The End of the (Hodgson) Line

Let me say at the outset that I have serious doubts about Baskerville's account. (You can read a transcript here.) The passage is a bit long, but well worth quoting in full:

And here is in town a famous midwife who got so much money by her trade that she keeps a coach and a good house, whose maiden name was Baskervile, but now Hodgkin. This woman hearing of my name, was very desirous to see me upon which I went to her house where she bid me welcome, and told me a sad story of the evils which befell her after the death of her husband in the late wars.

She told me after her husband’s death she was so poor she had scarce a smock to her breech. And that she had two sons, lusty men, who had been soldiers for the late king but his party being deprest they were driven to such extremity they were fain to rob on the high way, and being taken, they were both brought to York gaol in the castle, and being arraigned for their lives were both condemned to be hanged, and executed accordingly. Some told her if she would beg the youngest son she might have him but had a mind to the oldest which would not be granted and so both went to the grave together.

These sad disasters begat in this city such a commiseration of her condition that they advised her to turn midwife, and in that trade she has been so fortunate that she keeps a good house, a coach, and is grown wealthy. She hath one daughter who is married to a townsman of York, and they live with her.

Upon reading this account, I immediately started searching court records for the execution of any highwaymen named Hodgson; I found none, but given the spotty survival rates from this period, it proves nothing.

I also have my doubts that work as a midwife would allow a woman to build up an estate as large as the one Bridget left to her surviving children. But she had twenty-some years, and city midwives could earn a good living, so while it is highly unlikely, it is not impossible.

But where Baskerville loses me is his nonsensical claim, if I am reading his account correctly, that Bridget allowed her younger son to hang because she loved his older brother more.

And, as if this weren't enough, when Baskerville came to town, Bridget sought him out (a complete stranger, remember) and told him about her decision. Even if I believed that Bridget chose to see her son hanged when she could have prevented it (which I do not), I cannot imagine why she would tell Baskerville.

Obviously, my doubts are based on instinct rather than evidence, and you are free to interpret the evidence as you see fit, but I simply do not believe it.