08 May 2012
Write Queer London 2012 saw poet Peter Daniels enter the Metropolitan Archives to uncover LGBT history amongst their stacks wherein he made the acqaintance of our tale's hero, the indefatigable Captain Rigby.
Captain Edward Rigby was tried for sodomy in 1698, after falling foul of a honey trap sprung by a branch of the then newly formed Societies for the Reformation for Manners. This network of self appointed Moral guardians sprang fully formed from the maw of Tower Hamlets and quickly overtook London with an outpost in each of her quarters looking out for vice and wrong doing.
Captain Rigby was already on their list as earlier that year he had been tried and acquitted for sodomy, an outcome that was not pleasing to Reverend Thomas Bray, a leading member of the Societies for Reformation of Manners. Accordingly this gentleman worked out a plan whereby a servant of one of his parishoners, previously identified as a favourite of Rigby's, was sent to lure the Captain into a compromising position.
To find out what happened, we refer you below, to the rollicking ballad of Captain Rigby... read on gentle reader, 'though we must warn you, this ballad is not recommended for those of a delicate disposition.
By Peter Daniels, commissioned for Write Queer London 2012
I have a cautionary tale
that I will shortly tell,
but full of sodomy and filth
and blasphemy as well,
and so I beg your pardon
if you’re easily offended;
I hope you’ll learn some history
by the time the tale is ended.
I was placed by Write Queer London
to be their special agent,
and dig up evidence of queer
behaviour bold and flagrant.
At the Metropolitan Archives
I have spent a little while,
and most of what I’ll tell you
is verbatim from the file,
plus more from other sources,
and of course it’s only right
to acknowledge what I’ve seen on
Rictor Norton’s history site.
William the Third is on the throne,
in sixteen ninety-eight;
he’s had a Russian visitor –
Tsar Peter, called “the Great”.
The usual naval wars with France
have ended in a truce,
and Captain Edward Rigby
is ashore, and on the loose…
The Ballad of Captain Rigby
Come gentlemen of certain tastes
beware young men who’d trick ye,
for I will tell you all the tale
of Captain Edward Rigby.
Ned Rigby was a navy man,
the captain of the Dragon;
his famous ways with seamen
were a kind you may imagine.
’Twas on a Guy Fawkes Night one time
all in St James’s Park,
the Captain went among the crowd
for pleasure in the dark.
While rockets burst, his lust was up
to seek a man who’d please;
he found a young man next to him
and gave his hand a squeeze.
He took young William Minton’s hand
that fifth night of November,
and with his own he guided it
to feel his privy member.
He kissed young Minton on the mouth
and did insert his tongue,
and William let him kiss him so,
although he thought it wrong.
He asked the Captain for his name;
“It’s Jones,” he quickly lied.
“Oh sir, I thought you someone else,”
young Minton then replied.
“Good evening sir, I’ll let you be,
and set off on my way,”
but Rigby in his urgent lust
entreated him to stay.
They walked a while beside the park
and Rigby took his arm:
“You’re such a fine young man,” he said,
“I’m smitten by your charm.”
“If you can keep your counsel
– for I have no little fame –
be just to me and be discreet,
I’ll say my proper name.
“But what’s your own? How shall I know
if you’re an honest lad?
Some cheats betray their lovers
after all the fun they’ve had.”
“I’m William Minton, servant
to a Mr Coates,” he said.
“My lodging’s at the hatter’s
in Pall Mall, by th’ old King’s Head.”
“So! – I’m Captain Edward Rigby
and I lodge on College Hill.
Come drink a glass of wine with me
tomorrow, if you will.”
“Oh sir, tomorrow I may not
by reason it is Sunday,”
and Captain Rigby smiled at this:
“Then let us meet on Monday.
“Come between five and six o’clock
in Pall Mall, to the George.
I am most eager we should meet
and satisfy this urge.
“Ask at the bar for number four
where you may come to meet me.”
“I will, sir,” answered William,
and smiled at him discreetly.
Now, William Minton had some friends
who’d started a Society
reforming morals in the world,
and living in great piety.
They wished to catch out sodomites
and send them to their fate;
they’d had their eye on Captain Ned
and William was the bait.
He told his friends that he had met
the Captain in the park;
they took him for a visit
to the justice and his clerk.
Said the justice, Mr Railton,
“At the George you may be sure
of the constable and beadle
listening out for you next door.
“If he makes a move towards you,
with evidence enough,
cry ‘Westminster!’ – the sign to them
to come and fetch him off.”
The principal waiter at the George
by name was Herman Roger.
He knew the Captain well to be
a frequent short-term lodger.
Rigby’s friend John Deering came
for business with the waiter
to make arrangements for the room
which they would come to later.
He told him, “We expect a guest
for a glass of sack to sup,
as usual, we’re in number four;
when he asks, please send him up.”
Eventually, a little late,
young Minton did arrive,
and a group of other gentlemen
– who’d taken number five.
“You are most welcome, William,
come sit you down by me.
I’ll raise a glass of sack to you
and toast you heartily.
“I feared you’d fail to meet me
for you seemed a little coy.
Delighted we’re together
for some pleasure, darling boy.
“Now let me show you evidence
you make my cock to stand,”
and deep inside his breeches thrust
the blushing William’s hand.
“You raise my lust so highly
that my balls are fairly brimmin’.”
“Oh sir,” said William, “surely
you should raise your lust with women.”
“Ah, they’re all poxed,” said Rigby.
“Have you ever known a whore?”
“Of women, sir, I’m innocent,
of that you may be sure.”
“So raise your arm and bend it,
wish it never may come straight
if ever you’ve lain with a woman
like those whores of Billingsgate.”
“Indeed I’ve not,” said Minton.
Rigby cried “It’s as I thought!
He let me kiss him in the park.
Yes, Deering, he’s our sort.”
He felt in William’s breeches
as he sat in the young man’s lap.
“Shall I fuck you? Are you ready?”
He was ready for William’s trap.
“Can men together do such things?”
asked William; Rigby scoffed:
“Our forefathers were gentlemen
whose cocks were rarely soft.
“They fucked each other all the time,
and I will show you how;
there has been joy in buggery
from ancient times till now.
“In Scripture there’s Apostle John
that Jesus called his dear.”
“Oh fie,” said Deering, “Have a care,
you do blaspheme, I fear.”
“Have you not read it? And you know
great men have done it since.
The mighty Tsar of Russia
made his carpenter a prince.
“Tsar Peter holds Prince Alexander
dearer than any other,
and through a chink on board my ship
I’ve watched them lie together.”
He brought himself to such a pitch
he had to take a rest,
for in his breeches he had spent,
as he himself confessed.
After a while he stood again.
“A little splash,” he joked.
“It came upon me rather soon
for my lust is so provoked.
“But notwithstanding, I would lie
with you all night and day;
and I want so much your arse to fuck
I can do it straight away.”
“You could not surely do it
while your friend is sitting there?”
“Oh, Deering shall avert his eyes.”
Said Deering, “I don’t care.”
“Sweet William, pull your breeches down,
that I may feel your bottom.”
“You do it if you please,” said Will
and thought, “Now I have got him.”
So William felt behind his back
to Rigby’s privy part
that stood up eagerly to fuck,
about to make a start,
and he cried out, “O sodomite,
my task is to expose
your inclinations to the world!”
– at which the Captain froze.
“I beg your pardon sir,” he said,
“I never meant to harm ye.
I thought you were in earnest
when you came along to charm me.”
“Don’t waste your breath on such a rake,”
said Deering, “He’s a cheat.
He should be held beneath the pump
like stealers in the street.”
“Before you get me to the pump
I’ll get you both arrested.
I’ll tell the court the frightful way
my virtue has been tested.”
While Minton reached towards the door,
the Captain took his sword
and made to draw it from its sheath
– so William cried the word.
And at the call of “Westminster!”
the constable hurried in;
the beadle and the justice clerk
came running at the din.
The beadle asked, “What’s going on?
Is anybody hurt?”
And Rigby said “I’m most displeased,
this man is but a flirt.
“I don’t deny he raised my cock
though I’d already come;
he’s damnably enticing,
I was ready for his bum.”
The constable admonished him,
“These practices must cease,
and now you must come quietly
to the Justice of the Peace.”
“Oh constable, some other time,
excuse my disarray.
It’s really not convenient
to come with you today.”
He offered to the constable
some coins in his hand.
“More than my job is worth,” he said,
“I hope you understand.”
The court was told the Captain bold
with his member all erect
had fingered Minton’s fundament,
or words to that effect;
and Minton did enumerate
his acts of turpitude,
and all his conversation
so lascivious and lewd.
The judge said, “Sodomites must hang,
and none may be exempt;
but now the charge you’re facing
is for only the attempt.
“Be glad this was a honey trap
in which you have been stung,
for if you’d had your way with him
you surely would have swung.”
They sentenced him a year in jail
and a fine of a thousand pound,
then seven years good behaviour
with sureties to be bound.
But first upon the pillory
three times he was to stand,
where folk might pelt with stones or shit
– whatever came to hand.
Yet either he used bribery
or else had friends at court
(they say King William himself
made sodomy his sport),
for first he took the pillory
a gay and elegant beau,
protected by two constables
and beadles in a row;
but the other two times they pelted him,
and he had to serve his time
for sodomy was counted
so detestable a crime.
When they released him from the jail
they said to him quite bluntly,
“We think it would be best if you
discreetly left the country.”
So he joined the navy of the French
to lead their ships in glory
against the country he had left
– but that’s another story.
Now please excuse me gentlemen,
I must away and frig me,
while I recall the lustful ways
of saucy Captain Rigby.
For more facts and figures please visit Rictor Norton's blog entry which will furnish you with newspaper testimonials and full details of the trial.