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

Letters from Philogynus



The two following letters were addressed to the editor of The Weekly Journal, in response to the high number of trials of mollies that took place during 1726, all of which are published elsewhere on this site. The anonymous author signs himself "Philogynus", which means "Lover of Women". In accordance with a long tradition, he classifies the mollies together with one large of group of those who engage in irregular sexual behaviour — i.e. sexual deviants — including (in a heterosexual context) sadomasochists and those who are sexually aroused by urine and excrement. At one point in the second letter the author's reference to "several Degrees of them" confusingly seems to refer to the mollies and goes on to discuss "their" heterosexual actions, but I think that he may have been writing too rapidly, and that by "them" he actually meant to refer to the general deviants who are the subject of his letter, because he seems to understand clearly enough that the mollies were not heterosexual (he even says they are women-haters). The letters are very good examples of homophobia, and demonstrate that virtually all of the prejudices held against homosexual men in the twentieth century were already well in place by the early eighteenth century.

Rictor Norton

From Toms.


The Tryals at the Old Baily this last Sessions having furnish'd us with Matter of Speculation, it will not be improper (in hopes to deter others from the same pernicious Practices for the future) to display the Sodomites in their true and proper Colours. They are a particular Set of brutish People that derogate from the Principles of Vertue, and Morality; a Sect of Creatures excluded from all civil Society and serious Conversation; they exceed the very Beasts of the Fields in the Filthiness of their Abominations. The Birds of the Air couple Male and Female to propagate Generation, and every Animal moves by a natural Instinct; but Man, exclusive from all others, forms Ideas destructive in himself, and grows fond of new Inventions, which are repugnant to divine Institution, and the fundamental Laws of Nature; he is grown harden'd in Iniquity, having abandon'd himself to all Manner of Vice, and is not asham'd to act Crimes that expose him to the Severity of the Laws, and the Contempt of the World. Almighty God in his great and seeming Goodness, and out of a providential Care for Mankind, in the primitive Times, did, of his infinite Wisdom, provide against this detestable Sin, by making our first Parent an Help-mate to satisfy his Appetites, that he might have no Colour or Pretence for Self-Pollution, or this crying and detestable Sin of Sodomy, and thereby pull down the Vengeance of an offended Deity on his Head, and ruin the Creation.

It is really very surprizing to every considerate Person, to see those Monsters in Iniquity when apprehended appear before a Civil Magistrate, with all the Assurance imaginable, pleading Innocence, when their Guilt flys in their Faces, and crys for Vengeance against them: But, Good God! how must they be cover'd with Shame and Confusion when they appear at the last Day before the Tribunal and Judgment Seat of Heaven, where all Secrets must be expos'd and reveal'd, and a just Punishment inflicted by an enrag'd Being, without any Regard to Quality or Dignity: Tho' in this World they may evade the Laws that a wise and prudent People are capable of inventing to suppress so detestable and enormous a Transgression.

I have heard of a Soldier that was committed to the Savoy for a Misdemeanor, whose Constitution was so deprav'd and ruin'd, that he could contain nothing within him, who was not asham'd to confess, that he receiv'd that Debility by humane Conversation, and the vile Practice of Buggery. It is a melancholy Sight to see Men in full Strength and Vigour go to publick Executions unpity'd and unlamented, loaded with the highest Guilt, that can neither hope or expect any Mercy in this, and may justly dread the Punishments in the World to come. The greatest Criminal has some People that may drop some pitying Expressions for his unhappy and untimely Fate, and condole his dismal Circumstances, whilst those Persons convicted by the Laws for Sodomy, can neither expect Pity or Compassion, because they die for Crimes detestable both to God and Man, and which caus'd the total Destruction and Desolation of Sodom and Gomorrah. Gen. xviii. 20, 21.

And the Lord said because the Cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their Sin is very grievous, I will go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the Cry of it. And again, But before they sate down, the Men of the City, even the Men of Sodom, compass'd the House round about, both Young and Old: And they said unto Lot, Where are the Men that came late [to] you this Night, bring them out that we may know them. But Lot said, I pray you Brethren do not so wickedly; behold I have two Daughters that have not known Man, I will bring them out unto you, and do with them as you shall please; but unto these Men do nothing.

Thus we see the Scripture plainly defines and expresses the Sin, which derives its Name from the Place where it was first perpetrated and acted, and for which enormous and crying Guilt, the Almighty in his Wrath consum'd both the People and the Cities with Fire and Brimstone.

It would be a very diverting Scene to behold them in their Clubs and Cabals mimick Nature so exquisitely; how they assume the Air, and affect the Title of Madam, or Miss Betty or Molly, &c. with a Chuck under the Chin, and, Oh you bold Pullet, I'll break all your Eggs, and then frisk and walk away to make Room for another, who thus accosts the affected Lady, with, Where have you been you saucy Quean? If I catch you strouling and caterwauling I'll beat the Milk out of your Breast, I will so, with a great many other Expressions of Buffoonery and ridiculous Affectation.

If they can but procure a young smug-fac'd Fellow, they never grudge any Expence; they are as eager in the Pursuit, as a young Gallant would be in quest of a Maidenhead; and it is remarkable, those effeminate Villains are much fonder of a new Convert, than a Bully would be of a Mistress at any Time, except when Madam has been fortunate, has had a good Night, bit a Blow, and buys two or three Smiles and Kisses at the Expence of a Purse of Gold.

They have also their Walks, and their Appointments to pick up their Culls, and their particular Houses of Resort to carry them to, because they dare not trust themselves in an honest and open Tavern. They are really very good Customers where they frequent. They despise the Fair Sex, and avoid all Conversations with them, as inconsistent with the Principles of their diabolical Institution. It is certainly a plain Demonstration, that if there was not a Check given to such vile and uncommon, brutish and beastly Actions, the World in Process of Time would be unpeopled, and dwindle once againt to its primitive Chaos.

(SOURCE: The Weekly Journal: or, The British Gazetteer, 7 May 1726)

I sent you some time ago an Account of the Sodomites; I shall now proceed to expose to publick Censure, the Facts of some Societies somewhat inferior to those vile People in their abominable Practices. We have a great many Instances in a Year in the several Executions of the condemn'd Malefactors, that when our Senses are once vitiated, 'tis lost Labour to endeavour a Reformation, or to attempt to bring them to their primitive Purity. If Vice in our juvenile Years becomes habitual, you will find it an hard Task to shake it off when you come to Years of Maturity; your honest Intentions and firmest Resolutions are of little Service to you; for, Quo semel est imbuta recens servabit odorem Testa diu: What's bred in the Bone, will never out of the Flesh. I have heard of a Gentlewoman of Fortune that was so addicted to pilfering, that she could not go out of a Shop without feloniously taking something with her, and therefore her Friends were oblig'd to have a Servant constantly to attend her, to discover her Design to the Shopkeepers, for fear they might misconstrue her Intent, and prosecute her according to Law. This was an unhappy Faculty, and perhaps became habitual by Practice when she was young. I do not doubt but the same Reason may be given for the vile Practices of Sodomy, and the effeminate Actions of our modern Mollies, and the ridiculous and apish Actions of a particular Society of self-conceited Buffons, who, like Satan, having lost all thought of Honour, Vertue, and Morality, endeavour to asperse and ruin the Character and Reputation of others. As for the Mollies, they are as conspicuous by their Actions, as a Fellon in former Times by the Brand and Mark in the Cheek: They cannot pass by an handsome, plump-fac'd Youth without discovering their Function by their ridiculous Gestures; as a Quack or Mountebank is known by his Merry Andrew, so are they discern'd by their Folly and loose Behaviour. There are several Degrees of them [See Note above]: Your Flogging Culls are those who strip and hire Women to whip them with a Bunch of Rods: They are very liberal in the Operation, and seldom value their Money when they can be well flogg'd themselves, or have the Opportunity of tutoring their Female Antagonist. There are others who are call'd Snarling Culls; these provide an handsome Entertainment for their Ladies of Pleasure, lye under the Table while the Women eat the Flesh and throw them the Bones, which they receive, and, (like a Dog when afraid of an Interloper) keep a continual barking whilst they are at their Operation. If there be any thing in Sympathy, these certainly must have a monstrous Birth, and owe their Original to a canine Litter, because their Actions so much resemble the Beast. Some are call'd Pumpers [i.e. masturbators], who are pleas'd with the Dexterity of Hand, rather than lye at the Mercy of a famous Artist, or subject himself to a Premunire [a legal writ covering an offence introduced from a foreign country] by buying rum and prohibited Goods, I mean a French Commodity. Another Set are call'd Shackling Culls, who carry Fetters and Thumb-Screws, make the Women strip, fetter their Feet, and manacle their Hands, and then take a secret Satisfaction in viewing their Nakedness, in Imitation of our primitive Parents in the Garden of Eden; the Fetters they say have a Reference to the strict Command to abstain from the forbidden Fruit. And to these some Sort of Men who make Women drink Claret till they p[i]ss White-Wine, and then drink it with more Content and Pleasure, than some People wou'd take in tossing up a Glass of downright Lisbon or Mountain; nay, will not scruple (Oh swinish and brutish Action!) to lick up the very Excrements of Nature. May Heaven avert the just Judgment of an avenging Deity, that once for the like Crimes bury'd the flourishing Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in Sulpher and Flames. It has of late Years spread like a Contagion, or like a Snowball which gathers as it goes. If the Legislature had not taken prudent Measures to suppress such base and irregular Actions, Women would have been a Piece of useless Work in the Creation, since Man, superior Man, has found out one of his own Likeness and Nature to supply his lascivious Necessities.

Your humble Servant,


P.S. I hope your Readers will excuse the Bluntness of the Expressions in the foregoing Letter, in regard I was oblig'd to make use of such Terms to expose them in their proper Colours.

(SOURCE: The Weekly Journal: or, The British Gazetteer, 14 May 1726)
CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Letters from Philogynus, 1726," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 22 April 2000, updated 20 June 2008 <>.

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