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An Enquiry into the Causes of the Frequent Executi

THE AUGUSTAN REPRINT SOCIETY

BERNARD MANDEVILLE,

_AN ENQUIRY_

INTO THE CAUSES

OF THE

FREQUENT EXECUTIONS

AT

_TYBURN_.

(1725)

_INTRODUCTION_

BY MALVIN R. ZIRKER, JR.

[Illustration]

PUBLICATION NUMBER 105

WILLIAM ANDREWS CLARK MEMORIAL LIBRARY

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES

1964

GENERAL EDITORS

Richard C. Boys, _University of Michigan_ Earl R. Miner, _University of California, Los Angeles_ Maximillian E. Novak, _University of California, Los Angeles_ Lawrence Clark Powell, _Wm. Andrews Clark Memorial Library_

ADVISORY EDITORS

John Butt, _University of Edinburgh_ James L. Clifford, _Columbia University_ Ralph Cohen, _University of California, Los Angeles_ Vinton A. Dearing, _University of California, Los Angeles_ Arthur Friedman, _University of Chicago_ Louis A. Landa, _Princeton University_ Samuel H. Monk, _University of Minnesota_ Everett T. Moore, _University of California, Los Angeles_ James Sutherland, _University College, London_ H. T. Swedenberg, Jr., _University of California, Los Angeles_

CORRESPONDING SECRETARY

Edna C. Davis, _Clark Memorial Library_

INTRODUCTION

The _Enquiry into the Causes of the Frequent Executions at Tyburn_ was originally published as a series of letters to the _British Journal_. The first letter appeared on February 27, 1725;[1] just twelve days before, Jonathan Wild, self-proclaimed "Thief-Catcher General of _Great Britain_ and _Ireland_," had been arrested and imprisoned in Newgate. Thus the _Enquiry_ had a special timeliness and forms a part of the contemporary interest in the increasingly notorious activities of Wild. Wild's systematic exploitation of the London underworld and his callous betrayal of his colleagues in criminality (he received L40 from the government for each capital conviction he could claim) had created public protest since at least 1718 when an act (which Mandeville cites in his Preface) directed against receivers of stolen goods was passed, most probably with the primary intention of curtailing Wild's operations. Wild's notoriety was at its peak in 1724-5 after his successful apprehension of Joseph Blake ("Blueskin") and Jack Sheppard, the latter figure becoming a kind of national hero after his five escapes from prison (he was recaptured by Wild each time).[2]

The timeliness of Mandeville's pamphlet extends, of course, beyond its interest in Jonathan Wild, who after all receives comparatively little of Mandeville's attention. The spectacle of Tyburn itself and the civil and moral failures it represented was one which Londoners could scarcely ignore and which for some provided a morbid fascination. Mandeville's vivid description of the condemned criminal in Newgate, his journey to Tyburn, and his "turning off," must have been strikingly forceful to his contemporaries, who knew all too well the accuracy of his description.


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