Daily Archives: June 23, 2010

Red Lobsters, Robin Redbreasts, and Thief Takers

18th Century Word of the Day: Raw Lobsters and Robin Redbreasts

Are they:

A.  Edible, but questionably delicious

B.  Crustaceans, birds, or other animal kingdom variety

C.  Bow Street Runners

D.  All of the above

If you answered A, you are correct.  Well, technically its C (and moreover D) but murderers in eighteenth century London did have a predilection for biting of the noses of their victims during the act of strangulation.  Gruesome, aye?


Established in the 1750’s at No. 4 Bow Street, Raw Lobsters and Robin Redbreasts refer to Henry Fielding’s Bow Street Runners because as you might have guessed, they wore red.  Vests, that is.  As much as I’d love to show you a picture in color, I’m afraid we’re stuck with b&w.  You’ll just have to imagine how well they would’ve matched the crime scene.  I wonder if that was intentional.

Bow Street Runners, William Hogarth, Cruelty in Perfection

Bow Street


Henry Fielding, author of Tom Jones and his half brother, John Fielding (below) founders of Bow Street Runners.

Sir John Fielding by Nathaniel Hone

And, no, John Fielding is not a ninja warrior.  Great misfortune.  He’s actually blind and that is what the black band signifies.

If you’re curious about these two fellows and about Bow Street Runners in an eat popcorn and slurp on cola kind of way, rent City of Vice, a  Britsy mini-series that uses historical records as a basis for their tales.  This show does, however, contain flights of whimsy so just don’t nitpick.   It’ll ruin the whole sordid experience.