The Conspirators; or,
The Case of Catiline

Part I, 1721

ONE of the Methods of Stupefaction, which they thought fit to practice, was the exhibiting new and extravagant Entertainments. For this End, foreign Strolers, Songsters, and Buffoons, were sent for and invited to settle in Rome. These artists, the Generality of whom had submitted to Eunuchism for the Benefit of a Voice, were hired and supported at the most extravagant Charge: Some of them having Pensions equal to the Pay of a Praetor, or General of the Legions: They had their Litters and their Slaves, their Baths and their Perfumes, and the Privilege of an intimate Access to the greatest Man in Rome; when an honest Citizen, who had any Grievance to complain of, might attend without Redress, or so much as being admitted to an Audience. The voluntary Contributions, which were made towards the supporting these Creatures in State, were very large, and their Shews and Spectacles were govern’d and order’d by a Set of vain PATRICIANS then in Power, who took Care that no Representation should be exhibited to the People, but such as incited effeminate Passions and soft Desires: To the End that Vice and Indolence might steal into their Souls imperceptibly, and they might be so overcome by the Charms of Luxury, as not to be awake either to their Virtue or Danger.

     THIS Extravagance of Diversion was secoded by another, as expensive, but more profligate [p. 19] and licentious in its Nature. A Diversion, that gave so great an Umbrage to publick Scandal, that tho’ the People of the first Character zealously espous’d it, the Pontifex Maximus, or HIGH PRIEST, was oblig’d in Decency to make some Representations against it, tho’ he had afterwards the Honesty to make One, as it was too generally suspected, in this notorious Conspiracy. This Entertainment, of which I am now speaking, was of a kind unknown before to the Romans: A Midnight Revel, where both Sexes met in strange Di[s]guises; such as Centaurs, Satyrs, Sylvans, and the like; and convers’d with the utmost Freedom, without being suppos’d to know each other’s Sex or Quality. The whole Stream of the People fell into this tempting Debauchery; neither Years, nor Wisdom, nor Reason, restrain’d them from indulging in a Pleasure that promis’d such a Variety of Satisfaction. For, as Nicolause de Clemangis describes it, ... Not only the giddy Youth, but Persons advanc’d in years, were so intangled in these juvenile Vices, that the Day was not sufficient for their Luxury and Dissoluteness, but they often past whole Nights without Sleep in Dancing and Gaming. The Men forgetting the Dignity of their Sex, and sunk into a Womanish Softness, like that Sex, were dress’d [p. 20] and adorn’d at the Looking-glass, and went out glittering with a Weight of Gold and Jewels; the Women, on the other Hand, relinquishing their natural Modesty, put on an Affectation of Masculine Assurance. CICERO, whose Voice was of such Authority in other Cases, prevail’d nothing against the Violence of their Affection to these Sports; he could not discountenance these unseasonable Riotings, tho’ he declar’d in open Senate that Dancing was but the Shadow of Luxury; meaning, as a Learned Man has been pleas’d to interpret him, that as there is no Shadow without a Substance to cause it, so there can be no Dancings without a Foundation of Luxury. ...

     IT was supposed by the graver Sort at first, that this was a Contrivance only for Cabals and Plotting; but, in effect, it was intended for the Propagation of Lewdness, and to work their more remote Designs by poisoning the State with a general Taint of Debauchery. For now, by the Industry of these Governours, all the Vices of Asia were improv’d at Rome.

     AND this Sort of Policy work’d a very notable Effect in Favour of their Cause; for the People being as it were stupified with Shews, Feasts, Vanity, Luxury, and every Branch of Effeminacy, had not Leisure to think of, or look into, their Condition, to examine the intricate Administration of their Governors, or see the Tyranny and Ruin that was stealing over them: [p. 21] So that they were undone before they knew it; they wak’d as it were from a Golden Dream, and found themselves in the utmost Danger of being destroy’d. [p. 22]


Lucius Sergius Cataline: HE married several times, but chiefly, as People suspected, for the Convenience of strengthening himself by Alliances with Great Men, rather than out of any Affection for the Ladies. [p. 24] For if we may believe some Authors, he had a most unnatural Tast in his Gallantries: And in those Hours when he gave a Loose to Love, the Women were wholly excluded from his embraces. Omitto pestis hujus impurissimas Voces, mollitiem scenicam, obtuitus impudicos, blanditias muliebres, & omnem denique copiam non mediocrium vitiorum, &c. (Porcius Latro in Declam. contra a Catalinam). There are some Vices, which give too gross Ideas, to be repeated by the Names that are affix’d to them. ‘Tis certain, however odd and unnatural his Lewdness was, (yet it was a notorious Practise among some great Men of that Age) and some of his Ganymedes were pamper’d and supported at a high Rate at his Expence; and this Profuseness, excepting only in Briberies, was the kind in which he most indulg’d himself. [p. 25]


SOURCE: Britannicus [i.e. Thomas Gordon], The Conspirators; or, The Case of Catiline, London: Printed for J. Roberts, near the Oxford Arms in Warwick-Lane, 1721.

NOTES: The author is the radical journalist Thomas Gordon. The work is sarcastically addressed ‘To The Right Honourable The Earl of S---------D." (p. iii). This is Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland, who as Lord of the Treasury was largely responsible for the South Sea Bubble crisis that nearly destroyed the British economy in the early 1720s. The "conspirators" are the members of the South Sea Company in the government directed by Sunderland. See also Part II.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Conspirators, Part I, 1721", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 1 March 2003, updated 16 June 2008 <>.

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