This offender was a native of Norfolk, and the son of parents in reputable circumstances, who imprudently neglected to bring him up to any business; so that, when he arrived at years of maturity, he wandered about the country curing smoky chimneys, which procured him the appellation of 'the smoky doctor' among those who knew his profession.
At length he married a woman who was said to possess a very considerable fortune; but, whatever this fortune was, Drury never received more of it than 500l. He now lived some years with his wife at Andover, but occasionally ranged the country in search of that business in which he seemed to place his chief delight. His wife used every argument to prevail with him to remain at home; but her solicitations were without effect.
Sometimes he would stroll to London, and bring with him valuable articles for his support; and on one of these occasions he pawned some plate for twenty pounds, dissipating the money in company with women of abandoned character.
By degrees he stripped his wife of great part of what should have supported her, so that she was obliged to the friendship of her relations for a maintenance. By a continued course of extravagance, he grew daily more and more vicious, and at length determined to commence highwayman.
In London he made an acquaintance with Robert King, the driver of the Bicester waggon. This King was a fellow of most execrable character, whose practice was to inform the highwaymen when he had any persons to travel in his waggon who possessed any considerable sum of money, or valuable effects, that they might be robbed on the road; on which occasions a share was always given to the driver. [Note: Formerly people of great property used to travel in waggons; but the frugal manners of our ancestors are abolished, and post-chaises and flying machines take place of the other carriages.]
Drury, being in company with this King, was told by him that a gentleman named Eldridge would travel in the waggon on the following day, and that it would be prudent to rob him before he got far from town, as he would have with him a very considerable booty.
Our adventurer listened eagerly to this tale, and the next day robbed Mr. Eldridge of two hundred and fourteen guineas. As he took money only, he had very little apprehension of detection: but another traveller in the waggon, happening to know him, repaired to London, and gave information against him; whereupon he was taken into custody, and, being brought to trial, was convicted on full evidence.
After he received sentence of death his behaviour was consistent with his unhappy situation. He was a regular attendant on divine worship, and a constant peruser of books of religion: but at the same time he did everything in his power to procure a respite of the fatal sentence.
Some people of consequence exerted themselves to obtain the royal mercy for Drury, but in vain: his character and crime militated too forcibly against him.
After conviction he repeatedly wrote to his wife, desiring her to come to London; and, among other motives to prevail on her, told her that she might redeem the plate he had pawned: but all he could say had no effect; she lent a deaf ear to all his entreaties.
He appeared to be greatly disturbed in mind at this unfeeling indifference of his wife, which prevented the calmness of disposition that was requisite towards a proper preparation for his approaching exit.
Two days before his death he received the sacrament with every mark of real contrition. On the evening preceding his execution a gentleman sent a woman to inquire what declaration be would make respecting the waggoner; to whom he answered, that he had no idea of committing the crime till King proposed it to him; and that his life was sacrificed in consequence of his taking that advice.
When at the place of execution he appeared to possess more courage than he had done some time before, and again declared that the waggoner had seduced him to commit the robbery. He earnestly exhorted young people to avoid bad company, as what would most infallibly bring them to destruction.
This malefactor suffered at Tyburn, Nov. 3, l726, in the twenty-eighth year of his age.