Being a complete history of all the notable and merry exploits performed by him and his men on many occasions.
The reign of King Richard the First was very different from the times we now live in. The roads were very bad, and were beset with robbers; and there was a great number of large forests and parks in the country well stocked with deer. At that time lived the famous Robin Hood. He was born in the village of Locksley, in Nottinghamshire, and his father was very skilful in the use of the cross-bow. His mother had a brother named Gamewell, of Great Gamewell-hall, near Maxwell, in the same county, but at tire distance of twenty miles from the house of Robin Hood’s father.
When Robin Hood was about thirteen years old, his mother said one day to his father, “Let Robin and me ride this morning to Gamewell-hall, to taste my brother’s good cheer.” Her husband answered, “Do so, my dear; let Robin Hood take my grey horse, and the best bridle and saddle: the sun is rising, so, pray make haste, for to-morrow will be Christmas-day.” The good wife then made no more ado, but put on her holiday petticoat and gown, which were green. Robin got his basket-hilt sword and dagger, and his new suit of clothes; and so rode, with his mother behind him, till he came to Gamewell-hall.
Squire Gamewell made them welcome twenty times; and the next day six tables were set out in the hall for dinner; and, when the Company was come, the squire said to them, “You are all welcome, but not a man here shall taste my ale till he has sung a Christmas carol.” They now all clapped their hands, and shouted, and sang, till the hall and the parlour rung again. After dinner, the chaplain said grace, and the squire once again bid his friends be merry. “It snows and it blows out of doors (said he), but we are snug here; let us have more ale, and lay some logs upon the fire.” He then called for Little John; “for,” said he, “Little John is a fine lad at gambols, and all sorts of tricks, and it will do your hearts good to see him.” When Little John came, he was indeed as clever as the squire had said; but Robin Hood got up, and played all the very same tricks, and better still. The squire was quite glad to see this; and he said, “Cousin Robin, you shall go no more home, but shall stay and live with me: you shall have my estate when I die, and, till then, you shall be the comfort of my age.” Robin Hood agreed to this, if his uncle would but give him Little John to be his servant.
One time, when Robin Hood was gone to spend a week with his father and mother, squire Gamewell was taken ill. In those days, the people of this country were of the Roman Catholic religion. There was a convent of priests near Gamewell-hall called Fountain Abbey; and the squire sent for one of the priests or monks, to come and read prayers by his bed-side. Fountain Abbey was a very fine building: it had a large mansion in the centre, and a capital wing on the right side; but there was no wing on the left; so that the building was not complete. Now the monk who came to Gamewell-hall was very sorry about this, and wished very much to have a left wing to his abbey: so he made the squire believe that he could not die like a good man, unless he gave the whole of his estate to Fountain Abbey. The squire was very ill, and hardly knew what he did; he forgot Robin Hood, and all that he had said he would do for him, and signed a paper that the monk brought him, to giveaway his estate. As soon as Robin Hood heard that his uncle was very ill, he made haste home; but the squire was dead a quarter of an hour before Robin came. The monks now turned Robin Hood out of the hall; and, as his father was poor, Robin was thus sent out into the world to seek his fortune.
Robin Hood did not know what to do: he had been used to live like a rich man, and did not know how to work; for he had learned no trade. He now got together a number of young men, who had been brought up like himself, and were just as poor; and they went lo live what they called a merry life, in Sherwood Forest, near Nottingham. Here there was plenty of deer; and Robin Hood and his company were very excellent marksmen at shooting them with the cross-bow. But they wanted something besides meat to eat, so they at once turned robbers. After this, no man could travel alone through Sherwood Forest, without being stripped of his money. Robin Hood, and his company too, did not confine themselves to Sherwood Forest, but sometimes went to plunder other parts of England. His gang soon grew to above a hundred in number, and they were some of the tallest, finest and boldest, men in the kingdom. Robin Hood dressed them in an uniform: he himself always wore scarlet; and each of his men had a green coat, a pair of breeches, and cap.
From Robin Hood: being a complete history of all the notable and merry exploits performed by him and his men on many occasions. London: William Darton, 1822.