Newspaper Reports, 1772
NOTE: Numerous reports were publishing during August and September 1772, in response to the arrest, conviction, and subsequent royal pardon granted to Captain Robert Jones, who had been capitally convicted of sodomy with a 13-year-old boy. For an overview, and links to this material, see my essay The First Public Debate about Homosexuality in England. The selection below consists of everthing else that is not connected with the Jones affair.
Monday 30 March 1772
WHEREAS Elizabeth the Wife of me Richard Steel of Ashmansworth in the County of Southampton, Yeoman, hath raised and spread a malicious Report, that John Whale of the same place, Cordwainer, was guilty of that most detestable and abominable Sin of Sodomy: Therefore the Intent of this is to inform the Public, that the said Report is entirely void of foundation; and by this general Acknowledgment and some other Satisfaction by me made to the said John Whale, he has promised not to proceed against me, as the Law in this Case provides, and for which I am greatly obliged to him. Witness my hand this 27th Day of march 1772.
The X Mark of RICHARD STEEL.
Saturday 25 April 1772
At the sessions of the peace and goal [delivery] held at the guildhall, for the town and [city of] Dover on Friday last, James Denning[ton] was tried and found guilty of attempting to commit the unnatural and detestable crime of [Sodomy] on the body of Hodgson, for which he was sentenced to stand in the pillory on May the 2d and suffer one months imprisonment. (Kentish Gazette (text unclear))
Thursday 21 May 1772
STAMFORD, May 21.
On Thursday last, the tradesman who was convicted at the last assizes at Huntingdon, for an attempt to commit the unnatural crime of Sodomy, stood in the pillory at St. Neots. He was brought thither in a Post-chaise, and when put on the pillory, appeared so exceedingly ill that he was allowed a chair, and two attendants were with him to administer drops and support him. He stood the whole time unmolested (surrounded by a very great concourse of people) except a few eggs being thrown at him, just before the hour expired. (Stamford Mercury)
18-25 July 1772
A tradesman in the Borough has absconded, two warrants being issued against him on a charge of a detestable nature. (The Westminster Journal: and London Political Miscellany; the same report appeared in the Daily Advertiser for 21 July.)
28-30 July 1772
So general is the unpardonable vice of sodomy become in this metropolis, that two houses are absolutely noted for the reception of those villains. One of them is in the neighbourhood of Drury-lane, under the presidency of one ; and the other is in Westminster, under the celebrated . It is to be hoped the magistrates, after this intelligence, will be indefatigable in bringing those detestable wretches to punishment.
Tuesday a man was taken up in the Borough for an unnatural crime, and committed to Prison. And this day a tradesman in Shoreditch absconded on the same account. (London Evening Post)
30 July - 1 August 1772
Instead of one tradesman, we are sorry to hear, that several persons have absconded from the neighbourhood of Shoreditch, for a detestable crime. (London Evening Post)
Friday 31 July 1772
Friday Morning three Men were taken out of a House in Martlet's-Court, Bow-Street, for a most unnatural Crime; they were taken before Sir John Fielding, who committed them to take their Trials. (Derby Mercury)
1 August 1772
Yesterday morning three men were taken out of a house in Martlet’s-court, Bow-street, for a most unnatural crime, they were taken before Sir John Fielding, who committed them to take their trials. (The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal)
Saturday 1 August 1772
A military gentleman was on Thursday last committed to Bridewell in Southampton, for an unnatural attempt.
Thursday night a well dressed man was detected near Lombard-street, in an unnatural crime, and immediately committed to the Poultry-Compter. (Oxford Journal)
1 August 1772
Thursday night a well dressed man was detected, near Lombard-street, in an unnatural crime, and immediately committed to the Poultry Compter. (The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal)
1 August 1772
By a letter from Southampton we are informed, that one Mr. Fe [Fieldhouse see report for 17 October below], an officer in the army, has been apprehended there for an attempt to commit an unnatural crime on a journeyman shoemaker. (The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal)
Friday 7 August 1772
Bickerstaff, the Compiler of Love in a Village, &c. who lately absconded for a detestable Crime, died a few Days ago in Sussex.
By a Letter from Southampton we are informed, that an Officer in the Army was apprehended there on Saturday last, for an Attempt to commit an unnatural Crime on a Journeyman Shoe-maker.
Tuesday a Man was taken up in the Borough for an unnatural Crime, and committed to Prison. And this Day a Tradesman in Shoreditch absconded on the same Account.
So general is the unpardonable Vice of Sodomy become in this Metropolis, that two Houses are absolutely noted for the Reception of those Villains. One of them is in the Neighbourhood of Drury-Lane, under the Presidency of one ; and the other is in Westminster, under the celebrated . (Derby Mercury)
8 August 1772
Every evening, from nine o-clock till twelve, the North side of the Royal Exchange is pestered with a parcel of detestable fellows, who are so intolerably impudent, that there is hardly any passing of them without being insulted. It is hoped, on the Gentlemen of the Ward getting this hint, they will remove the nuisance. (The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal)
tuesday 11 August 1772
At the [York] Assizes, a Clergyman was convicted of an attempt to commit an unnatural crime; fined 20l. imprisoned two years, and to find sureties for his good behaviour for two years more. (Leeds Intelligencer)
Tuesday 18 August 1772
Yesterday the Assizes for this County ended at the Crown End, when . . . Joseph Ellington, found guilty of an Assault with an Intent to commit Sodomy, fined 20l. to be imprisoned two Years, and until he shallpay the said Fine and find sufficient Sureties for his good Behaviour for two Years, himself to be bound in 50l. and two Sureties in 25l. each. (Manchester Mercury)
11-13 August 1772
At York assizes a Clergyman was convicted of an attempt to commit an unnatural crime, fined 20l. imprisoned two years, and to find sureties for his good behaviour for two years more. (General Evening Post. The same report appeared in the Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser for 14 August, and in The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal on 15 August.)
18-20 August 1772
Yesterday a man was brought before the Rotation Bench of Justices, at the Swan tavern in Southwark, charged with several attempts to commit an abominable crime. He was admitted to bail for his answering to any indictment against him at the next sessions for Surry. (General Evening Post)
Thursday 20 August 1772
At the [York] assizes a Clergyman was convicted of an attempt to commit an unnatural crime, fined 20l. imprisoned two years, adn to find sureties for his good behaviour for two years more.
In Holland (about a century ago) a certain detestale crime was exceedingly prevalent; but the wisdom of the state soon put an end to it, by sewing the parties in a sack, and throwing them into the sea. Punishing with inflexible severity terrified the wretches into decency, and there is not now a reputed catamite in the Seven Provinces.
It is said that a bill will undoubtedly be brought into the house next winter, to make the attempt only to commit a certian horrid crime a capital felony. We hope this bill will pass, and then Captain Jones will have done his country effectual service.
An opinion absurdly prevails at present, in consequence of the many conversations about the admissibility of the boy's evidence against Capt. Jones, that an infant under fourteen is not capitally punishable, and that therefore the boy was not a particeps criminem. Sir Matthew Hale, however, gives us two instances to the countrary; one where a girl of thirteen was burned for killing her mistress, and the other of a boy still younger, who had killed his companion and then hid himself. The hiding was urged as a proof that he knew the difference between good and evil, and he was hanged. (Bath Chronicleand Weekly Gazette)
Wednesday 9 September 1772
Yesterday .. a Man and a Boy were committed to Newgate by David Wilmon, (on the Boy’s Confession) of having been both guilty of an abominable Crime. (Daily Advertiser)
Saturday 12 September 1772
Yesterday an eminent tradesman, near St Margaret's-hill, in the Borough, absconded on account of being charged with an unnatural crime. (Newcastle Chronicle)
Friday 18 September 1772
Yesterday a Man was committed to the Poultry-Compter by the sitting Alderman at Guildhall, for attempting to commit an unnatural Crime in Little Swan-Alley, Coleman-Street, the Night before. (Daily Advertiser)
19 September 1772
Robert Crook and Charles Gibson, for committing an unnatural crime, were after a long trial acquitted. (The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal)
19 September 1772
It is said the long-contended mysterious affair of the sex of a certain Chevalier [i.e. Chevalier d’Eon], will now certainly be decided, it having agreed to submit to an examination, on its previously receiving the sum of 6000l. which some persons deeply concerned in the event have undertaken to get subscribed. (The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal)
Thursday 24 September 11772
Last Monday evening about ten o'clock, a Merchant's Clerk was charged by a young man in Cheapside, for an attempt to commit an unnatural crime. He gave the young man half a guinea, which he no sooner received, than he charged the watch with him: He likewise charged the young man, and they were both lodged in the watch-house. These sort of detestable effeminate gentry are become so numerous, that they seem to outvie the ladies of the town. (Stamford Mercury)
26 September 1772
On Friday a tradesman in Southwark hanged himself. The reason of his committing this rash act, was, his having been detected in committing an unnatural crime with his apprentice, a lad of 13 years of age. (The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal)
26 September 1772
Last Sunday, about half past twelve o’clock, an elderly man, well dressed, was taken up for an attempt to commit an unnatural crime on a boy in Winchester-street, where he was detected by some people who were coming from church: he was delivered up to the mob, who made him undergo a very severe ducking. (The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal)
17 October 1772
Southampton, Oct. 11. Friday last, at the sessions for the town of Southampton, came on the trial of John Fieldhouse, Esq; an officer in the army, for an attempt to commit a detestable crime on a lad of this town. About twelve o’clock he was brought to the bar, and pleaded, Not Guilty. After a trial of seven hours, the Jury, after withdrawing for a few minutes, brought him in Guilty, and he was sentenced to pay a fine of twenty pounds, and suffer six months imprisonment. It is supposed the Recorder passed this above sentence, instead of the usual one of the pillory, to prevent the dreadful consequences that were expected to ensue, had that been inflicted on him. Mr. Fieldhouse has been in the army many years, and is now on half-pay; appears to be fifty years of age, or rather more, and wore his own hair tied behind, which was entirely grey. His character is said to have been very good till this affair happened. (The Craftsman; or Say’s Weekly Journal)
21 October 1772
Yesterday two young Fellows were committed to Newgate, by the Lord-Mayor, being detected the Night before, in a Court in Coleman-Street, in committing an unnatural Crime. (Daily Advertiser)
26 October 1772
On Saturday a Man was convicted at Hicks’s Hall of an unnatural Attempt, and was committed to Newgate to be imprisoned one Year.
The same Day another Person was convicted of assaulting a Girl with Intent to abuse her, and was committed to the same Gaol for three Months.
The same Day a Bill of Indictment was found against one of the Persons taken the last Week in Coleman-Street with indecent Circumstances, to which he gave Bail to answer at the next Session, and was discharged. (Daily Advertiser)
29 October 1772
Yesterday a Man was sent to the Poultry-Compter, by Alderman Alsop, at Guildhall, for further Examination, charged with attempting to commit an unnatural Crime at a Publick House in a Lane near Cheapside. (Daily Advertiser)
Wednesday 4 November 1772
Yesterday a Man stood in the Pillory by the Turnpike in Shoreditch Road, for an Attempt to commit an unnatural Crime in Moorfields, but was very little pelted. The Prisoner imagining that he should not come alive out of the Pillory, desired that he might be permitted to go to Prayers in Shoreditch Church, which was granted, as the Service was then beginning. (Daily Advertiser)
Thursday 5 November 1772
Wednesday morning . . . a Journeyman Carpenter was committed to the Poultry Compter by Alderman Alsop for further examination, being charged with attempting to commit an unnatural crime, at a public house in Ironmonger-lane. (Stamford Mercury)
Thursday 12 November 1772
Last night two men, of genteel appearance, were detected in the commission of an unnatural crime in Upper Moorfields; one of them made his escape, but the other was taken to a pond by the side of the City Road, where he was severely ducked, and otherwise very roughly handled by the populace, and then suffered to crawl away, for he could neither stand or walk. (Stamford Mercury)
13 November 1772
On Wednesday at the Public Office in Bow-Street, John Rose charged John Clarke with stopping him near Tottenham-Court-Road, and threatening to charge him with an Attempt of a detestable Kind, unless he would give him Money. The Prosecutor, terrified by the horrid Idea, delivered his Watch and three Half Guineas. Henry Smallwood, a Constable, swore to his taking the Prisoner while he was offering the Watch at a Pawnbroker’s. Mr. Rose was bound to prosecute at the Old-Bailey. (Daily Advertiser)
[Rose accordingly prosecuted Clarke in the Sessions beginning on 9 December 1772. However, he simply charged him with theft, and there is no reference to the threat of being exposed as a sodomite. Clarke was acquitted, which suggests that the jury did not find sufficient evidence that robbery had occurred, perhaps because they believed that Rose probably was a sodomite. Interestingly, eighteen months later, in July 1774, Clarke was prosecuted for obtaining money by threatening to expose William Pretty as a sodomite. Clarke worked in conspiracy with two other men. However, several neighbours testified that William Pretty in fact had the reputation of being a sodomite, so his three blackmailers were acquitted.]
11 December 1772
On Wedneseday at the Publick Office in Bow-Street, a Gentleman of Gray’s Inn, charged a Man with extorting Money from him, by sending Letters to him, hinting, that he would be otherwise charged with the Commission of a detestable Crime; and by various Artifices obtained of him 50l. and wanted more; on which the Gentleman applied for a Warrant, and had him apprehended. The Gentleman is bound to prosecute him. (Daily Advertiser) [I find no record that this was followed up with a prosecution at the Old Bailey.]
Monday 21 December 1772
SOUTHAMPTON, Dec. 18. Capt. Fieldhouse, who was found guilty at our last sessions, for attempting to commit an unnatural crime, is likely to remain in prison all his life-time; he was sentenced to be imprisoned six months, and pay a fine of 20 guineas to the King; and a few days ago a detainer was lodged against him, for a debt of near 40l. but he is so very poor, that in all probabillity [sic] he can never pay either the fine or the debt. It is thought he must have starved before now, if some humane persons had not sent him something to subsist on. (Salisbury and Winchester Journal)
Saturday 26 December 1772
Yesterday a person belonging to a public office shot himself. He was on Sunday detected committing an unnatural crime with a lad about 16 years of age. (Oxford Journal)
CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1772",
Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 19 December 2004, enlarged 10 Jan. 2016