Saturday, May 8, 2010

Old Bailey

On May 8, 1701, the trial of William Kidd began at the Old Bailey in London.  This court deals with major criminal cases, and Kidd was of course tried for piracy.  The Central Criminal Court became known as Old Bailey for its location, on Old Bailey street.  The Kidd trial seems to have generated a market for stories about the trial, as there is a reference in the Ordinary's report of May 16, 1701, concerning Capt. Kidd (from http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/index.jsp):

Paul Lorrain, Ordinary .


WHereas a certain Book, now lately publish'd, (said to be Printed for E. Hawkins near Fleet-bridge) under the Title of A Sermon preach'd last Sunday by the Ordinary of Newgate before Capt. Kidd and other Prisoners there; These are to give notice, that the said pretended Sermon is a Sham-Paper, having little or nothing on it (besides the Text) of what was there deliver'd in the Pulpit.

Walter Scott included Old Bailey in his novel "Old Mortality":

"... Secure them," said the barrister, " against any great increase of professional thieves and depredators, but not against wild and wayward starts of fancy and passion, producing crimes of an extraordinary description, which are precisely those to the detail of which we listen with thrilling interest. England has been much longer a highly civilized country; her subjects have been very strictly amenable to laws administered without fear or favour, a complete division of labour has taken place among her subjects, and the very thieves and robbers form a distinct class in society, subdivided among themselves according to the subject of the depredations, and the mode in which they carry them on, acting upon regular habits and principles, which can be calculated and anticipated at Bow Street, Hatton Garden, or the Old Bailey..."

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