George Barnwell (I)
DESCRIPTION: George Barnwell is seduced by prostitute Sarah Millwood. He steals from his master and, robs and kills his wealthy uncle. When the money is exhausted Sarah would turn him in. He runs but writes a letter resulting in her hanging. He hangs as well.
EARLIEST DATE: before 1708 (broadside, Bodleian Douce Ballads 3(40a))
LONG DESCRIPTION: George Barnwell, the singer of most of the tale, tells his story. George, apprentice to a London merchant, is seduced by prostitute Sarah Millwood. He steals his master's money to spend on her and, when he is in danger of imprisonment for embezzlement she threatens to turn him in. When he tells her he has rich relatives from whom he can filch funds she relents. He robs and murders his rich uncle and Sarah and George stay together to spend this money down. When that money is gone she threatens to turn him in as a thief and murderer. "To the constable she sent, To have him apprehended" George escapes to sea but, for "fear and sting of conscience," he writes a letter to the lord mayor admiting "his own and Sarah's fault" Sarah is arrested in Ludlow, "judg'd, condemn'd, and hang'd, For murder incontinent... For murder in Polonia, Was Barnwell hang'd in chains"
KEYWORDS: seduction betrayal crime execution homicide robbery theft gallows-confession whore apprentice
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Percy/Wheatley III, pp. 240-252, "George Barnwell" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Thomas Percy, Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (London, 1765 ("Digitized by Google")), Vol. III, Book 3 #2 pp. 225-240, "George Barnwell" (1 text) [note that this copy has two p. 225, one with "St George and the Dragon"; the index refers to "George Barnwell"]
Bodleian, Douce Ballads 3(40a)[some words illegible; see Harding B 1(17) for a clear copy], " An Excellent Ballad of George Barnwell" ("All youths of fair England") , C. Brown (London), 1682-1707; also Harding B 1(17), Harding B 1(18), "An Excellent Ballad of George Barnwell"
NOTES [102 words]: Percy (1765): "The subject of this ballad is sufficiently popular from the modern play which is founded upon it. This was written by George Lillo, a jeweller of London, and first acted about 1730. As for the ballad, it was printed at least as early as the middle of the last century.... This tragical narrative seems to relate a real fact; but when it happened I have not been able to discover." For the subsequent travels of the story see the ballad indexed here as "George Barnwell" (II).
Incidentally, this story is not related to the ballads indexed here as "Sarah Barnwell" or "The Two Constant Lovers." - BS
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