A Man of Colour; A Butler; and A Strolling Player, 1844

NOTE: News reports about three separate, and unusual, cases, involving indecent assault upon a man of colour; mutual consent between a strolling player and a painter; and sex with a butler.

A Man of Colour

Saturday 6 January 1844

PETER HOGG (46), was charged with an unnatural crime, at Hull, on the 4th Oct. last, on one Alexander Hunt, a man of colour.
          Several witnesses were called, who had known the prisoner for periods varying from ten to twenty years, and who gave him an excellent character for humanity and good moral conduct.
          The learned JUDGE, in summing up, expressed an opinion that there was some uncertainty in the case, but that was a question for the consideration of the jury.
          The jury almost immediately returned a verdict of Not Guilty. (York Herald)

Saturday 6 January 1844

PETER HOGG (45) was indicted for having diabolically committed an offence against the order of nature, at Hull, on the 4th of October last, on Alexander Hunt, a man of colour.
          Mr. HALL and Mr. OVEREND were counsel for the prosecution; Mr. WILKINS defended the prisoner.
          Mr. HALL said this was another case, the details of which would be heard by the jury once too often, and when they had heard them from the witness who would prove the offence, he (Mr. Hall) would show in corroboration, that the prisoner denied being at the house on the night in question, and also denied being in company with any man of colour. Their statements would be shown to be false, and the jury would then have to form their own conclusion of the guilt or innocence of the prisoner.
          Alexander Hunt, who had been in custody for want of bail, stated himself to be a native of Barbadoes, and had been eight years in England. He proved the offence committed on his person by Hogg. During a severe cross-examination by Mr. WILKINS, the object of which was to depreciate his reputation, he conducted himself with considerable propriety, and, notwithstanding the tactics of the Learned Counsel, preserved "the even tenor of his way."
          Mr. WILKINS addressed the jury, protesting that the prosecutor must have been participating in the abomination. It seemed to him that if the man had been a pigmy, indignation and nature would have armed him with the power of resistance too mighty for such a deed as this. But here was a man vigorious, young, and formidable, charging the commission of an offence, at which humanity recoiled, upon a man many years his senior, when if he had not been a particeps criminis, he might have dashed the miscreant who could have committed such an enormity to the earth, and prevented a transaction which was in the highest degree revolting to mankind.
          His LORDSHIP, in charging the jury, said, the prisoner was accused of an offence which was necessary at all times to be made out on the most clear and unexceptionable evidence. He thought there was some uncertainty in the case, but it would be for the jury to decide upon that question.
          The Jury returned a verdict of Not Guilty. (Leeds Mercury)

Lord Abingdon's Butler

Friday 2 February 1844

MARLBOROUGH-STREET. – A very well-dressed person, who gave the name of James Smyth, 116, Drummond-street, Euston-square, was placed at the bar on a charge of fraudulently obtaining 5l. from Thomas Robinson, butler to Lord Abingdon, and also with threatening to accuse the prosecutor of having attempted to commit an unnatural crime, unless 25l. more were given to him.
          From the prosecutor's statement it appeared, that some months since he met the prisoner at Brighton. Shortly afterwards witness accompanied Lord Abingdon to London, and heard no more of his new acquaintance, until he accidentaly met him a few days since in the Strand. The prisoner inquired when he should return to Brighton. Witness replied that his Lordship intended returning in a few days. The prisoner then inquired his address, as he had a small parcel to send to Brighton. Witness gave him his address, "Grillon's Hotel, 7, Albemarle-street," and the prisoner, on the back of a printed card, wrote his – "Mr. Bridgen Smyth, 116, Drummond-street, Euston-square." On Saturday evening last the prisoner called upon him, at No. 7, Albemarle-street, and after drinking with him, said that he had forgotten the parcel, but would bring it on the following day. On Monday, to witness's great surprise, he received a letter in a female handwriting, accusing him of having on their last interview attempted to commit an unnatural crime, in consequence of which the writer had lost three 5l. notes. He was, however, willing to forego any public exposure, if this amount was refunded to him, otherwise he should make the matter known to Lord Abingdon. Witness was very much surprised on receiving this note, and mentioned the circumstance to M. Grillon, who advised him "to keep quiet." On the following day a second letter, in the same handwriting, and of similar import, came to him. The writer had, however, altered the claim from three 5l. notes to three 10l. notes. These demands not being complied with, a third letter was received, in which the writer most peremptorily demanded 30l. to settle the matter, adding that unless the amount was sent immediately, Lord Abingdon should be made acquainted with every particular. Witness then thought, seeing the manner in which the defendant was poceeding, that it was quite time to take precautionary steps, and went to Messrs. Wright and Smith, solicitors, Golden-square, whose clerk, Mr. Rabbeth, accompanied him to 116, Drummond-street.
          William Squires Rabbeth, clerk to Messrs. Wright and Smith, said, that he was sent to investigate this case; he proceeded with the prosecutor and a police-sergeant to 116, Drummond-street, where he knocked at the door and inquired for Mr. Smyth. He was ushered into a parlour, and Mr. Smyth shortly afterwards came down. Witness stated his business to him, and he said, "Don't speak so loud, as walls have ears." Witness inquired the nature of the charge, and the amount the prisoner wished? The prisoner replied 30l., but he would take part. Witness said, he had only 7l. or 8l. in his pocket. He would give him 5l. then, and pay the rest afterwards. After some further conversation, the prisoner took the 5l note (which had been previously marked), and then accompanied witness to the door, where he was by a preconcerted signal given into the police-sergeant's custody, and conveyed to the station-house.
          The prisoner, who made no defence, was fully commmitted to Newgate for trial. (Evening Mail)

Thursday 14 March 1844

CONVICTS FOR VAN DIEMEN'S LAND. – The London hired convict ship, at present moored off the dockyard, Woolwich, has already on board 244 convicts from the Millbank Penitentiary, the Model Prison, Pentonville, and from several country gaols, and is expected to take out in all about 300 of that unfortuante class, who will be guarded by detachments of the 58th and 80th Regiments. One of the men of the latter corps has become so ill that he was taken on shore yesterday forenoon and placed in the hospital. Amongst the convict prisoners on board the London is the well-known character in Plumstead and Woolwich, named John Bodle, who was found guilty at the last Central Criminal Court sessions, and sentenced to twenty years' transporation for endeavouring to extort money from Lord Abingdon's butler, under a threat, if he did not comply with his demands, of charging him with an unnatural crime. Since the prisoner's conviction for this offence he has confessed having poisoned his grandfather, although he was tried at Maidstone on that charge, but acquitted. Several of his relations applied yesterday at the Woolwich dockyard for permission to visit the prisoner previous to his leaving the country for the long period named in his sentence. (Morning Post)

Alonzo Johnson, Strolling Player

[Here are just a few reports on this case. For the full story, see Alonzo Johnson, Strolling Player.]

Friday 29 March 1844

Committed. – Alonzo Johnson and David Denham, the former a strolling player, and the latter a painter, living in this town [Newcastle], were brought up in custody of P. Cs. 42 and 125, charged with having committed an unnatural crime, on the night of Thursday, or early on Friday morning, in the house of Andrew Collings, Burnt-house entry, Side. they were first discovered by a brother-in-law of Collilns, who was sleeping in the same room with the prisoners, and he immediately informed the police, who took them into custody. Mr Maxon, surgeon, was immediately sent for, and he stated he had no doubt whatever that they were both guilty of the charge. They were committed to take their trial at the assizes. (Newcastle Courant)

Saturday 3 August 1844

ALONZO JOHNSON was charged with having, on the 21st of March, at a lodging-house in the Burnt-house Entry, Side, Newcastlle, made an assault upon David Denham, and carnally knew him in an indecent manner; and DAVID DENHAM was charged with assisting him in the commission of the offence. The evidence was of precisely such a character as might have been expected. Up to that of the surgeon, it was scarcely likely to produce conviction; but Mr. Mason, surgeon to the police-force, spoke positively to his conviction that both parties had held unnatural intercourse with each other. Mr. Granger defended Denham. The learned Judge very carefully examined and commented on the evidence – the case involving, as his Lordship said, the lives of the prisoners. The Jury retired a few minutes before four, and after an absence of half an hour returned a verdict of Guilty against both prisoners, against whom judgment of death was recorded. (Newcastle Journal)

Saturday 14 September 1844

During this week, Mr. Thompson, governor of the gaol, has received intelligence that her Majesty has been graciously pleased to commute the sentence of death, as recorded at our last assizes against Alonzo Johnson and David Denham, to transportation for life. (Carlisle Journal)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given. (Some reports were repeated in several newspapers, but I have not included them all.)

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "A Man of Colour, A Butler; and A Strolling Player, 1844", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 7 October 2016 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1844new1.htm>.

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