Image of two men kissing

“He Heard the word ‘Buggerer’”

A Blackmail Conspiracy, 1759


Portrait of Sir Humphry Morice in Italy, by Pompeo Batoni, 1761–62

NOTES: In 1759 a group of men conspired to extort money from Sir Humphry Morice by threatening to expose him as a sodomite. Morice (1723–1785) was a very wealthy gentleman and Member of Parliament for Werrington, Devon, who at the time of the accusation had been appointed by the Whig government as the Clerk Comptroller of the Board of Green Cloth (auditor of the Royal Household accounts). He held several important government posts even after the blackmail scandal but never quite succeeded in gaining the real political power posts that he desired. Morice never married, and it would seem that there were rumours about his homosexuality throughout his life, though perhaps this was linked mainly to the blackmail case. Charles James Fox, when rejecting the Earl of Bute’s request that Morice be made full Comptroller of the Royal Household, said “his character has a ridicule, to say nothing more, belonging to it; it will certainly lower the dignity of the place.” In an election of 1754 Morice was described as being “peevish” and self-centred. He retired from Parliament in 1784. The dramatist George Colman the younger, who knew him later in life, said that Morice was “thought to be, for more reasons than one, a very peculiar person.”

Although Morice’s blackmailers were convicted, thus clearing him of any charge of homosexuality, Morice left for Italy soon after the court case was settled. He was to spend much of his life in Naples: in 1760–61, 1768–69, 1779–80, and from 1782 until his death there in 1785. He was a friend of Horace Walpole, Horace Mann, and Lord Tylney, all of whom were probably homosexual. In his will, Morice left substantial bequests to several men who had been friends since his youth, as well as to all his servants, both in London and in Naples, and he left the bulk of his estate to the step-daughter of his childhood friend. He also left an annuity producing £600 a year (a substantial sum at the time) for the life-time care of his dogs and horses at his home The Grove in Chiswick, as he was a great animal lover; one of his horses survived until 24 years after his master’s death. The portrait he commissioned from Pompeo Batoni in 1760–61 includes three of his favourite whippets.

The following trial is interesting for showing that the blackmail conspirators considered whether or not their victim was likely to succumb to their blackmail, e.g. they asked themselves the question, "Is he that kind of man that one might expect will bleed?" The conspiracy was between a bankrupt hair-merchant, a bankrupt linen-draper, a soldier, and an out-of-work servant (the last of whom gave King's evidence and thus escaped prosecution). It all turned upon one of them hearing a quarrel between Morice’s groom John Gosling and the groom's wife, who called her husband a buggerer – which the conspirators decided to use as the basis for blackmailing Morice. The conspirators offered no other evidence that Morice (or indeed his groom) was a buggerer, although the conspirators did observe that the gentleman and his groom “lived together”. The conspiracy was conducted in a rather incompetent manner, and from our point of view it seemed doomed to fail. Though it was Morice's servant who had been accused of buggery (by his wife), the conspirators' letter to Morice accused him, Morice, of buggery, even going so far as to say that he was training up an 8-year-old boy to be his future catamite. Interestingly, although in other blackmail cases, the victim is so fearful that he immediately pays over the demanded money, in this case Morice never had any intention of paying, but resolved to capture the blackmailers from the outset. This suggests to me that fear of losing one's reputation is not sufficient reason to explain why so many blackmail cases were successful – that is, in many cases the victim fears exposure precisely because he knows there is something to be exposed. But in this instance the victim appears to have been confident that the accusation was wholly false – or at least confident that he could easily prove a blackmail conspiracy regardless of the possible truth of the accusation. Since no actual sodomitical act had ever been alleged, there was never any serious possibility that Morice might have been prosecuted for a felony.

Samuel Scrimshaw and John Ross,
of Dover-Street:
With an Intent to extort Money from him.
At the Adjournment of the SESSIONS at
GUILD-HALL, on Tuesday the 17th of July 1759.

Samuel Scrimshaw and John Ross, were indicted together with John Richardson, not taken, for that they being persons of wicked and corrupt minds and dispositions, without the fear of God before their eyes, and wickedly and maliciously devising, and intending, through the instigation of the Devil, not only unjustly to disturb the peace and happiness of Humphry Morice, Esq; an honest, upright, and worthy leige-subject of our said Lord the King; but also to injure him in his good character and reputation, as in his estate and fortune; and also by wicked and diabolical devices, accusations, and pretences, unjustly to acquire to themselves, a large sum of money from him the said Humphry, to support their useless and profligate ways of life, on the 26th of Feb. and upon divers other days and times, with force and arms, at London, did wickedly, unlawfully, and maliciously, combine, conspire, confederate, and agree together, to write divers wicked and scandalous letters to him, with divers horrid, wicked, false, and malicious threats, insinuations, and menaces therein contained, unjustly to defame, and injure his character, and to disturb his peace and happiness, unless he would comply with divers wicked, scandalous, unjust, and oppressive terms, contained in the said letters, to the great damage, injury, and oppression of him the said Humphry; to the great dishonour and scandal of the laws of this kingdom, to the [p.239] evil and pernicious example of all others, in the like case offending, and against the peace of our said lord the King, his crown and dignity. With four other counts, varying the nature of the offence.

After the indictment was opened by Mr Eyre, Mr Serjeant Davy spoke as follows.

May it please your Lordship, and you Gentlemen of the Jury. I am Counsel in this case for the prosecution, against the two defendants at the bar.
          This is an indictment consisting of five counts, containing two species of offences. The first four counts are for a conspiracy in the manner mentioned in the indictment.
          The first count for a conspiracy to extort money from Mr Morice, by threatning falsely to accuse him of certain detestable crimes, of which he was innocent.
          The second count for a conspiracy to extort money, by threatning falsely to charge him with having been guilty of sodomitical practices, of which he was wholly innocent.
          The third count for a comspiracy, to write divers wicked, false, and scandalous letters to him, with divers false, horrid, and malicious threats, insinuations, and charges therein, unjustly to defame, and injure him in his character.
          The fourth count, and to which, perhaps, this case will be more particularly applicable, is, that they did agree together, to extort money from Mr Morice; and in order to bring it about, that they did write divers, wicked, and scandalous letters, with divers, impious, false, and malicious charges, and accusations, therein contained, unjustly to defame, and injure that gentleman in his character.
          These are the counts in this indictment, with respect to the conspiracy.
          There is another general count, for sending threatning letters to Mr Morice, highly reflecting on his character, with intention to extort money from him.
          Gentlemen, these are two different sorts of offences; and with regard to the first, a single person cannot be guilty of it, for no man can conspire with himself alone. There are three different persons in this indictment, two of them only are before you (the third is not taken). Two pesons may be guilty of a conspiracy, so that if you should find either of these defendants have agreed with Richardson, or with each other, you may find your verdict accordingly.
          I thought proper to mention this, because this is a case (as all conspiracies are) attended with some difficulty.
          It is necessary you shoudl apply your attention to that general rule of law I have mentioned.
          Conspiracies are things not easily found out; they are not at first so intelligible as could be wished. It becomes my duty, and I hope I shall have no need to make an apology for taking up your time, to relate this matter to you as intelligibly, and clearly, as possible, in order that you may be enabled to apply your attention more properly to the several sorts of evidence, which will be laid before you.
          Gentlemen, in the first place, it is necessary you should be informed who these persons are, Scrimshaw, Richardson, and Ross, for though Richardson is not before the court, yet, if it appears that either Scrimshaw or Ross conspired with him then that person is as guilty, as if he had conspired with the other.
          These three persons were lately partners in an Office of Intelligence, kept in Fleet-Market, in the City of London, an office where servants were to be informed of masters, and other persons of a variety of other things; amongst which, commissions in the army; and these two articles of business introduced these pesons into the guilt they are charged with.
          Scrimshaw was formerly a Hair-Merchant in Covent-Garden, but since a bankrupt. [p.240]
          Richardson was formerly a Linnen-Draper, but since a bankrupt. Likewise,
          Ross was lately a common Soldier.
          These three pesons have entered into a partnership together, and kept this Office of Intelligence.
          There is one Peter Parry, who will appear before you as a witness. He had occasion to apply to this office in January last, for intelligence of a place to serve as a servant to a hop-merchant. This enquiry, which cost him one shilling, occasioned several meetings between him and the defendants. Parry it seems had made an appointment some time ago to meet Scrimshaw and Richardson, in order to treat upon some business; but was hindered from keeping it, by another engagement that he entered into, of going to the Fountain-Tavern on Ludgate-Hill; and from this occasion, the whole of this conspiracy took it’s [sic] rise.
          Mr Morice, the gentleman who prosecutes the persons before you, had a servant, one Gosling, who was his groom, and had had some unhappy differences with his wife; in order to their coming to some terms, there was to be a meeting with Gosling and his wife, and some friends, at the Fountain-Tavern; at which Parry, by means of his wife being an acquaintance of Gosling’s wife, was there; and Mr Steydall of Maddox-street, a gentleman of known good character, at the request of Gosling, was also at this meeting.
          On this occasion, as frequently is the case, when men and their wives meet to make up breaches, they part less affectionate than they met; it happened so here, – for Gosling’s wife, who is not of the most peaceable temper in the world, happened to use some harsh expressions to her husband; and amongst other opprobrious names, called him, in her passion, a Buggerer. Now from that single circumstance all this great scene of conspiracy, which will be laid before you, arises. Parry was there, and heard this, but at that time did not apply it to any purpose. At his next meeting with Scrimsahw and Richardson, which was at the Earl of Warwick in Fleet-Lane, which is in the city of London, (for it is very necessary for you, gentlemen, to consider what was done in the city of London) he was to make his apology fo not having met them according to his appointment. – There was another gentleman happen’d to be there; and I am sorry to find he is not in this indictment; his name is Boulton Comson, an Attorney. Parry in making his apology to Scrimshaw, for not coming to his appointment, told the true reason, the meeting of Gosling and his wife; and in conversation told them what had passed between them. Scrimshaw, upon hearing the word Buggerer put his finger up to his nose; and said, something may come of this. – When such low people keep an office of intelligence they are glad to have intelligence of all kinds. – Then said he, do you call upon me, (speaking to Parry) to-morrow, something may be made of this; the next day Parry went, then Scrimshaw made him this infamous proposal, – That as to what had been said the night before, of Gosling’s wife accusing her husband of buggery, and observing that he lived with Mr Morice, and that gentlemen, who are tender of their reputation, are the fittest persons to work upon, – said, if this matter is well managed it will be a fortune to us. – It would be a mine, – do you attend to me on this occasion, and we will make a considerable sum of money out of this.
          Several meetings were had, and several proposals made, but they did not hit, and correspond; but at last it was agreed, that Parry was to be the hand through which this business was to be transacted. – Scrimshaw, Richardson, and Ross, had also several meetings, unknown to Parry, and agreed to be the prompters of Parry, to direct him in what manner the scheme should be executed. Scrimshaw first wrote a letter in a disguised hand to Mr Morice, directed it to him in Dover-Street, and put it into the Penny-Post. That letter, it is true, was wrote at a house near the Cockpit, which is not in the city of London.
          But I should have told you, that in order to convict persons of a conspiracy, it is not necessary to prove that any thing was done in consequence of it. For a bare conspiracy to do an unlawful act, is a crime of itself indictable, although nothing further is done in pursuance of it. But whatever happened in any other place, in consequence of this conspiracy in London, [p. 241] this court hath jurisdiction to inquire into. Accordingly the following letter was sent.

                                                  London, Feb. 27. 1759.
          Honoured Sir,
          I Hope you will excuse my taking this liberty (more so as I am a stranger to you) but I happen’d to be at a certain place not long since, where your name was drawn in question, upon a subject I am certain was you to known it, you would by no means approve of it (more so, as the party receives so considerable a bounty from your hand, and is maintained by you). If you desire to know the particulars, will make an affidavit of what was mentioned, and will explain other instances to you concerning what I have here mentioned, and must beg my name to be kept a secret. If you think it proper may send me a line directed thus; To. R. E. to be left st the Paul’s Head, Lawrence-Lane, Cheapside. Or if it will be more agreeable, be pleased to put it in the Daily Advertiser on Saturday or Monday next, and you shall hear farther from me, and all secrecy whall be punctually observed.
                              I am, Sir,
                    Your most obedient,
                              humble servant to command,
                                        R. E.
          To Humphry Morice, Esq;
          Member of Parliament, at
          his house Dover-Street, Westminster.

Gentlemen, you see this letter orders the answer to be directed to the Paul’s-Head, Lawrence-Lane, London. You observe farther, that this letter gives great hints of something to be told very much to the advantage of Mr Morice, which greatly concerns his character, and which will require the solemnity of an affidavit; you see too, a great secrecy is to beimposed on the very person, whom, if guilty, it concerned only to keep it so. Yet the conspirators are the persons who desire it may be made a secret. Mr Morice ordered a short answer to be sent to this letter; “Telling them, if they would be at the Hoop-Tavern in Coventry-Street, Piccadilly, next Sunday evening, exactly at nine o’clock, he should be there, ready to hear the particulars, and that they might depend upon his observing an inviolable secrecy; and if they could not meet at that place to send a line by a porter, with directions for them to ask for Mr Williams.”
          You observe, that Mr Morice, not knowing or guessing what sort of a secret was to be told him, adopted the name of Mr Williams, and you will see the reason for that by and by. – This letter was directed to R. E. at the Paul’s-Head, Lawrence-Lane, where Parry found it, and communicated it to Scrimshaw and Comson, who met at Caywood’s by Charing-Cross, where Comson prepared a draught for an answer, but Scrimshaw not approving it, altered it, and then copied it, and sent it by a private hand. It was dated March 3, 1759. 12 o’clock, and is as follows:

          Honoured Sir,
          “Your’s I receiv’d,” here is an acknowledgment of having received the latter sent to Lawrence-Lane, Cheapside; then he proposed some other meeting, and says, “if it be agreeable to you, would rather meet you either on Monday or Tuesday night, at the place and time you mentioend; if not, will to-morrow night, as desired, and shall observe the direction. Therefore I presume to beg the favour of your interest, to intercede for me with some gentlemen, to procure me a place in the Custom-house, Victualling Office, or in any other station under the government, in any part of England, as I am sensible it is in your power to grant me a favour of this kind, as vacancies of this nature daily happens. Sir, in my asking you this favour, I hope you will not take me (nor look upon me) to be one of those that would offer to impose upon any gentleman, as Sir John Glyne, member for Flint, and Samuel Egerton, Esq; member for Cheshire, and others, knows me extremely well, and would do any thing to serve me; but in asking of this nature it is not in their power to serve a friend; [p.242] if it is, they do not chuse to make use of their interest, if they have any. As I have met with great losses, and have been out of employment above this two years, and having a wife and child to maintain, has reduced my circumstances very much, which is the sole reason of my petitioning you to be my friend; as it will be doing me a great piece of service, and yourself no diskindness, which shall be for ever acknowledge.” (This is a letter wrote by Scrimshaw in answer to Mr Morice’s first letter, he mentions his connection with other persons, as a man of consequence, and then concludes in this manner) “(your compliance to the above will be much better bestowed than on them who now receive your bounty, and you may depend I will disclose the whole, and nothing but the truth, as I shall make an affidavit of the same.) Be pleased to send me an answer to the above, directed as before, and let it be there by eight in the morning, if not tonight. Your compliance to the within mentioned, and you may command,
                              Your most obedient servant, &c.
          P.S. If possible to let me have your answer tonight. I should be greaty obliged to you, to inclose in the answer a couple of franks.
          To Humphry Morice, Esq; [etc.]

          They very modestly desire him to inclose a couple of ranks, to show they are people of very genteel correspondence. To this Mr Morice caused this short answer to be wrote.

If we do’nt meet this evening I can’t hear what you have to say in a great while, being to go out of town to-morrow, so shall expect you at nine o’clock.

          Mr Morice, from the receipt of the first of those letters, saw very plainly, it was sent with some intent to extort money from him, and determined to prepare for a prosecution against the conspirators, whoever they should be; and therefore he let them proceed farther, before they should fall into the trap which was laid to catch them. – For this end an appointment was made for a meeting at the Hoop-Tavern on Sunday evening, and Mr Morice with his servant went there, but nobody came. Gentlemen, as the present defendants have no counsel, I will make it my duty to point out every circumstance in their favour. Hitherto Scrimshaw only has appeared with Parry, but it will appear that the other defendant Ross, (as well as Richardson, who is not now before the court) were all privy to the whole of this transaction; and though they did not all together confederate, and agree with Parry, yet they confederated and agreed one with another. A few days after this, upon Parry’s going again to the Office of Intelligence in the Fleet-Market, Richardson and Ross applied to him. This is the first time they said any thing at all to him. They asked him how the grand affair went on. Now it is impossible they should have known any thing at all about this grand affair if they had had no communication with Scrimshaw: he informed them how the grand affair, as they call’d it, went on; then Richardson, in the presence of Ross and Parry, at the Golden Key, Fleetditch, drew up the following letter, which Parry copied, and sent to Mr Morice, dated the 28th of March.

          My reason for not complying with your repeated desires, of having an interview with me at the Hoop-Tavern, in Coventry-street; as I did not receive your letter ’till the Monday, otherwise would have waited you. There was two other gentlemen of my acquaintance, in the adjoining room, whom will come upon oath, of what passed, as well as myself; you may depend on the greatest honour, and secrecy. I have a relation that has been twenty-three years in the Train of Artillery, in the East-Indies, as Lieutenant, lately come home; and is now Captain-Lieutenant in the same: a gentleman of family and fortune, who is desirous of being promoted to the rank of Captain, in an old [p.243] company of Invalids, in Britain, or the adjacent isles; or the Captain of an old regiment of Foot, at home, or abroad. If this is not agreeable to you, would be glad to know what favours you would bestow; as the point, now in question, takes your honour in the most tender part. I hope, for your own peace, you will not fail in giving me a speedy answere, directed as before.
                    I am,
                                        your most obedient servant,
                                                  to command,
                                                            R. E.

          This letter, gentlemen, was wrote by Richardson, in the presence of Ross; at this time I would explain to you a circumstance that appeared afterwards: the reason for their application for this captain’s commission. – These people kept an Office of Intelligence, and it happened that about this time, a gentleman had applied to this office (as these office-keepers have a knowledge of all places, from the Great-Seal to the Hall-Keeper) where you give them a shilling for intelligence, and have your name entered. – A letter had been sent to the office to be informed, if any such intelligence could be given, with a reward of two hundred pounds if they could get it. Here you see, that if they could have furnished their customer, they could have put the money into their own pockets. To this letter there is a postscript, that the party applying had been twenty-three years in the King’s service.
          Mr Morice upon the reception of this letter sent the following answer.

As I am quite in the dark about what you have to tell me, nor can at all guess what it is, I do not know how to promise any thing ’till I hear what you have to say, which I shall be ready to do next Monday, the 2d of April, if you will come to the Hoop-Tavern at five o’clock and ask for Mr Williams – What you have to say to me let me know that first, then it is time to talk of favours.

          He did not get an answer ’till the 31st of March: but in the mean time here is another circumstance that happened, which will evidently show that there was a connection between the defendants and Richardson.
          Ross and Richardson, immediately after the writing this last letter, in conversation with Parry, asked him, Is this man like to come down? – It is not every body that is likely to be affrighted with these letters. – Is Mr Morice that kind of man that one might expect will bleed? And then Ross and Richardson, to encourage Parry, told him, that they had made inquiry after Mr Morice’s character: and gave this account of him, that he was a gentleman of a very great estate, and great interest: and that he belonged to the Board of Green Cloth. – All this is true. – But then they added this circumstance, that he had lately paid 1500l. smart-money on the like occasion. This, gentlemen, was the mere effect of their own wicked imaginations, and made use of to encourage Parry to go on: the next day, which is very material, Scrimshaw came to Parry, and told hiim the very same story. It is very true, you and I may at different times tell the same story to a third person, without having any communication with one another; but it is impossible you and I should both invent such a lye, and tell it exactly in the same manner, unless we have had some consultation together.
          Things being in this situation, Mr Morice was very desirous to have an interview with these conspirators; and did not discourage them too much, as the surest means of bringing them to justice, and of fixing them beyond all possibility of defence.
          Scrimshaw, on the other hand, looks upon every thing to be in a fair way of success, and takes notice to Parry, that Mr Morice is always desirous of an interview, and therefore hopes that Mr Morice will bleed freely: and that a good deal of money may be made on the occasion. Under this prospect he calls upon Parry to give him the following promissory note. [p.244] Dated March 29. “I do hereby agree and promise to pay to Samuel Scrimshaw, or order, one half of the sum I do receive from Humphry Morice, Esq; of Dover-street, Member of Parliament: as witness my hand,
                              Peter Parry.”
          This note, gentlemen, was found in Scrimshaw’s pocket at the very time he was taken.
          Parry having shewed Scrimshaw the last answer he got from Mr Morice, Scrimshaw drew an answer to it, but Parry did not send it; and instead of it, he sent another, which he wrote from a draught of Richardson’s. Here we bring them all clearly connected together, although Scrimshaw, it must be admitted, was not seen at any one time conferring with them upon this subject, and there was this very clear reason for it. It was necessary they should attend Parry spearately, and at different times, in order that, by comparing notes one with another, they might try his fidelity. Rogues cannot always confide in one another. – This letter drawn by Richardson, and copied by Parry, was dated the 31st of March, and I will read it to you.

I did not know you was so far under the cloud, not to know the full meaning of my letters. And I hope you will now excuse my drawing the whole curtain, but it may fall into other hands before it reaches you: as by what here follows you will be able to unriddle the whole. I myself was present at the whole, likewise two gentlemen of my acquaintance was in the adjoining room, and heard what passed. A certain person was pleased to charge to charge you with sodomitical practices, which I think all mankind ought to hold the greatest detestation; and that you now have a *youth training (not far from town for that purpose). (*A child of eight years old, belonging to one of Mr. Morice’s servants, and educated by that gentleman’s charity at Hampstead.) Now, Sir, if you are willing to comply with the proposal in my last, it will bind an inviolable secrecy. If that is not agreeable, shall be glad to know what you are willing to do. Your answer by the bearer, or to-morrow morning by nine o’clock. And if you proposal be agreeable to the cofidence such a subject deserves, you may depend upon the msot profound secrecy, and likewise an interview at the place mentioned, as desired. I beg your answer immediately.
          I am,
                              Your humble servant,
                                        R. E.
          P.S. As the bearer comes on purpose, I hope you will pay him.
          Sir, it is a thousand pitties, a gentleman of your fortune and character should have your name drawn in question, upon such an occasion.
          To Humphry Morice, Esq;
          Member of Parliament,
          Dover-Street, Picadilly.

To which letter Mr Morice cause the following answer to be wrote.

If you make any discovery answerable to what you have promised, you may depend upon a proper return being made from me. But I must tell you, I have something else to do, than to waste my time in writing letters to no purpose, and must desire to be excused receiving any more from you, unless you are at the place appointed to-morrow, as it will be the second time you will have kept me [p.245] waiting for you in vain. If you do not fail meeting, you will much oblige
                    Your humble servant.

          Mr Morice wanted an interview with these fellows; resolving never to be with them alone, which was a necessary caution; and the moment he saw them to fix them, and commence a prosecution.
          Mr Morice finding it was in vain to hope for any thing at all, ’till he could bring them to an interview, resolved to go; and took Gosling with him, and placed him in another room. Accordingly Ross, Richardson, and Parry, went as far as the Hoop-Tavern, and Parry went in: but instead of finding Mr Morice, he saw Gosling. Now, Mr Morice, not dreaming from what spring this conspiracy took it’s [sic] rise, had unluckily taken Gosling there whom Parry knew. Parry seeing Gosling, ran away, and went to the Black Horse, within a door or two where his friends Ross and Richardson were waiting. Now I should have told you, that in their way to the Hoop-Tavern, a proposal was made by Ross and Richardson, and agreed to by Parry; that Parry was to demand 500 l. of Mr Morice: but by all means he was not to take less than 200 l. and Ross and Richardson, if necessary, were to say, that they were in the adjoining room, at the Fountain-Tavern on Ludgate-Hill, and had over-heard what passed there. Now here is another circumstance, which also proves, that Scrimshaw, Ross, and Richardson, conspired together. Scrimshaw also said to Parry, if I happen to be at any interview with Mr Morice, I’ll say, that I was in the adjoining room, and over-heard what passed.
          Gentlemen, as to Comson, he being a man of the Law, he took a little more caution than the rest had done. He was only to have ten guineas. – He is not in the indictment. – I am sorry for it.
          Mr Morice not appearing at the Hoop-Tavern,but Gosling in his stead; they began now to think that all was not safe. However, there was a fifth letter drawn, and that by Richardson, at their office, and copied by Parry. It bears no date, and is as follows.

Being honoured with several letters from you, appointing you to meet me at a certain place, in obedience thereto I attended; but to my great surprise, I met only with your servant, therefore did not think it proper to divulge any thing to him, altho’ he pretended he had a commission to open your letters, and privy to your secrets: but I could not credit that story. I will attend you in person at any time and place you shall mention and appoint. The sooner the better for reasons to myself. A gentleman of your fortune and character, it is a pity but that you shoudl be thoroughly acquainted with what I have to say; and upon your performing what you have mentioned in one of your letters, I will relate upon oath, what I have to say; and you may depend upon an inviolable secrecy.
                    From your humble servant.

          In the postscript he says, “if I have not an answer to this from yourself, I shall take an opportunity of leaving one for you at a certain place.” – What place they meant is now known, but it must be some where, where Mr Morice would not like to have one sent.* (*Parry declared, they meant at the Lobby of the House of Commons.)
          Mr Morice, upon the receipt of this letter, ordered Gosling to answer it, and he accordingy sent him the following answer.

William Parry, I write to you by my Master’s order, to tell you, that it is in vain for you to expect he will condescend, either to see you, or write to you: but as you persist in saying, you have something of consequence, to reveal to him, he has bid me let you know he has spoke to Mr Fielding, to give you the hearing, and you may wait upon him, at his house in Bow-street, as soon as you please; if it is any thing necessary to be told to my Master, the Justice will acquaint him with it.

          At this time, Mr Morice, not knowing of any transactions in the City of London, intended to prosecute these conspirators in Middlesex; and for that purpose made application to [p.246] Justice Fielding, and informed him of all the letters he had received.
          Parry, on his receiving this letter from Gosling, sent the following letter, copied by himself, from a draught of Richardson’s in Ross’s presence.

Mr Gosling, your’s I received dated Saturday (yesterday). Your writing to me by your masters order’s, perhaps it may be so; but let me tell you, it is not often, that servants take that liberty to open their masters letters; but serving him in the capacity you do, it is not to be wondered at, but such liberty might be taken. However, what Mrs Gosling told you at the Fountain, plainly appears now to be a matter of fact: Why did not you contradict here then, when such a heinous crime was laid to your charge? But what is mentioned here is not half what I have to say; and if it be desired, will bring proof of it; which will make some person be looked upon what they are now represented. As to my going to Mr Fielding, or any other particular gentleman, I assure you I shall not. What I have to say I shall communicate it immediately to the public; and I shall be always ready to aver what I have to say, by sufficient witnesses to any person I should be called upon legally. Now Sir, you are to do as you think fit, as I look upon you and Mr –– to be one. If you be minded, I will meet you any evening this week; if you will do what is handsome, if not, you may depend upon seeing it in the publick papers, with your name in full length, and every word that passed particularly mentioned. Your answer to this is immediately desired.
                    Your’s, &c. Peter Parry.

          This letter was directed to Mr John Gosling at the Swan on Hay-Hill, near Dover-Street, Piccadilly; and was also laid before justice Fielding, who issued his warrant against Parry. But befor ehe was taken, the Devil, as if he had owed the conspirators an ill turn, provides farther evidence against them; for you see here another letter wrote by Parry to Gosling, from a draught prepared by Scrimshaw: and the language, references, and circumstances of this letter, are a further evidence of Scrimshaw’s communication in this latter with Richardson and Ross.

Mr. Gosling.
Not receiving any answer to the letter that was left you at the Swan on Hay-Hill, therefore unles syou immediately answer this, you will oblige me to send for answer to Dover-street. If you have any regard to your character, or Mr Williams’s, I would have you heal up the wounds, which you may do now on reasonable terms, otherwise you may depend it will be made known to the publick, with your name in full length, and the place of residence, and that of Mr Williams likewise, with other circumstances which you little think I know; and such as ought not to be mentioned, not forgetting the affair of Hampstead, which is shocking to think at [what he means God almighty knows]. As yet, Mr Gosling, it is a profound secret, and shall remain so with me, if you think proper; and am apt to think, that it will be for your interest, as well as Mr Williams’s character, to have it kept so. Was I to see you, I could tell you several instances relative to this affair more than you are aware of. If you will do any thing in reason it will be complied with, and that immediately. Pray, who can hurt me for putting it in the papers, as I can bring proof of it? what I shall mention I shall do upon oath, if required. Why had you not come alone to the Hoop-Tavern; had you done so I should have explained myself then to you. I am apt to think it will [be] no way agreeable to you, to see your name in the public paper upon such a subject; but I would not willingly blast a man’s character. I will give you any security, to any amount, never to mention it, if you require it. An answer to this I shall expect to-morrow by noon. You cannot take it ill of me if you are exposed, but blame yourself. If you have a mind to meet me alone, I will meet you [p.247] whenever you please. I thought to have come and send for you to the Swan, but I was afraid you might not approve of it. I should have sent you this sooner, but heard you was not in town. Fail not to let me have your answer.
          I am,
                    Yours, &c.
                              Peter Parry.
          Sunday 6 o’clock.
          Directed to Mr John Gosling,
          To be left at the Swan,
          Hay-Hill, Piccadilly.

          This Sunday must be the 22d of April.
          I will not, Gentlemen, waste your time with observations upon this letter, they must occur to every man’s understanding, and prove the connections that subsisted between Scrimshaw and his confederates.
          To this letter Gosling sent Parry the following answer.

Mr. Parry,
I came to town on Sunday last, and on my arrival I received a letter from you. I am very sorry you should give yourself so much trouble about me; but if you will meet me on Wednesday evening, a little before 6 o’clock, at Mr Carty’s, at the King’s Head, Drury-lane, where I will be at that time. I hope I shall be able to give you an answer to your satisfaction.
                              John Gosling.
          Monday Morning, Apr. 22.
          Directed to Mr R. E. at the
          Paul’s-Head, Lawrence-Lane, Cheapside.

          Now the place apointed being in the neighbour-hood of Mr Fielding, Parry, for a very good reason, did not chuse to come there; but sent Gosling the following letter.

Yesterday I received your’s of Monday, appointing an interview thius evening at Drury-lane. As you are pleased to say you are sorry I give myself so much trouble about you, I here declare, this is the last time you shall hear from me in this manner; neither shall I meet you in Drury-lane; if you chuse to come to the Golden Key, Fleet-market, near Holborn, between six and seven this evening, I shall be there, ready to give you all the satisfaction you can desire; if not, you may expect to see yourself and Mr Williams, &c. very soon in the public papers.
          Your’s, &c.
                    Peter Parry.

Parry likewise wrote Gosling another letter, copied from a draught prepared by Richardson, to the following effect:

Mr. Gosling,
I have frome time to time received various letters, under the sanction of your master, I therefore now insist toknow, for what purpose, or what meaning you can have in the word satisfaction. I am sorry you had not my last letter in time, which was owing to the neglect of the person in the house, being left there by 12 o’clock. Now, to put an end to this mysterious affair, I desire the favour of a line to known, for what reason you can have so often, in your letters, desired an interview, and for what end and purpose; and on the receipt of your’s will be punctual at 6 o’clock, to meet you at Mr Overall’s, at the Blossom’s Inn, Lawrence-Lane, where we may have a room to ourselves, and finally put an end to this trouble.
          I am,
                    Your humble servant,
                              Peter Parry. [p.248]

          To this letter was added the following postscript.

N.B. As you propose satisfaction in several of your letters, your compliance in that, I will then justly inform you who are your accusers of an infamous affair laid to your charge, and the gentleman’s –– with a dash –– under the name of Williams, &.c.
          Your immediate answere will oblige,
                    Your humble servant,
                              As before ––

          This letter, Gentlemen, was prepared, as I told you, by Richardson, but who, do you think, prepared the draught of the postscript? it was Scrimshaw, and we have the original draught under his own hand to lay before you.
          Nothing material happaned after this before they were taken up: when they were taken up, Scrimshaw being charged by Parry, who was first apprehended, with having entered into a conspiracy with Parry, Ross, and Richardson, in order to extort money from Mr Morice; and with writing and sending seveal of these letters to that gentleman; all this he confessed, but in excuse said, that he was not so guilty as Parry; and upon his being searched, there were found upon him several papers relative to this affair. – In the first place, there was Parry’s note of hand to him, to give him half the money which he should procure from Mr Morice.
          In the second place, there was found upon him a letter, dated the 15th of Feb. from Richardson to him, wherein they talk of going sharers, and having some infamous transactions before them.
          There was also found, abundance of other papers of lesser consideration, shewing the intimacy and connections between him and his accomplices.
          In Parry’s pocket was foudn the draught of a letter under Scrimshaw’s own hand, which he intended Parry should have sent Mr Morice. In this letter he says:

Having received several letters from you, desire an interview, one on Saturday last, I presume the purpose of meeting is on a very particular subject, to which I was an evidence. I by these inform you, I have no objection, in order to inform you what I had related in a very extraordinary affair that materially concerns you; as by character you are a gentleman of a very large fortune, I make no doubt that you will have any objection, according to your promises, in making me a genteel compliment, adequate to the confidence such a subject deserved; and you may depend on the most profound secrecy on oath, never to divulge what I know –

          This, you see, is but part of the draught. He also confessed, he was present at the writing several of these letters; and particularly confessed the writing the letters of the 3d and 28th of March, and that he was to have had part of the money obtained from Mr Morice.
          There was also found in Parry’s pocket Scrimshaw’s draught of the postscript to the last letter sent to Gosling.
          And there was found in Ross’s pocket, a letter from Mr Whitmore, of South Audley-Street, to him, in these words:

I forgot to caution you, least you should through any mistake put forth any Advertisement, for I would not on any account have any advertisement relating to my affairs, on any account whatsoever. When you speak to the person you mentioned, you may satisfy him, that a troop of Dragoons would be as agreeable as a company of Invalids.
          I am,
                              Your humble servant,
                                        Edward Whitmore.

          It appears that these Office-keepers had grossly imposed upon, and deceived this gentleman, by telling him that they had interest with a person that was able to procure him a company [p.249] of Invalids, and he in return informed them, that a troop of Dragoons would be equally agreeable.
          Ross was charged with his part in this wicked conspiracy, and he did not deny it; but his defence was, and which is very true, that he did not write any of the Letters.
          Now, Gentlemen, these are the several circumstances of this case, in which you will find Parry was so deeply engaged in it, that I should think it too much for these persons, or either of them, to ge convicted of so foul a crime upon his single evidence, unsupported by other evidence and circumstances. Parry deserves punishment, but he however, (for I would speak out on this occasion) does entertain hopes of forgiveness, and is encouraged only to entertain those hopes by his telling the whole truth. I admit, Gentlemen, he comes under the disadvantage of an infamous accomplice, and his testimony deserves credit no farhter than “tis supported by other evidence; but when all the circumstances I have mentioned come to be laid before you by evidence, they will manifest the guilt of the prisoners to a demonstration.
          Gentlemen, If the persons concerned in this conspiracy had searched the whole bills of mortality, they could not have found a more unfit object for their wicked purpose than Mr Morice – but it has been often said, that men of the most virtue, and most tender of their reputation, are most likely to yield to such conspiracies. I know no other reason why Mr Morice should be fixed upon. I beg pardon for having taken up so much of your time, and shall only add, that Mr Morice thought it his duty to the public to bring this affair to a public trial; and that he is less concerned to convict the defendants, than he is desirous, if they are innocent, that they may be acquitted.

Peter Parry. I first became acquainted with the two prisoners at the bar a little before Christmas last; they kept an Intelligence Office in the Fleet-market, next door to the Golden Key: I went there and gave a shilling, as is usual, in order that they should procure me a place, either with a Hop-merchant, or in some warehouse. Mr Scrimshaw and Mr Richardson kept it at that time. I used to call two or three times a day, to inquire if they had heard of a place. In December last there was Mr Steydall, Mr and Mrs Gosling, and myself, at the Fountain Tavern on Ludgate-Hill.
          Q. What was the business of that meeting?
          Parry. Mrs Gosling went there in order to meet her husband; and she fell in a violent passion, threw the things about the room, and amongst other bad names called her husband a Buggerer. Mr Richardson sent for me about three or four days after to the Earl of Warwick’s head in Fleet-Lane: my wife went along with me; there were Mr Scrimshaw, Richardson, and one Comson at Attorney, which I think lives in St James’s Street. There was also present the landlord and another gentleman, a tall man.
          Q. What was the business for which you was sent for?
          Parry. I had been a good while out of business, and I had printed some counterpanes, and Mr Scrimshaw said he could dispose of them to a good advantage: I was to have met him that night at the Golden Key, that I went to the Fountain. Mr Scrimshaw asked me the reason I did not come that night, I said I was at the Fountain on Ludgate-Hill. He asked me, what brought me there? I said, I went there with a person that belonged to the same house, and Mrs Gosling; and that she called her husband a buggerer. As soon as I mentioned that, –– Scrimshaw put his finger up to his nose.
          Q. What did you imagine he meant by that?
          Parry. What I imagined was, that I should say no more. He desired I would call the next day; I did, and found him at Mrs Greens, at the Golden Key: there was another person with him, named Prince. Scrimshaw did not think proper to say any thing then, but asked me to take a walk along with him. He said he was to meet some gentlemen at John’s Coffee-house by Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields. We could not find the gentleman he went after there; then he desired I would meet him the next day at Mr Lambert’s, at the Horse-Shoe, Charing-Cross. I met him there accordingly; there was Mr Comson and Scrimshaw. From thence we went all three into the Park. Comson [p.250] there said, I wish you good luck, and then left us.
          Q. Was not you something surprized at his words, I wish you good luck?
          Parry. I was surprized. After that, Scrimshaw talked to me about Mrs Gosling’s charging her husband with being a buggerer at the Fountain-Tavern. I repeated it to him. He then asked me, whether I knew Mr Morice that was Gosling’s master? I told him no. He said he was certain he was a man of fortune; and if the thing was well managed it might be a fortune to us both.
          Q. Was there any talk between you and Scrimshaw, that Gosling lived with Mr Morice?
          Parry. Yes, there was; he said, if he was to have the management of this affair, he should bring Mr Morice to his bearing, and we should always have him between finger and thumb. From thence we went to the Cockpit (an Ale-house) and had no more discourse about this, as I can recollect, ’till we came there; there we call’d for a pint of purl; then Scrimshaw drew out his pen and ink, and asked me, if Mr Morice knew my hand-writing, I said no. He said he did not chuse he should know his ’till such time as he had sounded him, to see how his pulse beat. He mended two pens, and then wrote a letter in order to send to Mr Morice. Q. Look upon this letter, (he takes one into his hand) is this it?
          Parry. This is the very letter, he wrote it with the back part of the pen.
          Q. After this letter was wrote, what became of it?
          Parry. Mr Scrimshaw sent it to Mr Morice by the Penny-Post.
          Q. Did you see it put in.
          Parry. No; he said he’d send it. I left it in his custody.
          Q. to Mr Morice. Look at this letter – (he takes it in his hand).
          Mr Morice. I received this letter ont he 28th of Feb. last, to the best of my remembrance, whether by the Penny-Post, or how, I do not know (turning it up); here is the Penny-Post mark upon it. . . . [p.251]

[NOTE: Here the letter of of Feb. 27 is read, as already reproduced above. The remainder of the trial consists of lengthy testimony which essentially establishes the facts initially presented by the prosecution, as given above, with details about the exact place and time when the various letters were written, and a reproduction of the letters already given at the opening of the case. I have omitted most of this material as it is redundant and uninformative, and in the following I reproduce only the material that adds to our social-historical understanding of the case.]

. . .

          Mr Morice. I received this letter about the time it bears date: about the beginning of April.
          The draught found upon Parry, first read.

I did not know you was so far under a cloud, not to know the full meaning of my letter, and hope you will now excuse my undrawing the whole curtain, as I am not certain, but it may fall into other hands before it reaches your’s, but by what here follows, you will be able to unriddle the whole. I and two gentleman [sic] of my acquaintance, happened to be at a Tavern on Ludgate-Hill, a little while ago: where, in the next room, we heard a great dispute between a certain person and his wife: the wife not only charged the husband with sodomitical practices, (the last three words scratched out) with not only one of your domesticks; but likewise an infant at H––d, with sodomitical practices: which we, and I think all mankind ought to hold in the greatest detestation. I went out of the room we was in, with a feint of making water. The room door they was in being open, the gentleman, who I then found to be one of your domesticks, called me in: the wife still exclaiming against him and you. I heard and saw the whole. Mr J–– G–– promised, if I would keep secrecy, any thing in your power would be granted. A few hours after I had a letter from you, (scratched out) signed Williams, wherein you mention you would give a bond if I would keep secrecy. I for my part would comply, thinking you mean an hundred guineas. I shewed your letter to the other two, who says, if you comply with the proposals mentioned in the last letter from me, they will do the same. They are ready to give you an interview with me, when and where you please, and you may depend on the veracity of what they promise, as well as you.
          Now, Sir, if you are willing to comply with the proposal in my last, it will bind us to secrecy. If that is not agreeable, shall be glad to know what you are willing to do. [p.256]

. . . [There was a postscript to one of Parry’s letters to Gosling:]

P.S. If you think by my plain way of dressing I am a person of no consequence, I refer you to Nicholas Kent, Esq; of Clifford’s-Inn, and Francis Wardel, Esq; Castle-Yard, to whom I pay an annual rent of 123l. per annum, besides a sufficiency of my own, therefore if you do not salfe up the matter, blame yourself for the consequence.
                    Peter Parry.

          Q. Do you pay that rent annually?
          Parry. I did, for the tithes of the parish of Burton, within a mile and a half of Park-Gate. I did live there; but lost it by misfortunes. I had the term of 16 years to come in it.
. . . [pp.259–60]

Q. from Scrimshaw. Parry says he met me at the King’s Arms in Holywell-Street; I beg to know, whether he ever saw me there in his life?
          Parry. I am positive I saw him there. He wrote a letter there which was not sent; and it was there that the promissory note was drawn.
          Q. from Scrimshaw. He says, this affair first began at the Golden Key in the Fleet-Market, or at our Office; I ask him, whether he ever heard mentioned, or the least syllable relating to it, ’till he met me at Caywood’s in the beginning of March, and desired me to go with him into the Park.
          Mr Recorder. You shall have an answer to that question if you chuse it, but it is a very dangerous one.
          Parry. The first time that this was mentioned was at the Earl of Warwick’s Head, at the corner of the Fleet-Market; when he put his finger to his mouth, and desired I would say no more ’till next morning. The second letter was wrote at Caywood’s.
          Q. from Scrimshaw. There is a fourth letter he mentioned; I would beg leave to see it, for I know it is not my hand-writing; and likewise a fifth.
          Mr Recorder. He did not say they were wrote by you. Mr Ford shall show you what is charged to have been wrote by you.
          Mr Ford. First, here is the body of the note of hand (putting it into his hand).
          Scrimshaw. I did not write this.
          Parry. I saw you write it.
          Mr Ford. Here is a N.B. said to be wrote by you, putting it into Scrimshaw’s hand.
          Scrimshaw. This was taken from Parry’s own pocket. But he did not deny his writing it.
          Mr Ford. Here is the second letter to Gosling, the direction said to be wrote by you, putting it into Scrimshaw’s hand.
          Scrimshaw. This is not my hand-writing.
          Mr. Ford. Here is the seventh letter, said to be copied from a draught of Scrimshaw’s. Putting the draught into his hand.
          Parry. This was wrote by Scrimshaw at Hibbard’s.
          Mr Ford. Here is another, said to be your hand-writing, found in your own pocket. (He take it into his hand.)
          Scrimshaw made no answer to this.
          Q., from Ross. Whether Parry did not declare to me in New-Prison, that he was offered bribes to come to terms, in swearing on this indictment against Scrimshaw and me.
          Parry. I never was offered a farthing.
          Q. Did you ever, in any prison, say to any body, that you had been offered any bribe or reward, to give evidence on this affair?
          Parry. No never. The prisoners have asked me, if I was not bribed; I told them no: no body ever gave me a farthing.
          Q. from Ross. Whether he is not to have some reward, or fee, or gratuity, for giving his evidence?
          Parry. No. I never was to have any.
          Q. Do you expect any?
          Parry. No; I do not.
          Q. Has any been promised you?
          Parry. No.
          Q. from Ross. Whether you did not declare to me in New-Prison, that it is not in their power to hurt you, saying, I have thrown them on their backs; for what has been acted by Steydall and John Gosling, I am capable of throwing their indictment all aside?
          Parry. I never mentioned those words in my life, nor heard them mentioned.
          Q. Do you expect, in consequence of impeacing these people, that you yhourself shall not be prosecuted?
          Parry. I cannot tell whether I shall be prosecuted or not, I hope not.
          Mr Morice. I never saw Parry in my whole life ’till this morning; then he went down on his knees, and begged for mercy of me.
          Q. Have you had any promises made you from Mr Morice, or any person on his account, that you shall have any reward, or any thing else, in consequence of your telling the truth, concerning these people?
          Parry. No, never in my life. [p.263] . . .

Scrimshaw’s Defence.

          I beg leave to observe to this Honourable Court, that I neither know Mr Morice nor Mr Gosling, and that I never saw either of them, ’till I saw Mr Gosling with Justice Fielding. I will defy any man in the world, to say he ever heard me speak a word to the disreputation of Esquire Morice. Parry did mention to me an affair he had with a gentleman, and said, he had received several letters, and that he desired him to meet him at the Hoop-Tavern in Coventry-street. I had a good deal of conversation with him about it. I told him he should be cautious how he meddled with gentlemens characters. He told me had had something to say to the gentleman: and that he had sent to him to come to him, that he might divulge what he had heard. I never spoke a disrepectiful word of Esquire Morice. I have heard he is a very worthy gentleman, and I am sorry he should think, that I have been any way instrumental [p.265] in attempting to hurt or touch his character any way whatever. I am very cautious in touching any man’s character, much more a gentleman’s character. After I had the misfortune to be acquainted with this Parry, I heard something laid to his charge by Parry that was bad. I had not seen Parry a considerable time. I wrote him a letter, that I believe dhim to be a very bad man, as I apprehended he had wronged a very worthy gentleman’s character, and told him I hoped he would be careful.
          Counsel. Look upon this letter – (This was found in Parry’s pocket-book, when taken.)
          Scrimshaw. This is the letter: I desire it may be read.
          It is read.

Directed to Peter Parry, to be left at the Paul’s-Head, Lawrence-Lane.
          Mr Parry,
          I received a billet from you with initial letters, which I believe meant [sic] Mr Gosling: I accordingly appointed the house, the corner of Buckingham-Court: you never came, nor have I heard of you since; which gives me some reasons to believe your tale on that reproachful affair, was calculated to answer to some private end of your own; and strongly corroborates with several circumstances, I have lately been informed of, relative to yourself. If so, think how greatly you have abused the character of the gentleman of fortune, and of which scandalous reports I should think it justice to inform him, if not, should be glad to be convinced to the contrary, and other affair, that are greatly to your prejudice, adn desire you to consider when I lent you that money out of my pocket, I greatly wanted it myself.
          I am,
                              Samuel Scrimshaw.
          Please to be on Saturday morning at ten o’clock, at the house in Buckingham-Street.
                    Thursday the 26th, 1759.

          Mr Ford. I have looked into the almanack, and find there was no other Thursday which happened on the 26th, but that in April.
          Scrimshaw. One thing I have to observe, I never was with Parry in the city of London from the first time he mentioned any thing relating to the prosecutor; nor I never saw him in the city since, which he very well knows. I bid him be careful how he meddled with a gentleman’s character, and told him I thought the gentleman should rather punish him, than give him any reward.

Ross’s defence.

          I have nothing to give the Court any trouble about. My Lord, You have heard in all the letter produced that have been read, that I never wrote, sealed, nor delivered (and if Parry had told the truth) never indited one syllable, as God is my judge, he is the only judge that knows the wickedness of the evidence. I never saw Peter Parry write one scribe with a pen. I never had one of the letters that came from the honourable tentleman whom I never saw in all my life. I hope the court will consider, I am a poor unfortunate man, and grant me mercy. I have a wife and two small children, and quite innocent. We have circumstances every day of the badness of Parry; and had we had the liberty to have put off our trial, I believe we could have proved him perjur’d. That I am pretty certain of.
          Scrimshaw. I believe Parry is the whole and sole inventer [sic] of this wicked affair; and he is purjured [sic] as there is a living God in Heaven.
          Q. to Steydall. Did Ross confess any thing before the justice.
          Steydall. He confessed before the justice, that he was privy to the 3d and 4th letters dictated by Richardson in his presence. [p.266]
          Q. from Ross. Whether I said I ever had one of them in my hand?
          Steydall. That I cannot say.
          Q. Did you observe him to look at either of the letters at the time he owned he was privy to them. Steydall. As the letters were read in their order; these two letters Parry pointed out, and said, Ross had a hand in them, to which Ross owned he was privy.
          Ross. They might be read to me, but if I was to be put to death I cannot recollect one syllable of one letter. I beg leave to ask the honourable court (as I am a stranger to the courts in England) whether it is a common rule, to inquire into the characters of evidences of not.
          Mr Recorder. It is very common; and I shall tell the jury, they are not to believe the evidence which Parry has given upon his own credit.
          Q. from Ross. Whether men that are in a public way of business are not often to be seen in different companies, and cannot say, whether they are honest or dishonest? We pay 16l per year, and keep an open office. I have one circumstance with regard to the letters, said to be copied from Richardson’s draughts in my presence. I do not know, that for a week together, I was two hours in a day in my office. I kept at the Coffee-House, the place of meeting gentlemen on my business; I do not know that ever I saw a letter that either Parry or Richardson had wrote: I have seen them at the desk a-writing when I hae came in. If I knew my self guilty I should not have spoke one syllable. I never confessed any one circumstance, only one letter.

To Scrimshaw’s character.

          William Dodd. I have known Scrimshaw 18 years.
          Q. What are you?
          Dodd. I am a Periwig-maker.
          Q. What is his general character?
          Dodd. I never heard any thing bad of him in my life. He was a Periwig-maker; I have dealt with him; I always believed him to be an honest man.
          William Bathoe. I have known him 17 or 18 years. I am a Periwig-maker; I have the honour to work for his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
          Q. What is Scrimshaw’s character?
          Bathoe. I never knew any harm of him in my life.
          William Grinley. I am a Linnen-draper, and live at Charing-Cross, I have known Scrimshaw about 14 years.
          Q. What is his character?
          Grinley. I never knew any thing ill of his character in my life. He kept a Periwig-maker’s shop pretty near where I live. He had misfortunes came upon him, but I never heard any ill of him.
          Thomas Hearne. I have known him about 10 Years.
          Q. What are you?
          Hearne. I am a Hair-seller. He is an honest man, for what I know.

To Ross’s character.

          Thomas Hunter. I am a Stay-maker. I have known Ross upwards of nine years, he always was a very honest man. I never knew any ill of him to this present moment.
          John Read. I have known him five years. His character was always good since I knew him.
          Joseph Brigs. I was bred to the Law originally, but have been 18 years in trade.
          Q. What trade?
          Brigs. A Stationer in Lincoln’s-Inn. I have known Ross since November last; and have had some conversation with him, and found him to be a very honest good man.
          Ross. It was in the month of October last that I came to London.

          The Jury went out, and returned in about seven minutes, and brought in their verdict, both Guilty.
          They received sentence, To be imprisoned in his Majesty’s gaol of Newgate for the term of three years; and to stand in the Pillory twice, once at the upper end of Cheapside; and once by Fleet-ditch. [p.267]

Blackmailers in the Pillory

Report from the Annual Register
for 25 June 1759

Samuel Scrimshaw and James Ross, stood in the pillory in Cheapside, for sending a threatening letter, to extort a large sum of money from Humphry Morrice, esq; and were severely pelted by the populace; but one of the sheriff's officers having received some affront by being too near the pillory, drew his sword, and fell pell-mell among the thickest of the people, cutting his way indiscriminately through men, women, and children. This diverted the fury of the mob from the criminals to the officer, who, not being able to stand against such numbers, made good his retreat to an adjoining alley, where not above two or three could press upon him at a time, and thereby made his escape.

The above delinquents were convicted on the evidence of Peter Parry their accomplice, for sending threatening letters to Humphry Morrice, of Dover-Street, esq; with an intent to extort money from him. They, together with one Richardson, who has absconded, kept an office of intelligence in the Fleet-market, and Parry had applied to them to get a place. This Parry having had some acquaintance with the wife of one Gosling, who was groom to Mr. Morrice, and being present at a meeting that was held to bring this couple (who lived in a state of enmity) to some terms, he heard the woman in her passion, call her husband Buggerer. That very night he was to have met Scrimshaw, &c. and at the next meeting in making his apology, told what had passed between Gosling and his wife. Scrimshaw no sooner heard the word Buggerer but his fertile brain suggested a scheme to get money, and putting his finger to his nose, he said, Something may come of this. On this slender foundation the conspiracy was formed and carried on.

Being found guilty they received sentence to be imprisoned three years in Newgate, and to stand twice in the pillory, once in Cheapside, and once in Fleet-street.

SOURCES: The Trial of Samuel Scrimshaw and John Ross, for a Conspiracy, in Sending Threatning Letters to Humphry Morice, Esq; of Dover-Street: With an Intent to extort Money from Him. At the Adjournment of the Sessions at Guild-Hall, on Tuesday the 17th of July 1759. Being Part III. of the Sixth Sessions in the Mayoralty of The Right Honble Sir Richard Glyn, Knt. Lord-Mayor of the City of London. London: Printed, and sold by Mr. Cooper, at the Globe in Pater-noster-Row, 1759. SOURCE for the report of the pilloring: Report in the Chronicle section of the Annual Register for 1759, vol. 2, pp. 99–100.

NOTE: The trial was later reprinted with identical text (except for stylistic matters such as use of italics) in Remarkable Trials and Interesting Memoirs, of the Most noted Criminals, Who have been convicted at the Assizes, the King’s-Bench Bar, Guildhall, &c. . . . From the Year 1740, to 1764, London, 1765, in 2 vols; vol. 2, pp. 253–299.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "He Heard the Word ’Buggerer’, 1759," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 15 April 2015 <>.

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