Bits & Pieces

The following anecdotes and short notices are too short to merit full pages by themselves, but nevertheless deserve attention. The entries will be added to from time to time, in the manner of a blog.


[8 August 2013]

Flogging Schoolboys

Men of rank and fortune might be willing to defend their reputations, but usually in absentia while they resided quietly abroad. In 1816 General Sir Eyre Coote was deprived of his military honours and his name was struck from the army list. He had been in the habit of visiting the Mathematical School of Christ's Hospital and flogging – and being flogged by – the 14 to 17 year old scholars. One of the boys said:

"he asked if we would let him flog us, and he would give us so much money – . . . I consented – he said he would give me 1s. 6d. for six stripes – I let down my breeches, and he flogged me – after he flogged me, he flogged another boy . . . and he asked if we would flog him . . . he pulled down his breeches when the boys had flogged him – the Nurse came in just as he was pulling up his breeches".

Another boy was given two shillings for eight stripes with the cane:

"I stood by the side of the table, and he gave me four – he then put his hand and lifted me on the table, put his hand between my legs – my breeches were down – after he gave me the other four, he called me to the fire, and asked if he had made any mark; he put his hand between my legs, put me across his knee, gave me two slaps on the backside with his bare hand".

In due course the gentleman pulled down his own breeches and was flogged in turn by the willing boys.

          At the first inquiry into the affair, Coote claimed temporary insanity and then fled the country. A tremendous scandal broke. The Duke of York (Commander in Chief) ordered a fresh inquiry, and Coote was asked not to appear in Parliament. The report concluded that Coote's repeated visits to the school under assumed names, and his prudent effort to avoid disclosure, were at variance with his supposed temporary insanity. Coote was not seen again, but was represented by his lawyers. At a third enquiry they presented petitions signed by numerous Members of Parliament, Peers and gentlemen, confirming that Coote was mentally deranged rather than guilty of any criminal intentions; in other words, he was a great British eccentric. No legal proceedings were instituted, though he was officially disgraced and stripped of his military honours.

SOURCE: A Plain Statement of Facts, relative to Sir Eyre Coote, London, 1816.


[22 July 2013]

Whipping at Cart's Tail

The following extract from the Justices' Working Documents, Middlesex Sessions, Sessions Papers, for 4 September 1730, illustrate the practice of whipping offenders as they are tied to the end of a cart and led through the streets. The "notorious offence" in this instance was probably attempted sodomy.

George Consense

Now convicted upon an Indictment against him for a notorious offence & misdeameanor is Ordered to be Stripped naked from the middle upwards & publickly whipped att a Carts Tayle from the End of a certaine Street called Old Street next Charter house Wall through & along the Comon Highway or road there to and Over against the new Church in Old Street aforesaid in the parish of St Giles without Cripplegate in this County & back againe to the End of Old Street next the Charterhouse wall aforesaid untill his body be bloody att such time as the Sherriffe of this County shall forthwith appoint and the said George Consens is remanded & comitted to his Majesty's Gaole of Newgate there to remaine till he Undergoe the said punishment then to be delivered paying his Fees 15s: 2d.


Inscription on the Pillory

The following sentence upon a man convicted of attempted sodomy comes from the Justices' Working Papers for the Session at Hicks' Hall for 19 October 1730. It's very interesting in showing that when a man was placed in the pillory for attempted sodomy, his crime was written on a label above him. For further details about the case of Marmaduke Hart, see News Reports for 1730.

Marmaduke Hart

Now convicted upon an Indictment against him for a notorious Misdeameanour in Assaulting a Person with an Intent to comitt the detestable Crime of Sodomy with him. Is fined One Shilling which is Ordered to be Estreated And he is to be sett and putt in & upon the Pillory in the publick Street or Highway over against a certaine Place or Street called Hogg Lane in the Parish of St Leonard Shoreditch in this County by the Space of one hour between the hours of twelve at Noon and two in the afternoon of such day as the Sheriffe of this County shall forwith appoint with an Inscripcon over his head describeing his said Offence. And he is remanded and comitted to New Prison att Clerkenwell in this County there to remaine till he undergoe the said punishment, then to be delivered [after] paying his Fees 5s.


Sapphic Passion

If many have gone mad through pride, an axiom which is become proverbial, why not through lust? An eminent Surgeon relates the case of a Lady, who brought the 'furor uterinus' upon herself, through the 'Sapphic passion,' and on that account, was at length confined by her friends, as she would not only expose herself in the street, but absolutely supplicate the passengers to satisfy her desires, and, in default of the natural means, make use of artificial. What a lesson does this afford for regulating the desires by a prudent conduct, and a virtuous and proper attahment in the early part of life!

SOURCE: The Cuckold's Chronicle, London, 1793, Vol. I, p. 112.


The Punishment of the Canaanites

It may appear, the severity with which the Hebrew History acquaints us, the Canaanites were puniushed, and the title whereby the Hebrews held their land, whom God cast out before them, were no ways inconsistent with the justice, or wisdom, or goodness of God, as some have insinuated. The question is really brought to this one point, Whether such abominable immoralities, as followed naturally and universally from their idolatrous principles, and forms of worship, were not highly criminal; so criminal as to deserve a punishment: that it becaem the justice and wisdom of the Governour of the world to put some stop to them, to prevent them in some measure by forming and establishing a constitution in which the knowledge and worship of the one true God should be preserved in opposition to idolatry, a perpectual source of innumerable vices and immoralities. Idolatry, you see then, appears in the natural fruits of it, not only an error of the understanding, not at all a matter of harmless speculation, but a fountain of very dangerous immoralities, which led men naturally, and even with the encouragements of religion, into intemperance, uncleanness, murders, and many vices, inconsistent with the prosperity and peace of society, as well as with the happiness of private persons. When God shall p0unish such iniquities, he punishes men for their wickedness, not for their errors. He punishes men for such wickedness, as deserves to be punished, whatever pretended principles or real dictates of conscience it may proceed from. No man sure, can reasonably account it injustice in a government to punish sodomy, bestiality, or the frequent murder of innocent children, what pretences soever men should make to conscience or religion, in vindication of them. The most unnatural sins were countenanced by the mysteries of idolatrous worship; the use of that obscene ceremony the Phalli, owed its original to the memory of the sin against nature, and to the history of a god hallowing it by his own act. Can any man reasonably call such a restraint of vice persecution, when not to endeavour by all means to restrain it, would argue a great neglect, weakness, and folly, in any administration of government whatsoever?
          If then the punishment for so heinous crimes and immoralities will be just and wise in itself, which way can any man find out, to make it unjust or unwise in the supreme Governour of the world? How can it be unjust in him, to appoint such persons as he shall think most fit, to execute such righteous judgment by his commission? The common rights of nations, and any personal claim of the Hebrews, are altogether out of this qustion;t he history plainly shews, they made no personal or natonal claim at all to the land of Canaan; but that God cast out the people before them, for all their abominations; that it was not their own power, but the hand of God, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and into the promised land. So that the whole is considered as the immediate act of God himself, for the proof of which the history gives a long series of miracles, in Egypt, at the Red-Sea, for many years in the wilderness, at the taking of Jereicho, and settling the Hebrew nation in the possession of the promised land.
          And here let us justly observe, that this very way of punishing the Canaanites for their many great abominations by teh Hebrew nation, to whom God gave the possession of their land, has some peculiar marks of wisdom, which may shew it fit to be preferred to many other ways; such as pestilential distempers, fire from heaven, or a flood, ways in which God hath punished the wickedness of the world in former times. For this was a very fit means for the cure, as well as the punishment of idolatry, to destroy the root of these great evils, as well as to execute righteous judgment on those who had committed them. This was a design every way worthy the wisdom and goodness of God.

SOURCE: Elegant Extracts: or, useful and entertaining Passages in Prose, Selected for the Improvement of Young Persons, London, 1794, p. 229.


[14 July 2013]

A Story about Guinea

SHE seem'd to be a Woman of a good natural Judgment, and I took great Delight in her Conversation, and had she been White, I should have begg'd her of the King. One Day she entertain'd me with a Relation of the Justice of the King her Master: At the Extremity, said she, of his dominions, on an Isthmus, some Years ago, there stood a Town, the Inhabitants of which, by the Conflux of Europeans, of different Nations residing among them, had learnt their Vices, and particularl that detestable and unnatural one of Sodomy. It was then a large and populous Place, and the Trade thereof was of great Service to his Majesty's Subjects; buit he fearing that their unnatural Vices would communicate themselves to the other Parts of his Dominions, he commanded his Chief Captains to lead forth his Army, and to destroy the Inhabitants of that Place, [p.257] both Men, Women and Children. When she had ended, I said, I could not see the Justice of the Act, for according to her Ladyship's Relation, the Innocent as well as the Guilty suffer'd. True, said she, and I expected the Objection, but had the King proceeded to make such Inquiry, and to have separated, as you call it, the one from the other, he could not have compass'd his Design; the Ring-leaders, in such Case, could only have been punish'd, and that by Conviction of Evidence; and we have no Prisons, Judges, Lawyers, Gaolers, &c. here, as you have in Europe, and it were far better to destroy the Innocent of this Place, than purposely to erect Innovations, which in the very Nature of their Institution must introduce Oppression, and Tyranny, Destruction, Disease and Death. He did not tell them their Crime, nor for what he destroy'd them; but like a wise Physician he cut off the mortified Part of his Dominions to save the Whole. In the Punishment of so monstrous a Crime, continued her Ladyship, Justice and Prudence dictate that it were better to cut off many innocent Persons, than that one guilty should [p.258] escape: for had one Sodomite escap'd the general Slaughter of that Place, that one would have propagated the Crime, and that might have happen'd, if a Scrutiny had been made, in Order to have sav'd the Innocent. [p.259]

SOURCE: William Smith, A New Voyage to Guinea, Second Edition, London, 1745, pp. 257–259.


Modern Poets

MODERN POETRY is the very essence of all that is nonsensical – yet to these vapid productions, do we constantly see prefixed a bold and saucy falsehood, involving the hackneyed terms of beautiful – sublime – ernergetic, and elegant – If our diurnal prints continue to be thus prostituted, praise will be no longer significant of excellence – But as the public may not know the cause of this prostitution,, they shall – Most of these rhyming animals are persons of fortune, and the editors of the young papers imagine, if they suffer these Caesars – Arnes – Lauras – Auras – Cruseas and Fuscas, to puff themselves violently, they will naturally run about the metropolis to exhibit the self-written eulogiiums, and eventualy assist the publication, by extending its influence –
          I have ever considered such petty poeteens as Mr. PYE, Mr. COOPER, Mr. Hayley, Mr. UPTON, Mr. MERRY, and Mr. PRATT, as the male-mollies of Parnassus – A sort of men-milliners to the muses, who permit them to adorn their drapery with pretty little flowers, wash a chemise, and get up their small liner – at such harmless attentions, the ladies of Helicon smile; but when they want enjoyments more material, they resort to men.

SOURCE: The Eccentricities of John Edwin, Comedian, Collected from his Manuscripts, and enriched with Several Hundred Original Anecdotes. Arranged and Digested by Anthony Pasquin, Esq., Dublin, 1791, Vol. II, p. 309.


Buggery in Stone

It was unnatural Lust which brought down Vengeance upon Sodom and Gomorrah, who burning with Fire from Hell, the Almighty burnt them up with Fire from Heaven, and even in this last Age we find dreadful Instances of God's Wrath for that horrid Abomination. For in the Adventures of Mr. T. S. an English Merchant taken Prisoner by the Turks of Algiers, and carried into the Inland Countries of Africa, we find this wonderful Relation. That near Tezrim, a Town in that Country, in a Meadow, this Gentleman saw the perfect Statue of a Man Buggering his Ass; which was so lively, that at a little distance he thought it to be real, but when he came near, saw they were of perfect Stone; he enquired why the Moors or Arabs that naturally hate all Representations, should shew their Skill by making such beastly Figures, odious to Nature; he was informed tht ths was never made by Man, but that some Person had been turned into that Image with the Ass in the very Moment of the Act, by the mighty Power of God, the fleshly Substance of the Man and Ass being changed into firm Stone, as an eternal Reproach to Mankind. Upon further search he found the Stone to represent not only the perfect Shape, but also the Colour of eveery part of the Man and Beast, with the Sinews, Veins, Eyes, Mouth, in such a lively manner that no Artist could express it better; he endeavoured to move it, but the Company said, Some that had laboured to carry away that Monument of Man's shameful Lust, could never do it, but either their Persons or Cattle were struck dead in the attempt upon the place, Divine Justice not suffering them to be hid or destroy'd which was placed there for an Example; it being necessary that the Moors should have such signal Testimonies [p.143] of God's Displeasure always before their Eyes, who commit such filthy Actions more frequently than other Nations. This Gentleman was informed, That at there is a Prodigy of Divine Wrath, five Days Journey from that Town, amongst the Mountains of Gubel, more remarkable than this. Some English Merchants had the Curiosity to go thither, and protest that in the place aforesaid, their is a whole Town full of these Stones in the shape of all manner of Creatures belonging to a City, with Houses, Inhabitants, Beasts, Trees, Walls, and Rooms, distinctly formed: They entered the Houses, and found a Child in a Cradle of Stone, a Woman in a Bed of Stone, a Man at the Door looking Lice of Stone; Camels of several postures of Stone, Cats, Dogs, Mice, &c. of perfect Stone, and so well expressing the several Shapes, Posturs, and Passions, which the Inhabitants were seen at that time, that no Engrave could do the like. All our Merchants and Traders that have been in Tripoly, agree in the Confirmation thereof; the Moors report, That this Town was once very Populous and Fruitful, as may appear by the Trees of Stone of several sorts of Fruit planted round about it, and in the places that retain the forms of Gardens and Orchards; but the Inhabitants being given to all manner of Vice and beastly Lust, to the scandal of human Nature, God Almighty in a Moment stopped all their Actions, and turned their Bodies into firm Stone, that future Ages might see and learn to dread his Power. At Athens is a Stone, representing two Men buggering one another. I know not why we should doubt of these Relations, if we consider the Almighty power of God, who can change Things as it seems good to his Divine Wisdom: Or, if we consider the necessity of such notable Examples of God's Justice to perpetuate his Displeasure in this dreadful Mannere to future Ages, especially in this Country, where the People are [p.144] addicted to Villanies, which Nature abhors: They being like that of Lot's Wife, turned into a Pillar of Salt, which some ancient Historians affirm to have been remaining in their Days, many hundred Years after. (Adventures of T. S. p. 238.)
          To conclude, innumerable are the Examples in all Ages of divine Vengeance against those crying Sins of Cruelty, Murder, and lust, that Men might fear the Lod, because of the Judgments which he executeth. [p.145]

SOURCE: Robert Burton, Wonderful Prodigies of Judgment and Mercy, 8th edition, London, 1729, pp. 143&150;145.


[13 July 2013]

An Anecdote about Sheridan the Dramatist

Sheridan was passing along Charing Cross, when a man was standing in the pillory for sodomy; a carriage, containing a lady and her daughter, could not proceed from the pressure of the crowd; they perceived Mr Sheridan, whom they knew, – beckoned to him and asked what was the matter. Sheridan hesitated, – was pressed for an answer by the ladies, who pleaded the natural curiosity of women, – and at length said that he was put there for doing what he ought not to have done, and for not doing what he ought to have done.

SOURCE: Literary Anecdotes and Contemporary Reminiscences ... from the Manuscript Papers of the Late E. H. Barker Esq. of Thetford, Norfolk. London, 1852. Volume 1, p. 91.


"Women Mollies" (i.e. Lesbians)

V. The Reigning Devil; or, Hell upon Earth: Giving an Account of the Women Mollies, and whether the Clergy pour more Prayers than the Army do Curses, into the Ear of the Almighty.

BUT we come now to the reigning Devil, or Hell upon Earth, the Women Mollies, &c.

THIS may at first seem a Paradox; but those who understand the Nature of Things will not be surpriz'd at the Account, Digitus & Instrumentum Magnum [i.e., using the fingers rather than a penis], have been used in all Ages, and by even those who have pass'd for the most Virtuous; but these unnatural Practices are not only odious in their Nature, but exceeding sinful. For Instance: Should a Man be stock'd with a great Plenty of Provisons, and at the same Time seeing others in Want and Necessity, cast his Meat into a common Shore, where it neither is of Use to him or others, should we not arraign such a Person as inexcusable and extravagant? Why, the Case is the very same, and Hundreds are so much in want of, &c. that they are ready to run mad for it.

SOURCE: The Case Between the Proprietors of News-Papers, and The Coffee-Men of London and Westminster, fairly Stated, London, 1729, pp. 21–22.


A Proposal for Branding

Could a method be fallen on for more effectually punishing robbery and theft than by death, it would certainly be doing a real service to this flourishing kingdom, this magnificent and great metropolis: Let the malefactor be confined to hard labour in that particular branch wherein he was trained,, and if of no trade, let him be sent to one of the remotest places in this extensive empire; let the initial letter of his crime [be] stamped upon his forehead, such as F for forgery, R for robbery, S for sodomy and T for theft. Such glaring marks of infamy cannot fail to awaken the most callous and obdurate, and answer the end of the law and even of punishment which is salutary and medicinal, no less than death itself; as Caesar very nobly expresses himself before the senate of Rome: "The generality of mankind are affectedwith the last scenes, and even with respect to the most execrable of mortals, they are apt to condemn the Judge for pronouncing sentence, but forget the crime whereof the guilty was convicted."

SOURCE: An Account of John Weskett, Late Porter To the Right Honourable The Earl of Harrington, in which is laid down An Effectual Method For preventing theft and Robbery, London, 1764, pp. 19–20.


A Ducking

Tuesday evening two men went into a Public-house near Tombland Church, and being in a room by themselves were deteced in attempting to commit a detestable crime; one of these wretches made his escape, but the populace soon assembled about the door, amongst whom were a great number of women, they seized the other culprit, and hauled him to the common pump, where he underwent a severe discipline and ducking; after his promising never to be guilty of the like unnatural behaviour in future, they suffered him to depart without further punishment.

SOURCE: An undated and unidentified newspaper report pasted into a collection of tracts at the British Library, Shelfmark CUP.363.GG.31.


An Incident in Tunbridge Wells

A gentleman, with one servant, having called at the Angel Inn, at Tunbridge, in his way to Lewes, where he was going to take a survey of part of an estate of which he lately became possest in right of his wife, was observed to be particularly attentive to a young lad, the nephew of the landlord, whom he enticed, when he went to bed, to sleep with him. This being discovered by the family, they suddenly rushed into the room, and rescued the boy from a situation which justified their taking the gentleman into custody. After a short examination before two of his Majestyís justices of peace, he was by them bound over to appear at the next assizes, himself in 100l. and his two sureties in 500l. each.

SOURCE: An unidentified newspaper report, with the handwritten date January 1785, pasted into a collection of tracts at the British Library, Shelfmark CUP.363.GG.31.


An Assembly of Sodomites

November 6.
A few nights since, by means of an information, was discovered an assembly of a most extraordinary nature, namely, in a small room behind a barberís shop were packed together no less than eighteen men, all of different stations in life, and collected together from the most distant parts of the town. They were immediately taken into custody, and carried before John Fielding and Saunders Welch, Esqrs. in Bow-street, and after an examination, which lasted till near two in the morning, it clearly appearing that the abominable cause of this meeting was no other than to commit sodomitical practices, and oath being then made of the fact by two of this horrid company, they were all directly sent to New-Prison, and orders were given for prosecuting them at the expence of the Crown.

SOURCE: An unidentified journal, no year date given, pasted into a collection of tracts at the British Library, Shelfmark CUP.363.GG.31.


CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Bits and Pieces," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/bits.htm>.


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