After the Running Rein Derby fiasco blew over (Gazette, 3 June), the arch-rogue Goodman Levy (or sometimes vice versa), safe from prosecution, returned to England. 

Morton landscape

James Morton

Gone was the doubtful splendour of the Phoenix Supper Rooms, his card house-cum-brothel in Covent Garden. In 1839 he had been acquitted of robbing a man of eight guineas. The next week the doorman was convicted of running a disorderly house. Now Goodman ran what was described as a ‘shabby dice club’ off Leicester Square, for which he was duly fined.

But there was worse. In 1857 he had the misfortune of having his 14-year-old daughter Rosie abducted by Joseph Erlam, a captain in the Queen’s Own Light Infantry. She had been listening to the band at Turnham Green when he approached her and began his seduction. He told her he would marry her but for the fact his mother would not allow him to ‘marry a Jewess’. However if Rosie went away with him he was sure he could talk his mother round.

And Rosie did, meeting him in Haymarket. Then it was off first to Boulogne and on to Antwerp, Brussels and finally to Mainz. He said they would marry when they reached Frankfurt. Unfortunately, mother’s consent never arrived. Instead she wrote that Goodman had found out Erlam was already married and was now in hot pursuit.

He caught up with them in Mainz where curiously they dined together. Goodman took Rosie back to England with, for part of the time, Erlam still in tow.

Erlam finally returned to England and was arrested. When Goodman gave evidence at the Old Bailey an effort was made to discredit him with the Running Rein swindle, but that was quickly stamped on by the trial judge Lord Campbell. Nevertheless, Campbell censured Goodman for not keeping Rosie under control and also for dining with Erlam, something Goodman had explained away by saying he’d heard Erlam had a tendency to shoot people who disagreed with him.

Erlam received a mild sentence of three months in the House of Corrections.


James Morton is a writer and former criminal defence solicitor