Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton


17-24 September 1720   On Tuesday last, a gentlewoman well dressed, took boat at Black-Fryars Stairs, to be landed at Pepper-Alley; a famous sharper, and his doxey standing by, requested the favour to be admitted into the boat with her, for they were going to the same place; to which she courteously consented, and being in the boat, placed the gentlewoman between them, so that the doxey, by slight of hand, pick’d her pocket of 11 guineas; and when they came almost to land, the she bite cry’d, Oh, my Dear, I have forget the writings; he seemingly blames her for her neglect, and eagerly calls another boat to carry them back; the lady being landed, going to pay, found her pocket quite stripped; and yesterday going into the Old Baily, enquiring for a thief taker, happily saw the woman come out of a house, with her husand’s wig in her hand, who caused her to be seized. The husband wondring at his wife’s stay, comes to her, and by that means both were taken and carried before Sir William Withers, who sent them to Newgate; who proves to be the notorious Mr. Tomkins, alias Tompion and his Mate. (London Journal)

17 May 1725   They tell us from Norwich, that a Lady there having a Suit or two of Law cut out for her, employ’d a certain Operator to dispatch those troublesome Jobbs as dexterously as he could; which being done, this honest Man of an Attorney brings in his Bill, which amounted to no more than 317l. The Lady told her Opinion freely, viz., that it was too dear, and therefore offer’d him 200l. but not one Farthing was to be abated; for, as he said, it was not a Taylor’s Bill, to be clipp’d off with the Shears; and therefore, if she did not pay Mr. Parchment, he would pay himself. – Upon this the Lady, being a little whimsical, came to London, summon’d him before a Judge; and, after a fair Hearing, the Account shrunk to 35l. 13s. 4d. [Mist's Weekly Journal]

2 October 1725   A porter being sent by Mr. Massey in Aldersgate, with a box of valuable cloaths, he overtook the porter in the street in going to a tavern, and as he pass’d by, said aloud, Jo, take care of the box: Three sharpers hearing that, one follow’d Mr. Massey, and the others the porter, till learning the master’s name, he came after the porter, in a seeming hurry just as he got to the door where the box was to be delivered, and calls out, Jo, Mr. Massey wants you this moment at the Bush Tavern; Come along.. Says another standing at the door, as if he belonged to the house, You may go, I’ll take care of the box, which ’tis supposed he did, for Jo never heard any more of it. [Mist’s Weekly Journal]

29 March 1735   Yesterday Sir Richard Brocas, committed to the Poultry Compter, one John Boswell a money-dropper, for cheating a young man of a silver watch and some money, under false pretences and at cutting of cards. — This of late is become a very common practice; there are daily fellows plying at Fleet-Ditch, about Chancery-lane End in Fleet-street, and other places, to watch if any countryman or aukward [sic] fellow passes along, they immediately after him, and then getting just before him, drop half a crown or a crown, which the other companion takes up, tells the countryman, &c. of his good luck, and offers him a pint of wine, or a mug of beer, in order to get him into a publick house, when there, cards are produced, or a girdle to prick at, and thus they trick people out of their money. It's surprising these sort of fellows are not prosecuted at the publick charge: There are 15 or 16 now follow the practice, all young fellows. (The Old Whig)




(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "Sharpers", 29 July 2002, updated 22 February 2005 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/sharpers.htm>

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