The trial and execution, life, character and behaviour of James Clarke who was executed … for setting fire to a wheat stack …

Norwich: Walker, Orford-Hill, [1835]

During the nineteenth century it was believed that wrongdoing in adulthood was the direct result of the quality of one’s childhood, and James Clarke provided a classic example. In this broadside, probably produced shortly after his execution in April 1835, we read that “from childhood he had evinced a disposition towards the lowest company … [and] continued to pursue the dangerous paths of vice” into adulthood. Despite the apparent inevitability of his being “launched into eternity” (a stock phrase referring to the moment of hanging), those around him before his execution are profoundly affected; comparisons have been drawn between executions and tragic scenes in theatre.