The Newgate Calendar12 was the name of a series of frequently unconnected but wildly popular books put out by various people in Great Britain and England in the 1700s and 1800s that gave lurid details of various crimes and criminals. The version I prefer is the William Jackson version, partially because it has the medial s everywhere. The Internet Archive has scanned copies of volumes 1, 2 and 5. I have never found the missing volumes 3, 4 and 6.
Anyway, some of the contents are quite “droll” and I propose to feature them here.
First, John Stanley:
Particulars repecting JOHN STANLEY, who was hanged for murder.
MR. STANLEY was the ſon of an officer in the army, and born in the year 1690, at Duce-Hall in Eſſex, a ſeat that belonged to Mr. Palmer, who was his uncle by the mother’s side. Young Stanley being the favourite of his father, the latter began to teach him the art of fencing when he was no more than five years of age; and other officers likewiſe practicing the ſame art with him, he became a kind of maſter of the ſword when he was but a mere boy: for, to simulate his courage, it was common for thoſe who fenced with him to give him wine, or other ſtrong liquors.
In conſequence of this treatment the boy grew daring and inſolent beyond expreſſion, and at length behaved with ſo uncommon a degree of audacity that his father deemed him a ſingular character of bravery. While he was very young Mr. Stanley being ordered to join his regiment in Spain, took his ſon with him; and in that country he was a ſpectator of ſeveral engagements, but his principal delight was in trampling on the bodies of the deceaſed, after the battles were ended.
From Spain the elder Stanley was ordered to Ireland, whither he took his ſon, and there procured for him an enſign’s commiſſion: but the young gentleman, habituating himſelf to extravagant company, ſpent much more money than the produce of his commiſſion, which he ſoon ſold, and then returned to England.
The father was greatly mortified at this proceeding, and adviſed him to make application to general Stanhope, who had been a warm friend to the family: but this adviſe was loſt on the young fellow, who abandoned himſelf to the moſt diſſolute courſe of life; borrowed money of all his acquaintances, which he ſoon ſquandered at the gaming tables, and procured farther ſupplies from women with whom he made illicit connections.
He was ſo vain of his acquaintance with the ladies, that he boaſted of their favours as an argument in proof of his own accompliſhments though what he might obtain from the weakneſs of one woman, he commonly ſquandered on others, of more abandoned character.
One mode which he took to ſupply his extravagance, was to introduce himſelf into the company of young gentlemen who were but little acquainted with the vices of the age, whom he aſſilled in waſting their fortunes in every ſpecies of ſcandalous diſſipation.
At length, after a ſcene of riot in London, went with one of his aſſociates to Flanders, and thence to Paris; and Stanley boaſted not a little of the favours he received among the French ladies, and of the improvements he had made in the ſcience of fencing.
On his return to England the opinion he conceived of his ſkill in the uſe of the ſword made him inſufferably vain and preſuming. He would frequently intrude himſelf into company at a tavern, and ſaying he was come to make himſelf welcome, would fit down at the table without farther ceremony. The company would ſometimes bear with his inſolence for the ſake of peace; but when this was the caſe, it was a chance if he did not pretend to have received ſome affront, and, drawing his ſword, walk off while the company was in confuſion. It was not always, however, that matters thus ended; for ſometimes a gentleman of ſpirit would take the liberty of kicking our hero out of the houſe.
It will now be proper to mention ſomething of his connection with Mrs. Maycock, the murder of whom coſt him his life. As he was returning from a gaming-houſe which he frequented in Covent-Garden, he met a Mr. Bryan of Newgate ſtreet, and his ſiſter, Mrs. Maycock, the wife of a mercer on Ludgate-Hill. Stanley rudely ran againſt the man, and embraced the woman; on which a quarrel aroſe; but this ſubſiding, Stanley inſiſted on ſeeing the parties home: this he did, and ſpent the evening with them; and from this circumſtance a fatal connexion aroſe, as will appear in the ſequel.
Stanley having made an acquaintance with the family, ſoon afterwards met Mrs. Maycock at the houſe of a relation in Red-Lion-Street, Holborn. In a ſhort time Mr. Maycock removing into Southwark, the viſits of our captain were admitted on a footing of intimacy.
The huſband dying ſoon after this connection, Stanley became more at liberty to pay his addreſſes to the widow, and it appears that ſome conſiderable intimacy ſubſiſted between them, from the following letter, which is not more a proof of the abſurd vanity of the man that could write it, than of the woman that could keep him company after receiving it. The egregious coxcomb, and ſupercilious flatterer, is viſible in every line.
“I am tomorrow to be at the Opera; O that I could add, with her I love. The Opera, where beauties leſs beauteous than thou, ſit panting, admired, and taſte the ſweet barbarian ſounds. On Friday I ſhall be at the maſquerade at Somerſet Houſe, where modeſt pleaſure hides itſelf, before it will be touched: but though it is uncertain in the ſhape, ’tis real in the ſenſe; for maſks ſcorn to ſteal, and not repay: therefore, as they conceal the face, they oft make the body the better known. At this end of the town, many faded beauties bid the oleos and the bruſh kiſs their cheeks and lips, till their charms only glimmer with a borrowed grace; ſo that a city beauty, rich in her native ſpring of ſimplicity and lovelineſs, will doubly ſhine with us; ſhine like the innocent morning bluſh of light, that glitters untainted on the gardens.”
This exquiſite piece of nonſenſe flattered the vanity of the lady, ſo that he was admitted to repeat his viſits at his own convenience. At this time a young fellow who had ſerved his apprenticeſhip with the late Mr. Maycock, and who was poſſeſed of a decent fortune to begin the world, paid his addreſſes to the young widow ; but ſhe preferred a licentious life with Stanley, to a more virtuous connection.
Soon after this ſhe quitted her houſe in Southwark, and the lovers ſpent their time at balls, plays, and aſſemblies, till her money was diſſipated, when he did not ſcruple to inſinuate that ſhe had been too liberal of her favours to other perſons. In the mean time ſhe bore him three children, one of whom was living at the time of the father’s execution.
Stanley continuing his diſſolute courſe of life, his parents became very uneaſy, in fear of the fatal conſequences that might enſue; and his father, who ſaw too late the wrong bias he had given to his education, procured him the commiſſion of a lieutenant, to go to Cape-Coaſt Caſtle, in the ſervice of the African company.
The young fellow ſeemed ſo pleated with this appointment, that his friends conceived great hopes that he would reform. Preparations being made for his voyage, and the company having advanced a conſiderable ſum, he went to Portſmouth, in order to embark: but he had been only a few days in that town, when he was followed by Mrs. Maycock, with her infant child. She reproached him with baſeneſs, in firſt debauching, and then leaving her to ſtarve: and employing all the arts ſhe was miſtreſs of to divert him from his reſolution, he gave her half the money which belonged to the company, and followed her to London with the reſt.
Shocked with the news of this diſhonourable action the father took to his bed, and died of grief. Young Stanley appeared greatly grieved at this event, and to divert his chagrin, he went to Flanders, where he ſtaid a conſiderable time, when he returned to England, and lived in as abandoned a manner as before.
Soon after his return, having drank freely with two tradeſmen, they all walked together towards Hampſtead; and meeting a Mr. Dawſon, with five other gentlemen, a quarrel enſued. One of the gentlemen fired a piſtol, the ball from which grazed Stanley’s ſkin. Enraged hereby, the latter drew his ſword, and making a paſs at him the ſword ran into the body of Mr. Dawſon, through the lower part of his belly, and to his backbone. The wounded man was conveyed to a neighbouring houſe, where he lay ſix weeks before he was perfectly recovered.
However, as Dawſon happened to know Stanley, he took out a writ againſt him for damages, to recover the expence of the cure; but the writ was never executed, as Stanley was ſo celebrated for his ſkill in the uſe of his ſword, and his daring; diſpoſition, that the bailiffs were afraid to arreſt him.
Not long after this, quarrelling with captain Chickley, at a cyder-cellar in Covent-Garden, Stanley challenged the captain to fight in a dark room. They ſhut themſelves in, but a conſtable being ſent for, broke open the door, and probably ſaved Stanley’s life; for Chickley had then ran his ſword through his body, while he himſelf had received only two ſlight wounds.
It appears that Stanley ſtill paid occaſional viſits to Mrs. Maycock ; and he had the inſolence to pretend anger at her receiving the viſits of other perſons, though he was not able to ſupport her; for he had the vanity to think that a woman whom he had debauched ought for ever to bear true allegiance to him, as a wife to her huſband.
Mrs. Maycock having been to viſit a gentleman, was returning one night through Chancery-Lane, in company with another woman, and Mr. Hammond of the Old Bailey. Stanley, in company with another man, met the parties, and he and his companion inſiſted on going with the women. Hammond hereupon ſaid the ladies belonged to him ; but Mrs. Maycock now recognizing Stanley, ſaid, “What, captain, is it you?” He aſked her where me was going: ſhe laid to Mr. Hammond’s in the Old Bailey. He replied that he was glad to meet her, and would go with, her.
As they walked down Fleet-ſtreet, Stanley deſired his companions to go back, and wait for him at an appointed place; and as the company was going forward, Stanley ſtruck a man who happened to be in his way, and kicked a woman on the ſame account.
Being arrived at Hammond’s houſe, the company deſired Stanley to go home; but this he refuſed, and Mrs. Maycock going into the kitchen, he puſhed in after her, and ſome words having paſſed between them, he ſtabbed her ſo that ſhe died in about an hour and a half.
Other company going into the kitchen ſaw Stanley flouriſhing his ſword, while the deceaſed was fainting with loſs of blood, and crying out, “I am ſtabbed! I am murdered!” Stanley’s ſword being taken from him, he threw himſelf down by Mrs. Maycock, and ſaid, “My dear Hannah, will you not ſpeak to me?”
The offender being taken into cuſtody, was brought to his trial at the Old Bailey, where ſome witneſſes endeavoured to prove that he was a lunatic; but the jury conſidering his extravagant conduct as the effect of his vices only, and the evidence againſt him being poſitive, he was found guilty, and received ſentence of death.
Before his conviction he had behaved in a very inconſiderate manner, nor was his conduct much altered afterwards, only that when he heard the name of Mrs. Maycock mentioned, he was ſeized with violent tremblings, and drops of cold ſweat fell from his face.
He was carried to the place of execution, in a mourning coach; but on being put into the cart under the gallows, he turned pale, and was ſo weak that he could not ſtand without ſupport. He made no ſpeech to the people, but only ſaid that as a hearſe was provided to take away his body, he hoped no one would prevent its receiving Chirſtian burial. It was obſerved that he wept bitterly after the cap was drawn over his eyes.
He was executed at Tyburn on the 23d of December, 1723, at the age of twenty-give years.
It is imopoſſible to diſmiſs this ſubject without reflecting on the abſurd conduct of Stanley’s father, who by his eagerneſs to teach him, while an infant, the uſe of the ſword, gave him that degree of falſe bravery, and mad courage, that tempted him to the unlawful uſe of it on every occaſion; and at length combining with has vices, occaſioned the perpetration of the horrid crime of murder: a murder of the moſt aggravated nature; that of a woman who had fallen a ſacrifice his art of ſeduction, aided, no doubt, by her own uncontrolable vanity.
The unhappy fate of Mrs. Maycock ſhould teach married women the ineſtimable value of chaſtity. The woman who liſtens to the art of a ſeducer is in the high-road to deſtruction; and as ſurely as ſhe ſuffers her perſon to be violated, ſhe entails miſery on herſelf and family, and lays the ground-work of a long ſeries of repentance: and happy may ſhe think herſelf if, by the grace of God, that repentance prove not ineffectual.
The principal reason I like this is the quite amusingly described “exquiſite piece of nonſenſe” which somehow was preserved for all time to come by the author of this work. Personally it seems quite silly. The reference to masquerades can be understood in the light of their common suppression as “licentious”.
The author is, in my opinion, quite justified in ragging on Stanley’s father for taking his son to battlefields (!) and letting him trample on dead bodies (!!).