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A House in Gross Disorder


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Acknowledgments Abbreviations and Conventions Genealogies of the Touchet and Stanley Families Preface Introduction: Castlehaven Redux 1: A Household Kept unto Itself 2: A Debauched Son of a Noble Family 3: A Verdict, but No Resolution 4: A Household Broke Beyond Repair 5: Retellings 6: Conclusions Appendix A: The Jurors Appendix B: Verses Appendix C: Genealogy of Manuscripts and Pamphlets Notes Bibliography of Sources Cited Index

About the Author

Cynthia Herrup is Professor of History and Law, Duke University. She is the former editor of the Journal of British Studies and the author of The Common Peace: Participation and the Criminal Law in 17th Century England. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.


Charged with rape and sodomy, the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven was convicted and beheaded in London in 1630. But as Herrup argues in this very scholarly study, the court was concerned with sodomy more as the source of "disorder" than as an immoral act. The sexual behaviors in the earl's mansion were not unusual for the times. What made Castlehaven different, Herrup carefully documents, was that the earl was threatening social order, disrupting societal expectations of nobility. The earl's encouragement of a servant attempting to rape his wife outraged the nobles not out of concern for the woman but because cross-class sex threatened to "pollute" the noble lineage. Likewise, his son complained about the earl's sex with servants not because of sexual propriety but because his father was giving them land and wealth the son expected to inherit. Herrup (history and law, Duke Univ.; The Common Peace) presents this interesting argument clearly and thoroughly. A good choice for legal and academic collections, a little dry for public collections.ÄRobert C. Moore, Raytheon Electronic Systems, Sudbury, MA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

"Thoughtful, scrupulously researched...A clearheaded and instructive book."--Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post "Cynthia Herrup's A House in Gross Disorder makes us rethink most everything we thought we knew about the notorious 1631 'sodomy' trial of Mervin Touchet, the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven. Beautifully written and meticulously crafted, Herrup's study unfolds like a good detective story."--Jean Howard, Department of English, Columbia University, and Director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender "Cynthia Herrup's scrupulous reconstruction of the Castlehaven scandal and its legacy is an utterly fascinating read. But it is also rich in theoretical implications for the history of sexuality. Herrup shows how obscure conflicts within Castlehaven's household embodied virtually all the social and political tensions of the period, and thus how a routine dispute over property and inheritance could quickly escalate into a sensational trial for rape and sodomy. The nature of Castlehaven's transgression, which subsequent retelling of the story have radically simplified, recovers here its tantalizing ambiguity and complexity."--David M. Halperin, author of One Hundred Years of Homosexuality and Saint Foucalt "This is an extraordinary tale extraordinarily well told, but told with an ear cocked to the ways in which contemporaries themselves told and retold it. Like the trial itself, Herrup never quite gets to the bottom of 'what really happened,' but en route to that acceptance of indeterminacy the book sets the Castlehaven affair precisely on a number of pressure points and fault lines in the culture and society of early modern England. The result is a book with considerable resonance for anyone interested in the political, legal, social, cultural, or gender history of seventeenth-century England."--Peter Lake, Department of History, Princeton University "To this sorry tale of a grossly disordered household, of a weak patriarch, loveless marriages, corrupt and venal servants, is added the betrayal of a son, fearful of losing his inheritance, the irregularities, if not worse, of prejudiced court and irregular trial procedure, of predatory aristocratic relatives, and of Castlehaven's dubious connection with Catholicism and Ireland...It is a cautionary tale on many levels that haunted succeeding generations; its eloquent retelling ought now to haunt ours."--Paul Seaver, Department of History, Stanford University "[C]omplex and subtle...the central story of how charges against the earl took shape, the trial itself, and the verdict, is clearly told in lively and elegant prose...[A] general reader will learn much from Herrup about the nature of early modern society and how it functioned...[S]he contributes an important dimension to social history...[T]he text is beautifully written and the argument clearly expounded...Herrup is to be commended for a fine piece of historical scholarship: this book is a great read."--American Historical Review "This is proper, grown-up history, analyzing an event with detachment and drawing considered conclusions backed up by exhaustive research."--Lucy Moore, The Washington Times "A good choice for legal and academic collections."--Library Journal "Herrup...takes us back to Stuart England to explore the legal, social, and political implications of the Castlehaven trial. Castlehaven's household was a paragon of family dysfunction. The earl favored his male servants over his own son, encouraged one servant to rape his wife, and engaged in sodomy with the household staff. Herrup theorizes that the case against Castlehaven went far beyond these shocking allegations, tapping into deep-seated cultural anxieties about power and hierarchy."--Kirkus Reviews "In 1631, the 2d Earl of Castlehaven was decapitated for having sex with a male servant and participating in the rape of his own wife. The accusations, depositions and trial that brought the earl to the headsman's block form the basis of Cynthia Herrup's engrossing study of social values in 17th century England."--National Law Journal "The book succeeds admirably both in conveying an interesting criminal case and analyzing the broader societal patterns that it revealed."--Journal of Interdisciplinary History

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