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

Newspaper Reports, 1798–1799

HIGHLIGHTS: The one-armed seller of indecent prints; a clergyman libels various gentlemen as sodomites.

Thursday 11 January 1798

The defendant is the noted one-armed Printseller at Privy Garden Wall, and was tried for selling indecent prints. The case was fully proved by a young Gentleman; from whence it appeared that the hoary offender, with unparalleled atrocity, attempted to pollute the youthful mind of the prosecutor, and to defile even Holy Writ, by tendering him a Prayer-Book, and therein exhibiting those baneful productions of vice, asking him in ridicule, which he would prefer – the book or the prints?
          The Court were horror-struck at the whole of the narrative, and finding that the wretched culprit had been already in the pillory for an unnatural crime, now sentenced him to two years solitary imprisonment in the House of Correction. (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette) (
For a later offence, see News Reports for October 1802.)

Saturday 27 January 1798

Saturday last Wm. Gillingwater, of Beccles, yeoman, was committed to our New Goal, by Sir Edmund Bacon, Bart. and Robert Sparrow, Esq. charged on the oath of Jonathan Balls, the younger, of Bungay, Bricklayer, with committing sodomy on the body of him the said Jonathan Balls. (Ipswich Journal)

Saturday 27 January 1798

Wednesday morning, agreeable to his sentence, a foremast-man was hung at the yard-arm, on board the Adamant, at Yarmouth, for unnatural crimes. All the boats in the fleet attended upon this occasion, each having two marines. (Ipswich Journal)

Saturday 17 February 1798

Wednesday last Geo. Jackson was committed to Bury goal by Lord Viscount Brome, Sir Thos. G. Cutham, Bart. and the Rev. Dr. Ord, charged with committing, or attempting to commit, an unnatural offence with a boy about 11 years of age. (Ipswich Journal)

Thursday 1 March 1798

At the adjournment of Bristol Quarter-Sessions the following prisoners received their sentence, viz. Samuel Clark, for stealing lead, to be transported for seven years. Thomas Bubry Gribble, aged 66 years, for an unnatural crime, to stand in the pillory for one hour, and to be imprisoned twelve months in Bridewell. (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette)

Thursday 26 April 1798

At the adjourned quarter-sessions for this city [Bath], on Monday, Stephen Taylor, a servant, was convicted of an unnatural attempt on a boy, and sentenced to one year's solitary confirnment, and afterwards to enter into recognizance, himself in 50l. and two sureties in 25l. each, for his future good behaviour. (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette)

Friday 27 April 1798

Yesterday a true bill was found by the Grand Jury for the county of Middlesex, against Lieut. Colonel Dawson, for an unnatural crime; and another is found against a soldier of the name of Hall, for the same offence. – They were detected in a centinel's box near the Pay-office. (Chester Chronicle)

Thursday 14 June 1798

Friday in the Court of King's-Bench, rule was granted, on the motion of Mr. Erskine, for the Rev. Mr. Scott, to shew cause why a criminal information should not be filed against him, for sending several anonymous letters to persons in the county of Salop, containing the grossest abuse, and threatening to charge them with unnatural crimes, &c. (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette)

Friday 15 June 1798

London, June 9.
Law intelligence. – . . . Mr. Erskine moved for a criminal information against the Reverend Mr. Scott, a clergyman, of the county of Salop, for writing an anonymous and libellous letter to a Gentleman of fortune and character in that county. The letter concluded with accusing his client with unnatural practices. – A rule to shew cause was granted.
          Mr. Lane and Mr. Leicester moved for two other informations against the same person for similar offences; and against two other clergymen – one of whom he likewise charged with a criminal connection with a woman of the town. (Chester Chronicle)

Saturday 16 June 1798

Mr. Erskine moved for a rule to shew cause why a criminal information should not be filed against the Rev. Mr. Scott, who is Rector of a parish situated in the county of Salop. The prosecutor in this case, who complained of a libel, is a Gentleman of high rank, of very large fortune, and many years one of the magistrates for the county. In consequence of the circular letter lately sent to the Lord Lieutenants of the different counties for the purpose of putting the country in a state of defence against invasion, a meeting was held on the 5th of May, at which the prosecutor took the lead; and on the 7th of the same month he received the letter which constituted the libel he complained of. It appeared most evidence from the letter, that it connected itself with the part which the Gentleman who prosecutes, took on that occasion. Men might entertain different opinions with respecdt to the best mode of serving their country; but one would really hope, for the honor of human nature, that no man existing could possibly have conducted himself as this clergyman had done. That it should happen to any man, and particularly to a man of liberal eduction, (and Mr. Scott must, from his situation, be a man of liberal eduction), but above all that such a letter should have been written by a Minister of the Christian religion, was certainly very melancholy indeed. It appeared that this Mr. Scott had been in the course of writing anonymous letters, disguising his hand; but, like some other persons who made such nefarious attempts, not doing it with perfect success, so that suspicion fell on him as being the author of letters written to different persons in that neighbourhood. In consequence of that a watch was set on him for the purpose of detecting him. Application was made to the Managing Clerks of the Post-Office, for the purpose of so arranging the letter-box in which the letters were to be put, that it might be seen whether he was the author of the detestable libel which he should afterwards read. Accordingly Mr. Scott was watched in the streeet near the Post-office, when notice was given to the Managing Clerks, who made the affidavits that they lay before him. The letters were put aside in order to receive the post mark, and the box was left entirely empty, in order tht that worthy Clergyman might find himself in the wrong box when he came to deliver that most scoundrelly letter. the coast being clear, he went and dropped them, two in number, into the place where they were to be received, and immediately the box was opened. Mr. E. said, when he read the first part of this letter, he confessed he was rather sorry that it was to be made the subject of complaint in a Court of Justice. But when he read the conclusion of it, it excited his surprise and astonishment.
          After Mr. E. had read the first part of the letter, which consiste of coarse language, and of low ribaldry and abuse, he asked the Court what they would think when he informed them that he could proceed in it no farther? The language of it was too gross for the ear of a Court of Justice. The remainder of the letter consisted but of two lines, and charged the Prosecutor with being guilty of an attempt to commit an unnatural crime with an individual who was named in it. Such a letter would admit of no commentary. It was shocking to humanity. The Prosecutor's character was too well known in the country to stand in need of any observations from him. He had made an affidavit that there was not the smallest foundation for the charge.
          Lord Kenyon. – The Prosecutor is certainly known to the Court, and one would think that he is as unlikely to be impeached in his character, as any man in England. Take a rule to shew cause, – Rule granted.
          Mr. Lane made a similar motion against Mr. Scott, for sending an anonymous letter, (the other letter which was put into the post-office) to a dignified clergyman in that part of the country, accusing him among other things, of having been detected in criminal conversation with a woman of the town, and charging also one of his near relations with felony. – Rule granted.
          Mr. Leicester moved for a third information against this Rev. Gentleman, for sending an anonymous letter to his client, stating that he had, in repeated instances, been guilty of an unnatural crime, and stating the name of the gentleman with whom it was committed. The letter also stated, that some time ago the Prosecutor had paid 100l. hush money. This letter was not found in the post-office. It was written so long ago as January last, and was only lately discovered to be of Mr. Scott's hand-writing, in consequence of his two letters that were detected at the post-office. – Rule granted. (Staffordshire Advertiser)

Saturday 11 August 1798

At Durham Assizes, . . . Samuel Youell [sic], for an assault, with an intent to commit an unnatural crime, was sentenced to two years imprisonment, and during that time to be kept to hard labour, and as much as possible from all intercourse with the human species; . . . (Newcastle Courant)

Saturday 18 August 1798

At Bury, . . . George Jackson, convicted of an unnatural attempt, was ordered to be imprisoned two years. (Oxford Journal)

Saturday 5 September 1798

Wednesday John Southwell and John Smith, were committed to our goal by Thomas Carthew, clerk, Francis Brooke, Esq. and Richard Frank, clerk, on the oaths of John Webb, John Reynolds, and Dan. Smith, privates in the 3d regiment of dragoons, with committing the unnatural and detestable crime of sodomy. The former was postmaster of Saxmundham, and the latter a soldier in the above regiment. (Ipswich Journal)

Wednesday 10 April 1799

At Union Hall, on Tuesday last, an itinerant Methodist Preacher, was examined and fully committed to take his trial at the next Assizes for the county of Surrey, for assaulting —— Ruthven, a boy of eight years, with intent to commit an unnatural crime; the particulars of which are of too gross a nature to detail. (Hereford Journal)

Friday 2 August 1799

At Canterbury, . . . J. Gee and E. Maddox, convicted of attempting to commit an unnatural offence, were sentenced to two years solitary imprisonment. T. Bowles and B. Collier, sentenced to be hanged for the commission of such offence, were respited. (Stamford Mercury)

Saturday 3 August 1799

Thomas Bowles and Richard Collier (the latter a very young lad) who were sentenced to death for the commission of an unnatural crime, have been since respited. – Joshua Gee and Edward Maddox, both very young men, who were found guilty at the same Assizes [in Canterbury], of attempting to commit an unnatural crime, were sentenced to two years' solitary imprisonment. (Oxford Journal)

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1798–99", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 18 October 2014 <>.

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