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

The Trial of John Dicks

April 1722


Although John Dicks and other men on trial are apparently guilty of using force for sex, and therefore are guilty of rape, it is nevertheless interesting to see their desire for reciprocated sex. For example, Dicks "put his Hand into my Breeches, and took my Hand and put it into his Breeches" — clearly their desire encompasses more than just penetration. Similarly in the trial of George Duffus, Duffus, after coming between the thighs of his partner, asks his partner to do the same to him. The claim sometimes made by modern sexual theorists that such men were interested purely in playing the role of the penetrator is not supported by such documents.

Rictor Norton

JOHN DICKS was indicted for a Misdemeanor, in assaulting John Meeson, with an Intent to commit the unnatural Sin of Sodomy.

JOHN MEESON. On the Day that the first Stone was laid at St. Martin's Church, as I was standing in that Church-yard, the Prisoner came up to me, and, clapping me on the Shoulder, said, Honest Dyer! how fares it: and then he fell a talking with me about the Coffins that were dug up, and lay in the Church-yard, and afterwards asked me to go to the Alehouse and take a Pot, but I refused. He asked me again, and again, and I as often deny'd him; but at last, being over persuaded, I went with him, and when he had made me almost fuddled, he buss'd me, put his Hand into my Breeches, and took my Hand and put it into his Breeches. From the Alehouse he took me to a Cellar in the Strand, where we had one Pint of Beer, and, I having some Goods to carry into White-hart-yard, in Fleet-street, I told him I must go thither, and if he'd stay for me, I would come to him again. So I went and deliver'd the Goods, and returning to the Cellar, I found him waiting. But, that Place not being private enough, we went to another Alehouse in Chancery-lane, where he treated me with hot Ale and Gin; and from thence he carried me to the Golden-ball, in Bond's-stables, near Fetter-lane, where we drank more Ale and Geneva, 'till I was so drunk and sick that I vomited, and lay down to sleep. The Prisoner unbutton'd my Breeches, and turn'd me on my Face, and try'd to enter my Body, but whether he did it or not, I was not sensible enough to be certain. Then I fell asleep, and when I wak'd, he was gone. I found my Breches were down, and I was almost starved with cold.

WILLIAM ROGERS. I saw the Prisoner and the Boy come in together, and go into an Apartment by themselves. There was but a thin Partition between them and me. I could plainly hear him kiss the Boy, and call him his Dear, and his Jewel, and his precious little Rogue. I sent the Alehouse Boy in, to see what they were about, and he came out, and told me and a Woman, who was in the same Room with me, and she and I look'd thro' a slit in the Partition. I saw the Prisoner in the very Act of Sodomy, making several Motions with his Body, and then I saw him withdraw his Yard from the Boy's Fundament. It was not long before he began to repeat his unnatural Leudness; and then the Woman, who had been peeping all the while, cry'd out, I can look no longer, — I am ready to swoon — He'll ruin the Boy! We both rushed in and seized the Prisoner, as he lay upon the Boy's Backside. We charged him with the Fact, and tho' we surprized him in so indecent a Posture, he made the greatest Protestations of his Innocence, and at last said, Well, if you will swear falsly against me, and take away my Life, I cannot help it. — But I have this to comfort me, that I am fit to dye!

The ALE-HOUSE BOY. When I went in, Meeson was lying upon the Bench, and the Prisoner asked me to sit down and drink, which I did, and then he began to kiss me, and thrust his Hand into my Breeches, whether I would or no: Upon which I got up, and went out, and told Mr. Rogers and the Woman, what he had done to me, and they peep'd thro' the Partition, and afterwards went in and seized him.

While the Prisoner stood at the Bar upon his Trial, he often turn'd up the Whites of his Eyes in a very devout Manner. Tho' when he came to make his Defence, he had nothing to say for himself, but that he was overtaken with Drink, and, if ever he offer'd any such Thing to Meeson, it was more than he knew of.

The Jury found him guilty, and the Court sentenced him to stand in the Pillory without [i.e. beside] Temple-bar, to suffer two Years Imprisonment; and to pay a Fine of twenty Marks.

Had he been indicted for Sodomy, and found guilty, the Punishment would have been Death; but this was an Indictment, only for attempting to commit Sodomy.

SOURCE: Select Trials, 1742, vol. 1, pp. 158-60.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Trial of John Dicks, 1722", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 1 Dec. 1999, updated 19 June 2008 <>.

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