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There is much and curious food for reflection, in the tendency that mankind has ever shown to sympathise with the daring and ingenious depredators who relieve the rich of their superfluity, which may possibly be owing to the romantic adventures and hair-breadth escapes which the robbers, in their career, have undergone. But, be the cause what it may, it is certain that the populace of all nations view with admiration great and successful thieves: for instance, what greater popular hero, and one that has been popular for centuries, could be found than Robin Hood?
Almost every country in Europe has its traditional thief, whose exploits are recorded both in prose and poetry. In England, Claude Duval, Captain Hind, Dick Turpin, Jonathan Wild, and Jack Sheppard have each in their turn occupied a prominent place in the annals of crime; whilst in France, amongst the light-fingered heroes that have, from time to time, extorted respect from the multitude, Cartouche and Vidocq take first rank. Germany is proud of its Schinderhannes, the Robber of the Rhine, the stories of whose generosity and courage still render his memory a favourite on the banks of that river, the travellers on which he so long kept in awe. In Italy and Spain, those homes of brigands and banditti, the inhabitants have ever-ready sympathy for the men whose names and exploits are as familiar among them as ‘household words.’
Cartouche, however, is the only rival to Barrington in their particular line, and Barrington, certainly, was no mere common pick-pocket, only fit to figure in the ‘Newgate Calendar,’ but he possessed talents which, had they been properly directed on his first setting out in life, might have enabled him to have played a distinguished part either in literature or in business. But, unfortunately, very early in his youth, poverty led him to adopt theft as his professed vocation; and, by his ingenuity and constant practice, he contrived to render himself so expert, as almost to have conducted his depredations on systematic rules, and elevated his crime into a ‘high art.’ Barrington, too, by his winning manners, gentlemanly address, and the fair education he contrived to pick up, was a man eminently fitted (if such an expression may be allowed) for his profession! his personal appearance was almost sufficient to disarm suspicion, and this, in all probability, contributed greatly to the success which he met with in his career.