Posts Tagged ‘Prison’

When Herbert Asbury’s Gangs of New York last left readers with Thomas “Humpty” Jackson, the crooked hunchback gnome known for packing a revolver in his hat and a copy of Voltaire in his pocket, the gangster was composting in a prison cell upstate.

But what Asbury never told readers was that Humpy spent his three year stretch reading every book he could get his thieving paws on. Stevenson, Huxley, Darwin, Herbert Spencer, and Thomas Paine, Humpty devoured every volume in the Sing Sing library, and when he got out; the Hump decided to go straight.

Surrounding himself with books, pigeons, and toy poodles, Jackson eventually opened a pet shop on 125th Street where the mug dispensed a blend of streetwise philosophy and classical learning to anyone who would listen. Soon, he was being courted by Colliers magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and a dozen little rags from around the country that all came to sop up Humpty’s wisdom on subjects as diverse as: love, prohibition, capital punishment, and the secrets of life. These are his greatest hits:

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Humpty Jackson on the Transformative Power of Reading

Humpty Jackson on the Transformative Power of Reading

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