I have a heap of notes, long laid by, on the subject of escape. Many of them were collected as ‘by-catch’ in trawls for other matters to do with the history of crime, and imprisonment, and I can’t entirely explain why I have never done anything much with them. Partly it was knowing that there wasn’t really an academic book in it all, but perhaps there was also a certain unease with my own liking for these stories. The problem with them, of course, is that, exciting as they are, there is a discomfort in identifying with the escapee, who may also have committed serious offences.
Anyway, now seems to be the time – as I come out of a long term relationship with another project, I am in a mood for a bit of adventure, without too much deep thinking or commitment. I just like them, and if there is something deeper and more psychologically concerning about an enthusiasm for escape stories, I do not care to explore it. I hope that they bring some entertainment to someone, somewhere, sometime, and it’s rather nice to be chucking them out into the great webby void without worrying about vicious reviews or proofs, or proper referencing … all of which is, I suppose, another sort of escape. I think my inspiration here is less F.W. Maitland, more one of my childhood favourites The Day it Rained Mashed Potato.
So: enjoy, or ignore, as you wish. I, at least, will get some pleasure from bringing this all together at last. And I have no doubt I will keep tinkering away with it, as I find new material, and feel the urge to academic it up.
As befits all adventure stories, it will be coming out as a serial, as I get each section into some sort of shape.
10th October, 2020.
And while I sort out the later notes – here is a BBC podcast on top 18th C escaper, Jack Sheppard, which is a lot of fun.