While Jack Sheppard seems marked from birth for a terrible end, his wit and charm might just be able to cheat fate. Fate, however, seems eager to cheat him out of an honest living, when Jack begins visiting the notorious Black Lion, drinking den of the worst criminals in London. Soon he is one of the most famous scoundrels in the city - not for his crimes, but for the wonderful fact that not one of the King's fine prisons can hold him.
But Jack's luck will have to run out eventually...
“The oppressive and sanguinary code framed in the reign of Elizabeth, was re-enacted to its full extent, and even improved with additional severities. Every individual who had studied or resided, or should afterwards study or reside in any college or seminary beyond the sea, was rendered incapable of inheriting, or purchasing, or enjoying lands, annuities, chattels, debts, or sums of money, within the realm; and as missionaries sometimes eluded detection under the disguise of tutors, it was provided that no man should teach even the rudiments of grammar in public or in private, without the previous approbation of the diocesan.
It has been, for years, the cherished wish of the writer of the following pages, to make the Tower of London—the proudest monument of antiquity, considered with reference to its historical associations, which this country or any other possesses,—the groundwork of a Romance; and it was no slight satisfaction to him, that circumstances, at length, enabled him to carry into effect his favourite project, in conjunction with the inimitable Artist, whose designs accompany the work.
Desirous of exhibiting the Tower in its triple light of a palace, a prison, and a fortress, the Author has shaped his story with reference to that end; and he has also endeavoured to contrive such a series of incidents as should naturally introduce every relic of the old pile,—its towers, chapels, halls, chambers, gateways, arches, and drawbridges—so that no part of it should remain un-illustrated.
How far this design has been accomplished—what interest has been given to particular buildings—and what mouldering walls have been informed with life—is now to be determined:—unless, indeed, it may be considered determined by the numbers who have visited the different buildings, as they have been successively depicted by pen and pencil, during the periodical appearance of the work.
One important object the Author would fain hope his labours may achieve. This is the introduction of the public to some parts of the fortress at present closed to them. There seems no reason why admission should not be given, under certain restrictions, to that unequalled specimen of Norman architecture, Saint John's Chapel in the White Tower,—to the arched galleries above it,—to the noble council-chamber, teeming with historical recollections,—to the vaulted passages—and to the winding staircases within the turrets—so perfect, and so interesting to the antiquary. Nor is there stronger reason why the prison-chamber in the Beauchamp Tower, now used as a mess-room, the walls of which, like a mystic scroll, are covered with inscriptions—each a tragic story in itself, and furnishing matter for abundant reflection—should not likewise be thrown open. Most of the old fortifications upon the inner ballium-wall being converted into private dwellings,—though in many cases the chambers are extremely curious, and rich in inscriptions,—are, of course, inaccessible. But this does not apply to the first-mentioned places. They are the property of the nation, and should be open to national inspection.
It is piteous to see what havoc has already been made by alterations and repairs. The palace is gone—so are many of the towers—and unless the progress of destruction is arrested, the demolition of others will follow. Let us attempt to preserve what remains.
Opposite the matchless White Tower—William of Orange by the side of William the Conqueror,—is that frightful architectural abomination, the Grand Store-House.
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