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

Confession of Thomas Munn, 1750

The Life of Thomas Munn, Alias, The Gentleman Brick-maker, alias, Tom the Smuggler, who was executed with John Hull, alias Rich, on Friday the 6th of April, 1750, at Chelmsford, and hung in Chains near Rumford Gallows, for robbing the Yarmouth Mail on the 20th of July last.

Publish'd from the Copy all wrote with his own Hand, and deliver'd by him the Morning of his Execution to Mr. Thomas Venden, Turnkey of His Majesty's Gaol at Chelmsford in Essex, with a particular Desire it might be printed. London, 1750.

Thomas Munn was born in Cranbrook, Kent in 1705; his father was a brickmaker, but Thomas never quite settled down to a steady occupation, and he ended his short life as a smuggler. His claim to fame consists, first, in his being one of the first Morris Dancers in England, and second, in his extraordinary Tyburn Confession, in which he records his reaction to being solicited by a young barber, the son of an innkeeper, who expresses a desire to sleep naked with him. Thomas is startled by the proposition, but not sufficiently disgusted to expose the barber, and he takes the "philosophic" view that we never know what temptations we might succumb to. He was in his early twenties at the time of the following incident.
          A copy of this rare pamphlet was acquired by Horsham Museum in February 2021, as Munn had several connections with Horsham. Horsham Museum curator Jeremy Knight was struck by "the degree to which Thomas was self-aware and reflective on his life". He commented about the homosexual incident: "To give it space in his confession – the only space he had to give a public account of himself – is really interesting. The printer also could have taken offence and not included it – after all the author wouldn’t have any recourse – Yet both thought it important enough to recount. And what Munn states is although it is seen as a sin, his immediate reaction was conditioned by his upbringing and social norms. He is not so sure as he was aroused by the lad, and who are we to judge when we ourselves have that reaction? A desire for toleration and acceptance – it's human nature." The acquisition was reported in The Guardian newspaper.

. . . nothing happened worth my Notice 'till I came to Southampton, and there I could get no Business, but lodg'd at an Inn, the Son of the People that kept the House was a Barber, and had a Shop belonging to the Inn, was often talking to me, and seem'd to be mighty kind. I went to Bed at the proper Time, had not been long there, but this Barber came into the Room, and desired me to let him stay at the Window, for he expected a Friend to come and call him to go out to be merry that Night and my Chamber being one Pair of Stairs next the Street, he should soon hear him. I not being very sleepy, we had a great deal of Chat, and he came and set on the Bed; no Friend came; I think, said he, I'll lie down beside you, but then I shall be a-cold, so, if you please, I'll come to Bed; with all my Heart, said I, but I must put my Shirt on, for I lay without my Shirt for fear of any Distemper, and to save my Linen, for I heard it was more safe, and I was terribly afraid of the Small-Pox, of the Itch, &c. So I put my shirt on, but he saith no, no, don't put your Shirt on, I love to lie with a naked Man, and I'll pull mine off: If you do, you shall lie alone, I said, however, he came to Bed.
          He had not been long in Bed, but began to act a Part so Contradictory to Nature that I started up in the Bed, wanted Words to express my Confusion, Surprize, and Passion, at his Propositions, and felt for my Cloaths to get up, he saith, What be you a feeling for a young Man? Just as he spoke, I had presence of Mind to make Answer, I am looking for my Penknife, you Dog, for I'll cut your Throat if you don't get up this Moment; I had no Penknife, but it frighten'd my Chap, and he left me: But in the Morning came, and made many Excuses. It was what I never met with before, nor since, but had Philosophy enough in me, to think it a pity to expose a young Man, tho' he pointed at a very heinous Sin; and certainly we that commit Crimes beyond what is common, ought to be pitied, for no Man is certain if he comes under the same Temptation, that he shall be able to withstand it: I don't say this to take the Part of such Sort of Men as my Peruke-Merchant.

SOURCE: The Life of Thomas Munn, London, 1750, pp. 7–8.
CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Confession of Thomas Munn, 1750", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 14 February 2021 <>.

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