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the long chain of incidents, which now form the Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. This course of proceeding, it must be owned, involved me in many a needless imbroglio; though, upon the whole, I extricated myself from my entanglements with less difficulty than might have been anticipated.
The Ride to York, a portion of the work, which appears to have enjoyed the greatest share of favour, cost me the least time, and the least trouble in execution. It was written in as few hours as the equestrian feat described took in its accomplishment. My pen galloped over the leaves with unwonted ease, and with unwonted celerity. So thoroughly did I identify myself with the flying highwayman, that, once started, I found it impossible to halt. Animated by kindred enthusiasm, I cleared every obstacle in my path, with as much facility as Turpin disposed of the impediments that beset his flight. In his company, I mounted the hill-side, dashed through the bustling village, swept over the desolate heath, threaded the silent street, plunged into the eddying stream, and kept an onward course, without pause, without hinderance, without fatigue. With him, I shouted, sang, laughed, exulted, wept. The whole panorama of the country between London and York seemed to pass before me; and, as I had not, at that time, travelled along the Great North Road, I was surprised, upon verifying my descriptions, (which I did, before the appearance of the work,) to find them tolerably accurate. The pains of authorship are great; but its pleasures, when they occur, are greater. And among the latter, I may instance the composition of this “ Ride to York.”
It is curious that, besides Turpin, there are two other claimants to the distinction of this remarkable achievement, and equally curious that both these claimants should be brothers of the blade. The first of these, Will Nevi. son, was a noted highwayman, who flourished in Charles the Second's time, and feigning death, during the prevalence of the plague, was carried out of the Castle at York, by his confederates, and subsequently rode, it is stated, from that city to London, in a single day. Nevison's irons (if I remember rightly) form part of an interesting collection* of knives, saws, pistols, hatchets, bludgeons, daggers, stakes, and other blood-stained implements of destruction, exhibited by the York gaoler, who, by the by, is a great stickler for Will's equestrian reputation, and contends that Turpin has robbed him of his laurels in this particular matter of “the Ride.” With becoming deference, however, to the opinion of this well-informed gentleman, I would venture to state that I can discover no record of such an exploit in the meagre accounts of his hero ; nor is there any allusion to any such performance, accomplished by any person whatever, that I can meet with, earlier than 1758. In the “ Narrative of the Life and surprising Robberies and Adventures of William Paget,” published in that year,
Poor Daniel Clarke's cracked skull is included, among other relics, in this museum. This is not treating murdered people fairly : it is to gibbet the victim, not the malefactor. Eugene Aram's “ chapless mazzard” would have formed a more fitting, and, possibly, a more profitable exhibition.
† Page is described in his Memoirs as being “ so infatuated with the notion of being a gentleman, that he carried the quixotism of gentility to the gallows. Having feed the executioner to grant
ensuing passage occurs : —“One instance,” says the historian, referring to an attempt, on the part of Page, to prove an alibi, “I myself remember, which happened upwards of thirty years ago. This was Harris, the famous highwayman, who robbed on the Black Mare. He committed a robbery in the morning, in Surrey, on a gentleman, who knew him perfectly well, and therefore Harris rode for it, with such speed, trusting to the goodness of his mare, that in the evening, about sunset, he appeared on the Bowling Green at York; and pulling out his watch, showed it to the gentlemen present. But, notwithstanding this prodigious performance, namely, the riding one hundred and ninetyfour miles in one day, so positive was the evidence against him, that he was convicted upon it. The old Duke of Richmond, as I remember, was so charmed with the vastness of the performance, and the bravery of the man, that he interceded for his life, and obtained it, on condition that Harris would give him his word and honour never to be guilty of the like offence again. Harris gave him his faith that he would not, and was as good as his word. He immediately set up a fencing-school, and afterwards married a woman of fortune at Steyning, in Sussex, where he lived in reputation till his death." This is, unquestionably, a
hiin all the marks of honour the triple tree can afford, he was indulged with giving a signal, which consisted in dropping a cambric handkerchief; and hence he has established a precedent for treating gentlemen with decency; for instead of being cut down as your common horse and sheep stealers are, Jack Ketch was at as much pains in loosing the knot that deprived the world of this great man, as if he had beeri bis own brother.” This gentleman, moreover, robbed in a phaeton and pair.
curious story; and if Harris be not an alias of Turpin, I can scarcely tell what to make of it. Here we have the “ Black Mare,” the “ ride to York in a single day,” and the incident of the “watch shown to the gentlemen on the bowling-green,” told of Turpin at Hough. It is quite certain, that in all the records of crime, to which I have had access, no memoir of any highwayman of notoriety, rejoicing in the aristocratic name of Harris, * is to be found: it is equally certain, that before Turpin’s day, the question of such a “ride” had never been mooted ; and it is highly probable that Page's biographer, partially informed upon the subject, may
have substituted one name
* In a small collection of criminal cases, however, published in 1718, mention is made of one James Harris, a trooper, who was indicted at the Old Bailey, in February, 1705, for robbery on the highway. From the evidence given upon this trial, it appears that the hopse, ridden by the prisoner, was a bay gelding, with a black list down his back, and two white feet behind.” Harris was found guilty, but afterwards reprieved. Of his subsequent career nothing is related. The fact of his being a trooper in the Horse-guards, notwithstanding the difference in the dates, seems to favour the supposition that he may have been the identical Harris, alluded to in Page's Memoirs, who became, after his second acquittal and more important achievement, a fencing-master. In regard to the Black Bess part of the question, I find some rumours afloat at that time (namely, 1705,) concerning a highwayman, who committed his depredations on a sable steed; for, in the account of Joe Johnson, who was tried at the Od Bailey, in the Sessions immediately preceding Harris's examination, it is stated that the Ordinary, amongst other interrogations, addressed the culprit, then under sentence of death, as follows: “ That whereas he was suspected to be the person, who used to rob on the black mare; whether he were so, or not? ” To which he answered, “ That he had heard of a man who used to rob on a black mare, but he was not the man, neither did he know him." And this is all I can discover relative to the matter.
for another, and related a traditional anecdote of Turpin, with some trifling embellishments of his own. The date referred to (1728) coincides with the supposed period of Turpin's exploit. Be this as it may, and it is impossible to settle so important and so perplexing a point, if the ride in question was actually performed by Nevison, Harris, or Turpin (no matter which of the three), it is a feat unrivalled in the annals of the sporting world; and such as Mr. Osbaldeston, or any other “crack rider” of our time, would vainly strive to emulate. It could only have been undertaken, only have been executed, by a highwayman!
Of Turpin’s conduct, while in confinement at York Castle, I have elsewhere spoken; but the following additional particulars, from a somewhat scarce work, may not be without interest. He had, at least, the merit of consistency and died game. “Some remorse might naturally have been supposed to visit the unhappy Turpin, who was one of the most notorious offenders this
produced. But, on the contrary, after sentence of death was passed upon him, he was as jovial, as merry, and as frolicsome, as if he had been perfectly at liberty, and assured of a hundred years of prosperity to come; and went off the stage with as much intrepidity and unconcern as if he had been taking horse to go a journey. Having been committed to York Castle, he lived in as much pleasure as the liberties of the prison would allow, eating, drinking, and carousing, with any body, who would spend the time with him. Neither did he alter his behaviour, even after his condemnation. When it was rumoured that he was the Turpin, who had rendered himself so