The Newgate Calendar - Supplement 3

The Newgate Calendar - DICK MORRIS.

DICK MORRIS.


Cunning and audacious swindler, executed 1706


            WE have no account of this malefactor's birth and education, but they were probably very obscure. His transactions were remarkable for ingenuity; and, without endeavouring to trace his life, we shall relate the most remarkable of his exploits.

            One time Dick, drinking at an inn in Winchester, overheard the conversation of two gentlemen, in which they discovered their mutual misfortune in loving two ladies who utterly slighted them. He put on a bold face, intruded himself upon their company, and rendered himself agreeable, by pretending to have received from his late master, an eminent astrologer and magician, the infallible power of turning the affections of women's hearts on whom ever he pleased. The gentlemen stated their cases to him, and he agreed that, at the height of the moon, he would work his enchantment upon the fair ones, provided they could procure some of their hair, which the lovers promised to obtain. It was some time until the moon should be at her full, during which interval Dick was sumptuously entertained at the expense of these weak lovers.

            Dick next ordered them to buy a new sack, a small stout cord, and another larger one, a new knife, a chain, and a brush, which were delivered into his custody. The long looked-for period having at last arrived, the gentlemen, by- Dick's directions, dressed themselves in their richest apparel, and mounted their best horses, with plenty of money in their pockets. The three rode about two miles out of the city to a quiet road, the place where this magical trial was to be put into execution. They alighted, and Dick began immediately to make strange sour faces, drew a circle on the ground, all the while muttering unintelligible words, and turning himself in strange postures, sometimes towards the east, sometimes towards the west, performing most surprising ceremonies with his hands and feet, and making the gentlemen no less astonished than fearful.

            Dick having finished his own manoeuvres, began with the first gentleman, whom he ordered to strip, at the same time teaching him to repeat certain insignificant words in pulling off each article of clothing, which the other faithfully performed. Though it was in the depth of winter, he was stripped naked, and a knife placed in his hand, with which he was directed to make some stabs to the different quarters of the globe; and then to creep into the sack, with his head foremost, and there to remain in perfect quietness for half an hour, for if he stirred a limb, he was told he would be in Barbary in a minute. Thus terrified into compliance, he followed implicitly Dick's directions.

            The other gentleman he conducted to a tree, round which he drew a circle, into which the gentleman had to walk completely naked. His hands were tied with a twisted cord of his mistress's hair, and a rope tied round his body, and fixed to the tree. He gave the same injunction as to the other, with regard to quietness; and, having thus secured his prey, he packed up their clothes, which he hoisted on the back of the best horse, mounted, rode off, and arrived in London early next morning.

            The fire of love, which flamed with such ardour in the breasts of these two gentlemen, was somewhat allayed before they were released, for they were found almost dead with cold. One of them remarked, that the poets had good reason to feign love blind, because, if they had not been so, they would have perceived the pretended power of the conjuror to be ridiculous, and his promises nothing but a trick to obtain their money and their clothes.

            Morris being at Northampton, he made repeated attempts to rob a rich Presbyterian parson, who lived in the neighbourhood; but had been as often unsuccessful: he was averse, however, to leave the country thus, outwitted by "a fusty piece of divinity," and once more tries his ingenuity. Knowing the parson to be ignorant and superstitious, Ke obtained a waggoner's linen frock, which he daubed thick with paste, and stuck it full of card matches. He entered the church unseen by the woman who was preparing it for Sunday—mounted the pulpit—struck a light with his tinder-box, and set his frock on fire; then, standing upright, quoth Dick, "Woman! Woman! hearken unto my voice!"

            The old woman, upon sight of this blazing spectacle, run out in great alarm, but Dick called after her, saying, "Woman! unless thou comest back, and hearkeneth unto my voice, thou shalt presently perish." She trembling returned, but he encouraged her, and told her not to be in fear, for he was an angel come to order her to go to the minister of the meeting-house, and to tell him of what she had seen, and that his soul was required of him that very day. That he must bring all his money and plate along with him, but to be sure not to come with a lie in his mouth; for if he did, he would fare the worse in the place to which he was to carry him. The woman made a church curtsey, and went with all speed to the parson's house, to deliver her fateful message. Morris descended from the pulpit, freed himself of his angelic garb, and followed the woman. She wrought so much upon the superstition and terror of this hypocrite, that he proceeded to pack up his plate, and bundle his money; and, calling his servant, told her, that his time was come, and that he must leave her, as an angel was in waiting for him. She expressed her sorrow at the loss of her kind master, and, reminding him of past favours, hoped he would not leave her unprovided for. "That's true," said the parson, "and I pity you with all my heart. There is ten pounds in that silver tankard—go take it; for, perhaps, as it is an act of charity, it may be forgiven."

            These words were overheard by Morris, who concealed himself at the inside of the door; upon which he returned with all expedition to the meeting-house, where he assumed his former posture and appearance. The parson soon appeared, and observing the awful brightness of the angel, approached him trembling. Morris repeated to him the purpose for which he had been sent, and inquired whether lie had brought all his money and plate along with him.

            The parson answered he had. "Where, then," cried Dick, "is the ten pounds that was in the silver tankard?" "Ah!" replied the parson, trembling, "see thou art really an angel, for thou knowest the secrets of men's hearts." So, telling Dick he would go and bring it, he ran straight home to his maid, saying to her, "Oh! Hannah! Hannah! you must let me have the ten pounds again, for the angel knew I had not brought all my money." The maid restored it to him, for fear it should be a hindrance to his salvation, and when he returned with it to Dick, the latter pointed to a large sack, and said, "Go into that, and if you meet with any difficulties in your spiritual journey, you must not complain, because narrow is the way which leads to life, and few there be that find it." Then, tying him close up, he threw him over his shoulders; but many a hard knock had the poor parson, as he carried him over gates and stiles; and, about a quarter of a mile from the meeting-house, he threw this lump of ignorance and iniquity into a hog-sty, and there left him.

            Some of the servants coming up soon after, and observing something moving in the sack, they were affrighted, and ran to tell their master, who, also coming, said to the servant, "Take the pitch-fork and run it through;" upon which the poor parson, imagining that he had arrived at the infernal regions, and that this was the command of Satan to his angels, called out for mercy. Upon opening the sack, they were astonished to see their parson, who, after amazing them with the recital of his adventure, returned to his maid Hannah above a hundred and twenty pounds poorer than when he left her.

            Our adventurer, was travelling between Settlingbourne and Rochester, at a time when he was disguised like a farmer. Overtaking a cart of hay, he conversed with the driver, and assisted in preserving the equilibrium of the cart at any low part of the road. While passing through Chatham, an innkeeper asks him the price of his hay, supposing him to be the owner. The driver not hearing this, proceeds, while Morris, taking a handful to the vintner, bids him smell it, and say if he ever saw better hay. The innkeeper liked it very well, when, after some pro's and con's about the price, he paid Dick one pound eight for the hay, out of which they had some ale. Dick then observes to the vintner, "I suppose you will know my cart again from the rest in the market; go, and bid my man bring the hay to your house, and to make haste home with the team." After which, he made off with all convenient speed. The innkeeper, however, after a battle with the bumpkin, appealed to a justice of peace, who ordained him to lose the money for his credulity.

            Morris was soon after detected, tried, condemned, and executed, with Arthur Chambers and Jack Goodwin, at Tyburn, in 1706.

Prev Next

Back to Introduction