Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Newgate Prison

*Newgate Prison. Famous London prison featured in the novel; named after the city’s fifth gate, which was added in the twelfth century. The prison in this novel was the latest (but not the last) in a long series, replacing one destroyed in the great London fire of 1666. The famous court of the Old Bailey was established nearby for convenience. Chapter 9 of the novel’s third part includes an elaborate description of the prison’s architecture, in order to give due credit to Jack’s two escapes, first from the Condemned Hold and then from the Stone Hold—allegedly its most terrible dungeon—where he is visited by painters anxious to obtain portraits of the notorious felon. (This, the most celebrated of Sheppard’s escapes, is lavishly illustrated by George Cruikshank’s steel engravings.) When Jack is sent back to Newgate for a third time, he is weighed down with inescapable fetters in the Middle Stone Ward. The other significant setting within the prison is the Press Room, where Blueskin is tortured. Jonathan Wild lives opposite the prison’s main gate, next door to the Cooper’s Arms.


*Moorfields. Site of London’s Old Bethlehem Hospital, erected in 1675, allegedly modeled on the French king Louis XIV’s Tuileries Palace, and popularly known as Bedlam. Mrs. Sheppard is confined here, a short distance to the north of Newgate. The “New Prison” in Clerkenwell, from which Jack escapes after the Dollis Hill robbery, is farther to the north.


*Southwark. District south of the River Thames connected...

(The entire section is 666 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Chandler, Frank W. The Literature of Roguery. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1907. Provides a very detailed overview of Jack Sheppard.

Hollingsworth, Keith. The Newgate Novel, 1830-1847: Bulwer, Ainsworth, Dickens, and Thackeray. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1963. The best study of the tradition of stories about criminals. Places Jack Sheppard in that tradition, showing how Ainsworth is indebted to eighteenth century picaresque writers for many of his themes, images, and techniques. Contrasts that novel with Dickens’ Oliver Twist.

Sanders, Andrew. The Victorian Historical Novel, 1840-1880. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979. The best recent study of the historical novel in the nineteenth century. Explains the literary techniques that made Jack Sheppard Ainsworth’s best novel.

Sutherland, J. A. Victorian Novelists and Publishers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976. Includes Ainsworth’s literary output as a major example in his well-written, thoughtful, and detailed examination of how business relationships between novelists and publishers affected the novels. He shows how Jack Sheppard propelled Ainsworth’s career.

Worth, George J. William Harrison Ainsworth. New York: Twayne, 1972. The only book-length critical study of Ainsworth’s career. Describes the ways in which Jack Sheppard set the pattern of Ainsworth’s writing style for the rest of his career.