Sodom and Onan



The playwright Samuel Foote, a native of Cornwall, was baptised on 27 January 1720, and in due course sent to study law in the Temple, one of the Inns of Court. As a scholar he was more elegant than erudite, and law did not appeal. "He was remembered, by many Templars in my time" recalls his first biographer, "as one of the greatest beaux of the year forty, living in handsome chambers, with all the paraphernalia of study around him, but without the gift of application. His greatest delight consisted in making a figure at the coffee- houses whither resorted the beaux-esprits of the day." One of the taverns which he frequented was the Royal Oak, an isolated pub near the infamous Sodomites' Walk in Moorfields.

Foote's real vocation began in 1743, when he and his friend Macklin entered on an enterprise in a little wooden theatre in the Haymarket, and soon he was on the path to fame as both actor and playwright. In our own time Samuel Foote is regarded as the Father of Farce, for those who came after him certainly plundered his works for their plots, characters and jokes; and in his own time he was called "the English Aristophanes" because of his introduction of characters based upon real people, unlike the stereotyped figures common to the sentimental comedy that was so popular at the time.

Around 1748 some undocumented scandal prompted Foote to depart for France, where he remained until 1752, maintaining no contact with his friends and losing his fortune. In 1754 his former friend Macklin, now penurious, left the theatre, and opened both a school of oratory and a coffee house, in the Piazza in Covent Garden. Foote caricatured him in hisplay An Inquisitor (also known by its more famous title as Tiddydoll). In Dublin, in 1760, one of his finest plays, The Minor, was first produced and soon became a hit at the Haymarket Theatre. The Minor is essentially an attack on Methodism, and as a result there were several attacks upon him in the press; he responded with a desultory libel suit.

While on a visit to John Savile, Lord Mexborough in 1766, on a chase with the Duke of York, Lord Delaval, and Sir Francis B. Delaval, "his earliest friend", Foote fell and broke his leg; this had to be amputated and replaced by a cork leg — which gave rise to "foot" and "leg" jokes amongst his detractors. On 25 June of that year the Duke of York helped him to secure the royal patent for a summer theatre; he purchased the Haymarket Theatre, pulled down the old premises, rebuilt it more substantially, and opened next year with An Occasional Prelude. In 1768 he cleared several thousand pounds with the immensely successful Devil upon Two Sticks, but lost it all gambling in Bath. The play was also taken to Dublin, where Foote became friends with Lord Townshend. Dr Last in His Chariot was co-authored with Isaac Bickerstaffe in 1769, and other successful plays followed on its heels through the early 1770s.

Then came Foote's sudden downfall, this time more serious than a fall from a horse. In 1775 Foote was preparing his play The Trip to Calais, in which he satirised the Duchess of Kingston in the character of Kitty Crocodile. Elizabeth Chudleigh, Duchess Dowager of Kingston, fearing that its presentation would have a damaging effect upon her forthcoming trial for bigamy, understandably registered a protest. In the ensuing correspondence in the newspapers, Foote publicly apologised and denied the allegation that Kitty Crocodile was intended to portray the Duchess, but he did so in such a way as to leave little doubt that it was indeed a caricature of her. This made her furious; she replied virulently against his slander, and he replied with scathing contempt, alluding to her bigamy: "Pray, madam, is not J——n the name of your female confidential secretary? and is not she generally cloathed in black petticoats made out of your weeds? 'So mourn'd the dame of Ephesus her love'". This was a reference to the Duchess's male secretary, Reverend William Jackson, who would get his full revenge in the following year. The Chamberlain at the instigation of the Duchess refused to license the performance of Calais.

Foote re-wrote the play as The Capuchin, in which he satirised Jackson as Dr Viper. Sarcastic and abusive letters between Foote and the Duchess appeared in the press, which did not help her cause. She was convicted of bigamy in April 1776. She claimed privilege of peerage to escape corporal punishment, and was therefore discharged upon payment of her court costs. A bigamist would ordinarily be flogged or at least burnt in the hand. In any case, she had already gone abroad, and continued to lead an irregular life on the Continent.

In May, Jackson in his own newspaper The Public Ledger accused Foote of being homosexual. Foote took out a libel suit, which he won, but Jackson renewed the attack in late June and published, under the pseudonym of Humphrey Nettle, Sodom and Onan: A Satire Inscrib'd to [Foote] Esq. alias, the Devil upon two Sticks (a reference to Foote's popular play); at the appropriate place in the title was inserted a recognisable portrait of Foote, together with an illustration of a large naked foot. In this satire Foote was portrayed as the archetypal sodomite. The mock-heroic preface is full of appalling puns, all of which the author italicizes so we don't miss them (most of them allude to sodomy, i.e. male anal intercourse); the long poem which follows is quite explicit about the sodomitical lust of "Aristoph" and a rich source of information about celebrated sodomites of the period.

The satire is well worth studying in order to appreciate how close the eighteenth-century discourse of homophobia is to the late twentieth-century discourse of homophobia. Even though Rev. Jackson was a minister, he does not employ "the discourse of sodomy" very much (that is, his satire is not very biblical); rather, his attack is much more secular than Christian and consists mainly of metaphors etc. that are virtually identical to modern prejudice against homosexuals. For him, homosexuality is disgusting and unnatural, and he even uses the term "inverted" to characterize it ("his inverted eye disdains objects of female softness").

The publication of Sodom and Onan was followed up in July by the Duchess instituting legal proceedings against Foote for sodomy and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He appeared on stage to tell his audience that he had been falsely accused and was endeavouring to redress his reputation, and then proceeded to play his part. The criminal prosecution before Earl Mansfield at the King's Bench on 9 December 1776 was paid for by the Duchess of Kingston, and organised behind the scenes by Reverend Jackson. Foote's former footman John Sangster stood up to charge Foote with an attempt to commit an unnatural crime upon his person twice in May 1775. Lord Mansfield summed up his belief that the whole thing was a conspiracy to blacken Foote's character, and Foote was acquitted.

Foote's health broke under the strain of the trial and its publicity. He bravely reappeared on the stage in The Devil in 1777, but he was lank and emaciated, and had a paralytic stroke. He had to dispose of his patent to George Colman, and he went into retirement at Brighton for the summer. Physicians advised him to go to France for a change of air. I suspect he was also well advised to leave England in order to avoid further prosecution. He reached Dover on 22 October, but the winds were unfavourable for a crossing. The next morning he had a shivering fit, and he died in the afternoon, age 57. His contemporary Hester Lynch Piozzi (Thrale) in a note written in the margin of a printed volume of letters observed that "Doctor Johnson was not aware that Foote broke his heart because of a hideous detection; he was trying to run away from England, and from infamy, but death stopped him."

His funeral was held on Monday, 27 October 1777. Jewell arranged for his body to be removed to his house in Suffolk Street at the back of the Haymarket Theatre, and that night the body was attended to Westminster Abbey by three mourning coaches, where Foote was secretly buried by torchlight somewhere in the cloisters, without a carved stone or any other mark. Jewell set up a monument to him in St Martin's Church, Cannon Street, Dover, on which he signed himself "his affectionate friend".

Rictor Norton


I have long observ'd with admiration, the vast Variety of unnatural Characters you have enterd into; not only in this Metropolils, but every other that has been infested with your diabolical presence.

Your last capital Man-oeuvre cannot be sufficiently applauded: — the World is now convinced, that no Female, (not even THALIA,) has charms sufficient to enslave so extensive a Genius. The rapid progress you have made in the science of Alchymy, astonish'd your most sanguine admirers, but the Oath of an honest Man has satisfied them, that you have (by a Progress far superior, in point of pleasure and expedition, to any ever discovered by our elaborate Fore-fathers,) extracted the most precious Mettle in the world out of Stone.

The Satisfaction your important discovery has afforded the State, is sufficiently testified by the countenance of your S—— and his Ministers; more especially that of the amiable Minden Hero [Note]; who by the strange misrepresentation of unrefin'd Men of Valour, was degraded as a Coward, for turning his back towards his Enemies; of which charge he must now stand acquitted, since it is known he distingishes his dearest Friends by receiving them in the same Manner: And as you have the honour to rank among the number of his Favourites, I presume you have been often gratified by a similar mode of Reception.

What may not this disordered Nation hope for, when the Minister of the most convuls'd Department is assisted and prick'd on to Action by a Genius like you? whose extensive Abilities are calculated for the Deepest Penetration; whose [p.i] internal Acquaintance with, and practical Essays on Man, claim precedence even of the immortal POPE, who had neither personal Strength, nor mental Courage sufficient to explore the dark and difficult Recesses into which you have immerg'd.

Lest your immense skill should remain unknown to any Member of that Community whose good opinion you are ambitious of, I assume the character of your Herald, and challenge Europe to produce so great a Master of Fundamental Knowledge in the refin'd and polite Arts.

Unable to restrain my zeal for your service, the following Pages will be found to want that high finishing which the Elegance of the Subject would admit of. — But your known candour and impartiality, I know will readily pardon all defects in a laudable Intention. — That this work may appear in that light to the Public, is the wish of their


most obedient Servant,




CRIMES, and the Man I sing, —
Whose callous Heart, insensible of Shame,
Admits each glaring Vice, and damns his Fame;
Whose mind-corrupted Dealings, are portray'd
In stronger Colouring than Gold can shade.

     Oh! that offended Genius wou'd inspire
Me, with one Note from Churchill's well-strung Lyre,
To satirize those Fiends, who unconfin'd,
Will stop the Propagation of Mankind. —

     Genius, who kindly took the Miscreant's Part,
When Poverty had level'd every Dart, [p.1]
And overwhelm'd his Mind in Exigence,
The just Reward of mean Extravagance.
Genius! — yet why thy gen'rous aid implore?
Justice alone can all his ways explore:
Let him rave on in frantic extasy,
Forsook by Friends, by Fortune, and by thee.

Nature provides each Son with armour good,
To fight the Cause of Love and Gratitude;
To execrate that Fiend of Sodom's Race,
Who Manhood, Friendship, Honor dar'd disgrace;
Who chose of Crimes most capital the worst,
Resolv'd in Infamy to rank the first.
He, who ne'er lov'd his Friends* [*Mr. Ap—price, &c.] whose worth he knew,
Their virtues lessen'd, and their foibles drew,
And Natures failings held to public view.

Curs'd be the Wretch who, joining hand in hand,
Smiles in my face, — seems all at my command, —
My Table his, — no Stranger to my Purse, —
He meditates my death; or what is worse, [p.2]
Forgets the harvest and the field he reap'd,
And stabs my Name, with Tongue in venom steep'd.

     Ingratitude! fell Monster! when possest,
Sedition raises in the human breast,
And every spark of virtue she can find
Quickly eradicates; and leaves the Mind
A prey to passions, vile and rankest lust,
And moulders Reputation into dust:
Relieves the heart from conscientious fear,
And mocks all sentiments to honor dear.

     Often my ardent pen have I restrain'd,
To learn if his obdurate heart contain'd
One palliative merit, — vain controll!
Research unprofitable! — In his soul
Ingratitude had firmly fix'd her seat,
And troops of crimes march in without defeat:
Sodomy old, see at the van appear,
Polluting Onan sly, brings up the rear. [p.3]
At their approach, his fiery blood forsakes
Its natural channels, and fresh courses takes; —
Sudden, a glow unusual fills his veins
New form'd, and his inverted Eye disdains
Objects of Female softness. — with pleasure
He beholds, (like Ganeymede [sic]) that Treasure
Exquisite, a lovely Youth, whose Innocence
'Gainst his prevailing Arts, prove weak defence;
E'en age attractions has; but Youths a Prize!
An handsome Boy's a Jewel in his Eyes. —
Ignorance juvenile, ne'er 'scapes his Snares,
But when he aims at one of riper Years;
He Tampers in subordinate degree,
And Onan, introduces S[o]d[om]y.

Raging with Lust, (forgetful of disgrace
Which must attend repulse,) he sought a place,
To vent imagination kindled Fires,
And fell a sacrifice to rank Desires: —
In splendid Mansion finding no resource,
Fain he'd defile the Chamber of his Horse. — [p.4]

Yet in mean Garb, he met a strong defence,
To Decency, and a Virtuous Sense
Of good, and self-sustaining Innocence. —
Boldly the Man repel'd the vile Essay,
Judging it wrong in all things to obey;
A Master, so inflam'd with strange Desires,
And Eyes betraying wrong directed Fires. —

     From Nature's paths the wholsesome Hind ne'er swerv'd
And hop'd by Justice they might be preserv'd.
To Justice flys for aid, devoid of Guile,
Leaving the Brute, to meditate some while,
By which he might evade the Law, and try
Like his Compeer Drybutter, to defy
The Hand of Equity. — I trust in vain
Ne'er let him act the Shameful part again;
The blind Dispenser of each penal Law,
Soon in the Mimic's 'Scutcheon found a Flaw:
And wisely bound him to superior Court,
Tho' often there the worst find best support,
And Justice frequently is leaning caught. [p.5]
Yet in a cause like this, when horrors sieze
Th' attentive Auditors, and blood doth freeze
Of Old and Young. In all there will appear,
Each Hair partic'lar started in it's Sphere:
Each Eye, will watch the tendence of the Chief,
Whose quick discernment, wou'd cut causes Brief;
But pleadings must be heard to try confusions,
Lawyers are much averse to short Conclusions:
They'll Brow-beat, Twist and Torture Evidence,
Cancelling meanings, 'till the whole condense,
And thick as Head of Jury Man (who laid
In good store of Solid Viands, afraid
Of Dunning, for when longer winded,
Of three good Meals his Belly he'd rescinded.)
Bewilder'd in a maze of contradictions,
Unknowing how to separate the Fictions,
Or t' investigate the clue Sophistic,
Gapes on these Orators, as dealers Mystic,
'Till learned Judge the Evidence repeats,
Which well sum'd up chicanery defeats. [p.6]
But much depends upon his clear conception,
Mansfield ne'er errs, unless 'tis in subjection,
To mandate vile of a court party faction.
There Aristophanes has friends, we know,
Who fellow-feelings suffer for the blow
That wounds his reputation, — fore before,
Which cataplasm rare can ne'er restore.
They for their Favorite will interfere
Behind the curtain, — shunning public ear.
Mansfield beware, a cause like this is nice;
No tongue hath dar'd to taint your name with vice
Like this; — or reprobate been found to say,
That for such practice you e'er found a WAY.
With honest candor, weigh in equal scale
The pros and cons, and let the truth prevail.

A-t-n we know is partial to the Fair;
Married he is, — (but that's nor here nor there.)
With care-tir'd thoughts, domestic feuds to quench,
He solaces abroad with buxom wench, [p.7]
And cracks Commandments with no more remorse
Than I crack nuts, or merrily discourse.
A Judge in Commons he had rather been,
There he might patronize his darling Sin;
Adultery's no Camel in his eyes,
For what he speaks in confidence, implies,
That Man the Crime of Marriage may commit,
But who dislikes hisWife, is not a wit
If in one instance he'll to her submit.
His doctrine and his dealings well agree,
For Spouse and him you ne'er together see:
Impartiality we sure may hope
From one whose passion takes so fare a scope.

In laughter-loving W—ll—s lurks some disguise,
Momus he looks like, tho he's wond'rous wise;
Above being dubb'd, remains a simple 'Squire,
A thorough Englishman, with no desire,
Save wine, girl, beef, and ease by sea-coal fire. [p.8]
Resembling A-t-n, (not in his grimace,)
He fain in wenching would keep equal pace;
But lest in cups he should be led astray,
His Wife the Circuit goes as well as he;
She gives the Man no chance to play the fool,
When warm abroad, she takes him home to cool.
Such prudent Dames, keep Hymen's torch alight,
Who TRIM it regularly day and night.
Of W—ll—s I think there's little cause to doubt,
Mansfield will put him in when he is out.

     Now last, not least in our dear love, appear,
We nothing hope from thee, nor nothing fear,
Ashurst, the grave, the gentle, and serene,
Nought from his words can list'ning students glean;
Nay, had he wisdom of a Solomon,
His Elders arrogant wou'd keep him down;
Whene'er he wou'd be heard, the pointed thistle,
Quick interrupts, and he as well might whistle.
'Tis hard to judge without a full display,
But candour guides, no malice I'll betray: [p.9]
He may be what Pope calls, Best work of GOD;
He's neither wit nor feather, chief nor rod.

     'Fore such a Bench, who'd fear to ope his cause,
Aided by rhetoric of grave Counsellors;
Who never fail to plead with energy,
When brief's made heavy with a proper fee.
F[oo]te knows the law too well to starve a Cause,
Money well tim'd will cover many flaws.
A recent instance he, of Fortune's whim,
The law he follow'd once, now follows him.
If his supplies are scanty from the town,
E'er trial he must melt his silver down;
Dishes and plates from Villa must be brought,
And for a while suspended by his Court.
Sollicitors [sic] are chary of their fame,
For dirty work, an higher price they claim.
Dunning three hundreds got to plead for Lead,
Which Pomfret lost with aching heart and head. [p.10]
Black was the matter sued for, but compare,
Black Lead with B[ugger]y, I'll engage you'll swear
Black Lead is White, and B[ugger]'s Devils are.

     Dunning will be retain'd, if Money'll buy
His Talents in behalf of Sodomy,
But he's too generous to prostitute
Shining abilities: or to dispute
For Punishmjent the smallest mitigation,
He'd rather see the Tribe in conflagration,
A Burning Sacrifice to save the Nation.

     Wallace, the favorite of the chief, no fear,
Will be distinguish'd in this Sable War,
Not for his Wit, or Declamation,
They often meet with refutation.
But for broad northern Accent, vacant Face
Might suit a Murd'rer, but not gain him Grace;
In this no Grieve-ous challenges there'll be,
Aristoph' Coward is no less than he. [p.11]

Bearc—t can ne'er resist the strong Temptation
Of current Gold, nor shew a detestation,
To whate'er nature, sort, or kind the Sin is
If Client's rich, and Lards it well with Guineas.

     When Justice lingers, Villains may defeat her,
An Error that in British Legislature,
Since such Exotics her attention draw,
Their Turkish Crimes, shou'd feel the Turkish Law.
Which Instant at the populace request,
Th' accused punishes; or if opprest
Acquits. But here the Laws leave Avenues,
Which pow'rful Sod'mites frequently abuse;
Tamper with Gold, and terrify with Threats,
'Till the astonish'd Ignorant forgets
His Injuries. Alarm'd at all he hears,
Amaz'd, distracted with a Thousand Fears,
He sells his Country, quits his virtuous shield,
And artful B[ugger]s Glory in the Field. [p.12]

     Beware young Man, avoid the Fatal Snare
By Treach'ry laid, nor single venture near
The Demon's haunts, Devices rare he'll try,
Assisted by Colleagues in Infamy,
Your meritorious efforts to subdue,
And drive you from the Path you now pursue;
Which once effected, the just calumny
Now crushing him, will all be thrown on thee.
If motive good hath urg'd thee to declare
What shudd'ring Justice was compell'd to hear;
If from the line of truth you ne'er have step'd,
In this Dire 'Count, nor conscience have o'erleap'd,
Boldly maintain the ground whereon you stand,
You'll find protection from the public hand.

     Aristoph's mercenary hackney'd Scribe,
Worse than newspaper Rhymers, or the tribe
Of Grub street Poets, (who when hunhger calls,
Trump in a bloody murder for the walls
Of Palaces, — hung round without, — no Sin,
Where murders daily are contriv'd within) [p.13]
Offal-fed wretches, hid in alley rank,
Whether in Garret high or Cellar dank,
They weave their humble ditties into rhyme,
(Ne'er rais'd by gen'rous wine to the sublime,)
With Thee, Aristoph', vie for spotless Name,
Unpamper'd by the Price of plunder'd fame.
What shall preserve thee from the fatal Tree?
Or from the rogue-exalting pillory?
If Ashurst helps thee not with special plea?

     Vile Slanderer, the Crisis of thy fate
Approaches; — now Interest 'mongst the great
Those tender-hearted Privy Counsellors,
Who late for Jones expanded Mercy's doors.

     Infamy sure her highest pitch has soar'd,
And virtue's banish'd from the Council Board,
When fawning sycophants in royal Ear
Pour strains pathetic for their trembling Dear;
In whose Society they have enjoy'd
Soft Converse, such as Females would have cloy'd. [p.14]
Tender remembrance, springs of Little Sports,
Unrival'd in Chinese or Turkish Courts:
Their Christ'nings, Lyings-in, Abortions; —
Their Caudle-makings, — fifty foul Distortions,
Unfit for public repetition,
Shou'd be refer'd to Spanish Inquisition.
Who knows what Honours Aristoph' may claim?
He may a Peeress be, and to his Shame,
Have borne an Heir or Heiress at the Game.

     If 'tis confirm'd, that in their Marriage Bed,
A virtuous Peer obtain'd his Maidenhead,
Considerable 'vantage he will get,
Of what in Kingston he derided. Yet
To Peeress' priveledge [sic] there's no pretence,
He went beyond a Clerg'able offence.

     Now Bristol's Countess victory compleats,
Two thousand sav'd, with Honour she retreats;
The Female Circle, jointly feel th' attempt,
To spurn at all through her; but with contempt [p.15]
And Indignation just, they all conspire
To Crush the Woman hater, and retire
To Scenes, where Bronze like his must ne'er appear,
Not Female Prostitutes, they're so severe
Will condescend to Grace his Theatre.
Male Whores of Quality, before Conviction
May yeild [sic] support to countenance the Friction.
And if by curs'd chican'ry he can boast
Acquital, they'll erect him standing Toast:
Lord Robert Gallery mounted 'mongst the Gods,
Aims Lustful, disconcerting, Winks and Nods.
Nobility degrades to prowl for prey,
Plump Heifers slights, and Steers conveys away
To some dark Alley, where the Sun disdains
To shine obliquely, or exhale the Stains,
Which swelt'ring Sodomites accumulate
And their attendant Fiends, loud execrate.

      Ambition was the fall'n Angels Crime,
High Heav'n offended, plung'd them from sublime [p.16]
To scorching Regions, destitute of ease,
A painful Purgatory to appease
Their Maker's Wrath. — Then where will he commit
Th' infernal Crew, or when remit
Their Tortures? who regardless of command,
With Sodomy contaminate the Land?
The wise Creator, ne'er remiss, surveys
The springs of action: in due time conveys
Rewards and punishments: — Then George beware,
Be vigilant, and recollect his care
Supreme, when finally resolv'd to free
The land of Sodom by a just decree,
And from the face of land the crime to chace,
Sent fire to extirpate the guilty race.
Again they rise, nor here will be suppress'd
While at the Court the Actors are caress'd.

     As heaven's Viceregents Kings on Earth are plac'd,
But G[eorg]e the seal majestic hath disgrac'd;
Inveigled by Scotch Insinuation
To pardon Sodomites and damn the Nation. [p.17]

     S[ackvill]e, both Coward, and Catamite, commands
Department hon'rable, — and kisses hands,
With lips that oft' in blandishment obscene
Have been employ'd, yet now, (oh shame!) he's seen
An haughty headstrong Minister of State,
Controuling Men of minds immaculate.

     View stradling B[e]rt[ie], that Bedchamber Lord,
(Felon in Gyves as well might grace a sword,)
Leering he eyes when M[exborough]'s undrest,
And on a **** cou'd make a princely feast:
Yet such divinity doth hedge a King,
That Catamites their off'rings dare not bring:
But as I'm less than King, I shall take care
E'er I undress, that B[er]t[i]e is not there.
Ne'er in my house a welcome Guest he'll be,
Ent'ring my doors, he'll want to enter me.

     Chester and Holdernesse dismiss'd, concern
Sits on the Monarch's brow: with aspect stern [p.18]
He ruminates on Men, — and gloomy weighs
Their different talents; but discerns few rays
Of worth intrinsic, 'mongst the jealous tribe
Of purse-proud Bishops, who despise a bribe,
But — when Death removes an old Incumbent
Of Archbishopric, — meanly recumbent
The Right Reverends fall, — pant for Translation,
Praising the doctrine of transmigration.
Their object gain'd, in ease and affluence bless'd,
Religion, Mitre, Key and Crozier rest.
In vain the mis-led, pond'ring Parent strives
To learn the manners of their private Lives:
Resolv'd no more to rack his stubborn brain,
To Favorite's controul resigns the rein:
Let Bute pronounce the word, and straight you'll see,
Sackville and Bertie shall Praeceptors Be.

     Ye free-born Cits, who kneeling 'fore the throne,
Congratulate, petition and bemoan;
Demonstrating the Mis'ries of this Land,
Yet only meet with churlish reprimand; [p.19]
Haste to Apollo, there make supplication,
With care explain the dreadful complication
Of Disorders, raging in crown-shelter'd brain;
(Accumulation vast for few years reign,)
Beg him of wisdom to lay in a store,
Where not a single gleam e'er shone before:
Men and their measures then will be inspected,
Merit will rise, and Villains be detected.

     Where is the Author of the village Love?
Sweet Isaac Bickerstaff, who never strove
To wipe away the ignominious stain,
Convinc'd that kicking 'gainst the Pricks was vain.
For Safety flown to soft Italia's shore,
Where Tilney, B——l, Jones and many more
Of Britain's cast outs, revel uncontroul'd,
Who for their Beastial lust their Country sold,
Who dissipate Estates in Foreign Climes
To buy indulgence, for their darling Crimes.

     In times like these conduct yourself with Care,
For virtuous Company is very rare; [p.20]
If with convivial Friends, you chance to pass
The Ev'ning tide, and take a chearful Glass,
Merrily glide the Laughter season'd Hours,
'Till drowsy Somnus exercise' his Powrs'
Then for a Female rouse and beat the ground,
And if no yielding fair one's to be found,
In ——'s Hotel you seek a Friendly Roof,
Observe this rule: — ne'er pull your Breeches off. —
From Health restoring Slumbers strive to keep,
Or ten to one you are B[ugger]'d in your Sleep.

     Benignant Heav'n hath wisely set his seal
Indelible, on all who choose to deal
In this dark commerce. — The conspicuous stamp
Their practice Indicates, as true as Lamp
The Quacking Doctors, signify'd in Bill;
Pendant in passage, where he vends his Pill;
They both allay for raging Fires provide,
In different constitutions; unally'd. [p.21]

     'Gainst Nature in one instance I exclaim;
In dealing punishments she miss'd her aim;
Disease corrosive she hath misapplied;
Maiming her votaries, who have comply'd
With her wise dictates, infirm confidence
Of milder treatment for obedience.
The Race of Catamites, devoid of shame,
Conclude that she is partial to their flame;
Urging as argument for their desires,
That they're exempted from venereal Fires.

     Transfer the curse, dear Goddess, and applause
Command, from all who venerate thy Laws:
Exempt poor Prostitutes from foul infection,
And use it to bring B[ugg]ers in subjection.
Where'er the Letchers meet to recreate,
Let the rank poison sieze them at the gate;
That none may 'scape, who but in thought design'd
To gratify such passions-unconfin'd. [p.22]

     Commons and Lords, to quell domestic strife,
Are daily seperating [sic] Man and Wife:
Will no wise Member dare to frame a bill,
Effectually to crush this growing ill?
Some Youth of Parts shou'd such an act prepare,
'Twou'd be an introduction to the Fair.
No Law provides 'gainst funeral obsequies;
The Dead are punish'd not for crimes like these:
But if desponding Mortal, who withstood
Fortunes Severities, by Land and Flood,
A small reserve committed to the care
Of Friend, — with reason he might think sincere, —
(For when Prosperity, which seldom fails,
In some kind hour, to send us thriving Gales,
Had crown'd him with success, his fost'ring hand,
Delighted in its power to raise that Friend
From poverty, which taunting proud men mock,
And Fools and Knaves make a deriding stock;
From prison dread, and heart-corroding cares,
To liberty, and gay revolving Years.) [p.23]
Yet by a series of concurring ills,
With which capricious Chance Life's checquer fills,
He is reduc'd to claim his scant Estate,
And in retirement calmly wait on fate,
Patient he hies him to the well-known door,
— Approaching, — hears the table in a roar; —
His name announc'd, the honest Servant's chid
For interrupting laughter, and forbid
T' admit within th' ungrateful wall
The Man that rais'd it; — for his quick decline
Had reach'd the Monster's mansion; who, in wine
Carousing, feels no pang, but noisy quaffs
The healths of Prosp'rous men, — at others laughs.

     Few Minds are calculated to endure
Th' assaults of Indigence, — and end obscure
The remnant of a life in pleasure flown,
When age and sorrows weigh the spirits down. [p.24]

     But if ingratitude affliction joins,
And in rash hour the wretch his Life resigns,
Then ill-digested Laws exert their power
O'er Suicide, — (that Alkali for sour
Misfortunes shafts,) and punish in the grave,
Which e'en from persecution cannot save:
While the triumphant engine of these woes
Revels in affluence, — nor repentant throws
A bribe to Coroner; who for paltry fee,
Wou'd change his verdict into Lunacy.

     But heinous S[odomite]s no law controuls; —
When Hell's disgrac'd with their malignant Souls,
Like Christians they're deposited in earth,
And cunning Priests, respectful of their worth,
After the Gallows happ'ly is reliev'd
Of their convicted Bodies, (unrepriev'd,)
With countenance indiff'rent and serene
As when they're praying for their King and Queen, [p.25]
Wickedly prostitute the solemn pray'r,
Like perjur'd Jew, or love-protesting Play'r.

     Curs'd be such slaves to foul-corrupting Ore,
Who treat Religion like a painted whore;
Resembling Confessors, her price enhance
When Sodomy demands her countenance.

     Oh! that with legal pow'r I were endued
To punish sodomitic turpitude;
Spaniards and Portugueze shou'd both resign,
And Dutch the Inquisition at Amboyn',
When they but hear the tortures I'd invent,
Unnatural transgressions to prevent.

     Pandora I invoke to ope' her store,
And add some plagues she never us'd before;
Pour them on Aristoph', nor e'er relent,
He merits all their paints in full extent:
Let his whole mass with poison be condens'd,
And for each pang of his, one Whore be cleans'd; [p.26]
Let rank corruption, mining all within,
Consume his vitals, e'er the cause is seen;
'Till noisome stench prevents the Faculty
Approaching near, their Caustics to apply:
And may he one tormenting B[ul]boe feel,
From the Corona veneris to the heel;
While shankers perforate his mouth and nose,
That not a single want he may disclose:
Let an incessant itch attack the part
Where the infection enter'd, 'till with smart
Enrag'd, he openly expose the Cause,
Intreating mitigation, or the jaws
Of Hell to close the horrid scene,
Where burning convicts feel inferior pain.
Indulge him then, and tenderly enforce,
To finish Life, the dread Free-masons curse:
Gnashing his teeth, he'll represent Despair,
And his last breath infect the wholesome air.
If in a grave he's suffer'd to consume,
Drybutter'll crawl chief mourner to his tomb. [p.27]
Bick[ersta]ff, B[er]t[i]e, B——l, Bu[gge]rs all,
Jones, S[ackvill]e, D--v-is shall support the pall;
And as a requiem to his burning Soul,
Lamenting Niky'll chaunt the Irish howl.

     Thus from the world his mangled corse convey'd,
Shall rest 'till night's dull murder-screening shade,
Encourages those hounds (whose vile employ
Is robbing Worms e'er they a meal enjoy,)
By Sheldon sent to seize e'er it decays,
The forfeit Body of late limping Bayes,
Which in becoming Sackcloth he secures,
And in his Limb-deck'd Surgery immures;
There Guards the Prize, like two headed Janus
Resolv'd to Investigate, the Furor Anus.

     In vain the dreadful object he'll explore,
As some ingenious Men have done before;
Barowby ne'er the Matter cou'd define,
Nor give one reason, human or define:
The Theory was far beyond his Art,
Tho' well he knew the practicable Part. [p.28]

     Ont he same subject, Sheldon might have try'd
Experiments, nor waited till he died;
Easy of acces, he cou'd ne'er refuse
An Artist any part he wish'd to use.

     By Sheldon, Young and Handsome, was fraid
To trust himself too near till he was dead.

     Puzzled, perplex'd, and dreading some Infection
From Flesh, so muchy inclin'd to putrifaction,
Sheldon extends the Law and straight dissects
The bloated Carcase, and the flesh ejects
On Neighb'ring Dunghill, where lean porkers feed;
(An half-got, hungry, Scottish, measly Breed.)
Joyful he cries the Garbage I consign,
And send the Devil once more into the Swine.
Aristoph' cou'd he feel wou'd die with Glee,
Enjoying one more Bestiality.
Aristoph' plung'd in darkness for his Lust,
Good Men ne'er hear his Name, but with disgust.



Sackville/Minden Hero: In 1760 Lord George Sackville (later Germain) was court-martialled for refusing to obey orders and advance into combat at the Battle of Minden, to which Jackson explicitly refers. He was about 60 years old, and was Lord Commissioner of Trade and Plantation, and Secretary of State for the American Colonies. Though twice married, he was called "the pederastical American Secretary" and lived with his wife and protege.
Pope: An allusion to the widespread belief that Pope was impotent due to an unfortunate accident when a boy.
Churchill: Reference to Churchill's satire The Times.
Drybutter: Samuel Drybutter was a bookseller who may have been pilloried in 1757 for selling copies of John Cleland's novel Fanny Hill. A contemporary satirical illustration showes him in fetters standing beside the hangman, titled "Ganymede & Jack-Ketch". "Jack Ketch" holds up a noose to put around his neck and says "Dammee Sammy you'r a sweet pretty Creature & I long to have you at the end of my String." He is tweaking the chin of "Ganymede", who replies "You don't love me Jacky." Drybutter was arrested for attempted sodomy on 23 January 1770 and 6 July 1774, but he fled abroad.
Jewel/Treasure: This is probably a reference to William Jewell, the treasurer of the Haymarket Theatre, Foote's very close friend who would eventually put up a monument to his memory after his death.
Bertie: Peregrine Bertie, Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven, Earl of Lindsey, Lord Great Chamberlain and Master of the Horse, died in 1779 age 64.
Savile John Savile, Earl of Mexborough, Foote's sometime patron and friend.
Tilney and Cowper Lord Tilney and Lord Cowper both lived in Italy to escape scandal; after Cowper's death, his family tried unsuccessfully to prosecute a journalist who accused him of unmanly vices; John Tilney (or Tylney), Earl Tylney of Castlemaine, died unmarried in 1784.
Jones Captain Robert Jones, convicted in July 1772 of sodomizing a 13-year-old youth, but pardoned by King George III in August. His trial is reproduced on another page.
Christnings and caudle-makings An allusion to the mock birth rituals the mollies engaged in. For an example, see comments by Ned Ward in 1709/10.
Bickerstaff: Isaac [nickname Niky] Bickerstaffe, the dramatist who was responsible for establishing comic opera on the English stage, abruptly fled England in early 1772, for reasons explained in the St James's Chronicle in April: "A Gentleman grew enamoured, the other Night at Whitehall, with one of the Centinels, and made Love to him; the Soldier being of that rough cast, who would rather act in the Character of Mars than Venus, not only rejected the Lover's Suit, but seizing him, threatened to take him immediately to the Guard-Room. The Affrighted Enamorato, to avoid the consequences of Exposure, with the greatest Precipitation gave the Soldier his Watch, Rings, and other Valuables, for his Liberty." Bickerstaff had been a very good friend of David Garrick the actor and theatre manager, but Garrick refused to reply to his letters pleading for help to alleviate his poverty in France.

SOURCE: Sodom and Onan. A Satire. Inscribed to [portrait of Foote, with an illustration of a foot beneath it] Esqr. alias, the Devil upon two Sticks, London: Printed for the Author, and sold at No. 23, opposite St. Dunstan's Church, Fleet-Street, [22 June 1776].

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Sodom and Onan, 1776," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 17 September 2000; updated 22 January 2003 <>.

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