Image of two men kissingHomosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook compiled by Rictor Norton

The Trial of Peter Vivian


Peter Vivian, for attempting Sodomy. Sept. 1730.

PETER VIVIAN, was indicted for a Misdemeanor, in assaulting John Brailsford, with an intent to commit the detestable Sin of Sodomy.

John Brailsford. I was going thro' Pope's-Head-Alley in Cornhill, and stopt to make Water. The Prisoner came up to me, set his foot upon mine, caught hold of my Privities, and clap'd my hand to his. I presently seized him, and told him, I would pull his off. Immediately another came to his Rescue, but I clap'd hold of him too, but not being able to hold them both, the Prisoner got away, and ran into the Post-Office Yard. He stumbled at the step going in, and so he was taken again, and he and his Comrade were carried into an Ale-house, but his Comrade jump'd out of the Window and escaped. The Prisoner desired us to let him go, for he said he had suffer'd enough in having his Shirt and Ruffles torn.

William Prior. I was with the Prosecutor, but he standing up to make Water, I walked a little before. He call'd me to his Assistance and we took the Prisoner and his Comrade andcarried them to an Ale-house. The Prisoner was very Solicitous to be let go, crying often, My dear, My dear, First time, First time. And he made several Offers to kiss the Prosecutor.

The Prisoner call'd one Witness to his Character.

William Day. The Prisoner is a Peruke-maker. I employ'd him as a Journey-man, and while he was in my Service, which was about a Month, he behaved himself honestly. When he came first to my House, he was but just come from Holland.

The Jury found him Guilty, and he was Sentenced to stand once in the Pillory at the Royal-Exchange, to suffer one Month's Imprisonment, and to pay a Fine of 5 Marks.

SOURCE: Select Trials, for Murders, Robberies, Rapes, Sodomy, Coining, Frauds, And other Offences, London: Printed for J. Wilford, behind the Chapter-House, in St. Paul's Church'Yard, 1735, vol. 2, p. 378.

NOTE: It is probable that Peter Vivian was a refugee (his actual first name would have been Pieter) from the purge on homosexuals in Holland in 1730, as he would have arrived in England not long after 21 July 1730, the date that the States of Holland issued a Placat, posted in every town, that set off wide-scale persecution. Sodomy was to be punished by death, and those who offered their homes for its commission were also to die, and their corpses to be burned to ashes and thrown into the sea "or exposed as unworthy of burial", that the names of the convicted — including the fugitives — would be publicly posted. Some 250 men were summoned before the authorities; 91 faced decrees of exile for not appearing. At least 60 men were sentenced to death.

Rictor Norton

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Trial of Peter Vivian," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. Updated 8 September 2000 <>.

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