A Book of Remarkable Criminals
H. B. Irving

Part 1 out of 5

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"For violence and hurt tangle every man in their toils,
and for the most part fall on the head of him from whom
they had their rise; nor is it easy for one who by his
act breaks the common pact of peace to lead a calm
and quiet life."

Lucretius on the Nature of Things.



















"The silent workings, and still more the explosions, of human
passion which bring to light the darker elements of man's nature
present to the philosophical observer considerations of intrinsic
interest; while to the jurist, the study of human nature and
human character with its infinite varieties, especially as
affecting the connection between motive and action, between
irregular desire or evil disposition and crime itself, is equally
indispensable and difficult."--_Wills on Circumstantial

I REMEMBER my father telling me that sitting up late one night
talking with Tennyson, the latter remarked that he had not kept
such late hours since a recent visit of Jowett. On that occasion
the poet and the philosopher had talked together well into the
small hours of the morning. My father asked Tennyson what was
the subject of conversation that had so engrossed them.
"Murders," replied Tennyson. It would have been interesting to
have heard Tennyson and Jowett discussing such a theme. The fact
is a tribute to the interest that crime has for many men of
intellect and imagination. Indeed, how could it be otherwise?
Rob history and fiction of crime, how tame and colourless would
be the residue! We who are living and enduring in the presence
of one of the greatest crimes on record, must realise that trying
as this period of the world's history is to those who are passing
through it, in the hands of some great historian it may make
very good reading for posterity. Perhaps we may find some little
consolation in this fact, like the unhappy victims of famous
freebooters such as Jack Sheppard or Charley Peace.

But do not let us flatter ourselves. Do not let us, in all the
pomp and circumstance of stately history, blind ourselves to the
fact that the crimes of Frederick, or Napoleon, or their
successors, are in essence no different from those of Sheppard or
Peace. We must not imagine that the bad man who happens to
offend against those particular laws which constitute the
criminal code belongs to a peculiar or atavistic type, that he is
a man set apart from the rest of his fellow-men by mental or
physical peculiarities. That comforting theory of the Lombroso
school has been exploded, and the ordinary inmates of our prisons
shown to be only in a very slight degree below the average in
mental and physical fitness of the normal man, a difference
easily explained by the environment and conditions in which the
ordinary criminal is bred.

A certain English judge, asked as to the general characteristics
of the prisoners tried before him, said: "They are just like
other people; in fact, I often think that, but for different
opportunities and other accidents, the prisoner and I might very
well be in one another's places." "Greed, love of pleasure,"
writes a French judge, "lust, idleness, anger, hatred, revenge,
these are the chief causes of crime. These passions and desires
are shared by rich and poor alike, by the educated and
uneducated. They are inherent in human nature; the germ is in
every man."

Convicts represent those wrong-doers who have taken to a
particular form of wrong-doing punishable by law. Of the larger
army of bad men they represent a minority, who have been
found out in a peculiarly unsatisfactory kind of misconduct.
There are many men, some lying, unscrupulous, dishonest, others
cruel, selfish, vicious, who go through life without ever doing
anything that brings them within the scope of the criminal code,
for whose offences the laws of society provide no punishment.
And so it is with some of those heroes of history who have been
made the theme of fine writing by gifted historians.

Mr. Basil Thomson, the present head of the Criminal Investigation
Department, has said recently that a great deal of crime is due
to a spirit of "perverse adventure" on the part of the criminal.
The same might be said with equal justice of the exploits of
Alexander the Great and half the monarchs and conquerors of the
world, whom we are taught in our childhood's days to look up to
as shining examples of all that a great man should be. Because
crimes are played on a great stage instead of a small, that is no
reason why our moral judgment should be suspended or silenced.
Class Machiavelli and Frederick the Great as a couple of rascals
fit to rank with Jonathan Wild, and we are getting nearer a
perception of what constitutes the real criminal. "If," said
Frederick the Great to his minister, Radziwill, "there is
anything to be gained by it, we will be honest; if deception is
necessary, let us be cheats." These are the very sentiments of
Jonathan Wild.

Crime, broadly speaking, is the attempt by fraud or violence to
possess oneself of something belonging to another, and as such
the cases of it in history are as clear as those dealt with in
criminal courts. Germany to-day has been guilty of a perverse
and criminal adventure, the outcome of that false morality
applied to historical transactions, of which Carlyle's life of
Frederick is a monumental example. In that book we have a
man whose instincts in more ways than one were those of a
criminal, held up for our admiration, in the same way that the
same writer fell into dithyrambic praise over a villain called
Francia, a former President of Paraguay. A most interesting work
might be written on the great criminals of history, and might do
something towards restoring that balance of moral judgment in
historical transactions, for the perversion of which we are
suffering to-day.

In the meantime we must be content to study in the microcosm of
ordinary crime those instincts, selfish, greedy, brutal which,
exploited often by bad men in the so-called cause of nations,
have wrought such havoc to the happiness of mankind. It is not
too much to say that in every man there dwell the seeds of crime;
whether they grow or are stifled in their growth by the good that
is in us is a chance mysteriously determined. As children of
nature we must not be surprised if our instincts are not all that
they should be. "In sober truth," writes John Stuart Mill,
"nearly all the things for which men are hanged or imprisoned for
doing to one another are nature's everyday performances," and in
another passage: "The course of natural phenomena being replete
with everything which when committed by human beings is most
worthy of abhorrence, anyone who endeavoured in his actions to
imitate the natural course of things would be universally seen
and acknowledged to be the wickedest of men."

Here is explanation enough for the presence of evil in our
natures, that instinct to destroy which finds comparatively
harmless expression in certain forms of taking life, which is at
its worst when we fall to taking each other's. It is to check an
inconvenient form of the expression of this instinct that we
punish murderers with death. We must carry the definition of
murder a step farther before we can count on peace or
happiness??{in}??this world. We must concentrate all our
strength on?? fighting criminal nature, both in ourselves and in
the world around us. With the destructive forces of nature we
are waging a perpetual struggle for our very existence. Why
dissipate our strength by fighting among ourselves? By enlarging
our conception of crime we move towards that end. What is anti-
social, whether it be written in the pages of the historian or
those of the Newgate Calendar, must in the future be regarded
with equal abhorrence and subjected to equally sure punishment.
Every professor of history should now and then climb down from
the giddy heights of Thucydides and Gibbon and restore his moral
balance by comparing the acts of some of his puppets with those
of their less fortunate brethren who have dangled at the end of a
rope. If this war is to mean anything to posterity, the crime
against humanity must be judged in the future by the same rigid
standard as the crime against the person.

The individual criminals whose careers are given in this book
have been chosen from among their fellows for their pre-eminence
in character or achievement. Some of the cases, such as Butler,
Castaing and Holmes, are new to most English readers.

Charles Peace is the outstanding popular figure in nineteenth-
century crime. He is the type of the professional criminal who
makes crime a business and sets about it methodically and
persistently to the end. Here is a man, possessing many of those
qualities which go to make the successful man of action in all
walks of life, driven by circumstances to squander them on a
criminal career. Yet it is a curious circumstance that this
determined and ruthless burglar should have suffered for what
would be classed in France as a "crime passionel." There is more
than a possibility that a French jury would have ?? ing
circumstances in the murder of Dyson. ?? Peace is only another
instance of the wreck- ?? ong man's career by his passion for a

?? bert Butler we have the criminal by conviction, a conviction
which finds the ground ready prepared for its growth in the
natural laziness and idleness of the man's disposition. The
desire to acquire things by a short cut, without taking the
trouble to work for them honestly, is perhaps the most fruitful
of all sources of crime. Butler, a bit of a pedant, is pleased
to justify his conduct by reason and philosophy--he finds in the
acts of unscrupulous monarchs an analogy to his own attitude
towards life. What is good enough for Caesar Borgia is good
enough for Robert Butler. Like Borgia he comes to grief;
criminals succeed and criminals fail. In the case of historical
criminals their crimes are open; we can estimate the successes
and failures. With ordinary criminals, we know only those who
fail. The successful, the real geniuses in crime, those whose
guilt remains undiscovered, are for the most part unknown to us.
Occasionally in society a man or woman is pointed out as having
once murdered somebody or other, and at times, no doubt, with
truth. But the matter can only be referred to clandestinely;
they are gazed at with awe or curiosity, mute witnesses to their
own achievement. Some years ago James Payn, the novelist,
hazarded the reckoning that one person in every five hundred was
an undiscovered murderer. This gives us all a hope, almost a
certainty, that we may reckon one such person at least among our

[1] The author was one of three men discussing this subject in a
London club. They were able to name six persons of their various
acquaintance who were, or had been, suspected of being successful

Derues is remarkable for the extent of his social ambition,
the daring and impudent character of his attempts to gratify it,
the skill, the consummate hypocrisy with which he played on the
credulity of honest folk, and his flagrant employment of that
weapon known and recognised to-day in the most exalted spheres by
the expressive name of "bluff." He is remarkable, too, for his
mirth and high spirits, his genial buffoonery; the merry murderer
is a rare bird.

Professor Webster belongs to that order of criminal of which
Eugene Aram and the Rev. John Selby Watson are our English
examples, men of culture and studious habits who suddenly burst
on the astonished gaze of their fellowmen as murderers. The
exact process of mind by which these hitherto harmless citizens
are converted into assassins is to a great extent hidden from us.

Perhaps Webster's case is the clearest of the three. Here we
have a selfish, self-indulgent and spendthrift gentleman who has
landed himself in serious financial embarrassment, seeking by
murder to escape from an importunate and relentless creditor. He
has not, apparently, the moral courage to face the consequences
of his own weakness. He forgets the happiness of his home, the
love of those dear to him, in the desire to free himself from a
disgrace insignificent{sic} in comparison with that entailed by
committing the highest of all crimes. One would wish to believe
that Webster's deed was unpremeditated, the result of a sudden
gust of passion caused by his victim's acrimonious pursuit of his
debtor. But there are circumstances in the case which tell
powerfully against such a view. The character of the murderer
seems curiously contradictory; both cunning and simplicity mark
his proceedings; he makes a determined attempt to escape from the
horrors of his situation and shows at the same time a curious
insensibility to its real gravity. Webster was a man of refined
tastes and seemingly gentle character, loved by those near to
him, well liked by his friends.

The mystery that surrounds the real character of Eugene Aram is
greater, and we possess little or no means of solving it. From
what motive this silent, arrogant man, despising his ineffectual
wife, this reserved and moody scholar stooped to fraud and murder
the facts of the case help us little to determine. Was it the
hope of leaving the narrow surroundings of Knaresborough, his
tiresome belongings, his own poor way of life, and seeking a
wider field for the exercise of those gifts of scholarship which
he undoubtedly possessed that drove him to commit fraud in
company with Clark and Houseman, and then, with the help of the
latter, murder the unsuspecting Clark? The fact of his humble
origin makes his association with so low a ruffian as Houseman
the less remarkable. Vanity in all probability played a
considerable part in Aram's disposition. He would seem to have
thought himself a superior person, above the laws that bind
ordinary men. He showed at the end no consciousness of his
guilt. Being something of a philosopher, he had no doubt
constructed for himself a philosophy of life which served to
justify his own actions. He was a deist, believing in "one
almighty Being the God of Nature," to whom he recommended himself
at the last in the event of his "having done amiss." He
emphasised the fact that his life had been unpolluted and his
morals irreproachable. But his views as to the murder of Clark
he left unexpressed. He suggested as justification of it that
Clark had carried on an intrigue with his neglected wife, but he
never urged this circumstance in his defence, and beyond his own
statement there is no evidence of such a connection.

The Revd. John Selby Watson, headmaster of the Stockwell Grammar
School, at the age of sixty-five killed his wife in his
library one Sunday afternoon. Things had been going badly with
the unfortunate man. After more than twenty-five years' service
as headmaster of the school at a meagre salary of L400 a year,
he was about to be dismissed; the number of scholars had been
declining steadily and a change in the headmastership thought
necessary; there was no suggestion of his receiving any kind of
pension. The future for a man of his years was dark enough. The
author of several learned books, painstaking, scholarly, dull, he
could hope to make but little money from literary work. Under a
cold, reserved and silent exterior, Selby Watson concealed a
violence of temper which he sought diligently to repress. His
wife's temper was none of the best. Worried, depressed, hopeless
of his future, he in all probability killed his wife in a sudden
access of rage, provoked by some taunt or reproach on her part,
and then, instead of calling in a policeman and telling him what
he had done, made clumsy and ineffectual efforts to conceal his
crime. Medical opinion was divided as to his mental condition.
Those doctors called for the prosecution could find no trace of
insanity about him, those called for the defence said that he was
suffering from melancholia. The unhappy man would appear hardly
to have realised the gravity of his situation. To a friend who
visited him in prison he said: "Here's a man who can write
Latin, which the Bishop of Winchester would commend, shut up in a
place like this." Coming from a man who had spent all his life
buried in books and knowing little of the world the remark is not
so greatly to be wondered at. Profound scholars are apt to be
impatient of mundane things. Professor Webster showed a similar
want of appreciation of the circumstances of a person charged
with wilful murder. Selby Watson was convicted of murder and
sentenced to death. The sentence was afterwards commuted to
one of penal servitude for life, the Home Secretary of the day
showing by his decision that, though not satisfied of the
prisoner's insanity, he recognised certain extenuating
circumstances in his guilt.[2]

[2] Selby Watson was tried at the Central Criminal Court January,

In Castaing much ingenuity is shown in the conception of the
crime, but the man is weak and timid; he is not the stuff of
which the great criminal is made; Holmes is cast in the true
mould of the instinctive murderer. Castaing is a man of
sensibility, capable of domestic affection; Holmes completely
insensible to all feelings of humanity. Taking life is a mere
incident in the accomplishment of his schemes; men, women and
children are sacrificed with equal mercilessness to the necessary
end. A consummate liar and hypocrite, he has that strange power
of fascination over others, women in particular, which is often
independent altogether of moral or even physical attractiveness.
We are accustomed to look for a certain vastness, grandeur of
scale in the achievements of America. A study of American crime
will show that it does not disappoint us in this expectation.
The extent and audacity of the crimes of Holmes are proof of it.

To find a counterpart in imaginative literature to the complete
criminal of the Holmes type we must turn to the pages of
Shakespeare. In the number of his victims, the cruelty and
insensibility with which he attains his ends, his unblushing
hypocrisy, the fascination he can exercise at will over others,
the Richard III. of Shakespeare shows how clearly the poet
understood the instinctive criminal of real life. The Richard of
history was no doubt less instinctively and deliberately an
assassin than the Richard of Shakespeare. In the former we can
trace the gradual temptation to crime to which circumstances
provoke him. The murder of the Princes, if, as one writer
contends, it was not the work of Henry VII.--in which case that
monarch deserves to be hailed as one of the most consummate
criminals that ever breathed and the worthy father of a criminal
son--was no doubt forced to a certain extent on Richard by the
exigencies of his situation, one of those crimes to which bad men
are driven in order to secure the fruits of other crimes. But
the Richard of Shakespeare is no child of circumstance. He
espouses deliberately a career of crime, as deliberately as Peace
or Holmes or Butler; he sets out "determined to prove a villain,"
to be "subtle, false and treacherous," to employ to gain his ends
"stern murder in the dir'st degree." The character is sometimes
criticised as being overdrawn and unreal. It may not be true to
the Richard of history, but it is very true to crime, and to the
historical criminal of the Borgian or Prussian type, in which
fraud and violence are made part of a deliberate system of so-
called statecraft.

Shakespeare got nearer to what we may term the domestic as
opposed to the political criminal when he created Iago. In their
envy and dislike of their fellowmen, their contempt for humanity
in general, their callousness to the ordinary sympathies of human
nature, Robert Butler, Lacenaire, Ruloff are witnesses to the
poet's fidelity to criminal character in his drawing of the
Ancient. But there is a weakness in the character of Iago
regarded as a purely instinctive and malignant criminal; indeed
it is a weakness in the consistency of the play. On two
occasions Iago states explicitly that Othello is more than
suspected of having committed adultery with his wife, Emilia, and
that therefore he has a strong and justifiable motive for being
revenged on the Moor. The thought of it he describes as
"gnawing his inwards." Emilia's conversation with Desdemona
in the last act lends some colour to the correctness of Iago's
belief. If this belief be well-founded it must greatly modify
his character as a purely wanton and mischievous criminal, a
supreme villain, and lower correspondingly the character of
Othello as an honourable and high-minded man. If it be a morbid
suspicion, having no ground in fact, a mental obsession, then
Iago becomes abnormal and consequently more or less irre-

sponsible. But this suggestion of Emilia's faithlessness made in
the early part of the play is never followed up by the dramatist,
and the spectator is left in complete uncertainty as to whether
there be any truth or not in Iago's suspicion. If Othello has
played his Ancient false, that is an extenuating circumstance in
the otherwise extraordinary guilt of Iago, and would no doubt be
accorded to him as such, were he on trial before a French jury.

The most successful, and therefore perhaps the greatest, criminal
in Shakespeare is King Claudius of Denmark. His murder of his
brother by pouring a deadly poison into his ear while sleeping,
is so skilfully perpetrated as to leave no suspicion of foul
play. But for a supernatural intervention, a contingency against
which no murderer could be expected to have provided, the crime
of Claudius would never have been discovered. Smiling, jovial,
genial as M. Derues or Dr. Palmer, King Claudius might have gone
down to his grave in peace as the bluff hearty man of action,
while his introspective nephew would in all probability have
ended his days in the cloister, regarded with amiable contempt by
his bustling fellowmen. How Claudius got over the great dif-

ficulty of all poisoners, that of procuring the necessary poison
without detection, we are not told; by what means he distilled
the "juice of cursed hebenon"; how the strange appearance of
the late King's body, which "an instant tetter" had barked about
with "vile and loathsome crust," was explained to the multitude
we are left to imagine. There is no real evidence to show that
Queen Gertrude was her lover's accomplice in her husband's
murder. If that had been so, she would no doubt have been of
considerable assistance to Claudius in the preparation of the
crime. But in the absence of more definite proof we must assume
Claudius' murder of his brother to have been a solitary
achievement, skilfully carried out by one whose genial good-
fellowship and convivial habits gave the lie to any suggestion of
criminality. Whatever may have been his inward feelings of
remorse or self-reproach, Claudius masked them successfully from
the eyes of all. Hamlet's instinctive dislike of his uncle was
not shared by the members of the Danish court. The "witchcraft
of his wit," his "traitorous gifts," were powerful aids to
Claudius, not only in the seduction of his sister-in-law, but the
perpetration of secret murder.

The case of the murder of King Duncan of Scotland by Macbeth and
his wife belongs to a different class of crime. It is a striking
example of dual crime, four instances of which are given towards
the end of this book. An Italian advocate, Scipio Sighele, has
devoted a monograph to the subject of dual crime, in which he
examines a number of cases in which two persons have jointly
committed heinous crimes.[3] He finds that in couples of this
kind there is usually an incubus and a succubus, the one who
suggests the crime, the other on whom the suggestion works until
he or she becomes the accomplice or instrument of the stronger
will; "the one playing the Mephistophelian part of tempter,
preaching evil, urging to crime, the other allowing himself
to be overcome by his evil genius." In some cases these two
roles are clearly differentiated; it is easy, as in the case of
Iago and Othello, Cassius and Brutus, to say who prompted the
crime. In others the guilt seems equally divided and the
original suggestion of crime to spring from a mutual tendency
towards the adoption of such an expedient. In Macbeth and his
wife we have a perfect instance of the latter class. No sooner
have the witches prophesied that Macbeth shall be a king than the
"horrid image" of the suggestion to murder Duncan presents itself
to his mind, and, on returning to his wife, he answers her
question as to when Duncan is to leave their house by the
significant remark, "To-morrow--as he proposes." To Lady Macbeth
from the moment she has received her husband's letter telling of
the prophecy of the weird sisters, murder occurs as a means of
accomplishing their prediction. In the minds of Macbeth and his
wife the suggestion of murder is originally an auto-suggestion,
coming to them independently of each other as soon as they learn
from the witches that Macbeth is one day to be a king. To Banquo
a somewhat similar intimation is given, but no foul thought of
crime suggests itself for an instant to his loyal nature. What
Macbeth and his wife lack at first as thorough-going murderers is
that complete insensibility to taking human life that marks the
really ruthless assassin. Lady Macbeth has the stronger will of
the two for the commission of the deed. It is doubtful whether
without her help Macbeth would ever have undertaken it. But even
she, when her husband hesitates to strike, cannot bring herself
to murder the aged Duncan with her own hands because of his
resemblance as he sleeps to her father. It is only after a deal
of boggling and at serious risk of untimely interruption that the
two contrive to do the murder, and plaster with blood the
"surfeited grooms." In thus putting suspicion on the servants of
Duncan the assassins cunningly avert suspicion from themselves,
and Macbeth's killing of the unfortunate men in seeming indigna-
tion at the discovery of their crime is a master-stroke of
ingenuity. "Who," he asks in a splendid burst of feigned horror,
"can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious, loyal and natural in
a moment?" At the same time Lady Macbeth affects to swoon away
in the presence of so awful a crime. For the time all suspicion
of guilt, except in the mind of Banquo, is averted from the real
murderers. But, like so many criminals, Macbeth finds it
impossible to rest on his first success in crime. His
sensibility grows dulled; he "forgets the taste of fear"; the
murder of Banquo and his son is diabolically planned, and that is
soon followed by the outrageous slaughter of the wife and
children of Macduff. Ferri, the Italian writer on crime,
describes the psychical condition favourable to the commission of
murder as an absence of both moral repugnance to the crime itself
and the fear of the consequences following it. In the murder of
Duncan, it is the first of these two states of mind to which
Macbeth and his wife have only partially attained. The moral
repugnance stronger in the man has not been wholly lost by the
woman. But as soon as the crime is successfully accomplished,
this repugnance begins to wear off until the King and Queen are
able calmly and deliberately to contemplate those further crimes
necessary to their peace of mind. But now Macbeth, at first the
more compunctious of the two, has become the more ruthless; the
germ of crime, developed by suggestion, has spread through his
whole being; he has begun to acquire that indifference to human
suffering with which Richard III. and Iago were gifted from the
first. In both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth the germ of crime
was latent; they wanted only favourable circumstances to convert
them into one of those criminal couples who are the more
dangerous for the fact that the temptation to crime has come to
each spontaneously and grown and been fostered by mutual
understanding, an elective affinity for evil. Such couples are
frequent in the history of crime. Eyraud and Bompard, Mr. and
Mrs. Manning, Burke and Hare, the Peltzer brothers, Barre and
Lebiez, are instances of those collaborations in crime which find
their counterpart in history, literature, drama and business.
Antoninus and Aurelius, Ferdinand and Isabella, the De Goncourt
brothers, Besant and Rice, Gilbert and Sullivan, Swan and Edgar
leap to the memory.

[3] "Le Crime a Deux," by Scipio Sighele (translated from the
Italian), Lyons, 1893.

In the cases of Eyraud and Bompard, both man and woman are idle,
vicious criminals by instinct. They come together, lead an
abandoned life, sinking lower and lower in moral degradation. In
the hour of need, crime presents itself as a simple expedient for
which neither of them has any natural aversion. The repugnance
to evil, if they ever felt it, has long since disappeared from
their natures. The man is serious, the woman frivolous, but the
criminal tendency in both cases is the same; each performs his or
her part in the crime with characteristic aptitude. Mrs. Manning
was a creature of much firmer character than her husband, a woman
of strong passions, a redoubtable murderess. Without her
dominating force Manning might never have committed murder. But
he was a criminal before the crime, more than suspected as a
railway official of complicity in a considerable train robbery;
in his case the suggestion of murder involved only the taking of
a step farther in a criminal career. Manning suffered from
nerves almost as badly as Macbeth; after the deed he sought to
drown the prickings of terror and remorse by heavy drinking
Mrs. Manning was never troubled with any feelings of this kind;
after the murder of O'Connor the gratification of her sexual
passion seemed uppermost in her mind; and she met the
consequences of her crime fearlessly. Burke and Hare were a
couple of ruffians, tempted by what must have seemed almost
fabulous wealth to men of their wretched poverty to commit a
series of cruel murders. Hare, with his queer, Mephistophelian
countenance, was the wickeder of the two. Burke became haunted
as time went on and flew to drink to banish horror, but Hare
would seem to have been free from such "compunctious visitings of
Nature." He kept his head and turned King's evidence.

In the case of the Peltzer brothers we have a man who is of good
social position, falling desperately in love with the wife of a
successful barrister. The wife, though unhappy in her domestic
life, refuses to become her lover's mistress; marriage is the
only way to secure her. So Armand Peltzer plots to murder the
husband. For this purpose he calls in the help of a brother, a
ne'er-do-well, who has left his native country under a cloud. He
sends for this dubious person to Europe, and there between them
they plan the murder of the inconvenient husband. Though the
idea of the crime comes from the one brother, the other receives
the idea without repugnance and enters wholeheartedly into the
commission of the murder. The ascendency of the one is evident,
but he knows his man, is sure that he will have no difficulty in
securing the other's co-operation in his felonious purpose.
Armand Peltzer should have lived in the Italy of the Renaissance.

The crime was cunningly devised, and methodically and
successfully accomplished. Only an over-anxiety to secure the
fruits of it led to its detection. Barre and Lebiez are a
perfect criminal couple, both young men of good education,
trained to better things, but the one idle, greedy and vicious,
the other cynical, indifferent, inclined at best to a lazy
sentimentalism. Barre is a needy stockbroker at the end of
his tether, desperate to find an expedient for raising the wind,
Lebiez a medical student who writes morbid verses to a skull and
lectures on Darwinism. To Barre belongs the original
suggestion to murder an old woman who sells milk and is reputed
to have savings. But his friend and former schoolfellow, Lebiez,
accepts the suggestion placidly, and reconciles himself to the
murder of an unnecessary old woman by the same argument as that
used by Raskolnikoff in "Crime and Punishment" to justify the
killing of his victim.

In all the cases here quoted the couples are essentially criminal
couples. From whichever of the two comes the first suggestion of
crime, it falls on soil already prepared to receive it; the
response to the suggestion is immediate. In degree of guilt
there is little or nothing to choose between them. But the more
interesting instances of dual crime are those in which one
innocent hitherto of crime, to whom it is morally repugnant, is
persuaded by another to the commission of a criminal act, as
Cassius persuades Brutus; Iago, Othello. Cassius is a criminal
by instinct. Placed in a social position which removes him from
the temptation to ordinary crime, circumstances combine in his
case to bring out the criminal tendency and give it free play in
the projected murder of Caesar. Sour, envious, unscrupulous,
the suggestion to kill Caesar under the guise of the public
weal is in reality a gratification to Cassius of his own ignoble
instincts, and the deliberate unscrupulousness with which he
seeks to corrupt the honourable metal, seduce the noble mind of
his friend, is typical of the man's innate dishonesty. Cassius
belongs to that particular type of the envious nature which
Shakespeare is fond of exemplifying with more or less degree
of villainy in such characters as Iago, Edmund, and Don John, of
which Robert Butler, whose career is given in this book, is a
living instance. Cassius on public grounds tempts Brutus to
crime as subtly as on private grounds Iago tempts Othello, and
with something of the same malicious satisfaction; the soliloquy
of Cassius at the end of the second scene of the first act is
that of a bad man and a false friend. Indeed, the quarrel
between Brutus and Cassius after the murder of Caesar loses
much of its sincerity and pathos unless we can forget for the
moment the real character of Cassius. But the interest in the
cases of Cassius and Brutus, Iago and Othello, lies not so much
in the nature of the prompter of the crime. The instances in
which an honest, honourable man is by force of another's
suggestion converted into a criminal are psychologically
remarkable. It is to be expected that we should look in the
annals of real crime for confirmation of the truth to life of
stories such as these, told in fiction or drama.

The strongest influence, under which the naturally non-criminal
person may be tempted in violation of instinct and better nature
to the commission of a crime, is that of love or passion.
Examples of this kind are frequent in the annals of crime. There
is none more striking than that of the Widow Gras and Natalis
Gaudry. Here a man, brave, honest, of hitherto irreproachable
character, is tempted by a woman to commit the most cruel and
infamous of crimes. At first he repels the suggestion; at last,
when his senses have been excited, his passion inflamed by the
cunning of the woman, as the jealous passion of Othello is played
on and excited by Iago, the patriotism of Brutus artfully
exploited by Cassius, he yields to the repeated solicitation and
does a deed in every way repugnant to his normal character.
Nothing seems so blinding in its effect on the moral sense as
passion. It obscures all sense of humour, proportion, congruity;
the murder of the man or woman who stands in the way of its full
enjoyment becomes an act of inverted justice to the perpetrators;
they reconcile themselves to it by the most perverse reasoning
until they come to regard it as an act, in which they may
justifiably invoke the help of God; eroticism and religion are
often jumbled up together in this strange medley of conflicting

A woman, urging her lover to the murder of her husband, writes of
the roses that are to deck the path of the lovers as soon as the
crime is accomplished; she sends him flowers and in the same
letter asks if he has got the necessary cartridges. Her husband
has been ill; she hopes that it is God helping them to the
desired end; she burns a candle on the altar of a saint for the
success of their murderous plan.[4] A jealous husband setting
out to kill his wife carries in his pockets, beside a knife and a
service revolver, a rosary, a medal of the Virgin and a holy
image.[5] Marie Boyer in the blindness of her passion and
jealousy believes God to be helping her to get rid of her mother.

[4] Case of Garnier and the woman Aveline, 1884.
[5] Case of the Comte de Cornulier: "Un An de Justice," Henri
Varennes, 1901.

A lover persuades the wife to get rid of her husband. For a
whole year he instils the poison into her soul until she can
struggle no longer against the obsession; he offers to do the
deed, but she writes that she would rather suffer all the risks
and consequences herself. "How many times," she writes, "have I
wished to go away, leave home, but it meant leaving my children,
losing them for ever . . that made my lover jealous, he believed
that I could not bring myself to leave my husband. But if my
husband were out of the way then I would keep my children, and my
lover would see in my crime a striking proof of my devotion." A
curious farrago of slavish passion, motherly love and murder.[6]

[6] Case of Madame Weiss and the engineer Roques. If I may be
permitted the reference, there is an account of this case and
that of Barre and Lebiez in my book "French Criminals of the
Nineteenth Century."

There are some women such as Marie Boyer and Gabrielle Fenayrou,
who may be described as passively criminal, chameleon-like,
taking colour from their surroundings. By the force of a man's
influence they commit a dreadful crime, in the one instance it is
matricide, in the other the murder of a former lover, but neither
of the women is profoundly vicious or criminal in her instincts.
In prison they become exemplary, their crime a thing of the past.

Gabrielle Fenayrou during her imprisonment, having won the
confidence of the religious sisters in charge of the convicts, is
appointed head of one of the workshops. Marie Boyer is so
contrite, exemplary in her behaviour that she is released after
fifteen years' imprisonment. In some ways, perhaps, these
malleable types of women, "soft paste" as one authority has
described them, "effacees" in the words of another, are the
most dangerous material of all for the commission of crime, their
obedience is so complete, so cold and relentless.

There are cases into which no element of passion enters, in which
one will stronger than the other can so influence, so dominate
the weaker as to persuade the individual against his or her
better inclination to an act of crime, just as in the relations
of ordinary life we see a man or woman led and controlled for
good or ill by one stronger than themselves. There is no more
extraordinary instance of this than the case of Catherine
Hayes, immortalised by Thackeray, which occurred as long ago as
the year 1726. This singular woman by her artful insinuations,
by representing her husband as an atheist and a murderer,
persuaded a young man of the name of Wood, of hitherto exemplary
character, to assist her in murdering him. It was unquestionably
the sinister influence of Captain Cranstoun that later in the
same century persuaded the respectable Miss Mary Blandy to the
murder of her father. The assassin of an old woman in Paris
recounts thus the arguments used by his mistress to induce him to
commit the crime: "She began by telling me about the money and
jewellery in the old woman's possession which could no longer be
of any use to her"--the argument of Raskolnikoff--"I resisted,
but next day she began again, pointing out that one killed people
in war, which was not considered a crime, and therefore one
should not be afraid to kill a miserable old woman. I urged that
the old woman had done us no harm, and that I did not see why one
should kill her; she reproached me for my weakness and said that,
had she been strong enough, she would soon have done this
abominable deed herself. `God,' she added, `will forgive us
because He knows how poor we are.'" When he came to do the
murder, this determined woman plied her lover with brandy and put
rouge on his cheeks lest his pallor should betray him.[7]

[7] Case of Albert and the woman Lavoitte, Paris, 1877.

There are occasions when those feelings of compunction which
troubled Macbeth and his wife are wellnigh proof against the
utmost powers of suggestion, or, as in the case of Hubert and
Prince Arthur, compel the criminal to desist from his enterprise.

A man desires to get rid of his father and mother-in-law. By
means of threats, reproaches and inducements he persuades another
man to commit the crime. Taking a gun, the latter sets out
to do the deed; but he realises the heinousness of it and turns
back. "The next day," he says, "at four o'clock in the morning I
started again. I passed the village church. At the sight of the
place where I had celebrated my first communion I was filled with
remorse. I knelt down and prayed to God to make me good. But
some unknown force urged me to the crime. I started again--ten
times I turned back, but the more I hesitated the stronger was
the desire to go on." At length the faltering assassin arrived
at the house, and in his painful anxiety of mind shot a servant
instead of the intended victims.[8]

[8] Case of Porcher and Hardouin cited in Despine. "Psychologie

In a town in Austria there dwelt a happy and contented married
couple, poor and hard-working. A charming young lady, a rich
relation and an orphan, comes to live with them. She brings to
their modest home wealth and comfort. But as time goes on, it is
likely that the young lady will fall in love and marry. What
then? Her hosts will have to return to their original poverty.
The idea of how to secure to himself the advantages of his young
kinswoman's fortune takes possession of the husband's mind. He
revolves all manner of means, and gradually murder presents
itself as the only way. The horrid suggestion fixes itself in
his mind, and at last he communicates it to his wife. At first
she resists, then yields to the temptation. The plan is
ingenious. The wife is to disappear to America and be given out
as dead. The husband will then marry his attractive kinswoman,
persuade her to make a will in his favour, poison her and, the
fortune secured, rejoin his wife. As if to help this cruel plan,
the young lady has developed a sentimental affection for her
relative. The wife goes to America, the husband marries the
young lady. He commences to poison her, but, in the presence of
her youth, beauty and affection for him, relents, hesitates to
commit a possibly unnecessary crime. He decides to forget and
ignore utterly his wife who is waiting patiently in America. A
year passes. The expectant wife gets no sign of her husband's
existence. She comes back to Europe, visits under a false name
the town in which her faithless husband and his bride are living,
discovers the truth and divulges the intended crime to the
authorities. A sentence of penal servitude for life rewards this
perfidious criminal.[9]

[9] Case of the Scheffer couple at Linz, cited by Sighele.

Derues said to a man who was looking at a picture in the Palais
de Justice: "Why study copies of Nature when you can look at
such a remarkable original as I?" A judge once told the present
writer that he did not go often to the theatre because none of
the dramas which he saw on the stage, seemed to him equal in in-

tensity to those of real life which came before him in the course
of his duties. The saying that truth is stranger than fiction
applies more forcibly to crime than to anything else. But the
ordinary man and woman prefer to take their crime romanticised,
as it is administered to them in novel or play. The true stories
told in this book represent the raw material from which works of
art have been and may be yet created. The murder of Mr. Arden of
Faversham inspired an Elizabethan tragedy attributed by some
critics to Shakespeare. The Peltzer trial helped to inspire Paul
Bourget's remarkable novel, "Andre Cornelis." To Italian crime
we owe Shelley's "Cenci" and Browning's "The Ring and the Book."
Mrs. Manning was the original of the maid Hortense in "Bleak
House." Jonathan Wild, Eugene Aram, Deacon Brodie, Thomas
Griffiths Wainewright have all been made the heroes of books or
plays of varying merit. But it is not only in its stories
that crime has served to inspire romance. In the investigation
of crime, especially on the broader lines of Continental
procedure, we can track to the source the springs of conduct and
character, and come near to solving as far as is humanly possible
the mystery of human motive. There is always and must be in
every crime a terra incognita which, unless we could enter into
the very soul of a man, we cannot hope to reach. Thus far may we
go, no farther. It is rarely indeed that a man lays bare his
whole soul, and even when he does we can never be quite sure that
he is telling us all the truth, that he is not keeping back some
vital secret. It is no doubt better so, and that it should be
left to the writer of imagination to picture for us a man's
inmost soul. The study of crime will help him to that end. It
will help us also in the ethical appreciation of good and evil in
individual conduct, about which our notions have been somewhat
obscured by too narrow a definition of what constitutes crime.
These themes, touched on but lightly and imperfectly in these
pages, are rich in human interest.

And so it is hardly a matter for surprise that the poet and the
philosopher sat up late one night talking about murders.

The Life of Charles Peace

"Charles Peace, or the Adventures of a Notorious Burglar," a
large volume published at the time of his death, gives a full and
accurate account of the career of Peace side by side with a story
of the Family Herald type, of which he is made the hero. "The
Life and Trial of Charles Peace" (Sheffield, 1879), "The Romantic
Career of a Great Criminal" (by N. Kynaston Gaskell, London
1906), and "The Master Criminal," published recently in London
give useful information. I have also consulted some of the
newspapers of the time. There is a delightful sketch of Peace in
Mr. Charles Whibley's "Book of Scoundrels."



Charles Peace told a clergyman who had an interview with him in
prison shortly before his execution that he hoped that, after he
was gone, he would be entirely forgotten by everybody and his
name never mentioned again.

Posterity, in calling over its muster-roll of famous men, has
refused to fulfil this pious hope, and Charley Peace stands out
as the one great personality among English criminals of the
nineteenth century. In Charley Peace alone is revived that good-
humoured popularity which in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries fell to the lot of Claude Duval, Dick Turpin and Jack
Sheppard. But Peace has one grievance against posterity; he has
endured one humiliation which these heroes have been spared. His
name has been omitted from the pages of the "Dictionary of
National Biography." From Duval, in the seventeenth, down to
the Mannings, Palmer, Arthur Orton, Morgan and Kelly, the
bushrangers, in the nineteenth century, many a criminal, far less
notable or individual than Charley Peace, finds his or her place
in that great record of the past achievements of our countrymen.
Room has been denied to perhaps the greatest and most naturally
gifted criminal England has produced, one whose character is all
the more remarkable for its modesty, its entire freedom from that
vanity and vain-gloriousness so common among his class.

The only possible reason that can be suggested for so singular an
omission is the fact that in the strict order of alphabetical
succession the biography of Charles Peace would have followed
immediately on that of George Peabody. It may have been thought
that the contrast was too glaring, that even the exigencies of
national biography had no right to make the philanthropist Pea-

body rub shoulders with man's constant enemy, Peace. To the
memory of Peace these few pages can make but poor amends for the
supreme injustice, but, by giving a particular and authentic
account of his career, they may serve as material for the
correction of this grave omission should remorse overtake those
responsible for so undeserved a slur on one of the most unruly of
England's famous sons.

From the literary point of view Peace was unfortunate even in the
hour of his notoriety. In the very year of his trial and
execution, the Annual Register, seized with a fit of
respectability from which it has never recovered, announced that
"the appetite for the strange and marvellous" having considerably
abated since the year 1757 when the Register was first
published, its "Chronicle," hitherto a rich mine of extraordinary
and sensational occurrences, would become henceforth a mere diary
of important events. Simultaneously with the curtailment of
its "Chronicle," it ceased to give those excellent summaries of
celebrated trials which for many years had been a feature of its
volumes. The question whether "the appetite for the strange and
marvellous" has abated in an appreciable degree with the passing
of time and is not perhaps keener than it ever was, is a
debatable one. But it is undeniable that the present volumes of
the Annual Register have fallen away dismally from the variety
and human interest of their predecessors. Of the trial and
execution of Peace the volume for 1879 gives but the barest

Charles Peace was not born of criminal parents. His father, John
Peace, began work as a collier at Burton-on-Trent. Losing his
leg in an accident, he joined Wombwell's wild beast show and soon
acquired some reputation for his remarkable powers as a tamer of
wild animals. About this time Peace married at Rotherham the
daughter of a surgeon in the Navy. On the death of a favourite
son to whom he had imparted successfully the secrets of his
wonderful control over wild beasts of every kind, Mr. Peace gave
up lion-taming and settled in Sheffield as a shoemaker.

It was at Sheffield, in the county of Yorkshire, already famous
in the annals of crime as the county of John Nevison and Eugene
Aram, that Peace first saw the light. On May 14, 1832, there was
born to John Peace in Sheffield a son, Charles, the youngest of
his family of four. When he grew to boyhood Charles was sent to
two schools near Sheffield, where he soon made himself
remarkable, not as a scholar, but for his singular aptitude in a
variety of other employments such as making paper models, taming
cats, constructing a peep-show, and throwing up a heavy ball of
shot which he would catch in a leather socket fixed on to his

The course of many famous men's lives has been changed by
what appeared at the time to be an unhappy accident. Who knows
what may have been the effect on Charles Peace's subsequent
career of an accident he met with in 1846 at some rolling mills,
in which he was employed? A piece of red hot steel entered his
leg just below the knee, and after eighteen months spent in the
Sheffield Infirmary he left it a cripple for life. About this
time Peace's father died. Peace and his family were fond of
commemorating events of this kind in suitable verse; the death of
John Peace was celebrated in the following lines:

"In peace he lived;
In peace he died;
Life was our desire,
But God denied."

Of the circumstances that first led Peace to the commission of
crime we know nothing. How far enforced idleness, bad
companionship, according to some accounts the influence of a
criminally disposed mother, how far his own daring and
adventurous temper provoked him to robbery, cannot be determined
accurately. His first exploit was the stealing of an old
gentleman's gold watch, but he soon passed to greater things. On
October 26, 1851, the house of a lady living in Sheffield was
broken into and a quantity of her property stolen. Some of it
was found in the possession of Peace, and he was arrested. Owing
no doubt to a good character for honesty given him by his late
employer Peace was let off lightly with a month's imprisonment.

After his release Peace would seem to have devoted himself for a
time to music, for which he had always a genuine passion. He
taught himself to play tunes on a violin with one string, and at
entertainments which he attended was described as "the modern
Paganini." In later life when he had attained to wealth and
prosperity the violin and the harmonium were a constant source of
solace during long winter evenings in Greenwich and Peckham. But
playing a one-stringed violin at fairs and public-houses could
not be more than a relaxation to a man of Peace's active temper,
who had once tasted what many of those who have practised it,
describe as the fascination of that particular form of nocturnal
adventure known by the unsympathetic name of burglary. Among the
exponents of the art Peace was at this time known as a "portico-
thief," that is to say one who contrived to get himself on to the
portico of a house and from that point of vantage make his
entrance into the premises. During the year 1854 the houses of a
number of well-to-do residents in and about Sheffield were
entered after this fashion, and much valuable property stolen.
Peace was arrested, and with him a girl with whom he was keeping
company, and his sister, Mary Ann, at that time Mrs. Neil. On
October 20, 1854, Peace was sentenced at Doncaster Sessions to
four years' penal servitude, and the ladies who had been found in
possession of the stolen property to six months apiece. Mrs.
Neil did not long survive her misfortune. She would seem to have
been married to a brutal and drunken husband, whom Peace thrashed
on more than one occasion for ill-treating his sister. After one
of these punishments Neil set a bull-dog on to Peace; but Peace
caught the dog by the lower jaw and punched it into a state of
coma. The death in 1859 of the unhappy Mrs. Neil was lamented in
appropriate verse, probably the work of her brother:

"I was so long with pain opprest
That wore my strength away;
It made me long for endless rest
Which never can decay."

On coming out of prison in 1858, Peace resumed his fiddling, but
it was now no more than a musical accompaniment to burglary.
This had become the serious business of Peace's life, to be
pursued, should necessity arise, even to the peril of men's
lives. His operations extended beyond the bounds of his native
town. The house of a lady living in Manchester was broken into
on the night of August 11, 1859, and a substantial booty carried
away. This was found the following day concealed in a hole in a
field. The police left it undisturbed and awaited the return of
the robber. When Peace and another man arrived to carry it away,
the officers sprang out on them. Peace, after nearly killing the
officer who was trying to arrest him, would have made his escape,
had not other policemen come to the rescue. For this crime Peace
was sentenced to six years' penal servitude, in spite of a loyal
act of perjury on the part of his aged mother, who came all the
way from Sheffield to swear that he had been with her there on
the night of the crime.

He was released from prison again in 1864, and returned to
Sheffield. Things did not prosper with him there, and he went
back to Manchester. In 1866 he was caught in the act of burglary
at a house in Lower Broughton. He admitted that at the time he
was fuddled with whisky; otherwise his capture would have been
more difficult and dangerous. Usually a temperate man, Peace
realised on this occasion the value of sobriety even in burglary,
and never after allowed intemperance to interfere with his
success. A sentence of eight years' penal servitude at
Manchester Assizes on December 3, 1866, emphasised this wholesome

Whilst serving this sentence Peace emulated Jack Sheppard in a
daring attempt to escape from Wakefield prison. Being engaged on
some repairs, he smuggled a small ladder into his cell. With
the help of a saw made out of some tin, he cut a hole through the
ceiling of the cell, and was about to get out on to the roof when
a warder came in. As the latter attempted to seize the ladder
Peace knocked him down, ran along the wall of the prison, fell
off on the inside owing to the looseness of the bricks, slipped
into the governor's house where he changed his clothes, and
there, for an hour and a half, waited for an opportunity to
escape. This was denied him, and he was recaptured in the
governor's bedroom. The prisons at Millbank, Chatham and
Gibraltar were all visited by Peace before his final release in
1872. At Chatham he is said to have taken part in a mutiny and
been flogged for his pains.

On his liberation from prison Peace rejoined his family in
Sheffield. He was now a husband and father. In 1859 he had
taken to wife a widow of the name of Hannah Ward. Mrs. Ward was
already the mother of a son, Willie. Shortly after her marriage
with Peace she gave birth to a daughter, and during his fourth
term of imprisonment presented him with a son. Peace never saw
this child, who died before his release. But, true to the family
custom, on his return from prison the untimely death of little
"John Charles" was commemorated by the printing of a funeral card
in his honour, bearing the following sanguine verses:

"Farewell, my dear son, by us all beloved,
Thou art gone to dwell in the mansions above.
In the bosom of Jesus Who sits on the throne
Thou art anxiously waiting to welcome us home."

Whether from a desire not to disappoint little John Charles, for
some reason or other the next two or three years of Peace's
career would seem to have been spent in an endeavour to earn an
honest living by picture framing, a trade in which Peace,
with that skill he displayed in whatever he turned his hand to,
was remarkably proficient. In Sheffield his children attended
the Sunday School. Though he never went to church himself, he
was an avowed believer in both God and the devil. As he said,
however, that he feared neither, no great reliance could be
placed on the restraining force of such a belief to a man of
Peace's daring spirit. There was only too good reason to fear
that little John Charles' period of waiting would be a prolonged

In 1875 Peace moved from Sheffield itself to the suburb of
Darnall. Here Peace made the acquaintance--a fatal acquaintance,
as it turned out--of a Mr. and Mrs. Dyson. Dyson was a civil
engineer. He had spent some years in America, where, in 1866, he

Toward the end of 1873 or the beginning of 1874, he came to
England with his wife, and obtained a post on the North Eastern
Railway. He was a tall man, over six feet in height, extremely
thin, and gentlemanly in his bearing. His engagement with the
North Eastern Railway terminated abruptly owing to Dyson's
failing to appear at a station to which he had been sent on duty.

It was believed at the time by those associated with Dyson that
this unlooked-for dereliction of duty had its cause in domestic
trouble. Since the year 1875, the year in which Peace came to
Darnall, the domestic peace of Mr. Dyson had been rudely
disturbed by this same ugly little picture-framer who lived a few
doors away from the Dysons' house. Peace had got to know the
Dysons, first as a tradesman, then as a friend. To what degree
of intimacy he attained with Mrs. Dyson it is difficult to
determine. In that lies the mystery of the case Mrs. Dyson is
described as an attractive woman, "buxom and blooming"; she was
dark-haired, and about twenty-five years of age. In an
interview with the Vicar of Darnall a few days before his
execution, Peace asserted positively that Mrs. Dyson had been his
mistress. Mrs. Dyson as strenuously denied the fact. There was
no question that on one occasion Peace and Mrs. Dyson had been
photographed together, that he had given her a ring, and that he
had been in the habit of going to music halls and public-houses
with Mrs. Dyson, who was a woman of intemperate habits.

Peace had introduced Mrs. Dyson to his wife and daughter, and on
one occasion was said to have taken her to his mother's house,
much to the old lady's indignation. If there were not many
instances of ugly men who have been notably successful with
women, one might doubt the likelihood of Mrs. Dyson falling a
victim to the charms of Charles Peace. But Peace, for all his
ugliness, could be wonderfully ingratiating when he chose.
According to Mrs. Dyson, Peace was a demon, "beyond the power of
even a Shakespeare to paint," who persecuted her with his
attentions, and, when he found them rejected, devoted all his
malignant energies to making the lives of her husband and herself
unbearable. According to Peace's story he was a slighted lover
who had been treated by Mrs. Dyson with contumely and

Whether to put a stop to his wife's intimacy with Peace, or to
protect himself against the latter's wanton persecution, sometime
about the end of June, 1876, Dyson threw over into the garden of
Peace's house a card, on which was written: "Charles Peace is
requested not to interfere with my family." On July 1 Peace met
Mr. Dyson in the street, and tried to trip him up. The same
night he came up to Mrs. Dyson, who was talking with some
friends, and threatened in coarse and violent language to blow
out her brains and those of her husband. In consequence of
these incidents Mr. Dyson took out a summons against Peace, for
whose apprehension a warrant was issued. To avoid the
consequences of this last step Peace left Darnall for Hull, where
he opened an eating-shop, presided over by Mrs. Peace.

But he himself was not idle. From Hull he went to Manchester on
business, and in Manchester he committed his first murder.
Entering the grounds of a gentleman's home at Whalley Range,
about midnight on August 1, he was seen by two policemen. One of
them, Constable Cock, intercepted him as he was trying to escape.

Peace took out his revolver and warned Cock to stand back. The
policeman came on. Peace fired, but deliberately wide of him.
Cock, undismayed, drew out his truncheon, and made for the
burglar. Peace, desperate, determined not to be caught, fired
again, this time fatally. Cock's comrade heard the shots, but
before he could reach the side of the dying man, Peace had made
off. He returned to Hull, and there learned shortly after, to
his intense relief, that two brothers, John and William Habron,
living near the scene of the murder, had been arrested and
charged with the killing of Constable Cock.

If the Dysons thought that they had seen the last of Peace, they
were soon to be convinced to the contrary. Peace had not
forgotten his friends at Darnall. By some means or other he was
kept informed of all their doings, and on one occasion was seen
by Mrs. Dyson lurking near her home. To get away from him the
Dysons determined to leave Darnall. They took a house at Banner
Cross, another suburb of Sheffield, and on October 29 moved into
their new home. One of the first persons Mrs. Dyson saw on
arriving at Banner Cross was Peace himself. "You see," he said,
"I am here to annoy you, and I'll annoy you wherever you go."
Later, Peace and a friend passed Mr. Dyson in the street.
Peace took out his revolver. "If he offers to come near me,"
said he, "I will make him stand back." But Mr. Dyson took no
notice of Peace and passed on. He had another month to live.

Whatever the other motives of Peace may have been--unreasoning
passion, spite, jealousy, or revenge it must not be forgotten
that Dyson, by procuring a warrant against Peace, had driven him
from his home in Sheffield. This Peace resented bitterly.
According to the statements of many witnesses, he was at this
time in a state of constant irritation and excitement on the
Dyson's account. He struck his daughter because she alluded in a
way he did not like to his relations with Mrs. Dyson. Peace
always believed in corporal chastisement as a means of keeping
order at home. Pleasant and entertaining as he could be, he was
feared. It was very dangerous to incur his resentment. "Be
sure," said his wife, "you do nothing to offend our Charley, or
you will suffer for it." Dyson beyond a doubt had offended "our
Charley." But for the moment Peace was interested more
immediately in the fate of John and William Habron, who were
about to stand their trial for the murder of Constable Cock at
Whalley Range.

The trial commenced at the Manchester Assizes before Mr. Justice
(now Lord) Lindley on Monday, November 27. John Habron was

The case against William Habron depended to a great extent on the
fact that he, as well as his brother, had been heard to threaten
to "do for" the murdered man, to shoot the "little bobby." Cock
was a zealous young officer of twenty-three years of age, rather
too eager perhaps in the discharge of his duty. In July of 1876
he had taken out summonses against John and William Habron, young
fellows who had been several years in the employment of a
nurseryman in Whalley Range, for being drunk and disorderly. On
July 27 William was fined five shillings, and on August 1, the
day of Cock's murder, John had been fined half a sovereign.
Between these two dates the Habrons had been heard to threaten to
"do for" Cock if he were not more careful. Other facts relied
upon by the prosecution were that William Habron had inquired
from a gunsmith the price of some cartridges a day or two before
the murder; that two cartridge percussion caps had been found in
the pocket of a waistcoat given to William Habron by his
employer, who swore that they could not have been there while it
was in his possession; that the other constable on duty with Cock
stated that a man he had seen lurking near the house about twelve
o'clock on the night of the murder appeared to be William
Habron's age, height and complexion, and resembled him in general
appearance; and that the boot on Habron's left foot, which was
"wet and sludgy" at the time of his arrest, corresponded in
certain respects with the footprints of the murderer. The
prisoner did not help himself by an ineffective attempt to prove
an alibi. The Judge was clearly not impressed by the strength of
the case for the prosecution. He pointed out to the jury that
neither the evidence of identification nor that of the footprint
went very far. As to the latter, what evidence was there to show
that it had been made on the night of the murder? If it had been
made the day before, then the defence had proved that it could
not have been Habron's. He called their attention to the facts
that Habron bore a good character, that, when arrested on the
night of the murder, he was in bed, and that no firearms had been
traced to him. In spite, however, of the summing-up the jury
convicted William Habron, but recommended him to mercy. The
Judge without comment sentenced him to death. The
Manchester Guardian expressed its entire concurrence with the
verdict of the jury. "Few persons," it wrote, "will be found to
dispute the justice of the conclusions reached." However, a few
days later it opened its columns to a number of letters
protesting against the unsatisfactory nature of the conviction.
On December 6 a meeting of some forty gentlemen was held, at
which it was resolved to petition Mr. Cross, the Home Secretary,
to reconsider the sentence. Two days before the day of execution
Habron was granted a respite, and later his sentence commuted to
one of penal servitude for life. And so a tragic and irrevocable
miscarriage of justice was happily averted.

Peace liked attending trials. The fact that in Habron's case he
was the real murderer would seem to have made him the more eager
not to miss so unique an experience. Accordingly he went from
Hull to Manchester, and was present in court during the two days
that the trial lasted. No sooner had he heard the innocent man
condemned to death than he left Manchester for Sheffield--now for
all he knew a double murderer.

It is a question whether, on the night of November 28, Peace met
Mrs. Dyson at an inn in one of the suburbs of Sheffield. In any
case, the next morning, Wednesday, the 29th, to his mother's
surprise Peace walked into her house. He said that he had come
to Sheffield for the fair. The afternoon of that day Peace spent
in a public-house at Ecclesall, entertaining the customers by
playing tunes on a poker suspended from a piece of strong string,
from which he made music by beating it with a short stick. The
musician was rewarded by drinks. It took very little drink to
excite Peace. There was dancing, the fun grew fast and furious,
as the strange musician beat out tune after tune on his fantastic

At six o'clock the same evening a thin, grey-haired,
insignificant-looking man in an evident state of unusual
excitement called to see the Rev. Mr. Newman, Vicar of Ecclesall,
near Banner Cross. Some five weeks before, this insignificant-
looking man had visited Mr. Newman, and made certain statements
in regard to the character of a Mr. and Mrs. Dyson who had come
to live in the parish. The vicar had asked for proof of these
statements. These proofs his visitor now produced. They
consisted of a number of calling cards and photographs, some of
them alleged to be in the handwriting of Mrs. Dyson, and showing
her intimacy with Peace. The man made what purported to be a
confession to Mr. Newman. Dyson, he said, had become jealous of
him, whereupon Peace had suggested to Mrs. Dyson that they should
give her husband something to be jealous about. Out of this
proposal their intimacy had sprung. Peace spoke of Mrs. Dyson in
terms of forgiveness, but his wrath against Dyson was extreme.
He complained bitterly that by taking proceedings against him,
Dyson had driven him to break up his home and become a fugitive
in the land. He should follow the Dysons, he said, wherever they
might go; he believed that they were at that moment intending to
take further proceedings against him. As he left, Peace said
that he should not go and see the Dysons that night, but would
call on a friend of his, Gregory, who lived next door to them in
Banner Cross Terrace. It was now about a quarter to seven.

Peace went to Gregory's house, but his friend was not at home.
The lure of the Dysons was irresistible. A little after eight
o'clock Peace was watching the house from a passage-way that led
up to the backs of the houses on the terrace. He saw Mrs. Dyson
come out of the back door, and go to an outhouse some few yards
distant. He waited. As soon as she opened the door to come
out, Mrs. Dyson found herself confronted by Peace, holding his
revolver in his hand. "Speak," he said, "or I'll fire." Mrs.
Dyson in terror went back. In the meantime Dyson, hearing the
disturbance, came quickly into the yard. Peace made for the
passage. Dyson followed him. Peace fired once, the shot
striking the lintel of the passage doorway. Dyson undaunted,
still pursued. Then Peace, according to his custom, fired a
second time, and Dyson fell, shot through the temple. Mrs.
Dyson, who had come into the yard again on hearing the first
shot, rushed to her husband's side, calling out: "Murder! You
villain! You have shot my husband." Two hours later Dyson was

After firing the second shot Peace had hurried down; the passage
into the roadway. He stood there hesitating a moment, until the
cries of Mrs. Dyson warned him of his danger. He crossed the
road, climbed a wall, and made his way back to Sheffield. There
he saw his mother and brother, told them that he had shot Mr.
Dyson, and bade them a hasty good-bye. He then walked to At-

tercliffe Railway Station, and took a ticket for Beverley.
Something suspicious in the manner of the booking-clerk made him
change his place of destination. Instead of going to Beverley
that night he got out of the train at Normanton and went on to
York. He spent the remainder of the night in the station yard.
He took the first train in the morning for Beverley, and from
there travelled via Collingham to Hull. He went straight to the
eating-house kept by his wife, and demanded some dinner. He had
hardly commenced to eat it when he heard two detectives come into
the front shop and ask his wife if a man called Charles Peace was
lodging with her. Mrs. Peace said that that was her husband's
name, but that she had not seen him for two months. The
detectives proposed to search the house. Some customers in
the shop told them that if they had any business with Mrs.
Peace, they ought to go round to the side door. The polite
susceptibility of these customers gave Peace time to slip up to a
back room, get out on to an adjoining roof, and hide behind a
chimney stack, where he remained until the detectives had
finished an exhaustive search. So importunate were the officers
in Hull that once again during the day Peace had to repeat this
experience. For some three weeks, however, he contrived to
remain in Hull. He shaved the grey beard he was wearing at the
time of Dyson's murder, dyed his hair, put on a pair of
spectacles, and for the first time made use of his singular power
of contorting his features in such a way as to change altogether
the character of his face. But the hue and cry after him was
unremitting. There was a price of L100 on his head, and the
following description of him was circulated by the police:

"Charles Peace wanted for murder on the night of the 29th inst.
He is thin and slightly built, from fifty-five to sixty years of
age. Five feet four inches or five feet high; grey (nearly
white) hair, beard and whiskers. He lacks use of three fingers
of left hand, walks with his legs rather wide apart, speaks some-

what peculiarly as though his tongue were too large for his
mouth, and is a great boaster. He is a picture-frame maker. He
occasionally cleans and repairs clocks and watches and sometimes
deals in oleographs, engravings and pictures. He has been in
penal servitude for burglary in Manchester. He has lived in
Manchester, Salford, and Liverpool and Hull."

This description was altered later and Peace's age given as
forty-six. As a matter of fact he was only forty-four at this
time, but he looked very much older. Peace had lost one of
his fingers. He said that it had been shot off by a man with
whom he had quarrelled, but it was believed to be more likely
that he had himself shot it off accidentally in handling one of
his revolvers. It was to conceal this obvious means of
identification that Peace made himself the false arm which he was
in the habit of wearing. This was of gutta percha, with a hole
down the middle of it into which he passed his arm; at the end
was a steel plate to which was fixed a hook; by means of this
hook Peace could wield a fork and do other dexterous feats.

Marked man as he was, Peace felt it dangerous to stay longer in
Hull than he could help. During the closing days of the year
1876 and the beginning of 1877, Peace was perpetually on the
move. He left Hull for Doncaster, and from there travelled to
London. On arriving at King's Cross he took the underground
railway to Paddington, and from there a train to Bristol. At the
beginning of January he left Bristol for Bath, and from Bath, in
the company of a sergeant of police, travelled by way of Didcot
to Oxford. The officer had in his custody a young woman charged
with stealing L40. Peace and the sergeant discussed the case
during the journey. "He seemed a smart chap," said Peace in re-

lating the circumstances, "but not smart enough to know me."
From Oxford he went to Birmingham, where he stayed four or five
days, then a week in Derby, and on January 9th he arrived in

Here Peace found a convenient lodging at the house of one, Mrs.
Adamson, a lady who received stolen goods and on occasion
indicated or organised suitable opportunities for acquiring them.

She lived in a low part of the town known as the Marsh. It was
at her house that Peace met the woman who was to become his
mistress and subsequently betray his identity to the police.
Her maiden name was Susan Gray.

She was at this time about thirty-five years of age, described as
"taking" in appearance, of a fair complexion, and rather well
educated. She had led a somewhat chequered married life with a
gentleman named Bailey, from whom she continued in receipt of a
weekly allowance until she passed under the protection of Peace.
Her first meeting with her future lover took place on the
occasion of Peace inviting Mrs. Adamson to dispose of a box of
cigars for him, which that good woman did at a charge of
something like thirty per cent. At first Peace gave himself out
to Mrs. Bailey as a hawker, but before long he openly
acknowledged his real character as an accomplished burglar. With
characteristic insistence Peace declared his passion for Mrs.
Bailey by threatening to shoot her if she did not become his.
Anxious friends sent for her to soothe the distracted man. Peace
had been drowning care with the help of Irish whiskey. He asked
"his pet" if she were not glad to see him, to which the lady
replied with possible sarcasm: "Oh, particularly, very, I like
you so much." Next day Peace apologised for his rude behaviour
of the previous evening, and so melted the heart of Mrs. Bailey
that she consented to become his mistress, and from that moment
discarding the name of Bailey is known to history as Mrs.

Life in Nottingham was varied pleasantly by burglaries carried
out with the help of information supplied by Mrs. Adamson. In
the June of 1877 Peace was nearly detected in stealing, at the
request of that worthy, some blankets, but by flourishing his
revolver he contrived to get away, and, soon after, returned for
a season to Hull. Here this hunted murderer, with L100 reward
on his head, took rooms for Mrs. Thompson and himself at the
house of a sergeant of police. One day Mrs. Peace, who was still
keeping her shop in Hull, received a pencilled note saying, "I am
waiting to see you just up Anlaby Road." She and her stepson,
Willie Ward, went to the appointed spot, and there to their
astonishment stood her husband, a distinguished figure in black
coat and trousers, top hat, velvet waistcoat, with stick, kid
gloves, and a pretty little fox terrier by his side. Peace told
them of his whereabouts in the town, but did not disclose to them
the fact that his mistress was there also. To the police
sergeant with whom he lodged, Peace described himself as an
agent. But a number of sensational and successful burglaries at
the houses of Town Councillors and other well-to-do citizens of
Hull revealed the presence in their midst of no ordinary robber.
Peace had some narrow escapes, but with the help of his revolver,
and on one occasion the pusillanimity of a policeman, he
succeeded in getting away in safety. The bills offering a reward
for his capture were still to be seen in the shop windows of
Hull, so after a brief but brilliant adventure Peace and Mrs.
Thompson returned to Nottingham.

Here, as the result of further successful exploits, Peace found a
reward of L50 offered for his capture. On one occasion the
detectives came into the room where Peace and his mistress were
in bed. After politely expressing his surprise at seeing "Mrs.
Bailey" in such a situation, one of the officers asked Peace his
name. He gave it as John Ward, and described himself as a hawker
of spectacles. He refused to get up and dress in the presence of
the detectives who were obliging enough to go downstairs and wait
his convenience. Peace seized the opportunity to slip out of the
house and get away to another part of the town. From there he
sent a note to Mrs. Thompson insisting on her joining him. He
soon after left Nottingham, paid another brief visit to Hull,
but finding that his wife's shop was still frequented by the
police, whom he designated freely as "a lot of fools," determined
to quit the North for good and begin life afresh in the ampler
and safer field of London.



Peace's career in London extended over nearly two years, but they
were years of copious achievement. In that comparatively short
space of time, by the exercise of that art, to his natural gifts
for which he had now added the wholesome tonic of experience,
Peace passed from a poor and obscure lodging in a slum in Lambeth
to the state and opulence of a comfortable suburban residence in
Peckham. These were the halcyon days of Peace's enterprise in
life. From No. 25 Stangate Street, Lambeth, the dealer in
musical instruments, as Peace now described himself, sallied
forth night after night, and in Camberwell and other parts of
South London reaped the reward of skill and vigilance in entering
other people's houses and carrying off their property. Though in
the beginning there appeared to be but few musical instruments in
Stangate Street to justify his reputed business, "Mr. Thompson,"
as he now called himself, explained that he was not wholly depen-

dent on his business, as Mrs. Thompson "had money."

So successful did the business prove that at the Christmas of
1877 Peace invited his daughter and her betrothed to come from
Hull and spend the festive season with him. This, in spite of
the presence of Mrs. Thompson, they consented to do. Peace, in a
top hat and grey ulster, showed them the sights of London,
always inquiring politely of a policeman if he found himself in
any difficulty. At the end of the visit Peace gave his consent
to his daughter's marriage with Mr. Bolsover, and before parting
gave the young couple some excellent advice. For more reasons
than one Peace was anxious to unite under the same roof Mrs.
Peace and Mrs. Thompson. Things still prospering, Peace found
himself able to remove from Lambeth to Crane Court, Greenwich,
and before long to take a couple of adjoining houses in
Billingsgate Street in the same district. These he furnished in
style. In one he lived with Mrs. Thompson, while Mrs. Peace and
her son, Willie, were persuaded after some difficulty to leave
Hull and come to London to dwell in the other.

But Greenwich was not to the taste of Mrs. Thompson. To gratify
her wish, Peace, some time in May, 1877, removed the whole party
to a house, No. 5, East Terrace, Evelina Road, Peckham. He paid
thirty pounds a year for it, and obtained permission to build a
stable for his pony and trap. When asked for his references,
Peace replied by inviting the agent to dine with him at his house
in Greenwich, a proceeding that seems to have removed all doubt
from the agent's mind as to the desirability of the tenant.

This now famous house in Peckham was of the ordinary type of
suburban villa, with basement, ground floor, and one above; there
were steps up to the front door, and a bow window to the front
sitting-room. A garden at the back of the house ran down to the
Chatham and Dover railway line. It was by an entrance at the
back that Peace drove his horse and trap into the stable which he
had erected in the garden. Though all living in the same house,
Mrs. Peace, who passed as Mrs. Ward, and her son, Willie,
inhabited the basement, while Peace and Mrs. Thompson
occupied the best rooms on the ground floor. The house was
fitted with Venetian blinds. In the drawing-room stood a good
walnut suite of furniture; a Turkey carpet, gilded mirrors, a
piano, an inlaid Spanish guitar, and, by the side of an elegant
table, the beaded slippers of the good master of the house
completed the elegance of the apartment. Everything confirmed
Mr. Thompson's description of himself as a gentleman of
independent means with a taste for scientific inventions. In
association with a person of the name of Brion, Peace did, as a
fact, patent an invention for raising sunken vessels, and it is
said that in pursuing their project, the two men had obtained an
interview with Mr. Plimsoll at the House of Commons. In any
case, the Patent Gazette records the following grant:

"2635 Henry Fersey Brion, 22 Philip Road, Peckham Rye, London,
S.E., and John Thompson, 5 East Terrace, Evelina Road, Peckham
Rye, London, S.E., for an invention for raising sunken vessels by
the displacement of water within the vessels by air and gases."

At the time of his final capture Peace was engaged on other
inventions, among them a smoke helmet for firemen, an improved
brush for washing railway carriages, and a form of hydraulic
tank. To the anxious policeman who, seeing a light in Mr.
Thompson's house in the small hours of the morning, rang the bell
to warn the old gentleman of the possible presence of burglars,
this business of scientific inventions was sufficient explana-

Socially Mr. Thompson became quite a figure in the neighbourhood.
He attended regularly the Sunday evening services at the parish
church, and it must have been a matter of anxious concern to
dear Mr. Thompson that during his stay in Peckham the vicarage
was broken into by a burglar and an unsuccessful attempt made to
steal the communion plate which was kept there.

Mr. Thompson was generous in giving and punctual in paying. He
had his eccentricities. His love of birds and animals was
remarkable. Cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea-pigs, canaries, parrots
and cockatoos all found hospitality under his roof. It was
certainly eccentricity in Mr. Thompson that he should wear
different coloured wigs; and that his dark complexion should
suggest the use of walnut juice. His love of music was evinced
by the number of violins, banjoes, guitars, and other musical
instruments that adorned his drawing-room. Tea and music formed
the staple of the evening entertainments which Mr. and Mrs.
Thompson would give occasionally to friendly neighbours. Not
that the pleasures of conversation were neglected wholly in
favour of art. The host was a voluble and animated talker, his
face and body illustrating by appropriate twists and turns the
force of his comments. The Russo-Turkish war, then raging, was a
favourite theme of Mr. Thompson's. He asked, as we are still
asking, what Christianity and civilisation mean by countenancing
the horrors of war. He considered the British Government in the
highest degree guilty in supporting the cruel Turks, a people
whose sobriety seemed to him to be their only virtue, against the
Christian Russians. He was confident that our Ministers would be
punished for opposing the only Power which had shown any sympathy
with suffering races. About ten o'clock Mr. Thompson, whose
health, he said, could not stand late hours, would bid his guests
good night, and by half-past ten the front door of No. 5, East
Terrace, Evelina Road, would be locked and bolted, and the house
plunged in darkness.

Not that it must be supposed that family life at No. 5, East
Terrace, was without its jars. These were due chiefly to the
drunken habits of Mrs. Thompson. Peace was willing to overlook
his mistress' failing as long as it was confined to the house.
But Mrs. Thompson had an unfortunate habit of slipping out in an
intoxicated condition, and chattering with the neighbours. As
she was the repository of many a dangerous secret the
inconvenience of her habit was serious. Peace was not the man to
hesitate in the face of danger. On these occasions Mrs. Thompson
was followed by Peace or his wife, brought back home and soundly
beaten. To Hannah Peace there must have been some satisfaction
in spying on her successful rival, for, in her own words, Peace
never refused his mistress anything; he did not care what she
cost him in dress; "she could swim in gold if she liked." Mrs.
Thompson herself admitted that with the exception of such
punishment as she brought on herself by her inebriety, Peace was
always fond of her, and treated her with great kindness. It was
she to whom he would show with pride the proceeds of his nightly
labours, to whom he would look for a smile when he returned home
from his expeditions, haggard and exhausted

Through all dangers and difficulties the master was busy in the
practice of his art. Night after night, with few intervals of
repose, he would sally forth on a plundering adventure. If the
job was a distant one, he would take his pony and trap. Peace
was devoted to his pony, Tommy, and great was his grief when at
the end of six months' devotion to duty Tommy died after a few
days' sickness, during which his master attended him with un-

remitting care. Tommy had been bought in Greenwich for fourteen
guineas, part of a sum of two hundred and fifty pounds which
Peace netted from a rich haul of silver and bank-notes taken
from a house in Denmark Hill. Besides the pony and trap, Peace
would take with him on these expeditions a violin case containing
his tools; at other times they would be stuffed into odd pockets
made for the purpose in his trousers. These tools consisted of
ten in all--a skeleton key, two pick-locks, a centre-bit, gimlet,
gouge, chisel, vice jemmy and knife; a portable ladder, a
revolver and life preserver completed his equipment.

The range of Peace's activities extended as far as Southampton,
Portsmouth and Southsea; but the bulk of his work was done in
Blackheath, Streatham, Denmark Hill, and other suburbs of South
London. Many dramatic stories are told of his exploits, but they
rest for the most part on slender foundation. On one occasion,
in getting on to a portico, he fell, and was impaled on some
railings, fortunately in no vital part. His career as a burglar
in London lasted from the beginning of the year 1877 until
October, 1878. During that time this wanted man, under the very
noses of the police, exercised with complete success his art as a
burglar, working alone, depending wholly on his own mental and
physical gifts, disposing in absolute secrecy of the proceeds of
his work, and living openly the life of a respectable and
industrious old gentleman.

All the while the police were busily seeking Charles Peace, the
murderer of Mr. Dyson. Once or twice they came near to capturing
him. On one occasion a detective who had known Peace in
Yorkshire met him in Farringdon Road, and pursued him up the
steps of Holborn Viaduct, but just as the officer, at the top of
the steps, reached out and was on the point of grabbing his man,
Peace with lightning agility slipped through his fingers and
disappeared. The police never had a shadow of suspicion that Mr.
Thompson of Peckham was Charles Peace of Sheffield. They
knew the former only as a polite and chatty old gentleman of a
scientific turn of mind, who drove his own pony and trap, and had
a fondness for music and keeping pet animals.

Peace made the mistake of outstaying his welcome in the
neighbourhood of South-East London. Perhaps he hardly realised
the extent to which his fame was spreading. During the last
three months of Peace's career, Blackheath was agog at the number
of successful burglaries committed in the very midst of its
peaceful residents. The vigilance of the local police was
aroused, the officers on night duty were only too anxious to ef-
fect the capture of the mysterious criminal.

About two o'clock in the morning of October 10, 1878, a police
constable, Robinson by name, saw a light appear suddenly in a
window at the back of a house in St. John's Park, Blackheath, the
residence of a Mr. Burness. Had the looked-for opportunity
arrived? Was the mysterious visitor, the disturber of the peace
of Blackheath, at his burglarious employment? Without delay
Robinson summoned to his aid two of his colleagues. One of them
went round to the front of the house and rang the bell, the other
waited in the road outside, while Robinson stayed in the garden
at the back. No sooner had the bell rung than Robinson saw a man
come from the dining-room window which opened on to the garden,
and make quickly down the path. Robinson followed him. The man
turned; "Keep back!" he said, "or by God I'll shoot you!"
Robinson came on. The man fired three shots from a revolver, all
of which passed close to the officer's head. Robinson made
another rush for him, the man fired another shot. It missed its
mark. The constable closed with his would-be assassin, and
struck him in the face. "I'll settle you this time," cried the
man, and fired a fifth shot, which went through Robinson's
arm just above the elbow. But, in spite of his wound, the
valiant officer held his prisoner, succeeded in flinging him to
the ground, and catching hold of the revolver that hung round the
burglar's wrist, hit him on the head with it. Immediately after
the other two constables came to the help of their colleague, and
the struggling desperado was secured.

Little did the police as they searched their battered and moaning
prisoner realise the importance of their capture. When next
morning Peace appeared before the magistrate at Greenwich Police
Court he was not described by name--he had refused to give any--
but as a half-caste about sixty years of age, of repellant
aspect. He was remanded for a week. The first clue to the iden-

tity of their prisoner was afforded by a letter which Peace,
unable apparently to endure the loneliness and suspense of prison
any longer, wrote to his co-inventor Mr. Brion. It is dated
November 2, and is signed "John Ward." Peace was disturbed at
the absence of all news from his family. Immediately after his
arrest, the home in Peckham had been broken up. Mrs. Thompson
and Mrs. Peace, taking with them some large boxes, had gone first
to the house of a sister of Mrs. Thompson's in Nottingham, and a
day or two later Mrs. Peace had left Nottingham for Sheffield.
There she went to a house in Hazel Road, occupied by her son-in-
law Bolsover, a working collier.[10]

[10] Later, Mrs. Peace was arrested and charged with being in
possession of stolen property. She was taken to London and tried
at the Old Bailey before Mr. Commissioner Kerr, but acquitted on
the ground of her having acted under the compulsion of her

It was no doubt to get news of his family that Peace wrote to
Brion. But the letters are sufficiently ingenious. Peace
represents himself as a truly penitent sinner who has got himself
into a most unfortunate and unexpected "mess" by giving way
to drink. The spelling of the letters is exaggeratedly
illiterate. He asks Mr. Brion to take pity on him and not
despise him as "his own famery has don," to write him a letter to
"hease his trobel hart," if possible to come and see him. Mr.
Brion complied with the request of the mysterious "John Ward,"
and on arriving at Newgate where Peace was awaiting trial, found
himself in the presence of his friend and colleague, Mr.

In the meantime the police were getting hot on the scent of the
identity of "John Ward" with the great criminal who in spite of
all their efforts had eluded them for two years. The honour and
profit of putting the police on the right scent were claimed by
Mrs. Thompson. To her Peace had contrived to get a letter
conveyed about the same time that he wrote to Mr. Brion. It is
addressed to his "dearly beloved wife." He asks pardon for the
"drunken madness" that has involved him in his present trouble,
and gives her the names of certain witnesses whom he would wish
to be called to prove his independent means and his dealings in
musical instruments. It is, he writes, his first offence, and as
he has "never been in prison before," begs her not to feel it a
disgrace to come and see him there. But Peace was leaning on a
broken reed. Loyalty does not appear to have been Susan
Thompson's strong point. In her own words she "was not of the
sentimental sort." The "traitress Sue," as she is called by
chroniclers of the time, had fallen a victim to the wiles of the
police. Since, after Peace's arrest, she had been in possession
of a certain amount of stolen property, it was easier no doubt to
persuade her to be frank.

In any case, we find that on February 5, 1879, the day after
Peace had been sentenced to death for the murder of Dyson, Mrs.
Thompson appealed to the Treasury for the reward of L100
offered for Peace's conviction. She based her application on
information which she said she had supplied to the police
officers in charge of the case on November 5 in the previous
year, the very day on which Peace had first written to her from
Newgate. In reply to her letter the Treasury referred "Mrs. S.
Bailey, alias Thompson," to the Home Office, but whether she
received from that office the price of blood history does not

The police scouted the idea that any revelation of hers had
assisted them to identify "John Ward" with Charles Peace. They
said that it was information given them in Peckham, no doubt by
Mr. Brion, who, on learning the deplorable character of his
coadjutor, had placed himself unreservedly in their hands, which
first set them on the track. From Peckham they went to
Nottingham, where they no doubt came across Sue Thompson, and
thence to Sheffield, where on November 6 they visited the house
in Hazel Road, occupied by Mrs. Peace and her daughter, Mrs.
Bolsover. There they found two of the boxes which Mrs. Peace had
brought with her from Peckham. Besides stolen property, these
boxes contained evidence of the identity of Ward with Peace. A
constable who had known Peace well in Sheffield was sent to
Newgate, and taken into the yard where the prisoners awaiting
trial were exercising. As they passed round, the constable
pointed to the fifth man: "That's Peace," he said, "I'd know him
anywhere." The man left the ranks and, coming up to the
constable, asked earnestly, "What do you want me for?" but the
Governor ordered him to go on with his walk.

It was as John Ward, alias Charles Peace, that Peace, on November
19, 1878, was put on his trial for burglary and the attempted
murder of Police Constable Robinson, at the Old Bailey before Mr.
Justice Hawkins. His age was given in the calendar as sixty,
though Peace was actually forty-six. The evidence against the
prisoner was clear enough. All Mr. Montagu Williams could urge
in his defence was that Peace had never intended to kill the
officer, merely to frighten him. The jury found Peace guilty of
attempted murder. Asked if he had anything to say why judgment
should not be passed upon him, he addressed the Judge. He
protested that he had not been fairly dealt with, that he never
intended to kill the prosecutor, that the pistol was one that
went off very easily, and that the last shot had been fired by
accident. "I really did not know," he said, "that the pistol was
loaded, and I hope, my lord, that you will have mercy on me. I
feel that I have disgraced myself, I am not fit either to live or
die. I am not prepared to meet my God, but still I feel that my
career has been made to appear much worse than it really is. Oh,
my lord, do have mercy on me; do give me one chance of repenting
and of preparing to meet my God. Do, my lord, have mercy on me;
and I assure you that you shall never repent it. As you hope for
mercy yourself at the hands of the great God, do have mercy on
me, and give me a chance of redeeming my character and preparing
myself to meet my God. I pray, and beseech you to have mercy
upon me."

Peace's assumption of pitiable senility, sustained throughout the
trial, though it imposed on Sir Henry Hawkins, failed to melt his
heart. He told Peace that he did not believe his statement that
he had fired the pistol merely to frighten the constable; had not
Robinson guarded his head with his arm he would have been wounded
fatally, and Peace condemned to death. He did not consider it
necessary, he said, to make an inquiry into Peace's antecedents;
he was a desperate burglar, and there was an end of the matter.
Notwithstanding his age, Mr. Justice Hawkins felt it his duty
to sentence him to penal servitude for life. The severity of the
sentence was undoubtedly a painful surprise to Peace; to a man of
sixty years of age it would be no doubt less terrible, but to a
man of forty-six it was crushing.

Not that Peace was fated to serve any great part of his sentence.

With as little delay as possible he was to be called on to answer
to the murder of Arthur Dyson. The buxom widow of the murdered
man had been found in America, whither she had returned after her
husband's death. She was quite ready to come to England to give
evidence against her husband's murderer. On January 17, 1879,
Peace was taken from Pentonville prison, where he was serving his
sentence, and conveyed by an early morning train to Sheffield.
There at the Town Hall he appeared before the stipendiary
magistrate, and was charged with the murder of Arthur Dyson.
When he saw Mrs. Dyson enter the witness box and tell her story
of the crime, he must have realised that his case was desperate.
Her cross-examination was adjourned to the next hearing, and
Peace was taken back to London. On the 22nd, the day of the
second hearing in Sheffield, an enormous crowd had assembled
outside the Town Hall. Inside the court an anxious and expectant
audiience{sic}, among them Mrs. Dyson, in the words of a con-

temporary reporter, "stylish and cheerful," awaited the
appearance of the protagonist. Great was the disappointment and
eager the excitement when the stipendiary came into the court
about a quarter past ten and stated that Peace had attempted to
escape that morning on the journey from London to Sheffield, and
that in consequence of his injuries the case would be adjourned
for eight days.

What had happened was this. Peace had left King's Cross by the
5.15 train that morning, due to arrive at Sheffield at 8.45.
From the very commencement of the journey he had been wilful and
troublesome. He kept making excuses for leaving the carriage
whenever the train stopped. To obviate this nuisance the two
warders, in whose charge he was, had provided themselves with
little bags which Peace could use when he wished and then throw
out of the window. Just after the train passed Worksop, Peace
asked for one of the bags. When the window was lowered to allow
the bag to be thrown away, Peace with lightning agility took a
flying leap through it. One of the warders caught him by the
left foot. Peace, hanging from the carriage, grasped the
footboard with his hands and kept kicking the warder as hard as
he could with his right foot. The other warder, unable to get to
the window to help his colleague, was making vain efforts to stop
the train by pulling the communication cord. For two miles the
train ran on, Peace struggling desperately to escape. At last he
succeeded in kicking off his left shoe, and dropped on to the
line. The train ran on another mile until, with the assistance
of some gentlemen in other carriages, the warders were able to
get it pulled up. They immediately hurried back along the line,
and there, near a place called Kineton Park, they found their
prisoner lying in the footway, apparently unconscious and
bleeding from a severe wound in the scalp. A slow train from
Sheffield stopped to pick up the injured man. As he was lifted
into the guard's van, he asked them to cover him up as he was
cold. On arriving at Sheffield, Peace was taken to the Police
Station and there made as comfortable as possible in one of the
cells. Even then he had energy enough to be troublesome over
taking the brandy ordered for him by the surgeon, until one of
the officers told "Charley" they would have none of his hanky-
panky, and he had got to take it. "All right," said Peace, "give
me a minute," after which he swallowed contentedly a couple
of gills of the genial spirit.

Peace's daring feat was not, according to his own account, a mere
attempt to escape from the clutches of the law; it was noble and
Roman in its purpose. This is what he told his stepson, Willie
Ward: "I saw from the way I was guarded all the way down from
London and all the way back, when I came for my first trial, that
I could not get away from the warders, and I knew I could not
jump from an express train without being killed. I took a look
at Darnall as I went down and as I went back, and after I was put
in my cell, I thought it all over. I felt that I could not get
away, and then I made up my mind to kill myself. I got two bits
of paper and pricked on them the words, `Bury me at Darnall. God
bless you all!' With a bit of black dirt that I found on the
floor of my cell I wrote the same words on another piece of
paper, and then I hid them in my clothes. My hope was that, when
I jumped from the train I should be cut to pieces under the
wheels. Then I should have been taken to the Duke of York (a
public-house at Darnall) and there would have been an inquest
over me. As soon as the inquest was over you would have claimed
my body, found the pieces of paper, and then you would have
buried me at Darnall."

This statement of Peace is no doubt in the main correct. But it
is difficult to believe that there was not present to his mind
the sporting chance that he might not be killed in leaping from
the train, in which event he would no doubt have done his best to
get away, trusting to his considerable powers of ingenious
disguise to elude pursuit. But such a chance was remote. Peace
had faced boldly the possibility of a dreadful death.

With that strain of domestic sentiment, which would appear to
have been a marked characteristic of his family, Peace was
the more ready to cheat the gallows in the hope of being by that
means buried decently at Darnall. It was at Darnall that he had
spent some months of comparative calm in his tempestuous career,
and it was at Darnall that he had first met Mrs. Dyson. Another
and more practical motive that may have urged Peace to attempt to
injure seriously, if not kill himself, was the hope of thereby
delaying his trial. If the magisterial investigation in
Sheffield were completed before the end of January, Peace could


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