Mohocks

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The Mohocks were allegedly a gang of violent, well-born criminals that terrorized London in the early 18th century, attacking men and women alike. Taking their name from the Mohawk Indians,[1] they were said to kill or disfigure their male victims and sexually assault their female victims. The matter came to a head in 1712 when a bounty of £100 was issued by the royal court for their capture.

According to Lady Wentworth, "They put an old woman into a hogshead, and rolled her down a hill; they cut off some noses, others' hands, and several barbarous tricks, without any provocation. They are said to be young gentlemen; they never take any money from any." (Wentworth Papers, 277)

Historians have found little evidence of any organized gang,[2][3] though in spring 1712 there was a flurry of print accounts of the Mohocks, their lawlessness, impunity and luridly violent acts. In response there was also some derision from satirists at what they perceived to be sensationalism by the Grub Street press.[2][3]

Various other gangs of street bullies are alleged to have terrorized London at different periods, beginning in the 1590s with the Damned Crew and continuing after the Restoration with the Muns, the Tityré Tūs, the Hectors, the Scourers, the Nickers, and the Hawkubites.

In fiction[edit]

  • John Gay (better known for The Beggar's Opera) wrote a play in 1712 titled The Mohocks - this was printed but never acted in his lifetime.
  • Daniel Defoe's 1722 novel Moll Flanders describes Mohocks attacking people at a market.
  • In the historical novel Manituana by Wu Ming, a 1770s incarnation of the Mohock gang tries to contact Joseph Brant, a Mohawk leader in visit to the king, and they apply to become the seventh Iroquois nation.
  • The Charlie Trees A Jacobite Novel by B. Dew Roberts Published by Chatto & Windus 1951 (page 10: 'Set upon? By those damned Mohocks, I suppose?')
  • G. K. Chesterton's short story The Hammer of God centres on the Bohuns, a fictional aristocratc family which did not "stand high in Chivalric tradition" but had rather lived "in fashion" such as being "Mohocks under Queen Anne".
  • In Victor Hugo's novel The Man Who Laughs (1869), Lord David Dirry-Moir is a member of the Mohock gang.

Further reading[edit]

'Who has not trembled at the Mohocks name?' Meshon Cantrill, October 2011(Thesis)

References[edit]

Jonathan Swift "Journal to Stella", 1712, March 9th

  1. ^ A visit to England by certain Native American chiefs in 1710, 'the Four Kings of Canada', led to street gangs giving themselves names reminiscent of American tribes, such as 'Mohocks' (Mohawks).
  2. ^ a b Statt, Daniel (1995). "The Case of the Mohocks: Rake Violence in Augustan London". Social History (20.2): 179–199. 
  3. ^ a b Guthrie, Neil (1996). "'No Truth or Very Little in the Whole Story'? A Reassessment of the Mohock Scare of 1712". Eighteenth-Century Life (20): 33–56.