Saturday, 28 February 1719
The Ordinary of Newgate’s Account of Mr. Bird’s Behaviour.
THIS Mr. Bird, aged about 27 years, said to be born of wealthy parents at Old Windsor, was brought up by them, who gave him a Chnristian and Gentleman-like education. They put him early to the care and instruction of the late Rev. Dr. Busby, Master of Westminster-School; and thence, when pretty well advanc’d in his learning, remov’d him to Eton-College. After some stay there, they finding his inclination was to see the world abroad, fitted him out for his travels; and then he made a tour in France, and went also into Italy, &c. When he had spent some time abroad in foreign countries, and seen variety of things (which, whether he improv’d and made good use of, or no, I shall leave to the judgment of others) he return’d into England, and not long after had a Lietutenant’s Commission in the Regiment of Horse commanded by the Lord Marquess of Winchester. Before this, he had in a great measure, given himself up to a vicious course of life; and his evil inclinations growing stronger in him, he at last abandon’t himself to all manner of lewdness and debauchery; the consideration whereof I put close to him, endeavouring to bring him to a due sense and true repentance of his past follies. And here I put him in mind likewise of his ill usage to a virtuous gentlewoman he formerly married, defiling the marriage bed, &c.
While I was laying these things, and many more of a heinous nature, before him, and telling him, that the world abroad rung of them, he deny’d them not; but said, he was not guilty of murder, the crime he stood condemn’d for; and that, as to other sins, he had begg’d pardon of God for them, and did not doubt of his mercy.
All the time he was under confinement in Newgate, I could not perswade him to come to prayer, and hear the word of God in the Chapel, which he might have had an opportunity to do twice every day for the most part of that time; which was between the 26th of September last and this day of his execution.
I repeated my visits to him, and desir’d to have been more frequent than before in them; but I found him always so busie, sometimes in writing, and at other times with company, that I could hardly have any opportunity to speak to him of his future state. Nevertheless I endeavour’d to prepare him for his great change, and for a better life, by perswading him sincerely to repent of all his sins he had committed in this, and earnestly to pray for God’s pardon and mercy, through the infinite merits of Christ: Which if he did not now he had time for it, I desir’d him seriously to consider what might become of him to all eternity. To this he seem’d to give a little attention; but something coming into his mind which he said he must do presently, he desir’d me to leave him; saying, he would send for me another time, when he was at leisure. Accordingly he did, but when I came to him, I found he had not sent for me to pray by him, or discourse him about divine matters, but only to shew me the draught of a paper which he said he had prepar’d by the help of a friend, and which he intended to publish. Upon this, after I had (as he desir’d I should) read it, I told him plainly, that the drift of that paper, being to insinuate he had not justice done him at his tryal, he must not think that the world would believe him to be (as he endeavour’d to appear) innocent of the murder he was condemn’d for.
At this he seem’d to be uneasie; but I told him, That though I was very unwilling to offer any thing to a gentleman that might grate upon his sprit, or be unacceptable to him; yet it was my duty to make his sins as odious to him as I could, in order to bring him to a just abhorrence and detestation of them; adding, That if he would please to consider the vicious steps that had led him to this barbarous crime, he would find abundance of sins (besides this) to repent of, which he must do before he dy’d, or else be eternally undone. To this he said but little, and so I left him for that time.
On Saturday last I exhorted him to come the next day to the Chapel, and apply himself entirely to holy meditation, prayer, and hearing the word of god with due attention and sincere devotion; but I could not perswade him to come, nor indeed at this time to let me pray by him; he alledging, his head was so full of other matters, that he could not mind any thing else, and those other matters (which related to his tryal) were contain’d in a printed proof of a paper (not that before mention’d) which he shew’d me, and which he said he was now correcting, in order to be put to the press.
On the Lord’s Day, I visited him in his chamber, and did the like this morning; when understanding that he had the night before took a dose of poison, and after that stabb’d himself in several places, I told him, that I was sorry to hear he had added sin to sin, by attempting to commit a fresh murder, and that too upon himself: To which he reply’d, That he did not think it a sin, because he was to die. Whereupon I endeavour’d to make him sensible he had no power over his own life; and, that by this he put himself in danger of carrying his guilt unrepresented of into another world.
As there was all along great endeavours us’d to save his life, so I observ’d to him, that neither the sollicitations of his friends, nor his own attempts upon himself, were able to prevent God’s just Judgments against murder, &c.
At the place of execution, whither he was this day carry’d in a mourning coach, I attended him for the last time; and when he was remov’d out of that coach, (wherein he had stay’d about an hour with his mother after his arrival there) I pray’d with him in the cart, gave him some exhortations, sung a Penitential Psalm, made him rehearse the Apostles Creed; and then wishing him that life he had made profession to believe, I retir’d from him.
One of the 3 clergymen that went with me to see the exceuction did step into the cart when I was come away, but could work no good on him; who, instead of applying himself to his devotion, and desiring the spectators to pray for him, and take warning by him, turn’d himself first one way, then another, and call’d for a glass of wine; but being told it could not be got there for him, he desir’d a pinch of snuff, and taking it, he bow’d to the gentlemen near the cart, and said, Gentlemen I wish your Health. After this he was ty’d up, turn’d off, and bled very much at the mouth or nose, or both.
Feb. 23, 1719. Paul Lorrain, Ordinary.
(Weekly Journal, or, British Gazetteer)