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Be slightly odd this

An “incredibly rare” deathbed confession from an 18th-century highwayman, written just before he was “hung in chains” for robbing the Yarmouth Mail and detailing his enlightened response to a failed gay seduction, has been acquired by Horsham Museum.

The Life of Thomas Munn, alias, the Gentleman Brick-Maker, alias, Tom the Smuggler runs to 24 pages and was printed in 1750. It is part of the once-popular genre of deathbed confessions, a precursor of true crime, and purports to be an autobiography handed by Munn to the Yarmouth gaoler on the morning of his execution on 6 April 1750.

As he was hanged in Chelmsford…..

Horsham Museum curator Jeremy Knight said that it was notable that Munn had this reaction, and that he had also chosen to give a public account of it.

“To give it space in his confession – the only space he had to give a public account of himself – is really interesting,” he said. “The printer also could have taken offence and not included it – after all the author wouldn’t have any recourse … Yet both thought it important enough to recount. And what Munn states is although it is seen as a sin, his immediate reaction was conditioned by his upbringing and social norms. He is not so sure as he was aroused by the lad, and who are we to judge when we ourselves have that reaction? A desire for toleration and acceptance – it’s human nature.”

Rather more likely perhaps is that the entire story – the entire printed confession – was made up. Such entirely made up pamphlets being a thriving industry at the time. So, you know, the acceptance of the gay bit being perhaps in the mind of the scrivener, not the executee?

15 thoughts on “Be slightly odd this”

  1. Bloke in North Powys

    “handed by Munn to the Yarmouth gaoler on the morning of his execution on 6 April 1750.”

    So he was in Yarmouth then but later the same day

    “was hanged in Chelmsford”

    That’s not far short of 100 miles. Not bad going for 1750!

  2. BiNP

    Bore da

    Maybe the Yarmouth gaoler was visiting Chelmsford on 6 April 1750 … to pick up his new Income Tax code?

  3. So apparently threatening someone with a penknife is an enlightened response? It’s so hard to keep up these days.

  4. one point recounting how he “trudged” to Horsham to meet a potential wife. The woman, Munn reveals, was a wealthy 70-year-old widow: “I instantly observed the poor old Soul could not bite me, because she had ne’er a Tooth in her Head, which made her kiss might soft”

    Wait a minute

    He describes one incident in a Southampton inn, when the son of the innkeeper joined Munn in his bed, informing him that “I love to lie with a naked man”.

    “He had not been long in Bed but began to act a Part so Contradictory to Nature that I started up in Bed, wanted Words to express my Confusion, Surprise and Passion, at his Propositions,” Munn says.

    This isn’t a confession, it’s an early draft of Carry On Dick.

  5. Pendants’ Corner

    The new tax year starting in April came in in 1753, the change to the Papist Conspiracy Calendar took effect in September 1752.

    Perhaps the Yarmouth Gaoler jumped the gun, or he had gone to the DVLA office to register a new cart.

  6. What with shagging grannies and escaping a bumming only to suffer a hanging, the life of the highwayman was not as glamorous as I’d imagined.

    I’m not convinced by his protests over the manlove; Munn seems to have made no objection to the chap getting in his bed. No wonder the innkeeper’s lad thought he might be up for some ‘contradiction’.

  7. “That’s not far short of 100 miles. Not bad going for 1750!”
    Generally, travel in those days was at around 3mph. When you were moving & not putting the draught animal in & out of its traces or feeding it. Unlikely they’d be sending the condemned & escort by fast & expensive stage. Think more 3 days depending on weather.
    “Munn seems to have made no objection to the chap getting in his bed. ”
    He wouldn’t. Being required to share a bed was commonplace at overnight lodgings. 1750 is not that far after when bedrooms were an affectation of the wealthy

  8. Given how long back man love appears in records is it any surprise to find something that refers to or in any era, though the gay movement wouldn’t be the first to ‘find’ and old document supporting their views

  9. I’m still stuck on Death Bed Confession. Yet he clearly didn’t die on his bed but was hung. So isn’t it just a confession even if it was made in a bed?

  10. Bloke in China (Germany province)


    My late grandmother knew for sure that acts agin’ nature never happened “in her day”. Because the local pastor preached against it every other week.

    That, for her, was proof that acts agin’ nature just weren’t happening. You and I can see it as proof that they were happening, in that congregation, and the pastor didn’t like it and wanted it to stop. She could not.

    Likewise, the continual injunctions in the old testament against acts agin’ nature are proof that it just didn’t happen, back in those days.

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