Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Black Highwayman Novels

The Black Highwayman, Being the Second Series of Black Bess; or, The Knight of the Road, by Anonymous, was published in 1866 by Edward Harrison in London. It has been attributed to Edward Viles but there is no clear evidence that he was the author. Most, but not all illustrations were by Robert Prowse Sr. and it was issued with color plates. It was another whopper at 172 weekly numbers running to 688 pages.

The Black Highwayman begins on a snowy night in the reign of Charles the Second. Resurrectionists have dug up the body of Dick Turpin. Leading a mob from a nearby Inn Captain Hawk rescues Dick Turpin’s body from the “vampire doctor” and his house is torched. The Black Highwayman is not Captain Hawk but Lord Harcliffe in search of his birthright. The villains are the Bow Street Runner, Lieutenant Tracy and the Prince of Wales, who is blackmailed in the end for his dastardly murders and is forced to pardon Hawk (with his horse -- Satan) and Black Highwayman (whose horse is named Phantom.) Much better than Black Bess, better written and better illustrated. At one point en route to Guernsey by boat, Hawk is tied to a pillar at low-tide and saved in the nick of time by Black Highwayman as the water rises to his nostrils.

The Black Highwayman was pirated in America by the Novia Scotia born Norman Munro (Ornum Co.) and issued in 26 100 page installments in 1873-1874 as The Black Highwayman Novels. I’ve always wondered how the American pirates managed to reproduce the original British illustrations, probably since the images are so crudely cut by the woodpecker, they were re-drawn by copyists and had new woodcuts made to order.

*Images courtesy E. M. Sanchez-Saavedra

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