Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January 16, 1890 --- An Editor Jailed

Ernest Parke, the editor of The North London Press, is found guilty of libel; his radical weekly with its small circulation was the first to name names in the Cleveland Street scandal. A male brothel had been discovered in that street serving a posh clientele. The courts had quietly dealt with the scandal, dealing out heavy sentences for the young men who were employed - many of them were "telegraph boys" from the General Post Office. 

Under the headline: "Distinguished Criminals who have Escaped," Parke published the listed the names of the Earl of Euston and Lord Arthur Somerset.  The latter was personal equerry to the Prince of Wales.  His Vanity Fair caricature appears at the right.  Even Parke did not have the nerve to publish any claim that the Prince's son, the Duke of Clarence, had been seen at the establishment.  As it is, Lord Arthur - known as "Podge" to his mates, was given the head's up to get out of the country (q.v. March 3). 

The Earl of Euston remained in London to fight the charge.  The Earl, eldest son of the Duke of Grafton, and married (unhappily) to a showgirl, was better known for his heterosexual amours.  He admitted to having been to Cleveland Street on only one occasion.  He went out of "prurient curiosity."  However, once he determined the nature of the goings on at that address, he left immediately in disgust. The defense for editor Parke relied on the testimony of a male prostitute by the name of John Saul.  His testimony was "unfit for publication."  Saul identified Lord Euston in court and claimed that he had picked him up "as I have picked up other gentlemen."  However, Saul had earlier told police that Euston was a man of ordinary height; the Earl stood 6-foot-4.  Further, Saul's demeanor in court and the nature of his evidence, did not make him a very creditable witness.  Justice Hawkins, indeed, called him a "loathsome object."  The jury found editor Parke guilty of libel and he received a one year sentence without hard labor. 

Fellow newspaper man Frank Harris thought Parke was victim of the "toadying" nature of the English bench. "Had Lord Euston been Mr. Euston of Clerkenwell, his libeller would have been given a very small fine." The respectable press, however, is gleeful.  The Saturday Review, for instance, labeled Parke a "polecat" whose readers "lust, first, for personal news; secondly, for dirty personal news; thirdly, for dirty personal news about persons with titles.  He gives it to them; and the law has given him twelve months imprisonment.  This is excellent."

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