Unspecified Year: Clever Tom Clinch, hung like a hero

Add comment June 13th, 2009 Headsman

This 1726 poem by Jonathan Swift toasts a charismatic client of the Tyburn tree — who is, alas, completely fictional.

Clever Tom Clinch going to be hanged

As clever Tom Clinch, while the Rabble was bawling,
Rode stately through Holbourn, to die in his Calling;
He stopt at the George for a Bottle of Sack,
And promis’d to pay for it when he’d come back.
His Waistcoat and Stockings, and Breeches were white,
His Cap had a new Cherry Ribbon to ty’t.
The Maids to the Doors and the Balconies ran,
And said, lack-a-day! he’s a proper young Man.
But, as from the Windows the Ladies he spy’d,
Like a Beau in the Box, he bow’d low on each Side;
And when his last Speech the loud Hawkers did cry,
He swore from his Cart, it was all a damn’d Lye.
The Hangman for Pardon fell down on his Knee;
Tom gave him a Kick in the Guts for his Fee.
Then said, I must speak to the People a little,
But I’ll see you all damn’d before I will whittle.
My honest Friend Wild, may he long hold his Place,
He lengthen’d my Life with a whole Year of Grace.
Take Courage, dear Comrades, and be not afraid,
Nor slip this Occasion to follow your Trade.
My Conscience is clear, and my Spirits are calm,
And thus I go off without Pray’r-Book or Psalm.
Then follow the Practice of clever Tom Clinch,
Who hung like a Hero, and never would flinch.

Any relationship between this literary gallows scene and any particular calendar date is purely coincidental, although the condemned man’s past-tense reference to executed thief-taker Jonathan Wild would theoretically place it subsequent to that man’s hanging on May 24, 1725.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Fictional,Gallows Humor,Hanged,Public Executions,Uncertain Dates

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