Born at Hurstmonceaux, Sussex, the son of a Clergyman. He became a Lieutenant in the navy before, at some point, he took to robbing people and on March 12, 1763, following a failed attempt at robbing a farmer, Mr. Brown, he was taken into custody. He was sentenced to death at the Old Bailey, and on May 4, 1763, he was executed at Tyburn.
Boswell didn't actually meet Paul Lewis, but on May 3, 1763, Boswell went to the Newgate prison to watch the prisoners, and there saw Lewis going to the chapel. Boswell took to him instantly, and in his journal described him as a "genteel, spirited young fellow. He was just a Macheath. [...] Poor fellow! I really took a great concern for him, and wished to relieve him."1 Lewis was executed on the next day, as was Hannah Diego/Dagoe,2 also mentioned briefly by Boswell. Boswell watched the executions, together with Robert Temple, and was "thrown into a very deep melancholy".
- 1. Macheath was the somewhat romantic anti-hero protagonist in the popular Beggar's Opera by John Gay, to which Boswell often referred in his younger years. He even likened himself, West Digges (the actor, who had actually played the role on stage) and others with Macheath.
- 2. http://www.exclassics.com/newgate/ng301.htm