London: Printed for M. Downing, in Bartholomew-Close, near West-Smithfield (1738). 28pp.
The Society for the Reformation of Manners was founded in the Tower Hamlets area of London in 1691. Its espoused aims were the suppression of profanity, immorality, and other lewd activities in general, and of brothels and prostitution in particular. One of many similar societies founded in that period, it reflected a sea-change in the social attitudes in England following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and a shifting from the socially liberal attitudes of the Restoration period under Charles II and James II to a more moral and censorious attitude of respectability and seriousness under William and Mary. This document notes that "Great numbers of Bawdy-houses, Sodomitical haunts, Common gaming-houses, and other Disorderly houses, have been suppressed and shut up; and the streets very much purg'd from the Wretched tribe of Night-walking Prostitutes and most detestable Sodomites."
The Society flourished until the 1730s, with 1,363 prosecutions in 1726-7. There was a series of raids on "molly houses" (homosexual brothels) in 1725. One prominent victim of the Society was Charles Hitchen, a "thief-taker" and Under City Marshal. He acted as a "finder" of stolen merchandise, negotiating a fee for the return of the stolen items, while extorting bribes from pickpockets to prevent arrest, and leaning on the thieves to make them fence their stolen goods through him. His business may have been undermined by the success of his competitor Jonathan Wild. In 1727, Hitchen was accused of sodomitical practices, and tried for sodomy (a capital offence) and attempted sodomy. He was sentenced to a fine of 20 pounds, to be put in the pillory for one hour, and then to serve six months in prison. He was badly beaten while in the pilory, and died soon after being released from prison.
Very good, disbound from another volume, but intact otherwise. Uncommon.