John Clavell, Highwayman and Author 1601-1643

‘I That have Robb'd so oft, am now bid Stand, Death, and the Law assault me,and demand my Life, and meanes; I never us\d men so, but having ta'ne their money, let them goe.' So runs John Clavell's later version of the poem he wrote to the King in 1626 from the prison cell where he was under sentence of death.

John Clavell came to Brasenose in 1619 and seems to have stayed for two years; he did not take a degree. It appears that his criminal career began here, for in April 1621 he was granted a pardon for stealing plate from the College. By 1624 he had fallen into considerable financial straits and became a highwayman. Convicted and sentenced to death in January 1626 he was pardoned, but apparently remained in prison for about two years. During this time he wrote his poem A Recantation of an ill led life, which was published after his release. Subsequently he wrote the undistinguished play The Sodder'd Citizen, which was performed by the King's company in the early 1630s. He also practised as both a lawyer and a physician in Ireland.



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