American Detective Fiction    Prior to July 1891

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  Published in
Leaves from the Diary of a Law-Clerk by the Author of “Recollections of a Detective Police Officer,” &c. London: J.C. Brown & Co., 1857.
The Chest of Drawers
  been hereditary in his family for several generations. He may also be said to have flourished there, after the manner of cobblers; for this, it must be remembered, was in the good old times, before the gutta-percha revolution had carried ruin and dismay into the stalls—those of cobblers—which in considerable numbers existed throughout the kingdom. Like all his fra­ternity whom I have ever fallen in with or heard of, Caleb was a sturdy Radical of the Major Cartwright and Henry Hunt school; and being withal industrious, tolerably skilful, not inordinately prone to the observance of Saint Mondays, possessed, moreover, of a neatly-furnished sleeping and eating apartment in the house of which the projecting first floor, supported on stone pillars, overshadowed his humble workplace, he vaunted himself to be as really rich as an estated squire, and far more independent.

There was some truth in this boast, as the case which procured us the honour of Mr. Jennings’s acquaintance sufficiently proved. We were employed to bring an action . . .


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I AM about to relate a rather curious piece of do­mestic history, some of the incidents of which, re­vealed at the time of their occurrence in contemporary law reports, may be in the remembrance of many readers. It took place in one of the midland counties, and at a place which I shall call Watley: the names of the chief actors who figured in it must also, to spare their modesty or their blushes, as the case may be, be changed; and should one of those persons, spite of these precautions, apprehend unpleasant re­cognition, he will be able to console himself with the reflection, that all I state beyond that which may be gathered from the records of the law courts will be generally ascribed to the fancy or invention of the writer. And it is as well, perhaps, that it should be so.

Caleb Jennings, a shoemender, cobbler, snob­—using the last word in its genuine classical sense, and by no means according to the modern interpretation by which it is held to signify a genteel sneak or pre­tender—he was anything but that—occupied, some twelve or thirteen years ago, a stall at Watley, which, according to the traditions of the place, had





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