Transported for robbing a man of three farthings, December, 1740
GILBERT LANGLEY was born of Roman Catholic parents in London, where his father was an eminent goldsmith, and who sent his son to the seat of his grandfather in Derbyshire when he was only three years of age.
Having continued in this situation four years, his mother's anxiety induced her to fetch him home; soon after which he was entered in the school of the Charterhouse, where he became a tolerably good classical scholar.
The father now wished to send his son abroad for farther education, and that he might not fail of being brought up a strict Catholic: this was warmly opposed by the mother, through tenderness to her child; but her death left the father to act as he pleased.
The prior of the Benedictine convent at Douay being in London, Langley's father agreed for his board and education, and committed him to the care of his new guardians with whom he proceeded to Dover, sailed for Calais, and, having travelled thence to St. Omers, on the 1o1 lowing day reached Douay, where young Langley was examined by the prior and fellows of the college, and admitted of the school.
At the end of three years he became a tolerable master of the French language, exclusive of his other literary acquirements so that, at the Christmas following, he was chosen king of the class, which is a distinction bestowed on the best of the scholars, whose business it is to regulate the public entertainments of the school.
It was the custom at Douay for officers to attend at the gates of the town, to detect any persons bringing in contraband liquors, because the merchants of the place paid a large duty on them, which duty was annually farmed by the highest bidder.
During the Christmas holidays Langley and three of his schoolfellows quitted the town, to purchase a small quantity of brandy at an under price; but being observed by a soldier, who saw their bottles filled, he informed the officers of the affair; the consequence of which was that the young gentlemen were stopped, and the liquor found hid under their cassocks. They offered money for their release; but it was refused, and they were conducted to the house of the farmer-general.
At the instant of their arrival two Franciscan friars, seeing them, said it was illegal to take students before the civil magistrates, because the superior of their own college was accountable for their conduct.
Hereupon they were taken home to the prior; and the Farmer-general making his demand of the customary fine, the prior thought it extravagant, and refused to pay it: but at length the matter was settled by arbitration.
In the Catholic colleges the students lived in a very meagre manner during the season of Lent having little to subsist on but bread and sour wine; a circumstance that frequently tempted them to supply their wants by acts of irregularity. However, if English students, out of their own money, could procure animal food, they might dress it; the servants of the college pretending not to see the impiety.
At this season Langley and five of his companions, oppressed by the calls of hunger, determined to make an attack on the kitchen; but, at the instant they had forced open the door, they were overheard by the servants, the consequence of which was that many furious blows were exchanged by the contending parties.
On the following day the delinquents were summoned to attend the prior, who was so incensed at this outrage against the good order of the society, that he declared they should be expelled as soon as a consistory of the monks could be held.
But, when the consistory assembled, they resolved to pardon all the offenders, on acknowledging their faults, and promising not to renew them, except one, named Brown, who had twice knocked down the shoemaker of the college because he had called out to alarm the prior.
The young gentlemen, chagrined at losing their associate, determined to be revenged on some one at least of the servants who had given evidence against them; and, after revolving many schemes, they determined that the man who lighted the fires should be the object of their vengeance, because he had struck several of them during the rencounter.
This being resolved on, they disguised themselves, and went to a wood-house adjacent to the college; and, being previously provided with rods, they waited till the man came with his wheelbarrow to fetch wood, when one of them, going behind him, threw a cloak over his head, which being immediately tied round his neck, the rest stripped him, and flogged him in the most severe manner; while he called for assistance, but in vain, our heroes having taken previous care to shut the door of time wood-house.
The flagellation was just ended when the bell rung for the students to attend their evening exercise; on which they left the unhappy victim of their revenge, and repaired to the public hall.
In the mean time the poor sufferer ran into the cloisters, exclaiming 'Le diable! Le diable!' as if he really thought the devil had tormented him: and hence he ran to the kitchen, where he recounted the adventure to his fellow-servants, who dressed his wounds, carried him to bed, and gave him something to nourish him.
A suspicion arising that the students had been the authors of this calamity to the poor fellow, the servants communicated the circumstances of it to the prior, who promised his endeavours to find out and punish the delinquents, and with this view went into the hall with a look at once penetrating and indignant: but the young gentlemen having bound themselves to secrecy by an oath, no discovery could be made.
Young Langley having distinguished himself by his attention to literature for the space of two years, the monks began to consider him as one who would make a valuable acquisition to their society, for which reason they treated him with singular respect, and at length prevailed upon him to agree to enter into the fraternity if his father's consent could be obtained.
As Langley was in no want of money, he frequently went into the town, to habituate himself to the manners of the people, and to observe their customs. One day, being a holiday, he, and one of his school-fellows named Meynel, asked the prior permission to walk on the ramparts; which being denied, they went out without leave, and, repairing to a tavern, drank wine till they were intoxicated.
In this condition they went to the ramparts, where, having been for some time the laughing-stock of the company, they went home to bed. Being missed at evening prayers, some of the other students apologized for their absence by saying they were ill, and the excuse was very readily admitted: but in a few days afterwards a gentleman called on the prior, and told him what a ridiculous figure his students had made on the ramparts.
Incensed at this violation of their duty, the prior sent for them to his chamber, and gave orders that they should be flogged with great severity. This indignity had such an effect on the mind of Langley that he grew reserved and morose, and would have declined all his studies, but that one of the monks, called Father Howard, restored him to good humour by his indulgent treatment, and persuaded him to pay his usual attention to literature.
Father Howard's considerate conduct had such an effect on Langley, that he spent the greater part of his time with that gentleman, who instructed him in the principles of logic, and was about to initiate him in those of philosophy, when his father wrote a letter requiring him to return to his native country.
The society being unwilling to lose one who they thought would become a valuable member, the prior wrote to England, requesting that the youth might be permitted to complete his education; but the father insisted on his return.
Hereupon the young gentleman left the college, and, proceeding by the way of St. Omers, reached Calais in two days. As the wind was contrary, it was some days longer before the company embarked for England, when, instead of putting into Dover, the vessel came round to the Thames, and the passengers were landed at Gravesend.
Langley, having spent all his money at Calais, now affected an air of unconcern, saying that he had no English money in his possession, from his having been so long abroad; on which one of the company lent him money, and on the following day he arrived at his father's house in London.
When he had reposed himself some days after his travel, the father desired him to make choice of some profession; on which he mentioned his inclination to study physic or law; but the old gentlemnan, who had no good opinion of either of these professions, persuaded him to follow his own trade of a goldsmnith.
For the present, however, he was placed at an academy in Chancery Lane, that he might be instructed in those branches of knowledge requisite for a tradesman; but, becoming acquainted with some young gentlemen of the law, he found that his father's allowance of pocket-money was insufficient for his use; and, being unwilling that his new acquaintance should think he was deficient in cash, he purloined small sums from a drawer in his father's shop; and, when he did not find any money there, stole some pieces of broken gold, which he disposed of to the Jews.
Mr. Langley having sent his son with some plate to the house of a gentleman in Grosvenor Square, the youth saw a very beautiful woman go into a shop opposite a public house; on which he went into the latter, and, inquiring after her, found she had gone to her own lodgings. This ascertained, he delivered his plate, and formed a resolution of visiting the lady on the Sunday following.
When the Sunday came the old gentleman went out to smoke his pipe, as the son imagined, at an adjacent public house; and in the mean time the son stole seven guineas from three different bags, that his father might not discover the robbery, and immediately repaired to the lodgings of the lady whom he had seen.
From her lodgings they went to a tavern, where they continued till the following day, having no idea of detection: but it happened that Mr. Langley, senior, instead of going to the public house as usual, had watched the son to the tavern above mentioned.
On the following day the father interrogated the youth respecting his conduct, and particularly asked where he had been the day before. The young fellow said he had been at church, where he met with some acquaintance, who prevailed on him to go to the tavern.
The father, knowing the falsehood of his tale, corrected his son in a severe manner, and forbade him to dine at his table till his conduct should be reformed. Thus obliged to associate with the servants, young Langley became soon too intimate with the kitchen-maid, and robbed his father to buy such things as he thought would be acceptable to her.
Among other things he purchased her a pair of shoes laced with gold, which he was presenting to her in the parlour at the very moment that his father knocked at the door. The girl instantly quitted the room; and the old gentleman interrogating the son respecting the shoes, the latter averred that a lady, who said she had bought them in the neighbourhood, desired leave to deposit them at their house till the following day.
After this the father permitted the son to dine with him as usual; but it was not long before he caught him in too intimate a connexion with the maid-servant in the kitchen; on which the girl was dismissed from her service, and Mr. Langley threatened to disinherit his son unless he would reform his conduct.
A middle-aged woman of grave appearance was now hired as a servant; but the evil complained of was far from being cured, as an intimacy between her and the young gentleman was soon discovered by the father.
It was not long after the servant-girl above mentioned had been discharged before she swore herself pregnant by the son, on which he was taken into custody by a warrant; the consequence of which was that the father paid fifteen pounds to compromise the affair, after which he received the son to his favour, and forgave all the errors of his former conduct.
The death of the old gentleman put his son in possession of a considerable fortune, exclusive of a good settled trade; and for the first year he applied himself so closely to business, that he made a net profit of seven hundred pounds: but he did not long continue this course of industry; for, having formerly made connexions with women of ill fame, particularly in the purlieus of Drury Lane, be now renewed his visits to those wretched victims to, and punishers of, the vices of men.
A man of genteel appearance, named Gray, having ordered plate of Langley to the amount of a hundred pounds, invited him to a tavern to drink. In the course of the conversation the stranger said he had dealt with his late father, and would introduce him to a lady who had thirty thousand pounds to her fortune. This was only a scheme to defraud Langley, who delivered the plate, and took a draft for the money on a vintner in Bartholomew Close; but, when he went to demand payment, the vintner was removed.
On the following day the vintner's wife went to Langley, and informed him that Gray had defrauded her husband of four hundred and fifty pounds; and Langley, being of a humane disposition, interested himself so far in behalf of the unfortunate man, that a letter of license for three years was granted him by his creditors.
Langley now took out an action against Gray, but was not able to find him; when one day he was accosted by a man in Fleet Street, who asked him to step into a public house, and he would tell him where he should meet with the defrauder. Langley complying with the proposal, the stranger said he would produce Gray within an hour if the other would give him a guinea; which being done, the stranger went out, but returned no more.
Exasperated by this circumstance, which seems to have been a contrivance of one of Gray's accomplices, Mr. Langley employed an attorney, who soon found the delinquent, against whom an action was taken out, in consequence of which be was confined several years in the Marshalsea.
Langley now became a sportsman on the turf at Newmarket, under the instruction of a vintner in Holborn, whose niece entered into his service, but soon fell a victim to his unbounded passion for the sex.
Langley becoming acquainted with some young fellows in the Temple, three of them, and four women of the town, went with him to Greenwich, where they gave the ladies the slip, and took a boat to London; but the women, pursuing them, overtook them in the river, and, attempting to board their boat, afforded great diversion to the spectators: our adventurers' watermen, however, rowing hard, they reached the Temple, and concealed themselves in one of the chambers a few minutes before the ladies landed.
Soon after this Langley made another excursion to Greenwich to visit a lady and gentleman, who, having a remarkably handsome servant-maid, our adventurer found means to seduce her; the consequence of which was that she became pregnant, and made repeated applications to him for support: whereupon he gave her a considerable sum of money, and heard no more of her from that period.
Thus living in a continual round of dissipation, his friends recommended matrimony us the most likely step to reclaim him; in consequence of which he married a young lady named Brown, with a handsome fortune.
He had not been long married before he determined to borrow all the cash and jewels he could, and decamp with the property. As he had the reputation of being in ample circumstances, be found no difficulty in getting credit for many articles of value, with which he and his wife embarked for Holland; and, in the mean time, his creditors took out a commission of bankruptcy against him.
When Langley came to Rotterdam he applied to the States-General for protection, in apprehension of being pursued by his creditors; but the States not being then sitting, the creditors made application to Lord Chesterfield, then ambassador at the Hague, which frustrated his intention.
In the interim his creditors found out his lodgings in a village near Rotterdam; but be eluded their search, leaving his wife, with four hundred pounds, in the care of a friend; and not even telling her the place of his retreat, to prevent any possibility of a discovery.
After skulking from place to place, he went back to Rotterdam, and surrendered to his creditors; but found that his wife was gone with an English captain to Antwerp. On his arrival in England he was examined before the commissioners, and treated with the customary lenity.
After his affairs were adjusted he sailed to Barbadoes, where he soon contracted so many debts that be was glad to take his passage to Port Royal, in Jamaica; and soon after his arrival there he went to visit a planter at some distance, who would have engaged him as his clerk.
Langley told the planter that he owed twenty dollars at Port Royal, for which he had left his chest as a security. The gentleman instantly giving him the money to redeem it, he went to Port Royal, assumed the name of Englefield, embarked on board a man of war as midshipmen, and came to England, where the ship was paid off at the expiration of six mouths.
On his arrival in London he sent for a man who had formerly lived with his father, from whom he learnt that his creditors had not made any dividend under the bankruptcy, and were engaged in a lawsuit respecting a part of the property. This faithful old servant of his father told him that his wife had retired to the north of England; and, giving him money, recommended it to him to lodge privately in Southwark.
This advice he followed, and kept himself retired for some time; but, passing through Cheapside, he was arrested, and conducted to the Poultry Compter, where he continued many months, during which he was supported by the benevolence of the old servant above mentioned. While in the Compter he made some very bad connexions; and, being concerned with some of the prisoners in an attempt to escape, he was removed to Newgate, as a place of greater security.
While in this prison he fell ill of a disorder which threatened his life; whereupon his friends discharged the debt for which he had been arrested, and removed him to lodgings, where he soon recovered his health.
Shortly afterwards he got recommended to a captain in the Levant trade, with whom he was to have sailed; but an unhappy attachment to a woman of ill fame prevented his being ready to make the voyage.
Langley's friends were chagrined at this fresh instance of his imprudence; and soon afterwards he was arrested, and carried to a spunging-house, where he attempted to despatch himself by a halter; but the rope breaking, he escaped with life. The bailiff and his wife happening to be now absent, and only two maid-servants in the house, Langley made them both drunk, and, effecting his escape, crossed the water into the Borough, where be worked some time with a colour-grinder.
Disgusted at a life attended by so much labour, he contracted with the captain of a Jamaica ship, who took him to that island on the condition of selling him as a slave, and, on his arrival, sold him to Colonel Hill, who employed him to educate his children: but Langley, soon running from his employer, went on board a ship bound to England: being impressed on his arrival in the Downs, he was put on board a man of war, and carried round to Plymouth.
Langley and another man, deserting from the ship, strolled to London, and took up their residence in a twopenny lodging hut, as Langley now found no friends to support him, he contracted with one of those persons called crimps, who used to agree with unhappy people to go as slaves to the colonies. His contract now was to sail to Pennsylvania; but, while the ship lay in the Thames, he and a weaver from Spitalfields made their escape, and, travelling to Canterbury, passed themselves as Protestant refugees.
Going hence to Dover, they embarked for Calais; and, after some weeks' residence in that place, Langley sailed to Lisbon, where he remained only a short time before he contracted debts which obliged him to seek another residence, and he went to Malaga, in Spain.
His poverty was now extreme; and, while be sat melancholy one day by the sea-side, some priests asked him from what country he came. He answered, in Latin, 'From England.'
Hereupon they conducted him to a convent, relieved his distresses, and then began to instruct him in the principles of the Roman Catholic religion. Langley disguised his sentiments, and, after being apparently made a convert, was recommended as a page to a Spanish lady of distinction.
In this situation he continued several months; but, having an affair of gallantry with the niece to the old lady, he was compelled to make a precipitate retreat from a window, and shelter himself in the house of an Irish tailor; who procured a passage for him to Gibraltar in the first ship that sailed.
On his arrival at Gibraltar he would have entered into the army; but being refused, because he was not tall enough, his distress compelled him to work as a labourer in repairing the barracks. He soon quitted this business, and officiated as a waiter in the tennis-court belonging to the garrison; but, it being intimated to the governor that he was a spy, he was lodged in a dungeon, where he remained more than a fortnight.
On obtaining his discharge he embarked on board a Spanish vessel bound to Barbary with corn: and, on his return to Spain, applied to the monks of a convent, who charitably relieved him; and the prior agreed to take him a voyage to Santa Cruz. Having, however, no great prospect of pecuniary advantage in this way of life, he went to Oratava, where some English merchants contributed to his support; but be soon sailed to Genoa, as he could get no settled employ at Oratava.
From Genoa the vessel sailed to Cadiz; and Langley, being now appointed steward to the captain, in the course of his reading some letters found one directed to Messrs. Ryan and Mannock; and, having been a schoolfellow with Mr. Mannock, he requested the captain's permission to go on shore, and was received by him in the most friendly manner: he offered to serve him in any way within his power, when Langley said that what he wished was a discharge from his present situation.
Hereupon Mannock wrote to the captain, desiring him to pay the steward, and discharge him; but this being refused, Langley took a lodging, to which he was recommended by his friend, who desired he would dine daily at his table till he procured a passage for England. He likewise gave him money and clothes, so as to enable him to appear in the character of a gentleman.
Langley behaved with great regularity for some time; out the season of a carnival advancing, he got into company with a woman of ill fame, with whom he spent the evening; and, on his return, was robbed of his hat, wig, and a book which he bad borrowed of his friend.
On the following day Mr. Mannock saw the book lying at a shop for sale, which chagrined him so much that he asked Langley for it, who thereupon acknowledged the whole affair; and Mr. Mannock supposing the woman was privy to the robbery, he took out a warrant against her; by which he recovered his book, which he greatly esteemed.
This matter being adjusted, Langley, by the help of his friend, procured a passage for England; but just when be was going to embark he met with a woman, who detained him till the ship had sailed; on which he took a boat, and passed over to St. Lucar, where he went on board an English vessel, which brought him to his native country.
On his arrival in London he found that his creditors, under the bankruptcy, had received ten shillings in the pound, which gave him reason to hope that he should have a sum of money returned to him, with which he proposed to engage in a small way of business; and in that view applied to his wife's mother for her assistance, and also to inform him where he might find his wife; but she positively refused to comply with either request.
Langley now gave himself up to despair, associated with the worst of company, and, though he had some money left him at this juncture, he dissipated the whole in the most extravagant manner.
He now made an acquaintance with one Hill, a young fellow who was in similar circumstances; and, having agreed to go to Paris together, they walked as far as Dover; but, on their arrival, finding that an embargo had been laid on all vessels in the port, they determined to return to London.
Being now destitute of cash, they demanded a man's money on the highway; but, on his saying he had not any, they searched him, and took from him three farthings, which they threw away almost as soon as they had got it for this offence they were apprehended on the same day, and, being tried at the next assizes for Kent, were capitally convicted; but the sentence was changed to transportation for seven years.
Langley was transported in the month of December, 1740.
This man appears to have fallen the victim of unrestrained appetite and an aversion to honest industry. That his heart was not wholly depraved we may charitably infer from his treatment of the unfortunate vintner. But early vices grew up in him, until they (as is commonly the case) assumed the force of habits; and thus a life which might have been passed honourably and usefully, and by consequence happily, became overwhelmed with wretchedness and ultimate ignominy. It is to be regretted that his mother-in-law refused to befriend him on his last arrival in England. Had she done so, his sad experience might possibly have preserved him from future dishonesty and shame.