The State of Rome,
under Nero and Domitian

NOTE: The following poem (from which I have reproduced excerpts) was prompted by a homosexual scandal at Wadham College, Oxford, in 1737. Rev. Robert Thistlethwayte, Warden of Wadham, was accused of making sexual advances to his student William French; Thistlethwayte fled the country and settled in Boulogne. French’s tutor, Rev. John Swinton, was accused of regularly practising sodomy, and very explicit details about his sex life were published in A Faithful Narrative of the Proceedings in a Late Affair between The Rev. Mr. John Swinton, and Mr. George Baker (1739). Swinton sued Baker for libel, but lost the case. Nevertheless, he braved out the scandal, and eventually became keeper of the University archives, and he became famous as a scholar on Asian, Etruscan and Arabic subjects. Many other satirical poems were published about the affair, some of which I have reproduced in scholarly publications.

When T[histlethway]te both Sexes acts before
A vile Indorser, and behind a Whore
And ’twixt the Males of [Wadham], Scenes are past,
Which makes old D—’s leud Nocturnals chaste.
     Say Rev. S[winto]n what detested Clime,
Taught Lectrum’s learn’d Sons so dire a Crime?
Thro’ what curst Cause do these Distempers Rage?
What, Why the base corrupt corrupting Age;
No liberal Science finds the least Support,
No social Virtue meets one Friend at Court;
No Profice rises from the licens’d Stage,
No License granted to the Truth-fraught Page;
None rais’d, none lov’d, but He who loves the Times,
Who’s skill’d in dark Intrigues, and plung’d in Crimes, [lines 83-96, p. 7]
Virtue and Knowledge all, aloud, deride,
Learning and Wit’s industriously decry’d;

No Bounty felt but what the Great advance
To glut the Scum of Italy, and France. [lines 97-100, p. 8]
     Here Sporus live — and once more feel my Rage,
Once and again I drag thee on the Stage;
Male-female Thing, without one Virtue made,
Fit only for the Pathicks loathsome Trade:
Feeble and weak in all that’s good and right,
And only strong in Impudence and Spite.
What tho’ by Blood thou strut’st a gaudy Peer?
What tho’ thou nestlest’s [sic] in thy Master’s Ear?
No Ill Man’s happy — least of all are they
Whose Study’s to corrupt, revile, betray. [lines 124-33, p. 9]

SOURCE: The State of Rome, under Nero and Domitian: A Satire, By Messrs. Juvenal and Persius, London: Printed for C. Corbett, Bookseller and Publisher, at Addison’s-Head in Fleet-street, 1739.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The State of Rome, 1739," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 5 June 2004 <>.

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