Cony-Catching - The life and death of Ned Browne, a notable Cutpurse and Cony-catcher.

The life and death of Ned Browne, a notable Cutpurse and Cony-catcher.

            If you think (gentlemen) to hear a repentant man speak, or to tell a large tale of his penitent sorrows, ye are deceived: for as I have ever lived lewdly, so I mean to end my life as resolutely, and not by a cowardly confession to attempt the hope of a pardon. Yet, in that I was famous in my life for my villainies, I will at my death profess myself as notable, by discoursing to you all merrily, the manner and method of my knaveries, which if you hear without laughing, then after my death call me base knave, and never have me in remembrance.

            Know therefore (gentlemen) that my parents were honest, of good report, and no little esteem amongst their neighbours, and sought (if good nurture and education would have served) to have made me an honest man: but as one self-same ground brings forth flowers and thistles; so of a sound stock proved an untoward scion; and of a virtuous father, a most vicious son. It boots little to rehearse the petty sins of my nonage; as disobedience to my parents, contempt of good counsel, despising of mine elders, filching, petty-larceny, and such trifling toys: but with these follies I inured myself, till waxing in years, I grew into greater villainies. For when I came to eighteen years old, what sin was it that I would not commit with greediness, what attempt so bad, that I would not endevour to execute; cutting of purses, stealing of horses, lifting, picking of locks, and all other notable cozenages. Why, I held them excellent qualities, and accounted him unworthy to live, that could not, or durst not live by such damnable practices. Yet as sin too openly manifested to the eye of the Magistrate, is either sore revenged or soon cut off: So I to prevent that, had a net wherein to dance, and divers shadows to colour my knaveries withal, as I would title myself with the name of a fencer, & make gentlemen believe that I picked a living out by that mystery, whereas God wot, I had no other fence but with my short knife, and a pair of purse strings, and with them in troth many a bout have I had in my time. In troth? O what a simple oath was this to confirm a man's credit withal? Why, I see the halter will make a man holy, for whilst God suffered me to flourish, I scorned to disgrace my mouth with so small an oath as In faith: but I rent God in pieces, swearing and forswearing by every part of his body, that such as heard me, rather trembled at mine oaths, than feared my braves, and yet for courage and resolution I refer myself to all them that have ever heard of my name.

            Thus animated to do wickedness, I fell to take delight in the company of harlots: amongst whom, as I spent what I got, so I suffered not them I was acquainted withal to feather their nests, but would at my pleasure strip them of all that they had. What bad woman was there about London whose champion I would not be for a few crowns, to fight, swear, and stare in her behalf, to the abuse of any that should do justice upon her? I still had one or two in store to cross-bite withal, which I used as snares to trap simple men in: for if I took but one suspiciously in her company, straight I versed upon him, and cross-bit him for all the money in his purse. By the way (sith sorrow cannot help to save me), let me tell you a merry jest how once I cross-bit a maltman, that would needs be so wanton, as when he had shut his malt to have a wench, and thus the jest fell out.

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