Charles Turner after John James Masquerier.
Mr. John Kirby.
10½ x 15 inches
In John Kirby (1727-1804) we find one of our most unpreposessing but ultimately fascinating characters and an inspiring example of how misfortune in life can lead to fortidude and philanthropy. A grocer by trade, Kirby had the misfortune (like so many of his contemporaries) to be arrested for debt. He was thrown into the Wood Street Compter, a debtors' prison in the heart of London where he remained incacerated until his release in 1761. Within a few years he was back in prison but this time on the other side of the bars as Keeper of Wood Street. His unrivalled experience of life in the slammer gave him a fresh perspective and he spent the rest of his career quietly but successfully improving the lot of those unlucky enough to find themselve locked up. By 1792 he had been appointed Keeper of Newgate, one of the largest and most notorious prisons in the country and home, over the years, to the likes of Casanova, Captain Kidd and the notorious "Moll Cutpurse". Although John Kirby was no prison reformer he brought a level of profesionalism and humanity to his work that would ultimately lay the foundations for the modern prison governor.£950