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Hanged for Shoplifting, Being a True History of Mary Jones’ Sad Life and Death

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Barbaria1

Rebel Leader
Staff member
I am very sorry to report that my laptop has died, apparently asphyxiated by a too tight cable.

This will probably delay my post of the last chapter. I apologize for your inconvenience but it's not greater than mine, I assure you. :(
I hope you had stories you were working on backed up!
 

Praefectus Praetorio

Brother of the Quill
If we are posting songs about hanging, here is my all-time favorite, a song of love and sacrifice, which I paraphrased in this story. In the original version by Lefty Frizzell from 1959:
I post the lyrics (after all it's my thread and I can clog it if I wanna!) so you can see:
Ten years ago, on a cold dark night
Someone was killed, 'neath the town hall light
There were few at the scene, but they all agreed
That the slayer who ran, looked a lot like me
The judge said son, what is your alibi
If you were somewhere else, then you won't have to die
I spoke not a word, thou it meant my life
For I'd been in the arms of my best friend's wife
She walks these hills in a long black veil
She visits my grave when the night winds wail
Nobody knows, nobody sees
Nobody knows but me
Oh, the scaffold is high and eternity's near
She stood in the crowd and shed not a tear
But late at night, when the north wind blows
In a long black veil, she cries ov're my bones
She walks these hills in a long black veil
She visits my grave when the night winds wail
Nobody knows, nobody sees
Nobody knows but me


Compare the bold section with the conclusion to "Preparing the Condemned" from Monday's post
"Impending doom approached and eternity drew near."
 

Praefectus Praetorio

Brother of the Quill
And while you are at it, don't forget the two great poems of hanging:
Oscar Wilde's, The Ballad of Reading Goal
I walked, with other souls in pain,
Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done
A great or little thing,
When a voice behind me whispered low,
"That fellow's got to swing."

Dear Christ! the very prison walls
Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
Like a casque of scorching steel;

He looked upon the garish day
With such a wistful eye;
The man had killed the thing he loved
And so he had to die.

Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

Rudyard Kipling's Danny Deever
‘What are the bugles blowin’ for?' said Files-on-Parade.
‘To turn you out, to turn you out,’ the Colour-Sergeant said.
‘What makes you look so white, so white?’ said Files-on-Parade.
‘I’m dreadin’ what I’ve got to watch,’ the Colour-Sergeant said.
For they’re hangin’ Danny Deever, you can hear the Dead March play,
They are hangin’ Danny Deever, they are marchin’ of ’im round,
They ’ave ’alted Danny Deever by ’is coffin on the ground;
An’ ’e’ll swing in ’arf a minute for a sneakin’ shootin’ hound—
O they’re hangin’ Danny Deever in the mornin!’
 
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Praefectus Praetorio

Brother of the Quill
I showed a facsimile of the record of the proceedings in #82, which you may refer to. Here is the full transcript printed on the trial of Mary and Ann. It is not written by me!

570, 571. (L.) Mary the wife of William Jones , and Ann Styles , spinster , were indicted, for stealing 4 pieces of worked muslin, containing 52 yards, value 5 l 10 s. the property of William Foot , privately in his shop , August 7 . ++

Christopher Preston . I live with Mr. Foot, linen draper , in Ludgate-street ; the two prisoners came to our shop on the 7th of August, between five and seven, under pretence to buy a child's frock, after giving a good deal of trouble nothing would suit them; our apprentice shewed them some. Jones went from the counter towards the door; in going along, I perceived her move her arm; I suspected she had something under her cloak; I followed her and brought her in from the door, and took from under her arm, the remnants of worked muslin; they laid on the counter ready to put up in a rapper (the muslin produced and deposed to.)

Andrew Hawkins . I was behind the counter, they came in and asked for some low price linen; I believe Styles asked for them; there was none she liked, Jones's child was on the counter, she went to the door with the child; Mr. Presten brought her in from the door and took two pieces from under her gown, and two or three pieces fell on the floor; I went for a constable and took them to the Compter.

Thomas Ham . I live at Temple Bar; they came into my shop; I suspected them, and I watched them into a great many shops, at last into Mr. Foot's, and we took these muslins from under their cloaks, one of them said to the other it was a very unfortunate accident or they should have had something; there were five of them, three waited at a distance, these came to them as they came out of the shop.

Q. How many shops did you watch them into?

Ham. I believe at least fifteen.

Q. From what hour?

Ham. From three o'clock till six.

Q. Did the same two people go into every shop?

Ham. I believe these two always went in; the others stood out, I think.

Jones's Defence.

I gave them the muslin out of my hand in the shop; I have been a very honest woman in my life time; I have two children; I work very hard to maintain my two children since my husband was pressed.

Styles's Defence.

We live in one house together; she wanted to buy a child's jam; I went along with her, we only went into three shops; we live in Angel Alley in the Strand; I was looking at a piece of linen when they accused her of this.

Jones. guilty , Death .

Styles Acquitted .


Reference - "Proceedings of the Old Bailey" https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t17710911-32-off174&div=t17710911-32#highlight
In case any out there found this court record excessively concise, dry and unfeeling to record the condemnation of a 17-year-old girl, never fear. There were two more official entries on Mary's case before the record was closed:

Sentence respited 9th October 1771

Executed 16th October 1771


There you see the full and sympathetic record of her life and death in the eyes of His Majesty's Government.
 

minyoo

Assistant executioner
In case any out there found this court record excessively concise, dry and unfeeling to record the condemnation of a 17-year-old girl, never fear. There were two more official entries on Mary's case before the record was closed:

Sentence respited 9th October 1771

Executed 16th October 1771


There you see the full and sympathetic record of her life and death in the eyes of His Majesty's Government.
I did think it was weird that it was too concise. (although part of me did enjoy its dryness)
Where can I read the entries? those are not hyperlinks. (Blue color did fool me this time)
 

Praefectus Praetorio

Brother of the Quill
Today is May 13, 2020, an important day in the saga of Mary Jones. A good day to end the tale.

Requiescat in Pace
After the hour expired, Edward had his Yeomen begin lowering the bodies and placing them in the coffins. Ned went from cart to cart, from coffin to coffin, using a charcoal to mark each with a black D (for dissection) or C (for Christian burial). When he came to the last, Mary’s, two young fellows were standing near the cart with their caps in their hands, looking anxious.

Ned said, “Show’s over. We just boxes them up. Get along hame.” (the slight Kentish of his mother’s speech came out.

“May you please, Sir,” said the first. “We’d like to touch her.”

“Yes, your Honor,” said the other, a short dark wily-looking one. “Rub her boobies for luck.”

Dennis was taken aback by the unusual, but not unheard-of request. It took him back to his youth, when he’d sneak off to see hangings. He’d always wanted to touch the dead bodies, to know what they felt like. Yet, he’d never dared to ask. Since then, he’d had all the feel of dead flesh, both warm and cold, he could want. Now these lads were asking to fondle the dead girl’s breasts. He looked back to Mary’s naked body just being lowered into the plain coffin. Her breasts were still magnificent. What the hell, he thought? It couldn’t hurt. These fellows might be future Yeomen of the Halter!

“Alright lads. But be quick about it. My men need to finish up so as not to miss their suppers.”

“Thank You, Sir!” they cried in unison, hopping up in the cart and bending down to rub the full, soft, still-warm breasts. He let them go a little while, then shoed them away. Edward Dennis took a last look at Mary’s now lifeless face with her red-gold hair like his own mother’s and signaled the Yeomen to fix the coffin lid in place. He wrote on it with his charcoal, leaving the final black mark to end Mary’s story.

I would ask the reader to note that, with the exception of some brutish guards who exploited Mary’s helplessness for their own erotic pleasure, that none of the representatives of His Majesty’s government demonstrated any animus toward Mary or her family. The press-gang, the Lieutenant on the Victory, the constable who arrested her, the keeper at the compter, Sheriff Wilkes, the prosecutor and judges at the Old Bailey, the Recorder of London, the King and his Privy Council, the City Marshal and Under-Marshal, the Yeoman of the Halter and Edward Dennis the hangman, none of them acted out of malice, or desire to be unjust or cruel. All just did their jobs, their duty, following the laws and the rules. And because of that, young Mary Jones had to die and her children had to be orphaned.
The New England poet, Robert Frost said it well:

No one stands round to stare.
It is nobody else's affair
It couldn't be called ungentle
But how thoroughly departmental

The End - Almost
It is hardly surprising that all records of Mary Jones’s life and death end here. After all, who would care about one more death in 18th century London, where the life of the poor was very cheap?

Even concerning the fate of her mortal remains, we are ignorant. Was her sweet, lovely body slowly and grossly dissected on a surgeons table for the edification of young healers and the amusement of titled fops? Or was it laid respectfully, if not lovingly, in a simple coffin, facing East, and quietly covered with shoveled earth to await the Resurrection? We do not know. There is no known grave for her.

William Jones disappears from the records after being pressed onto the Victory. Though the war was canceled, it was over four months before the man-of-war returned and docked at Spithead. Unsurprisingly, there is no record of a William Jones being discharged - such records are scanty. Did he die on the voyage? Deaths at sea were not unknown, even in peacetime. Did he learn of Mary’s death and remain in the Navy to bury his grief? Or did he return to White Chapel to reclaim his children? It would be soothing for us to think that he settled onshore to regular employment and provided for his offspring. Perhaps he remarried. In a time where death was frequent from disease and childbirth, grief soon gave way to the domestic and reproductive imperatives.

If William did not reclaim them, what became of little Jean and Abby? There is no record. It is quite likely, if they survived, they would have acquired new surnames from foster parents, making impossible. We can hope that they were taken in by loving, caring families. Or, like too, too many poor, abandoned children, were they exploited and abused and left to live and die on the street? We have no way of knowing.

Who would bother to waste the time or the ink and paper recording the fate of a poor, meaningless girl, condemned as a criminal or that of her orphaned offspring?

The world was moving on. There were so many more important things to address. Historians needed to focus on the big picture! Later that year, the Encyclopædia Britannica would be first published in Edinburgh. The following year, 1772, in the Somersett's Case, Lord Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice delivered the decision that chattel slavery was not supported by the common law of England.

The next year, 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act, designed to prop up the British East India Company by granting it a monopoly on the North American tea trade. In December of the same year, a group of American colonists, dressed as Mohawk Indians, stole aboard ships of the East India Company and dumped their cargos of tea into Boston Harbor in a protest against British tax policies that became known as the Boston Tea Party. This would lead, just 16 months later to an unfortunate misunderstanding on the common green in the town of Lexington, Massachusetts which would spiral out of the control of the North government with momentous consequences for both Britain and North America.

As I have said, in the usual course of events, Mary Jones’s story would end here. But, for some reason, it did not. Was it due to her sweet innocence? The undue harshness of the punishment for the minor offense? The irony of the state punishing her for an action brought on by the state having kidnapped her husband? Perhaps the motivation was her beauty? Her comeliness? Her powerful sexuality, naked on the gallows? Did Ned Dennis carry guilt from killing a girl who so reminded him of his mother? Did he urge someone with influence to remember her?


May 13th 1777 anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi - 243 years ago TODAY

Whatever the reason, we pay attention today to Mary Jones because almost six years after her death, on May 13, 1777, in the British House of Commons, in the Palace of Westminster, by which the river Tyburn flows into the Thames, Sir William Meredith, the Whig Member for Liverpool spoke against capital punishment for minor offenses. This was almost unique in the eighteenth-century Parliament: a reasoned plea against an evil which hardly touched the conscience of his day. To support his position, he recited the case of Mary Jones.

“It is a circumstance not to be forgotten, that she was very young, (under nineteen) and most remarkably handsome. She went to a linen draper’s shop, took some coarse linen off the counter, and slipped it under her cloak. The shopman saw her, and she laid it down again. For this she was hanged. Her defence was, ‘that she lived in credit, and wanted for nothing, till a press-gang came, and stole her husband from her—but since then she had no bed to lie on, nothing to give her two children to eat, and they were almost naked: and perhaps she might have done something wrong, for she hardly knew what she did.’ The parish officers testified the truth of this story. But the woman was hanged for the comfort and satisfaction of some shopkeepers in Ludgate-street. When brought to receive sentence, she behaved in such a frantic manner as proved her to be in a distracted and desponding state; and the child was sucking at her breast when she set out for Tyburn gallows! Let us reflect a little on this woman’s fate. The poet says, “An honest man’s the noblest work of God.” He might have said, with equal truth, that a beauteous woman is the noblest work of God. But for what cause was God’s creation robbed of its noblest work? It was for no injury, but for a mere attempt to clothe two naked children by unlawful means. Compare this with what the State did, and what the law did. The State bereaved the woman of her husband, and the children of a father, who was all their support: the law deprived the woman of her life, and children of their remaining parent, exposing them to every danger, insult, and merciless treatment, that destitute and helpless orphans suffer, Take all the circumstances together, I do not believe that a fouler murder was ever committed against law, than the murder of this woman by law.”


Twenty Years before Mary’s death, the poet, Thomas Gray, sitting in a country churchyard, surveying the graves of the village’s forbearers, penned words musing on the unsung life of the common poor. A slight paraphrase from that seems the best way to end “this strange eventful history”:

“Here rests her head upon the lap of Earth
A girl to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frown'd not on her humble birth,
And Melancholy mark'd her for her own.
Small was her bounty, but her soul sincere,
Did Heav'n a recompense as largely send:
She gave to Mis'ry all she had, a tear.”
 
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minyoo

Assistant executioner
Today is May 13, 2020, an important day in the saga of Mary Jones. A good day to end the tale.

Requiescat in Pace
After the hour expired, Edward had his Yeomen begin lowering the bodies and placing them in the coffins. Ned went from cart to cart, from coffin to coffin, using a charcoal to mark each with a black D (for dissection) or C (for Christian burial). When he came to the last, Mary’s, two young teenage boys were standing near the cart with their caps in their hands, looking anxious.

Ned said, “Show’s over young-uns. We just boxes them up. Get along hame.” (the slight Kentish of his mother’s speech came out.

“May you please, Sir,” said the first, a tow-headed, angel-faced lad. “We’d like to touch her.”

“Yes, your Honor,” said the other, a short dark wily-looking boy. “Rub her boobies for luck.”

Dennis was taken aback by the unusual, but not unheard-of request. It took him back to his youth, when he’d sneak off to see hangings. He’d always wanted to touch the dead bodies, to know what they felt like. Yet, he’d never dared to ask. Since then, he’d had all the feel of dead flesh, both warm and cold, he could want. Now these boys were asking to fondle the dead girl’s breasts. He looked back to Mary’s naked body just being lowered into the plain coffin. Her breasts were still magnificent. What the hell, he thought? It couldn’t hurt. These boys might be future Yeomen of the Halter!

“Alright lads. But be quick about it. My men need to finish up so as not to miss their suppers.”

“Thank You, Sir!” they cried in unison, hopping up in the cart and bending down to rub the full, soft, still-warm breasts. He let them go a little while, then shoed them away. Edward Dennis took a last look at Mary’s now lifeless face with her red-gold hair like his own mother’s and signaled the Yeomen to fix the coffin lid in place. He wrote on it with his charcoal, leaving the final black mark to end Mary’s story.

I would ask the reader to note that, with the exception of some brutish guards who exploited Mary’s helplessness for their own erotic pleasure, that none of the representatives of His Majesty’s government demonstrated any animus toward Mary or her family. The press-gang, the Lieutenant on the Victory, the constable who arrested her, the keeper at the compter, Sheriff Wilkes, the prosecutor and judges at the Old Bailey, the Recorder of London, the King and his Privy Council, the City Marshal and Under-Marshal, the Yeoman of the Halter and Edward Dennis the hangman, none of them acted out of malice, or desire to be unjust or cruel. All just did their jobs, their duty, following the laws and the rules. And because of that, young Mary Jones had to die. The New England poet, Robert Frost said it well:

No one stands round to stare.
It is nobody else's affair
It couldn't be called ungentle
But how thoroughly departmental

The End - Almost
It is hardly surprising that all records of Mary Jones’s life and death end here. After all, who would care about one more death in 18th century London, where the life of the poor was very cheap?

Even concerning the fate of her mortal remains, we are ignorant. Was her sweet, lovely body slowly and grossly dissected on a surgeons table for the edification of young healers and the amusement of titled fops? Or was it laid respectfully, if not lovingly, in a simple coffin, facing East, and quietly covered with shoveled earth to await the Resurrection? We do not know. There is no known grave for her.

William Jones disappears from the records after being pressed onto the Victory. Though the war was canceled, it was over four months before the man-of-war returned and docked at Spithead. Unsurprisingly, there is no record of a William Jones being discharged - such records are scanty. Did he die on the voyage? Deaths at sea were not unknown, even in peacetime. Did he learn of Mary’s death and remain in the Navy to bury his grief? Or did he return to White Chapel to reclaim his children? It would be soothing for us to think that he settled onshore to regular employment and provided for his offspring. Perhaps he remarried. In a time where death was frequent from disease and childbirth, grief soon gave way to the domestic and reproductive imperatives.

If William did not reclaim them, what became of little Jean and Abby? There is no record. It is quite likely, if they survived, they would have acquired new surnames from foster parents, making impossible. We can hope that they were taken in by loving, caring families. Or, like too, too many poor, abandoned children, were they exploited and abused and left to live and die on the street? We have no way of knowing.

Who would bother to waste the time or the ink and paper recording the fate of a poor, meaningless girl, condemned as a criminal or that of her orphaned offspring?

The world was moving on. There were so many more important things to address. Historians needed to focus on the big picture! Later that year, the Encyclopædia Britannica would be first published in Edinburgh. The following year, 1772, in the Somersett's Case, Lord Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice delivered the decision that chattel slavery was not supported by the common law of England.

The next year, 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act, designed to prop up the British East India Company by granting it a monopoly on the North American tea trade. In December of the same year, a group of American colonists, dressed as Mohawk Indians, stole aboard ships of the East India Company and dumped their cargos of tea into Boston Harbor in a protest against British tax policies that became known as the Boston Tea Party. This would lead, just 16 months later to an unfortunate misunderstanding on the common green in the town of Lexington, Massachusetts which would spiral out of the control of the North government with momentous consequences for both Britain and North America.

As I have said, in the usual course of events, Mary Jones’s story would end here. But, for some reason, it did not. Was it due to her sweet innocence? The undue harshness of the punishment for the minor offense? The irony of the state punishing her for an action brought on by the state having kidnapped her husband? Perhaps the motivation was her beauty? Her comeliness? Her powerful sexuality, naked on the gallows? Did Ned Dennis carry guilt from killing a girl who so reminded him of his mother? Did he urge someone with influence to remember her?


May 13th 1777 anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi - 243 years ago TODAY

Whatever the reason, we pay attention today to Mary Jones because almost six years after her death, on May 13, 1777, in the British House of Commons, in the Palace of Westminster, by which the river Tyburn flows into the Thames, Sir William Meredith, the Whig Member for Liverpool spoke against capital punishment for minor offenses. This was almost unique in the eighteenth-century Parliament: a reasoned plea against an evil which hardly touched the conscience of his day. To support his position, he recited the case of Mary Jones.

“It is a circumstance not to be forgotten, that she was very young, (under nineteen) and most remarkably handsome. She went to a linen draper’s shop, took some coarse linen off the counter, and slipped it under her cloak. The shopman saw her, and she laid it down again. For this she was hanged. Her defence was, ‘that she lived in credit, and wanted for nothing, till a press-gang came, and stole her husband from her—but since then she had no bed to lie on, nothing to give her two children to eat, and they were almost naked: and perhaps she might have done something wrong, for she hardly knew what she did.’ The parish officers testified the truth of this story. But the woman was hanged for the comfort and satisfaction of some shopkeepers in Ludgate-street. When brought to receive sentence, she behaved in such a frantic manner as proved her to be in a distracted and desponding state; and the child was sucking at her breast when she set out for Tyburn gallows! Let us reflect a little on this woman’s fate. The poet says, “An honest man’s the noblest work of God.” He might have said, with equal truth, that a beauteous woman is the noblest work of God. But for what cause was God’s creation robbed of its noblest work? It was for no injury, but for a mere attempt to clothe two naked children by unlawful means. Compare this with what the State did, and what the law did. The State bereaved the woman of her husband, and the children of a father, who was all their support: the law deprived the woman of her life, and children of their remaining parent, exposing them to every danger, insult, and merciless treatment, that destitute and helpless orphans suffer, Take all the circumstances together, I do not believe that a fouler murder was ever committed against law, than the murder of this woman by law.”


Twenty Years before Mary’s death, the poet, Thomas Gray, sitting in a country churchyard, surveying the graves of the village’s forbearers, penned words musing on the unsung life of the common poor. A slight paraphrase from that seems the best way to end “this strange eventful history”:

“Here rests her head upon the lap of Earth
A girl to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frown'd not on her humble birth,
And Melancholy mark'd her for her own.
Small was her bounty, but her soul sincere,
Did Heav'n a recompense as largely send:
She gave to Mis'ry all she had, a tear.”
This is where I get the bundles of hankerchiefs out. Thank you so much.
I won't clog the thread with my attempts to praise you. But do know that your story now hold a special place in my soul.
 

Praefectus Praetorio

Brother of the Quill
“May you please, Sir,” said the first, a tow-headed, angel-faced lad. “We’d like to touch her.”

“Yes, your Honor,” said the other, a short dark wily-looking boy. “Rub her boobies for luck.”
If you are wondering at my inclusion of this unusual kink, I based it on good research. Tyburn Tree, It’s history and annals by Alfred Marks.

There was a strange superstition connected with the gallows: what it was will be understood from the following:
A man having been hanged at Tyburn, on May 4, 1767, “a young woman, with a wen upon her neck, was lifted up while he was hanging, and had the wen rubbed with the dead man’s hand, from a superstitious notion that it would effect a cure.” (wen - a benign encysted tumor of the skin)
 
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