Image of two men kissingHomosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook compiled by Rictor Norton

The Trial of George Duffus

December 1721


The following trial indicates how important it was in the eyes of the court to have evidence of full sexual penetration before one could be found guilty of a capital offence. Anything other than full penetration was still a crime against the law, but was classified as a misdemeanour rather than as a felony, and was therefore punishable by a combination of the pillory, fines and imprisonment, rather than by the death penalty. Judges and juries took great care not to send people to the gallows without sufficient proof. Some have argued that in such cases they were lenient, and bent over backwards to avoid reaching a Guilty verdict.

Rictor Norton

GEORGE DUFFUS was indicted for assaulting and committing in and upon the Body of Nicholas Leader, the unnatural Sin of Sodomy, on the 9th of October last.

NICHOLAS LEADER. The first Time of my seeing the Prisoner was at a Meeting-house in Old Gravel-lane. When Service was ended, he came to me, and appearing very devout, began some Discourse in Commendation of the Minister, by which Means, for three or four Sundays successively, he endeavour'd to insinuate himself into my good Opinion, and indeed I took him to be a religious young Man. He invited me to drink with him at Mr. Powel's, in the Minories; I comply'd; and, at parting, he asked me where he might hear of me another Time; I told him, at the three merry Potters, at the Hermitage. He promised to come and see me in a few Days, and was as good as his Word; we sat together drinking and talking 'till it was pretty late, when he told me that he lived a great Way off, and therefore should be glad if I'd let him lie with me that Night. As I mistrusted nothing, I made no Objection to it; but as soon as we were got into Bed, he began to hug me and kiss me, and call me his Dear. I asked him when he meant by it? He answer'd, No Harm, nothing but Love, and presently got upon me, and trust his Tongue into my Mouth. I threw him off. He got on again three or four Times, and I as often served him as before, and told him if he would not lie still, I would kick him out of Bed. With that he suddenly seized me by the Throat, so that he had almost strangled me, turned me upon my Face, and forcibly enter'd my Body about an Inch, as near as I can guess; but in struggling, I threw him off once more, before he had made an Emission, and having thus forced him to withdraw, he emitted in his own Hand, and clapping it on the Tail of my Shirt, said, Now you have it! I had then turned him out of Door, but for fear of disturbing my antient Grandmother, who lay sick in the next Room. Next Morning he told me, that I need not be so concerned at what he had done to me, for he had done the same to several Others, and named in particular, a Cabbin-boy. In a few Days after, I acquainted some of my Friends with it, and they advised me to prosecute him. Upon which, I procured a Warrant from Justice Tiller, and, taking a Constable with me, went on Sunday Morning to the same Meeting as before, where we found the Prisoner. The Constable whispering me, and then sitting down by him, he suspected, I suppose, that we had some Design against him, and so took his Hat and went out, and we followed him, and he perceiving it, began to run; but we pursued, and soon overtook him. He cry'd for Mercy, and begg'd that we would not expose him to public Shame; adding, that we were all Sinners, and it was hard for a Man to suffer for the first Fault.

Mr. POWELL. The first Time I saw the Prisoner was at a Lecture, he followed me out, and began to tell me what an excellent Discourse we had had, how affecting it was, and what Comfort and Refreshment his Soul had felt under the precious Teachings of such a heavenly Man. This occasioned a pretty deal of religious Conference between us, at the End of which he said, he should be glad to drink with me at any other Time; but, it being the Lord's-Day, he did not care to go into a Publick-House then. So we made an Agreement to meet at my Father's in the Minories, on the 12th of October last. We met accordingly, and spent the Evening in religious Discourse. When it grew late, he told me, his Wife was out of Town, and he had a pretty Way Home, and therefore wished I would let him lie with me for one Night. I readily consented, as I not at all suspecting his Design; but we had not been long in Bed, before he began to kiss me, and take hold of my Privities. How lean you be! says he, Do but feel how fat I am! and so he endeavour'd to convey my Hand to his Privities. I turned from him, and lay upon my Back; he got upon me, kept me down, and thrust his Yard betwixt my Thighs, and emitted. He told me, that I need not be troubled, or wonder at what he had done, for it was what was very common, and he had often practised it with others. At the same Time, he desired me to act the same with him; but I refused, and told him, I was a Stranger to all such Practices, and if I had known what a sort of a Man he had been, I would never have lain in the same Bed with him.

The Spermatic Injection not being prov'd, the Court directed the Jury to bring in their Verdict Special.

The Judges meeting afterwards to consider of this Verdict, they agreed in their Opinion, that the Prisoner had not compleated the Felony of which he stood indicted. But that he might not escape the Hands of Justice intirely, a Bill of Indictment against him for attempting to commit Sodomy with Nicholas Leader, was laid before the Grand Jury of Middlesex, who finding it Billa Vera, he was brought upon his Trial at the Sessions in March following, when Nicholas Leader deposed, that, being in Bed with the Prisoner, the Prisoner seized him by the Throat, forcibly turned him on his Face, and endeavour'd to commit Sodomy with him.

The Jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to pay a Fine of twenty Marks, to suffer two Months Imprisonment, and to stand upon the Pillory near Old Gravel-Lane.

SOURCE: Select Trials, 1742, vol. 1, pp. 105-8.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton. Ed. "The Trial of George Duffus, 1721." Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 Dec. 1999, updated 16 June 2008 <>.

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