Language Paper 2 – Pickpockets, 1838

This guide aims to teach the unwary traveller the means and methods used by London thieves and con-men to trick the unwary out of cash or valuables. It also allowed the genteel metropolitan reader to pretend to be more familiar with criminal customs than perhaps he or she actually was.

322771view006THERE are more Pickpockets in and about London than in all Europe beside, that make a trade, and what they call a good living, by their employment. The opera, playhouses, capital auctions, public gardens, &c., swarm with them; and, of late years, they have introduced themselves into our very churches, and more particularly Methodist meetings.
To set forth the different ways by which they succeed in their nefarious practices is beyond my ability; therefore I advise my readers to peruse with attention the history of J. Sheppard, J. B. Couteau, and Bill Bradshaw, 6d. each; and shall only observe, that two go together, one before, the other behind, the person whose pocket is to be picked; the former of which stops the person, either in a crowd, or by a pretended accident, while the other effects the business. Therefore, it would be prudent, when in crowds, to keep one hand on your money and the other on your watch, when you find any one push against you; but, should you be robbed for want of taking proper care to prevent the same, take no notice till you see some person near you stealing away, when you are to secure him or her, and ten to one you fix on the right person; you must however, be careful to lay hold of their hands, for fear of their conveying your property to an accomplice, who is always ready to receive the same, and set off with it.
Some Pickpockets are very dexterous in this way, by introducing their hands, without 542574156being perceived, into the very bottom of the breeches pocket, and taking out the money (none more so, than the celebrated Miss Jones;) others in introducing their hands up ladies petticoats, taking hold of the pocket, and making an incision with a knife or scissors, and letting out the contents into their hands without discovery, which they immediately deliver to their associates without stirring from the place, the better to prevent detection.
Pickpockets do not confine themselves to London, but travel all over the country, to fairs and races, and are to be met with on the stands, and in the booths, to the cost of many gentlemen and others, who have lost their purses, watches, rings, and pocket-books, of which they never after received any account. Pocket-books are only secure in the inside pockets and the coat buttoned; watch-chains should be run through a small loop, contrived for the purpose of securing the watch in the fob, of which have I have seen many. But at these public places it is necessary for all persons to be upon their guard, as they cannot be ignorant of the gentry they have among them, from many losses and complaints made of and sustained by them.