Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jenny Diver, 18th century thief, surfaces on Ebay

A dear English friend and fellow doll collector, Doris Howe, sent me a note about this interesting wax figurine of Jenny Diver that surfaced on Ebay. Apparently, Jenny Diver, whose real name was Mary Young, was an 18th century thief who made a lucrative living from stealing from the rich in London streets. She "became so expert in her profession as to acquire great consequence among her associates, who distinguished her by the appellation of "Jenny Diver" —- on account, as we conceive, of her remarkable dexterity." - The Newgate Calendar

She often posed as a pregnant woman to gain sympathy.

"Jenny, again assumed the appearance of a pregnant woman, and, attended by an accomplice, as a footman, went towards St James's Park on a day when the King was going to the House of Lords, and there being a great number of persons between the Park and Spring Gardens she purposely slipped down, and was instantly surrounded by many of both sexes, who were emulous to afford her assistance; but, affecting to be in violent pain, she intimated to them that she was desirous of remaining on the ground till she should be somewhat recovered. As she expected, the crowd in- creased, and her pretended footman and a female accomplice were so industrious as to obtain two diamond girdle-buckles, a gold watch, a gold snuff-box and two purses, containing together upwards of forty guineas.

Two of the gang being confined to their lodgings by illness, Jenny and the man with whom she cohabited generally went in company in search of adventures. They went together to Burr Street, Wapping, and, observing a genteel house, the man, who acted as Jenny's footman, knocked at the door, and saying that his mistress was on a sudden taken extremely ill, begged she might be admitted. This was readily complied with, and, while the mistress of the house and her maid-servant were gone upstairs for such things as they imagined would afford relief to the supposed sick woman, she opened a drawer and stole sixty guineas; and after this, while the mistress was holding a smelling-bottle to her nose, she picked her pocket of a purse, which, however, did not contain money to any considerable amount. In the meantime the pretended footman, who had been ordered into the kitchen, stole six silver tablespoons, a pepper-box and a salt-cellar. Jenny, pretending to be some- what recovered, expressed the most grateful acknowledgements to the lady, and, saying she was the wife of a capital merchant in Thames Street, invited her in the most pressing terms to dinner on an appointed day, and then went away in a hackney-coach, which by her order had been called to the door by her pretended servant." - The Newgate Calendar

She even practiced her art in America:

"She soon found that America was a country where she could expect but little emolument from the practices she had so successfully followed in England; and therefore she employed every art that she was mistress of to ingratiate herself in the esteem of a young gentleman who was preparing to embark on board a vessel bound for the Port of London. He became much enamoured of her, and brought her to England; but while the ship lay at Gravesend she robbed him of all the property she could get into her possession, and, pretending an indisposition, intimated a desire of going on shore, in which her admirer acquiesced: but she was no sooner on land than she made a precipitate retreat." The Newgate Calendar

Her life of crime was finally cut short when she was hanged in 1740.

"She now frequented the Royal Exchange, the theatres, London Bridge and other places of public resort, and committed innumerable depredations on the public. Being detected in picking a gentleman's pocket upon London Bridge, she was taken before a magistrate, to whom she declared that her name was Jane Webb, and by that appellation she was committed to Newgate. She was arraigned for privately stealing, and pronounced guilty. The property being valued at less than one shilling, she was sentenced to transportation.

A twelvemonth had not elapsed before she returned from transportation a second time, and on her arrival in London she renewed her former practices. A lady going from Sherborne Lane to Walbrooke was accosted by a man, who took her hand as if to assist her in crossing some planks that were placed over the channel for the convenience of passengers; but he squeezed her fingers with so much force as to give her great pain, and in the meantime Jenny picked her pocket of thirteen shillings and a penny. The gentlewoman, conscious of being robbed, seized the thief by the gown, and she was immediately conducted to the compter. She was examined the next day by the Lord Mayor, who committed her to Newgate in order for trial, and at the ensuing sessions at the Old Bailey she was tried on an indictment for privately stealing, and the jury brought in the verdict, "Guilty;" in consequence of which she received sentence of death.

After conviction she seemed sincerely to repent of the course of iniquity in which she had so long persisted, punctually attending prayers in the chapel, and employing great part of her time in private devotions. The day preceding that on which she was executed, she sent for the woman who nursed her thud, then about three years old, and after informing her that there was a person who would pay for the infant's maintenance, earnestly entreated that it might be carefully instructed in the duties of religion, and guarded from all temptations to wickedness, and then, after acknowledging that she had long been a daring offender against the laws, both of God and man, she entreated the woman to pray for the salvation of her soul; she then took her leave, apparently deeply impressed with the sentiments of contrition.

On the following morning she appeared to be in a serene state of mind: but being brought into the press-yard, the executioner approached to put the halter about her, when her fortitude abated: but in a short time her spirits were again tolerably composed.

She was conveyed to Tyburn in a mourning-coach, being attended by a clergyman, to whom she declared her firm belief in all the principles of the Protestant religion; and at the place of execution she employed a considerable time in fervent prayer. Her remains were, by her particular desire, interred in St. Pancras church-yard." The Newgate Calendar

In 1922, actress Angela Baddeley played the famous wench on the stage. Baddeley was invested as a Commander, Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) in 1975.

This piece must have been commissioned to commemorate her performance as it is engraved with her name and dated 1947(?) - it's a little hard to tell because the date seems to be combined with 1922. The Figurine stands 9 1/2" tall and is beautifully detailed with a plaintive expression on her face.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tin Figures Museum in the Netherlands displays meticulous figures and historical dioramas

I received an email from the manager of the 2clicks Collectibles Figurines website and when I browsed their interesting links I came upon a link for the Tin Figures Museum in The Netherlands. I not only found the examples of tin figures displayed on their website quite intricate but I was totally blown away by the fabulous dioramas that are used in their exhibits!

The dioramas, ranging in themes from the ancient world through sites of early modern history, were meticulously created by the late Dr. Wieringa of Haarlem, a Dutch mathematician. Of course with my passion for ancient Roman history, I couldn't help but be amazed by the scenery depicting gladiatorial games and Roman temples. He also designed detailed scenes of ancient Egypt, the Hanging Garden of Babylon, medieval Europe, the Renaissance, and the royal European courts of the 18th century as well.

If I ever get a chance to visit The Netherlands, I will make this museum a "must see" on my itinerary!