ROBERT HOOD was (if not by birth) by his chiefest abode this Country-man.1 Cambden calls him praedonem mitissimum, the gentlest thief that ever was:2 and know, Reader, he is entered into our Catalogue, not for his thievery but for his gentleness. Take the character of his (though not good) less bad behaviour from the pen of our Poet:3
From wealthy Abbots chests, and Churles abundant store, What oftentimes he took, he shar’d amongst the poor: No lordly Bishop came in lusty Robins way, To him before he went, but for his Pass must pay: The widow in distress he graciously reliev’d, And remedied the wrongs of many a Virgin griev’d.
But who made him a Judge? or gave him a Commission to take where it might best be spared, and give where it was most wanted? His principal residence was in Shirewood Forrest in this County, though he had another haunt (he is no Fox that hath but one hole) near the Sea in the North-riding in York-shire, where Robin Hoods Bay still retaineth his name: Not that he was any Pirat, but a Land-thief, who retreated to those unsuspected parts for his security.
One may wonder how he escaped the hand of Justice, dying in his bed, for ought is found to the contrary: But it is because he was rather a merry than a mischievous thief, (complementing passengers out of their purses) never murdering any but Deer, and this popular Robber feasted the Vicinage with his Venison. He played his pranks in the reign of King Richard the First, about the year of our Lord 1100.