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Charles Sedley: "A Quiet Night at the Cock Tavern"

Updated: Feb 17

Rogues Gallery Uncovered

Podcast Episode 1


Transcript:


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 at a tavern called the Dog and Partridge, enjoy drunken orgies with prostitutes, and are collectively fond of dancing naked. So highly esteemed is Sedley in their company that it rumoured he has written their club poem “The Ballers Oath.”


We to this order none receive

That in his glass a drop doth leave

That will not turn and set and side it

As long as Damsell can abide it

And eat and drink the best he can

Like a true dog and partridge man


Thou shalt no lady court whose pride

Will any tedious siege abide

Nor yet again descend so low

Mongst those that know not to say NO

But when one proves truly kind

As truly as thy love confined

Thou shalt no observations horde

To vent for wit at Great Mans boored

But what so ere is said or done

Must be forgotten by next sun.


Essentially, it’s a verse of welcome for any gentleman who likes a drink… or five, enjoys stuffing his face and will happily entertain women of easy virtue. The one proviso that stands above all others is that none should speak of his fellow ballers debauchery and that what takes place at their raucous evenings should be totally forgotten by morning.

Considering the amount most of them put away that rarely proves to be an issue.

On this warm June afternoon however Sedley has forsaken his fellow Ballers and has been enjoying a convivial get together with friends Charles Sackville …or Lord Buckhurst to you and me… and Thomas Ogle at the aptly named Cock Tavern in Bow Street.

This venue is already notorious as a haunt of rakes and ner do well’s and is managed by a formidable woman known to all as “Oxford Kate”

Sedley’s contemporary, the playwright, William Wycherley used to lodge in its upper rooms with his first wife, the Countess of DROY ED HA and It’s said that whenever he hosts a spirited evening of revels, he always leaves the windows open so all can see that no harlots are present – The Jealous countess being known for her furious temper.

Sedley is not so obliging. In the private upstairs room, he has rented, 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 – even lewder, the trio decide to take their high spirits into the open air and adjourn to the balcony.

By 1663, Restoration Londoners are used to seeing groups of good-humoured young men enjoying themselves – which would never have happened under puritanical killjoy Oliver Cromwell – but as the cackling trio strip off their clothes, squat over the balcony rail and loudly void their bowels into the street below, even they stop and stare.

You don’t get that at the House of Lords

Word of the disgraceful exhibition starts to spread and the watching crowd quickly swells, until the space in front of the Cock Tavern is heaving with people, some pointing and laughing while others stand appalled.

Samuel Pepys isn’t there, to witness their depravity in person, but that doesn’t stop him writing about what follows in his famous diary.

Emboldened by the attention the three 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.”

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 pizzle into a glass of wine, gives it a thorough wash, pops it out, and downs the wine in one gulp. Pouring himself another, he then laughingly proposes a toast a King Charles

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 balcony rail and onto their heads. Some of these bottles are half full of piss so the angry mob find themselves showered with a mixture of urine and broken glass.

Eventually the trio are dragged from the premises and bustled to safety before they are torn limb from naked limb.

At his trial, the Lord Chief Justice says it’s because I’ve men like Sedley that “God’s 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 and petitions King Charles for a lenient sentence.

Charles thinks that Sedley and his friends in the Merry Gang are hilarious and nothing more than high spirited young bucks - much like himself even though he’s in his 30s so Sedley’s punishment goes no further.

The fine, which three centuries later will be the equivalent of 35 thousand pounds goes unpaid and five years later Sedley and Sackville will again find themselves before the court, this time charged with drunkenly running through town showing all and sundry their buttocks before getting in to a fist fight with the watch who comes to arrest them.

The high jinks at the Cock Tavern however does have one lasting effect.

It enables Sedley to claim the dubious honour of being the first recorded person in British legal history to be punished in common law for the crime of blasphemy.

Cheers!



Next week on Roges Gallery Uncovered – “Everyone’s Gone Fanny Mad”

How 18th century England’s most famous courtesan became a national celebrity who was so wealthy she could literally afford to eat money.

If you have enjoyed this podcast visit roguesgalleryuncovered.com – you’ll find lots more roguish content there and you’ll be able to subscribe to the gallery, so you never miss a disreputable episode.

That’s all for Now…See you yesterday.






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