Seventeenth Century







The following account is excerpted from:

The Memoires of Mary Carleton, Commonly stiled, the German Princess.  Being a Narrative of her Life and Death Interwoven with many strange and pleasant Passages, from the time of her Birth to her Execution at Tyburn, being the 22th of January 1672/3, with Her Behaviour in Prison, Her last Speech, Burial & Epitaph.  London, Printed for Nath. Brooke, at the Angel in Cornhill near the Royal Exchange; and Dorman Newmass, at the Kings-Arms in the Poultry, 1673.

Hitherto she may boast that what crime whatsoever she committed was prosperum & felix scelus, a fortunate and successful sin as to punishment inflicted on her person, but yet there is a sting in the tail of such actions that may possibly do her business.  Well, what is the next news we hear of her? Why, she still sings the part to the same tune, and wherever she is admitted, not a tankard or a piece of plate but sticks to her lime-twigged fingers.  At length she is taken napping, and for this kind of sport, her only recreation and employment too, committed to Newgate, and there is indicted, receives a fair and legal trial, and upon the hearing of the whole matter of fact by very substantial witness, is found guilty, and so brought in by the petty jury, but afterwards she obtained a reprieve, and by the favour of the court had the benefit of transportation; and accordingly in February 1671 was sent over to Jamaica in the West Indies.  In her passage thither there was, it seems, a design against the Captain’s life by the ship’s crew, and she (being one of the number) timely discovered it (but of that more hereafter) for which signal piece of service she came a shore in those parts, and left at her own disposal.

            And here she also lives splendidly, maintains her ancient titular dignity and state by her insinuating tricks and devices, verifying that saying as if it had been calculated for her own genius,

Terram non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt

Which I English thus,

That which is bred in the bone, will n’er out of the flesh

            That warm climate wrought no more upon her constitution than our cold country.  Change of Aire works no change on the affections of the mind.  Her morals are as corrupt, her life is as scandalous, her demeanor as haughty and her actions as sordid now, as ever.  During her abode in these parts, like a true friend, to show that all the water between her and her acquaintance cannot wash away their remembrance.  She, in a pretty kind of drolling way, with more than ordinary confidence, sends a letter from Port Royal in Jamaica, to all her fellow-sufferers in Newgate, which begins thus:

My friends and once fellow-prisoners,

ingratitude is the blackest of crimes, and forgetfulness in a friend is more than a venial sin.  To avoid both (though our noble extraction and the eximiousness of our birth and state might apologize for either) I send this missive to inform you of my condition, since I was exiled the British shore, which is this.  Health and success still waits upon me, and I cordially wish you the same attendance.

            Death pronounced with the mildest accent, is a word that ague-shakes the whole frame of nature, and strikes the microcosm with an universal paralysis.  In breaths nothing but terror, and affects all that is man with the horrid apprehension of annihilation.  Yet methought the sentence of my proscription was as dreadful to me as that of my dissolution.  To be banished from the sweets of a native country, to which all persons are born with a natural love and tendency, was so harsh at first, that it did afflict me with an internal regret beyond expression.  But that which did in some measure dulcify this bitter potion was the consideration and example of many persons who have undergone the same banishment with matchless patience and undaunted courage, and thereby signalized themselves to all posterity.  And is not this far better than to whine away one’s days, as the witty, though weak Roman did, or waste them in scribbling his Tristibus?  Certainly ‘tis a more generous act and deserves greater commendation.

            As to my voyage at sea; you must understand that I came to the desired haven with a prosperous gale.  Where I no sooner arrived, but I was, contrary to expectation, treated en princess, and accommodated like myself.  But one thing I have omitted when I first set sail from England I was looked upon but strangely, and despised as the base brat of a country fiddler.  Yet this did not so much deject me but that I fled to my old asylum, the never failing refuge of a charming tongue and ready wit, and so had both my lodging bettered and my commons amended.  For then I was furnished with a spacious and commodious cabin fit for the reception of myself and friend.  And my food (which was before so salt that there was no venturing upon it without running the risk and danger of an eternal thirst) was soon changed, and fresh provision was my daily diet.

            At my landing, instead of a barbarous slavery accompanied with rudeness the constant attendant thereof, I was immediately environed with a crowd of admirers.  And no sooner was my name heard there, but it echoed into the remotest parts of the island, and drew a wonderful confluence of the more vile and dissolute people to my habitation.

            I was astonished at first when I met so many of my former acquaintance, as I did there; but that fit was soon over when I considered the cause, and found myself also among them.  I must needs bestow a little advice upon you all in general, from the highest degree to the lowest, that ever had the happiness to be educated in your so famous academy, ‘tis convenient that you all receive timely notice of what I am going to say, whether bulkers, pads, files, etc. and other by what names or titles soever they are distinguished by the Canting Crew:  for, I am resolved to tell you a piece of my mind, which I hope you will lay up in your heart and take into your more serious consideration, when the weighty affairs of your employment will afford you a retirement.

            Do not in the least flatter yourselves with an opinion that your villainies will be connived at by the eye of justice, any more than those of our predecessors.  For you cannot but be sensible that you are festered and gangrened limbs of the body politic and therefore the experienced and grave physicians of the commonwealth, the judges, will in time cut you off to prevent the absolute destruction of the whole compositum.

            I must confess you are not all to be so severely dealt with if I may declare my thoughts.  Some of you may be compared to ulcerated parts, or prodigious wens, and those must be absolutely cut off, or the whole body be endangered.  Some to dead flesh, which must be burnt out with cauterizing irons, and others to noxious and filthy humours, that must be purged away, as I myself have been, into another climate.  But no more of this:  comparisons are odious and I hope my fellow-collegiats will excuse me, and not take it as an offence, because I make myself one of the number.

            I live here beloved by all, daily loaded with kindnesses, which I know not how to retaliate.  My freedom is greater here in my confinement, than when I was among you free.  My pleasures are sweet and uninterrupted; my person insulted o’re by none, nor checked by any lordly control or prohibition; my fancy unconfined and at liberty; my affections fettered to no particular person; my recreation is as diverting as my food is nourishing; and my fare as changeable as my appetite.  In brief, I am left solely to my own conduct, and that is the consummation of all my felicity.

            I am so taken up with multiplicity of business that I can trifle away no more minutes in my farther enlargement.  You may, if you think it convenient, present my duty to my lord, and inform him that a princess is more acceptable in a foreign, than in her own country, and I live now more like a lady than I did when I was his.  So much for that:  one word more and I have done.

            If the inhabitants of the islet do not surfeit me with courtesy, kill me with kindness, and you do not precipitately hurry your selves to the noosing-cheat, you may, when I have no other divertissements, expect to hear again of my welfare.  In the interim remember my to the Old Gang, the roguish crew of all our former acquaintance, of what age, quality, or sex soever.  I would desire you to reclaim, but that I fear will be like washing the blackamoor’s head, and so consequently labour lost.  But I will spend no more time, nor lose farther labour than in subscribing myself,

Your real friend in exile,


An epistle is the only expedient that absent friends have to communicate their mutual sentiments at a distance. ‘Tis a great and surprising satisfaction, no doubt, to understand by letter that a friend in foreign parts is healthful and prosperous.  And you do you think that these Newgate Birds were not ravished at the relation of the health and success of their own and only princess? Surely yes:  it must needs afford them matter of great joy and content.  But we’ll leave them to their ecstasy, and return to the authoress and occasion of it.

            You may well imagine without putting your fancy upon the rack, that she did live in no very mean condition, because whilst she continued there she cheated several persons, merchants and others, and could not want till their stocks were exhausted.  Nor would she desert them upon any terms, so long as there was any money stirring.  She was the ruin of two or three substantial persons in a small time, destroyed both them and their families, and at length came to be as well known, and grew as infamous there, as ever she was here.