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  • Victorian Urban Legend: the Pickpocket’s Diamond Ring August 7, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    diamond ring

    Beach has offered a series of Victorian and Edwardian urban legends in the last weeks, some of which he has his doubts about. This one though is a slam dunk of the best kind. First, it is the clear ancestor of the stories where an honest person accidentally steals something from a stranger: though in Beach’s humble opinion this version offers far better potential. Second, it was evidently well known in the period. Three examples going backwards chronologically:

    The following story, in connection with certain class of pickpockets, has been related to me (says a writer in the World) by the lady to whom the adventure occurred. She found herself seated an omnibus beside a man of flashy appearance, whose fingers were profusely garnished with what she supposed to be false diamond rings of an unusual size and brilliancy. The man’s whole appearance was outrageously unprepossessing that, finding on her return home that she had been relieved of her purse containing something under £5, she at once suspected the individual in the omnibus; and when in her otherwise empty pocket she found large jewelled ring, her suspicions became mental certainty. She examined the jewels closely, and to her joy became convinced that the enormous stones were genuine. Needless to say, she did not advertise for the light-fingered owner, and realised something upon a sale. Not Ev Post 28 Dec 1906, 7

    An extraordinary incident happened one day last week to a young lady—a day governess in English provincial town. The lady was in a tramway car when a stylish gentleman came and was careful to show prominently a valuable diamond ring he wore on one his fingers, aping at the same time the manners of aristocrat. It was not long before he got out, and the young lady on getting to her stage on her way home stepped out as well, but to find on putting her hand in her pocket that her purse was gone. She, however, found a strange article in her pocket, which, to her astonishment, turned out to be the identical ring which her fellow-traveller had been so ostentatiously displaying. Examination proved that the ring was no flash article, a jeweller appraising it of the value of at least £30. Fortunately for the lady, there was only two shillings in the purse she lost. The ring had evidently slipped off the pickpocket’s finger when was in the act of abstracting the purse. Shields Daily Gazette, 7 Feb 1888, 3

    A pickpocket in New Orleans recently stole a portamonnaie containing a few dolalars from a lady’s pocket, and by accident dropped in its place a valuable diamond ring. Bel Mor New, 5 Feb 1869, 3

    Any other examples: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    Peter Burger, 27 Nov 2016: