Gay Life in Regency England:
Lives, Loves, Legends, Laws, and Legacies
This course will offer an overview of the life of England’s gay community during the Regency Era. Whilst the concentration of information will cover the long Regency (1780-1820,) important information and facts will be gleaned from the period of time (1720 – 1835) which shaped the development of England’s “modern” gay subculture.
It is hoped once authors are disabused of many of the myths surrounding the lives of gay people during the Regency and are introduced to the fascinating, rich, and wide variety of the gay culture of this era they will include gay characters in the casts of their Regency romances—as minor characters, as family members of protagonists, and if authors are so inclined, even as protagonists themselves.
More important, it is hoped the information in this course will help authors to write realistic gay characters free of the tropes and stereotypes so many gay characters in historical romance have been. There is no formula or character template for writing gay characters in any era, let alone in the Regency Era. Which frees each of us to write gay characters, even in the Regency Era, with the same characteristics, behaviors, strengths, flaws, emotions, quirks, desires, hopes, dreams, and possibilities as any other character. A happily ever after is possible for everyone, even in Regency romance. Write the happily ever after you feel led to write and if you choose to include gay characters and to give them a happily ever after it is hoped this course will help.
Lesson One – The Power of Words and Myth
Introduction / Common Myths About Being Gay in Regency England / Terminologies
Lesson Two – The Legacy of History
The important events in Gay History leading up to the Regency Era.
Lesson Three – The Letter and Spirit of the Law
The Buggery Statute and Other Laws Pertaining to Gay Life in the Regency Era
Handout #1 The Buggery Statute
Handout #2 The Age of Consent
Lesson Four – A Place to Be
The places where one found England’s gay subculture living, loving, and breathing free.
Lesson Five – Eat, Drink, and Be Merry…
Activities associated with the gay subculture of Regency London.
Lesson Six – Against “These New Ways of Lechery”
Public Opinion, Homophobia, and the Fight Against the “Growth of Sodomy.”
Handout #1 The Phoenix of Sodom
Lesson Seven – The Double-Edged Sword
Blackmail’s uses against gay men, straight men, and at times its uses by both
Lesson Eight – Romantic Friendships and the “Weaker” Sex
Lesbians, Regency Era ideas about women’s sexuality or lack thereof, and the trials and truths of being a gay woman during the Regency.
Lesson Nine – The Third Sex
Bisexual and Transgender people during the Regency.
Lesson Ten – Prosecuting the “Unnatural Crime”
The prosecution of gay men in England during the Regency – punishments, cases, statistics, and procedures.
Handout #1 Executions by Year Handout#2 Names of Men Executed Handout#3 The Trial of James Pratt and John Smith, 1835
Lesson Eleven – If it pleases the court, and the newspapers –
The most publicized court cases and their effect on the gay community.
Handout#1 Examples of News Reports of Sodomy Trials
Lesson Twelve – From Every Walk of Life
Examples of gay people from every social class in Regency England.
Handout #1 The Conviction, Execution, and Confession David Thompson Myers, 1812
Lesson Thirteen – Ornamental Gentlemen
Book collectors, queer themes in literature, and queer pornography.
Handout#1 John Harris Police Report for Selling Pornography Handout#2 Almonds for Parrots, 1708 (Satire)
Lesson Fourteen – Notes on a Few Scandals
Mother Clap’s Molly House, The Vere Street Coterie, and The Macaroni Club and the evolution of raids on “dens of iniquity.”
Lesson Fifteen – Lives of the Rich and Infamous
Sketches of the lives (happy and otherwise) of well-known gay people during the Regency.
Handout#1 In Praise of Famous Men / Westminster Abbey
Lesson Sixteen – The Twenty-Ninth Article
Sodomy cases, prosecutions, and executions in Nelson’s Royal Navy.
Lesson Seventeen – A Natural Human Tendency
Opinions and writings of those who believed being gay was an inborn human tendency and therefore not deserving of punishment or prejudice.
Handout#1 Offenses Against One’s Self – Jeremy Bentham
Lesson Eighteen – Into the Closet
Some basic concepts and tenets of gay life in the Victorian Era.
Handout#1 A Few Words About Margeries – H. Smith
Bibliography, Writing Hints, Questions, and Wrap-Up