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on 2 January 2012
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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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.

This is a really good novel, but remember that like anything written at this time (Oliver Twist was being serialised along with this tale) it is full of melodrama and may not appeal to everyone. This is well worth a read, esecially if you like true crime stories, or just a good read. And if you are familiar with Ainsworth's writings you will know that there is more to the story than this, what with another boy, Thames Darrell who has been done out of his birthright.
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on 17 March 2016
Fabulous item as described. Prompt dispatch, safe and sound. Top marks.
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on 26 October 2014
Great service by this seller, great book too!
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