Specimens of antient Luxury, extracted from Lord Lyttelton's History of Henry II. just published.
THE opulence of the Monks, as well as the number of them, in the times of Henry the second, was enormous; and the luxury in which men professing poverty lived, was scandalous and offensive to the common sense of mankind. The table, which was kept by the Monks of Canterbury, consisted regularly of sixteen covers, or more, of the most costly dainties. These were dressed with the most exquisite cookery to provoke the appetite and please the taste. We are also told of an excessive abundance of wine, particularly claret; of mulberry wine, of mead, and of other strong liquors, the variety of which was so great in these repasts, that no place could be found for ale, though the best (says Giraldus Cambrensis) was made in England, and particularly in Kent. There is likewise an account, in the same author, that the Prior and Monks of St. Swithin, at Winchester, threw themselves prostrate at the feet of King Henry the IId. and with many tears complained to him, that the bishop of that diocese, to whom they were subject, as their Abbot, had withdrawn from them three of the usual number of their dishes. Henry enquired of them, how many there sitll remained, and being informed they had ten, he said, that he himself was content with three, and imprecated a curse upon the bishop, if he did not reduce them to that number. I repeat this story (says our noble historian) rather to shew the temperance of the King, than the excess of the Monks. Fitzstephen tells us, that one day there was served up to Becket, during his embassy in France, a single dish of Eels, which cost five pounds stering centum solidis sterlingorum emptum). He adds, that it was talked of all over the country; and well it might, for twenty shillings in those days containing in them as much silver as sixty in these, or little less, if we estimate silver at only five times the present value, as much was paid for this single dish of Eels, as if we now bought one for seventy-five pounds sterl. or thereabouts. But such account exceeds all belief. In what manner the laity feasted in those days, John of Salisbury has given us a short description. He says, the houses on such occasions were strewed with flowers, and the jovial company drank wine out of gilded horas, and sung songs when they became inebriated with their liquor. This is a better account of the festivity of our ancestors than that given by Froissart, who says that the English in the time of Edward the IIId. s'enyvroient moult tristement, a la facon de leur pays; got drunk in great sadness, after the manner of their country. By many evidences it appears that a luxury in apparel was veryi general among the nobles and gentry of that age. Even the Nuns were not free from it, as may be inferred from a canon of the Legantine synod, held at Westminster, 1138, which udner pain of an anathema, forbids them to use the parti-coloured sables, called in French petit tris, martin, ermine, and beaver skins, or golden rings; to curl, or curiously set their hair. William of Poictou takes notice, that the English women, in the reign of William the Conqueror, excelled in embroidery; and tells us, that the garments of those English noblemen, whom that Prince carried over with him into Normandy, in the first year of his reign, were richly inwoven and incrusted with gold. In the times of Henry the IId. it appears that the whole gentry of England, having adopted the fashions of the Romans, were as mgnificent in their dress as their fortunes could bear. The men also were very nice, in the reign of William Rufus, in curling and dividing their hair, which on the fore part of their heads they suffered to grow very long, but cut short behind. The extraordinary fervour of zeal expressed by Anselm, and other churchmen of that again, against this fashion, seems ridiculous; but we find that they combined it with the idea of an affected effeminacy, and supposed it to indicate a disposition to an unnatural vice, which was very prevalent in those times. The good prelate, whose piety was so much scandalized at it, would have done well to confiser, how much more the celibacy to which he forced the clergy, and the number of monasteries in this kingdom, might contribute to encrease that abominable wickedness, than any mode of dress. And indeed we are told, that his preachingprevailed with the English to cut their hair, but could not reform their morals. (Salisbury and Winchester Journal)
Newspaper Reports, 17671769
Saturday 18 April 1767
Sunday two Men and a Woman came to the House of the Right Hon. the Marquis of Caernarvon at Southgate, and the Woman presenting a Letter to the Servants, directed to the Marquis, and not giving a good Account of herself, or her Business, was refused Admittance, and her Letter Reception; whereupon the three Parties greatly misbehaved, and made an Affray, which occasioned a Peace Officer to be sent for, who, with other Assistance, and his Lordship's Servants, conveyed the Offewnders before Sir John Fielding, before whom it appeared, that their Errand to Southgate was to extort Money from his Lordship, under a Pretence of a Crime of an unnatural Nature, which one of the Men had laid to his Charge; and the Woman, after a long Examination, discovered the Scene, and the two Men were committed, in order to take their Trials at the ensuing Sessions at Hicks's Hall. (Oxford Journal)
Monday 20 April 1767
Yesterday one Charles Preston was committed to Newgate by Sir John Fielding, charged with writing several letters to the most Hon. the Marquis of Carnarvon, threatening to accuse him of an unnatural crime, with a view to extort money from his Lordship. (Salisbury and Winchester Journal)
Monday 22 June 1767
1118 December 1767
DERBY, DEC. 10.
William Dawson of Halstead in the County of Leicester, and of Foremark Park in the County of Derby, who was apprehended the 26th of November last, for attempting to commit an unnatural Crime on Daniel Ilson of Hungerton, found Means to escape from the Constable, and a Reward of Two Guineas has since been advertis'd to be given for retaking of him. (Derby Mercury)
Monday 14 December 1767
LONDON, TUESDAY, December 8.
Yesterday at the sessions held by adjournment at Guildhall, a Milkman was convicted of attempting to commit an unnatural crime, and was sentenced to suffer 12 months imprisonment in Newgate, to pay a fine of 1s. and to give security for his good behaviour for two years. (Salisbury and Winchester Journal)
1825 December 1767
Yesterday at the Sessions at Hicks's Hall, a Bill of Indictment was found by the Grand Jury agianst Simon Stratford, (notwithstanding his Escape from Prison) for an unnatural Crime. (Derby Mercury)
Tuesday 6 September 1768
Chester, August 30. There were some Traverses brought on by Mr. Poole, Rector of Cheadle, near Stockport, on different Indictments against him, for assaulting divers Persons with an intent to commit Sodomy; and being found guilty on two of the Indictments, he was sentenced to stand twice in the Pillory, to be imprisoned two Years in our Castle, and to pay a Fine of 100l. (Manchester Mercury)
Monday 3 October 1768
September 19, 1768.
WHEREAS on Friday the 9th of September, Inst. one James Mitchell came to the Sign of the Barley-Mow, in Sarum, and lodged at that House; and after he was gone, Reports were raised about the City, that the said James Mitchell was forced by the Landlord to the Sin of Sodomy: I think it highly necessary to acquaint the Public, that the Reports are not true, and that I have this Day given my Affidavit before the Mayor that he never so much as attempted any such thing on me.
The Mark X of JAMES MITCHELL.
(Salisbury and Winchester Journal)
Thursday 8 December 1768
An information is laid, we hear, against no less than 14 persons of the military for a detestable crime. (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette)
Thursday 16 November 1769
This morning died in Newgate John Maycock, who some time since cut his throat, and was one condemned to be hanged yesterday, but had received his Majesty's pardon during pleasure.
A respite, during his Majestry's pleasure, was, near eleven on Tuesday night, sent to Newgate, for George Crowder and John Symonds, who, with Rd. Bransby, were to have been executed yesterday.
Yesterday morning Richard Bransby, for stealing goods and apparel of considerable value, in the dwelling house of Mrs. Ann Fonnereau, was executed at Tyburn, pursuant to his sentence. The above unhappy sufferer was, about 18 months since, discharged out of Newgate, where he had been imprisoned two years, for assaulting a man with an intent to commit an unnatural crime. (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette)
CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 17671769",
Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 30 Dec. 2015