Tuesday, 7 February 2012

He Wore a Brown Silk Dress

A very typical court case, from the Daily News of Februrary 28, 1846, revolving around a man cross-dressing and cruising for sex. I'm assuming he was probably a 'rent-boy'; but I'm not sure if that's to be taken as read, or not ...
BOW STREET.—Yesterday a person, who at the station house had described himself as "Frederick Bentstone (or Bentson) a clerk, residing 19, Wickham-place, Kent-road," was placed at the bar before Mr. Jardine, charged with having been found loitering about the public highway in Cockspur-street, dressed as a woman. He wore a brown silk dress, a black velvet shawl, a fashionable bonnet, and false curls.
    The constable (56 A) who detained him deposed that having observed him loitering about Cockspur-street and Spring-gardens, from half-past 12 o'clock on Wednesday night until 2 o'clock in the morning of yesterday (Thursday), and moreover been informed that men disguised as women were in the practice of promenading in that part of the town, he told him he was fully aware that he was not what he appeared to be, and that unless he explained his motive satistfactorily of assuming a female dress, he should consider it his duty to take him into custody. Upon this he affected to be very indignant, and angrily affirmed that he was a woman. " Why," rejoined the constable, "your voice alone betrays you." "Oh,that is the effect of a cold and hoarseness," replied he, and the constable, telling him that if such was the case the night air would but increase the malady, took him to the station-house out of the cold " night air."
    The magistrate asked the defendant before him what he had to say in excuse for such extraordinary conduct, and if his object was a wise and honest one, why he refused giving his address to the constable?
    He replied that the dress he wore belonged to a lady of his acquaintance. On Monday night he was present at a masquerade in the self same dress, and having been much admired in it, he put it on again on Wednesday night, that some friends whom he had appointed to meet on that night might see and admire it also. He refused to give the constable his address, because he had no idea that it would turn out so seriously, and he had a great objection to involve his friends in any way.
    The constable here begged to add to his former statement, he observed the same person, attired exactly in the same way, prowling about in Carlton-house gardens and on the steps of the York column.
    The prisoner did not deny that he had been there, and Mr. Jardine said there was reason to suspect that he had assumed female attire for a less innocent purpose than attending a masquerade—in which perhaps, there might be no great harm, however silly it might be. However, to prevent a repetition of such practices, for a time at least, he should require him to find bail, himself in 50l. and two sureties in 25l. each, who would undertake for his being of good behaviour for the next six weeks.
    The prisoner made a sort of nondescript obeisance, and was removed to the cells.

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