The Children in the Woods

1768 Broadside

The children in the woods: Being a true and mournful relation of the inhuman murder of two children by a deceased gentleman in Norfolk, whom he left to the care of his brother : … to which is added A Word of Advice to Executors.
Printed and sold [by John Waterman] at the printing-office at the paper-mill, Providence.


Now ponder well, you parents dear,

These words, which I shall write;

A doleful story you shall hear,

In time brought forth to light.

A gentleman of good account,

In Norfolk lived of late,

Whose fame and credit did surmount,

Most men of his estate.

So sick he was and like to die,

No help then he could have;

His wife by him as sick did lie,

And both possessed one grave.

No love between these two was lost,

Each was to other kind,

In love they liv’d, in love they dy’d,

And left two babes behind.

The one a fine and pretty boy,

Not passing three years old;

The other a girl, more young than he,

And made in beauties mold.

The father left his little son,

As plainly doth appear,

When he to perfect age should come,

Three hundred pounds a year.

And to his little daughter Jane,

Two hundred pounds in gold;

For to be paid on marriage-day,

Which might not be controul’d.

But if these children chanc’d to die,

E’re they to age did come,

Their uncle should possess the wealth,

For so the will did run.

Now, brother, said the dying man,

Look to my children dear,

Be good unto my boy and girl,

No friends else have I here.

To GOD and you I do commend,

My children night and day,

A little while besure we have

Within this world to stay.

You must be father, mother both,

And uncle all in one.

GOD knows what will become of them,

When I am dead and gone.

With that bespoke their mother dear,

O! brother kind, quoth she,

You are the man must bring my babes,

To wealth or misery.

If you do keep them carefully,

Then GOD will you reward,

If otherwise you seem to deal,

GOD will your deeds regard.

With lips as cold as any stone,

She kiss’d their children small,

GOD bless you both, my children dear;

With that the tears did fall.


These speeches then the brother spoke,

To the sick couple there,

The keeping of your children dear,

Sweet sister never fear.

GOD never prosper me nor mine,

Nor ought else that I have,

If I do wrong your children dear,

When you’re laid in your grave.

The parents being dead and gone,

The children home he takes,

And brings them home unto his house,

And much of them he makes.

He had not kept these pretty babes

A twelve month and a day,

But for their wealth he did devise

To make them both away.

He bargain’d with two ruffians rude,

Which were of furious mood,

That they should take these children young

And slay them in a wood.

And told his wife and all he had,

He did the children send

To be brought up in fair London,

With one that was his friend.

Away then went these pretty babes,

Rejoicing at that tide,

And smiling with a merry mind,

They on cock-horse should ride.

They prate and prattle pleasantly,

As they rode on the way,

To them that should their butchers be,

And work their lives decay.

So that the pretty speech they had,

Made murderers hearts relent;

And they that took the deed to do,

Full sore they did repent.

Yet one of them more hard of heart,

Did vow to do his charge,

Because the wretch that hired him,

Had paid him very large.

‘T other would not agree thereto;

So here they fell to strife,

With one another they did fight,

About the childrens life.

And he that was of mildest mood,

Did slay the other there;

Within an unfrequented wood,

Where babes do quake for fear.

He took the children by the hand,

When tears stood in their eyes,

And bid them come and go with him,

And see they did not cry.

And two long miles he led them thus,

While they for bread complain,

Stay here, quoth he, I’ll bring you bread,

When I come back again.


These pretty babes with hand in hand,

Went wandering up and down,

But never more they saw the man,

Approaching from the town.

Their pretty lips with black berries

Were all besmear’d and dy’d,

But when they saw the darksome night,

They sat them down and cry’d.

Thus wandered these two little babes,

‘Till death did end their grief,

In one anothers arms they dy’d,

As babes wanting relief.

No burial these pretty babes

Of any man receives,

‘Till robbin red-breast painfully

Did cover them with leaves.

And now the heavy wrath of GOD

Upon this uncle fell,

Yea, fearfull fiends did haunt his house,

His conscience felt an hell.

His barns were fir’d, his goods consum’d,

His lands were barren made,

His cattle dy’d within the fields,

And nothing with him stayed.

And in a voyage to Portugal,

Two of his sons did die,

And to conclude, himself was brought

Upon much misery.

He pawn’d and mortgaged all his lands,

E’re seven years came about,

And now at length this wicked act,

By this means did come out.

The fellow that did take in hand,

These children for to kill,

Was for a robb’ry judg’d to die,

As was GOD’s blessed will

Who did confess the very truth,

That herein is express’d,

The uncle dy’d where he for debt,

Did in the prison rest.


All you who be executors made,

And overseers eke,

Of children that be fatherless,

And infants mild and meek.

Take you example by this thing,

And yield to each his right;

Lest God with such like misery

Your wicked deeds requite.

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