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

Hell Upon Earth


Town in an Uproar.

The late horrible Scenes of Forgery, Perjury, Street-Robbery, Murder, Sodomy, and other shocking Impieties.


Last Summer I happen'd to be at Bristol, and coming up in the Stage-Coach I was agreeably diverted with a Narrative that is well worth Notice. There was in Company a grave Merchant, an ancient Gentlewoman, a young Irishman, two young Ladies, and myself; the Merchant said little, the old Gentlewoman heard little, the Beaux and the two Ladies had all the Discourse, and I sat as Judge to determine the Controversy. The Theme was Love, which was argued and defended with a great deal of Judgment on both Sides. The first Night on the Road he took me aside and told me, he believ'd them to be good Natur'd Ladies, for that they had granted him an Appointment, and that he doubted not but e'er Morning to gain the Ascendant over them; and accordingly next Day afirm'd to me, he had been happy in their Embraces. This he confirm'd with such circumstantial Probabilities, that I readiy believ'd it Matter of Fact. But how was he struck with Shame and Confusion, when he found the two young Ladies metamorphos'd into two young Gentlemen, that for their Diversion, and to pass the Time away, had purposely put on the Disguise to conceal their Sex, and had assum'd an Air suitable to their Appearance, to mortify some fond, conceited, passionate and whining Enamorado. [pp. 36-7]

. . .

The late proceedings in our Courts of Law have furnished us with ample Proofs, that this Town abounds too plentifully with a Sect of brutish Creatures called SODOMITES; a Sect that ought to be excluded from all civil Society and human Conversation. They exceed the worst Beasts of the Field 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 of all others, forms Ideas destructive to himself, and grows fond of new Inventions which are repugnant to divine Institution and the fundamental Laws of Nature; he is grown hardened in Iniquity, having abandon'd himself to all manner of Vice, and is not ashamed to act Crimes which expose him to the Severity of the Laws and the Contempt of the World. I have heard that one Tolson, who lately kept a Brandy-Shop on Charing-Cross, and was transported for Felony, whose Constitution was so depraved and ruined that he could contain nothing within him, and who was not ashamed to confess, that he received that Debility by human Conversation and the vile Practice of Buggery; and that once having caught a Foot-Soldier in Bed with his Wife, he insisted upon no other Satisfaction than to commit the de[te]stable Sin of Sodomy with him, which the other comply'd with, and so the Affair was made easy. It is a melancholy Sight to see Men in full Strength and Vigour go to publick Executions unpitied 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; while those Persons who fall by the Laws for Sodomy, can expect neither Pity or Compassion. It would be a pretty Scene to behold them in their Clubs and Cabals, how they assume the Air and affect the Name of Madam or Miss, Betty or Molly, with a chuck under the Chin, and O you bold Pullet I'll break 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 Queen? If I catch you Strouling and Caterwauling, I'll beat the Milk out of your Breasts I will so; with a great many other Expressions of Buffoonry and ridiculous Affectation. If they can procure a young smug-fac'd Fellow they never grudge any Expence, and it is remarkable these effeminate Villains are much fonder of a new Convert than a Bully would be of a new Mistress.

They have also their Walks and Appointments, to meet and pick up one another, and their particular Houses of Resort to go to, because they dare not trust themselves in an open Tavern. About twenty of these sort of Houses have been discovered, besides the nocturnal Assemblies of great Numbers of the like vile Persons, what they call the Markets, which are the Royal-Exchange, Lincolns-Inn Bog-Houses, the South-side of St. James's-Park, the Piazzas of Covent-Garden, St. Clement's Church-Yard, &c. [pp. 41-3]

SOURCE: Hell upon Earth: or the Town in an Uproar, London: Printed for J. Roberts in Warwick-Lane, and A. Dodd without Temple-Bar, 1729.

The author of Hell upon Earth attacks a very wide range of vices and follies, of which his attack on the mollies is but a small part. His comments are interesting for demonstrating the main strands of homophobia: the view that heterosexuality is natural and instinctive and that homosexuality is unnatural; the view that the mollies are the worst sort of criminals and deserve no compassion whatsoever; and the view that the mollies are effeminate (which indeed many of them were). His comments on conversations that occur among mollies demonstrate their camp behaviour, and incidentally document that the word "queen" was a gay slang term by 1729.

Rictor Norton

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Hell upon Earth" Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. Updated 10 April 2000 <>.

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