Pub. Date:
Thief-Taker Hangings: How Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Wild, and Jack Sheppard Captivated London and Created the Celebrity Criminal

Thief-Taker Hangings: How Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Wild, and Jack Sheppard Captivated London and Created the Celebrity Criminal

by Aaron Skirboll


View All Available Formats & Editions
Usually ships within 6 days


In the early 1700s, lawlessness ruled England, and highwaymen, thieves, and prostitutes thrived. When notorious burglar Jack Sheppard finally met the hangman, street singers warbled ballads about the housebreaker whom no prison could hold. Before his execution, he told his story to a writer in the crowd. Daniel Defoe had done hard time himself for sedition and bankruptcy and saw how prison corrupted the poor. They came out thieves, but he came out a journalist. Six months later, Defoe covered another death at the hanging tree. Jonathan Wild had all but invented the double-cross. He cultivated thieves and then betrayed them for his reward and their executions. Jack Sheppard hadn’t taken orders from this self-proclaimed “thief-taker general,” and the two-faced bounty hunter took it personally, helping to bring the burglar’s life to an end. But Wild’s duplicity soon came to light, and he became the most despised man in the land. When he swung, a mob hurled rocks, rotten food, and even dead animals at him. Defoe once again got the scoop, and tabloid journalism had begun.

Related collections and offers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780762791484
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 09/02/2014
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Aaron Skirboll is the author of The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven and has written about America's first professional songwriter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Ernest Hemingway's last days for American Way magazine, and the history of the phone booth and cell phone etiquette for The Morning News. He lives in Pennsylvania.

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Brawling Back-Alley Bunch ix

Prologue: The Triple Tree xiii

I The Dissenter 3

II The Streets of London 15

III Jonathan Wild Comes to the City 23

IV The Review 33

V The Marshal and the Buckle-Maker 43

VI Thief-Catcher General of Great Britain and Ireland 55

VII Jack Sheppard, Apprentice 79

VIII The Regulator 83

IX Crusoe and Flanders 97

X The Black Lion 103

XI Celebrity Gangbuster 113

XII Cleverest of All 129

XIII Wild versus Sheppard 141

XIV The Trial of Jack Sheppard 147

XV Mr. Applebee's Man 159

XVI Blueskin's Penknife 167

XVII The Castle 175

XVIII Forlorn at the Triple Tree 187

XIX The Downfall of Jonathan Wild 207

XX The Trial of Jonathan Wild 221

XXI Hanging the Thief-Catcher 229

XXII "To Deliver Myself from This Death of a Life" 237

Epilogue: Legends 243

Appendix: Canting Dictionary 247

Acknowledgments 250

Notes 251

Selected Bibliography 282

Index 291

Customer Reviews