Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton

Sow-Gelder Tries to Spay His Wife

22 August 1730     We hear that at the late Assizes held at Bridgwater, an indictment was preferred against a sow-gelder, for attempting to spay his wife; but she refused to prosecute, and acknowledged her forgiveness of him, and desired the Court would do the same: However, the Court remanded him back to prison, and, for the sake of the good women in general, ordered him to remain there till he could give 400l. security for his good behaviour during life.

The occasion of this vile attempt, was this: The sow-gelder being in company with several other married men over a pot of ale, they all join’d in complaint of the fruitfulness of their wives, because of the charges brought upon them thereby; and asking him, whether he could not do by their wives as by other animals, he said he could; and they all agreed their good women should undergo the operation, provided he would begin with his own: This, with a great oath, he undertook; and going home, by violence gagg’d and bound his wife, and laying her on a table, made a transverse incision on the side of her belly; but after much puzzling, and putting the poor woman to great torment, he found there was some difference between the situation of the parts in the rational and irrational animals, and so, sewing up the wound, he was forced to give up the experiment. The woman in her first agonies appeared strenuously against him, but being recovered by the time of the trial, was so generous as to forgive him, and plead for his pardon, as above.

I remember to have read one instance (if I mistake not) of the Duke of Cleve’s sow-gelder, who actually perform’d this operation on his daughter, whom he suspected to be young with child by an inveigling courtier; but as he went through-stitch with his work, so his Prince went through-stitch with him, putting him to a cruel and exemplary death for so inhuman an action. (London Journal)

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "Sow-Gelder Tries to Spay His Wife", 14 November 2002 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/gelder.htm>

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