[Note: The two versions of this man's life given in different editions are so dissimilar that they may be two different men. Both are given here]
RICHARD DUDLEY was a gentleman descended of a very good family in Northamptonshire, but his father being ruined for exerting his loyalty in the time of the unhappy rebellion, when a cursed republican party most villainously murdered King Charles I. before his own palace, he had little or no estate left him; yet, for his father's sake, King Charles II., after his restoration, gave him a captain's commission in a regiment of foot; in which post he behaved himself very sincere; for being at Tangier, and one day the regiment ordered to be drawn out in battalia, Captain Dudley perceiving one of the men belonging to his company to stand a little out of his rank, he presently commanded a sergeant to knock him down. Accordingly the command was obeyed, but not to his liking; for calling the sergeant to him again, and taking the halberd out of his hand, quoth he: "When I command you to knock down a man, knock him down thus." So with the right end of the halberd he cleft his skull in two; of which he immediately died. When Tangier was demolished, and all our forces were then recalled from thence, Dick Dudley came into England at the same time; but living here at a very extravagant rate, he could support himself in no manner of way but by taking on the road what he thought was a fair prize. The highway he quickly made his exchange, and would venture very boldly for what he got; but one time, being apprehended in London for robbing the Duke of Monmouth near Harrow-on-the-Hill, he was committed to the Poultry Compter, whither a man need not sail, for this prison is a ship of itself, where the master-side is the upper deck, and they in the common-side lie under hutches, and help to ballast it. Intricate cases are the tacklings, executions the anchors, capiases the cables, Chancery bills the huge sails, a long term the mainmast, law the helm, a judge the pilot, a barrister the purser, an attorney the boatswain, his clerk the swabber, bonds the waves, outlawries sudden gusts, the verdicts of juries rough winds, and extents the rocks that split all in pieces. Or, if it be not a ship, yet this and a ship, differ not much in the building, for the one is a moving misery, the other standing. The first is seated on a spring, the second on piles. Either this place is the emblem of a bawdy-house or a bawdy-house of it, for nothing is to be seen in any room but scurvy beds and bare walls; nevertheless it is a sort of a university of poor scholars, in which three arts are chiefly studied —- viz. to pray, to curse and to write letters. But Dudley, breaking out of this mansion of sorrow and tribulation, not long after obtaining his liberty met with John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, coming from his seat at Woodstock, and setting on his lordship and his retinue, which was his chaplain, a couple of footmen and a groom, he took from him above one hundred guineas and a gold watch. The chaplain then beginning to catechise Dudley for his unlawful actions, quoth he: "I don't think I commit any sin in robbing a person of quality, because I keep generally pretty close to the text, 'Feed the hungry and send the rich empty away '"; which was true in the main, for whenever he had got any considerable booty from great people, he would very generously extend his charity to such as he really knew to be poor. After this exploit, Dick Dudley meeting Captain Richardson, the keeper of Newgate, on the road betwixt London and Tunbridge, in whose clutches he had been three or four times, he commanded him to stand and deliver; but Richardson refusing to deliver, withal threatening what he would do if ever he came into his custody again, quoth he: "I expect no favour from the hands of a jailer, who comes of the race of those angels that fell with Lucifer from Heaven, whither you'll never return again. Of all your bunches of keys, not one hath wards to open that door; for a jailer's soul stands not upon those two pillars that support Heaven, Justice and Mercy; it rather sits upon those two footstools of Hell, Wrong and Cruelty. So make no more words about your purse, for have it I will, or else your life." Hereupon Captain Richardson was obliged to grant his request, and betwixt Dudley and the waters drinking at Tunbridge, went home as well purged and cleansed as a man could desire. This daring robber had committed several most notorious robberies on the road with that famous highwayman on whom King Charles II. was pleased to confer the name of Swiftnicks, from his robbing a gentleman near Barnet about five in the morning, being come then from Bosom's Inn in London, and taking from him five hundred and sixty guineas. He rode straight to York, and appeared there on the bowling-green about six in the evening of the same day; and being apprehended and tried for the aforesaid robbery, before Judge Twisden, being acquitted of it, and the judge mistrusting something of the matter, after strictly examining him, Mr Nicks, otherwise called Swiftnicks, owned the fact when he was out of danger, and was made a captain in the Lord Moncastle's regiment in Ireland, where he married a great fortune, and afterwards lived very honest. But at last, this country being too hot for Dick Dudley, upon the account of robbing General Monk, who had ordered a strict search to be made after him, he was forced to fly into France; from whence, travelling to Rome, he was in very great necessity indeed. Not long after his arrival into this kingdom again, meeting with a Justice of the Peace on the road betwixt Midhurst and Horsham, in the county of Sussex, "Stand and deliver" was the language which he spoke to his worship, who, making a very stout resistance, shot Dudley's horse under him; but at the same time, being wounded in his arm, he was obliged to surrender at discretion. Then the resolute highwayman, searching his pockets, out of which he took twenty-eight guineas, a gold watch and silver tobacco-box, next securing the magistrate's horse, quoth he: "Since your worship has previously broke the peace, in committing a most horrid and barbarous murder on my prancer, which, with my assistance, was able to get his living in any ground in England, I must make bold to take your horse by way of reprisal; however, I'll not be so uncivil as to let a man of your character go home afoot, for, for once, and not use it, I'll make one Justice of the Peace carry another." So, stepping into a field where an ass was grazing, he brought him into the road, and putting the justice on his back, as he was tying his legs under the beast's belly, quoth he: "I know I offend against the rules of heraldry, in putting metal upon metal, but as there's no general rule without an exception, I doubt not but all the heralds will excuse this solecism committed in their art, which I look upon to be as great a bite and cheat as astrology." Thus taking his leave of the justice, his worship rode a very solemn pace, till the grave creature brought him safe into Petworth, where his worship had as many people staring at him as if he had been riding through the town in triumph.
At last, Dick Dudley attempting to rob the Duke of Lauderdale, when riding over Hounslow Heath, he was conquered in his enterprise, and committed to Newgate; and when he came to his trial at justice hall in the Old Bailey, above eighty indictments being preferred against him for robberies committed only in the county of Middlesex, he pleaded guilty. Then, receiving sentence of death, he was (though great intercession was made for his life to King Charles) executed at Tyburn, on Wednesday, the 22nd of February, 1681, aged forty-six years.
Captain Dudley was born at Swepston in Leicestershire. His father once possessed a considerable estate, but through extravagance he lost the whole except sixty pounds per annum. In these reduced circumstances he went to London, intending to live in obscurity, corresponding to the state of his finances.
Richard his son had a promising genius, and received a liberal education at St Paul's school. But a natural vicious disposition baffled all restraints. When only nine years old he showed his covetous disposition, by robbing his sister of thirty shillings, and flying off with that sum. In a few days, however, he was found, brought home, and sent to school. But his vicious disposition strengthened by indulgence. Impatient at the confinement of a school, he next robbed his father of a considerable sum of money, and absconded. But his father discovered his retreat, and found him a little way from town in the company of two lewd women.
Despairing of his settling at home, his father sent him on board a man of war, in which he sailed up the Straits, and behaved gallantly in several actions. Upon his arrival in England, he left the ship, on pretence that a younger officer had been preferred before him, upon the death of one of the lieutenants. In a short time he joined a band of thieves, assisted them in robbing the country house of Admiral Carter, and escaped detection.
The next remarkable robbery in which he was engaged, was that of breaking into the house of a lady of Blackheath, and carrying off a large quantity of plate.
He and his associates were also successful in selling the plate to a refiner; but in a short time he was apprehended for this robbery, and committed to Newgate prison. While there, he sent for the refiner, and severely reproached him in the following manner: 'It is,' said he, 'a hard thing to find an honest man and a fair dealer: for, you cursed rogue, among the plate you bought, there was a cup with a cover; which you told us was but silver gilt, and bought it at the same price with the rest; but it plainly appeared, by the advertisement in the gazette, that it was a gold cup and cover; but I see you are a rogue, and that there is no trusting anybody.' Dudley was tried, convicted for this robbery, and sentenced to death; but his youth and the interest of his friends, procured him a royal pardon.
For two years he conducted himself to the satisfaction of his father, so that he purchased for him a commission in the army. In that situation he also acquitted himself honourably, and married a young lady of a respectable family, with whom he received an estate of an hundred and forty pounds a year. This, with his commission, enabled them to live in a genteel manner. Delighting, however, in company, and having become security for one of his companions of a debt, and that person being arrested for it, one of the bailiffs was killed in the scuffle, and Dudley was suspected as having been the murderer.
Having by frequent crimes vanquished every virtuous feeling, and being more inclined to live upon the ruins of his country than the fruits of industry, he abandoned his own house, and joined a band of robbers. Dudley soon became so expert, that there was scarcely any robbery committed, but he acted a principal part. Pleased with this easy way of obtaining money, and supporting an extravagant expense, he also prevailed upon Will his brother to join him in his employment. It happened, however, that Will had not been long in his new occupation, when the Captain was apprehended for robbing a gentleman of a watch, a sword, a whip, and nine shillings. But fortunately for him the evidence was defective, and he escaped death a second time.
Now, hardened in vice, he immediately returned to his old trade. He robbed on the highway, broke into houses, picked pockets, or performed any act of violence or cunning by which he could procure money. For a length of time he went on with impunity, but was at last apprehended for robbing Sir John Friend's house. Upon trial the evidence was decisive, and he received sentence of death. His friends again interposed, and through their influence his sentence was changed for that of banishment. Accordingly, he and several other convicts were put on board a ship bound for Barbados. But they had scarcely reached the Isle of Wight, when he excited his companions to a conspiracy, and having concerted their measures while the ship's company were under the hatches, they went off with the long boat.
No sooner had he reached the shore than he abandoned his companions, and travelled through woods and by-paths. Being in a very mean dress, he begged when he had no opportunity to steal. Arriving however at Hounslow Heath, he met with a farmer, robbed him, seized his horse, and having mounted, set forward in quest of new spoils. This was a fortunate day, for Dudley had not proceeded far on the heath when a gentleman well dressed, and better mounted than the farmer, made his appearance. He was commanded to halt and surrender. Dudley led him aside in a secret thicket, exchanged clothes and horse, rifled his pockets, then addressed him, saying, "That he ought never to accuse him of robbing him, for, according to the old proverb, exchange was no robbery;" so bidding him good day, he rode off for London. Arrived there he went in search of his old associates, who were glad to see their friend; who in consequence of his fortunate adventures and high reputation among them, received the title of Captain, and all agreed to be subject to his commands. Thus, at the head of such an experienced and desperate band, no part of the country was secure from his rapine, nor any house sufficiently strong to keep him out. The natural consequences were, that he soon became known and dreaded all over the country.
To avoid being taken, and to prevent all enquiries, he paid a visit to the north of England, and being one day in search of plunder, he robbed a Dutch Colonel of his horse, arms, and fine laced coat. Thus equipped, he committed several robberies. He at length, however, laid aside his colonel's habit, only using his horse, who soon became dexterous at his new employment. But one day meeting a gentleman near Epsom, he resisted the Captain's demands, and discharged his pistol at Dudley. In the combat, however, he was victorious, wounded the gentleman in the leg, and having stripped him of his money, conveyed him to the next village, that he might receive medical assistance, and then rode off in search of new adventures. The Captain and his men were very successful in this quarter. No stage, nor coach, nor passenger, of which they had intelligence, could escape their depredations, and scarcely a day passed without some notorious robbery being committed.
Captain Dudley and his men went on in a continued course of success, acquiring much wealth, which was as soon dissipated in riot and extravagance, as their extravagance was equal to their gains.
One day, however, having attacked and robbed the Southampton coach, they were keenly pursued, and several of them taken, but Dudley escaped. Deprived of the chief of his own forces, he now joined himself to some house-breakers, and with them continued to commit many robberies; in particular, with three others, he entered the house of an old woman in Spitalfields, gagged her, bound her to a chair, and rifled the house of a considerable sum of money, which the good woman had been long in scraping together. Hearing the money clink that was going to be taken from her, she struggled in her chair, fell down upon her face, and was stifled to death, while the Captain and his companions went off with impunity. But when the old woman came to be interred, a grandchild of hers, who had been one of the robbers, when about to be fitted with a pair of gloves, changed his countenance, was strongly agitated, and began to tremble. He was suspected, charged with the murder, confessed the crime, and, informing upon the rest, two of them were taken, tried and condemned, and all three hung in chains.
But though Dudley's name was published as accessory to the murder, yet he long escaped detection. At length, however, he was apprehended, and charged with several robberies, of which he, by dexterous management, evaded the deserved punishment. He was also called to stand trial for the murder of the old woman; but the principal evidence, upon whose testimony the other three were chiefly condemned, being absent, he escaped suffering for that crime. The dexterous manner in which he managed that trial, the witnesses that he had suborned, and the manner in which he maintained his innocence before the jury were often the cause of his boast and amusement.
The profligate Dudley was no sooner relieved from prison than he hastened to join his own companions in vice. Exulting to see their Captain again at their head, they redoubled their activity, and committed all manner of depredations. Among other adventures, they robbed a nobleman on Hounslow Heath of fifteen hundred pounds, after a severe engagement with his servants, three of whom were wounded, and two had their horses shot under them.
Having at length with his companions committed so many robberies upon the highway, a proclamation was issued against them, offering a reward to those who should bring them, either dead or alive. This occasioned their detection in the following manner: Having committed a robbery, and being closely pursued to Westminster ferry, the wherrymen refused to carry any more that night. Two of them then rode off, and the other four gave their horses to a waterman to lead to the next inn. The hones being foaming with sweat, he began to suspect that they were robbers who had been keenly pursued. He communicated his suspicions to the constable, who secured the horses, and went in search of the men.
He was not long in seizing one of them. He confessed, and the constable hastening to the inn, secured the rest, and having placed a strong guard upon them, rode to Lambeth and securing the other two, led them before a justice of the peace, who committed them to Newgate.
At the next sessions Captain Dudley, his brother, and three other accomplices, were tried, and condemned to suffer death. After sentence, Captain Dudley was brought to Newgate, where he conducted himself agreeably to his sad situation. He was conveyed from Newgate with six other prisoners. He appeared cheerful, but his brother lay all the time sick in the cart. The ceremonies of religion being performed, they were launched into another world, to answer for the numerous crimes of their guilty lives.
The bodies of the Captain and his brother were put into separate coffins, to be conveyed to a disconsolate father; at the sight he was so overwhelmed, that he sunk upon the dead bodies and expired. Thus the father and the two sons were buried in one grave.