On the 27th of November 1835, a crowd of people gathered outside Newgate prison in the City of London to watch the first hanging there in two years.
James Pratt (1805–1835) also known as John Pratt, and John Smith (1795–1835) were two London men who, in November 1835, became the last two to be executed for sodomy in England. Pratt and Smith were arrested in August of that year after being convicted of having sex in the room of another man, William Bonill.
“The grave will soon close over me,” Smith allegedly wrote to a friend before his hanging, “and my name [be] entirely forgotten.”
But that was not altogether true.
Unbeknownst to the sufferers, they were destined for literary preservation by a young writer on the make, one Charles Dickens:
Smith and Pratt make an appearance in Dickens’ Sketches by Boz, an 1836 compilation of London scenes of which “A Visit to…
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