THE MONARCH OF HIGHWAYMEN

An authentic and genuine Narrative of the Life and surprizing Exploits, of William Hawke, the famous Highwayman, who was executed at Tyburn, July 1, 1774, for robbing Mr. Charles Hart, on the Highway, of 1s. 8d. Containing I. An Account of his Birth, Education, and first Entrance on the thieving Trade. II. Of his numerous Robberies, both as a Footpad, and on the Highway. III. Instances of his Generosity … V. His Transportation to America … VIII. The Manner of his Apprehension … IX.  His Behaviour under Sentence of Death …. with two Copper-plates ….

London: Printed for the Author; and sold by R. Richards, at his Lottery-Office … 1774.

8vo., pp. [3], 6-30, with plates of ‘William Hawke in the Press Yard Newgate’ and ‘Hawke robs Capt Cunningham & Mr Hart the Capt beats the Highway Man’s Horse’ (short tears at inner margin); title-page trimmed, slight browning but a good copy in modern wrappers.

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First edition of a shilling life of the ‘monarch’ of highwaymen, William Hawke. He and his henchman were ‘the most daring and desperate gang … that ever infested the English roads’, but ‘though Hawke had many vices, yet he was not destitute of every virtue’, and was known for his generosity and compassion towards the poor and afflicted. The first time he was captured, in about 1770, he was sentenced to transportation to America with one of his companions, but after a twelve-month they escaped and came back to England and to their thieving ways. Taken once more by a party of Sir John Fielding’s men Hawke bribed his way out of Tothil-fields Bridewell and returned to the road. By this time his fame and person were so well known that his exploits were even more perilous. In 1774, his lodgings betrayed by a coachman, he was captured for the last time, sentenced at the Old Bailey, and hanged at Tyburn.

The pamphlet ends with reflections on the causes of the numerous robberies on the highway, including the certainty of finding a market for the booty; a footnote refers to Henry Fielding’s Enquiry into the Causes of the late Increase of Robberies.

ESTC lists copies at the British Library, New York Public Library, UCLA, Minnesota, and Yale.

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