A Recantation of an Ill Led Life: or, a Discoverie of the High-way Law. With ... many cautelous Admonitions and full Instructions, how to know, shunne, and apprehend a Thiefe ... The third edition, with Additions.

London, Printed by A.M. for Richard Meighen ... 1634.

Small 4to., pp. [22], 47, [1], the portrait (frequently lacking) supplied from the Caulfield reprint of [1792], last line of text I2v slightly shaved but readable; a very good copy in old calf, neatly rebacked; red signature and monogram stamps to title verso of William Musgrave (1735-1800, collector and trustee of the British Museum, to which institution he donated nearly 2000 books), ownership inscription to title-page of the bibliophile Thomas Park (item 109, priced £3 3s, in his Bibliotheca Anglo-Poetica offered by Longmans in 1815), modern bookplate of the magician and collector Ricky Jay


US $3623€3695

Make an enquiry

Added to your basket:
A Recantation of an Ill Led Life: or, a Discoverie of the High-way Law. With ... many cautelous Admonitions and full Instructions, how to know, shunne, and apprehend a Thiefe ... The third edition, with Additions.

Checkout now

Third and final edition, incorporating Clavell’s final revisions (it is 138 lines longer than the first edition of 1628), and a new preface by ‘his friend’ Richard Meighen.

This extraordinary autobiographical poem has long been quarried for its practical information about highway robbery in the early seventeenth century. A celebrated scapegrace, well-born and plausibly educated, Clavell was expelled from Brasenose College for stealing plate, and drifted from penury in London to a life of crime on the road. Apprehended, convicted and condemned, he procured a royal pardon by soliciting Queen Anne’s intercession, and gained his freedom with this recantation in verse, dedicated to James I and everyone else influential he could think of. He kept his promise to reform, and after a flirtation with the London stage (one play, a prologue and some commendatory poems, friendship with Massinger, Marmion and Jonson), he carved out a second career as physician and lawyer in Ireland, where he married an eleven-year-old heiress and seems to have been well-liked and useful, if rather full of himself, for the rest of his life.

A Recantation is candid and unsentimental as autobiography, and more than competent as verse. It is best known for its display of ‘tricks of the trade’, true first-hand knowledge which subsequent writers on low-life cheerfully pillaged. One detail may bear repetition, for it has escaped Shakespearians: as examples of pass-words used by the muffed-up thieves in the darkness, Clavell gives three: ‘Round-de-la-vera Hay, / The Moone shines bright or else, Ware’s Post away’ (F3r). If traditional passwords did not vary much between 1595 and 1620, would not a knowing audience smile to hear Lorenzo begin his lyrical abduction of Jessica with ‘The moon shines bright’ (Merchant, V. i. 1)? Both lovers are masked, we may imagine, and will rifle Shylock’s coffers before eloping.

STC 5371.

You may also be interested in...


Volume of nineteen items concerning the treatment and care of war wounded.

A remarkable sammelband of scarce works on military medicine in French, Italian, Dutch and German, including an item on Florence Nightingale and treatises on gunshot wounds, the Red Cross, field hospitals, battlefield first aid, and ambulances. Several items bear inscriptions by Félix Hippolyte Larrey (1808–1895), personal physician to Napoleon III.

Read more

Printed For Josef Bard POUND, Ezra.

A Draft of the Cantos 17-27 … Initials by Gladys Hynes.

First edition, no. 4 of 101 copies, this ‘Printed for Josef Bard’. This is one of 70 copies on specially watermarked Roma paper (price 5 guineas), the same as was used for the Three Mountains Press edition of A Draft of XVI Cantos (1926). There were also four on vellum (price 50 guineas), five on imperial Japan (20 guineas), and fifteen on Whatman paper (ten guineas). A small number of copies (15) also had printed dedications like the present, other recipients including Nancy Cunard (copy III on Whatman), the printer John Rodker (copy 12), James Joyce (copy 5) and William Carlos Williams (copy 7).

Read more