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Criminal children in the eighteenth century and Daniel Defoe's Colonel Jack.

CHARLES LAMB SAYS OF COLONEL JACK'S BOYHOOD that it is "the most affecting natural picture of a young thief that was ever drawn." (1) Most modern scholarship too has been fairly approbatory of the children's criminal underworld Daniel Defoe represents, finding it the strongest section of his Colonel Jack (1722). (2) As "affecting" as Lamb finds Defoe's depiction of the child pickpocket, and as fascinating as it is to modern readers, the relationship between Colonel Jack's portrayal and early-eighteenth-century discourses of criminal children has not been adequately explored. Critics such as Peter Jochum Klaus (3) offer important and insightful observations about Defoe's representation of childhood in Colonel Jack, while others such as Hal Gladfelder and Lincoln Faller read the novel in the context of popular contemporaneous narratives of criminals' lives. (4) But Colonel Jack also occupies that complex and often contradictory cultural space where discourses of childhood and criminality in the period intersect. (5) In his novel Defoe focuses on a child pickpocket born and raised in a world dominated by gangs of criminal boys. His representation of this juvenile world of extreme poverty where thieving is a way of life engages with an integral aspect of London life in the eighteenth century. Indeed, as contemporary legal treatises, Old Bailey trials, criminal biography, social reform pamphlets, and charity school debates suggest, Defoe's depiction of an underworld of criminal children captures important nuances of the culture's concerns about the bands of youngsters begging, shoplifting, or picking pockets on the city streets. However, Defoe's engagement with contemporary discourses about the nature and manifestations of child criminality is complex and often contradictory. On the one hand, he makes his protagonist, Colonel Jack, very appealing by subtly sanitizing the "young thief" of some particularly anxiety-triggering aspects of the eighteenth-century criminal street boy. Such strategic whitewashing certainly makes sense in terms of Defoe's prefatorial claim that he wishes to encourage contemporaries to build more charity schools in order to help miserable street children like his protagonist. An "affecting" picture of the child criminal would clearly be more effective in evoking adults' sympathy and support for that cause. But then, on the other hand, Defoe also includes another, downright unappealing, image of a criminal child in Captain Jack. Unlike Colonel Jack, this rather odious boy, initiated early into gang activity and well fitted to that life is definitely not the best poster child for attracting benevolent charity. Instead, the vicious Captain Jack embodies some of the most disturbing and threatening aspects of child criminality in the eighteenth-century imagination. How might we then understand Defoe's inclusion of this completely unsympathetic and unlikeable picture of the young thief in a work that purports to advocate for poor criminal street children?

An examination of Defoe's dual construction of criminal children, straddling sharply contrasting narrative registers, suggests that in addition to his reformist agenda for the uplift of street boys, there are other concerns and agendas undergirding his portrayal of children that are only obliquely related to their criminality. Defoe's novel reveals that being a child'--not just in the sense of belonging to a certain age category, but as an identity set in binary opposition and naturalized subservience to the privileged authority of adulthood--is crucial to how a young thief's criminality is perceived. How the identity of "child" is inhabited by the young thieves in Defoe's novel might be as important as the criminal actions perpetrated by them. In Colonel Jack the figure of the criminal child emerges as a shifting and incoherent entity: oftentimes a source of anxiety, sometime an object of sympathy--but always inevitably a target of adult social control and necessary subjection.

The criminal child in the eighteenth century was not the individual child with particular social or psychological traits; he was part of a group, a social formation. (6) At the beginning of the long eighteenth century, London's growth as a cultural and commercial hub led to an influx of plebian folk from the countryside seeking work in the thriving capital. One result of this trend was the visible increase in the poor population thronging London streets, and amongst this crowd of the disorderly indigent were a significant number of children--often orphaned or with parents who could not support them. As Hugh Cunningham says, children who were "numerous and visible" on the eighteenth-century streets "featured prominently in the discourse... [of] urban disorder." (7) These naked and ragged street children, dependent on meager parish support, beggary, odd jobs, and petty theft for survival, were one of the most visible manifestations of "childhood" for eighteenth-century Londoners, even though literary and cultural discourse of the period typically privileges the middle- and upper-class child placed in the bosom of a loving family or the schoolroom. Often these children's status as "child" was only provisionally and unevenly acknowledged as their identification with a poor and criminal underclass dominated their perception in mainstream culture and society (8) Unlike the early nineteenth century when notions of child criminality coalesced into the well-defined figure of "juvenile delinquent," disorderly street children who pilfered from shops and passersby in eighteenth-century London, "lousing like swarms of locust in every corner of the street," were often seen as merely one element of the all-pervasive big city problem of "The Poor." (9) However, as suggested by Defoe's preface in Colonel Jack as well as by contemporary reform initiatives in the period such as the Foundling Hospital or the Marine Society for Educating Poor Destitute Boys to the Sea, the concern about impoverished children was perceived as particularly pressing. (10)

The preface to Colonel Jack squarely frames the narrative within the contemporary discourses of poor reform and charity schools to which Defoe contributed so actively through his pamphlet writing. (11) There's "Room" in his novel, he says in his preface, "for just and copious Observations, on the Blessings, and Advantages of a sober and well govern'd Education, and the Ruin of so many Thousands of Youths of all Kinds, in this Nation, for want of it." (12) Also, he notes, his novel shows "how much publick Schools, and Charities might be improv'd to prevent the Destruction of so many unhappy Children as in this Town, are every Year Bred up for the Gallows" (l). (13) The preface thus begins with a clear statement that education is a prophylactic against social disorder and criminality amongst children--a reiteration of Defoe's stance in contemporary debates about the necessity and effectiveness of charity schools, where he stood against men like Bernard Mandeville and with organizations such as the Society for Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK). (14) Defoe's preface of course echoes Enlightenment ideologies of perfectible childhood through proper education; what is also significant in this articulation of the problem of poor, criminal children is Defoe's somewhat hyperbolic tone. There are "so many Thousands" of them, and "every Year" they are "Bred up for the Gallows." While his tone is clearly sympathetic as he bemoans the fate of "so many unhappy Children," his persistent framing of them as a multitude that is always on the verge of wickedness and social disorder is of a piece with the ways in which child criminality was broadly perceived in the eighteenth century. As Dianne Payne has noted, social rhetoric in the period often "promoted an image of a capital teeming with abandoned bastards and delinquent children, who were a menace to society and a threat to the social order." (15) This view was shared both by Defoe and his opponents in the charity school debate. Bernard Mandeville, for instance, much less concerned than Defoe about the "condition" of street children, says of them in his typical Juvenalian idiom that "one of the greatest Inconveniences of such vast over-grown Cities as London" which is generally thought of as a "nursery of Thieves and Pick-pockets," is that "they harbour Rogues and Villains as Granaries do Vermin." (16) Whether Defoe's "so many Thousands" of children in "miserable condition" or Mandeville's all-pervasive vermin infestation, the perception of children as a multitude, as a faceless plurality in London alleyways that must be contained, is the common note in the conversation about poor street children. The converse of this disorderly and potentially criminal mob is the spectacle of charity school children neatly dressed and walking through the town to listen to the salutary sermon preached to them on various occasions in St. Paul's, which, says Mandeville mockingly, has a "natural Beauty in Uniformity" that is "diverting to the Eye." (17) Whether this scene of neatly dressed, orderly children is the target of mockery or an idealistic vision of the impact of charity schools on London streets, what is particularly remarkable is the persistence with which the poor and criminal eighteenth-century child is presented as a corporate identity, a pattern rather than an individual.

It is this view of sociolegal transgressiveness in children, not yet manifested fully in the "juvenile delinquent" as it will be in the nineteenth century, but most often perceived as a group identity that partly explains Defoe's whimsicality in beginning his novel with three poor street boys, all named "Jack." The three foster brothers are "all Johns" so they are "all Jacks" because in "that Part of the Town where [they] had [their] Breeding... the Johns are generally call'd Jack" (4). This nomenclature is Defoe's intuitive rendering of a view of juvenile criminal communities that he echoes in "Lives of Six Notorious Robbers." Talking about the robbers, he notes that "though they are of several particular progressions in thieving, yet make up one great gang, and act in concert with one another in all parts of the town." (18) The three Jacks are similarly different in their "particular progressions" as young thieves but they are also part of "one great gang" in terms of being part of a particular criminal demographic that sets them against the adult world of law, order, money, and respectability. Being part of a group of "Jacks," as it were, also endows the individual thief with a kind of "quasi-anonymity," as Elizabeth Napier calls it, which can protect him from easy detection. (19) Defoe's semantic play with names as he delineates these orphan street children's criminal ethos continues in the military epithets of Captain, Colonel, and Major that differentiates the three Jacks. These monikers are supposed to be traces of the possible identities of each of their fathers, but as army ranks they also tie them together in a peculiarly martial fraternity. This pseudomartial team identity evokes one of the most ubiquitous terms used for street children in early eighteenth-century London--the Black-Guard.

Colonel Jack often refers to himself as a "Black-Guard Boy" in the novel, and Defoe's depiction of Captain, Colonel, and Major Jacks world would have been highly evocative of the bands of disorderly street children his first readers daily saw on London streets as they went about their day (7). The Black-Guard were groups of young vagrant children who begged, ran errands, or thieved to survive. Ned Ward in his The London Spy describes them thus:

a very Young Crew of diminutive Vagabonds, who march'd along in Rank and File, like a little Army of Prester John's Countrymen, as if advancing in order to attack a Birdsnest. This little Gang of Tatterdemalions... we saluted... after this manner, Pray what are you for a Congregation of Ragged Sprights? And whether are you Marching? We, Master, reply'd one of the Pert Frontiers, we are the City Black-Guard, Marching to our Winter Quarters, the Glass-House in the the Minories. (20)

The sight of this little army of street children provokes Ward's narrator to exclaim, "What a shame is it,... that such an infamous brood... should be train'd up in Villany, Ignorance, Laziness, Prophanness, and Infidelity, from their Cradles,... from Beggary they proceed to Theft, and from Theft to the Gallows." (21) Ned Ward's presentation of these Black-Guard children as criminal elements in the making conveys the distrust they evoked in Londoners. Tim Hitchcock, in his comprehensive work on those "down and out" in eighteenth-century London explains that Black-Guard youth were a common part of the city landscape, but were especially associated with "the glass houses of the Minories"--the setting of Defoe's novel. Perceived as pickpockets and shoplifters, these crews of young children were a group "Londoners struggled to contain and to understand," a manifestation of the "paranoia of London life" with its visible population of poor vagabond boys and girls who threatened the property of the middling and upper classes. (22) The most effective aspect of Defoe's criminal world in this novel is, perhaps, his successful incorporation of this paranoia in the portrayal of children's gangs. As Dianne Payne and Paula Backscheider have noted, throughout the 1720s, prevalence of organized street crime--including Black-Guard gangs--were the overriding concern of the respectable classes in London. (23) Thus, the inner workings of such boys' gangs would have been of particular interest to his readers, echoing their fears about street children as the feckless "many" who banded together to rob the hardworking adult individual.

Poor children did often work the street in gangs to pull off remarkable feats of nimble "diving"--i.e., picking pockets--and shoplifting. Even a quick glance at the Old Bailey Sessions Papers (OBSP), which published narratives of criminal trials eight times a year for the edification and delight of eighteenth-century readers, offers clear evidence of the instinctive and intense distrust groups of street children provoked. (24) For instance, in 1718, when Francis Nash's house was broken into, he immediately tells the Watch that he suspects "some Idle Boys living about Barbican"(t17180530-24). Similarly, in 1737 the courtroom at Old Bailey saw the collapse of a gang of shoplifters, consisting of about seven or eight boys, when shopkeeper Ann Wibley, "suspecting a parcel of Boys" seen loitering around her neighborhood goes to have them arrested on suspicion (t17371207-63). Ann Wibley's instinctive distrust of the "parcel of Boys" can be understood in terms of the overall trends in crimes by children. When a young boy or girl was charged with theft in the Old Bailey, more often than not, the defendant seemed to have been working with associates, despite sometimes being the only one apprehended. (25) Nine-year-old George King, for instance, entered Elizabeth Bamber's shop with two more boys and stole "half a guinea from the till" (t17900224-55). He was caught by Bamber while the "other two boys made off"; King, clearly frightened out of his wits, confesses "they were twelve in a gang." This vignette of the lone, hardworking shopkeeper beset by a group of sly, thieving, no-good "Ragged Sprights," as Ned Ward calls them, is the quintessential snapshot of what child criminality looked like for eighteenth-century Londoners. Even when there was no concrete evidence of collusion between children to commit the crime, it was often assumed as a default that the defendant must have been working with partners. Lydia Arlington, "a Girl of about ten years of Age... Indicted with three more supposed to be her Accomplices" for picking pockets denied any link with any gang and "[took] it all upon her Self" (t16811207-16). But this, as the trial-transcript composer says wryly, is surely not because she was actually acting alone but because "(past doubt) [she] received her Instructions in Newgate." The level of anxiety that these gangs of criminal children evoked is suggested by the trial of ten-year-old James Cherrick in 1783. Cherrick was apprehended for stealing lace from a shop while four of his accomplices fled. The judge, finding him guilty, noted, "I think in order to break these gangs of boys, it is necessary to transport this boy, young as he is, to America for seven years" (t17831210-57). (26) This legal impulse towards dismantling children's gangs, even if it meant less than equitable punishment to its members, eloquently expresses the anxiety that Black-Guards triggered in eighteenth-century respectable society. The criminal child was not first and foremost a deviant individual; he was part of a nexus, a group of young peers who were poor, literally "undomesticated" in the sense of spending most of their time on the London streets, and brilliantly sly in their stealing tricks.

And this is exactly how Defoe delineates them in his novel. Most of the "lays" or stealing set-ups Defoe describes involve more than one boy. As in Moll Flanders where much of Defoe's narrative enthusiasm is devoted to detailing his protagonist's various stealing strategies, in Colonel Jack too we get a good range of tricks the dexterous boys play to rob people. We are told of how Will and Colonel Jack steal from the collier counting money, the apprentice carrying payments to his master and--in a pitilessly comic vignette--the old Knight stricken with a coughing fit as Will shoves him hard so that instead of yelling "Stop thief!" he can only gasp, "Hegh, Hegh, Hegh, the Rogues, Hegh, have got Hegh, Hegh, Hegh, Hegh, Hegh, Hegh" (56). Much of this is the kind of fare, characterized by the "suspension of sympathy... and uninflected realism of a cony-catching pamphlet" as Gladfelder notes, Defoe's readers would have been familiar with through works like Alexander Smith's A Complete History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, etc. and the various editions of The Newgate Calendar. (27) The latter work, for instance, offers a typical example of such roguery. It tells the story of William Kelsey, who is condemned to hang at the age of sixteen, though his sentence is eventually commuted due to his youth. One of the tricks Kelsey plays as a young boy with two other accomplices is pretending the boys are bullies who have thrown his hat into a shop and, thus having gained the sympathy of a watching shopkeeper, going in to retrieve it but then decamping with not only the hat but whatever other goods he can spirit away from the business. (28)

While Defoe recreates some of this subversive enjoyment of criminals' tricks, simultaneously warning readers to beware such stratagems, he also usually positions Colonel Jack in these scenarios in ways that his culpability is oddly dispersed and fragmentary. A good example is Defoe's representation of Jack's role in the first "stroll" he goes on with pickpocket Robin--whose name abruptly changes to Will after some pages--to the busy Custom House. As per his instructor's orders, as Colonel Jack tells us, "I kept my eye directly on him" from the "other Side of the Long Room" (20). The scene, which details everything Jack sees is, as Gladfelder says, marked by an "intensity of emotion [that] infuses physical description with a sharpened, distended lucidity" (29) But, as he also notes, the whole episode of this heist "works by a kind of substitution" because despite his vigilance Jack, like Robin's victim, fails to notice his master's sleight of hand. (30) Only when Robin drops the letter case in his lap does he realize that the theft has already been committed. And then all he can think of doing is quickly fleeing the site without attracting attention. Neither Jack, nor the victim, nor the reader comes to know till much later how exactly Robin pulls off the thievery. At his debut, thus, Defoe posits Jack as a strangely unaware criminal, the obverse of the sly young thief who is highly conscious of everyone's gaze and motion. Robin, for instance, unlike him, "peerd into every corner, and had his Eye on every Body" (19). Similarly, during the heist from the collier, Jack can only wonder, "How he did to Whip away such a Bagg of Money from any Man that was Awake, and in his Senses; I cannot tell" (44). And, interestingly enough, when he pulls off his own first "dive" it is not in tandem with Robin/Will or anyone else but a solo performance--the only solitary theft by the Black-Guards represented by Defoe. Jack here breaks the pattern of plurality in child crime, stealing not with accomplices but alone and, so, more vulnerably. Furthermore, Defoe inserts into the middle of this retelling of the theft a long cautionary passage in the voice of the older, wiser, and well-established Colonel Jack, the narrator, looking back on his life. After young Jack notices the pocketbook hanging half out of a merchant's pocket and before he actually nips it away nimbly, Defoe has the narrator intrude to lecture the reader: "This Careless way of Men putting the Pocket-books into a Coat-pocket, which is so easily Divd into, by the least Boy that has been us'd to the Trade, can never be too much blam'd" (45). This sudden disruption of the young thief's story by the pragmatic and well-meaning voice of a prosperous adult speaking to other adults effectively shifts blame away from Defoe's protagonist and onto the carelessness of "busy Gentlemen." Thus, even as Defoe shows Jack participating in the boys' criminal gang activities, the actual acts of thievery are represented in such a way that he remains oddly isolated from the Black-Guard horde. He is and yet is not one of the "naked, Wretched rogues" who were the bane of Londoners' everyday life in the eighteenth century (7).

Colonel Jack's liminality in the unremittingly roguish world that surrounds him is particularly evident in his odd mix of extreme naivete, childishness, and downright ignorance--traits which distinguish him from the other denizens of the glass-house environs. But if we bring to bear upon Colonel Jack's constantly reiterated childish simplicity, the lens of eighteenth-century legal discourses of child criminality, his particular brand of ignorance takes on hitherto unexplored valences. According to the letter of the law, children under seven could not be charged with felony as they were considered doli incapax, or incapable of committing a crime due a lack of sufficient understanding of right or wrong. (31) Ages eight to fourteen was a kind of gray area when, as William Blackstone puts it, "the capacity of doing ill or contracting guilt, is not so much measured by years and days, as by the strength of the delinquent's understanding and judgment. For one lad of eleven year old may have as much cunning as another of fourteen; and in these cases the maxim is malitia supplet aetatem, that is, malice supplies the age." (32) And at the age of fourteen, the child has full criminal liability as an adult. The OBSP shows that often children were tested for their ability to "discern between good and evil." The two following contrasting exchanges are example of the judge's interrogation, the first in a case where the child is deemed rational and the second in a situation when the child is ruled doli incapax.

William Montgomery was a witness to a robbery and is questioned by the judge thus:
What age are you?--Twelve.
Do you know the nature of an oath?--Yes.
Do you know the consequence if you speak falsly?--Yes.
What will happen to you?--Thou shalt not bear false witness
against thy neighbour.
That is a very good answer, then you know it is a sin, and will
be punished by man
also?--Yes (t17860111-35).

In contrast to Montgomery's well-trained answers, here is Elizabeth Brown who is accused of stealing a goose:
What age are you?--Eleven.
Do you know the nature of an oath, what will become of you hereafter,
if you take a
false oath?--I do not know.
Where do wicked people go after they are dead?--I do not know.
Has nobody ever taught you?--No, Sir.
Did you never learn your catechism?--No.
Nor say your prayers?--No.
You never was taught any thing about religion or God Almighty?--No.
You do not know what will become of you?--No.
What will become of you after death?--I do not know. (t17860111-40)

As these two exchanges above suggest, Defoe models Colonel Jack, who "knows nothing of the Wickedness" of his actions nor their full legal consequences, on a child like Elizabeth Brown, rather than William Montgomery, thus diluting his criminal culpability. As Defoe's protagonist says about himself, "your humble servant Colonel Jack": "He set out into the World so early, that when he began to do Evil, he understood nothing of the Wickedness of it, nor what he had to expect for it" (6). Colonel Jack is a criminal child who does not really comprehend the moral, legal, or religious consequence of his acts. And this is a theme that is struck with unflagging persistence throughout Defoe's representation of Colonel Jack's early history. For instance, this is how Colonel Jack recalls his recruitment into the pickpocket's life by Robin: "upon the perswsions of this Lad, I walk'd out with him; a poor innocent Boy, and (as I remember my very Thoughts perfectly well) I had no Evil in my Intentions... As I was a Child, in a manner suited to my Childishness... I never took this picking of Pockets to be dishonesty, but... look'd on it as a kind of Trade I was to be bred up to" (19). G. A. Starr has shown that Jack's "essentially infantile" self-positioning here vis-a-vis the world that he inhabits remains an aspect of his narrative throughout, and he "scarcely acts at all, but is acted upon." (33) Building upon Starrs insight into Defoe's use of the "poor innocent Boy" persona in Colonel Jack, Geoffrey Sill argues that within the novel's "transformational" and "reformist" impulse, Jack's ingenuousness conveys the belief in "youth as a defense against the philistinism of adulthood." (34) Sill's notion of "youth as a defense" is however, as we have seen above, relevant not only in terms of Defoe's sociomoral critique of the adult world but also extends to the view of children's legal liability in the period.

In this context, it is extremely curious that when Jack first goes out to steal with Robin he is, he tells us, fifteen years of age--exactly old enough to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law if he were to be caught. Thus it is quite peculiar that Defoe presents him as morally and religiously doli incapax, as he, like Elizabeth Brown, knows nothing about either the catechism or God or posthumous punishment for sin. But Defoe makes him of an age that would make this defense irrelevant in court. Defoe here seems to be implicitly suggesting that the period of childhood might be longer than the law admits. Especially if the child has had no education--no catechism and no Bible--then morally he can remain doli incapax long into his teens as he sins without knowing he does so; and without adults to teach him, he has no way of learning to distinguish between right and wrong.

The novel on the whole seems to suggest that seniority in a criminal career is more important than mere seniority in age. Captain Jack and Major Jack are both around twelve or thirteen when then begin their criminal careers, and yet, Colonel Jack appears to be more childlike than either of them. And it certainly helps that Colonel Jack is smaller than his peers in size--a fact the reader is reminded of at regular intervals. Major Jack, though younger than the protagonist by two years, is his senior in crime, having partaken in many heists by the time Colonel Jack begins on his first. This fuzziness about age and criminality can be understood partly as a reflection of the fluidity of age categories evident in the application of the law as compared to its letter. A sentiment that frequently recurs in the Old Bailey trials is that a child is "an Old offender, though young in years." (35) This framework for how child criminals are perceived suggests that a youngster who appears childishly ignorant would be more likely to gain the court's sympathy than one who appears sharp or knowing. (36) Certainly, children who tried to hide their crimes or offer excuses for why a stolen item was found on their persons seemed especially liable to get a guilty verdict. (37) For instance, a trial narrative in OBSP states that a girl, Diana Lawrence, was indicted for stealing 40s. but "strongly denied the Fact, and said she found it in the Market: But that was lookt upon to be an old Newgate shift, and groundless Excuse; and she was known to be an old Gamester in the Art of Legerdemain, tho but a young Girl. She was thereupon found guilty of the Felony" (T16940524-8). Similarly, the transcriber of a fourteen-year-old boy's trial says he "had the impudence to plead Innocency" just because he was clever enough to remove from his person the two silver spoons he had allegedly stolen and leave them in an adjacent room of the tavern (T16760628-3). Such attempts to deny guilt were often seen as a sign of "impudence" and of being "too clever by half," and so a sign of the criminal child's mendacious wit that far exceeded his or her age. Indeed, as the case of William Young suggests, extreme youth too was offered as a strategy by the defendant in the court. Youngs only defense apparently is "I was seven years old last February" (t17750426-93). As it was difficult to prove the age of a child with any precision without summoning parish records, determining how old a child was could be impossible. In Young's case, his defense did not save him from a whipping. As these various examples suggest, one persistent stereotype of the criminal child that emerges from the court trial was of a shrewd and lying figure who was well aware of his or her crime and would do anything to mitigate blame.

It is in this context of juvenile cunningness that the abrupt swerves from astuteness to simplemindedness in Jack's character arc as a boy criminal can be understood. For instance, his sudden and, in McBurney's words, "patently improbable" transformation from a boy who has a "natural Talent of Talking," and has often "brought [himself] off with [his] Tongue" to childlike ingenuousness when he interacts with the Tower Hill gentlemen can be seen as Defoe's attempt to distinguish his protagonist from those precociously sly and cunning thieves who made frequent appearances between the pages of the OBSP. (38) Instead, in an intellectual parallel to the moral doli incapax, Jack is almost endearingly ignorant in this scene. He makes the adults laugh indulgently when he says he never had a mother, and they call him an "ignorant and honest" boy who "knowest little of the World"(36-37). This kind of "cultivated ignorance," as Adam Hansen terms it, thus sets Jack apart from the stereotypical eighteenth-century street child, confusing and complicating his identity as a criminal because his "ignoran[ce]" becomes yoked to his "honest[y]" in the minds of adults. (39)

All these narrative strokes serve to redraw Jack into a much softer silhouette of a Black-Guard boy. Like his peers he might be a victim of economic circumstance--"[m]erely a child following natural laws to preserve his life" as Novak says--and so a pitiable exemplar of social neglect, but, as others such as Richetti have noted, he is also persistently distinguished from the very fraternity he belongs to. (40) Richetti, for instance, argues that Jack's position within gang life is almost always that of "an almost innocent accomplice" and his criminal associations as a child function primarily as "a means towards the hero's sentimental self-discovery." (41) Certainly his "strange Rectitude of Principle" appears to be quite unique amongst the other criminal children. This innate probity in a boy intent on finding money to survive, albeit through nefarious means, can be read as having broader narrative purposes of course--for instance, Birdsall usefully locates it in the context of Defoe's economic-moral vision where "the pursuit of wealth and the pursuit of happiness are alike in terms of motivation"--but it is also another narrative stroke that isolates Jack from other boys, so that rather than being a "natural picture of a young thief" he is more of an anomaly in the world of the Black-Guard. (42) The Black-Guard was, Hitchcock notes, not only the object of "high-level social policy" but also of "literary intervention" and Defoe's representation of Jack is an example of such reformist intervention. (43)

Colonel Jack's portrayal thus addresses--and diffuses--some of the most important anxieties about child criminality in the period, which makes complete narrative sense in the context of Defoe's avowed agenda of showing that charitable adult care can prevent potentially meritorious children from being "Bred up for the Gallows" (1). Thus, the overt and authorially signposted mode of reading the criminal child is that "[his] crimes arise from lack of education." (44) But then, what to make of Defoe's inclusion of a completely unsympathetic and downright unappealingly criminal child like Captain Jack in his novel that no adult reader would ever be inclined to patronize? In this novel about the social causes of child criminality, Defoe also includes a powerful portrait of a boy whose delinquency is not the result of poverty or lack of education but of innate depravity. Captain Jack, the biological son of the nurse, is criminal not because, like Colonel Jack, he is a starving orphan (though he is) but because that is his inherent nature. The third child, Major Jack, though more thoughtlessly carefree, resembles the protagonist in his natural abilities and quick temperament. However, he quickly disappears from the narrative, and Defoe is clearly more interested in developing the stark contrast between Colonel and Captain Jack as portraits of criminal children than in focusing on nuances. Captain Jack, we are told, is "born a Thief"; indeed, Defoe seems to go out of his way to make him a thoroughly detestable child:

His Temper was sly, sullen, reserv'd, malicious, revengeful; and withal, he was brutish, bloody, and cruel in his Disposition; he was as to manners a meer Boor, or Clown, of a Carman-like Breed; sharp as Street bred Boy must be, but ignorant and unteachable from a Child. He had much the Nature of a Bull Dog, bold and desperate, but not generous at all... . He was an original Rogue, for he would do the foulest and most villainous Things, even by his own Inclination. (5-6)

It is hard for a character to recover any credibility after such a scathing description--and Captain Jack is not meant to. Animalistic, repulsive, and incorrigible, he is a demonized portrayal of a child delinquent who is vicious, greedy, and criminally mischievous by nature.

Captain Jack complicates and confuses Defoe's sympathetic representation of preventable child criminality in Colonel Jack in some important ways. Whereas the details about Colonel Jacks character and experience are geared towards individualizing this boy thief as a worthy candidate for adult care and charity, the authorial attention given to delineating his far less amiable older brother serves to highlight the naturalness of his association with the most terrible of gangs. The very first time he "[falls] into bad Company" it is with a "Gang of Kidnappers" that "horrid Jack" is "very fit for," because "if a little Child got into his Clutches," he would as nonchalantly "stop the Breath of it" instead of "stopping its Mouth... to keep it from making a Noise" (11). This brutal treatment that Captain Jack is capable of is exactly what lands the gang into trouble--they kidnap a child of some "eminent Citizen" but because the child is, if not actually "murther'd among them," at least sadly "abus'd," the law pursues them with redoubled fervor (11). Indeed this opening is typical of Defoe's representation of Captain Jack as a child who is symptomatic of the worst excesses of criminal gangs.

More significantly though, Captain Jack undercuts Defoe's avowed purpose in his preface--encouraging education of poor children to prevent their descent into crime--because he is essentially incorrigible, being "unteachable from a Child." His presence in the novel as an example of child criminality is important because it engages not only with contemporary discourses about the child but also with the role of childhood in the etiology of criminality. Defoe's presentation of this "unteachable" child of course goes against the Lockean view of the tabula rasa mind of the infant who is waiting to be molded through right education. While Locke too acknowledges that a child's mind might have its own tint, Defoe goes even further despite championing the cause of giving educational opportunities to poor children. He says in a pamphlet that: "If a Boy be a Clod, a meer Stupid, a Block without a Head... to what purpose should Schoolmasters go to invert Nature, and force the Current?" (45) Indeed, the incorrigibility of some children was a culturally acknowledged "fact"--even those in the business of reforming society by educating pauper youth accepted this. Payne shows many instances of students expelled from charity schools because, as one school mistress says about a girl, she "utterly despaired of ever teaching her anything or bringing her to any good behavior." (46) A similar perspective is discernible in legal discourse as well. Though children were very rarely put to death even when found guilty of a capital crime such as theft, their sentences usually being commuted to transportation, there were also those who were considered beyond redemption. For instance, in 1744, Henry Gadd, "about fourteen or fifteen," is described by the Newgate Ordinary as "the most obstinate and inconsiderate little villain that I ever saw, since I had the honour to serve the city" and is put to death. (47) Such a mix of incorrigibility and viciousness of temper, which Captain Jack too displays, is clearly a problem. If the child is beyond any kind of reform through education, then it is almost impossible to prevent him being "bred up to the Gallows." Captain Jack thus shows one model of the criminal child in the century--innately evil and beyond the reclamation process of the Enlightenment paradigm of improvement through proper education. And, in this sense, of course, his presence in the novel also shows the limits of Defoe's reformist project aimed at encouraging the education of penurious street children.

Captain Jacks presence in the novel does, however, open up another conversation about child criminality in the period--that about punishment for delinquent behavior. For if education as a tool of social control is not effective in containing the disorderly child, then other means of correction need consideration. In the eighteenth century, when children committed crimes, it was considered necessary, indeed even merciful and responsible, to correct them vigorously, because the descent into criminality was perceived as a kind of domino effect through which a pickpocket would naturally progress to a footpad and then to a highwayman. As Paul Griffiths says of the eighteenth century, "the fall into crime was imagined as a line of tumbling cards" and childhood "the time of life when the first small lapse sets in motion a speedy slide to the gallows." (48) Thus, to prevent this slide towards ever-worsening depredations on mankind that would inevitably lead a young offender to the gallows, rigorous punishment seemed especially important. Most often, though, punishment for young pickpockets probably came in the form of informal rough mob justice, such as ducking the child in a nearby horse pond or a few beatings. But when children were brought to the courtroom, there was a strong imperative to nip criminality in the bud, most often through corporal punishment. (49)

Defoe's novel engages with this issue of corporal correction of young children powerfully in the scene of the thirteen-year-old Captain Jack's whipping at Bridewell. Colonel Jack watches as a man "lash'd him most unmercifully" while the "poor Captain stamp'd, and danced, and roard out like a mad Boy" (12). This spectacle frightens Colonel Jack terribly, especially when he later he sees his brother's "Back all wheald with the Lashes, and in several Places bloody" (13). This scene of brutality can be read, as Katherine Armstrong suggests, to convey that "corporal punishment is ineffective and morally repugnant." (50) Certainly, it hardly seems a permanent cure in that it does not prevent any of the three brothers from eventually going down the road of crime. And, as Armstrong notes, Defoe shows Colonel Jack arguing against the whipping of "Negro slaves" later in the novel as he begins his new life on the American plantation. Gabriel Cervantes too has noted that "[g]enuine correction in Colonel Jack comes in the form of the transports story" rather than from corporal correction when the protagonist sees a "young Fellow" in Virginia who is a pickpocket like the three Jacks were as boys and recognizes transportation as an opportunity for reform. (51) So the novel does arguably present Colonel Jack's experience as firsthand testimony proving the "inutility of whipping child criminals." (52) However, if we consider the matter from the perspective of contemporary notions of disciplining transgressive or criminal children, perhaps Defoe's position about corporal punishment is not as clear-cut and categorical after all. While Locke had strongly discouraged parents from using physical punishments to mold the child in his Some Thoughts Concerning Education, it was still a thriving and established practice when Defoe was writing. (53) He himself seems to have had fairly orthodox views about corporal punishment, as Leinster-Mackay notes (54). Defoe says in his Family Instructor that if a child has a "bent to Folly" then "this Bent or Inclination must be rectified or driven out by either Instruction, if that proves insufficient, by correction, and it is to be done while the person is young, while he is a child." (55) Certainly, in this context, the "unteachable" Captain Jack, who is brutal and sly, is an apt candidate for corporal correction.

The pull of contradictory narrative energy we see in Colonel Jack--in that on the one hand the novel argues for educating poor "at risk" children but on the other also suggests that such effort is just wasted on some young ones who are better off being whipped--actually captures early eighteenth-century views about the etiology of crime quite accurately. As Faller notes, in the period "the causes of crime... were obscure and anomalous," though of course this did not mean that "there was no inclination to search for causes." (56) Naturally, in this search for causes of criminality, childhood came under special scrutiny. In criminal biographies, from the 1715 collection by Alexander Smith, A Complete History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, etc., to the various Newgate Calendars published through the century, we see the cultures attempt to search criminals' childhoods for possible clues about what led them to the gallows. And the remarkable thing is that though a variety of childhood scenarios are sketched out, no clear pattern emerges. The perfectly honest child as well as a precociously dishonest one could both grow up to be fodder for the gallows. For instance, Roderick Audrey, "could scarce speak plain when he began to practice the taking of what was none of his own." (57) In contrast, as a boy, William Nevison "made some progress as to his learning, and in the spring of his youth promised a better harvest than the summer of his life produced; for to say the truth, he was very forward and hopeful till he arrived at thirteen or fourteen years of age." (58) Similarly, class and education too did not seem to be reliable predictors about which child would head toward criminality. Mark Thornton's parents were "people of good repute and reasonable estate," who "bestowed upon him a liberal education," unlike the parents of John Price, who were of "extraordinary mean" extraction and whose fortunes reduced them "to such extremity that they could not bestow upon this their son... any education." (59) This led Price to "improve himself in all manner of wickedness" instead. (60) Both Thornton and Price end on the scaffold. Rarely, economic circumstance is identified as a cause for criminality, for instance in the case of Jack Withers, who begins stealing because of "his belly being often full of emptiness." (61) This plethora of scenarios indicates the absence of a coherent dominant discourse in early eighteenth-century England about why children turn criminal; in Defoe's novel, this incoherence appears as the irresolvable contrast between Captain and Colonel Jack. Colonel Jack might have become a criminal because, as Defoe says in his preface, poor street boys' "ruin" is caused by the "want of... a well-governed Education." But the contradictory inclusion of the inherently criminal Captain Jack in the narrative suggests that the novel's reformist agenda is not able to transcend the messiness of the historical moment entirely.

In addition to these differences between the boys--one innately criminal and unteachable, the other naturally endowed with a moral sense and able to benefit from the "Advantages of a sober and well govern'd Education"--there is another element crucial to Defoe's representation of the young thief as a likeable lad, and that is his biddability. Colonel Jack is a child who might pick pockets and rob pedestrians but his "natural Temper is docible," and he is, as he calls himself, an "unhappy tractable Dog" (1,6). Arguably, more than the question of a child's innate criminality or educability, it is this "docibility" or "tractability" toward adults which is central to Defoe's successful representation of the boy thief as a rather endearing figure worthy of the reader's charity. Even when Colonel Jack is in the thick of his pocket-picking spree with his associates--the worst kind of attack upon adult economic privilege--he never quite consciously seems to reject or challenge adult authority, always courting their benevolence instead and often looking to learn from them, whether it be from the old glass-seller, who exhorts a gentleman customer not to swear, or the "Soldiers and Seamen," who know about the ongoing war. Indeed, many pivotal moments in Colonel Jack's childhood are marked by such fundamentally deferential interactions with adults. In contrast, Captain Jack is mulish enough so "no Body got anything from him that was obliging in the least." And even when he is in the needily dependent position of begging for survival, "he did it in so ill a Tone, rather like bidding Folks give him Victuals, than entreating them" (8-9). Thus, Colonel Jack's appeal lies in his tendency to be compliant towards adults in his everyday interactions with them as a child, even though these moments are often mere punctuations in his criminal activities as part of the Black-Guard. Payne has argued that, in the eighteenth century, who a "child" was often depended upon context, whether it be the apprenticeship system, legal trials, or pedagogic manuals. But, as she also notes, in all of these contexts their subjection to adults was what constructed them as "children"--a fact especially true for the childhood of the desperately indigent. (62) The perceived significance of such subservience can be glimpsed in William Kennett's early eighteenth-century sermon preached at the anniversary meeting of charity schools, where he says that "if children are made tractable and obedient to the Advice and Authority of their Parents and Teachers, they are then fitted to the hands of other Lawful Rulers, and the Church, and the State." (63) That this early subjection of the street child to adult authority is an important aspect of Defoe's overall design in Colonel Jack is suggested by Stephen Gregg's observation that after his Jacobite activities, the protagonist's "manly honor can be recovered and maintained" only through "the correct self-subjection to the State and its monarch." (64) The function of charity schools, thus, was not only saving poor children from a life of beggary and crime but also subjecting them properly to various authorities--beginning with the adults around them. In this context, Colonel Jack's "docibility" suggests an important adult-child dynamic, one that is based on a submissive and biddable child who does not overtly challenge the status quo of adult privilege. It is, after all, important that in his Preface, Defoe advocates for "unhappy Children" but qualifies it by adding, "many of whose natural temperaments are docible"--many, not all. Enterprises of charitable and pious adults could actually turn such a child around toward an honest day's work rather than activities that harm others' property.

Thus, at the center of Defoe's representation of Colonel Jack is an important contradiction. On the one hand, as a criminal Black-Guard, he is recognized as an enemy of social--and adult--property and authority. On the other, as a child, he is supposed to be an acquiescent dependant upon adults. And Defoe makes considerable narrative effort to highlight the child-identity of his young criminal--even to the extent of creating contradictions in his character. Jack's sudden lapses into childlike ingenuousness have been noted above. Similarly, when he returns to Tower Hill after getting the reward because he does not know where to keep the money, he suddenly transforms from cheerful Jack to a "lachrymose child." (65) Jack's weeping incoherence and frightened aphasia in this scene is not only another contradiction in his characterization, but also effects a shift in the adults' role, constructing them as protectors of weak children rather than the prey of cunning Black-Guards. Thus, when the gentleman asks him what he is afraid of, the following conversation ensues:
I [fear] I should not be able to keep it [the reward money], but they
would Cheat me of it, or they would Kill me, and take it away from me
too. They, says he, Who? what sort of Gangs of People art thou with? I
told him they were all Boys, but very wicked Boys, Thieves and
Pick-Pockets... , said I, such as stole this Letter Case, a sad Pack, I
can't abide 'em. Well, Jack, said he, what shall be done for thee? will
you leave it with me, shall I keep it for you? Yes, said I, with all my
Heart, if you please. (39, italics in the original)

This interaction exemplifies the complex dialectic of affect and benevolence Defoe employs to reposition Colonel Jack in the narrative as more child than criminal. The rhetorical force of Jack's persistent use of "they" has the effect of aligning him against the poor and "deviant" Black-Guards' world he actually belongs to and alongside that of the respectable adult. When he fearfully says they are a "sad pack," and "all Boys, but very wicked Boys, Thieves and Pick-Pockets," that he "can't abide," he is essentially articulating the adult perspective on the dangers that disorderly and criminal street children posed (324). He really is afraid of being "smother'd in the Ashes" by the other boys, of course, as evidenced in his recent difficulties with his share of the money from Robin's theft (23). But the scene above also artfully enhances the sense of shared victimhood between Jack and the gentleman, who stand together against "them." Richetti rightly says that the scene engineers a dual response in the fictional adults interacting with Jack as well as the real adult readers of Defoe's novel: on the one hand, "moral outrage over urban squalor and the crime it breeds," and on the other, pity for the "urban waifs deprived of the simplest necessities." (66) But such early scenes in the novel are not entirely the "sweetly sentimentalized picture of a juvenile underclass" Richetti calls them. (67) Rather, they constitute a sentimentalized picture of one juvenile underling rather than an entire underclass.

The separation of this particular juvenile from his peers is particularly visible in his instinctive distaste for the waste involved in stealing a letter case full of valuable merchants' bills worth hundreds of pounds, of which they can only safely cash a small local one of L.12 and 10s. This "quasi-instinctive commitment to utility," as Brean Hammond calls it, can be seen as a sign of Jack's moral difference from his "unregenerate" companions. (68) Or, as in Guilhamet's view, Jack's "natural empathy for the merchant" and his loss can be read as a sign that the boy is "better suited to trade" than thievery. (69) But also, it is instructive to compare Jack's worry about making "the Gentleman lose so much Money for nothing," to that of "normal" young pickpockets like Robin. When Jack plaintively asks Robin, "will not you let the poor Man have his Bills again?" the boy replies, "No, not, I... I won't trust them, what care I for their Bills... would you have me be found out and sent to Bridewell, and be Whip'd... . I shall be hang'd, would you have me be hang'd Jack?" (30). Unlike Jack who risks his own neck to return the wallet they have stolen--primarily because he is instinctively attuned to their victim's distress, though the reward money is a bonus, of course--Robin's stance towards the adults he steals from is hostile and oppositional (30). When he steals from them he is predator and they are prey--but he realizes the tables could turn any minute. Here is a boy who is highly conscious of his deeply adversarial relationship with the adults he robs. Like the Captain, he feels no need for any complaisance toward adults--though he is capable of faking it when needed--and nor does he expect any benevolence or pity from them. He does not seem to be one of the "many whose tempers are docible." His only aim is to ruthlessly one-up adults for gain.

Defoe's investment in one particular model of child criminality can also be glimpsed in a rather curious narrative silence about the adults who directly and memorably impinge upon the criminal underworld of the Black-Guard boys. Most of these adults we see are on the side of the law (such as the pickpockets' victims, the Watch, the customs house clerk, and the Tower-Hill gentlemen) or well-meaning inhabitants of the area around the Minories such as the glass seller who reproves a customer for swearing and the shoemaker who tries to warn Jack against joining the neighborhood thieving gangs. This representation is in direct contrast to the popular understanding of how criminal boys' gangs functioned. An important link in the stolen goods' trade, for instance, was the "receiver"--an adult who bought the articles purloined by street boys at pennies to a pound and then resold them in the open market at a fine profit. These adults, who were neither victims, nor mentors, nor the Watch, actually thrived by encouraging and exploiting the young pilferers. Indeed, receivers were figures very actively pursued by constables, magistrates, and courts. For instance, in the trial of the gang of shoplifters indicted for shoplifting from Ann Wibley, the woman suspicious of the "parcel of boys" loitering in her neighborhood, one of the main targets of the prosecution becomes Nicholas Correl, their receiver, and the boys are actively encouraged to implicate him as the man who always buys their stolen wares. Similarly, in 1754, ten-year-old criminal George Dawson says of Sarah Hewlet, his receiver, that she would "entice and encourage boys to go a thieving, lodged them in her house, and used to give them what she pleased for the things they stole and then made them spend the money at her house on gin and hotpots" (T17310428-64). The centrality of such enabling adult criminals in the lives of young pick-pockets is also evident in other works from the period. Mrs. Peachum, the receiver's wife in The Beggar's Opera, for instance, echoes Sarah Hewlet's behavior in her special fondness and motherly but criminal encouragement of the young boy, "nimble-finger'd" Filch. (70)

The peculiarity of Defoe omitting adults' exploitation and abetment of young thieves in Colonel Jack is particularly evident if we compare his vehemence about the topic in A True and Genuine Account of the Life and Actions of the Late Jonathan Wild. Defoe tells us there that adult "Brokers and Receivers" gave "great Encouragement to the light-finger'd Gang" because "a young Shop-lifter... had no sooner got a Booty, but he knew where to go... [so] he was sure to have Money for it." (71) But when a law was passed against receiving stolen goods, adults like Wild found even more elaborate ways of luring poor boys into crime, and this exploitation of children provokes intense vitriol from Defoe. Toward the end of his narrative, Defoe notes that while there are some aspects of Wild's criminal career that might be treated with some "Levity of a drol-way of Writing," there is something particularly "shocking and dismal" about his corruption and exploitation of "Children [] strolling about the Streets in Misery and Poverty." (72) Defoe's repugnance and "just Abhorrence" seem palpable as he imagines Wild "tak[ing] up an unthinking Youth in the Street cover'd with Dirt Rags... willing [on] any Terms to get out of his Misery" only to first have this "superlative Wretch pretend Charity to the Child" and then "lead him by the Hand to Hell-gates ... and betray [him] to the Gallows" by making him a thief and a rogue. (73) "Horrid Wickedness!" Defoe exclaims, as he condemns Wild for this strategy of exploiting "poor desolate vagabond Boys," which devilishly perverts the model of benevolent charity that adults should actually practice in order to save these Black-Guard children. (74) That Defoe's harshest diatribe against Wild in the Account is reserved for his criminalization of vulnerable street children makes the complete absence of exploitative adults in his novel about those very "poor desolate Vagabond boys" a rather glaring omission. While Wild is clearly "an early version of Charles Dickens' Fagin," and a "corrupter of children" as Novak notes, the criminal children of Colonel Jack are, in contrast, positioned vis-a-vis a world of adults that is always on the side of law, order, honesty, and benevolence. (75) This erasure of guilty adults who exploit young criminals' hunger and poverty is a telling silence; including them would have heightened the sentimentalization of Jack as a poor boy living a difficult life on the streets, and so strengthened Defoe's reformist cause of charity schools. But his omission of these adult enablers who were integral to children's criminal activity in the period suggests that there is another powerful though implicit agenda in tension with his explicit one of helping these poor boys: preserving adult moral authority in the face of children's criminal transgressions.

And if adults are positioned as legitimate and rightful authorities in the world of children, then the young protagonist's acquiescence and biddability is a crucial element in Defoe's portrayal of child criminality. It is not just the innately different characters of Colonel and Captain Jack--the former with his "strange Rectitude of principles" and the latter with his "cruel... disposition"--that distinguishes the 'good' criminal child from the "bad" one. It is also their attitude toward the adult world and how "docible" they are. McLynn, explaining the great gap in the eighteenth century between the draconian letter of the law and its more flexible execution, notes that English Law has historically been concerned "more with credibility and authority," with "compel[ling] the deference of lower orders" than with "punishment of each and every infraction." (76) In the central contrast of the novel between the two criminal brothers, then, the "surly" and "ill-mannered" Captain Jack's perpetual truculence is Defoe's narrative condemnation of a particular mode of child criminality--a criminality based on inadequate deference.

Defoe's dual representation of criminal children is thus also an authorial indictment of the kind of boy who is disobliging and uncooperative with adult privilege. Of all social hierarchies, that dividing "child" from "adult" is perhaps the most persistently naturalized through history, though the discourses governing that power differential have changed over time. Thus, if Colonel Jack--unlike Captain Jack--is "the most affecting natural picture of a young thief" it is at least partly because Defoe positions him within a comforting and naturalized binary of child and adult where the former term connotes subordination and the latter, privileged authority. When children become thieves, their antisociality has a particular power dynamic in that their acts set them against the adult world, subverting its "natural" authority over them. In Defoe's depiction of Colonel Jack, however, this hostile positionality of the child criminal is obscured. The disobliging and incorrigible Captain Jack, on the other hand, becomes the literary conduit for readers' anxieties about the criminal Black-Guard and their skepticism about their reformability. But whether the redeemable young thief or the damned one, an object of sympathy or a source of anxiety, Defoe's criminal children convey Colonel Jack's direct engagement with the complex and often contradictory discourses of child criminality in the period. And more intriguingly perhaps, Defoe's novel also shows that underlying the concerns about social order, property loss, or young ones ruined due to lack of education, is a very basic and historically persistent cultural imperative--that of preserving the hierarchical status quo between children and adults.

Colorado State University


I would like to thank Ellen Brinks for reading early drafts of this essay and offering important feedback. I am also grateful to Rictor Norton for his generosity and accessibility in sharing his research sources. My thanks also to the readers of Philological Quarterly for their very valuable suggestions.

(1) Charles Lamb, The Complete Works and Letters of Charles Lamb (New York, 1935), 849.

(2) For instance see John J. Richetti, Daniel Defoe (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1987), 76, and T. G. A. Nelson, Children, Parents, and the Rise of the Novel (U. of Delaware Press, 1995), 197-203. That the section of the novel depicting Jack's early years has had a distinct identity and an intriguingly portable afterlife is evident in its popular adaptation as a children's book in 1810 called Colonel Jack: The History of a Boy That Never Went to School.

(3) Peter Jochum Klaus, "Defoe's Children," in Fashioning Childhood in the Eighteenth Century: Age and Identity, ed. Anja Muller (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), 157-67.

(4) Hal Gladfelder, Criminality and Narrative in Eighteenth-Century England: Beyond the Law (Johns Hopkins U. Press, 2001); and Lincoln B. Faller, Crime and Defoe: A New Kind of Writing (Cambridge U. Press, 1993).

(5) For the variety of eighteenth-century conceptions of "child" in different contexts see Dianne Payne, "Children of the Poor in London 1700-1780" (doctoral diss., U. of Hertfordshire, 2008), 11,, and Anja Muller, "Fashioning Age and Identity: Childhood and the Stages of Life in Eighteenth-Century English Periodicals," in Muller, Fashioning Childhood, 91-100.

(6) See Peter King for the emergence of young offenders as a separate distinct problem. King, Crime and Law in England, 1750-1840: Remaking Justice from the Margins (Cambridge U. Press, 2006), 73-164. Also, this essay primarily focuses criminal children who are boys because in Colonel Jack the only examples of children are boys. While both girls and boys were involved in criminal activities, Cox has noted that through the eighteenth century and after, efforts to police the streets strongly targeted boys and young men. P. Cox, ed., Becoming Delinquent: British and European Youth, 1650-1950 (London: Ashgate, 2002), 3.

(7) Hugh Cunningham, The Children of the Poor: Representations of Childhood since the Seventeenth Century (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), 20.

(8) See Payne, "Children of the Poor in London", 22.

(9) From an anonymous sermon preached before the Corporation for the Poor in Bristol, qtd. in Cunningham, Children of the Poor: Representations of Childhood, 23. For an overview of childhood criminality in the period leading to the "construction of juvenile delinquency" which placed special "emphasis on the guardian's responsibility" toward the end of the eighteenth century, see Uwe Boker, "Childhood and Juvenile Delinquency in Eighteenth Century Newgate Calendars," in Muller, Fashioning Childhood, 135-44, 141.

(10) For example Archdeacon William Kennet pronounces in his 1706 sermon that "The greatest disorders of any neighbourhood do most commonly proceed from the Folly of Children" (qtd. in Cunningham, Children of the Poor: Representations of Childhood, 7).

(11) See Daniel Defoe, Giving Alms No Charity (1704), and Everybody's Business Is Nobody's Business; Or Private Abuses, Publick Grievances (1725).

(12) Daniel Defoe, Colonel Jack, ed. Samuel Monk (Oxford U. Press, 1965), 1. All references to the novel are from this edition. Page numbers are cited parenthetically after quotations.

(13) This sense of charity schools as a means for preventing criminality in children is seen in the mission statements of many such enterprises. See Payne, "Children of the Poor in London", 99.

(14) See for instance, John J. Richetti, The Life of Daniel Defoe (Maiden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), 257-60, and Peter Earle, The World of Defoe (New York: Atheneum, 1977), 217-21. For an overview of the charity school movement see M. G. Jones, The Charity School Movement: A Study of Eighteenth Century Puritanism in Action (Connecticut: Archon Books, 1964). Also, though a much earlier work, David Salmon, The Education of the Poor in the Eighteenth Century (London: Eyre and Spottiswood, 1908), also offers a useful overview of educational initiatives for poor children in the period. David Blewett also has a short but important section on Defoe's view of charity schools; Blewett, Defoe's Art of Fiction (U. of Toronto Press, 1979), 102-4.

(15) Payne, "Children of the Poor in London", 26.

(16) Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees: Or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits, ed. F. B. Kaye, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1924), 1: 272.

(17) Ibid., 273.

(18) Daniel Defoe, "Lives of Six Notorious Street Robbers," in The Works of Daniel Defoe: The king of pirates, being an account of the famous enterprises of Captain Avery, with lives of other pirates and robbers, ed. G. H. Maynadier, vol. 16 (New York: Jenson Society, 1905), 360. There is some dispute about whether Defoe actually wrote this piece. If not, it was someone very familiar with Colonel Jack, as evident by the description of the poor vagabond boys living around the glasshouses. See P. N. Furbank, W. R. Owens, and John R. Moore, Defoe De-Attributions: A Critique of J. R. Moore's Checklist (London: Hambledon Press, 1994).

(19) Elizabeth Napier, Defoe's Major Fiction: Accounting for Self(U. of Delaware Press, 2016), 99. We also see this phenomenon in the novel when Colonel Jack is mistaken for his brother Captain Jack and arrested.

(20) Ned Ward, The London Spy (London, 1703), 35.

(21) Ibid., 35.

(22) Tim Hitchcock, Down and Out in Eighteenth-Century London (London: Hambledon and London, 2004), 41. For the long history of such anxiety about poor children in London see Payne, "Children of the Poor in London", 20-22.

(23) See Payne, "Children of the Poor in London", 242; and Paula Backscheider, "The Crime Wave and Moll Flanders," in Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders, Norton Critical Edition (New York, 2004), 464. Payne notes, though, that despite the paranoia, Black-Guard children were only a "troublesome and discordant minority" (249). For an excellent overview of property crime in the period, including thefts by young gangs, see Frank McLynn, Crime and Punishment in Eighteenth-Century England (London: Routledge, 1989), 83-95, and Rictor Norton, The Georgian Underworld,

(24) All references to these trials are from Old Bailey Proceedings Online,, version 7.2, 7 January 2016). Trial identification numbers follow quotations. Though the transcripts often mention how old a child being indicted is, or at least refer to the prisoner being a "little" boy or girl, age information was not systematically recorded before the 1790s.

(25) For example, see these Old Bailey cases: tl6781211e-7, t16780516-1, t16761011-1, t16770601-2, t16820601-2, t17310714-32.

(26) For the rise of transportation as punishment for property crime see J. M. Beattie, Crime and the Courts in England, 1660-1800 (Princeton U. Press, 1986), 450-519. Also for general trends in prosecution and punishments of various kinds of theft see 619-38.

(27) Alexander Smith, A Complete History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, Footpads, Shoplifts and Cheats of Both Sexes (London: G Routledge & Sous, 1926); Gladfelder, Criminality and Narrative, 107.

(28) The Newgate Calendar, 6 vols., 1.263.

(29) Gladfelder, Criminality and Narrative, 107.

(30) Ibid., 108.

(31) For an overview of children's status in the eyes of the law in the period see Ann-Christina Giovanopoulos, "The Legal Status of Children in Eighteenth-Century England" in Muller, Fashioning Childhood, 43-52.

(32) William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 4 vols. (London, 1769), 4:22-23.

(33) G. A. Starr, "'Only a Boy': Notes on Sentimental Novels," Genre 10 (Winter 1977): 510.

(34) Geoffrey Sill, "'Only a Boy': George Starr's 'Notes on Sentimental Novels' Revisited," in Reflections on Sentiment: Essays in Honor of George Star, ed. Alessa Johns (U. of Delaware Press, 2016), 159,153.

(35) For example, see these Old Bailey cases: t16901210-54, t16910527-14, t16901210-54, t17270705-22, t16760628-3.

(36) O'Malley has noted that in the eighteenth century, the emergent discourse of the child as tabula rasa in a culture that deified Reason constructed him as a subject "interpellated by difference and absence" without the "normalizing faculty" of rationality, and as such, more rigorously subject to adult control. The situation of a child accused of a crime in a court, on the other hand, indicates that in some arenas being assessed as lacking in rational judgment was more advantageous to children. Andrew O'Malley, The Making of the Modern Child: Children's Literature and Childhood in the Late Eighteenth Century (New York: Routledge, 2003), 11-12. Also see my "Personhood, Property Rights, and the Child in John Locke's Two Treatises of Government and Daniel Defoe's Fiction," Eighteenth-Century Fiction 28.1 (2015): 25-58, for the link between discourse of rationality and childhood (especially in the context of eighteenth-century theories of possessive individualism).

(37) For a long-established view of this legal attitude toward children see Michael Dalton, The Countrey Justice, containing the Practise of Justices of Peace (London, 1618), 204-6.

(38) William H. McBurney, "Colonel Jacque: Defoe's Description of the Complete English Gentleman," SEL 2.3 (1962): 329.

(39) Adam Hansen, "Criminal Conversations: Rogues, Words and the World in the Work of Daniel Defoe," Literature & History 13.2 (2004): 28.

(40) Maximillian Novak, Defoe and the Nature of Man (Oxford U. Press, 1963), 75. Also, Jack's portrait is of a piece with Defoe's other criminal protagonists insofar as he echoes the persistent linking of criminality with economic necessity rather than mere moral viciousness. See Novak, The Nature of Man, 65-88, and Maximillian Novak, Economics and the Fiction of Daniel Defoe (U. of California Press, 1962), 78.

(41) Richetti, Life of Daniel Defoe, 258.

(42) Virginia O Birdsall, Defoe's Perpetual Seekers: A Study of the Major Fiction (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell U. Press, 1985), 128.

(43) Hitchcock, Down and Out, 43. As Hitchcock notes, social policy--such as the establishment of the London Workhouse--took into account "all those poor distressed children, that lay up and down in the streets of the City... . of those they commonly call the Black-Guard.

"A short account of the work-house belonging to the president and governours for the poor, in Bishopsgate-Street" (London, 1702).

(44) Blewett, Art of Fiction, 102.

(45) Qtd. in D. P. Leinster-Mackay, The Educational World of Daniel Defoe (Victoria, BC: English Literary Studies, U. of Victoria, 1981), 36.

(46) See Payne, "Children of the Poor in London", 123.

(47) Ibid., 224.

(48) Paul Griffiths, "Juvenile Delinquency in Time," Becoming Delinquent: British andEuropean Youth, 1650-1950, eds. P. Cox and H. Shore (London: Ashgate, 2002), 27.

(49) Audrey Bullock's research shows that children were proportionally more likely to be indicted when brought to the Old Bailey as compared to adult defendants, but, as Peter King argues, it is very difficult to create data on absolute numbers of children prosecuted before the 1790s because of the unevenness with which ages were recorded in the trial transcripts. See Audrey Bullock, "Child Testimony and Legal Definition of Childhood in Eighteenth-Century London", (MA thesis Miami University, Ohio, 2004) and King, Crime and Law in England, 5-60.

(50) Katherine A. Armstrong, Defoe: Writer as Agent (Victoria, B.C: English Literary Studies, U. of Victoria, 1996), 94.

(51) Gabriel Cervantes, "Episodic or Novelistic?: Law in the Atlantic and the Form of Daniel Defoe's Colonel Jack" Eighteenth-Century Fiction 24.2 (2011): 265.

(52) Armstrong, Writer as Agent, 95.

(53) For instance, corporal punishment, including whipping, was common punishment in schools. See Payne, "Children of the Poor in London", 123. Also, see King, Crime and Law, 115.

(54) Leinster-Mackay, The Educational World, 36.

(55) Daniel Defoe, The Family Instructor: In Three Parts; I. Relating to Fathers and Children. II. To Masters and Servants. III. To Husbands and Wives (London, 1729), 1:86.

(56) Faller, Crime and Defoe, 25.

(57) Smith, Complete History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, 381.

(58) Ibid., 25.

(59) Ibid., 426, 26.

(60) Ibid., 26.

(61) Ibid., 63.

(62) Payne, "Children of the Poor in London", 13-14.

(63) Qtd. in Cunningham, Children of the Poor: Representations of Childhood, 19.

(64) Stephen H. Gregg, Defoe's Writing and Manliness: Contrary Men (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), 135.

(65) McBurney, "Colonel Jacque," 328.

(66) Richetti, Life of Defoe, 78.

(67) Ibid., 79.

(68) Brean Hammond, "Defoe and the Picaresque", in The Picaresque Novel in Western Literature: From the Sixteenth Century to the Neopicaresque, ed. J. A. Garrido Ardila (Cambridge U. Press, 2015): 144.

(69) Leon Guilhamet, Defoe and the WhigNovel: A Reading of the Major Fiction (U. of Delaware Press, 2010), 160.

(70) John Gay, The Beggar's Opera in The Broadview Anthology of Restoration & Early Eighteenth-Century English Drama, ed. J Douglas Canfield and Moja-Lisa Von Sneidern (Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, 2001), 815.

(71) Daniel Defoe, A True and Genuine Account of the Life and Actions of the Late Jonathan Wild (London, 1725), 7.

(72) Ibid., 32.

(73) Ibid., 33. OBSP offers an intriguing glimpse of Wild's involvement in young pickpockets' activity in a trial where he appears as evidence against two young boys. See t17190225-11.

(74) Ibid., 32.

(75) Maximillian E. Novak, Daniel Defoe: Master of Fictions: His Life and Ideas (Oxford U. Press, 2001), 642.

(76) McLynn, Crime and Punishment, xvi. Douglas Hay also makes a very similar point, arguing that spectacles of mercy and justice in the courts constituted an ideological apparatus crucial for "sustaining the hegemony of the ruling class." Douglas Hay, "Property, Authority and the Criminal Law", in Albion's Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England, ed. Douglas Hay et al. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1975), 56.
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Author:Gollapudi, Aparna
Publication:Philological Quarterly
Article Type:Critical essay
Date:Oct 18, 2017
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