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Jack Sheppard [Hardcover]

William Harrison Ainsworth
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Aug 2008

"You will continue as you are," said Jonathan Wild, standing over the heavy bag of money. "My slave!"

"Slave?" echoed Jack, starting to his feet. "It's time you knew whom you have to deal with. Henceforth I throw off the yoke. I will neither stir hand nor foot for you more. Attempt to molest me, and you will learn Jack Sheppard is a match for Jonathan Wild, any day!"

Jonathan smiled contemptuously. "I will make no terms with you," he said. "Neglect my orders, and I will hang you!"

William Harrison Ainsworth (1805-1882) wrote nearly forty novels, chiefly with historical basis. Jack Shepard, A Romance, a chronicle set during three decades of the early 1700s, was first published in 1839, and is ranked among the finest of Ainsworth's creations.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Aegypan (1 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606646966
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606646960
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.7 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,773,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Its incredible popularity and Ainsworth's ranking as one of the premier novelists of the period argue the need for Jack Sheppard to be in print. Without reading it, we have a necessarily distorted view of crime literature, the historical novel, popular fiction--and, indeed, the Victorian novel as a whole. This edition astutely fills in the context of the novel: its reworking of the 18th-century true-crime tradition, its notoriety as an emblem of a criminal (il)literacy, its extended life through popular theatrical adaptations, and the ensuing controversy over its possible influence. This edition will help students and general readers to understand why Ainsworth was so successful in his historical moment."--Simon Joyce --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

William Harrison Ainsworth (4 February 1805 - 3 January 1882) was an English historical novelist born in Manchester. He trained as a lawyer, but the legal profession had no attraction for him. While completing his legal studies in London he met the publisher John Ebers, at that time manager of the King's Theatre, Haymarket. Bears introduced Ainsworth to literary and dramatic circles, and to his daughter, who became Ainsworth's wife. Ainsworth briefly tried the publishing business, but soon gave it up and devoted himself to journalism and literature. His first success as a writer came with Rookwood in 1834, which features Dick Turpin as its leading character. A stream of 39 novels followed, the last appearing in 1881. Ainsworth died in Reigate on 3 January 1882 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read 2 Jan 2012
By a Flynn
Harrison Ainsworth, writing at the start of the Victorian era, is a fascinating author, very much of his time.

To my mind his "Jack Sheppard" is fascinating on 3 levels:

1)Influenced by Sir Walter Scott, he is a fine example of the historical novelists of his day: his plot is interrupted at intervals by factual and geographical descriptions, and moral maxims, which are typical of his era. Anyone interested in the history of literarure would therefore be interested.

b)Jack's personal life is not of much substance, but Ainsworth hangs his whole account on real events running from the Great Storm of 1703 to Jack's hanging at Tyburn in 1724, via the London slums, the 1715 Jacobite Revolt, Jonathan Wild and the thieftakers, Newgate Gaol, and the ghastly judicial custom as the "peine forte et dure" interrogation. Apart from the storm, Jack's escape from Newgate and his journey to Tyburn are the most fully and vividly related.
Ainsworth is ingenious in bringing just about every notable person and event of the period into the story.
The novel is therefore not a bad introduction to the history of the time. When I first read it as a child it caused me to go off and read up that history.
Incidentally Sheppard was a real criminal, but it is really Wild, the original "bent copper", who is of most interest.

c)As the other reviewer says, it is also a good page-turning read.

So not highly accurate and scholarly history, and not a stream-of-consciousness modern novel, but a good read. Scots will object, but I think that at his best (as here) Ainsworth was a better writer than Sir Walter. I think his plots are stronger and his style is less clumsy.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Folk Legend 1 Feb 2010
Ainsworth, who is remembered for his novel Rookwood and its character Dick Turpin wrote this novel at more or less the peak of the so called 'Newgate Novels', a genre that lasted for about twenty years.

Jack Sheppard was a real criminal and is best remembered for his escapes rather than for his crimes, indeed he escaped four times from gaol before he was eventually hanged. Along with 'Blueskin' they were really the two that ultimately led to the hanging of Jonathan Wild, the notorious 'Thief-Taker General'. Following Jack from his early years and throughout his life to his death this novel paints a picture of the squalor and crime that was prevalent in the early 18th Century. Being no normal police force at the time, only the City Watch, thief-takers were a type of bounty hunter who would solve the crimes for those who could afford it, taking a percentage of the value of the goods, and gaining a bounty on those who were hanged. As one can imagine, the system was rife with corruption and people like Jonathan Wild would organise crimes so that they could make money. Wild would sometimes give up those who he had used to commit crimes to get the bounty on them.

Jack gradually finds himslf being seduced into a life of crime, like his father before him and falling under Wild's machinations. But like Jack's dad it is only a matter of time before Wild peaches on him and gives him up to the gallows. With Jack's daring escapes he captured the heart of the masses and became famous, resulting in his entry into common folklore.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravo Broadview Press!!!! An amazing edition of a thrilling old book 19 Feb 2008
By Ibsen Freak - Published on Amazon.com
Three cheers for Broadview press! This edition of a totally thrilling victorian novel is perfect in every way- This is one of those great old novels that you will not put down- no wonder the victorians were suspitious of Crime Fiction- who wants to work when we can get lost in a great book? This book is a riot- and a blast to teach too- If you like Sensation fiction like "East Lynne" or Penny Dreadfuls like "Varney the Vampire" then Jack Sheppard is a great book to turn to- Who knew reading could be this much fun!
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