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  • Writer's pictureBeatrice Parvin

Enervating Wiles

There is nothing like a good folk song rhyme… poor old Georgie Barnwell is beguiled by the ‘enervating wiles’ of a certain lady to murder his ‘Uncle Triles.’

This six verse song is the sparse remnant of a 49 verse ballad dating from the early 18th century.

A young apprentice is seduced into a life of crime by a ‘gallant dainty dame, and sumptuous in attire’ – named as a certain Sarah Milwood, who further encourages him to return to the country and murder his uncle for more money. It was adapted into a play by George Lillo in 1730. Dickens referenced the play in Great Expectations – poor Pip, when apprentice, is teasingly called Georgie Barnwell, and the play foreshadows the criminal activities of Magwitch.

I strongly suspect that Sarah Milwood has more to say…is she a cold, calculating narcissist? Is she working for someone else? What circumstances drew her into a life of deception? Is Georgie quite as innocent as he makes out? After all he committed the murder, allegedly under her command. Excited to hear this ‘naughty woman with a vigorous eye’ tell her own story.

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