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

The Trial of Thomas Rodin

October 1722


The incident described in the following trial is notable for having allegedly occurred in a heterosexual brothel. One interesting feature is that the man, though he is alleged to have committed rape, was not portrayed as a libertine indsicriminately interested in either sex, and that he clearly preferred men even though he was married: "the Prisoner was so far from being ashamed of such a Thing, that he gloried in it; for I heard him say afterwards, that he took more Pleasure in lying with a Man, than with the finest Woman in the World; and, that he had not touch'd his Wife these nine Months." Actually, it is possible that the entire charge was fabricated, so therefore this statement may be untrue — nevertheless, it is still interesting for showing how a conception of homosexuality could be alleged against someone during this period. That is, if this particular conception of homosexuality was not held by a homosexual, it was at least held by a man who worked in a heterosexual brothel and acted as a pimp and presumably had some knowledge of the erotic underworld. It is possible that the allegation specifically against Rodin was false, but that it was made up from details reflecting the accuser's actual experience in the brothel in other situations. A later source in 1728 suggests that Rodin became active in the molly subculture, and went by the female nickname of Eleanor.

Rictor Norton

THOMAS RODIN (alias Reading), was indicted for a Misdemeanour, in assaulting a Person unknown, with an Intent to commit the unnatural and detestable Sin of Sodomy.

HENRY CLAYTON. I and the Prisoner lodged in one Room, at Peter Wright, a Shoemaker, at the Three Shoes next Door to the Harrow in Long-Alley in Moorfields. My Landlady keeps a Baudy-house, and lets out Lodgings. Some Time in March last, — I forget the Day, — there accidentally comes in a Stranger to lodge, the Prisoner drank with him, and at half an Hour past ten they went up to Bed together; and I saw the Prisoner lying with him in the Nature of carnal Copulation, as a Man lies with a Woman.

COURT. How could you be sure of that?

CLAYTON. I did not put my Hand between them; but it was a Moon-light Night, and I was a-bed in the same Room, and could see what they did plain enough.

COURT. Were they in the Bed?

CLAYTON. No, they were upon it. — The Stranger at first said, he would not do it then, for he was too drunk. The Prisoner bid him pull his Breeches off, which the Stranger not doing readily, the Prisoner struck him several Times. — I believe he might give him fifteen Blows, — and then the Stranger let down his Breeches, and the Prisoner turn'd him on his Face, and fell on him.

COURT. It's very surprising that a Man should make such an abominable Attempt upon a Stranger; and that a Stranger should so soon comply; and that they both should do this before Witness.

CLAYTON. Why, the Stranger was drunk, and the Prisoner was so far from being ashamed of such a Thing, that he gloried in it; for I heard him say afterwards, that he took more Pleasure in lying with a Man, than with the finest Woman in the World; and, that he had not touch'd his Wife these nine Months.

COURT. How long was it before you spoke of this?

CLAYTON. I spoke on't the next Day.

COURT. And why did not you prosecute sooner?

CLAYTON. Because I had lodged there seven Months, and was got 13l. in my Landlady's Debt for Gin, and other Matters; and I was afraid to proceed till I had clear'd that Account. But, as soon as that was done, I indicted my Landlady at Hicks's-Hall, for a Baud, and she moved it with a Siffarara [Certiorari] and there I preferred a Bill against the Prisoner.

PRISONER. I and my Wife keep Stocks-Market: I sell Fruit, and she sells Greens. I was one Day at the Green-Dragon Alehouse in Moorfields, when Clayton came in and quarrelled with me, and called me Molly and Sodomite. — Whereupon I indicted him at Hicks's-Hall; and he met me next Day, and said, I'll do your Business for you, and spoil your going to Hicks's-Hall.

—— WRIGHT. This Clayton is a scandalous Villain. He and Angelica Latham (one of his Whores, who has got several Husbands) abused the Prisoner, and called him Pick-pocket and Sodomite Dog; for which the Prisoner indicted him at Hicks's-hall; and thereupon Clayton charg'd the Prisoner with this Fact. But the Prisoner is a poor, honest, ignorant Man, and he and his Wife lodged twelve Months in my House, and he always behaved himself well, and kept good Hours; for his Business at the Market requiring him to be up very early in the Morning, he commonly went to bed by seven or eight o'Clock, and I never knew him to be up so late as ten. And that Night, as Clayton charged the Prisoner with this Fact, my Husband was at Work by the Prisoner's Bedside, so that no such Thing could be done but he must have seen it.

The Jury acquitted the Prisoner.

SOURCE: Select Trials, 1742, vol. 1, pp. 280-2.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Trial of Thomas Rodin, 1722", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 22 April 2000, updated 19 June 2008 <>.

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