The History of the Life of the Late Mr Jonathan Wild the Great

by Henry Fielding

Jonathan Wild, born about 1682 and executed at Tyburn in 1725, was one of the most notorious criminals of his age. His resemblance to the hero in Fielding's satire of the same name is general rather than particular. The real Jonathan (whose legitimate business was that of a buckle-maker) like Fielding's, won his fame, not as a robber himself, but as an informer, and a receiver of stolen goods. His method was to restore these to the owners on receipt of a commission, which was generally pretty large, pretending that he had paid the whole of it to the thieves, whom for disinterested motives he had traced. He was a great organiser, and he controlled various bands of robbers whose lives he did not hesitate to sacrifice, when his own was in danger. Naturally he was so hated by many of his underlings that it is a wonder he was able to maintain his authority over them as many years as he did. His rascality had been notorious a long time before his crimes could actually be proved. He was executed at last according to the statute which made receivers of stolen goods equally guilty with the stealers.


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