"Suck Prick!"
February 1789

NOTE Alexander Leith and John Drew were tried at the Old Bailey at the Sessions beginning on 25 February 1789, on the charge of committing sodomy with one another. The evidence given by the two witnesses (Laws and Alberman, as below) contradicted one another, and the two defendants were declared Not Guilty. The evidence itself was judged (by the publisher of the Proceedings) to be not fit for the public eye, and therefore was not published. Hence we don’t know anything about Leith or Drew, their ages or occupations etc. (Source: Online Proceedings of the Old Bailey, Reference Number: t17890225-40)

This is a fairly typical case of two men being overseen (rather than being entrapped) while enjoying sex in a public place at night. The most interesting feature is that one of the men, John Drew, seems to have been recognized as a regular sodomite, moreover one who specifically enjoyed being fucked. Drew also, by calling out “Suck prick!”, seems to have been conversant with the practice of oral intercourse – something which historians claim to have been rare until modern times. “Suck prick!” may actually be a noun, exactly equivalent to the modern abusive epithet “Cocksucker!” – in which case the epithet must have been widely enough known to be effective, which again suggests that oral intercourse wasn’t a great rarity.

The Information of Matthew Laws of Maudlings Rents in the Parish of Saint Botolph Aldgate in the said County [Middlesex], Cordwainer, and Fredrick Alberman, No 22 Red Cross Street in the said Parish and County, Watchman. Taken on Oath this Seventh day of February 1789 Before me Robert Smith Esqr. one of his Majesty's Justices of the peace in and for the said County.

Matthew Laws saith about half an hour past Eleven o'Clock on Tuesday night last he heard Mr Prowce's Dog Bark; he opened his Door and went up to a Cart where he saw the Prisoner present (who says his Name is Alexander Leith) standing up against Mr. Prowce's Window, that he heard him Speak to some person, that he went nearer to them and heard him say "Have you had Enough?" The other made some Answer but [he] does not know what, then Alexander Leith said "Shall I fuck you again?" This Deponent [i.e. Laws] called to the Watchman and desired him to look at them people. When the other prisoner (who says his Name is John Drew ) got [up] from off the Ground, took his basket under his Arm and was going away when this Deponent [i.. Laws] said to him "You old Raseal I know you, I will have you to Morrow"; says Alexander Leith ran away, that he and the Watchman pursued and heard him call out "Suck Prick", that they Apprehended him near Saint Catherine's Bridge which is distant from the place he first saw them in about 200 Yards, that he made Great resistance but they secured him and took him to the Watch house, says he is positive that the Prisoners are the Men he saw together against Mr. Prowce's Window and that he Verily believes the said two Men had been Committing the crime of Sodomy.

And the said Fredrick Alberman says when the other deponent Matthew Laws Spoke to him he went up toward the Prisoners, when he saw Drew leaning forwards with his Breeches down and Leith Standing with his Belly against Drew's fundament, that Leith's Trowsers was down and this Deponent [i.e. Alberman] saw his private parts directed towards the fundament of Drew. He said "You Rascals, what are you doing here?"; that he parted them, when one of them went one way and the other the otherway, that they pursued Leith and took him into Custody. Drew was Apprehended about Eleven o'Clock on Wednesday Night. [Alberman] is positive that the prisoners present are the same Men he saw under Mr. Prowce's Window in the Situation as above stated and verily believes they had been committing the crime of Sodomy.

Matthew Laws
F. Alberman

Taken and Sworn the day
and Year first above Written
Before me

Robt. Smith

[SOURCE: Old Bailey Sessions Papers, Justices' Working Documents, 15 December 1788 – 27 April 1789, LL ref: LMOBPS450370189. I have slightly edited this, adding punctuation to improve its readability.]

Thursday, 5 March 1789

On Tuesday Alexander Leith and John Drew, were tied upon an indictment, which stated that the said Alexander Leith had, on the first day of February last, feloniously, wickedly, diabolially, and against the order of nature, committed and perpetrated that detestable and abominable crime, which among Christians cannot be named; and another count stating the guilt of John Drew in suffereing and permitting the above diabolical offence to be committed, and being party therein.
          The evidence was of great length, and of such a nature as forbids a statement in a public print.
          It is but fair, however, to say that the different testimonies of two of the witnesses were contradictory, and consequently discredited, as to severla points to be considered by the jury.
          Much to the honour of the officers of the Court, care was taken to compel all youth and ladies to withdraw, nor were they afterwards admitted until the trial was over.
          The Judge very properly observed to the Jury, that in proportion to the heinousness of the offence, ought the caution of the Jury to be previous to their finding the prisoners guilt of the abominable offence with which they stood charged. "Such crimes as these," said the learned Judge, "are apt to rouse ou feelings and pervert our judgement."
          He directed the Jury to attend to the difference between the actual perpetration of the act as contradistinguished from the attempt to commit it – this different he very accurately pointed out, as also the degree of evidence the law requires before a conviction of this offence can take place.
          The prisoners defence consisted of a general denial of the fact, and witnesses to swear to thei reputation they had to their attachment to the female sex.
          The Jury, after a little deliberation, acquitted the prisoners. (Morning Post)

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Suck Prick!, 1789," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 21 February 2013, updated 27 April 2021 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1789suck.htm>.

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