A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law, and the 2nd Earl of by Cynthia B. Herrup

By Cynthia B. Herrup

Intercourse, privilege, corruption, and revenge--these are parts that we think to discover splashed throughout trendy tabloid headlines. yet in seventeenth century England, a intercourse scandal during which the 2d Earl of Castlehaven was once carried out for crimes so terrible that "a Christian guy ought scarce to call them" threatened the very foundations of aristocratic hierarchy. In a home in Gross affliction, Cynthia Herrup provides a strikingly new interpretation either one of the case itself and of the sexual and social anxieties it forged into such daring aid. Castlehaven was once convicted of abetting the rape of his spouse and of committing sodomy together with his servants. greater than that, he stood accused of inverting the traditional order of his loved ones through reveling in instead of restraining the intemperate passions of these he used to be anticipated to rule and shield. Herrup argues that simply because an orderly apartment used to be thought of either an instance and endorsement of aristocratic governance, the riotousness presided over via Castlehaven used to be the main damning proof opposed to him. Castlehaven himself argued that he was once the sufferer of an impatient son, an unsatisfied spouse, and courtiers grasping for his lands. Eschewing easy conclusions approximately guilt or innocence, Herrup focuses as an alternative at the attention-grabbing felony, social and political dynamics of the case and its next retellings. In prose as riveting because the ethical and criminal dramas it depicts, a home in Gross affliction reconsiders a scandal that also speaks to modern anxieties approximately intercourse, stable governance, and the position of legislations in regulating either.

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Extra resources for A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law, and the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven

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At the heart of aristocratic households was a contradiction: they were intended as models of successful cooperation, but their essence was ambition. Families maintained them to display the power of their lineages; servants were drawn to them to find patrons; children and parents used them as platforms from which to arrange advantageous marriages and employment. Affection might soften, but it did not preclude, intense disagreements over favoritism toward servants, the choice of marital partners, and the disposition of property.

No peer in memory had been tried for rape or sodomy. 3 RAPE AND SODOMY IN CASTLEHAVEN’S TIME However unusual the allegations against the Earl, and however important his background was to the outcome of his trial, to understand what happened, we must begin with the two crimes for which he was indicted: rape and sodomy. The evidence through which to contextualize charges of either crime is elliptical. The terms and the difficulties inherent in subjecting sexual activity to public scrutiny are familiar, but the meaning of rape and sodomy, and our appreciation of their origins today is completely different from what it would have been in the seventeenth century.

Unlike rape, which was about control of property and women, sodomy was about control of self. Because the crime involved only men, there could be no excuse of female wiles; because it was consensual, there could be no alibi of force. Sodomy became a synonym for intemperance. In the fevered writing of the antitheatrical moralists, for example, sodomy meant excessiveness, excessiveness meant instability, and so all destabilizing moments became sodomitical. 21 Like rape, sodomy threatened not only the individual, but also those around him; it was an act of corruption as well as of desire.

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A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law, and the 2nd Earl of by Cynthia B. Herrup
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