Cony-Catching - Ned Browne's Farewell

Ned Browne's Farewell

            "This (gentlemen) was my course of life, and thus I got much by villainy, and spent it amongst whores as carelessly: I seldom or never listened to the admonition of my friends, neither did the fall of other men learn me to beware, and therefore am I brought now to this end: yet little did I think to have laid my bones in France: I thought indeed that Tyburn would at last have shaked me by the neck: but having done villainy in England, this was always my course, to slip over into the Low Countries, and there for a while play the soldier, and partly that was the cause of my coming hither: for growing odious in and about London, for my filching, lifting, nipping, foisting and cross-biting, that every one held me in contempt, and almost disdained my company, I resolved to come over into France: by bearing arms to win some credit, determining with myself to become a true man. But as men, though they change countries, alter not their minds: so given over by God into a reprobate sense, I had no feeling of goodness, but with the dog fell to my old vomit, and here most wickedly I have committed sacrilege, robbed a Church, and done other mischeevous pranks, for which justly I am condemned and must suffer death: whereby I learn, that revenge deferred is not quittanced: that though God suffer the wicked for a time yet he pays home at length; for while I lasciviously led a careless life, if my friends warned me of it, I scoffed at them, & if they told me of the gallows, I would swear it was my destiny, and now I have proved myself no liar: yet must I die more basely and be hanged out at a window.

            "Oh countrymen and gentlemen, I have held you long, as good at the first as at the last, take then this for a farewell: Trust not in your own wits, for they will become too wilful oft, and so deceive you. Boast not in strength, nor stand not on your manhood so to maintain quarrels; for the end of brawling is confusion: but use your courage in defence of your country, and then fear not to die; for the bullet is an honourable death. Beware of whores, for they be the sirens that draw men on to destruction, their sweet words are enchantments, their eyes allure, and their beauties bewitch: Oh take heed of their persuasions, for they be crocodiles, that when they weep, destroy. Truth is honourable, and better is it to be a poor honest man, than a rich & wealthy thief: for the first end is the gallows, and what a shame is it to a man's friends, when he dies so basely. Scorn not labour (gentlemen) nor hold not any course of life bad or servile, that is profitable and honest, lest in giving yourselves over to idleness, and having no yearly maintenance, you fall into many prejudicial mischiefs. Contemn not the virtuous counsel of a friend, despise not the hearing of God's ministers, scoff not at the magistrates, but fear God, honour your Prince, and love your country, then God will bless you, as I hope he will do me for all my manifold offences, and so Lord into thy hands I commit my spirit:" and with that he himself sprung out at the window and died.

            Here by the way you shall understand, that going over into France, he near unto Arx<52> robbed a church, & was therefore condemned, and having no gallows by, they hanged him out at a window, fastening the rope about the bar: and thus this Ned Browne died miserably, that all his lifetime had been full of mischief & villainy, sleightly at his death regarding the state of his soul. But note a wonderful judgement of God showed upon him after his death: his body being taken down, & buried without the town, it is verified, that in the night time there came a company of wolves, and tore him out of his grave, and eat him up, whereas there lay many soldiers buried, & many dead carcasses, that they might have preyed on to have filled their hungry paunches. But the judgments of God as they are just, so they are inscrutable: yet thus much we may conjecture, that as he was one that delighted in rapine and stealth in his life, so at his death the ravenous wolves devoured him, & plucked him out of his grave, as a man not worthy to be admitted to the honour of any burial. Thus have I set down the life and death of Ned Browne, a famous cutpurse and cony-catcher, by whose example if any be profited, I have the desired end of my labour.


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