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The Newgate Calendar - Supplement 3

The Newgate Calendar - NAN HERFORD


Swindler and Shoplifter, Executed 22 December 1690

            THE natural interest which we take in the history and character of the female sex, renders their actions more an object of curiosity when out of the common path. Nan was descended of honest parents, who both died when she was about seventeen years old. She then came to London, and served a family for six months. It was her misfortune to fall in with bad company, which seduced her from the path of sobriety and honesty, and led her to that course of life which was hurtful to many, and in the end destructive to herself.

            One instance of her cunning and address may suffice for an example. Her ingenuity enabled her to devise means by which she always appeared genteelly dressed, and so saved appearances. She took lodgings in King-street, and entertained an old woman as her accomplice, because she could not execute her plans herself. After mature reflection, they directed their attack upon a rich apothecary in the neighbourhood. Nan remained close at home, while the old woman was sent many an errand to the apothecary's shop. Being a constant customer, from civility, he became familiar with the good woman.

            One day, in a pleasing accent, she asked him, "why he did not marry?" The miser replied, "that the times were hard, trading dead, and house-keeping expensive." "That's true, man, but a rich wife, man, would make amends for all this." "A good one and a rich one, too!" quoth he, "would be a brave thing, indeed. I must confess, I should be glad to embrace such an opportunity of changing my condition." She insinuated that such a fortune might be procured. Curiosity was excited, and she left him. He was eager to embrace the first opportunity of a farther conversation. At her own time she informed him, that there was a niece of a wealthy citizen; who had two thousand pounds in her uncle's hands, to be paid at her marriage; and that, as she was once a nurse in the family, the young lady occasionally called upon her, and that every time the poor girl calls, she is lamenting the harsh usage of her uncle, and wishing that some good gentleman would free her from his unpleasant hands. The apothecary was charmed with her narrative, and engaged her to do all in her power for him.

            To proceed with certainty and caution, he took a note of the names of the uncle and niece, and, upon inquiry, found that she had given a true representation. He was now all anxiety, and, to heighten his impatience, the woman did not visit his shop for some days. She at length appeared, and, with no small degree of seeming reluctance, she promised to introduce him. Nan was all modesty—all blushes—all diffidence; insomuch that she would have imposed upon one whose senses were not confounded, and his eyes dazzled with the contemplation of two thousand pounds. Their interview was short, for fear her uncle should discover that she had been from home.

            The cold apothecary was now all flame, and ready to kneel before the old woman and the young heiress, in order to gain his object. The former now ventured to hint, that as she was poor, it was reasonable she should have some return for her trouble. A hint was only necessary in such an hour, and a bond was immediately executed, agreeing to give her an hundred pounds on the happy day he was married to the rich heiress.

            He was soon favoured with another meeting; and to both parties it seemed better not to delay matters too long. The young lady consented to marry him; and, as she had been always kept so short of money and clothes by her uncle, and could not, on the present occasion, request an advance, lest it should create suspicion, therefore hinted it would be necessary to have money, that she might appear like his wife. "My fortune may be demanded," said she, "when we are married; and it is best not to trouble the old man, until all is secure." Her scheme succeeded, and two hundred and fifty pounds were instantly brought, and more offered. They were married, and, as she could not stay all night out of her uncle's house, the marriage was consummated during the day.

            Both the old and young lady changed their lodging; and, after three days' impatience, the apothecary dressed himself as he was upon his wedding day, and hastened to the uncle, to demand his wife and her fortune. The coach drove to the door, and, being introduced to the uncle, he, in an imperious tone, said, "he was come to demand his wife." "I know nothing of your wife, nor you neither, and desire, therefore, you would explain your meaning." "I mean your niece, sir, who is my lawful wife." "Your wife, man! since how long, pray?" The apothecary mentioned the day and the circumstances, in order to convince. The uncle told him, that his niece was not out of his house upon that day, and he could not comprehend his meaning. They came to high words, and, the apothecary continuing positive and serious, the old man, at last, suspected that he was imposed upon. Accordingly, he asked him if he would know his wife when he saw her? "I should be glad if you would try me." The niece came. "This is none of my wife." "But this is my niece, though, and all the nieces I have in the world, too." They were both astonished, and the young lady equally so, to hear herself named a wife, without any previous knowledge why or wherefore.

            The uncle then said, "Sir, I perceive that there has been some deception in this matter; relate the whole circumstances, that we may be able to judge of the case." It was done, and the conspiracy disclosed. It only remained to exercise patience, and, either by parsimony, or laying an additional price upon his medicines, to redeem his losses.

            After this. Nan became enamoured of a player, who consented to reside with her. To support their extravagances, she visited the shops, and he the highways. It was fortunate for society that his first robbery proved his last: he was apprehended and hanged. Nan, however, continued her business during the space of six years, in which time it was supposed that she stole goods to the amount of four thousand pounds. But while Nan visited a linen-draper's in a chair, with two or three footmen attending, he was so uncivil as to detect her in removing a piece of muslin from his shop. Before her trial, she offered an hundred guineas to her adversary, not to appear against her. But he remained determined in his resolution. During her confinement, she attempted to set fire to Newgate, but being unsuccessful, she was fettered and hand-cuffed. She was executed before the prison, and her body given to the surgeons.

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