A Black Hustler, 1838


NOTE: The following newspaper reports give us a glimpse into the life of a black male prostitute at the beginning of the Victorian age. It is perhaps the earliest documented record of a gay black man in Britain. Henry Johnson seems to have made a good living by regularly walking along Regent Street and allowing himself to be picked up, and was well paid for his sexual services. In the incident recorded here, he went home with a butler and slept with him. For a male streetwalker to actually go home and spend the night giving pleasure is seldom recorded. Then in the morning he requested his fee, and threatened to expose the butler if he did not pay him. This does not follow the common pattern in which a blackmailer begins the extortion immediately after a pass is made at him. Johnson was clearly a homosexual prostitute rather than a straight blackmailer. But since the butler did not have enough money to meet the demand, Johson took silver objects (belonging to the butler's master), and pawned them. He could have left the matter there, as he had gotten his money, but he kindly gave the butler the pawn tickets so that he could pay to regain possession of the objects. Instead of a happy resolution of the matter, however, both men were arrested and convicted of theft, and transported to Australia. Although evidence was produced showing that both men enjoyed sex with other men (though the butler was a married man), they were not actually charged with homosexual offences.


Sunday 9 December 1838

MARYLEBONE.
EXTENSIVE ROBBERY OF PLATE – HORRIBLE DISCLOSURES. – Yesterday, John Aylett and Henry Johnson, (the latter a man of colour,) were charged with having committed a robbery at the residence of Thos. L. Holland, Esq., 12, Cornwall-terrace. John Webb deposed, that on Wednesday night last he called upon Aylett, who told him, that on the previous night he met a black man in Regent-street, and after drinking with him, they went home to his master's house and slept together; in the early part of the morning he (the black man) got up and demanded 5l. of Aylett, at the same time threatening in the event of non-compliance, to charge him with the commission of an unnatural offence. Not having the money by him, he took from his master's plate-chest, which he gave to the black man, who carried it off. Sergeant Rodgers, 1 D, said, that he took the prisoner Johnson into custody, Aylett, was then confronted with Johnson, whom he at once identified as the person to whom he had given up the plate. Graves deposed to having heard Aylett admit, in his master's presence, that on the night in question, he and Johnson had been guilty of an unnatural offence, and that Johnson had subsequently confessed to him (Graves) that he had for some time past been in the habit of walking along Regent-street, where he was almost certain of being noticed by gentlemen of the army and nobility, by whom he was liberally paid for acceding to their wishes. The prisoners were fully committed. (The Operative)

Saturday 15 December 1838

MARLEBONE.
EXTENSIVE ROBBERY OF PLATE – HORRIBLE DISCLOSURES. – John Aylett and Henry Johnson (the latter is a man of colour) were placed at the bar, before Mr. Hoskins, charged under the following extraordinary circumstances, with having committed a robbery at the residence of Thomas L. Holland, Esq., No. 12, Cornwall-terrace, Regent's Park, and in whose service the first-named prisoner lived as butler. – John Webb, a servant out of place, deposed that on Wednesday night last he called upon Aylett, whom he found in a state of great mental distress; and on questioning him he said that on the previous night he met a black man in Regent-street, and after drinking with him they went home to his master's house and slept together; in the early part of the morning he (the black man) got up and demanded 5l. of Aylett, at the same time threatening, in the event of non-compliance, to charge him with the commission of an unnatural offence. Not having the money by him, and being very much alarmed, he (Aylett) took from his master's plate-chest two pairs of silver candlesticks, a silver sauce tureen, and a number of silver-mounted knives and forks, together with some other articles, which he gave up to the black man, who carried them off. While witness was engaged in conversation with Aylett, the latter received by post a letter, containing duplicates for the property, which had been pledged in the neighbourhood. Information was then given to Graves, an officer employed at the Colosseum, who instituted a diligent inquiry into all the facts connected with the case. – Sergeant Rodgers, 1 D, said that yesterday morning, about three o'clock, in consequence of information he had received, he took the prisoner (Johnson) into custody in the New-road, when he denied that he had ever slept at the prosecutor's residence, or that he knew any one belonging to that gentleman's establishment. Aylett, who had also been locked up on the charge, was then brought into the presence of Johnson, whom he at once identified as the person to whom he had, through fear, given up the plate. Graves deposed to having heard Aylett admit, in his master's presence, that on the night in question he and Johnson had been guilty of unnatural practices with each other, and that Johnson had subsequently confessed to him (Graves) that he had for some time past been in the habit of walking along Regent-street, where he was almost ceertain of being noticed, and picked up by gentlemen, by whom he was liberally paid for according to their wishes. (Several persons here exclaimed, "O, horrible! horrible!" and Aylett, who is a married man, was observed to shed tears). The property previously referred to was produced by the pawnbrokers, M'Fairlam and Mr. Ross, and identified by Mr. Holland. A gold watch, with guard, chain and seals, was found upon Johnson when secured by the police-sergeant. – The prisoners were fully committed for trial. (Dublin Monitor)

Firday 21 December 1838

CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT. – DEC. 20
OLD COURT.
John Aylett and Henry Johnson, a man of colour, were indicted for stealing a large quantity of plate, the property of Mr. Holland, Cornwall-terrace, Regent's Park.
          After evidence had been adduced, the jury returned a verdict of Guilty. Sentence – Transportation for ten years. (Morning Post)

Monday 24 December 1838

CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT, Dec. 22.
The December Sessions having terminated, sentence was passed upon such prisoners as had not received judgment at the time of trial.
          Transported . . . For Ten Years. – . . . J. Aylett, H. Johnson . . . (Morning Advertiser)

Monday 24 December 1838

John Aylett and Henry Jonhson, the latter a man of colour, were convicted of stealing four candlesticks, one tureen and cover, and other silver plate, value 20l., the property of Thomas Lindsey Holland, in his dwelling-house, situate in Cornwall-terrace, Regent's-park.
          Sentence – transportation for 10 years. (Bell's Weekly Messenger)

Tuesday 1 January 1839

REMOVAL OF CONVICTS.
The following persons have been removed from the gaol of Newgate to the receiving ships moored off Woolwich, preparatory to their voyage to the colony to which they are ordered to be banished:–
          For Ten Years. – . . . Jno. Aylett, 24; Hy. Johnson, 22 . . . (Morning Advertiser)


SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "A Black Hustler, 1838", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 28 March 2016 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1838bkac.htm>.


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