John Thurtell.

Pierce Egan's account of the trial of John Thurtell and Joseph Hunt : with an appendix, disclosing some extraordinary facts, exclusively in the possession of the editor online

. (page 19 of 25)
Online LibraryJohn ThurtellPierce Egan's account of the trial of John Thurtell and Joseph Hunt : with an appendix, disclosing some extraordinary facts, exclusively in the possession of the editor → online text (page 19 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

The court was excessively crowded ; no persons had been allowed to enter
an hour and a half preceding. The judge retired to his lodgings at five o clock,
and the court was cleared.


A few minutes before five o'clock, the prisoners were re-conveyed to gaol, in a
post-chaise, strongly guarded by the local police. A great number of persons
had previously placed themselves about the prison gates, and the approach of
the post-chaise was notified to them, by the post haste speed with which several
hundred persons advanced in front of the carriage. We were surprised to see
many elegantly-dressed ladies parading the road, near the prison, in the hope,
apparently, of having a glimpse of the culprits.

When the prisoners alighted from the carriage, and were removed into the ante-
room of the gaol, Mr. Wilson, the gaoler, was under the necessity of ordering
their irons to be replaced, and this was done in the presence of Bishop, the Bow-
street officer, three of the attendants of the prison, and a gentleman who was
accidentally present. The Rev. Mr. Lloyd was in an adjoining room, but did
not present himself to the prisoners. When the irons were fixed, Mr. Wilson,
according to the usual practice after condemnation, searched the prisoners, but
nothing worth particular notice was found upon their persons. On opening
Thurtell's snuff-box, which was taken for the moment out of his waistcoat pocket,
it was found to be empty ; he turned round to Bishop, and said, " Bishop, have
you any snuff, you see my box is empty ? " Bishop replied that he had none,
he never carried a box, and was particularly sorry for it at that moment. A gen-
tleman present immediately took out his box, and after asking permission from.
Thurtell to take that liberty, emptied its contents into his box. Thurtell took a
pinch, handed it to the gentleman, and to Mr. Wilson, and put the box into his
pocket with great composure. He was then removed into a cell, where two
persons specially appointed are to sit up with him henceforth. It was remark-
able, that although he manifested some apparent reconciliation with Hunt on the
preceding night, he never yesterday evening spoke to him, until requested to do
so by Mr. Wilson.


Btwley, Mvl(. Court, Fleet Street,

1. The Under Turnkey.

2. The Executioner.

3. John Tlmrtcll.

4. Mr. Wilson, the Gaoler.

5. Mr. Nicholson, the Under Sheriff,
ti. Dr. Burnett, the Phrenologist.

7. One ol'the Reporters to the Morn-

ing Chronicle.

8. A Javelin Man beating down an

indecorous Reporter.

9. A person well known in the Sport-

ing circles.





On FRIDAY, the 9th of JANUARY, 1824;







Taken on the Spot by an Eminent Artist,



an appen&ir to J)i0 account of t&e Crial,

Which may now be had, Price 2*.




J3e*fky, BtU C'or,' t Fl&t Street.


Containing an Account of the Conduct of the Prisoners bejore and
after their Trial and Condemnation. Execution of THURTELL.
HUNT'S Confession; and PROBERT'S Statement before the Coroner.
First and Second Interview of the EDITOR with THURTELL. An
Outline of the Condemned Sermon. RECOLLECTIONS OF THE
Character of Mr. WEARE. HUNT'S Letter to his mother. In-
cluding a Variety of Interesting and authentic Anecdotes respecting
THUKTELL ; combining, altogether, a COMPLETE and VALUABLE
DOCUMENT of this horrid Transaction.

Thurtell, from the first moment of his arrival at Hertford Gaol, adopted
a uniform deportment and course of action altogether inconsistent with
those of a man conscious of guilt. To his most intimate friends he ex-
pressed his detestation of the crime attributed to him, as well as his con-
fidence in proving his innocence to perfect demonstration on his trial ;
and notwithstanding the damning and conclusive facts which had
appeared in evidence on the inquest against him, his manner and decla-
rations were such, to all who conversed with him, that they could not re-
sist the impression of its being possible that his was not the hand that
committed the murder; and finding the impression which a cool and
manly firmness produced, he never for a moment allowed his fortitude to
forsake him, but most sedulously applied his time in preparation for a
great effort to defend himself on the trial. He first procured such books as
were likely to aid him in composing his address, particularly the public
speeches of Mr. Charles Phillips, the barrister, and having arranged and
reduced his defence to a written form, he lost no time in learning it by
heart, and then practised its recitation. His rehearsals were performed,
in the night, and before he commenced, he placed Randall, a fellow pri-
soner, who was a sort of companion or guard with him for the night, to
act as judge ; he next selected a part of the room which was supposed to
be the jury, and then went through the whole of his speech, to the no
small astonishment and surprise of Randall, who being throughout the
day in the same yard as Hunt, frequently told him, that Mr. Thurtell
would make such a fine speech as was never before heard, and which
would be sure to get him off, adding, " Mr. Thurtell is only sorry I can't
read, because then I could hold the paper, and see whether he spoke it
correct to a word."

In the early part of the business, and while Hunt was expected to be
a witness, Thurtell expressed his disgust at his pusillanimous conduct ;
but when Thurtell found that he was rejected, and that Probert had con-
sented to give evidence, his indignation was greatly aroused against the
latter, and he appeared to commiserate Hunt, saying, he readily forgave
him, because he owed him no obligations ; but he could not forgive the
pascal Probert, whose family, as well as himself, he had supported,


At Christmas, Mr. Wilson had some friends spending the evening witk
him, and Hunt, to entertain them, voluntarily sung a plaintive song.
Thurtell, who was in a room beneath Hunt, joined in the applause be-
stowed upon the singer, and, in a friendly tone, called out, " Joseph;"
and on Hunt asking what he wanted, Thurtell replied, " I will thank you,
Joe, to give me my old favourite you know what I mean." Hunt im-
mediately complied : the song was " The Look Out, or Old Conwell the
Pilot," and at its conclusion Thurtell expressed his thanks, and clapped
his hands for some lime in token of approval.

During the first day of the trial, Hunt, whenever he could get an op-
portunity of speaking to Mr. Harmcr, his 'solicitor, anxiously inquired
how the case was going on, and in the early part of the day, the notes
which he sent to his counsel, suggesting questions, or observing on the
evidence, were confused, and ill written, but as the case proceeded his
suggestions were much more intelligible, and better written.

At the conclusion of the first day's proceedings, Thurtell and Hunt
were brought back in the same carriage to the prison, when Hunt thus
addressed Thurtell. " Why, I was told, you were to make a fine long
speech, but you have scarcely said a word, and what little you did say
.was spoken in such a manner that no one could scarcely hear or under-
stand you, and I do not think you will be able to make any speech
worth hearing." Whereupon Thurtell said " Wait till to-morrow,
my boy, and hear me, before you give your opinion, and only see if I
do'nt astonish you."

While the judge was summing up, the contrast between the prisoners
was very striking. Hunt appeared ready to sink whenever any strong
observation was made against him, and his demeanour betrayed the
greatest timidity and depression. Thurtell, however, preserved a manly
lirmuess, which was evidently not forced or cons-trained. He was in full
possession of his faculties, and his mind keenly on the alert to seize and
avail himself of any opportunity to benefit his case, and if possible in-
duce a belief of his innocence. He did not hesitate frequently of his 01*11
accord, to interrupt the learned judge, and endeavour to obviate or ex-
plain some of the strong points in the evidence against him, and on
which he found particular stress was laid. Hunt, on the contrary, could
not be induced to say a word, although urged by his solicitor to state to
the judge the communication he was making to him, namely, that Mr.
Probntt, the innkeeper, was certainly mistaken in his evidence; for in
the first place he had been long acquainted with Mr. Ileecc he had not
only used his house frequently, but visited him when a prisoner in the
Fleet, consequently he could not have wanted to know who he was ; and
that, so far from meditating any harm against him, he had a respect and
reg.ard for him for many kindnesses he had received at his hands.

Notwithstanding the firmness displayed by Thurtell, and the com-
posure with which he was evidently prepared to meet his fate, he had
nevertheless a great anxiety to gain a short extension of time ; for, almost
immediately after the jury withdrew to deliberate on their verdict, he
asked Mr. Plait, one of his counsel, whether he thought the judge would
postpone the execation until after Sunday, and being answered in the
negative, he presently after made a similar inquiry of Mr. Harmer, who
was then close to the bar conversing with Hunt, who gave him the same
opinion as his counsel. Thurtell then asked, with some apparent sur-
prise " What ! has" not the judge the power to respite for a few days .'"
ilr. Harmer said, the judge certainly possessed the power, but he had
never known it exercised in cases of murder, unless some doubt was
entertained as to the correctness of the conviction; still, however, there
would be no impropriety in his respectfully soliciting the judge to grant
him that indulgence. Thurtell then remarked, " It is not on my own ac-
eount I wish for the time to be delayed, for if I am to suffer, the sooner it is

over the better, and I am prepared even at this moment, but I have some
aflairs of others, living at a distance, which I wish to settle and arrange,
and cannot do it without seeing them. I am anxious for a few days, to
give them an opportunity of coming to me."

Thurtell after this joined in a general conversation with several persons
who were immediately around him. It was remarked by one, that his
address to the court and jury was very powerful and energetic, not only
as to its composition, hut its delivery;, and Thurtell frankly avowed that
he had compiled it from various sources, and said, " what did you think
of the conclusion ; was it not very fine ?" and being answered in the affir-
mative, he said, " that I took principally from Phillips's speeches ; it is
in the defence he wrote for Tumor, the bank clerk!" Thurtell heard
some one remark that the worst man of the three had escaped punish-
ment altogether, and he directly said, with great emphasis, " 1 would
rather sufler death, twenty times over, than be Probert and live \" and he
particularly ridiculed the idea of Probert's evidence being true, as to his
having stated that Weare had nearly got the better of him ; for, said he,
" Weare was a very little man ; and to think it possible that such a per-
son could get the better of me, is all nonsense." A friend of Tburtell's
observed " At all evefits you cannot be accused of betraying your
companions." " No," replied the prisoner, with marked expression,
" before any one could have got the secret from me,- he must have torn
my heart from my breast." His friend, thinking perhaps this observa-
tion rather too strongly implied an admission of his guilt, and apparently
wishing him to alter its import in that respect, said, " You mean if you
had been concerned." Thurtell answered " Yes, of course." He fn-
veighed with much bitterness against one of the witnesses to whose testi-
mony alone, he said, he should attribute his conviction, if the jury found
him guilty ; and he with great ingenuity, pointed out the improbability
of his evidence being true, from the relative situations which the witness
described himself and him (Thurtell) to be in when he undertook to
speak to the fact deposed to.

A gentleman complimented him on the firmness and talent he had dis-
played, and said, whatever was the result, no one could dispute his title
to those qualities. Thurtell replied, " I think I have taken a little of
the sting out of the poisoned shafts levelled against me, and I know that
the lads of the village will be pleased with my conduct."

When the jury came into court, Hunt was much agitated : Thurtell
drew himself up into an erect posture, placed his hands loosely in each
other, and seemed to look very intently at each juryman as he entered,
and he heard the verdict without betraying the slightest emotion ; the
foreman, however, was so overcome, that he could scarcely articulate
the word " guilty," and was some seconds before he recovered himself
sufficiently to deliver a similar verdict as to Hunt.

When the judge concluded the sentence, Thurtell leant over the bar,
and very heartily shook the hand of a gentleman who had spoken to his
character, and said, " God bless you, remember me to all friends ;" and
then turning to Mr. Wilson, presented his wrists to the handcuffs, which
were ready to secure them, and immediately left the court.

On Wednesday night, after Thurtell returned to the gaol, he was
treated by Mr. Wilson with the same kindness and indulgence by which
his treatment has been characterized from the first. And after takin-
what refreshment he required, he was visited by the Rev. Mr. Franklin,
the chaplain of the prison. The Rev. gentleman found him sitting in the
cell bathed in tears, and evidently oppressed by great mental anguish. The
moment Mr. Franklin enteied, he became coruposed. Mr. Franklin
asked him whether he felt contrition for the past ; he answered him in the
affirmative; he then asked him whether he was ready to make his peace
with God? to which h$ replied that he was, fl felt, lie said, that this

ii 2


world had already closed upon him, and that he had but a few hours to
live ; that he was perfectly ready to meet death in any shape, but that he
could not contemplate so awful ;m exit without recollecting those near
and dear connexions to whom his death must be a source of aflljction and
shame. From the state in which the wretched man's mind then was, it
was evident that, had he been pressed, he would have made an ample
disclosure of all he knew connected with the horrible occurrence for which
he was to suffer. The Rev. gentleman felt that under such circumstances,
however, it would be unfair to press him, and therefore abstained from
putting any questions. He pressed upon him the necessity of devoting
the few hours he had to live in preparing himself for death, and left him
in a state of deep dejection ; not, apparently, arising from any appre-
hensions of personal suffering, but from a conviction of the disgraceful
situation in which he was placed. The Rev. Mr. Franklin promised to
see him again at an early hour the next morning, and on quitting (he cell
was himself sensibly affected. He afterwards visited Hunt, who was
crying bitterly ; but as the fate of this prisoner may be considered in
some degree uncertain, his stay was not long.

After the chaplain's interview with Thurtell, handcuffs were produced
and placed upon his wrists. This seemed to affect him a good deal, but
he made no remonstrance. Three men were then introduced, who, he
was told, were to set up with him all night. Thurtell made no reply, but
threw himself on the bed in his clothes. One of the men covered him
with the rug, and he soon after dropped into a sound sleep. He waked
once or twice during the night, and at one time exclaimed to one of the
men, " William, are you there ?" On receiving an answer in the affir-
mative, he said, " that's right;" and turning round, again slept most pro-
foundly. At seven o'clock he desired them to assist him to rise ; and on
being got out of bed, he sat on a stool near the fire, which had been kept
in aH night. There were a bible, a prayer-book, and a volume of
religious tracts on the table, the latter of which he took up, and read for
a short time with perfect calmness ; be then laid it down open, and
mused a few seconds. At half-past seven Mr. Wilson entered his room,
and finding him up, asked him how he felt ? Thurtell replied, rather
cheerfully, " Very well, Mr. Wilson; never better in health." He
evidently derived pleasure from the presence of Mr. Wilson. After
breakfast, Mr. Wilson informed him they were going to chapel, and that
he was to be present. Thurtell said, " Very well ; I am ready." On
again alluding to the time of execution, Mr. Wilson informed him it
would not be so soon as he anticipated ; on which he expressed his
regret, and said, " The sooner the better, for I have taken my leave of
this world; as my doom is fixed, the sooner I suffer the better." Mr.
Wilson, and every member of his family, betrayed a strong feeling of
regret for the' man; for although a murderer, there was a manliness and
a correctness in his general conduct which won their respect.

As a proof of the kindly spirit which had taken possession of Thurtell's
amul, he desired to have a last interview with Hunt. He was told they
would meet a short time before they went to chapel ; and upon their
meeting, Thurtell went up and shook him by the hand in the most cordial
manner. He said he sincerely forgave all that was passed, and that he
desired to die in peace with him and with all mankind. Hunt was con-
siderably affected, ?.nd wrung his hands with great warmth.

At half-past eight o'clock, Mr. Wilson ordered all the prisoner* in the
gaol to be conducted to the chapel, in order that they might be present
durinw the service that was about to be performed. The prisoners pro-
ceeded at a slow pace to the chapel. Thurtell walked M'ith a firm step,
and looked perfectly composed. Hunt looked the picture of despair, his
mind seemed to be completely prostrate. On entering the chapel, they
rjp conducted to a |at appointed for their reception, and which was in

ull view of all the other prisoners. No other persons were allowed lo be
present, strict orders having been given by the High Sheriff that 60 one
whatever would be admitted to the gaol, without his permission. Upon
this principle, one individual, who came to the gaol accompanied by a Ma-
gistrate, and who represented himself to be a friend of ThulelFs
family, was distinctly told he could cot be introduced. We
to add, that Mr. Clutterbuck, the Magistrate, had an interview with
Thurtell in the course of the day, by consent of the High Sheriff'.
The Rev. Mr. Franklin, the chaplain, performed the service in the
most impressive manner, and introduced several prayers appropri-
ate to the occasion, in which Thurlcil and Hunt joined with great
devotion ; in fact, Thurtell seemed in all respects anxious to perform his
religious duties. After "praters, the chaplain delivered an excellent and
eloquent discourse, taking his text from the 2d chapter, 10th verse of
the Corinthians.

" We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every
one may receive the things done in his body, according to that be hat'y
done, whether it be good or bad."

The Rev. Chaplain said, that in the beginning of the chapter, St. Paul
expressed an earnest desire to quit Ibis earthly tabernacle for a house not
made with hands, and to be present with the Lord ; but that however the
Almighty should dispose of him, he should make it a constant labour and
study so to conduct himself, that both in this world, and at his presenta-
tion in the next, he might hope to be approved and accepted by his God,
and that to this end his actions were daily governed and directed. He
then enforced upon the prisoners the simple and expressive rule of
St. Paul, and emphatically pointed out the force and value of attention
to it. He implored the prisoners to consider the certainty of a future judg-
ment. Not to dwell on the persuasion and belief of all heathens and
pagans in every age and country, in this respect, on the dictates of every
man's natural conscience, his self-approbation of secret virtue, his self-
condemnation of secret vice, the hopes and fears that agitate every man's
breast on account of his most private actions, and the inmost thoughts of
his heart, were all, he said, so many proofs of his belief in a future

In the second place, he said, that neither was it necessary to take an
extensive view of the unequal distribution of happiness and misery in
this life : how virtuous and holy men were often afflicted in this world,
and that too, even for righteousness sake : and that profligate, daring,
and impious men, often flourish and prosper ; they came not into trouble,
neither were they plagued like other men ; hence the justice of God
seemed to require, that at the final consummation of all things this seem-
ing injustice should be rectified, and that God would one day fully vin-
dicate the righteousness of his government; acquit the honour of his
justice ; and that there would be held a general assize of all men that
ever breathed on the face of the whole earth, when they would all have a
fair and open trial, and God would render to each according to his
works. The Chaplain then enforced the truth of the divine judgment,
and after making a powerful impression upon his auditory by the elo-
quence of his argument, he exclaimed, " Hear the words of your Re-
deemer : ' The day is coming, in which all who are in their graves shall
hear the voice of their Judge, and shall come forth ; they that have done
good, unto the resurrection of life ; and they that have done evil,
unto the resurrection of damnation.' " He remarked upon the astonish-
ing indifference of some persons to the divine declaration, and the im-
possibility of their conducting themselves in the manner some did, were
they impressed with its truth. He was particularly solemn and impres-
sive iu dwelling upon the profligacy and profaneness of some, who were

not deterred by a sense of religion from Hie commission of sin; just as if
eternal justice were asleep ; just as if all their wicked actions would be
buried with their dead bodies, and should never rise again in judg-
ment against their immortal souls. He contrasted with such im-
pious indifference the calmness, the consolation, and hope of a true
Christian, who built his hope on the fundamental belief of happiness
hereafter, and illustrated the value of such a hope by the practice
of St. Paul, and the serenity and piety of his life. The Chaplain
then said, that it would be easy to draw n terrific picture of the great
and terrible day of judgment ; but he preferred the arguments which
cool reason suggested, to those which terror and amazement inspired.
He invoked the attention of the prisoners to the plain and powerful ex-
pression of the Holy Scriptures. Suppose then, said he, that "you saw
the heavens opened, and the Son of Man coming in great power and
glory, and all his holy angels with him. Suppose that you heard the
mighty cherubim, in burning rows, sounding the loud trumpet of arch-
angels, and a mighty voice piercing tke heavens and the earth ' Arise,
ye dead, and come to judgment !' Suppose you saw the throne set, and
the great Judge silting upon the throne of his glory; and all nations
gathered before him ; and all the dead, both small and great, standing
before God ; the books opened, and the dead judged out of the things
written in those books ; suppose you heard tlic respective sentences
upon all mankind pronounced by the mouth of Christ himself: ' Come,
ye, blessed of my Father, 'receive the kingdom prepared for you, from
the foundation of the world !' and, ' Depart from me, ye cursed, into
everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.' " "Would not
this," continued the reverend gentleman, " be an appalling scene? and
did not the gospel positively declare that it should come to pass?" He
asked then, why was not that dreadful fact operative upon human con-
duct ? Why, then, such insensibility to human interests why stifle the
voice of conscience why labour to drown its cries, by the din and riot

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 21 22 23 24 25

Online LibraryJohn ThurtellPierce Egan's account of the trial of John Thurtell and Joseph Hunt : with an appendix, disclosing some extraordinary facts, exclusively in the possession of the editor → online text (page 19 of 25)