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Lambda Lore

Lambda Lore: A Yankee Doodle Dandy

“Yankee Doodle went to town, riding on a pony, stuck a feather in his hat, and called it macaroni.”  Who hasn’t sung this song in elementary school? Did you, like me, think it silly to call a feather a form of Italian pasta? It might surprise you that actually the British originated this tune to disparage the Patriot’s manhood. In 18th century term “macaroni” was much like calling someone a queer.

In the mid 18th century an Italian fashion was adopted by English “dandies and fops” which was called “Macaroni.”  The style was an over exaggerated effeminate attire complete with a small feathered hat resting on a large powdered wig.  These Macaroni young men would gather for assignations in taverns or so called “Molly Clubs”. One of the most notorious establishments for these “Nancy boys” and their admirers was a London coffee shop where members of the Macaroni Club met.  The club was organized and led by a London bookseller and jeweler with the unfortunate name of Samuel Drybutter. Little known today, he was so notorious in the late 1700s that he was beaten to death by an angry mob outside his posh Pall Mall home.

Samuel Drybutter, born circa 1735, was a trendy merchant and bookseller whose home and shop were in the Pall Mall section of London. In the 18th century, Pall Mall Street was known for high-class shopping and gentlemen’s clubs. It was also known for its fashionable London residences. As well as being a bookseller, his shop sold luxury goods such as high priced jewelry, watches, and various other ornamental trinkets. Physically he was a small, delicate man who lived with his mother. Other trades men knew him as being honest and of good character.  However what they did not know about Drybutter was that he was a “notorious sodomite”.

Drybutter’s first run in with the law was in 1757 when he was pilloried for selling copies of John Cleland’s pornographic novel “Fanny Hill, or the Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure” in which there was a graphic  depiction of  “sodomy”.  One homoerotic passage in that novel, which did not appear in the first edition, was  thought to be written by Drybutter.  The author was a long time friend of an actor named Samuel Foote, who was indeed  a “close friend” of Drybutter and a “fellow traveler” and perhaps a youthful lover.

Drybutter managed to stay out of trouble with the law until 1770 when he was arrested for “attempted sodomy” and exhibited in the pillory. Despite this, in 1771 Drybutter again attempted “to repeat the infamous and detestable crime to which he seems to have so strong, though unnatural, a propensity.”  He solicited a horse grenadier whom Drybutter “wanted him to dismount, and accompany him to a private place.”  The soldier refused and seized Drybutter and turned him over to a watchman who arrested him. However, the next day Drybutter then counter-charged that the grenadier had attempted to extort money from him, and the grenadier himself was arrested.

The trial of the jeweler from Pall Mall Street and news of his indecent proposition to the King’s horse grenadier attracted a swarm of people and it was thought prudent to convey Drybutter in a carriage to the court “lest he should have fallen a prey to the fury of the mob.” Charges were dismissed against Drybutter and the grenadier.

During the following year, in 1772 according to newspaper reports, Drybutter continued to narrowly miss being apprehended for sodomy, however his activities were overshadowed by a more serious of a case of sodomy. An army captain named Robert Jones was on trial for sodomizing a 13-year-old boy. Sensational with all the graphic details the public desire, the trial concluded with the death sentence for Captain Roberts.

During the trial of Captain Jones for sodomy, London newspapers began urging the local magistrates to do something about Drybutter and his Macaroni Club. “A celebrated toyman [jeweler], not far from Westminster-hall, has taken a house in Pall-mall for the reception of a detestable set of wretches of his own stamp.”  Drybutter’s reputation was so damaged by these newspaper attacks that he became infamous to even strangers.

During  the scandal of Capt. Jones, Drybutter was in a coffeehouse when he heard customers berating Captain Jones. Drybutter “rose to the defense of saying, ‘You would not, surely, hang the man, would you? But would it not be hard, that a man should forfeit his life for his particular taste?’”  Unfortunately a porter arrived announcing he had a letter for Drybutter who then identified himself. When the patrons and servers in the coffeeshop learned, “who this advocate for the particular taste was, one walks up to him and pours his chocolate over his wig. ” Drybutter demanded the meaning of the outrage and the man replied “it is my particular taste”. Fellow patrons poured a syrupy drink down his neck, another threw the contents of a milk pot in his face, and the bar-maid added, “it is my particular taste to pour this dish of coffee into the waistband of your breeches. The waiter  then exclaimed and mine, “to kick your Old-Bailey face out of the coffee-house.” The ensuing ruckus drew a crowd together and after learning the identity of Drybutter, the mob carried him off “to duck him in the nearest horse-pond.”

Captain Jones was sentenced to hang at the Old Bailey, however he received a Royal Pardon on condition “he leave the country.” The government was heavily criticized for the pardon and attacks on Gay men increased in the city. Public animosity towards those known as Mollies, Nancy Boys, or Macaronis was at an all time high after Jones’ pardon.

Shortly after the pardon, a notice appeared in the newspapers: “Mr. Dr-b-tt-r’s club are desired to meet at the Gomorrah, tomorrow evening, to consider of a proper address of thanks to the throne for the respite of brother Jones. The Macaroni, Delettanti, and other Italian clubs will bring up the rear of the cavalcade, all dressed in white linen breeches.”

Another attack on Drybutter occurred when he was recognized at an “eating house” where he ordered roast pig for dinner. A man threw a pint of beer in his face, saying that “as he loved pig, he should not want for sauce.” Upon hearing this, others in the tavern grabbed Drybutter and pulled him to the open fire in the hearth. The customers “basted him, with the contents of a bountiful dripping-pan, whilst others applied the reeking spit to his nose” Greasy dish cloths were slapped at him and after rolling him in saw-dust” they threw him bodily out of the establishment.

As the years past,  his notoriety as a sodomite only increased and Drybutter was again arrested for attempted sodomy 1774, and again acquitted. Later, similar narrow escapes occurred for the man.  Often the object of ridicule, in 1776, Drybutter was mentioned in a famous satire called  “Sodom and Onan alias the Devil upon two sticks.”  In the satire Drybutter was nicknamed Ganymede and a hangman was named “Jack Ketch.” An illustration showed Drybutter in chains standing beside the hangman, who holds up a noose . The caption says “Dammee Sammy you’r a sweet pretty Creature & I long to have you at the end of my String.” He is tweaking the chin of “Ganymede,” who replied “You don’t love me Jacky.”

In 1777, Drybutter propositioned a man in St James’s Park, who reported him to two soldiers. They escorted him to Pall Mall, where” they declared his offense to the people there” and “released him to the fury of the mob which had gathered.”  Drybutter was pelted with mud and severely beaten. He managed to reach his own house on Pall Mall, but the mob of several hundred people attacked his house breaking windows, smashing and looting his shop. Accounts stated that Drybutter’s “innards were so seriously bruised that he died on Saturday, 5th July.”  Drybutter’s murder was the only known attack of a mob killing a Gay man before he was ever formally charged. Historians suggest that Drybutter’s death was attributed to the anger over the pardoning of Captain Jones in 1772. They exacted their revenge by beating Drybutter to death.

About the author

Ben Williams

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