The Trial of John Dicks, and other True Stories
March 3, 2005 3:45 PM   Subscribe

Homosexuality in 18th Century England :: an amazing compilation of primary source material from newspaper reports and other sources.
posted by anastasiav (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

1730: The Trial of Holiwell and Huggins (for having sex together in St Paul's Cathedral)

marvelous stuff, anastasia, thanks
posted by matteo at 4:06 PM on March 3, 2005

Very timely, what with da schism. I for one am sick of this homophobic nonsense being a constitutional issue in my country. Go disestablishmentarianism!
posted by Pretty_Generic at 4:10 PM on March 3, 2005

wonderful--sad with glimmers of love and defiance.

So I takes a Turn that way, and leans over the Wall. In a little Time the Prisoner passes by; and looks hard at me, and at a small Distance from me, stands up against the Wall, as if he was going to make Water. Then by Degrees he sidles nearer and nearer to where I stood, 'till at last he comes close to me. — 'Tis a very fine Night, says he. Aye, says I, and so it is. Then he takes me by the Hand, and after squeezing and playing with it a little (to which I showed no dislike) he conveys it to his Breeches, and puts —— into it. I took fast hold and call'd out to Willis and Stevenson, who coming up to my assistance, we carried him to the Watch house. I have seen him before at the house of Thomas Wright.

WILLIS: We asked the Prisoner why he took such indecent Liberties with Newton, and he was not ashamed to answer, I did it because I thought I knew him, and I think there is no Crime in making what use I please of my own Body.

posted by amberglow at 4:16 PM on March 3, 2005

What a bunch of drama queens. In Old English, no less.

Great stuff, anastasiav.
posted by graventy at 6:15 PM on March 3, 2005

Thanks anastasiav. That was all pretty enlightening, a great post. There are so many untold stories buried in old court records, the Dutch Purge of Homosexuals 1730 was definitely a new one on me.
posted by marxchivist at 6:34 PM on March 3, 2005

macaroni = a mincing fag???!!

How interesting. And now I know what the words to that song mean...

"Hence, when Yankee Doodle ‘stuck a feather in his cap, and called it macaroni’, it was the entire cap, not just the feather, that constituted a ‘macaroni’, and which symbolized him as a Dandy and a bit of a buffoon."
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:42 PM on March 3, 2005

The attempt to suppress vice actually may have facilitated the expression of the sexuality of many gay men who otherwise may have thought they were alone in their tastes and who otherwise lacked the courage to seek partners or had no knowledge of where they could be found. And the pressure of persecution may have persuaded gay men that it would be in their interest to form associations to meet in less public places. Self-preservation is a powerful impetus to the consolidation of a subculture.

Excellent read, many thanks for posting it!
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:19 AM on March 4, 2005

Just getting a chance to look at this-- fantastic post. Thank you.
posted by jokeefe at 1:07 AM on March 4, 2005

Just to put this in a wider context: Rictor Norton is a leading opponent of the 'social constructionist' theory of homosexuality associated with Foucault and others (which, crudely summarised, sees the concept of homosexuality as having been invented in the nineteenth century). The source material collected on these pages is intended to show that there was a thriving gay culture in eighteenth-century England, and that even at that time, many individuals identified themselves as homosexual by nature. If true, this would effectively demolish the social constructionist case, which holds that while people in the eighteenth century might have performed homosexual acts, they could not have thought of themselves as having a homosexual identity.

I don't find all of Norton's arguments equally convincing. For example, I find it hard to believe that homosexual clubs like Mother Clap's Molly House were 'nothing out of the ordinary' in eighteenth-century London. But he has collected an astonishing amount of material, which has certainly undermined a lot of my previous assumptions about the social construction of sexuality. In particular, it is clear that there was far more public discussion of homosexuality than I had ever realised. The 'unmentionable vice' was plainly anything but. And although I would still hesitate to speak of a 'gay subculture' in eighteenth-century London, I can't easily dismiss the weight of evidence presented here.

Thank you, anastasiav, for providing so much food for thought. Excellent post!
posted by verstegan at 3:25 AM on March 4, 2005

This is very good. I love when primary sources make it to the net.
posted by pracowity at 4:10 AM on March 4, 2005

This is an excellent, excellent find! Thanks!
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:41 AM on March 4, 2005

Can't simple logic destroy this social constructionist view? People had sex with either gender. Some had a preference. Those who preferred the same gender were homosexual. I can imagine nothing other than the premiss that no one preferred same-sex, to counter that.
posted by Goofyy at 5:55 AM on March 4, 2005

This is great! It's not too often these days that I come across something that introduces me to completely novel historical information. I'd always assumed there were subcultures of various types existing in the past, but I rarely come across information on them (apart from theological splinter-groups). All too often things are portrayed as if the populace had unified beliefs. It has puzzled me for some time that historical references to homosexuality were so rare (aside from short notes on Greek/Roman practices); this fills in quite a few blanks.
posted by nTeleKy at 2:25 PM on March 4, 2005

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