'Queen of Camp', 1874

Manchester Evening News, 22 October 1874

NOTE: The word 'camp' in the sense of exaggerated, effeminate behaviour etc., is often said to have originated in the 1950s and 1960s in 'Polari', or gay slang, and the early citations all come from that period. The Oxford English Dictionary traces the earliest use of the word 'camp', meaning exaggerated, theatrical, affected effeminate behaviour characteristic of homosexuals, to 1909, in James Redding Ware's book Passing English of the Victorian era: a dictionary of heterodox English, slang, and phrase (1st edition, 1909), in the sentence "How very camp he is." But I have discovered that it was used in this sense much earlier, in 1874, in a context indicating that this usage was well-established in homosexual slang at least thirty-five years earlier than acknowledged in the OED. The relevant report appeared in several newspapers, including the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 23 Oct. 1874; Chorley Guardian, 24 Oct.; Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 24 Oct.; Manchester Times, 24 Oct.; Hyde and Glossop Weekly News, 24 Oct.; Newcastle Journal, 24 Oct.; and the Manchester Evening News, 22 Oct. One of the men, Robert Fox, jeweller's assistant, was again arrested in a raid on a similar fancy dress ball in Hulme in 1880.

22 October 1874

At the Salford Borough Police Court, this morning before Sir J. I. Mantell, the Mayor (Mr. Harwood), and Mr. W. W. Goulden, three men, dressed in female attire were brought up charged under the Vagrant Act with being in Greengate for an unlawful purpose. The prisoners appeared in the dock in the clothes in which they were apprehended, and gave the names and addresses of Francis Mack, professional dancer, 34, Marshall-street; Joseph Hallas, weaver, 40, Mottram-street, Stockport; and Robt. Fox, jeweller's apprentice, Foundry-street, Hulme. The whole of the prisoners were dressed in a gay manner. Mack wore a light muslin dress, with muslin bodice, ear-rings, and white gloves; Hallas had on a black lace shawl, and Fox was similarly attired. Their hair (or wigs) were dressed after the latest fashion for ladies. They also wore dancing boots.
          Mr. Morehouse, the Town Clerk, said he appeared on behalf of the police to prosecute the prisoners. In consequence of information received by the police, they went to a house in Greengate, and immediately after a cab drove up. Some one in the house said "It is all up," or something of that sort, and the cab immediately drove off. The police followed the cab, and found it contained either two or three of the prisoners drest as female, just as they now appeared. The case was surrounded with a considerable amount of difficulty, as the section of the act under which the prisoners were charged stated that every person wandering abroad and not having any visible means of subsistance should be deemed a rogue and a vagabond, and whether the prisoner could be convicted under that section would be for the bench to determined.
          Sir J. I. Mantell: But the prisoners were found in a cab.
          The Town Clerk: They were.
          Sir John said that could hardly be said to be wandering about, and having no visible means of support.
          The Town Clerk admitted the difficulty, but he would carry the case as far as he could with the present evidence, and perhaps the bench would remand the prisoners for inquiry and to ascertain if they could be brought up for an indictable offence.
          Detective-Sergeant Kirk said, last night he went to Wood's eating-house, at the corner of Sandwith-street, Greengate.
          Sir John (looking at one of the prisoners): Is this a female or a man?
          Inspector Himsworth: They are all three men.
          Sergeant Kirk said that on going into Wood's house he saw a number of people with their faces painted, wearing chignons, and one was dressed in a woman's skirt. The room appeared to be fitted up for a ball. About half-past ten o'clock a cab drove up, and a man came out of the house and shouted, "It's all squashed." The cab immediatley drove away. He followed it, and found it contained two of the prisoners, Mack and Hallas. They were dressed as females, and witness said – "Who are you?" Mack replied – "I am a man." Witness afterwards found that he was a man. (Laughter.) He asked what account he had to give of himself, and he said – "A man bought me here." About five minutes past eleven another cab drove up to Wood's house, and contained the other prisoner. On being asked where he was going, he said, "To the ball." On taking the prisoners to the police station 1s.d. and a ball ticket was found upon Mack, and one on Hallas 1s. 6d. Two other men, dressed in women's clothes, were also taken to the station but were not detained. On one of them was found a number of photographs.
          Sir J. I. Mantell said he really did not think the charge could be substantiated. In the first place, the prisoners were found in a cab, and that could hardly be said to be wandering abroad.
          The Town Clerk: I admit it would be straining the law.
          Sir John said he did not think the prisoners could be convicted under the Vagrant Act.
          The prisoner Mack, in answer to the bench, said he and his companions were going to a masquerade ball at Wood's house. He had had a ticket given to him. He was a professional dancer, and was at present engaged in the opera at the Theatre Royal. He dressed himself in order to attend the ball, and on being asked by the officer, at once said that he was a man. He did not attempt to conceal anything, and did not know he was doing anything wrong.
          Sir John: Have you anyone to prove that you are engaged a the Royal?
          Mack: I have my sister and the "master super," if I could send for them. I did not think I was doing any harm; we were not in the street, and the thing was done in a "lark." It was a masquerade ball, and my ticket is there to be seen.
          Hallas, in answer to the bench, said he was 38 years of age, he was a weaver and came from Stockport.
          Sir John: Are you in the habit of taking part in private theatricals?
          Hallas: This was my first appearance. (Laughter.)
          Sir John: What was the ticket found in one of the prisoners?
          The ticket was handed up to the bench, and read as follows:– "Her Majesty, Queen of Camp, will hold a grand levée and grand ball masque on Wednesday, October 21st, 1874. Dancing to commence at ten o'clock; tickets 1s. 6d. each. Ices, refreshments, &c., will be provided."
          Mr. Wm. Terry, jeweller and watchmaker, Stretford-road, Manchester, said he wished to speak a word for Fox. His mother had come to him that morning in great trouble. She said her son went out last night dressed in female attire. He said that he was going to a fancy ball. She did not want him to go, and his father was not at home or he would have prevented him from going. Prisoner had been in his (witness's) employ for some years, and was never known to do anything of the sort before. It was all done in a bit of nonsense. – Sir John said that the prisoners would be discharged. At the same time they had been guilty of a very foolish and dangerous practice, and he hoped it would be a warning to them for the future. The bench had no hesitation in discharging them, but the prisoners had brought themselves into trouble by their own folly.
          The prisoners then left the dock, and on getting outside the court a large crowd had collected to see them. They at once drove away in a cab. (Manchester Evening News)

23 October 1874

At the Salford Borough Police-court yesterday, before Sir J. I. Mantell, the Mayor (Ald. Harwood), and Mr. W. W. Goulden, Francis Mack, professional dancer, 34, Marshal-street, Rochdale; Joseph Hallas, weaver, 49, Mottram-street, Stockport; and Robert Fox, jeweller's apprentice, 83, Tamworth-street, Hulme, were brought up in custody charged, as rogues and vagabonds, "with being in Greengate for an unlawful purpose." The prisoners were in complete female attire, and although their dress was most extravagant and even ridiculous, the deception was complete. They wore low-bodied flowing muslin dresses, and exhibited considerable taste in the arrangement of their chignons and head-dresses.
          The Town-clerk (Mr. C. Moorhouse), who appeared to prosecute on behalf of the police, said that in consequence of information which the police received, a coffee-house, in Greengate, occupied by a man named Wood, was watched on Wednesday night. A cab was seen to drive up to the door but upon some person coming from the house and announcing that the "whole thing had been spoiled," it was driven away. The police followed the cab, and overtaking it found that it was occupied by two of the prisoners. In cases of this kind, the prosecution laboured under very great difficulty in proving the intention of the prisoners in being out in the public streets. The only section of the Vagrant Act, under which the charge could be laid, was the 4th, which said that "every person wandering abroad – not having any visible means of support, and not giving a good account of himself or herself, shall be deemed a rogue and vagabond." Unless the bench was disposed to allow the case to be proceeded with under this section, he was afraid that he would not be able to substantiate it in any other way. He was sorry that there was no act which could justify the suspicions of the prosecution as to the intention of the prisoners, which would enable them to proceed against them for an indictable offence.
          Sir J. I. Mantell said he did not think that the fact of the prisoners riding about in a cab was sufficient to warrant the bench in coming to the conclusion that they were "wandering abroad, not having any visible means of suibsistance."
          The Town-clerk: I admit that the case is full of difficulty.
          Detective-Sergeant Kirk said that in consequence of information which he received on Wednesday, he and three other officers went that night to a coffee-house at the corner of Sandywell-street, Greengate.
          Sir J. I. Mantell: Is this prisoner (Fox) a man or a woman? (Laughter.)
          Inspector Himsworth: They are all men, sir.
          The Town-clerk: If this charge is not made out I shall ask for a remand.
          Sergeant Kirk, continuing said he went to the house about a quarter-past ten. Upon entering he saw a number of young men, all clean shaved and painted. Some had open dresses, one wore a chignon and head-dress, and another had a skirt over his trousers. The room was fitted up as if for a ball, and there was a supply of spirits, &c., for refreshment. About half-past ten, a cab drove up to the door, and upon witness going out to meet it, a man came out and said, "It's squashed; drive on Cabby." The cabman drove about 300 yards, and two men jumped out, ran down Paradise-row, and escaped. Witness found the prisoner Fox in the cab, and said to him, "Are you a man or a woman?" Prisoner replied that he was a man. Witness took him to the Town-hall, and found that he was a man. On being asked what account he had to give of himself for being in the public streets, prisoner replied that a "gentleman had brought him in the cab." About five minutes past eleven witness stopped another cab in Greengate, and addressing the prisoners Mack and Hallas, who were the occupants, said, "Are you for the ball?" Mack replied, "Yes." He then took them to the police-station at the Town-hall, and ascertained that they were also men. Mack said he was a ballet-dancer at the Theatre Royal, and Hallas admitted that he was a weaver at Stockport. Upon searching Mack, he found upon him 1s.d. in money and a ticket upon whjich was printed – "Her Majesty Queen of Camp will hold a levee and grand bal-masque on Wednesday, Oct. 21st, 1874. Dancing to commence at ten o'clock. tickets, 1s. 6d. Ices, refreshments, &c., provided." Two other men, who were also in male attire, who drove up to the coffee house from Broughton, were also arrested, but were not detained in custody.
          Sir J. I. Mantell said he did not doubt the facts as stated by the Town Clerk, but he did not think that the case could be brought under the Vagrant Act.
          The Town-clerk: I think myself that it would be straining the law.
          Sir J. I. Mantell said that unless the case could be taken further, there could not be a conviction.
          The Town-clerk applied for a remand for the purpose of proceeding against the prisoner for an indictable offence.
          Sir J. I. Mantell: Certainly it is a very unusual thing for men to be dressed in this way.
          In reply to the gench, the prisoner Mack said that he danced at the Theatre Royal every night.
          Sir J. I. Mantell: What, with Carl Rosa's company?
          Prisoner did not answer this question, but went on to say that he was invited to go to the ball, and he was not in the public streets at all.
          Sir J. I. Mantell: Have you anyone here to prove that you are connected with the Theatre Royal?
          Prisoner: My sister, who lives in Rochdale, and the "super-master" could prove it. I am very sorry for it; I thought it was not wrong as long as we were not in the streets. It was only done for a "lark," and tickets were sent us for the ball.
          Sir J. I. Mantell: Why did you go to the ball?
          Prisoner: For amusement.
          Sir J. I. Mantell: Were there any women there?
          Prisoner: I don't know who was to be there.
          Sir J. I. Mantell: What character were you to take?
          Prisoner: A lady, as you see me. (Laughter.)
          Sir J. I. Mantell: Are you acquainted with either of the other prisoners?
          Prisoner: Slightly, that's all.
          Sir J. I. Mantell (to the prisoner Hallas, who looked like a man about 50 years old): How old are you?
          Hallas: Thirty-eight. (Laughter.)
          In reply to the bench, the prisoner Fox said he was twenty-three.
          Sir J. I. Mantell (to Hallas): Is this your "first appearance"? (Laughter.)
          Hallas: Yes, sir.
          Detective Kirk said that he found 30 or 40 people in the coffee-house, and they had come from Oldham, Bury, Ashton, Bolton, Stockport, and other towns at a greater distance.
          Mr. William Terry, watchmaker and jeweller, Stratford-road, Hulme, said that the prisoner Fox had been in his employ for some years.
          Sir J. I. Mantell (having consulted with the other magistrates) said the bench was of opinion that the case would have to be dismissed, but there could be no doubt that the prisoners had acted in a very foolish and even dangerous manner. The magistrates did not intend to grant a remand, because by that course a certain amount of stigma would be placed upon the prisoners which might be ruinous to them in after life. The prisoners would see that they had placed themselves in a very dangerous position, and he hoped it would be a lesson to them. They must have read in the newspapers of the persons who were indicted in London for an offence somewhat akin to that which they had been guilty of
[see Fanny and Stella], and therefore they had no one to blame but themselves for the trouble which they had brought upon themselves. The bench had, however, no hesitation in discharging them.
          The prisoners then left the dock, and having changed their attire for their own clothes were set at liberty. (Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Queen of Camp, 1874", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 4 December 2018 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1874camp.htm>.

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