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

Plain Reasons for the Growth of Sodomy


The general Contempt of Learning, and Abuse in the Education of our Youth.

Our Fore-Fathers were train'd up to Arts and Arms; the Scholar embellish'd the Hero; and the fine Gentleman of former Days, was equally fit for the Council as the Camp; the Boy (tho' perhaps a Baronet's Son) was taken early from the Nursery and sent to the Grammar-School, with his Breakfast in his Hand, and his Satchel at his Back; subject to Order and Correction, he went regularly thro' his Studies; and, if tardy, spurr'd up: The School Hours over, and his Exercise made, he had his Moments of Play allotted him for Relaxation; then sought he the Resort of other Boys, either in the Fields, or publick Squares of the City; where he hard'ned himself agianst the Inclemency of the Weather, and inur'd himself to athletic Exercises; wholesome as well as pleasant: this has sent him home with his Blood in a fine Circulation, and his Stomach as sharp as a Plowman's; Supper over, and jogg'd down with t'other Frolick, he went to Bed and slept sweetly; after which he rose early the next Morning, fresh, and fit for Study, hurry'd on his Cloaths, and away to School again: No matter if his Hands and Face were now and then a little dirty, so his Understanding was clean: If his Cloaths were sometimes torn with some Skirmish, his Heart was whole, and the frequent Battles between School and School, (which were then in Vogue) inur'd him to Courage, gave him a Thirst after Honour, and a Proneness to warlilke Exercises.

I would not from this have my little Hero esteem'd a Bully; no, his Learning temper'd his Passions; with all this Spirit, the Boy was bashful to the last Degree; dutiful and humble to his Parents, mannerly to his Elders and Superiors; he knew no Vice, being train'd up in a Series of Virtue; the Authors he read inspir'd him with Notions of Honour; the Heroes and Sages, whose Lives he found transmitted wtih such Applause, through so many Ages, fill'd him with an Emulation to Knowledge, and a Thirst after Glory; familiarized to Temperance and Exercise, he was no Valetudinarian in his Constitution, but a Stranger to Debauch; and as he grew to riper Years, where the virtuous Object of his first Wishes crown'd his virtuous Love, there, in the Flower of his Health, and Vigour of his Youthy, stampt he his Maker's Image: Behold our School-Boy now become a Father, blest with an endearing Wife, and a dutiful, beautiful Off-spring; his Love and Care for them, now makes him ready to pursue whatever State of Life Heaven has allotted him, his Abilities of Mind and Body, render him capable of serving his King, his Country, and his Family: His Application to Business keeps him from Debauch, and his Success so spurs him on, that he soon sees a fine Provision made for himself and Family; and his (perhaps small) Patrimony amply augmented: this shews the Advantagesof a proper Education; I am sorry to say an old fashioned One.

Now let us take a Sketch of the modern Modish way of brining up young Gentlemen.

Little Master is kept in the Nursery 'till he is five or six Years old, at least, after which he is sent to a Girl's School, to learn Dancing and Reading, and, generally speaking, gets his Minuet before his Letters; for whereas Boys of old went to School at six in the Morning, and came home at Eleven; Master goes at Eleven and stays 'till Twelve; for the poor Child must not get up till all its Things are aired, and 'tis barbarous to let him Breakfast without his Mamma; so that if he is drest by Tea-time, 'tis well enough: to let him have Milk-porridge, Water-gruel, or such like spoon Meats, is vulgar and unpolite; well, by eleven, or a little after Breakfast, is over, and Master taken to School, tho' very often Breakfast is drilled on till it is too late, unless they dance in a Morning, and then the whole Family is up sooner than ordinary. When he comes to School, he stands by his Mistress, who is generally working and looking another way all the while, he repeats the Alphabet after her not without some Interruption, tho' without the least Attention; for the Child is loking at its School-fellows, and the Mistress directing the young Ladies in their Samplers, or other fiddle faddles.

Here he continues till the Age at which Boys formerly went to the Universities, at last (with great Reluctance) he is sent to a Master, probably to a Writing School, for fear he should break his Head with Latin; besides, Grammar-Masters are harsh; and the Child is of a tender Constitution: well may it be so, when the Tone of his Stomach has been spoiled with Tea, when his Blood is curdled with now and then a Dram, to keep the Mother in Countenance; when the Boy's Cosntitution is half torn to Pieces with Apothecary's flip flops, occasioned by early Intemperance, sitting up late on Nights, eating Meat Suppers, and drinking Wine, and other strong Liquors of most pernicious Consequence to Infant Cosntitutions.

Besides, his whole Animal Fabrick is enervated for want of due Exercise; and he is grown so chilly by over nursing, that he gets Cold with the least Breath of Wind; for, till he went to the Girls School, he seldom or never was out of the Nursery, unless to pay a Visit, in a Coach, with his Mamma: For, at the Mistress's School, he was brought up in all respects like a Girl, (Needleworks excepted) for his Mamma had charg'd him not to play with rude Boys, for fear of spoiling his Cloaths; so that hitherto our young Gentleman has amused himself with Dolls, assisted at mock Christnings, Visits, and other girlish Employments, inviting and being invited to drink Tea with this or that School-fellow; insomuch, that his whole Life hitherto has been one Series of Ignorance, Indolence, and Intemperance.

But here the Master being double bribed, by the Father to bring him forward, and by the Mother not to correct him; with much a-do, makes a shift to teach him to read and write a little English, by which Time he is almost too big to go to School; however, for form's sake, 'tis fit he should learn his Accidence before he goes to the University, or to Travel.

The Boy, thus spoil'd, becomes Company for none but Women, and even of those, only the fantastical and impertinent; for, to the Glory of the Sex be it spoken, the Generality of 'em seeing the Depravity of Men, have set themselves to thinking, and got the upper-hand of our Petits Maitres, not only in common Understanding, but even in liberal Acquirements and polite Conversation; and are, in all Respects, fitter for the management of publick and private Affairs, than the Milksops beforemention'd.

Far be it from me to arraign all Mankind for the Faults of a few! No, our publick Schools, such as Westminster, Eaton [i.e. Eton], &c. still retain the same manly Spirit: A Milksop there, is like an Owl among the Birds: 'Tis just the same at our Universities; there are real Students, as well as Fops; the former being the Glory, as the latter are the Shame of their Age, or Country.

When our young Gentleman arrives to Marriage; I wish I could say fit for it, what can be expected from such an enervated effeminate Animal? What Satisfaction can a Woman have in the Embraces of this Figure of a Man? Should she at last bring him a Child, what can we hope from so crazy a Constitution? But a feeble, unhealthy Infant, scarce worth the rearing; whilst the Father, instead of being the Head of the Family, makes it seem as if it were govern'd by two Women: For he has suck'd in the Spirit of Cot-queanism from his Infancy: As for supporting them,, his Indolence won't let him undertake any Thing laborious; his Ignorance denies him all Hopes of any Thing of Consequence; and his Pride won't accept of what is mean: (at least what he thinks so.) Thus, unfit to serve his King, his Country, or his Family, this Man of Clouts dwindles into nothing, and leaves a Race as effeminate as himself; who, unable to please the Women, chuse rather to run into unnatural Vices one with another, than to attempt what they are but too sensible they cannot perform.

The Effeminacy of our Men's Dress and Manners, particularly their Kissing each other.

I am confident no Age can produce any Thing so preposterous as the present Dress of those Gentlemen who call themselves pretty Fellows: their Head-Dress especially, which wants nothing but a Suit of Pinners to make them down right Women. But this may be easily accounted for, as they would appear as soft as possible to each other, any Thing of Manliness being diametrically opposite to such unnatural Practices, so they cannot too much invade the Dress of the Sex they would represent. And yet with all this, the present Garb of our young Gentlemen is most mean and unbecoming. 'Tis a Difficulty to know a Gentleman from a Footman, by their present Habits: The low-heel'd Pump is an Emblem of their low Spirits; the great Harness Buckle is the Height of Affectation; the Silk Waistcoat all belac'd, with a scurvey blue Coat like a Livery Frock, has something so poorly preposterous, it quite enrages me; I blush to see 'em aping the Running Footman, and posing a great Oaken Plant, fitter for a Bailiff's Follower than a Gentleman. But what renders all more intolerable, is the Hair strok'd over before and cock'd up behind, withi a Comb sticking in it, as if it were just ready to receive a Head Dress: Nay, I am told, some of our Tip top Beaus dress their Heads on quilted Hair Caps, to make 'em look more Womanish: so that Master Molly has nothing to do but slip on his Head Cloaths and he is an errant Woman, his rueful Face excepted; but even that can be amended with Paint, which is as much in Vogue among our Gentlemen, as with the Ladies in France.

But there is no Joke like their new-fashion'd Joke Hats, equally priggish as foppish; plainly demonstrating, That notwithstanding the Bustle they make about Jokes, they have them only about their Heads. But to see them dress'd for a Ball, or Assembly, in a Party coloured Silk Coat, is the Height of my Aversion: They had better have a Mantua and Petticoat at once, than to mince the Matter thus, or do Things by Halves.

But of all the Customs Effeminacy has produc'd, none more hateful, predominant, and pernicious, than that of the mens Kissing each other. This Fashion was brought over from Italy, (the Mother and Nurse of Sodomy); where the Master is oftner Intriguing with his Page, than a fair Lady And not only in that Country, but in France, which copies from them, the Contagion is diversify'd, and the Ladies (in the Nunneries) are criminally amorous of each other, in a Method too gross for Expression. I must be so partial to my own Country-Women, to affirm, or, at least, hope they claim no Share of this Charge; but must confess, when I see two Ladies Kissing and Slopping each other, in a lascivious Manner, and frequently repeating it, I am shock'd to the last Degree; but not so much, as when I see two fulsome Fellows Slavering every Time they meet, Squeezing each other's Hand, and other like indecent Symptoms. And tho' many Gentlemen of Worth, are oftentimes, out of pure good Manners, obliged to give into it; yet the Land will never be purged of its Abominations, till this Unmanly, Unnatural Usage be totally abolish'd: For it is the first Inlet to the detestable Sin of Sodomy.

Under this Pretext vile Catamites make their preposterous Addresses, even in the very Streets; nor can any thing be more shocking, than to see a Couple of Creatures, who wear the Shapes of Men, Kiss and Slaver each other, to that Degree, as is daily practised even in our most publick Places; and (generally speaking) without Reproof; because they plead in Excuse, That it is the Fashion. Damn'd Fashion! Imported from Italy amidst a Train of other unnatural Vices. Have we not Sins enough of our own, but we must eke 'em out with those of Foreign Nations, and make us yet more ripe for Divine Vengeance.

'Till of late Years, Sodomy was a Sin, in a manner unheard of in these Nations; and indeed, one would think where there are such Angelic Women, so foul a Sin should never enter into Imagination: On the contrary, our Sessions-Papers are frequently stain'd with the Crimes of these beastly Wretches; and tho' many have been made Examples of, yet we have but too much Reason to fear, that there are Numbers yet undiscover'd, and that this abominable Practice gets Ground ev'ry Day.

Instead of the Pillory, I would have the Stake be the Punishment of those, who in Contradiction to the Laws of God and Man, to the Order and Course of Nature, and to the most simple Principles of Reason, preposterously burn for each other, and leave the Fair, the charming Sex, neglected.

But as Loss of Appetite is inseparable from a feeble and depraved Stomach: So is this Vice most predominant in those, to whom Nature has been so sparing in her Blessings, that they find not a Call equivalent to other Men. And therefore, rather than expose themselves, they take the contrary Road; and, like eunuchs, out of meer Madness and Disappointment, loath the dear Sex they have no Power to please.

This must be the Case, if we consider that the Majority of Persons suspected of this Vice, are antiquated Leachers; who have out-lived the Power of Enjoyment; are so conscious of their own Insuffic[i]ency, they dare not look a Woman in the Face.

But so numerous are they grown, it is high Time to put a Stop to them, lest the growing Generation be corrupted; and England rival Italy, in this most unnatural and wicked Practice.

No Step will be more effectual than at once to abolish the fulsome Custom of Men Kissing each other, and to admit of no Plea or Exception in Favour of so detestable a Practice.

Is not the old Custom of shaking Hands more manly, more friendly, and more decent? What need have we of Judas like a Practice? For my Part, I hold it so ridiculous foolish Custom for a Man to Kiss even his own Brother, it savours too much of Effeminacy, to say the best of it. I know some worthy Gentlemen so scrupulous, they will not on any Account kiss any Friend or Relation of the same Sex, and I saw myself, two Brothers take a very solemn Leave of each other without one Kiss, though not without Tears; and I dare say with more Friendship than Ten Thousand Kisses could express. I am of a Society of Gentlemen, and with Pride I declare it; who have made a solemn Vow, never to give, or take from any Man a Kiss, on any Account whatever; and so punctual have we been in Observation of this Injunction, that many times at the Expence of a Quarrel, this Rule has been most inviolably kept among us.

If such a Resolution was more universal, the Sons of Sodom would lose many Proselytes, in being baffled out of one of their principal Advances; for under Pretence of extraordinary Friendship, they intice unwary Youth from this first Step, to more detestable Practices, taking many Times the Advantage of their Necessities, to decoy them to their Ruin.

I know a Thousand Objections will be brought against what I say; I shall be laught at by all the Votaries of Sodom and Effeminacy; but I hope the manly and generous Britons, who yet survive, will take what I saw into Consideration, and show themselves Friends to the FAIR SEX; by opposing all Inlets to the Sin of Sodomy, of which Man-Kissing is the very first.

With this, all other Effeminacies should be abolished; and each Sex should maintain its peculiar Character: I hope the Ladies will not stand in need of any Advice from me; yet I could wish that some among them would seem less amorous of one another; for tho' Woman Kissing Woman, is more suitable to their natural Softness, and indeed more excusable than the like Practice in the contrary Sex; yet it ought to be done (if at all) with Modesty and Moderation, lest Suggestions, which I hope are false, and which to me seem improbable, should bring such Ladies under Censure; who give themselves too great Liberties with each other: for as the Age encreases in Wickedness, new Vices may arise; and since they themselves see how fulsome it is in Gentlemen, I hope they will abstain from all Appearance of Evil, and contribute to the intended Reformation; not only by scorning and deriding such Wretches of Men, who shall openly affront them, by Kissing each other in their Presence: but that they will set the Gentlemen a Pattern, and shame them out of it by using a Kiss, if it must be used, in so decent a Manner, and with so great Restraint, that the most envious shall find no cause of Censure.

The Italian OPERA'S, and Corruption of the English Stage, and other Publick Diversions.

How famous, or rather how infamous Italy has been in all Ages, and still continues in the odious Practice of Sodomy, needs no Explanation; it is there esteemed so trivial, and withal so modish a Sin, that not a Cardinal or Churchman of Note but has his Ganymede; no sooner does a Stranger of Condition set his Foot in Rome, but he is surrounded by a Crowd of Pandars, who ask him if he chuses a Woman or a Boy, and to procure for him accordingly; this Practice is there so general, they have little else in their Heads or Mouths, than Casto and Culo [i.e. cunt and arse] which they intermix with almost every Sentence, (a beastly and withal a most stupid Interjection!) for, let them be talking on never so serious a Subject, these two Syllables must come in, though never so foreign to the Purpose; these they use just as the French do the Word Foutre [fuck], which must come in by Head and Shoulders in every Company and Sentence. Nay, there are those who will intermingle it Word for Word, to the no small Improvement of Conversation; we are not yet arrived to this Pitch of Perfection; but much may be hoped in Time: For since the Introduction of ITALIAN OPERA's here, our Men are grown insensibly more and more Effeminate; and whereas they used to go from a good Comedy warm'd with the Fire of Love; and from a good Tragedy, fir'd with a Spirit of Glory; they sit indolently and supine at an OPERA, and suffer their Souls to be sung away by the Voices of Italian Syrenns; 'twas just the same in Greece, when they left their noble warlike Moods, and ran into soft Compounds of Chromatic Musick; of this the Philosopher complains, and to this attributes the Loss of so many Battles, and dwindling of the Grecian Glory. Rome likewise sank in Honour and Success, as it rose in Luxury and Effeminacy; they had Women Singers and Eunuchs from Asia, at a vast Price: which so softned their Youth, they quite lost the Spirit of Manhood, and with it their Empire. For they grew so Womanish in Mind, Gesture, and Attire; and withal so fearful of hurting their sweet Faces, which were nurs'd up with all the Cosmetics Art or Nature could invent or produce, that their Enemies kill'd 'em with their very Looks, and for fear of having their Faces gash'd, or their fine Cloaths spoil'd, they turn'd their Backs upon those ugly dirty Fellows, and gave up their Liberty to preserve their Effeminacy. Heav'n grant the Application may never extend to England; but I leave any reasonable Person to judge, if the Similitude is not too close.

As the ITALIAN OPERA's have flourish'd, the English Stage has diminish'd. Where is that Life, Fire and Spirit which adorn'd our Plays of old? Look over the Productions of this last Age (Mr. ADDISON's Cato excepted) and you will see nothing worthy to be call'd a Play, or proper to be exhibited to a British Audience: They are rather Drolls or Farces, than Tragedies and Comedies; so that it may well be said Comedy and Tragedy died with Addison and Congreve, and Action with Booth and Oldfield. Our Players are now turn'd Ballad-singers; our Theaters are transform'd to Puppet-shews, improperly called Pantomimes; for the Pantomimes of the Antients were clever Fellows, that would exactly mimic, or imitate, the Voice and Gesture of any Man they had an Intent to ridicule. But in these Pantomime Entertainments, there is neither Head or Tail, Meaning or Connection: Gods, Harlequins, Priests and Sailors, are all jumbled together, even in Temples, in the most incoherent manner, ten Times more extravagant than the most extravagant Dream that ever was yet dreamt: However, these Drolls have crowded Houses, while the best Plays of Shakespeare are exhibited to empty Boxes.

This shews the Taste of the Town, and the Genius of the People; who, grown quite Lethargic with Luxury, and in a State of Perdition, dare not think, and only seek to be diverted.

The Masquerades, Ridotto's, and Assemblies of late so much the Mode, at once explain and condemn themselves. 'Tis the greatest Reproach imaginable to the British Nation, that they have suffered themselves to be bubbled at this rate by a Vagabond Swiss [i.e. Heidegger, see Notes below], who has liv'd profusely for many Years past, at the Expence of English Fools; a publick Cock-Bawd, who while others of his Profession have been punish'd by Justices, &c. has gone on with Impunity, caress'd by the Chief (I was about to say best) of our Quality; but for what Reasons may be easily imagined.

Next to the Abuse of public Diversions, is that of private Conversation, which is now reduced to these two important Heads, tittle tattle and Quadrille.

This whiling away of Time renders us such useless Animals, that we seem to live to no Purpose; for, as our Senses grow depraved, so will our Appetites and Inclinations: For it is evident to Men who have the free Use of their Faculties, that as there is no Pleasure on Earth equal to the Possession of an agreeable Woman; so it must be confess'd, that whoever runs into an Extreme of a contrary Nature, it is because he is neither worthy or capable of enjoying so great a Blessing.

The Persecution of Prudes, and Barbarity of Women one to another.

Now I have given the Gentlemen due Discipline, the Ladies must excuse me if I caution them against the malicious Insinuation of Prudes, whose Pride is to demolish every one's Character to set up their own, when at the same Time they themselves are most voluptuous private Libertines, sinning with the utmost Secresy and Security, and yet are maliciously prying and magnifying into Crimes, every little unguarded Liberty taken by unwary Persons, who, too secure in their good Intentions, are oftentimes represented as Devils, by these much greater Devils, whose only Aim is to blacken whatever Reputation is fairer than their own.

And old Proverb says, There is no Harm done where a good Child's got. Faults of this Nature must be confess'd to proceed from a Richness in Constitution, and therefore, are more excuseable than base and unmanly Practices It is the Action of a Man to beget a Child, but it is the Act of a Beast, nay worse, to —— I scorn to stain my Paper with the Mention; but how many too fearful Persons are there, who dread more the Scandal of a Child, than the Charge? How many Murders have been committed! How many innocent Babes perished by Parish Nurses, because their Fathers have not had Fortitude enough to stand the Shock of common Scandal? Many Men having but too often seen their own Flesh and Blood starv'd to Death, and their Estates left to Strangers. I write not this to encourage Licentiousness, but to alleviate the Thing, when an irrecallable Accident has happen'd. Let us suppose a Man and a Woman in the Flower of their Youth, passionately fond of each other, indulging themselves in the utmost Latitude of Love; admit the Woman become pregnant, must she be exposed, stigmatized, eternally ruin'd for this slip? Must the Man be turn'd out of all Business, and banish'd Society for loving a Woman? Must the poor innocent Babe be deem'd an Outcast, upon whom Almighty GOD has thought fit to stamp his sacred Image?

It 'tis a Sin to beget a Child, 'tis a much worse not to provide for it; if 'tis a Sin to debauch a Woman, 'tis a much worse to expose her; it 'tis a Sin for a Man to love a pretty Girl; 'tis a much worse to burn for his own Sex.

Let then the Ladies be more merciful, the Gentlemen more manly. Let a Harmony between the two Sexes, and an universal Charity (the greatest of Perfections) reign among us, teaching us to walk in the Paths of Virtue ourselves, without being so uncharitably vain-glorious of our own Merits, to lose all Compassion for the venial Offences of our fellow Creatures.


This work concludes with Chap. V: Of the Game of Flatts — i.e. lesbianism — which I have published separately, and the poem The Petit Maitre, also published separately. The author's suggestion that effeminate milksops marry women and father boys who will grow up to be sodomites, suggests that homosexuality is inherited (and is an early example of the "genetic" argument). The commercial masquerades were first organised by the impresario John James Heidegger at the Haymarket Theatre from 1717 onwards. His "Midnight Masquerades" were tremendously successful, and drew 800 people a week. They provided many people with the opportunity to explore fetishism and transvestism. Men disguised themselves as witches, bawds, nursing maids and shepherdesses, while women dressed as hussars, sailors, cardinals and androgynous boys. In the early days of the fashion, Richard Steele went to one where a parson called him a pretty fellow and tried to pick him up, and Horace Walpole passed for an old woman at a masquerade in 1742.

Rictor Norton

SOURCE: Reasons for the Growth of Sodomy, &c., appended to Satan's Harvest Home: or the Present State of Whorecraft, Adultery, Fornication, Procuring, Pimping, Sodomy, And the Game at Flatts, Collected from the Memoirs of an intimate Comrade of the Hon. Jack S**n**r, and concern'd with him in many of his Adventures, London: Printed for the Editor, 1749, pp. 45-59. (This is a verbatim plagiarism of Plain Reasons for the Growth of Sodomy which was originally published in 1731.)

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Reasons for the Growth of Sodomy, 1731," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 14 April 2000; updated 4 March 2007 <>.

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