The Arrainement condemnation and execution of the grand [cutpurse] Iohn Selman


The Arrainement condemnation and execution of the grand [cutpurse] Iohn Selman


who was executed at White-hall vppon Twesday the seuenth of Ianuary. 1612. To the tune of a rich Merchant man.

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Magdalene College - Pepys Library, Pepys Ballads 1.130-131v; EBBA 20057

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The Arrainement condemnation and execution of the grand [cutpurse]
John Selman who was executed at White-hall uppon Twesday the seventh of
Jaunary. 1612 To the tune of a rich Marchant man.

HOw happy is that man.
that in his b[r]east doth beare:
A [...]st heart and in his heart, a perfect godly feare.
A man so blest I say, can no discomfort have,
He shall not ta[s]t a shamefull death,
to fi[l]l a [t]im[e]less[e] grave.
Could I of this before. have well and wisely thought:
I would not have imbracd the course this wamefull death hath brought.
But all my mind was then, on ydle wicked waies.
To shift to gull, to cog and cheate, and so I spent my dayes.
A multitude of thoughts, as black as hell it selfe,
The Divell put into my heart, to compasse worldly pelfe.
And many waies I used,
both wicked base and foule,
[S]till mindfull of my body still, unmindfull of my soule.
In silke and velvets faire,
I sometime us'd to goe:
As I had used the Marchants trade, forsuch I was in shew.
And at the worst I went, like one of good degree,
And often used to change my sutes. as needfull I should see.
So still I leap'd untouch't, till this presumptuous crime,
This mounting sinne for that reveng up to the Heavens did clime,
Upon the blessed day, we celebrate the birth,
O'th deere Redeemer of us all. with joy and Godlymirth:
Within the house of God, and at the sacred houre,
O'th blest commanion I was touched, with Sathans damning power,
In presence of the King, Whose majesty might make,
A[w]fil intending wre[t]ch like me, to staggar faint and quake.
This mischiefe vile I did,
I pickt a pocket there,
Nor sacred person time nor place, could make me faintly feare,
When all were at their prayers, and exercise divine,
I pryed about to get my prey, this divelish prey of mine,
With hands and eyes to heaven,
all did in reverence stand:
While I in mischife used mine eye, and my accursed hand,
Now was my mischiefe ripe. my villanyes full growne,
And now the God in secret knew it. did make it open knowne.
I could not shift it heere, n[y]r no denyall stond:
For all hhe purse was newly tooke, twas taken in my hand,
And heere I stand to pay,
the price of that offence,
God grant no christian after me, may such an act commence.
I pray my fault may s[...] [e]xample to you all
Tha[t] [t]housand soules [...] that thus hath mad[e]
So praying all may pr[...]
for mercy to my God
I yeeld to death and pa[...] indure this heavy t[...]
The names of his [...] Commision[...]
William Lord Kno[...]
mas Vavasor, Sir F[...]
Sir Arthur Gorge, [...]
nister, and others o[...]
Cloth. Sir Edmund [...]
Robert Leighe & M[...]
The names of the gran[...]
William Lancaster, E[...]
John Bull, Gentlema[n]
William Yates Yeo[man]
Rebert Powlstone Ye[oman]
Anthony Barklet, Yeo[man]
George Cordall, Yeo[man]
William Carter, Yeo[man]
John Browne, Yeoma[n]
John wonnam, Yeom[an]
Edward Blacgrave, [...]
Edward Beake, Yeom[an]
Richard Langley, Yeo[man]
Thomas Gawen, Yeo[man]
Richard Gregory, Yeo[man]
Roger Terry, Yeoman
Edward Kiffin, Yeoma[n]
John Whitlocke, Yeo[man]
Richard Dyar, Yeoma[n]
Quoth Henry S[mith]

The Captaine Cut-purse.
A new Ballad shewing the most notorious abuse of life of John Selman,
who for cutting a purse in the Kings Chapell at White Hall on Christ-
mas day was executed neere Charing crosse. To a new tune.

THat men may feare the Acts, opugnant are to truth:
I will anothamize the course, of lusty Selmans youth.
His courses lewd and naught, the certaine path of death:
As in himselfe you well may see, who for them lost his breath.
All labor he cast off,
and all religious awe:
To ireligious actions bent, making his will [...] law:
All company he us'd.
that was prophane and nought,
And with them all the Arts of sinne,
he practized and wrought.
With drunkerds hee'd carowse, the wicked healths they use,
And so, (his understanding drown'd) would friend and foe abuse.
As drunkerds use to doe, the act is too too bad:
There is smal difference twixt a man thats drunke and one thats mad.
For both's but want of sence, which both a like do lacke:
And Godly unverstanding lost, the soule must needs to wracke.
To this the killing sinne, of lust he would annex:
And with a boyling blood pursue, the sinne o'th female sex.
Counting their hell is heaven, dallying with their imbrace:
Inchanted with his harlots lippe, dyed locke and painted face.
with them hee'd revell rout, the houres of day and night:
Counting their pleasures all his jo[y] their sport his best delight,
And thus will he consume,
the substance that his friends:
Had to him given to be imployed, to good and thrifty ends.
His stocke on strumpets vile, thus wasted and decaide:
To keepe the flush of pleasure still: he fell tot'h cheaters trade.
Sometimes with trickes at cards, sometime with cogging Dye:
That he of purpose would prepare, to runne too low or hie.
If all his wifts and trickes, would not prevaile to winne:
Why there to this hee'd adde a worse and more presumptuous sinne.
Hee'd get it out by oathes, sweare and forsweare apace:
Without all feare of heaven or hell, or any thought of grace.
Thus doth one sinne (like waves) runne on anothers necke:
Unlesse (by grace) we can at first, our sinfull nature checke.
And yet he stayed not heere, but prog[rest to] his sinnes:
To fellony [in] [bases]t kind, anothers [right to] winne.
In change of [gallant] suites, with all the t[...]s belongs:
Unto the cunning cutpurse craft, hee'd follow crowds and throngs.
There sometime cut a purse, sometime a pocket picke:
In doing both he was a man, knowne very apt and quicke.
All cheaters cutpurses, and pickpurses he knew:
And was as some report of him, the Captaine of that crew:
But for this sinne on earth, he payed the bitter price:
God grant by his example all, may learne to fly his vice.
Henry Smith.

Composer of Ballad

Henry Smith

Method of Punishment



theft, robbery



Execution Location


Printing Location


Tune Data

Part 1: The Rich Merchant Man (Simpson 1966, pp. 602-604)
Part 2: A new tune
Date tune first appeared: 1594 - ballad called Rich Merchant Man registered by Thomas Deloney




“The Arrainement condemnation and execution of the grand [cutpurse] Iohn Selman,” Execution Ballads, accessed May 30, 2024,

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