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Libertines, Lotharios or Bastards?

A Quiet Night At The Cock Tavern

A Quiet Night At The Cock Tavern
Sir Charles Sedley 1639 - 1701

"I may have had a couple of ales"

London 1663

Dramatist, libertine, politician and wit Charles Sedley stands on a balcony above a crowd of nearly 1,000 gawping bystanders and does something so outrageous with his penis that he immediately starts a riot…in his defence, he is monumentally drunk.

24-year-old Sedley is an Oxford University dropout and the fifth baronet of Aylesbury in Kent. He has a round, chubby face, a substantial purse and a hearty appetite for life.

In his spare time, he’s a member of an informal drinking and fornication club known as “The Ballers” who meet in high-class brothels, enjoy drunken orgies with prostitutes and are fond of dancing naked.

On this warm June afternoon however he’s been enjoying a convivial get together with his friends Charles Sackville and Thomas Ogle at the Cock Tavern in Bow Street.

In a private upstairs room, the three friends have consumed platters laden with meat washed down with bottle after bottle after bottle of wine –  all presented by serving girls who’ve been paid handsomely to perform their duties without a stitch of clothing.

As the laughter becomes louder and the conversation – such as it is – more lewd, the trio decide to take their high spirits into the open air and adjourn to the balcony.

"Just myself and two friends, we wont be any trouble" “Just myself and two friends, we wont be any trouble”

By 1663, Restoration Londoners are used to seeing groups of high spirited young man enjoying themselves – which would never have happened under the puritanical Oliver Cromwell – but as the laughing friends strip off their clothes, squat over the balcony rail and then void their bowels into the street below even they stop and stare.

The crowd quickly swells – Samuel peeps isn’t there, but he still writes about what follows in his diary.

Emboldened by the attention the naked men start to perform an impromptu tableau, graphically demonstrating all the sexual positions they know – which are quite a few.

A member of the audience describes them as “acting all the postures of lust and buggery as could be imagined.”

Is it a book or a play? Is it a book or a play?

 

 

 

While his companions continue with their pornographic mine show, Sedley preaches to the crowd in the style of a drunken priest, using the most profane and blasphemous language he can think of.

He concludes by claiming to have a special powder for sale which will make “all the cunt in town” run after whichever man buys it from him

He then dips his penis into a glass of wine, gives it a thorough wash, pops it out, proposes a toast to King Charles and downs in one gulp.

"This one's for His Majesty" “This one’s for His Majesty”

Outraged, the crowd explode in fury and began to pelt the balcony with stones and rotten fruit. Windows are broken and attempts are made to smash down the tavern door.

The laughing cavaliers retaliate by lobbing empty wine bottles over the rail onto their heads.

Some of the bottles are half full of piss and the angry mob are showered with a mixture of urine and broken glass.

At his trial, the Lord Chief Justice says it’s because I’ve men like Sedley that “Gods anger and judgment hang over us” before demanding that he pay the not inconsiderable sum of 500 pounds

An unrepentant Sedley replies they must be the first man ever to be fined for taking a shit.

"Look out below, you boring fuckers!" “Look out below, you boring fuckers!”

It could have been so much worse, King Charles however thinks that Sedley and his friends in the Merry Gang are amusing so they get away with almost murder.

Sedley goes on to write some of the most beautiful verse in the English language and as a result of this afternoons carousing becomes the first recorded person to be punished in common law for the crime of blasphemy.

Cheers!

Well that escalated quickly! Well that escalated quickly!

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