A Picture of England

1789


The English women are so handsome, and the desire to please them, and to obtain their favours, is so ardent and so general, that it is not in the least surprising, that those islanders should hold a certain unnatural crime in the utmost abhorrence. They speak in no part of the world with so much horror of this infamous passion, as in England. The punishment by law is imprisonment, and the pillory. With this accusation, it is, however, better to suffer death at once; for, on such an occasion, the fury of the populace is unbounded, and even the better sort of peole have no compassion for the culprit. It is very uncommon to see a person convicted, and punished for this crime; not on account of the paucity of the numbers charged with perpetrating it, but because they never yield to such a brutal appetite but with the utmost precaution.

A criminal prosecution was commenced, on a charge of this kind, against Foote, the celebrated comedian, about a year before his death. The intrepid actor soon after appeared upon [p. 102] the stage, in one of his gayest characters; but the noise from the pit, and the epithet made use of, and repeated from box to box, entirely disconcerted him. At length he obtained liberty to speak. He then assured the audience that he was innocent, and besought them not to condemn him unheard: he promised to demonstrate before a court of justice the falsity and the malice of the accusation; and added that, until he had fully established his innocence, he would not aspire to the continuance of that favour with which the public had always honoured him. The spectators were appeased. He acted his part, and received the usual plaudits: he also gained his cause.

The custom so common in other parts of Europe, of menís saluting each other, is looked upon with the utmost indignation in England. A foreigner who would attempt such a thing in the streets of London, would in all probability be insulted by the populace. Instead of embracing, they shake hands. This ceremony repeated more or less often, expresses the different degrees of good-will, friendship, and esteem. People sometimes act this pantomime in such a forcible manner, that they make each otherís hands and arms ache. [p. 103]

If kissing is not allowed among the men, this prohibition is amply recompensed by the right of publicly embracing the ladies. The husbands themselves are not vexed at this agreeable custom. Neither jealousy nor shame can prevent it: practice has thus rendered a fashion entirely indifferent, which, in Italy, would be regarded as a presumption which the offender could only expiate with his blood. [p. 104]


NOTE: The reference is to the scandal involving the dramatist Samuel Foote, which is satirised in Sodom and Onan.

SOURCE: M. DíArchenholz, A Picture of England, 2 vols, London, 1789, vol. 2, pp. 102-4.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "A Picture of England, 1789," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 6 January 2005 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1789arch.htm>.


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