BUTLER (Thos.) v. CLARKE (John).
The plaintiff is a grocer and draper, and keeper of the post-office, at Deeping St. James; the defendant is a butcher there. Mr. Serg. Copley stated that the action was to recover compensation in damages for slanderous words spoken by the defendant, attributing to him sodomitical practices. The learned Serjeant would leave the witnesses to detail the case, and would observe merely, that the plaintiff had taken the proper and only course which remained to an innocent man, that of an action in this court, which afforded to the defendant an opportunity of justifying and proving his words. He had not come forward to do so; but by offering no defence to the action, admitted the groundlessness and baseness of his charge. The accusation which he thought proper to make, was one which in its consequences differed from all other charges: others, when removed, left the injured person free from their influence but merely to have been the subject of a charge of this kind, was remembered to a man's disadvantage by the world, and gave an incurable wound to his feelings. Thomas Mason, carrier to the Lincoln mail from Deeping St. James, related that on the 3d of December last the defendant Clarke went into the Bell public-house there, and vociferated these words: "Dn and blast all sodomites; dn and blast Tom Gutler; if I had had a knife in my hand he should not have come at me twice, he put one hand round my neck, and the other ." Defendant contined that this occurred as they were coming together from Market Deeping to Deeping St. James. Nobody (witness observed) spoke to Clarke, he seemed in liquior. John Smith proved that the defendant had made a similar charge against the plaintiff at the Bell public-house at Peakhill, on the day after Plough Monday: he (defendant) knew what he said, but had been drinking. John Measures said the plaintiff had lived creditably for 18 years at Deeping, and was a married man with two children. The Judge observed to the Jury that it had been too much the habit to give small damages for character; but for his part, he should always think that a defendant who took away reputatio, should be as liable to heavy damages as if he had taken possession of property to a very great amount. The Jury should by their verdict make it the interest of this defendant not to go about in a besotted way, as it seemed he did, traducing the characters of his neighbours, and putting them to a great expense to clear themselves of calumnious imputation. His Lordship hoped the Jury would award those damages to the plaintiff which they themselves should desire in similar circumstances: by the verdict which they gave, the Court would judge of the value which they set on their own characters. The Jury found a verdict for the Plaintiff, damages 300l., which the Judge immediately observed was not a farthing too much. (Stamford Mercury)
Newspaper Reports, 1818
Thursday, 12 March 1818
The Assizes for the County of Devon will commence at our Castle on Monday next the 16th instant before Sir charles Abbott and Sir George Sowley Holroyd, knights. The Calendar already contains one hundred and twelve prisoners for trial, amongst whom are the following:
. . . William Turner for having extorted from John Heard, by threatening to accuse him of attempting an unnatural crime, a promissory note for £30; Benjamin Parish, charged on his own information, that he had been guilty of an unnatural crime; James Martin, George Murch, and Thomas Bab, charged on the oath of Benjamin Parish, with having committed an unnatural crime; . . . (Trewman's Exeter Flying Post or Plymouth and Cornish Advertiser)
Friday 13 March 1818
Monday 23 March 1818
Exeter Assizes commenced on Tuesday . . . The calendar contained 124 prisoners. . . . John Prinn was fully convicted of having committed an unnatural crime at Dartmouth in July. The Judge intimated to him that the law must take its course for the sake of society, and that there was not the least hope for him in this world. (Salisbury and Winchester Journal)
Thursday 26 March 1818
At Exeter, . . . John Prinn, for an unnatural crime, at Dartmouth, received sentence of death. (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette)
Saturday 28 March 1818
DEVON LENT ASSIZES.
The business of the Assizes commenced about one oclock on Tuesday the 17th inst. . . .
John Prinn was indicted for having committed an unnatural crime on Robert Venn, a boy of 11 years of age, at Dartmouth, in July last. The boy stated in the clearest manner, the disgusting transaction. The prisoner in his defence said he was insane at the time the deed was committed, but did not adduce any proof in support of his assertion; the jury immediately found him Guilty death. There were two other indictments against this prisoner, for similar offences with other boys. (Royal Cornwall Gazette)
Thursday 9 April 1818
At Pembrokeshire Great Sessions, held at Haverfordwest, . . . Messrs. Martin, Langley, Neck, and Babb, of Teignmouth, who were a short time since committed to gaol, charged on the oath of Benjamin Parish with an unnatural crime, have returned to their families, fully acquitted by their country. Martin afterwards brought an action against Joseph Parish, (the brother of his accuser,) to recover a compensation in damages for the injury he had sustained by his slander, and obtained a verdict, with 100l. damages. George Church, of Teignmouth, also charged by Banjamin Parish with the like crime, was tried for a capital offence, and without hesitation, declared not guilty. (Worcester Journal)
Monday 13 April 1818
At Gloucester assizes, 43 prisoners received sentence of death, 5 of whom were left for execution . . . (including) Joseph Richards, for robbing Mr. Samuel Mutlow of 5l. under a threat of charging him with an unnatural crime. (Salisbury and Winchester Journal)
Wednesday 15 April 1818
The business at Gloucester Assizes was finished in the Nisi Prius Court on Monday sennight, but the trials at the Crown Court were not closed till Thursday. . . .
In the City Calendar, Joseph Richards, for obtaining money from Mr. S. Mutlow, under the threat of accusing him of an attempt to commit an unnatural crime, was found guilty, and received sentence of Death. The trial of this man excited much interest, and occupied the court nearly eight hours. After the evidence had been gone through, fully substantiating the charge alleged in the indictment, and a luminous summing up by the learned Judge, the jury, upon a long consideration, returned a verdict of Guilty; but out of respect to the prisoners family, who are all resident in Gloucester, they begged to recommend him strongly to his Lordships mercy. The following is a report of his Lordships address to the prisoner when passing sentence upon him, on Wednesday morning:
Joseph Richards After a very patient and accurate investigation of the circumstances connected with your case, you have been convicted, upon the clearest evidence, of a robbery upon Mr. Samuel Mutlow, a most respectable inhabitant, and Surgeon to the Infirmary of this city. You committed this robbery by means of a threat, that you would impute to this respectable gentleman one of the foulest crimes of which any man can be guilty a threat which clearly marks the offence you have committed as by far the worst that has been tried during the Assizes. From every thing that has appeared, not the least doubt can be entertained of the entire falsity of this charge; and some circumstances came out upon your trial which fully corroborate this opinion. The place where you chose to say that this attempt was made upon you, was one completely within the hearing of many persons, and the slightest alarm on your part must have brought you ample assistance. You go to this gentleman to consult him in the ilne of his profession, and state to him, not merely that you are ruptured, but that the rupture with which you are afflicted is one of the most serious nature. You procure from him a truss; and with respect to this circumstance, it seems as tho the hands of Providence had intervened, for it is proved in evidence against you, that on the very day on which you had this truss from the prosecutor, you basely sold it, or got some one to sell it for you to another person thus proving the utter impossibility of your being afflicted with that complaint for which you pretended to consult to Mr. Mutlow!
In all my experience, I have never yet known an instance of any man being convicted of an offence similar to yours, escaping the full execution of the sentence which the law awards in such cases; and it is extremely proper that it should be so, for, if it were not, no man could be safe. I therefore deem it necessary to inform you, that I shall certainly leave you to the awful fate it is my duty to pronounce upon you; for notwithstanding a petition in your favour, numerously signed by inhabitants of Gloucester notwithstanding the recommendation to mercy which was made by the jury by whom you were tried and notwithstanding the wish I ever feel to yield to the claims of mercy where mercy can be afforded, I hold it right to apprize you, not only that it is impossible I can exercise any favour to you myself, but likewise that I cannot make any interposition through which you can entertain a hope that the Royal Mercy will be extended towards you. You have but a very few daiys to live! let me therefore entreat you to make the best use of the little time that is left to you in this world, and by prayer and penitence prepare yourself for your appearance in the next! For aught I know to the contrary, you may have been thus employed since your confinement; but if you have not, I implore you not to lose an instant, for your days are numbered. His Lordshp the pronounced the awful sentence of death in the usual form.
The prisoner, during the whole period of this address being delivered, continued respectfully attentive, but totally unmoved! not a muscle in his countenance appeared to vibrate, and he never even changed colour! After being taken from the bar, however, his firmness, or rather obduracy, entirely forsook him; and by the time he reached the gaol, he evinced a deportment more becoming his deplorable situation. He earnestly solicited the assistance of the Chaplain of the Gaol, whom he had before contemned and insulted has ever since been earnestly attentive to improve the short period he has to live and has made an ample and minute confession of his guilt, and the justice of his sentence. He is a respectable lokoing young man, only 21 years of age; and, it is understood, will suffer on Saturday next.
J. Escourt, for the same diabolical offence towars Mr. Mutlow, was not prosecuted, the ends of Justice having been attained in the conviction of Richards, but the Judge very properly insisted upon his entering into recognizance to appear at the next assizes if required. (Hereford Journal)
Thursday 16 July 1818
The General Quarter Sessions for this City [Exeter] commenced, at the Guildhall, on Monday last, . . . and finished yesterday. . . . Edward Bartrum was convicted of assaulting William Hewitt, with intent to commit an unnatural crime, imprisoned two years. (Exeter Flying Post)
Thursday 15 October 1818
The General Quarter Sessions, for this city [Exeter], will commence at the Guildhall on Monday next. The following prisoners are for trial: . . . James Oliver and John Balle, (the latter held to bail) charged with an attempt to commit an unnatural crime. (Exeter Flying Post)
Wednesday 16 December 1818
At the Old Bailey, on Monday, J. Egerton was found guilty of having obtained clothes and money from J. Randhall, under a threat of accusing him with unnatural practices, and received sentence of death for the same. (Hereford Journal)
SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given. (Many reports were repeated verbatim across several newspapers, but I have not included them all.)
CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Newspaper Reports, 1818",
Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 19 November 2014, expanded 5 Jan. 2018