Michael Joseph Wade

Michael Joseph Wade was a clerk.

In 1866, he was charged with burglary at the temperance hotel kept by Grace Fielden at Todmorden – could this be Fielden Temperance Hotel & Coffee Tavern?

Whilst he was being held at Hebden Bridge lockup he wrote a long poem describing the temptation which led him to commit the robbery.

I called for butter, bread and tea,
   And made a hearty meal;
When, lo! the devil enter'd me,
   And tempted me to steal!

The postman sharp, that pet of men,
   Cal'd at her door at nine,
And brought her bank notes five and ten – 
   I wishes that they were mine.

'They can be yours,' the devil said,
   and fill'd me with desire;
That day I felt my youthful head
   With agony on fire.

'Fifteen pounds will see thee right,
   And life thee from thy cares;
Then do the deed, my boy, to night,
   And better thy affairs.'

This spoke the fiend unto my heart
   While tempting me to sin;
But, ah! I little knew the part
   That it would place me in.

The night it came, all went to sleep,
   Save my poor guilty brain;
My honest hands in crime to steep,
   I broke the window pane.

I saw the place where lay the gold;
   I tried it once, no more;
When fear upon my heart lay hold,
   And I repented sore.

My awful sin flashed on my mind,
   And stopped me ere too late;
In the scene I left the hat behind – 
   That tracked my to my fate!

At his trial, he addressed the jury, saying that he was subject to fits of temporary insanity, which had already resulted in his being discharged from the Marines. He also called on his mother-in-law, Mrs Bernard, to prove that he was subject to such fits of insanity

When the jury returned a verdict of Guilty, he handed another poem to the judge.

Before this court, great judge, and thee,
   As sorrow's meanest slave,
In burning brain and heart of pain
   A might boon I crave.

Oh! spare me yet a little while,
   Blast not my youthful life
Within a dungeon dark and vile,
   Amid the sons of strife.

Give me one chance to mend my ways – 
   One chance is all I ask,
And with a bosom full of praise
   I'll set about the task.

I'll leave this land, this good old land,
   And bid farewell to shame;
And on a far-off foreign strand,
   I'll strike for honest fame.

I'll seek no more the ways of sin,
   But every means employ,
A life of honest worth begin,
   With energy and joy.

Een like a slave of southern land,
   I'll toil from day to day – 
From year to year with willing hand,
   And keep from crime away.

All night, for thee, when silent moon
   Beams from the starry sky,
From nature's sod to nature's God,
   I'll life my thoughts on high.

And, like the falling of the rose,
   When evening droppeth tears,
So shall they days in fragrance close,
   When ice-browed death appears.

The spare, oh! spare, this youthful frame,
   Consign it not to grief;
Remember Jesus, in His shame,
   Forgave the dying thief.

I have a young and tender wife;
   Her soul is racked with care;
Poor victim of my wayward life,
   Must she my sorrow share?

I have a gentle mother, too,
   With heart of saintly mould;
Oh! let her not my fortune rue,
   As she is weak and old.

For once let justice hide her steel,
   And mercy take her place,
For none but mercy's self can feel
   For mortals in disgrace.

To mighty empires yet unborn
   My muse shall breathe thy name,
In glowing words the deed shall burn
   With everlasting fame.

From sea to sea, from land to land,
   The glorious news I'll spread,
To where the crimson mountains stand
   Above the frozen dead.

From north to south, from east to west,
   Where'er mankind doth dwell,
Thy name shall shine from every place,
Till winged time with broken crest
   Bids earth and heaven farewell.

Then yet in mercy hear my please,
   My feelings wear no mask,
Before this court, great judge, from thee
   One chance is all I ask.

I remain my lord judge and gentlemen of the jury
Your humble servant
Michael Joseph Wade
The judge said that

it was painful to see a young man imbued with superior talent in such a position ... his disease was more of a moral than a mental character

He was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment with hard labour. Wade asked the judge

Will you all me pen, ink and paper in prison?

to which he was told

I have nothing to do with that. It will have to be determined by the prison regulation

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 15:24 / 24th May 2021 / 6252

Page Ref: X2055

search tips advanced search
site search by freefind