An Insolent Puppy who presumed on his Swordsmanship. Executed at Tyburn, 23rd of December, 1723, for murdering his Mistress
JOHN STANLEY was the son of an officer in the army, and born in the year 1690, at Duce Hall, in Essex, a seat that belonged to Mr Palmer, who was his uncle by his mother's side. Young Stanley, being the favourite of his father, was taught the art of fencing when he was no more than five years of age; and other officers likewise practising the same art with him, he became a kind of master of the sword when he was but a mere boy, for to stimulate his courage it was common for those who fenced with him to give him wine or other strong liquors.
In consequence of this treatment the boy grew daring and insolent beyond expression, and at length behaved with so uncommon a degree of audacity that his father deemed him a singular character of bravery.
While he was very young, Mr Stanley was ordered to join his regiment in Spain, and took his son with him, and in that country he was a spectator of several engagements; but his principal delight was in trampling on the bodies of the deceased after the battles were ended.
From Spain the elder Stanley was ordered to Ireland, whither he took his son, and there procured for him an ensign's commission; but the young gentleman, habituating himself to extravagant company, spent much more money than the produce of his commission, which he soon sold, and then returned to England and abandoned himself to the most dissolute course of life. At length, after a scene of riot in London, he went with one of his associates to Flanders, and thence to Paris; and Stanley boasted not a little of the favours he received among the French ladies, and of the improvements he had made in the science of fencing.
On his return to England the opinion he conceived of his skill in the use of the sword made him insufferably vain and presuming. He would frequently intrude himself into company at a tavern, saying he had come to make himself welcome, and would sit down at the table without further ceremony. The company would sometimes bear with his insolence for the sake of peace, but when this was the case, it was a chance if he did not pretend to have received some affront, and, drawing his sword, walk off while the company was in confusion. It was not always, however, that matters ended thus, for sometimes a gentleman of spirit would take the liberty of kicking our hero out of the house.
As he was returning from a gaming-house which he frequented in Covent Garden he met a Mr Bryan, of Newgate Street, and his sister, Mrs Maycock, the wife of a mercer on Ludgate Hill. Stanley rudely ran against the man and embraced the woman, on which a quarrel arose; but this subsiding, Stanley insisted on seeing the parties home. This he did, and spent the evening with them; and from this circumstance a fatal connection arose, as will appear in the sequel.
Stanley, having made an acquaintance with the family, soon afterwards met Mrs Maycock at the house of a relation in Red Lion Street, Holborn. In a short time, Mr Maycock removing into Southwark, the visits of our captain were admitted on a footing of intimacy.
The husband dying soon after this connection, Stanley became more at liberty to pay his addresses to the widow, and he was admitted to repeat his visits at his own convenience. At this time a young fellow who had served his apprenticeship with the late Mr Maycock, and who was possessed of a decent fortune to begin the world, paid his addresses to the young widow; but she preferred a licentious life with Stanley to a more virtuous connection. Soon after this she quitted her house in Southwark, and the lovers spent their time at balls, plays and assemblies till her money was dissipated, when he did not scruple to insinuate that she had been too liberal with her favours to other persons. In the meantime she bore him three children, one of whom was living at the time of the father's execution. Stanley continuing his dissolute course of life, his parents became very uneasy, afraid of the fatal consequences that might ensue; and his father, who saw too late the wrong bias he had given to his education, procured him the commission of a lieutenant, to go to Cape Coast Castle, in the service of the African Company.
The young fellow seemed so pleased with this appointment that his friends conceived great hopes that he would reform. Preparations being made for his voyage, and the Company having advanced a considerable sum, he went to Portsmouth, in order to embark; but he had been only a few days in that town when he was followed by Mrs Maycock, with her infant child. She reproached him with baseness, in first debauching and then leaving her to starve; and employing all the arts she was mistress of to divert him from his resolution, he gave her half the money which belonged to the Company, and followed her to London with the rest.
Shocked with the news of this dishonourable action, the father took to his bed and died of grief. Young Stanley appeared greatly grieved at this event, and to divert his chagrin he went to Flanders, where he stayed a considerable time, when he returned to England and lived in as abandoned a manner as before.
One night Mrs Maycock, having been to visit a gentleman, was returning through Chancery Lane, in company with another woman and Mr Hammond, of the Old Bailey, when Stanley, in company with another man, met the parties, and he and his companion insisted on going with the women. Hammond hereupon said the ladies belonged to him; but Mrs Maycock, now recognising Stanley, said: "What, Captain, is it you?" He asked her where she was going: she said to Mr Hammond's, in the Old Bailey. He replied that he was glad to meet her, and would go with her. As they walked down Fleet Street, Stanley desired his companion to go back and wait for him at an appointed place; and as the company was going forward, Stanley struck a man who happened to be in his way, and kicked a woman on the same account.
Having arrived at Hammond's house, the company desired Stanley to go home; but this he refused, and Mrs Maycock going into the kitchen he pushed in after her, and, some words having passed between them, he stabbed her, so that she died in about an hour and a half.
The offender, being taken into custody, was brought to his trial at the Old Bailey, where some witnesses endeavoured to prove that he was a lunatic; but the jury considering his extravagant conduct as the effect of his vices only, and the evidence against him being positive, he was found guilty, and received sentence of death. He was executed at Tyburn, on 23rd of December, 1723.