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  • The Nun, the Pickpocket and the French Prison August 29, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    Beach began to write about pickpockets some years ago because of their habit of attracting urban legends. However, he is ever more convinced that there are some good books to be written on the sly-fingered Victorian professionals who plagued London and Paris… Interestingly, English pickpockets were exported to France and the word ‘pickpocket’ was taken over into French.* Here was one who got caught: she had the nerve and ingenuity typical of her tribe.

    The Paris correspondent of the Daily News writes of an English pickpocket, Miss Clay, alias Spencer, alias Wilson – having the bad luck to be taken with the manour the equivalent for which Littletonian expression is in modern French ‘the hand in the sack’ was some little time ago sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. In the female penitentiary of St. Larzare her conduct was described as exemplary. She knelt down devoutly to mass, very frequently communicated, and so gained the confidence of the Sisters of Charity in charge that after an unusually short period of probation she was allowed the run of the prison without being watched. Availing herself of this privilege, she slipped into one of the Sisters’ cells, and, speedily dressing herself in the costume of a nun, walked straight out into the street, the warders saluting her as she passed. She was not missed till three hours after her escape, and the efforts of the police to apprehend her have been hitherto unsuccessful. Being well known by her countrymen of the light-fingered fraternity domiciled in this metropolis, it is supposed that their gallantry has found means to send her to London.

    Western Morning News, 24 Mar 1875

    Other Victorian pickpocket stories: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com

    *One late 19C report reports that a British policeman who had been sent over to liaise with the French police  instead took bribes from British pickpockets in the French capital!