Crime flourished in eighteenth-century England, thanks to the conspicuous wealth of the upper classes and the lack of any kind of police force. Many people bound by a life of exhausting poverty saw highwaymen, thieves, pirates and prostitutes as glamorous rebels. When Jack Sheppard, burglar, daring escapee and idol of the London mob, eventually met his end, weeping girls dressed in white lined the route to Tyburn.
This enthralling collection of memoirs, newspapers reports, satires and ballads takes us deep into this murky world. From ingenious pickpocket Jenny Diver to Machiavellian thief-taker Jonathan Wild, we come face to face with the Hogarthian characters who believed a short life of "plenty, satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power" was well worth the price of "a sour look or two at choking".