A Book of Scoundrels
There are other manifestations of greatness than to relieve suffering or to wreck an empire. Julius Caesar and John Howard are not the only heroes who have smiled upon the world. In the supreme adaptation of means to an end there is a constant nobility, for neither ambition nor virtue is the essential of a perfect action. How shall you contemplate with indifference the career of an artist whom genius or good guidance has compelled to exercise his peculiar skill, to indulge his finer aptitudes? A masterly theft rises in its claim to respect high above the reprobation of the moralist. The scoundrel, when once justice is quit of him, has a right to be appraised by his actions, not by their effect; and he dies secure in the knowledge that he is commonly more distinguished, if he be less loved, than his virtuous contemporaries. While murder is wellnigh as old as life, property and the pocket invented theft, late-born among the arts. It was not until avarice had devised many a cunning trick for the protection of wealth, until civilisation had multiplied the forms of portable property, that thieving became a liberal and an elegant profession. True, in pastoral society, the lawless man was eager to lift cattle, to break down the barrier between robbery and warfare. But the contrast is as sharp between the savagery of the ancient reiver and the polished performance of Captain Hind as between the daub of the pavement and the perfection of Velasquez.
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Abb<e accomplice admiration adventure ambition amiable ancient artist Barrington became blood booty brain breeches brilliant Brodie bull-baiting Captain Hind career carried Cartouche chap-books Charles Peace Charles Whibley clumsy coach coat confession contempt courage Covent Garden craft crime cunning dared Deacon DEACON BRODIE death Drury Lane elegant empty enemy England enterprise Entrammes escape famous fingers flash friends gallows gang genius Gentleman Harry George Barrington Gilderoy glory Haggart hand hanged henceforth hero highwayman honour horse humour incomparable instantly Jack Rann Jack Sheppard Jonathan Wild justice knew lived London loved magnificence master masterpiece Moll Cutpurse murder never Newgate Newgate Calendar once Ordinary pickpocket pistol plunder pocket pounds prison profession Pureney purse Ralph Briscoe Regicides respect road Roaring Girl robbed robbery ruffian scoundrel Simms Sixteen-String Jack soul spirit Stand and deliver suspicion Switcher talent theft thief thieves trade trick triumph Tyburn valiant vanity victim watch