This broadside illustrates the growing concerns that existed among members of elite society regarding juvenile delinquency in the early part of the 19th century. The publication describes the life of a 12-year-old boy who was drawn into crime ‘through the corrupt example of wicked parents’, and who was regularly caught stealing from his masters since the age of seven. Later the boy joins a gang of thieves who send him down a chimney as part of an elaborate plan to rob a jeweller’s shop.
The authenticity of the case referred to is unclear. A young boy of the same name does not appear in the court records from the Old Bailey, and it is possible that the piece was used as a rhetorical device by supporters of moral reform to highlight the crimes of boys and girls generally. The text of the broadside was certainly recycled in similar publications in the early years of the 19th century. The name of the juvenile defendant was simply changed by the author when referring to different cases currently in the public eye.
- Full title:
- The dreadful life and confession of Thomas Mitchel, a boy 12 years of age, who was tried on five different indictments, and condemned to die at the Old Bailey, etc.
- estimated 1829, probably London
- Broadside / Ephemera
- Usage terms
- Public Domain
- Held by
- British Library
- Article by:
- Liza Picard
Victorian citizens were worried about the rising crime rate. Liza Picard considers how this concern brought about changes in the way people were caught, arrested and imprisoned.
- Article by:
- Matthew White
- Childhood and children's literature, Crime and crime fiction, Poverty and the working classes
Novels such as Oliver Twist have made Victorian child-thieves familiar to us, but to what extent did juvenile crime actually exist in the 19th century? Drawing on contemporary accounts and printed ephemera, Dr Matthew White uncovers the facts behind the fiction.