This letter is introduced by a prose passage which reads: 'A Genuine copy of a most affecting letter sent by one of these young men, lately executed, to a young woman belonging to Edinburgh, with whom he has carried on correspondence for some years, with his dying advice and request to her, which is published with her own consent.' It was probably published in Edinburgh in 1824.
It probably relates to John Wilson and Duncan Fraser who were executed for robbery in January 1824. The letter is interesting in that it suggests that it was dictated to a minister who had attended the prisoner. Many broadsides of the time contained poems and letters directly attributed to condemned prisoners who were very probably illiterate, and it is often difficult to tell whether the prisoners really had any input.
Reports recounting dark and salacious deeds were popular with the public, and, like today's sensationalist tabloids, sold in large numbers. Crimes could generate sequences of sheets covering descriptive accounts, court proceedings, last words, lamentations and executions as they occurred. As competition was fierce, immediacy was paramount, and these occasions provided an opportunity for printers and patterers to maximise sales.
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