The canting academy, or, The devils cabinet opened wherein is shewn the mysterious and villanous practices of that wicked crew, commonly known by the names of hectors, trapanners, gilts, &c. : to which is added a compleat canting-dictionary, both of old words, and such as are now most in use : with several new catches and songs, compos'd by the choisest wits of the age ...
Head, Richard, 1637?-1686?
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An account of the notable and notori∣ous life of a late and eminent King of the Gypsies, yet living, taken ver∣batim as he himself related it.

I Need not acquaint you, said he, with the passa∣ges of my life while I was a School-boy at Ex∣cester, since I know they are not unknown to you; I shall therefore inform you when I came to Lon∣don to be an Apprentice, I presently imagined I should not serve my time, that strict course of life being so disagreable to my loose inclinations, and therefore from the first week I never intended to mind my trade, although you know it was as credi∣ble and reputable as most in the whole City.

I was naturally very lazy and slothful, and ever hated any thing that was Gentile, I have often rose from dinner to make an end thereof with those who beg'd at the door, and took as much delight there∣in as others sitting at Noble-mens Tables; so slo∣venly, that though my Master brush'd my coat for 〈◊〉 every day, yet he could not beat the sloving •••on't, nor that roguery, which being bred in the 〈◊〉 will never out of the flesh; when he saw no∣thing would reduce me to observe the rules of de∣ency and civility, he took an occasion knocking late at his door to shut me out, and from thence I re∣solv'd never to return to him again.

All the day time I rambled up and down the out parts of the City, and being almost famish'd I roolv'd rather to beg than starve, which I did so artificially, that I got victuals enough every where; at night I found convenient bulks to lie on, it being then Mid-summer, I lay not in that manner in fear at thing cold.

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I liv'd after this manner for a Month, and began to be much in love with my begging Profession, and had continued it had I not accidentally fallen into the acquaintance of a notable lazy companion like my self, whom I found sunning himself in Lincolns∣in-fields. With little difficulty and less time we became intimately acquainted, and thereupon sworn brothers. We beg'd together, lay together and louz'd together, and were inseparable; it was he that taught me first to steal, and by his means first soundly whipt. For it was our custome in the close of the Evening, to beg at doors, which if we found open, we boldly enter'd, and if we espi∣ed none in the way, what was next at hand we rub'd off with; if we saw any, we straightwaies applyed our selves to our whining notes and pitiful looks, begging for Gods sake to bestow their charity on two Orphan Twins, who were both troubled with the Falling-sickness: some were so pittiful and credulous as to give their Alms, but the most (see∣ing us sturdy and lusty young Lads) fright'ned us away with the threats of the whiping Post, but these menaces did not scare us from our continual filch∣ing notwithstanding. But the Pitcher goes not so often to the Well but that it comes home broken at last. For one night watching at a door for an op∣portunity, seeing the coast clear I whipt up stairs, and happily the first thing my hands fastned on, was a Hair-Chamlet Cloak; overjoy'd with the good∣ness of the prize and minding not the distance of the stairs from me, I came sooner to the Stair head than I was aware of, and fell to the bottom of the stairs, making a noise like a Devil in a Drum: this unexpected misfortune did put my experienc'd Tu∣tor and Comrade to the run, and with all so al∣arm'd the house, that there was no hole left for me to creep out at.

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Search being made, I was found with my Cloak lying at the stair foot, not able to stir; but my merciless foes did soon put life in me by by boxing and kicking me one to another; they had done me a kindness had they kick'd me out into the street; but hold there, after all this mis-usage I was car∣ried before a Justice, who presently sent me to Newgate.

Sessions, as good luck would have it, was at hand, otherwise, I know not how I should have lived a fortnight with a penny a day in Bread and Water: Being brought to the old Baily, I had my Tryal, and received sentence of severe whipping, which was accordingly performed, and return'd to Newgate to lie there till I had paid my fees; which was so long (having no friend to help me) that I there became intimately acquainted with the whole Gang of ROGUES, distinguished by Files, Lifts, Gilts, Budges, Runners, Heavers, &c. Who seeing how forward I was to be one of them, promised me, if ever we met abroad, they would instruct me in a trade should bring me in a lively∣hood, which I found would have put me out of one, had I longer followed their instructions.

I now despair'd of coming out, and whilst I thought so, my little Tutor sent a youngster to me (for he durst not come himself, being too well known by the Keepers) who brought me more Money than would discharge my Fees, with dire∣ctions where I should find him.

I instantly addrest my self to the Master-Keeper, telling him that I had a friend had sent me some money and therefore I desired to know what I was indebted and I would pay it, provided I might be discharged; he readily told me, and now we were possest with one and the same joy, that he Page  29was freed from me, and I from him.

I was no sooner out, but I fell a running, as if I intended to run out of my wits, and never stopt till I came to my Comrade: you may imagine there was no small joy at meeting, and to wash down sorrow, we concluded to booz it rumly.

Over our Ale he recounted me all his adven∣tures since my surprizal, and how successful he was in them all; then taking me by the hand, said, come boy ne'r be disheartned for one ill bargain I'l put thee in a way which shall recompence thy whipping.

Night approaching we did several exploits and came off well, the next day and night we continu∣ed them with the like success, and now we had got Money enough to new cloath our selves, which we did, having first unhusk'd.

What I had promised me in New-gate, I had per∣form'd abroad, for meeting with one of my fellow Collegiats, he was over-joy'd to see me, and espe∣cially at such a time when he could serve me; for, said he, I am now going to meet with some accord∣ing to appointment, who will make Ʋs All, he might have added, Be Hanged.

Taking my Comrade I went with him, where we found a jolly company drinking after a strange rate to their good success that night; in a little time I understood their meaning; for, said one, let us cease from this excessive drinking, you know what a weighty business we are to go about, no less than fifteen hundred pound in ready Mony, besides Plate and Jewells: hereupon they were advised, and fell immediately to plotting and rightly contriving the business.

It was agreed upon, that I and my Comrade should be the Forelorne-hope, or more properly the Page  30Perdues; for our charge was to get into this house designed to be rob'd, and abscond our selves in some obscure place and so at such an hour let in our Masters.

At first I knew not what to make of it, judging it so hazardous, that I trembled when I did but think thereon; my Comrade perceiving how ti∣morous I was, shook me by the hand, bidding me be of good courage, he would warrant all well. Hereupon I resolv'd on the exploit and away we went together.

A little before night my Comrade had lodg'd himself, but I knew not where, and being loath to be behind hand with him, I got underneath the stairs in a hole descending into the Collar, so con∣venient, as if it had been made for my purpose. There was a Clock in the house, which I watch∣fully told and observed, and when it struck twelve (which was the fatal hour appointed) out I got and met full-but with my Comrade, who was as di∣ligent as my self to let them in, they being ready without, enter'd and leaving us two Sentinels at Door, they mounted the Stairs, and in a trice had secured all that were in the house by Gagging and binding them; just as they were within ken of their booty; the Gentleman of the house (who had been at play and had quarrell'd with some Gentlemen,) came home attended by several Gen∣tlemen, and guarded with a Constable and strong watch, but wondred to see two young Sentinels at his door; as soon as we saw him we betook our selves to our heels, having no time left to acquaint the rest with the present danger; the Constable seeing us run, let loose a couple of his Night∣hounds, and stay'd our farther progress; in the mean time the Gentleman enter'd his house; they Page  31within finding themselves discovered, drew, and attempted to cut their passage through; but the Constable hearing a great noise with clashing of swords, securing me and my comrade, presently ran to their assistance; and to be short secured them all, with whom we were sent to bear them Company in the Counter that night: in the morn∣ing being carried before the Justice, there was mat∣ter of fact, and proof enough to send us to New∣gate; being tryed at Sessions, we were all found guilty of Burglary and accordingly received sen∣tence of Death, which was executed accordingly, onely I and my Comrade being very young, had the benefit of Transportation.

Seven years in our exile, we did what our Ma∣sters commanded us and our time being ex∣pired, we resolv'd to return for England, but death put an end to my Comrades Voyage, however I alter'd not my resolution, but sail'd for England, where in several places I made trials to live honest∣ly, but could not, For what is bred in the bone will never out of the flesh.

Now knowing that if ever I was taken again on any Fellonious account, I should assuredly be hang'd; and being so lazy that I hated the thought of working, I resolved to follow the life of a stro∣ling Gypsie, into which Society I was joyfully re∣ceived: I grew so good a proficient in the mysteries of this trade, that with a joint consent I was cho∣sen at a solemn meeting, their Prince or King; and for these reasons; First, because I was young and well proportion'd; Secondly, because I was lustier and stronger than the rest; And Lastly, because I had more than common learning, and more wit than they had, put them altogether.

Now the reasons inducing me to follow this life, Page  32were these; First, a lazy disposition; Secondly, a lecherous inclination; And Lastly, profit. As to the first, we do nothing for a livelyhood but walk up and down in Summer time, which is rather a pastime than pain; and in Winter, retire to such quarters as are suitable to the season, not stirring thence till spring. As to the second, our females are all in com∣mon among us, and though their skins be disco∣lour'd, they have as good flesh as can be coveted by an youthful appetite. And lastly, as to profit; It is incredible to think how much we get by For∣tune-telling, among the ignorant, the poor wen∣ches being ready to pawn their Petticoats to pro∣cure us money, to tell them how fruitful they shall be, when Married; or whether William or Tho∣mas loveth them or not: But the greatest profit we reap is from our By-blows, these Children our Morts carry at their backs are all of them Bastards, and most of them none of their own begetting; for when young Gentlewomen have trod awry, and the Fathers are not to be disgraced, the Bantlings for a good round sum are sent to us to be nursed, where they are never like to come to the knowledge of their true Parents. Here he made an end, if you shall approve of what is already written, I wil shortly inlarge my self on this subject.

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Beggars Holiday.
CAst our Nabs and Cares away,
This is beggars Holiday,
In the world look out and see,
Where's so happy a King as he?
At the Crowning of our King,
Thus we ever dance and sing.
Where's the Nation lives so free,
And so merry as do we?
Be it peace, or be it War,
Here at liberty we are;
Hang all Harmanbecks, we cry,
And the Cuffinquiers too by.
We enjoy our ease and rest,
To the fields we are not prest.
When the Subsidy's increast,
We are not a penny ceast;
Nor are we call'd into the Town,
To be troubled with a Gown;
Nor will any go to Law
With a Beggar for a straw.
All which happiness he brags,
He doth owe unto his rags.