The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

VI. Caricature and the Literature of Sport

§ 13. The Newgate Calendar

These were the days, too, when The Newgate Calendar was brought out. The original series, The Newgate Calendar; or, Malefactors’ Bloody Register, published in or about 1774, contained in its five volumes notorious crimes from 1700 to the date of publication. Between 1824 and 1826, Andrew Knapp and William Baldwin, attorneys-at-law, issued, in four volumes. The Newgate Calendar, comprising interesting memoirs of the most notorious characters; and, in or about 1826, they issued, in six volumes. The New Newgate Calendar, which consisted of their original series much enlarged and with the preface abbreviated. The Calendar consists of the lives, crimes, trials, and (where inflicted) tortures and executions, of criminals of many kinds, from miserable thieves or forgers to murderers, from murderers to those accused of rebellion and high treason. It is, indeed, as Sir Walter Scott’s little friend, Marjory Fleming, said, “a book that contains all the Murders: all the Murders did I say, nay all Thefts and Forgeries that ever were committed.” Of The Newgate Calendar, there is no better critic than Marjory Fleming. “The Newgate Calender,” she writes, “is very instructive [and] Amusing, and shews us the nesesity of doing good and not evil.” “The history of all the Malcontents that ever was hanged is very amusing,” she writes later; but, at the same time, it “fills me with horror and consternation.” The author of the very improving preface to the first series could have said no more. Knapp and Baldwin, in the preface to their earlier series, attempt to connect their labours with the protest, then being raised, against the severity of the English law; but Marjory Fleming goes to the root of the matter. The Newgate Calendar stands at the head of the English literature of crime. It was worth the while of attorneys-at-law to do for the educated classes what Catnach and others had long been doing for the poor; and The Newgate Calendar was developed out of the sheets sold by hawkers at public executions.