Image of two men kissingHomosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook compiled by Rictor Norton

Newspaper Reports, 1798

HIGHLIGHTS: The one-armed seller of indecent prints; a clergyman libels various gentlemen as sodomites; vigilantes entrap sodomites in Moorfields.

Thursday 11 January 1798

The defendant is the noted one-armed Printseller at Privy Garden Wall, and was tried for selling indecent prints. The case was fully proved by a young Gentleman; from whence it appeared that the hoary offender, with unparalleled atrocity, attempted to pollute the youthful mind of the prosecutor, and to defile even Holy Writ, by tendering him a Prayer-Book, and therein exhibiting those baneful productions of vice, asking him in ridicule, which he would prefer – the book or the prints?
          The Court were horror-struck at the whole of the narrative, and finding that the wretched culprit had been already in the pillory for an unnatural crime, now sentenced him to two years solitary imprisonment in the House of Correction. (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette) (
For a later offence, see News Reports for October 1802.)

20–23 January 1798

Wednesday morning, agreeably to his sentence, on board the Adamant, at Yarmouth, was hung at the yard-arm, a foremast-man, for an unnatural crime. All the boats in the fleet attended upon this occasion, each having two marines. – The gun fired at eleven, when he was hoisted up, and kept suspended for one hour, after which his body was committed to the deep. (London Chronicle)

Saturday 27 January 1798

Saturday last Wm. Gillingwater, of Beccles, yeoman, was committed to our New Goal, by Sir Edmund Bacon, Bart. and Robert Sparrow, Esq. charged on the oath of Jonathan Balls, the younger, of Bungay, Bricklayer, with committing sodomy on the body of him the said Jonathan Balls. (Ipswich Journal)

Thursday 1 March 1798

At the adjournment of Bristol Quarter-Sessions the following prisoners received their sentence, viz. Samuel Clark, for stealing lead, to be transported for seven years. Thomas Bubry Gribble, aged 66 years, for an unnatural crime, to stand in the pillory for one hour, and to be imprisoned twelve months in Bridewell. (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette)

23–25 April 1798

EDWARD DAWSON, Esq. and JOHN HALL, a soldier, were put to the bar, charged, on the oath of William Claverty, with a certian detestable crime.
          There being no Counsel for the prosecution, William Claverty was called. – He stated, that on the morning of the 6th of March last, about one o'clock, in progress with the relief guard, he made the usual halt at a small distance from the centry-box, stationed near the Pay-Office, but was not challenged by the centinel. In consequence of this, he stepped quickly forward; saw Hall, the prisoner, standing in the box, with his back towards the street. – About this instant he saw Dawson run out of the box. – (The witness here stated some circumstances, which we omit for obvious reasons.) – He pursued him, and overtaking him at about 12 or 13 yards distance, he seized him by the breast, and brought him back prisoner to the guard. – He asked him what he had been doing in the box? Dawson answered, "I do not know." At the time of passing the centinel box, Hall said, "For God Almighty's sake, Corporal, take no notice of him, he is in liquor, and is a friend of mine." Dawson took some money out of his pocket, and offered it to the witness; witness would not take any. – Whether gold, silver, or copper, he did not know. The rest of the evidence we decline inserting, on account of its indelicate tendency.
          Brooks, one of the soldiers of the guard, heard the Corporal cry out, Stop, you shall not run off. – Forrester, another soldier, deposed to Mr. Dawson's running away, but did not see any thing as to what passed in the box.
          Here Lord Kenyon addressed the Gentlemen of the Jury. He reminded them of the kind of evidence the law required to constitute proof of the commission of the abominable crime with which the prisoners stood charged. In the present case, most certainly the evidence did not bear out the charge laid in the indictment; but, in his mind, enough had been stated to authorise a belief, that either the act had been committed before, or was about to be committed at the time the witness, Claverty, approached the sentry-box. This, however, was not evidence on which the prisoners could legally be found guilty of the felony, and therefore his Lordship thought that the Gentlemen of the Jury must acquit them. – The Jury found a verdict, Not Guilty.
          Mr. Fielding wished to call several Officers to Mr. Dawson's character.
          Lord Kenyon said, the time of the Jury, and his own, could not be unnecessarily taken up. – The prisoners had been acquitted, and therefore he could not go into any evidence as to their characters. – Lord Kenyon highly commended the conduct of the Corporal. (London Packet or New Evening Post)

Tuesday, 24 April 1798

Edward Dawson, Esq. and John Hall, a private soldier in the First Regiment of Guards, were indicted for a capital offence, being charged with the actual commission of a certain unnatural crime.
          The charge against the Prisoners rested chiefly on the testimony of a Corporal in the Guards, who related some cicumstances which he alledged to have observed with respect to the parties near the Pay-Office, which at first view, might go to place them in suspicious situations. – But the facts stated, acording to the decided opinion of the Bench, by no means went to substantiate the charge laid in the indictment. – However what had appeared in evidence might constitute grounds for a subordinate charge, it undoubtedly fell lvery short of what was necessary to be proved on an occasion such as the present.
          The Jury fully coinciding with these observations, immediately pronounced a verdict of – Acquittal. (True Briton)

Thursday 26 April 1798

At the adjourned quarter-sessions for this city [Bath], on Monday, Stephen Taylor, a servant, was convicted of an unnatural attempt on a boy, and sentenced to one year's solitary confinenment, and afterwards to enter into recognizance, himself in 50l. and two sureties in 25l. each, for his future good behaviour. (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette)

Friday 27 April 1798

Yesterday a true bill was found by the Grand Jury for the county of Middlesex, against Lieut. Colonel Dawson, for an unnatural crime; and another is found against a soldier of the name of Hall, for the same offence. – They were detected in a centinel's box near the Pay-office. (Chester Chronicle)

Thursday 14 June 1798

Friday in the Court of King's-Bench, rule was granted, on the motion of Mr. Erskine, for the Rev. Mr. Scott, to shew cause why a criminal information should not be filed against him, for sending several anonymous letters to persons in the county of Salop, containing the grossest abuse, and threatening to charge them with unnatural crimes, &c. (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette)

Friday 15 June 1798

London, June 9.
Law intelligence. – . . . Mr. Erskine moved for a criminal information against the Reverend Mr. Scott, a clergyman, of the county of Salop, for writing an anonymous and libellous letter to a Gentleman of fortune and character in that county. The letter concluded with accusing his client with unnatural practices. – A rule to shew cause was granted.
          Mr. Lane and Mr. Leicester moved for two other informations against the same person for similar offences; and against two other clergymen – one of whom he likewise charged with a criminal connection with a woman of the town. (Chester Chronicle)

Saturday 16 June 1798

Mr. Erskine moved for a rule to shew cause why a criminal information should not be filed against the Rev. Mr. Scott, who is Rector of a parish situated in the county of Salop. The prosecutor in this case, who complained of a libel, is a Gentleman of high rank, of very large fortune, and many years one of the magistrates for the county. In consequence of the circular letter lately sent to the Lord Lieutenants of the different counties for the purpose of putting the country in a state of defence against invasion, a meeting was held on the 5th of May, at which the prosecutor took the lead; and on the 7th of the same month he received the letter which constituted the libel he complained of. It appeared most evidence from the letter, that it connected itself with the part which the Gentleman who prosecutes, took on that occasion. Men might entertain different opinions with respect to the best mode of serving their country; but one would really hope, for the honor of human nature, that no man existing could possibly have conducted himself as this clergyman had done. That it should happen to any man, and particularly to a man of liberal eduction, (and Mr. Scott must, from his situation, be a man of liberal eduction), but above all that such a letter should have been written by a Minister of the Christian religion, was certainly very melancholy indeed. It appeared that this Mr. Scott had been in the course of writing anonymous letters, disguising his hand; but, like some other persons who made such nefarious attempts, not doing it with perfect success, so that suspicion fell on him as being the author of letters written to different persons in that neighbourhood. In consequence of that a watch was set on him for the purpose of detecting him. Application was made to the Managing Clerks of the Post-Office, for the purpose of so arranging the letter-box in which the letters were to be put, that it might be seen whether he was the author of the detestable libel which he should afterwards read. Accordingly Mr. Scott was watched in the streeet near the Post-office, when notice was given to the Managing Clerks, who made the affidavits that they lay before him. The letters were put aside in order to receive the post mark, and the box was left entirely empty, in order tht that worthy Clergyman might find himself in the wrong box when he came to deliver that most scoundrelly letter. the coast being clear, he went and dropped them, two in number, into the place where they were to be received, and immediately the box was opened. Mr. E. said, when he read the first part of this letter, he confessed he was rather sorry that it was to be made the subject of complaint in a Court of Justice. But when he read the conclusion of it, it excited his surprise and astonishment.
          After Mr. E. had read the first part of the letter, which consisted of coarse language, and of low ribaldry and abuse, he asked the Court what they would think when he informed them that he could proceed in it no farther? The language of it was too gross for the ear of a Court of Justice. The remainder of the letter consisted but of two lines, and charged the Prosecutor with being guilty of an attempt to commit an unnatural crime with an individual who was named in it. Such a letter would admit of no commentary. It was shocking to humanity. The Prosecutor's character was too well known in the country to stand in need of any observations from him. He had made an affidavit that there was not the smallest foundation for the charge.
          Lord Kenyon. – The Prosecutor is certainly known to the Court, and one would think that he is as unlikely to be impeached in his character, as any man in England. Take a rule to shew cause, – Rule granted.
          Mr. Lane made a similar motion against Mr. Scott, for sending an anonymous letter, (the other letter which was put into the post-office) to a dignified clergyman in that part of the country, accusing him among other things, of having been detected in criminal conversation with a woman of the town, and charging also one of his near relations with felony. – Rule granted.
          Mr. Leicester moved for a third information against this Rev. Gentleman, for sending an anonymous letter to his client, stating that he had, in repeated instances, been guilty of an unnatural crime, and stating the name of the gentleman with whom it was committed. The letter also stated, that some time ago the Prosecutor had paid 100l. hush money. This letter was not found in the post-office. It was written so long ago as January last, and was only lately discovered to be of Mr. Scott's hand-writing, in consequence of his two letters that were detected at the post-office. – Rule granted. (Staffordshire Advertiser)

Saturday 11 August 1798

At Durham Assizes, . . . Samuel Youell [sic], for an assault, with an intent to commit an unnatural crime, was sentenced to two years imprisonment, and during that time to be kept to hard labour, and as much as possible from all intercourse with the human species; . . . (Newcastle Courant)

Saturday 5 September 1798

Wednesday John Southwell and John Smith, were committed to our goal by Thomas Carthew, clerk, Francis Brooke, Esq. and Richard Frank, clerk, on the oaths of John Webb, John Reynolds, and Dan. Smith, privates in the 3d regiment of dragoons, with committing the unnatural and detestable crime of sodomy. The former was postmaster of Saxmundham, and the latter a soldier in the above regiment. (Ipswich Journal)

20–27 October 1798

MONDAY, Octr. 22.
Edward Bennett was indicted for an assault on Alexander Hale, on the 19th of July last, with intent to commit an unnatural crime; also for a common assault. – The circumstances attending this case are not fit for publication. He was found guilty of the common assault, and sentenced to be confined one year in Newgate.
          Richard Holder was indicted for a like offence, on the 21st of July, on Thomas Bullen; also for a common assault. – This evidence was of the same indecent nature, and the defendant was found guilty of both counts. – He was sentenced to be imprisoned two years in Newgate.
          Samuel Clifton, a watchman, was indicted for a like offence, on the 21st of July last, on J. Mason. He was found guilty of the assault only, and sentenced to be imprisoned fifteen months in Newgate.
          Several of the trifling cases of assaults were tried, not worth mentioning, and the Court adjourned. (Mirror of the Times)

24 November 1798

Thomas Lothgow was indicted for an assault on John Healy, on the 20th of July, with an intent to commit an unnatural crime, and also for a common assault. The prisoner remained mute, and his friends said they believed him to be insane, owing to the magnitude of the charge against him. This trial lasted three hours, but the particulars are improper for insertion. The Jury withdrew for an hour and a half, and returned with a verdict – guilty of the common assault, and the Court ordered him to be imprisoned six months in Newgate. (London Packet or New Evening Post)

8–16 December 1798

THE KING v. P––.
This was an indictment against the defendant, charging him with assaulting J. Pullen, with intent to commit an unnatural crime.
          This prosecution was instituted by the City of London. It appeared by the evidence of Pullen, that on consequence of hearing from the best information that the Quarters of Moorfields were infested by a number of men of detestable propensities, he, together with about nine other young men, resolved to detect the bring these wretches to condign punishment. With that view they agreed to meet at the Crown public-house, in Lothbury, every night, from whence they went to Moorfields, where they separated and stationed themselves in different parts. Mr. Pullen, on the 25th day of July last, met with the defendant in the Mall, who accosted him in a very indecent manner; he took him into custody, and by the assistance of the rest of the party, lodged him in the watchhouse. Some other witnesses were called, whose evidence went to confirm the testimony of the last witness. – Mr. Erskine addressed the Jury with great animation as Counsel for the defendant, and called a numbere of respectable persons to invalidate the testimony of the witnesses for the prosecution. – Lord Kenyon said, it was a clear case in favour of the defendant; but it was singular the watchmen were not called to confirm part of the story told by the witnesses on the part of the Crown. – The Jury pronounced the defendant – Not Guilty. (Mirror of the Times)

19–21 December 1798


The adjourned day was held yesterday: one prisoner only was tried for an assault of a very gross nature. Osborne, and several other members of the club, who have associated for the apprehension of such culprits, swore, that they apprehended the prisoner in Moorfields. Mr. Gurney was Counsel for the prisoner; upon his very acute cross-examination of Osborn, a curious fact came out, viz. the witness acknowledged, that after giving his evidence against a person, charged with a similar offence, before Lord Kenyon and a Special Jury, his Lordship admonished him (the witness) "to quit that Club, or he was in the high road to the gallows." The trial lasted until five in the afternoon. The Jury retired, and found a verdict – Guilty of the assault only. The Recorder passed sentence of one year's imprisonment. The Court was adjourned to the 8th of January next. (London Packet or New Evening Post)

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1798", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 18 October 2014, updated 29 June 2021 <>.

Return to Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England