Executed for a Street Robbery
Martha Tracy robbing Mr Humphries
THE melancholy fate of this unfortunate woman is another instance of the misery occasioned by that licentiousness, which is of all vices the most destructive of the happiness of females, and so disgraceful to the British metropolis.
This much injured woman was a native of Bristol, and descended from poor parents, who educated her in the best manner in their power. Getting a place in the service of a merchant when she was sixteen years of age, she lived with him three years, and then came to London.
Having procured a place in a house where lodgings were let to single gentlemen, and being a girl of an elegant appearance, and fond of dress, she was liable to a variety of temptations.
Her vanity being even more than equal to her beauty, she at length conceived that she had made a conquest of one of the gentlemen-lodgers, and was foolish enough to think he would marry her.
With a view of keeping alive the passion she thought she had inspired, she sought every pretence of going into his chamber; and he, having some designs against her virtue, purchased her some new clothes, in which she went to church on the following Sunday, where she was observed by her mistress.
On their return from church, the mistress strictly inquired how she came to be possessed of such fine clothes; and, having learnt the real state of the case, she was discharged from her service on the Monday morning.
As she still thought the gentleman intended marriage, she wrote to him, desiring he would meet her at a public-house; and, on his attending, she wept incessantly, and complained of the treatment she had met with from her mistress, which she attributed to the presents she had received from him.
The seducer advised her to calm her spirits, and go into lodgings, which he would immediately provide for her, and here he could securely visit her till the marriage should take place.
Deluded by this artifice, she went that day to lodge at a house in the Strand, which he said was kept by a lady who was related to him. In this place he visited her on the following, and several successive days; attending her to public places, and making her presents of elegant clothes, which effectually flattered her vanity, and lulled asleep the small remains of her virtue.
It is needless to say that her ruin followed. After a connexion of a few months, she found him less frequent in his visits; and, informing him that she was with child, demanded that he would make good his promise of marriage: on which he declared that he had never intended to marry her, and that he would not maintain her any longer; and hinted that she should seek another lodging.
On the following day the mistress of the house told her she must not remain there any longer, unless she would pay for her lodgings in advance, which being unable to do, or, perhaps, unwilling to remain in a house where she had been so unworthily treated, she packed up her effects, and removed to another lodging.
When she was brought to bed, the father took away the infant, and left the wretched mother in a very distressed situation. Having subsisted for some time by pawning her clothes, she was at length so reduced as to listen to the advice of a woman of the town, who persuaded her to procure a subsistence by the casual wages of prostitution.
Having embarked in the horrid course of life, she soon became a common street-walker, and experienced all those calamities incident to so deplorable a situation. Being sometimes tempted to pick pockets for a subsistence, she became an occasional visitor at Bridewell, where her mind grew only the more corrupt by the conversation of the abandoned wretches confined in that place.
We now come to speak of the fact, the commission of which forfeited her life to the violated laws of her country.
At the sessions held at the Old Bailey, in the month of January, 1745, she was indicted for robbing William Humphreys of a guinea on the king's highway.
The fact was, that being passing, at midnight, near Northumberland House, in the Strand, she accosted Mr Humphreys, who declining to hold any correspondence with her, two fellows with whom she was connected came up, and one of them knocking him down, they both ran away; when she robbed him of a guinea, which she concealed in her mouth; but Mr Humphreys seizing her, and two persons coming up, she was conducted to the watch-house, where the guinea was found in her mouth, as above mentioned, by the constable of the night.
At her trial it was proved that she had called the men, one of whom knocked down the prosecutor; so that there could be no doubt of her being an accomplice with them; whereupon the jury brought her in guilty.
After conviction she appeared to have a proper idea of her former guilt, and the horrors of her present situation. In fact she was a sincere penitent, and lamented that pride of heart which had first seduced her to destruction.
Martha Tracy was hanged at Tyburn, on the 16th of February, 1745, behaving with the greatest decency and propriety to the last moment of her life.
The fate of this woman affords a striking lesson to girls against the taking pride in those personal charms which, the more brilliant they are, will be only the more likely to lead them to destruction. The idea she had formed of making a conquest of a man in a rank of life superior to her own served only to assist towards her ruin; but we cannot help thinking that he who could be base enough to seduce her under solemn promises of marriage was still more guilty than herself, and in some degree an accessory to all the crimes she afterwards committed.
It seems strangely unnatural that the father should take away the child, and leave the mother to perish, or to subsist only in a most infamous manner, for which she had been qualified by the gratification of his passions!
In the gay hours of festivity men may triumph in the advantages they have gained over women in their unguarded moments; but surely reflection must come, with all her attendant train of horrors. Conscience will assert her rights; and the misery the wicked seducer suffers in this life he ought to consider only as a prelude to the more aggravated torments he has to expect in the next.
If any one of the readers of this narrative has been guilty of the enormous crime we are now reprobating, it will become him to think seriously of the great work of reformation; and to repent, in the most unfeigned manner, while Providence yet permits him the opportunity of repentance. It ought to be remembered by offenders of every class, that the God of mercy is also a God of justice.