Molly Exalted


In October 1762, a man named Shann, the 60-year-old master of a china shop, was convicted of attempted sodomy and sentenced to stand in the pillory, near the conduit on Cheapside. The printseller Thomas Ewart, who had a shop in the Strand near Charing Cross, saw an opportunity and on 9 October he had published a broadside ballad designed to be sold to the spectators, called This is not the Thing: Or, Molly Exalted. However, on the day appointed for Shann to stand in the pillory, 18 October, ‘many idle people attended, who met with disappointment’, because the pillory was empty. This was because Shann, fearing for his life after the treatment given to Lowther, had appealed to have his sentence changed to transportation for life, and it was believed this would be granted. But after some consideration, his appeal was not granted, and at noon on 3 November, Shann was finally put in the pillory, at the upper end of Cheapside. He had friends who tried to protect him, with some success initially, but then things got out of hand, as reported below.
            The nineteenth-century collector Edward Hawkins collected the only extant copy of the ballad, and in his handwriting on this copy he referred to a sodomite killed in the pillory in Stratford in April 1763 (see Newsreports for 1763). Hawkins mistakenly thought the ballad was published in 1763 and referred to the 1763 incident. The broadside ballad was exhibited in the British Library's "London 1753" exhibition in 2003, and although the catalogue entry points out that it was published in October 1762, it mistakenly identifies the incident with an incident in October 1761 when a sodomite was brutally beaten while in the Cheapside pillory (see Newsreports for 1761). The following newspaper reports make it clear that the ballad concerns the sodomite Shann in October 1762.

Saturday, 9 October 1762

This Day is published, Price 6d.

     Nor Knave, nor Fool, but, from unlucky Time,
     Slides into Verse, and hitches in a Rhime.    Pope.

To be had of T. Ewart, at the Beehive in the Strand, and of all the Printsellers in Great Britain and Ireland.
               (Public Advertiser)

14-16 October 1762

Postscript. On Monday next Mr. Shann, some Time since convicted of an Attempt to commit a detestable Crime, will stand on the Pillory near the Conduit in Cheapside. (St. James's Chronicle)

15-18 October 1762

Postscript [18 October]. The fellow for an attempt of a most atrocious nature did not stand in the pillory in Cheapside this day, as mentioned in a morning paper; many idle people attended, who met with disappointment. (Lloyd's Evening Post)

18-20 October 1762

Postscript [20 October]. We are informed that the person who was to have stood in the pillory for an atrocious crime, has petitioned to be transported for life, which it is said will be granted. (Lloyd's Evening Post)

2-4 November 1762

A Number of Butchers Boys being collected together, placed themselves round the Pillory, and began to pelt the Populace, in order to draw their Attention from the Prisoner, which had its desired Effect at first, for they ran from the Boys; but, being reinforced, they returned, and fell with such Fury on the Butchers, that they were obliged to retreat. The Populace then fell upon the Wretch in the Pillory, tore off his Coat, Waistcoat, Shirt, Hat, Wig, and Breeches, and then pelted and whipped him in a most severe Manner. He was once pulled off the Pillory, but hung by his Arms till he was set up once again, and stood in that naked Condition, covered with Mud, till the Hour was out, when he was conducted back to Newgate. (St James's Chronicle)

The ballad is printed on a single sheet of paper, at the top of which is an illustration showing the molly standing in the pillory, surrounded by a mob preparing to throw rubbish at him. The women have speech-balloons with the following words: "Flogg him." "Here's a fair Mark." "Cut it off." "Shave him close." A woman with a basket of pears says "Take This Buggume Pear." The molly is depicted as saying: "I am now in the Hole, indeed come all in my Friends." He is referring to the uppermost hole in the pillory through which he pokes his head, but there is of course a pun upon the lowermost "hole," and, later in the poem, a pun upon "backward," i.e. the backside or buttocks. Every quatrain ends with the emphasized word "Right," which may be a topical pun upon someone's name (i.e. Wright). I don't know if it's a direct influence, but the Epilogue to Arthur Murphy's play All in the Wrong, which opened at Drury Lane on 15 June 1761, has refrain ending "... all in the wrong" except for the last repeat of the refrain, which changes to: "And our note we will change to 'You're all in the right.'"

Rictor Norton

This is not the THING:



Tune, Ye Commons and Peers.

Ye Reversers of Nature, each dear little Creature,
Of soft and effeminate sight,
See above what your fate is, and 'ere it too late is,
Oh, learn to be—all in the Right.
Tol de rol.

On the FAIR of our Isle see the Graces all smile,
All our Cares in this Life to requite;
But such Wretches as You, Nature's Laws wou'd undo,
For you're backward—and not in the Right.
Tol de rol.

Can't Beauty's soft Eye, which with Phoebus may vie,
Can't her rosy Lips yield ye Delight?
No:—they all afford sweets, which each Man of Sense meets,
But not You,—for you're not in the Right.
Tol de rol.

Where's the tender Connection, the Love and Protection,
Which proceed from the conjugal Rite?
Did you once but know this, sure you'd ne'er do amiss,
But wou'd always be—all in the Right.
Tol de rol.

The Sov'reign of All, who created this Ball,
Ordain'd that each Sex should unite;
Ordain'd the soft Kiss, and more permanent Bliss,
That All might be—all in the Right.
Tol de rol.

But a Race so detested, of Honour divested,
The Daughters of Britain invite,
Whom they leave in the Lurch, to well flog 'em with Birch;
Shou'd they slay 'em they're—all in the Right.
Tol de rol.

Press ye Sailors, persist, come ye Soldiers, inlist,
By Land or by Sea make 'em fight,
And then let France and Spain, call their Men home again,
And send out their Wives—to be Right.
Tol de rol.

Now tho' many good men, have so frolicksome been,
Our Pity and Mirth to excite,
Yet may these worthy Souls have the uppermost Holes
In the Pillory;—all is but Right.
Tol de rol. &c.

To be had at the Bee-Hive, Strand, and at all the Print and Pamphlet Shops in Great Britain and Ireland.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Molly Exalted, 1762", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 7 February 2002; updated 26 June 2008 <>.

Return to Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England