The Life and Death of an Entrapper

NOTE: James Brown in 1759 had been sentenced to death for robbing/blackmailing a man by threatening to swear sodomy against him, but on that occasion he had been granted a royal pardon: see his trial. Several years later, in January 1763, James Brown was again arrested, on charges of theft from Ralph Hodgson, servant to Mister Townsend, woollen draper, of the Strand, by threatening to swear sodomy against him. He was kept in jail for much of the year while his trial was pending.

Magistrate's Information, 10 August 1763

Middlesex     To wit

The Information of Ralph Hodgson Servant to Mr. Townsend Woollen draper in the Strand taken before me this 10th. day of Augt. 1763

Who being upon Oath says that on Saturday the 30th. of July last between the hours of 8 & 9 in the Evening as he was coming from out of the City to his Masters House, he was accosted by a Man now present who called himself Smith and who took this Informant by the hand, desired him to take a Walk down Temple Lane, says that being a good deal in Liquor he accordingly went with said Smith (whose Name he has since found to be James Brown) to the bottom of Temple Lane aforesaid, says that there having occasion to make Water, while he was doing it said Brown als [alias] Smith seized hold of his Private Parts – Told him he wou'd carry him to the Watch House, for that he had half a Guinea a Week from Justice Fielding for Apprehending such Persons and three pounds for each he so Apprehended, but that if Informt. wou'd give him all his Money he wou'd let him go, being in present want of Money; says that said Brown als Smith Search'd all his Pockets and finding no Money, took his Watch, out of his Pocket and two pair of Buckles one Silver, the other Steel plated with Silver, and also a pair of Stone Sleeve Buttons, all from his Person feloniously and against his Will; says that since that time, said Brown alias Smith has at different times extorted from this Informant several different Sums of Money amounting in the whole to the Sum of Twelve Guineas and a half, two Shirts, one Neckcloth, a handkerchief, and also a Note of hand for five Guineas (upon which Note he was last Night arrested) under pretence that he wou'd Charge this Informt. with the Crime of Sodomy and Hang him or Transport him if her did not comply with his Request.

(Sworn the days & Year first above written before me)
Ralph Hodgson

Middlesex Sessions: Sessions Papers, Justices' Working Documents, August 1763,;

Second Trial of James Brown, 1763

NOTE: James Brown was again brought to trial in September 1763, trial no. 415. This trial report is very long, and I have omitted some parts of it. (For a full transcription of the full text at the London Lives website, see

James Brown, otherwise James Smith, was indicted for that he, in Middle-Temple-Lane, in the King's highway, on Ralph Hodson did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and stealing from his person one silver watch, val. 3l. one pair of silver shoe-buckles, one pair of metal buckles, and one pair of shirt sleeve-buttons , the property of the said Ralph, July 30.

          Ralph Hodson. I live at Mr. Townsends', a woollen-draper, the corner of Durham-yard, in the Strand. On the 30th of July, between the hours of 9 and 10 at night, coming out of the city, a little in liquor, I stood leaning on a post in Middle Temple-lane to vomit, the prisoner at the bar passed and jostled against me, which caused me to look up; he laid his hand on mine, which was on the post, and asked me to walk down the Lane with him, saying the air that came from the water would make me better; I was perfectly able to remember all that passed; I went with him half way down the Lane, he kept about four yards before me till we got within about seventeen yards of the bottom; I turned to the waterman's bench to make water, on hearing him attempt to open the gate I turned about, and saw him walk very fast towards me; he violently seized me by the collar with one hand, and by my penis with the other, and said, By God, I have got you, you are a sodomite, and if you will not immediately consent to give me your money, I will swear that to your charge that shall hang you. I pushed back, and got his hand loose from me, and asked him what he meant? he said, Make no resistance, young man, I am not unarmed, which put me in fear of my life; he took my watch out of my fob; he having me by the collar pushed my head against the wall, and set my foot against the bench, while he took my buckles out, and a pair of buckles from my knees, one pair silver, the other steel plated with silver, and likewise a pair of silver stone buttons out of my sleeves; after which he said he would charge the watch with me, if I made any resistance or discovery, and carry me to Sir John Fielding's, he being employed by Sir John, having half a guinea a week and 3l. for every disorderly person he might discover or apprehend, which was allowed by act of parliament. He kept hold of my collar, and swore by God I should go along with him; on which he led me to the Coach-and-horses in the Strand, near Temple-bar, where he called for a pint of beer.
          Q. Did he give any reason for your going with him?
          Hodson. No, not then, but insisted on my going with him; he there asked me to drink, which I did not; he there saw Morris, a chairman, and asked him to drink, which he did, and left the box. Then he told me the watch and things he had got of me were of no value, and insisted on having 3l. and he would return the things, and there should be no more of it; (he spoke low, that none could hear but myself) in consideration that he would return the watch and buckles, I told him I would endeavour to get the money of a friend. I recollecting the face of Morris, the chairman, that he had brought Mr. Hanway to my master's house, I asked him to go along with me; then Brown paid for the beer; we three went to Mr. James Sedway's, at the Heathcock, a publick house in the Strand; the prisoner kept hold of my coat all the way, the chairman followed at some distance; Brown called for a pint of beer, we set down, he bid Morris have a pint to himself in another box; after which I asked Mr. Sedway to lend me 2 guineas, which he did, and saw me give it to Brown; he said, by God that man will lend you 10 guineas, so insisted on having one guinea more, upon which Mr. Sedway lent me another, which he saw me give to the prisoner; I then asked Brown to let me go home, for I should lose my place and character, and desired him to return me my watch and buckles; he said he would not, for I was as much in his power now as ever, and I should never have them. He paid for the beer, and we went out, Morris following a little after; he swore I should not go home, but go with him; he took me to the Cock and Bottle in the Strand, and there called for a shilling's worth of punch, pen, ink, and paper, and said, by God you shall give me a note of hand for 2l. more, and I will return you your things again, and never speak to you if I meet you in the street, and take no notice of you for the future; he brought me the pen, ink, and paper, I denied giving him the note; he took it to the landlord, and desired him to write it, which he did, and Brown, in a low voice, swore, by God, I should sign it; there was nobody in the room but the chairman; I set a name to it, which was William Thompson, by which I thought to get home, and be no more troubled with him, he swore he would see me home, he would not give me any thing again. Accordingly he saw me home, and appointed to see me the next day, at 10 o'clock, to pay the note, at the Hole in the Wall, in Chancery-lane, or he would swear to me, and get the 3l. reward. I went the next day, and he was there, so he went with me to Morris's house, he was in bed, I desired him to go with us, (he knew where the chairman lived) and he was with us every time. I desired Morris to go with us to Mr. Arbuthnot's house-keeper, this was on Sunday morning the 31st, I went to her to borrow money to pay this note, he threatened to swear my life away if I did not give it him; I gave him the two guineas at the Hole in the Wall, before Morris came, I had that of my own; immediately upon this he insisted upon my giving him five guineas more, for he was going out of town, and would never return again, and insisted on my meeting him at the Thatched House that afternoon; I went home to my master's, and dined, and staid there till 5 o'clock, and then carried five guineas with me, which I had by me; then I asked him for my watch and things, he would not give them me, but said it was in his power whether he would give them me or not. We parted, and I went home, and heard no more of him till Saturday the 6th of Aug. when he sent Morris with a note to my master's house, for me to meet him at the Hampshire Hog, in the Strand; I went to him, he said he had spent all his money, and had taken a place in the Nottingham stage, to set off at 11 o'clock, and insisted on my giving him two guineas and a half more; he said also he had never a shirt but that on his back, and that he would have two shirts, and one linnen handkerchief of me; I told him I had no money, nor friend of whom to get any; he swore that any body would give the last farthing they had to save their lives, and insisted upon my pawning some of my cloaths; I told him I had none that I could spare; he said he would go with me to my master's house, and make me take them to the pawnbrokers, I took a coat and waistcoat, and pawned them for two guineas, at a pawnbroker's in Chandois-street, I dont know his name, and 8s. I had, which I gave the prisoner, which made 2l. 10s. after which the prisoner and I went to the Hampshire Hog, there he insisted upon my giving him a note for 5l. more, which I told him I would give him, but never pay it so long as I lived; I gave him a note of 5l. he paid for the liquor, and was in haste to go to the stage, he said he would never ask me for the money for the note. On Tuesday the 9th he sent Morris between 9 and 10 at night for me, to meet him at the Green Man, a public-house, in Half-moon-street; when I went the prisoner was standing at the door with a bailiff, the bailiff said I was his prisoner, for a note of 5l. Brown said it was on the account of this note; they insisted upon my going with them, and took me to the spunging house: Brown called for thr ee or four bottles of wine, and drank very freely; he seemed very desirous for my writing to a friend, to get the money, that I might have my liberty. I wrote to Mr. Arbuthnot's house-keeper, Mrs. Ann Deighton, (she being a friend and particular acquaintance) to come to me, she came accordingly, and said, she had shewed her master the letter; I told her a man had put me in there for a 5l. note. Soon after she was gone Mr. Arbuthnot came to the spunging-house, and spoke loud, and threatened the people, withall telling me if I would tell him the truth, I should find him my friend, saying, he believed it to be a false debt, because he, or some of his family, had seen Brown lurking about his house; upon which I plucked up a courage, and told him the truth, the same as I told the court now.
          Q. Why did you not mention it before?
          Hodson. Because he swore, he would swear sodomy to my charge, and take my life away.
          Q. As you was in liquor, was you sensible enough to know what passed?
          Hodson. I was enough to know all that passed, I am certain of it.
          Q. Had you seen the prisoner before?
          Hodson. No, never in my life,
          Q. In what situation are you in with your master?
          Hodson. I am shop-man.
          Q. How long have you lived with him?
          Hodson. About seventeen months.
          Q. What wages?
          Hodson. Ten pounds a year.
          Q. In what situation of life was you before you came to this gentleman?
          Hodson. I lived with my father, who is a farmer, near Durham, till I came to my master; I was brought up in the country-business.
          Q. Had you any school-education?
          Hodson. Yes.
          Q. As you had so small wages, how came you by so much money?
          Hodson. I brought twenty guineas with me to London.
          Q. You say you was not so far in liquor but you knew what you did, pray, tell me, how you came to go so far as you did, down a dark place, to the bottom of a lane, with a man you never had seen before?
          Hodson. I thought his advice was good that the air off the water would be serviceable and do me good.
          Q. I should have thought you would not have ventured yourself down such a place at that time of the night?
          Hodson. There were many people passing at the top of the lane; when I went down I was very sick.
          Q. When he first threatened you with that dreadful accusation of sodomy, did it frighten you to that you was absolutely in his power?
          Hodson. Yes.
          Q. Morris you say was drank to by the prisoner at the bar, you did not take notice of that at first, how happened it that you desired to have Morris with you?
          Hodson. Upon recollecting his face, and being afraid to go out with the prisoner alone, I desired him to go along with me.

* * * *

[One of the witnesses, John Arbuthnot, Esq., testified how he had assisted Hodgson's master in bringing Brown to justice:]

          John Arbuthnot, Esq. We determined to go to Sir John Fielding, but finding it too late, resolved to go to the lad's master, Mr. Townsend, we told him the whole affair, as he had related it to us, and the part we had acted in it; the high opinion Mr. Townsend had of the lad, induced us the more to proceed, and accordingly we appointed to go with him the next morning to Sir John Fielding, who told us he could not grant a warrant against the prisoner without an information from the lad, and that sending for him would give an alarm, that we must endeavour to apprehend the felon; I then determined to go myself to the house (under pretence of paying the note to seize him, and Sir John Fielding sent a constable to Exeter Exchange to be ready if I wanted assistance. As I was going into Mr. Townsend's shop, to ask Mr. Altham to go with me, the prisoner passed me in company with one or more root-soldiers, I ran after him, seized him, and carried him before Sir John Fielding. When he was asked his name, he said it was Brown, on which Sir John said, is it for this I saved your life, when you was condemned at the Old Bailey for an offence of the same sort? his answer was, he assured him, that he had behaved extremely well ever since; he said, the Regiment he was in was broke. He was ordered to be searched, and in his pocket this note was found, which he said was a note the prosecutor gave him, on which he was arrested, and carried to the Spunging-house. Before Sir John Fielding came in, he felt in his pocket, and pulled out two letters, one for Mr. Townsend, the other for my servant, which he said he had received from the prosecutor, and was going to deliver. Sir John Fielding then sent for the prisoner out of the Spunging-house, Mr. Townsend took him home, and there he has remained ever since; finding the lad had so good a character, I made it my business to enquire very minutely into every circumstance of the affair.
          Mr. Townsend. The young man the prosecutor is servant to me.
          Q. How old is he?
          Townsend. I believe he is about 25 or 26 years of age.
          Q. How has he behaved with you?
          Townsend. He has always behaved very well since I knew him. I believe he is a very honest young man, he has been in town about 13 or 16 months.

* * * *

          Q. What do you think of him as to his ability, I mean as to that of understanding?
          Townsend. I think he is a very honest man, but not the brightest.
          Mr. Hanway. I live at Mr. Townsend's. As to the prosecutor I have always thought that there was something of a peculiar simplicity in him, he appeared to me to be a man in whom there was no guile.

* * * *

Prisoner's Defence.

My Lord, I find my character was taken away about three years ago. After this man found I was come to London and had no friends, he was persuaded to swear a robbery against me to save his own life; I am informed he was told it might easily be done. As to imagine that if I had robbed this man, I would have arrested him and put him into a Spunging-house, is quite out of character. My Lord, I was drinking at a public house, the Antigallican and had had two or three tankards of beer in the back-room, there was a whitewasher in the house, making some alterations in it, we played several games at draughts, first for a tankard of beer, then a shilling, then we departed from that place, and came to the Coach and Horses at Temple-bar, there the prosecutor called for two pots of beer, then we departed, I have seen him from time to time; after that meeting him in the Strand, as I came over in order to be a chairman at Temple-bar, I was to give a guinea and half to be broke in, we drank together and parted friends, I never attempted to rob him in my life, we were intimate together; as we were walking up the Strand once, he said he had fallen down and broke his watch, and desired I would carry it to the watchmaker and get it mended for him; I said, no, you are sufficient to carry it yourself; I believe he gave it to some chairman to carry it to the watchmaker. There is a woman that heard Morris say, that the prosecutor would give him money to appear against me, and I sent her after Morris in order that she might speak the truth.

* * * *

Guilty. Death.

As soon as the Jury had delivered in their verdict, the right honourable the Lord Mayor returned Mr. Arbuthnot the thanks of the Court, for the spirited resolution which he had exerted in prosecuting this great offender to justice.

SOURCE: Proceedings on the King's Commission of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Goal-Delivery for the City of London; And also the Goal-Delivery for the County of Middlesex, Held at Justice-Hall in the Old-Bailey, On Wednesday the 14th, Thursday the 15th, Friday the 16th, Saturday the 17th, Monday the 19th, and Tuesday the 20th of September. In the Third Year of His Majesty's Reign. Being the Seventh Session in the Mayoralty of The Right Honourable William Beckford, Esq; Lord-Mayor of the City of London. Number VII, for the Year 1763.

Execution of James Brown

NOTE: James Brown was hanged at Tyburn on Wednesday 12 October 1763. The following is the account given of him by the Ordinary of Newgate. It is interesting that even at his dying confession, when he knew he was to be hanged and there was no point in lying to avoid a conviction, he nevertheless maintained "that he never accused any but such as first offered indecencies to him". People generally told the truth in their dying confessions, because they believed they would be damned if they lied at this final confession; thus the Ordinary (i.e. Chaplain) tried to persuade him to say that his victims were entirely innocent of such behaviour, but Brown stuck to his guns. He also said that he learned this technique of blackmailing sodomites from other soldiers who were familiar with the homosexual cruising grounds, "which that sort of people call the market".

James Brown, otherwise James Smith, was indicted for that he in Middle-Temple-Lane, in the king's high-way, on Ralph Hodson did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and stealing from his person one silver watch, value 3l. one pair of silver shoe-buckles, one pair of metal buckles, and one pair of sleeve-buttons; the property of the said Ralph, July 30.
          The scheme of this most dangerous and detestable kind of criminal appears in the evidence given on his trial, in its proper colours; such as it is scarce possible to read or review without indignation and abhorrence of the crime; and an honest satisfaction in the detection, conviction, and punishment of it. A crime consisting in a continued course of aggravated robberies, perpetrated under the terror of an accusation more shocking to an honest mind than bludgeon, knife, or pistol; an accusation however which one would think an honest mind, consciously brave and fortified with its own integrity would not give way to, but defy; daring to meet and unmask the black infernal calumny: such one would resolve should be their own conduct in such a conflict, and heartily recommend it to all honest men, to the confusion of the false accuser: as on the one hand a caution against the manner of proceeding of these lurking miscreants cannot be too public; so neither on the other can sufficient care be employed to detect and punish by proper persons and legal means, that real offence which more than once has drawn down the signal vengeance of heaven on cities and regions stained with so detestable a sin, against nature and the all-wise and most powerful Author of nature, who will by no means acquit the guilty.
          When the criminals were visited after conviction, October 18 , Brown made himself known to me with great anguish and many tears, as one who had been formerly under my care in the same situation. It was some time before I could recollect or recover the least remembrance of him. He bewailed and bitterly lamented his lot, expressing a kind of despair of escaping death at best, but that he should be content and patiently submit to that, if he might find mercy for his soul. On enquiring into his charge, and finding it of the same horrid nature with that for which he was to die before, I could not but express my astonishment mixt with deep concern to see him taken in the same snare a second time: demanding of him how he could relapse after so great a deliverance, and such professions as he made? he again burst into tears, and said, (with what truth he best knew) that he had taken care to the best of his power to live honestly, had a general good character in the army, in which he had been raised from a private man to a serjeant, and was but lately returned to London , where he unhappily was betrayed into this temptation. He then went up to chapel, heard the exhortation to condemned criminals once more with deep concern, and seemed to repeat his prayers, to read the Psalms, and make his responses with zeal and devotion; and in the several instructions and applications of scripture daily set before them, when any matter was mentioned which nearly concerned him, he wept. When asked, he said he was about 25 years of age, born at Pinxton in Derbyshire , had served in the army for several years, and was discharged last April in Ireland , from the regiment of colonel Scott, which was broke, in which he was pay-serjeant . From thence he went to visit his friends in Derbyshire for six or seven weeks, and then returned to London. Being questioned how he had spent his time since his respite in the year 1759, he replied that after six months or thereabouts he was pardoned, on condition of being inlisted in the 74th regiment, then in Jamaica, and tho' some say he soon after escaped out of the Savoy , he now told me he got away from the transport ship in the Downs to Deal-side, near Sandown-Castle, taking a little boat which lay by the ship side, with two more men in the same circumstances, one of which was a sailor and rowed the boat: he then came up to London and inlisted in the Oxford-blues, which he explained to be the Marquess of Gr—y's royal regiment of horse-guards, at 15d. a day, a very genteel corps, wherein no swearing or drinking or bad-company is allowed. Being cautious enough to hint to the quarter-master there were people in London whom he did not care to see, he was sent to Maidstone in Kent for seven or eight weeks, till he was wrote for to meet the corps and embark at Gravesend. In the mean time he had got two recruits for the regiment. In Germany he was wounded in the leg, at the battle of Werburg : then he was in the battle of Hanover-Hausen, when they marched all round the French camp by night; afterwards at another skirmish, at a place near the Rhine, the name of which he forgot, and at another near Ham, with a party of the French light-horse. He once applied to the chief commander, the Marquess of G. to be made a grenadier, who took his name and gave him a ducat: but when he had been in this regiment in Germany about a year, he was taken notice of and known by some of the foot-guards, who talked of his former misconduct, till it came to his officers ears, and then he was discharged by lieutenaut-colonel Kellit: thence he inlisted into Bocklands, the 11th regiment of foot: he was afterwards taken ill of the rheumatism, discharged and sent home to be put into Chelsea ; but on his return, recovering tolerably well, and being in some fear of making application, lest he should be detected as a deserter, he went and inlisted in the grenadier-guards, at Knights-Bridge; but a woman assisted by her mother, with whom he had been formerly connected, went to his serjeant and then to his officer, exposing his character with some truth intermixed with some slanders, to such a degree that he was confined for some days in the dark hole, and then dismissed with infamy. He said, she maliciously informed them that he had been under sentence of death for the high-way; and then a deserter from the Oxford-blues; which he denied: and all this because he would not live with her as formerly. On this and other like occasions, he was reminded that he had better have patiently and faithfully complied with the terms of his pardon and gone to Jamaica: but this he did not so well relish, and urged that he had behaved so well in Germany for three years, that on his return home he was recommended for a free pardon to his Majesty, and obtained it.
          Another anecdote he opened; that while he was in the army in Ireland he had married a second wife, the first whom he had here before his conviction being still living; which he had done on this nice distinction, (being a curious casuist in matters of conscience) that being condemned to die, since he had been married to her, he was (as to her) dead in law, and that his friends whom he consulted told him he was no longer her husband: this was probably one of those sins that pursued and found him out, and the evil genius that haunted and helped to hunt him down; with the sense of which and the like offences he was often touched to the quick, bitterly lamenting his manifold transgressions, with respect to women, and praying for pardon.
          It does not clearly appear whether it was after this dismission from the grenadier-guards that he inlisted in the 108th or 109th regiment, wherein he was first made a recruiting-serjeant by captain Skene, and then pay-serjeant in Ireland, where he married the daughter of a substantial clothier at Dublin: but he said he continued in that regiment till it was broke, after the peace.
          After his last return to London, a few months since, he resolved to carry a sedan-chair for his living; and for that purpose was plying about Temple-Bar when this temptation overtook him.
          By these accounts he would give us to understand that he tried every method to get his bread honestly, but was disappointed and thrown into distress, and the way of temptation by this hard treatment he met with; insomuch that he usually told his story in a most piteous manner, with many tears, like a child under correction; expressing his fears that there was no mercy for him in this world, and praying for the forgiveness of his sins; for which he constantly frequented the chappel, and had proper books lent him to be used in his cell. But now towards the end of the first week after his conviction he began to flatter himself with some faint hopes that his life might be saved, by means of the only friend he could think of capable of interposing for him, the Marquess of G—y; he intreated that a petition might be signed in his behalf; in answer to which, when reminded how greatly and how justly incensed all that knew his case were against him, and that his plan was most dangerons and detestable to every honest man, he endeavoured to alleviate his case, by saying, that he never accused any but such as first offered indecencies to him: that the prosecutor had not only done so but sworn falsely that he robbed him of his buckles, whereas he carried them home in his shoes; when I assured him with a proper resentment, that no mortal would believe one word of this, he insisted on the truth of both these assertions as a dying man; adding, that he well knew the consequence if he should now be false and insincere; and though this point of insisting on so base a calumny was laboured with him from first to last by every argument that could be urged from hopes and fears, from the aggravation of his guilt, and binding it on his soul for ever; by the assistance of prudent and pious friends who went with me to visit him, yet he never gave it up; so that we were obliged to leave him in possession of this millstone about his neck, if indeed it were a falsehood, and to prove it so, he was often reminded that every proof and every probability was against him in the two cases he was convicted for. On his part he asserted that his only crime consisted in compounding the matter with persons of this cast, and not bringing them to justice. He owned he had made a practice of this, which was taught him by some of his old fellow-soldiers whom he named, with whom he haunted the places and times which that sort of people call the market; and as he appealed to the highest tribunal for the truth of what he said, to that we must refer him.
          In other respects he behaved more hopefully, confessing with tears the Sunday before he suffered, an act of theft he was privy to, viz. the stealing of some clothes out of a box in an apartment where he lodged, and having a part of the money they were sold for.
          The same morning when at my first entrance he was asked as usual, How are you? He answered: Very well in health; that he was easy and resigned in his mind, willing to die, and persuaded he should be a rich man and very happy on Wednesday next. This was his expression. When warned again to look well that he was on a sure foundation of truth and sincerity, which we and the world in general were very doubtful and much afraid of, he answered, the more he suffered and the worse he was treated here, the better he hoped to fare hereafter. He appeared very anxious to be forgiven by all others whom he had injured; particularly his two wives, who, he said, had visited him, and forgiven him a day or two before he suffered.

* * * *

On the Morning of Execution, convicts seemed tolerably composed. . . . The service in the chapel being ended, as they returned down into the Press-Yard, Thomas Madge, the most simple and ignorant, was attempted to be taken aside and spoken to by the attending priest of the church of Rome , till being observed by one or two worthy clergymen they were interrupted and separated.
          At the place of execution, . . . Brown was very fervent in prayers, Smith seemed and affected to be unmoved and undaunted, scarce changing his countenance, except that when he was tied up he seemed to turn pale, but soon recovered. It was told me that during the few minutes he was in his cell to shift himself, between his leaving the chapel and having his irons knocked off, he acted over the last moments of his execution with much unconcern, pulling his cap down over his face, saying, "thus will it be in less than two hours hence, then it will be quickly over with me; after which I shall take an airing in a hearse," &c. Such was his dreadful amusement, instead of private and mental prayer for a happy change and safe deliverance in the last decisive moment. Hardness is too oft the parent of presumption. We could scarce keep his attention fixed to prayers even at the place; but he would observe what passed among the surrounding croud.
          Barlow seemed languid and dejected, having been very sickly in the cell; he said little, except "that he hoped all good people would take warning by him, and avoid bad company and connections."
          Madge was very quiet and attentive during prayer, and had wept much when brought to be tied up.
The other four of the church of Rome minded their own prayers: Brown handed down a letter to a friend, who stood near to take charge of his body; and in hopes it might be a warning to unwarry youth, has indulged the public with the annexed copy of it.
          After the final blessing, they seemed thankful for the good offices done them. We parted. They continued fervent in prayer till the cart was driven from under them, about a quarter past eleven.

[Letter from Brown:]

                Dear kinsman,
          I take this opetunity of ackuainting you of my grat misfortin which has misfall me since you saw me last; which beg all the young men that hears of this, to take a deal of caer how they desobey their parents, if they have any living; for if I had been so happy as to had my mother alive, I never should a gon a stray any more when I was at home the last time, for my inclination was to settle and turn a new man; for I was fully bent to work for my bred and leave off all my former life: so I beg all young people will tak caer how they lose their carecter, for when that is gon all the world dus reflect on you, whether you are gilty or no, and will; so that he shall not stay here, for he was so and so, in jal, and there is many to speak against him, but few of his side. I beg that you will shew this letter to John Cl—k, [i.e. Clark, his landlord, mentioned in the earlier trial] and I beg that he will freely forgive me the dat [debt] as it is not in my pour to pay it; and to all that I have owed any thing or engered in any shape whatsoever; and I freely forgive all that have engered me, as I hope forgiveness of the Almighty.
          Give my kind love to my ant S—, &c. So no more at present for ever misfortnet relation and frend and acquaintance James Brown. Condamned to die October 12, 1763. and the Lord have mercy on his sole. Aged 25 years. Sarved the king 11 years since ever he was abel.

SOURCE: The Ordinary of Newgate's Account of the Behaviour, Confession, and Dying Words, of Ten Malefactors, viz. Esther Levingstone for Murder, Executed September 19; Cornelius Donnolly, Philip Tobin, Dennis Buckly, William Higgins for Street-Robberies; Thomas Madge for personating, &.; Francis Smith for Returning from Transportation, William Barlow for Forgery, and James Brown for Robbery, Executed Wednesday October 12; and Richard Cinderbury for Murder, Executed Saturday October 23, 1763. Being the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Executions in the Mayoralty of the Rt. Hon. William Beckford, Esq. Lord-Mayor of the City of London.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Life and Death of an Entrapper, 1763," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. Uploaded 14 January 2011 <>.

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