Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook compiled by Rictor Norton

"Yum, yum!" – A Career in Debauchery, 1891

18 January 1891

Yesterday, at the Central Criminal Court, before the Common Serjeant, Charles Robins, 68, was indicted for committing gross acts of indecency with Robert Ryan. There were five other indictments charging him with the same offence on other persons.
          Mr. Besley, who appeared to prosecute on behalf of the Treasury, in opening the case, said the chare was one under the Criminal Law Amendment Act, which was framed by the Legislature, not only with the object of protecting girls of tender age from the vicious inclinations of bad men, but also to prevent the minds of young men from becoming polluted through the influence of persons addicted to the practice of unnatural passion. The prisoner, he regretted to say, was a man of education, good talent, and ability. He had mixed in Society, and at one time had held holy orders, but, unfortunately, risking the irreparable loss of his social standing and reputation, he had allowed himself to sink into the depths of infamy and degradation, in order to gratify his unholy lust. His victims were boys of the poor class, who, without homes or friends, fell easy prey. Some thirteen months ago Robins took aparymetns in Little Poulteney-street, Soho, and here he occupied two rooms – one for himself and the other for boys whom he took in and sheltered on the pretence of assisting them to gain an honest livelihood, in preference to the courses they were then pursuing, whilst wandering about the streets. The offences imputed to the prisoner were committed in his apartments, and from the evidence which would be adduced, he (counsel) believed the jury would have no difficulty in arriving at a right decision as to the guilt or innocence of the accused.


          James Barry said he was sixteen years of age. He was introduced to Mr. Robins some mnths ago by a boy named Williams. He lodged with the prisoner a few months, and during that time the accused upon many occasions acted improperly towards him.
          Witness gave the details, but they are unfit for publication.
          The prisoner, who, by his demeanour and behaviour in court, appeared the pattern of virtue and modesty, cross-examined this witness and the others were were called with great skill.
          Barry admitted that the prisoner was a kind old gentleman, and, although he sometimes was the worse for liquor, yet he was not in the habit of using filthy expressions. It was true that the prisoner had taught him to be an extremely good cook, to play at draughts, and to keep early hours; also that he (witness) had knocked a tooth out of a boy's head for calling after the prisoner in the street. The boys in the street called "Yum, yum" whenever they saw the prisoner, and for this he (Barry) had threatened to "chuck" one of his fellow lodgers down the stairs.
          Patrick Ryan said he was fifteen years of age, and had known the prisoner for a considerable time.The nature of the assault alleged against the prisoner in this case was exactly similar to that spoken to Barry.
          Ryan added that the prisoner always treated him kindly, and called him his little "sunflower."
          Another Witness said he should not have spoken about this matter had he not seen a priest, to whom he made a full confession.
          Three other boys, named Blackburn, Chadwick, and Arthurs, were examined in support of the allegations made against the accused, and their testimony to a certain extent corroborated that given by Barry and Ryan.


          Detective-inspector Stroud, of the C. Division, said in consequence of certain information he had had the accused under observation for some weeks. Other matters subsequently came to his knowledge, and upon the evening of December 11 last he saw the defendant in Rent-street, and arrested him. When told the charge, Robins became very agitated, and asked to be permitted to keep possession of certain documents and papers left at his apartments.
          The Prisoner, in a vigorous speech to the jury, asked for an acquittal at their hands of charges which, he said, were false, and utterly unsubstantiated by the evidence.
          The jury returned a verdict of "Guilty."
          On hearing the verdict Robins said, "Oh, oh!" and fell in the dock in a fit. In the course of the day the prisoner was brought up for sentence.


          Mr. Besley said Inspector Stroud would give the Court information respecting the prisoner's previous career.
          Stroud said the prisoner's name appeared in the "Clergy List" from 1875 until 1882. For some months he held a curacy at St Clement's Danes, Strand. Shortly after the prisoner withdrew his name from the "Clergy List." In Paris, in 1884, the prisoner was apprehended, tried, and convicted of inciting youths to debauchery. Upon that occasion he had been seen distributing peaches to boys on the boulevards, and this excited suspicion. He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, but, undertaking to leave France, he was released after a few weeks' confinement.
          Mr. Besley said the prisoner was in receipt of an income sent anonymously, and it was clear that he was connected with persons of position who were thoroughly ashamed of his conduct. It was obvious that the prisoner had devoted himself to the cultivation in youths of the practices of which he himself stood convicted, and he (Mr. Besley) asked for a sentence which would act as a warning to all who, by their conduct, committed such outrages on the morals of the public.


          The Common Serjeant said it was a very shocking thing to see a person of the prisoner's education and ability found guilty of such offences. He quite concurred with the observations of counsel.
          Prisoner was sentenced to eighteen months' hard labour. (Reynolds's Newspaper)

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Yum, yum! - A Career in Debauchery, 1891", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 15 September 2021 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1891yum.htm>.

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