The Road to Tyburn

The Road to Tyburn : The Story of Jack Sheppard and the Eighteenth Century Underworld

4.14 (14 ratings by Goodreads)
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Jack Sheppard, glamorous rebel, daring escapee and idol of the London mob, was one of the most legendary criminals of 18th-century England. When he finally met his end and was hanged in 1724, weeping girls and thronging crowds lined the road to the gallows at Tyburn. In uncovering Jack Sheppard's enthralling story, lively and prolific historian Christopher Hibbert has drawn on contemporary newspapers, pamphlets and trial reports. He reveals a wild, dissolute, extravagant character, who, although he drank to excess, frequented the beds of prostitutes and was the "greatest prison breaker in the annals of this country", also proved to be a man of great intelligence, wit and charm. Yet this is more than the story of one individual. It also takes us on a fascinating tour through the murky underworld of 18th-century London: a grim jungle of brothels, gin cellars, gaming dens and doss-houses. We are introduced to a rogues' gallery of drunkards, pickpockets, kidnappers and murderers as well as the most notorious characters of the time, including corrupt City Marshal Charles Hitchen and machiavellian thief-taker Jonathan more

Product details

  • Paperback | 176 pages
  • 135 x 216 x 13mm | 198g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • 7pp b&w illustrations, bibliography, glossary
  • 0141390239
  • 9780141390239

Review Text

London's 18th century underworld provides substance for a fascinating and dreadful tale, with a hero who might have been lifted out of The Beggars' Opera. Jack Sheppard was an ingratiating scoundrel who was hanged at Tyburn in 1724, and who provided Hogarth with the inspiration for his series, The Virtuous and Idle Apprentice. His 22 years began with birth to poor and honest parents, who died; he was sent to a workhouse school, a horrible fate; later he was apprenticed to a carpenter and became a skilled locksmith, a useful adjunct to his subsequent calling. At 21 he fell in love with a joyous prostitute and began stealing to find money to spend on her. At 22 he was hanged, the darling of the town, celebrated in ballad and story. His crimes were unprofitable and unspectacular, but his genius for prison breaks made sensational tales. This is far more than Jack Sheppard's story, however, for here is 18th century London, with its thieves and trulls, cutthroats and murderers, aristocratic delinquents. Jonathan Wild, perhaps the greatest organizer of crime the world has known, plays a part in the tale, as do many others known to history. It is not a pretty story and the author piles horror on horror, but Hogarthians and students of 18th century England will relish it, while it makes substantial contribution to the history of crime. Not however for the squeamish. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Table of contents

The legend; the background; boyhood and apprenticeship; bad company; crime and punishment; alone in the world; Jonathan Wild; Newgate; the trial; the condemned hold; the great escape from Newgate; the last days of freedom; the second trial; Tyburn more

Author information

Christopher Hibbert is a prolific author, many of whose books are published by Penguin. Other titles to appear in the Classic Penguin series are The Making of Charles Dickens and Charles more

Rating details

14 ratings
4.14 out of 5 stars
5 36% (5)
4 50% (7)
3 7% (1)
2 7% (1)
1 0% (0)
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