The Plague of Effeminacy


If we do but take the Trouble of looking into human Life a little, we may observe some Characters of a peculiar Cast, who are so obnoxious in their Natures, that, upon being once acquainted with their Vices, the manly Bosom shudders, even at the Thoughts of such unnatural Appetites, much more the contemptible Means of putting them in Practice; which are, indeed, so monstrous and indecent, that I should look upon it as defiling my Paper, to give a literal Description of it; but the Judgment of the Reader will as easily conceive what is meant, when I tell him it is too shocking and unnatural to describe. I am sorry [p. 10] to say, that in England there are as many of this abominable Sect, as any where in the World. Besides several Clubs and Assemblies of these Wretches that are publickly known, there are many private Ones, where Effeminacy revels in all its Impurity of filthy Vice and detestable Practices: Nor is there a public Place, but something of this Nature shews itself with the most shocking Aspect. We may often observe the sudden Transition of a smooth-faced young Fellow, who but just before was Servant to the same noble Personage who has now made him his Companion; and what Reason, can one think, would induce a Man of Quality to so much Condescension as to prefer the Company of a Rascal, who the other Day used to ride behind his Coach in the Character of a Footman?

Nor does Effeminacy, wherevere it governs the Monster, who possesses a plentiful Fortune, stop at the most absurd and inconsistent Actions. The He-Minion of a certain Nobleman, before now, has [p. 11] been sometimes in the Character of a modern Belle, at others in that of a rural Maiden, and very often in a loose Morning-Dress, in Imitation of a Lady of Pleasure; but what appears the most horrible and detestable to human Nature is the Sham Lying-in, where the Lady-looking Gentleman is brought to Bed with all the Formality of a real Labour; the Spouse of the fair-faced Incubus affects as great Care and Concern at the feigned Pangs of his Beloved, as if it was the real Wife of his Bosom; the He-Midwife is no less assiduous in his Part, the Male Nurse is likewise making great Preparations,, while the Gentlemen Gossips are all in full Employ, and lending their Assistance to the screaming Minion.

Can any thing in the World equal the ridiculous Absurdity of such a Scene? What End can it produce, or what Satisfaction can be reaped from an Affair of this kind. But it is impossible for any one, but of the same Stamp, to entertain the least Idea of any Pleasure that can [p. 12] derive itself from such mean and filthy Practices: Nay, so opposite is the noble and manly Nature to that of the effeminate Kind, that some Men would never believe there were such Creatures upon Earth, and perhaps would have still persisted in their Incredulity, had not Time and incontestable Instances demonstrated to the contrary.

But we shall not pretend to confine this Vice to any particular Rank, for within these few Years it has shewn its frightful Aspect among all Sorts of People. Grave Citizens and Tradesmen have been found guilty of it, and others of that Denomination are still known to be so; and it is not only confined to the Laity, but the solemn Order of the Gown has been, at Times, dishonoured. But it is to be hoped, that those Few, whose Natures were to vile to appear under that Sanction, cannot reflect their Scandal upon the Whole; yet the lower Sort of People are always glad of one Example, and by that Means [p. 13] would find an Opportunity, if they could, to condemn the rest.

But among the Dissenters there are seveal Instances of this Vice, even in their pious Pastors, not forgetting the reverend Gentleman, who some Time ago made an Attempt of this Nature, in his own Meeting [i.e. meeting-house], with a pious young Lamb of his own Flock; and the grave and worthy Person, who was expelled, by his Congregation, near Lincoln's-Inn-Fields; but yet even these known Proofs are not sufficient to cast a Scandal on the rest of that Fraternity, for undoubtedly there are a great many good People among them.

The inferior Sort of People, who are given to this filthy Vice, have been found in the Fact in open Streets, Lanes, Alleys, and empty Houses, Houses of Office, or any other Places most convenient for their wicked Purposes; but such is the Nature of this shocking Crime, that it requires the Mantle of Night, as it is too monstrous to appear in the Face of Day. [p. 14]

SOURCE: The Ten Plagues of England, By a Well-wisher to Great-Britain. London: Printed for R. Withy and Co. Book and Printsellers, at Hogarth's Head, opposite Salisbury-Court, Fleet-Street, 1757; pages 10-14 (a complete chapter).

NOTES: It is interesting that "effeminacy" by this date no longer just connotes homosexuality, but denotes homosexuality. The other "plagues" include luxury, gaming, love of novelty, hypocrisy, drunkenness, avarice and usury, pride and idleness. The reference to 'pastors' is a reference to Reverend Charles Bradbury, pastor of Glover's Hall meeting-house in Beech Lane, who was tried in September 1755 for seducing one of the young men who came to hear him speak, James Hearne. The event was a notorious scandal and provoked a lot of comment. However, the evidence was not strong enough to prove the case against him, and he was acquitted.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Plague of Effeminacy, 1757", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 26 February 2003 <>.

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