JAMES TOWNSEND SAWARD
The True Story of Jim the Penman
(WITH AN ACCOUNT OF THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY OF 1855)
I do not court notoriety by any means. I am sensible of my degraded
situation; but I am not a criminal, and I do not seek notoriety.' James Townsend
Described as a 'real-life' Professor Moriarty and Napoleon of Crime, James Townsend Saward, a respectable barrister of the Inner Temple, was unmasked in 1857 as the criminal mastermind known in the underworld of Victorian London as Jim the Penman. For over thirty years Saward led a double life as the head of a cheque forgery ring, a fence of stolen goods and as a planner of robberies. He was sentenced to transportation for life in 1857.
James Townsend Saward, Criminal Barrister: The True Story of Jim the Penman relates his life of crime as a notorious cheque forger and his involvement in other crimes of the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s, including one of the largest bank robberies of the 1840s and the first great train robbery of 1855.
For the first time it is revealed what Saward did with the gold from the
1855 great gold robbery after it was given to him by Edward Agar, and what
really happened to him after he was sentenced to transportation to Australia.
The biography also examines Saward's influence on Victorian and later literature, from Compeyson in Charles Dickens's Great Expectations to penny dreadfuls, the popular play Jim the Penman by Sir Charles Young and Shem the Penman in Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. Saward's family and his connections to Victorian and Edwardian theatre are also discussed.
From a review: 'A well-written, illustrated, and researched biography of a Victorian lawyer and con-man.' Professor William Baker in The Year's Work in English Studies, Oxford University Press.
The author, Jennifer Carnell, is the great-great-great-great granddaughter of James Townsend Saward. She received her Ph.D for her research on the Victorian novelist M.E. Braddon and is the author of a number of books including The Literary Lives of Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Mary Elizabeth Braddon and the Victorian Theatre . Jennifer Carnell has edited several novels for the Sensation Press and is a contributor to the book Beyond Sensation (State University of New York Press). She was a speaker on Braddon at the Victorian Crime Conference held by the University of London Centre for English Studies and two Braddon conferences organised by Dr. Chris Willis.
James Townsend Saward, Criminal Barrister: The True Story of Jim the Penman will be of value to those interested in the history of Victorian crime, the great rold robbery of 1855, law and trials and to those descended from Saward.
Paperback with 16 chapters, 3 appendices, 389 pages and 47 illustrations. Each copy is signed and numbered by the author. Publication date: 5 March 2011.
ISBN 9781902580197 Price: CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT, to be republished in 2021) Free UK postage (airmail postage extra worldwide).
CHAPTER 1 THE SAWARDS
CHAPTER II A RESPECTABLE BARRISTER
CHAPTER III SECURE BY CAUTION: SAWARD AND THE LONDON UNDERWORLD OF THE 1830S
CHAPTER IV IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY
CHAPTER V SAWARD AND EDWARD AGAR: THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY OF 1855
CHAPTER VI THE PROFESSOR OF FORGERY
CHAPTER VII THE YARMOUTH LETTER
CHAPTER VIII THE GREED OF WILLIAM PIERCE
CHAPTER IX CAPTURE
CHAPTER X PART ONE
CHAPTER XI PART TWO
CHAPTER XII PART THREE
CHAPTER XIII PART FOUR
CHAPTER XIV THE TRIAL
CHAPTER XV CONVICTION AND SAWARD'S LATER LIFE
CHAPTER XVI THE LEGACY OF JIM THE PENMAN
APPENDIX ONE SAWARD'S FAMILY
APPENDIX TWO THE CHILDREN OF JAMES TOWNSEND SAWARD
APPENDIX THREE JIM THE PENMAN
Illustrations: 1. Arthur Dacre and E.S. Willard; 2. London Bridge Station at the Time of the Great Train Robbery of 1855; 3. The Parish Church of St. Mary; 4. The Sawards; 5. Francis Saward and Mary Elizabeth Braddon in the Stamford Theatre Company in 1855; 6. Francis Saward; 7. Francis Saward in Henry Irving's Company; 8. Saward as Counsel; 9. Saward on the Home Circuit; 10. Edward Agar; 11. James Burgess; 12. William Tester; 13. Saward and Edward Agar; 14. James Brett and Michael Haydon; 15. A Masked Convict; 16. Edward Agar and James Burgess Opening the Bullion Chests; 17. John Moss 18. The Mansion House; 19. The Justice Room at the Mansion House; 20. Thomas Quested Finnis; 21. Prisoners' Visitors Waiting at the Gateway to Newgate Prison; 22. Fanny Kay and her Son; 23. Hardinge Giffard; 24. The Exterior of Newgate Prison; 25. Sir Frederick Pollock; 26. Sir Frederick Thesiger; 27. A Cell in Pentonville Prison; 28. The Grave of James Townsend Saward; 29. Prison; 30. Prison; 31. Jim the Penman Programme; 32. E.S. Willard; 33. Title page of Jim the Penman; 34. Frontis Illustration of Jim the Penman; 35. Nelson Lee; 36. The Arrest of Saward; 37. The Children of James Townsend Saward; 38. Violet Ginn and June Carnell in Warham Street, Kennington; 39. Frank Carnell; 40. Eliza Carnell; 41. Francis Saward at the Theatre Royal, Bristol; 42. Josephine Saward; 43. Josephine Saward; 44. Josephine Saward; 45. Frances Saward; 46. Josephine and George at the Avenue Theatre; 47. George Saward; 48. George Saward; 49. George and His Family; 50. Bennett Brothers; 51. Yorke Stephens; 52. Claude Marius; 53. Helen Forsyth; 54. Lady Monckton; 55. Henrietta Lindley; 56. Maurice Barrymore; 57. Herbert Beerbohm Tree; 58. Jim the Penman at the Madison Square Theatre.
In March 1857 the men who headed the banks of London sighed
with collective relief. A man credited with having been the mastermind of
a cheque forgery ring for over twenty years was now sentenced to transportation
for life to Australia.
James Townsend Saward, barrister of the Inner Temple and forger, later described as a real-life Professor Moriarty, and who had been called a Professor of Forgery' and Jim the Penman' by the criminal underworld of mid-Victorian London, was to be removed permanently from circulation. At the time of his sentence many commented that had he directed his talents towards the law he might have risen to the top of his field. As a professional man, from a good family, and as a gentleman, James Townsend Saward was seen as a man who had betrayed his class and, worse yet, had led working class men astray, and for that he was to be punished more severely than other high profile criminals who had committed non-violent crimes for financial gain.
The last man to be hanged for forgery was banker Henry Fauntleroy in 1824, and forgery ceased to be a capital offence in 1832. Once the death penalty had been removed it was said levels of forgery of all kinds increased sharply. Cheque forgery in itself was not uncommon, and bank clerks had a high rate of detecting forged cheques and credit notes, as they were instructed to check signatures very carefully, and the culprits who tried to pass them in bank branches were dealt with swiftly and harshly.
By the early 1840s the banks were worried. It was clear there was a new system of cheque forgery, committed in such a way that, even if the man who presented the fraudulent cheque was arrested in the bank, there was no way of identifying who had sent him and who had forged the cheque. What marked Saward out among forgers was his ingenuity in obtaining original blank cheques, his procurement of genuine signatures to use as models, his skill at forging convincing signatures and handwriting, and his use of innocent dupes to present the cheques to avoid detection.
Such was the urgency and desperation of the banking establishment to capture the man who had stolen thousands of pounds each year from the banks, that an innocent man (or at least innocent of being Jim the Penman), Edward Agar, was framed with false evidence two years before Saward's capture.
After his arrest, Saward was to become a regular feature in published histories of crime and, as he was almost sixty years old when he was convicted, it was assumed by later writers that he must have died not long after being sent to Australia. In 1859, two years after his conviction at the Old Bailey, a vicar wrote a letter to London about the convicts he had seen at Fremantle Prison in Australia, and where he had witnessed Saward and other prisoners digging roads.
Almost thirty years later, in 1886, the soubriquet Jim the Penman' returned to common usage, when baronet, amateur actor, and playwright, Sir Charles Young wrote his famous play Jim the Penman.
At about the time Young's play was first produced, the author and journalist George Augustus Sala told an anecdote he had heard about Saward in Western Australia: Saward was about to sign for his convict's wages and was asked by a prison officer whether he could write or not; to which Saward replied, Write, sir? I should think I can. Why, I am "Jim the Penman"!'
When Dick Donovan published his crime novel Jim the Penman in 1901, he was asked by readers what had happened to Saward, the real life Jim the Penman, after he was sent to Australia. In the preface to the cheap edition' reprint he told them that after Saward was transported for the term of his natural life', he was murdered by one of his criminal enemies, and that wasted and misspent life came to a mysterious and tragic close in the Australian bush in the manner described in the book.'
However, none of the newspaper reports or later accounts about Saward ending his days in Australia were true.
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