One day, returning from an unsuccessful hunt he shot his landlord's rooster. When the landlord complained he threatened to kill the landlord as well. He was taken into custody while local authorities made enquiries as to how exactly 'Mr. Palmer' made his money, and inevitably the constables learned of several outstanding complaints made against 'John Palmer' for sheep and horse stealing in Lincolnshire. Turpin waited in the dungeons of York Castle while these charges were investigated, but even then things might not have gone too badly for him if he hadn't written a letter to his brother, requesting him to 'procure an evidence from London that could give me a character that would go a great way towards my being acquitted.'

                Unfortunately for Turpin, his brother was too mean to pay the sixpence postage due and so returned the letter to the Post Office. There, by a great coincidence, Turpin's former schoolmaster, Mr. Smith, saw it and recognized the handwriting. He took the letter to the local magistrate and, with his permission, opened it. Despite the fact that it was signed John Palmer, Smith identified the writer as Turpin. Smith was subsequently dispatched to York to make positive identification; which he did.

                Convicted on two indictments, Turpin was sentenced to death. Pleas from his father to have the sentence commuted to transportation fell on deaf ears. Between his sentence and execution, visitors frequented Turpin's cell. He bought new clothes and shoes and hired five mourners for 10 shillings each. On 19th April, 1739, Dick Turpin rode through the streets of York in an open cart, bowing to the gawking crowds. At York racecourse he climbed the ladder to the gibbet and then sat for half an hour chatting to the guards and the executioner. An account in the York Courant 7 April 1739 of Turpin's execution, notes his brashness even at the end, "with undaunted courage looked about him, and after speaking a few words to the topsman, he threw himself off the ladder and expired in about five minutes." Thus in death at least, Turpin attained some of the gallantry that had eluded him in life.
                "Rookwood": The Birth of a Legend

                The spurious legend of Dick Turpin was established in 1739 with the book Life of Richard Turpin, and sealed with the novel Rookwood (1834) by Harrison Ainsworth in which the highwayman 'Dauntless Dick Turpin' with his horse Black Bess is a secondary character. Ainsworth's description of an epic ride from Westminster to York caught the popular imagination and turned a fairly average pot-boiler into a runaway best-seller. During the next 50 years, replays of the Turpin story, as told by Ainsworth, appeared in magazines, cheap novels, and ballads, not just in Great Britain but around the world. History, romance, and legend rapidly blurred and, eventually, the fictional ride of Ainsworth's Turpin totally eclipsed the villain's real exploits. The metamorphosis of Dick Turpin, house-breaker, torturer, murderer, horse-stealer and all-round real nasty piece of work into Dick Turpin, Highwayman and Knight of the Road was complete.
                Infinite complexity according to simple rules.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Carter Kaplan
                  I shouldn't be surprised if Dick Turpin was one of the original sources of this idea. Also, Robin Hood has some noble connections, if I am not mistaken? I might try searching Robin Hood, and then do an ancillary search for Robin Hood characters in European literature.
                  You must be referring to Dennis Moore here, right?

                  Infinite complexity according to simple rules.


                  • #10
                    If you don't have Jess Nevins' book, Fantastic Victorinana, I highly suggest running out and getting a copy. It has loads of info on Dick Turpin and the genre his exploits inspired. Plus there are entries on the Blue Dwarf, and hundreds of other characters from the 'bloods' the 'dreads', the dime novels and the pulps. I find myself constantly referring back to this book, not only for reference but for inspiration for writing. Trust me, there are plot ideas and things you've never thought of buried in the pages of Fantastic Victoriana.
                    Our own Mr. Moorcock does the introduction and recommends the book to writers of fantastic adventures. It's a bloody huge book and worth every penny it costs. Can you tell I like this book?


                    • #11
                      I'd heartily endorse all that. It's a masterpiece of research and dedication and doesn't just confine itself to popular fiction in English. French, German, Hungarian and other fiction also gets mentioned. I meant to mention that the newly published London: City of Disappearances, edited by Iain Sinclair (Hamish Hamilton at L22.50) is thoroughly worth getting and contains references to Turpin by me, as well as collages, illustrations and a short story about the Knights of the Tramway, London Flesh, by me. Other contributors include Alan Moore, Alan Wall and many other 'popular favourites' as the old pulps used to say.

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                      • #12
                        Here’s what Christopher Hill has to say about Dick Turpin in Liberty against the Law: Some Seventeenth Century Controversies:

                        From Ch 8 “Smugglers”


                        Smuggling was considered a legitimate part of the local economy, to which the poor—like poachers—claimed they had a right by custom and tradition. ‘For the poor . . . smuggling often meant the difference between a bare subsistence and worse. Resistance of the plebeian smugglers . . . was also an aspect of the class struggle of the eighteenth century’. But ‘only the poor went to the gallows, a fact that was not missed by the common people of Sussex.’ After the government’s bloody suppression, many smugglers ‘took the highway’. Dick Turpin had been a smuggler before he turned highwayman.

                        From Ch 10 “Highwaymen”



                        The Scripture I fulfilled . . .
                        For when the naked I beheld
                        I clothed them with speed…
                        The poor I fed, the rich likewise
                        I empty sent away.

                        Pepys Ballads, VII, p. 316, Words attributed to a highwayman named Bliss, executed in December 1695—echoing words attributed to Robin Hood. The same words were later given to Dick Turpin.

                        First paragraph:

                        The word “highwayman” is said to have first occurred in 1642. But the profession is much older. In the bellicose and unpoliced society of the Middle Ages the strong necessarily robbed the weak. Robin Hood held up rich suspects as they traveled through the forests. But from the sixteenth century onwards far more business was being conducted over wider areas: the word ‘highwayman’ testifies to the existence of regular trade routes on highways. A pamphlet of 1674 suggested that highwaymen preferred to ply their trade on Sundays, when the only travelers were those on urgent business, and so the roads were quiet and . . .


                        There are some interesting examples of female highway robbers. In 1613 a ‘lusty spinster’ of Ingatestone, found guilty of highway robbery, was hanged after her claim to benefit of pregnancy had failed. Mary Faith claimed to have helped to plan Captain Hind’s attacks on ‘committee men’ and Commonwealth officials as a form of political revenge ‘since public combating of them would not prevail’. The nameless ‘English Rogue’, whose biography was published in 1688, after returning from transportation encountered a female highway robber in man’s clothes, and joined forces with her. A ballad records a female highwayman c. 1690. There was a highway-woman in Essex in the 1730s.

                        The highwayman whose name is best remembered is Claud Du Val, who had a special way with the ladies. On one occasion he stopped a lady’s coach, in which there was L400. But after dancing a coranto with her he returned L300. In prison ‘dames of high rank visited him’, and with tears interceded for his life. But in vain: he was executed . . . Samuel Butler devoted an ode to Du Val’s memory, comparing his activities to those of a manorial lord, who in his court

                        …seized upon
                        Whatever happened in his way
                        As lawful waif and stray
                        And after by the custom, kept it as his own.

                        Dealing with lawyers, merchants, priests, he made them

                        …to the smallest piece restore
                        All that by cheating they had gained before.

                        Butler’s last line became an eighteenth-century commonplace, relating especially to lawyers. The ballad ‘On Hounslow Heath as I rode o’er’ ends with the words

                        But Turpin robbed him of his store
                        Because he knew he’d lie for more.

                        The word ‘knew’ indicts the whole legal profession. It recalls the glee with which the despoiling of bishops and abbots by Robin Hood was celebrated. As the higher clergy have lost power, lawyers have succeeded them as hate-figures. In the Robin Hood ballads abbots were fair game because they took advantage of knights in financial difficulties. ‘O rare Turpin hero’ avenges some men of affairs against the lesser hate-figures of his day by beating lawyers at their own game of double cross and taking ‘all that by cheating they had gained before’. The target has shifted down the social scale, but the tone of contempt is the same….

                        From Ch 18 “Antinomianism”


                        [After the Restoration c]loset Antinomians survived into the eighteenth-century: Blake consciously inherited from Milton, perhaps from Ranters and Muggletonians, a tradition which set men and women free from the laws of the state as well as the church. The ballad which attributed Christian motives to Dick Turpin may link up with this tradition: so may the sympathy for pirates and highwaymen which we have noted. Marcus Rediker described the pirate Captain Bellamy’s defense of plundering the rich who robbed the poor as ‘the secularized eighteenth-century voice of the radical antinomians who had taken the law into his or her own hands during the English revolution’.

                        Continuities are difficult to establish. Naturally, aggressive lower-class antinomianism could not get into print after 1660. But the records of the Fenstanton Baptist congregation in the 1650s reveal a radical ‘rejection of the Christ who died in Jerusalem’ by a lady who ‘trampled the Scriptures under her feet’. John Wesley pays frequent tribute to antinomianism’s survival in the mid-eighteenth century. Jonathan Edwards followed Milton in making the directly political point that when the millennium comes ‘the absolute and despotic power of the kings of the earth shall be taken away, and liberty shall reign throughout the earth’. The ethos of robbing the rich to give to the poor has a long popular history, going back at least to the Robin Hood ballads. But in the eighteenth century the state was more ruthlessly enforcing the rights of property against the unpropertied: we cannot visualize Sir Robert Walpole or the Duke of Newcastle fraternizing with Dick Turpin as the ballads make the King fraternize with Robin Hood and his men, or as Shakespeare’s Prince Hal had enjoyed Falstaff’s company.

                        Ch 25 “Apocalypse and After”


                        When Milton said that the Mosaic law was abolished and ‘we are released from the decalogue’, he meant that the sins forbidden in the ten commandments were not necessarily sins when committed by one of the elect. But most of the sins forbidden in the decalogue were also regarded as crimes by the law of the state. Did Milton (and other antinomians) really mean that God’s chosen elect were above the secular law as well as the Law of Moses? In times of revolutionary crisis the answer for some might perhaps be yes, but only then. In normal times it would not have seemed a satisfactory argument against a charge of murder to say that it had been committed in the faith. Rhetorical flourishes aside, there were real problems here, affecting day-to-day conduct. If Robin Hood or Dick Turpin really had robbed from the rich in order to give to the poor, would that be a sin, a crime or a virtuous action?
                        Last edited by nalpak retrac; 10-15-2006, 12:13 PM.


                        • #13
                          Thank you Mr. K. Fascinating stuff! I have so little to add, but enjoy this analysis immensly, especially this most recent contribution.

                          If Robin Hood or Dick Turpin really had robbed from the rich in order to give to the poor, would that be a sin, a crime or a virtuous action?
                          Does it come down to whether you are the boob, benefactor or beneficiary? Could a gentleman highwayman be a willing synthesis of all three?
                          Last edited by Reinart der Fuchs; 10-15-2006, 04:38 AM.
                          Infinite complexity according to simple rules.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
                            Anyway he was first popularised in Rookwood by Harrison Ainsworth, who was in some ways the first historical novelist of his kind, though of course Scott precedes him.
                            Anyone surprised to learn that Google Book Search has ROOKWOOD in PDF form?

                            Infinite complexity according to simple rules.


                            • #15
                              I've only just discovered that a rook is a crow.

                              William Harrison Ainsworth cited Ann Radcliffe saying, "I resolved to attempt a story in the bygone style of Mrs. Radcliffe" in the preface of ROOKWOOD.

                              Willam Harrison Ainsworth works:

                              Jack Sheppard
                              The Lancashire Witches
                              and others

                              William Harrison Ainsworth was born in Manchester on February 4 1805, the first child of Thomas Ainsworth, a prominent local solicitor, and Ann Harrison, the daughter of a Unitarian minister. The family had one other child the following year, Thomas Gilbert, who was destined for a long life of mental illness. Ainsworth attended the Manchester Free Grammar School, and was contributing literary articles, short fiction and poetry to national periodicals from the age of sixteen. His first published book was a collection of poems under the pseudonym of “Cheviot Ticheburn” (dedicated to Charles Lamb) in 1822, followed in 1823 by the anonymous collection of short stories and literary essays, December Tales. He moved to London to study law in 1824, where he met Lamb, and through him J. G. Lockhart, Henry Colburn, Leigh Hunt, Mary Shelley and John Ebers, lessee of the King’s Theatre, whose daughter, Fanny, he married in 1826. Ainsworth’s first novel, Sir John Chiverton, a little gothic number (written in collaboration with school friend J. P. Aston), was published in 1826 and brought him to the attention of Sir Walter Scott, to whom he was presented the same year. Scott’s journals privately refer to him as an “imitator”. After a failed attempt at a career in publishing, Ainsworth returned to the law to support his wife, his three daughters and his debts, but his professional struggle between literature and the law came to an end in 1834 with the publication of his hugely popular gothic romance Rookwood (with a cameo by highwayman Dick Turpin), which bought fame over night. Ainsworth also met and befriended Charles Dickens that year, introducing the young journalist to Forster, Macrone and Cruikshank. Fanny Ainsworth could not cope with her dandy-husband’s celebrity, and left the following year (dying in 1838).
                              Ainsworth followed Rookwood with a more conventional historical novel, Crichton, in 1837, but its only moderate success, public pressure and financial problems (bought about by a bitter battle with his in-laws over the custody of his children), meant than Ainsworth desperately needed a hit. His brief period as Scott’s literary successor in the eyes of the press after Rookwood had also given way to Dickens’ meteoric rise, a literary superiority to which Ainsworth cheerfully deferred. The answer to his problems was to return to the Newgate Calendars, serialising the exploits of the Georgian criminal John “Jack” Sheppard, briefly famous in the days of Defoe for several daring prison escapes before being finally hanged in 1724. Jack Sheppard began its serial run in Bentley’s Miscellany in January 1839, appearing concurrently with Dickens’ Oliver Twist for four months in the same periodical. As both stories were illustrated by Cruikshank and dealt with young boys drawn into the London underworld, a public and critical connection was easily made between them. Much to Dickens’ private annoyance the novelised version of Jack Sheppard also effortlessly out-sold Oliver Twist. A moral panic, the so-called “Newgate controversy”, followed, originally led by Forster in the Examiner and Thackeray in Punch, centring around Bulwer-Lytton’s “Newgate novels”, Paul Clifford (1830) and Eugene Aram (1832), Oliver Twist, Rookwood and Jack Sheppard. Particular bourgeois concern was expressed at the effects of cheap, theatrical adaptations on working-class youth culture. When the valet François Courvoisier murdered his master, Lord William Russell in 1840, allegedly after reading Jack Sheppard, the charge against Ainsworth seemed incontrovertible and his status as a good Victorian and a serious literary novelist never recovered.

                              Ann Radcliffe works:

                              The Mysteries of Udolpho
                              A Sicilian Romance
                              and others

                              Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) was enormously popular in her day. Her use of Gothic techniques, her ability to arouse terror and curiosity in her readers by introducing events which are apparently supernatural, but which are afterwards carefully explained by natural means, was widely imitated but never surpassed. Her creation of tastefully imaginary horrors and her emphasis on the supernatural looked forward to the Romantics, while her rationalistic explanations hearkened back to the ordered world of the Augustans: her novels offered contemporary readers an opportunity to indulge their predeliction for the bizarre, the outre and the unconventional by broadly hinting at the immoral and the supernatural while ultimately rectifying matters (from a societal point of view) by vindicating the Neoclassical virtues.
                              Radcliffe had read Burke on the sublime and the Picturesque, and became a pioneer in the fictional use of landscape. By placing her characters in carefully constructed "artificial" environments, by employing vivid contrasts and decorous chiaroscuro effects allied to those found in the pictorial arts, she learned to employ the "Natural" Sublime as a theater within which her plots could be satisfactorily managed, while at the same time greatly enhancing her ability to psychologically manipulate her readers.
                              Last edited by Reinart der Fuchs; 10-15-2006, 09:08 PM.
                              Infinite complexity according to simple rules.