“Quite another Vein of Wickedness”

Annali di Ca’ Foscari. Serie Occidentale. 2016;50(1) DOI 10.14277/2499-1562/AnnOc-50-16-11


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Journal Title: Annali di Ca’ Foscari. Serie Occidentale

ISSN: 2499-2232 (Print); 2499-1562 (Online)

Publisher: Edizioni Ca’ Foscari

Society/Institution: Ca'Foscari University of Venice

LCC Subject Category: Language and Literature: Philology. Linguistics: Language. Linguistic theory. Comparative grammar

Country of publisher: Italy

Language of fulltext: English, Dutch; Flemish, Italian, Spanish; Castilian, French, German, Portuguese, Russian

Full-text formats available: PDF



Clegg, Jeanne (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italia)


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 32 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

In early 1720s London highway or street robbery, especially by ‘gangs’, was highly topical; for some decades it had been a cause of much anxiety, and had recently been the target of increasingly harsh legislation. Yet the vast literature that “accompanied and stimulated” that legislation has been described by Robert Shoemaker as deeply ambivalent, swinging between negative images of ruthless brutes and positive images of polite gentlemen highwaymen. In Daniel Defoe’s Colonel Jack (1722) the protagonist’s thieving career follows a rising curve of violence, ‘progressing’ from picking merchants’ pockets and compounding to mugging old gentlemen and ambushing apprentices. Jack and his tutor/companion Will then fall into “quite another Vein of Wickedness” by getting in with a gang of footpads and burglars, a promotion Will promises, will make them “all Gentlemen together”. This essay suggests that we read the robbery episodes in this novel as an attempt to “make sense of” such violent crime and its conflicting cultural representations, especially as they relate to the gentlemanly aspirations which are a dominant motif in this novel.