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PLAIN REASONS FOR THE GROWTH OF SODOMY IN ENGLAND, CA. 1731

 

Plain Reasons for the Growth of Sodomy in England was an anonymously written pamphlet of 24 pages printed in London in about 1731 “for A. Dodd, near Temple-Bar, and E. Nutt at the Royal-Exchange. Price Six-Pence”.

It has nothing to say about sodomy with boys in England, but is nevertheless of some Greek love interest for what it reveals of public perceptions of all sodomy in an age when very probably those most often sodomised in England were still boys, rather than men.

With the public imagination and indignation captured by the emergence in London over the preceding four decades of “mollies”, effeminate men who had sex with each other, there had been a profound shift I thinking about sexuality. Whereas in previous centuries sodomites were attacked as licentious men who committed a terrible sin by giving in to the otherwise understandable temptation posed by boys, they were now seen as a minority defined by an effeminate inclination “against Nature”, and the different character of pederasty was forgotten.

The confusion is evident in this pamphlet from the blame the author casts on Italy as “the Mother and Nurse of Sodomy,” despite everything he describes as happening there being overtly between men and boys, and quite different in character to the effeminate sodomy he correctly said had grown in England.

 

REASONS for the Growth of SODOMY, &c.

CHAP. I.
The general Contempt of Learning, and Abuse in the Education of our Youth.

Our Fore-Fathers were train’d up to Arts and Arms; the Scholar embellish’d the Hero; and the fine Gentleman of former Days, was equally fit for the Council as the Camp; the Boy (tho’ perhaps a Baronet’s Son) was taken early from the Nursery and sent to the Grammar-School, with his Breakfast in his Hand, and his Satchel at his Back; subject to Order and Correction, he went regularly thro’ his Studies; and, if tardy, spurr’d up: The School Hours over, and his Exercise made, he had his Moments of Play allotted him for Relaxation; then sought he the Resort of other Boys, either in the Fields, or publick Squares of the City; where he hard’ned himself against the Inclemency of the Weather, and inur’d himself to athletic Exercises; wholsome as well as pleasant: this has sent him home with his Blood in a fine Circulation, and his Stomach as sharp as a Plowman’s; Supper over, and jogg’d down with t’other Frolick, he went to Bed and slept sweetly; after which he rose early the next Morning, fresh, and fit for Study, hurry’d on his Cloaths, and away to School again: No matter if his Hands and Face were now and then a little dirty, so his Understanding was clean: If his Cloaths were sometimes torn with some Skirmish, his Heart was whole, and the frequent Battles between School and School, (which were then in Vogue) innur’d him to Courage, gave him a Thirst after Honour, and a Proneness to warlike Exercises.

The boys of former days: Boys' Sport, England, 1659

I would not from this have my little Hero esteem’d a Bully; no, his Learning temper’d his Passions; with all this Spirit, the Boy was bashful to the last Degree; Dutiful and Humble to his Parents, Mannerly to his Elders and Superiours; he knew no Vice, being train’d up in a Series of Virtue; the Authors he read inspir’d him with Notions of Honour; the Heroes and Sages, whose Lives he found transmitted with such Applause, through so many Ages, fill’d him with an Emulation to Knowledge, and a Thirst after Glory; familiarized to Temperance and Exercise, he was no Valetudinarian in his Constitution, but a Stranger to Debauch; and as he grew to riper Years, where the virtuous Object of his first Wishes crown’d his virtuous Love, there, in the Flower of his Health, and Vigour of his Youth, stampt he his Maker’s Image: Behold our School-Boy now become a Father, blest with an endearing Wife, and a dutiful, beautiful Off-spring; his Love and care for them, now makes him ready to pursue whatever State of Life Heaven has allotted him, his Abilities of Mind and Body, render him capable of serving his King, his Country, and his Family: His Application to Business keeps him from Debauch, and his Success so Spurrs him on, that he soon sees a fine Provision made for himself and Family; and his (perhaps small) Patrimony amply augmented: this shews the Advantages of a proper Education; I am sorry to say an old fashioned One.

Now let us take a Sketch of the modern Modish way of bringing up Young Gentlemen.

Little Master is kept in the Nursery ‘till he is Five or Six Years Old, at least, after which he is sent to a Girl’s School, to learn Dancing and Reading, and, generally speaking, gets his Minuet before his Letters; for whereas Boys of Old went to School at Six in the Morning, and came home at Eleven; Master goes at Eleven and stays till Twelve; for the poor Child must not get up till all it’s Things are aired, and ‘tis Barbarous to let him Breakfast without his Mamma; so that if he is Drest by Tea-time, ‘tis well enough: to let him have Milk-porridge, Water-gruel, or such like, spoon Meats, is vulgar and Unpolite: well, by Eleven, or a little after Breakfast is over, and Master e’en to School, though very often Breakfast is drilled on till it is too late, unless they Dance in a Morning, and then the whole Family is up sooner than Ordinary. When he comes to School he stands by his Mistress, who is generally working and looking another way all the while, he repeats the Alphabet after her not without some Interruption, though without the least Attention; for the Child is looking at it’s School-fellows, and the Mistress directing the young Ladies in their Samplers, or other Fiddle Faddles.

Young Gentleman with his Greyhound by John Vanderbank, 1726

Here he continues till the Age at which Boys formerly went to the Universities, at last (with great Reluctance) he is sent to a Master, probably to a writing School, for fear he should break his Head with Latin; besides, Grammar-Masters are harsh; and the Child is of a tender Constitution: well may it be so when the Tone of his Stomach has been spoiled with Tea, when his Blood is curdled with now and then a Dram, to keep the Mother in Countenance; when the Boy’s Constitution is half torn to pieces with Apothecary’s Slip Slops, occasioned by early Intemperance, sitting up late on Nights, eating Meat Suppers, and drinking Wine, and other strong Liquors of most pernicious Consequence to Infant Constitutions.

Besides, his whole Animal Fabrick is enervated for want of due Exercise; and he is grown so chilly by over nursing, that he gets Cold with the least Breath of Wind; for, ‘till he went to the Girls School, he seldom or never was out of the Nursery, unless to pay a Visit, in a Coach, with his Mamma: For, at the Mistress’s School, he was brought up in all respects like a Girl, (Needleworks excepted) for his Mamma had charg’d him not to play with rude Boys, for fear of spoiling his Cloaths; so that hitherto our young Gentleman has amused himself with Dolls, assisted at mock Christnings, Visits, and other girlish Employments, inviting and being invited to drink Tea with this or that School-fellow; insomuch, that his whole Life hitherto has been one Series of Ignorance, Indolence, and Intemperance.

But here the Master being double bribed, by the Father to bring him forward, and by the Mother not to Correct him; with much a-do, makes a shift to teach him to Read and Write a little English, by which Time he is almost too big to go to School; however, for form’s sake, ‘tis fit he should learn his Accidence before he goes to the University, or to Travel.

The Boy, thus spoil’d, becomes Company for none but Women, and even of those, only the Fantastical and Impertinent; for, to the Glory of the Sex be it spoken, the generality of ‘em seeing the depravity of Men, have set themselves to thinking, and got the upper-hand of our Petits Maitres, not only in common Understanding, but even in liberal Acquirements and polite Conversation; and are, in all Respects, fitter for the management of publick and private Affairs, than the Milksops beforemention’d.

Young Man by Godfrey Kneller, ca. 1710

Far be it from me to arraign all Mankind for the Faults of a few! No, Our publick Schools, such as Westminster, Eaton, &c. still retain the same manly Spirit: A Milksop there, is like an Owl among the Birds: ‘Tis just the same at our Universities; there are real Students, as well as Fops; the former being the Glory, as the latter are the Shame of their Age, or Country.

When our young Gentleman arrives to Marriage; I wish I could say fit for it, What can be expected from such an enervated effeminate Animal? What Satisfaction can a Woman have in the Embraces of this Figure of a Man? Should she at last bring him a Child, What can we hope from so crazy a Constitution? but a feeble, unhealthy Infant, scarce worth the rearing; whilst the Father, instead of being the Head of the Family, makes it seem as if it were govern’d by two Women: For he has suck’d in the Spirit of Cotqueanism[1] from his Infancy: As for supporting them, his Indolence won’t let him undertake any thing laborious; his Ignorance denies him all Hopes of any thing of Consequence; and his Pride won’t accept of what is mean: (at least what he thinks so.) Thus, unfit to serve his King, his Country, or his Family, this Man of Clouts[2] dwindles into nothing, and leaves a Race as effeminate as himself; who, unable to please the Women, chuse rather to run into unnatural Vices one with another, than to attempt what they are but too sensible they cannot perform.

 

CHAP. II.
The Effeminacy of our Men's Dress and Manners, particularly their Kissing each other.

I AM confident no Age can produce any Thing so preposterous as the present Dress of those Gentlemen who call themselves pretty Fellows: their Head-Dress especially, which wants nothing but a Suit of Pinners to make them down-right Women. But this may be easily accounted for, as they would appear, as soft as possible to each other any thing of Manliness being diametrically opposite to such unnatural Practices, so they cannot too much invade the Dress of the Sex they would represent. And yet with all this, the present Garb of our young Gentlemen is most mean and unbecoming. ‘Tis a Difficulty to know a Gentleman from a Footman, by their present Habits: The low-heel’d Pump is an Emblem of their low Spirits; the great Harness Buckle is the Height of Affectation; the Silk Wastcoat all belac’d, with a scurvey blue Coat like a Livery Frock, has something so poorly preposterous, it quite enrages me; I blush to see ‘em aping the Running Footmen, and posing a great Oaken Plant, fitter for a Bailiff’s Follower than a Gentleman. But what renders all more intolerable is the Hair strok’d over before and cock’d up behind, with a Comb sticking in it, as if it were just ready to receive a Head-Dress: Nay, I am told, some of our Tip Top Beaus dress their Heads on quilted Hair Caps, to make ‘em look more Womanish: so that Master Molly has nothing to do but slip on his Head-Cloaths and he is an errant Woman, his rueful Face excepted; but even that can be amended with Paint, which is as much in Vogue among our Gentlemen, as with the Ladies in France.

Fashion

But there is no Joke like their new-fashion’d Joke Hats, equally priggish as foppish; plainly demonstrating, That notwithstanding the Bustle they make about Jokes, they have ‘em only about their Heads. But to see ‘em dress’d for a Ball, or Assembly in a Party-colour’d Silk Coat, is the Height of my Aversion: They had better have a Mantua[3] and Petticoat at once, than to mince the Matter thus, or do Things by Halves.

But of all the Customs Effeminacy has produc’d, none more hateful, predominant, and pernicious, than that of the Men’s Kissing each other. This Fashion was brought over from Italy, (the Mother and Nurse of Sodomy); where the Master is oftner Intriguing with his Page, than a fair Lady And not only in that Country, but in France, which copies from them, the Contagion is diversify’d, and the Ladies (in the Nunneries) are criminally amorous of each other, in a Method too gross for Expression. I must be so partial to my own Country-Women, to affirm, or, at least, hope they claim no Share of this Charge; but must confess, when I see two Ladies Kissing and Slopping[4] each other, in a lascivious Manner, and frequently repeating it, I am shock’d to the last Degree; but not so much, as when I see two fulsome Fellows Slavering every Time they meet, Squeezing each other’s Hand, and other like indecent Symptoms. And tho’ many Gentlemen of Worth, are oftentimes, out of pure good Manners, obliged to give into it; yet the Land will never be purged of its Abominations, till this Unmanly, Unnatural Usage be totally abolish’d: For it is the first Inlet to the detestable Sin of Sodomy.

A Morning Frolic, or the Transmutation of Sexes by John Collett

Under this Pretext vile Catamites make their preposterous Addresses, even in the very Streets; nor can any thing be more shocking, than to see a Couple of Creatures, who wear the Shapes of Men, Kiss and Slaver each other, to that Degree, as is daily practised even in our most publick Places; and (generally speaking) without Reproof; because they plead in Excuse, That it is the Fashion. Damn’d Fashion! Imported from Italy amidst a Train of other unnatural Vices. Have we not Sins enough of our own, but we must eke ‘em out with those of Foreign Nations, to fill up the Cup of our Abominations, and make us yet more ripe for Divine Vengeance.

‘Till of late Years, Sodomy was a Sin, in a manner unheard of in these Nations; and indeed, one would think where there are such Angelick Women, so foul a Sin should never enter into Imagination: On the contrary, our Sessions-Papers are constantly stain’d with the Crimes of these Beastly Wretches; and tho’ many have been made Examples of, yet we have but too much Reason to fear, that there are Numbers yet undiscover’d, and that this abominable Practice gets Ground ev’ry Day.

Instead of the Pillory, I would have the Stake be the Punishment of those, who in Contradiction to the Laws of God and Man, to the Order and Course of Nature, and to the most simple Principles of Reason, preposterously burn for each other, and leave the Fair, the charming Sex, neglected.

But as Loss of Appetite is inseparable from a feeble and depraved Stomach: so is this Vice most predominant in those, to whom Nature has been so sparing of her Blessings, that they find not a Call equivalent to other Men. And therefore, rather than expose themselves, they take the contrary Road; and, like eunuchs, out of meer Madness and Disappointment, loath the Dear Sex they have no Power to Please.

This must be the Case, if we consider that the Majority of Persons suspected of this Vice, are antiquated Leachers[5]; who have out-lived the Power of Enjoyment: are so conscious of their own Insufficiency, they dare not look a Woman in the Face.

But so Numerous are they Grown, it is high Time to put a Stop to them, lest the growing Generation be corrupted; and England rival Italy, in this most unnatural and wicked Practice.

No Step will be more Effectual than at once to abolish the Fulsome Custom of Men Kissing each other, and to admit of no Plea or Exception in Favour of so detestable a Practice.

Broadsheet illustration of mollies, 1707. On the left, one cuts his throat when his friend is hanged. In the centre, they embrace. On the right, one is cut down from gallows

Is not the old Custom of shaking Hands more Manly, more Friendly, and more Decent? What need have we of Judas like a Practice? For my Part, I hold it so ridiculous foolish Custom for a Man to Kiss even his own Brother, it savours too much of Effeminacy, to say the best of it. I know some worthy Gentlemen so Scrupulous, they will not on any Account Kiss any Friend or Relation of the same Sex, and I saw myself, two Brothers take a very solemn Leave of each other without one Kiss, though not without Tears; and I dare say with more Friendship than Ten Thousand Kisses could Express. I am of a Society of Gentlemen, and with Pride I declare it; who have made a solemn Vow, never to give, or take from any Man a Kiss, on any Account whatever; and so punctual have we been in Observation of this Injunction, that many times at the Expence of a Quarrel, this Rule has been most inviolably kept among us.

If such a Resolution was more universal, the Sons of Sodom would lose many Proselytes, in being baffled out of one of their principal Advances; for under Pretence of extraordinary Friendship, they intice unwary Youth from this first Step, to more detestable Practices, taking many Times the Advantage of their Necessities to Decoy them to their Ruin.

I know a Thousand Objections will be brought against what I say, I shall be laught at by all the Votaries of Sodom and Effeminacy; but I hope the Manly and Generous Britons, who yet Survive, will take what I say, into Consideration, and show themselves Friends to the FAIR SEX; by opposing all Inlets to the Sin of Sodomy, of which Man-Kissing is the very first.

With this, all other Effeminacy’s should be abolished; and each Sex should maintain its peculiar Character: I hope the Ladies will not stand in need of any Advice from me; yet I could wish that some among them would seem less Amorous of one Another; for tho’ Woman Kissing Woman, is more suitable to their Natural Softness, and indeed more excusable than the like Practice in the contray Sex; yet it ought to be done (if at all) with Modesty and Moderation, lest Suggestions, which I hope are false, and which to me seem Improbable, should bring such Ladies under Censure; who give themselves too great Liberties with each Other: for as the Age encreases in Wickedness, new Vices may Arise; and since they themselves see how Fulsome it is in Gentlemen, I hope they will abstain from all Appearance of Evil, and Contribute to the intended Reformation; not only by scorning and deriding such Wretches of Men, who shall openly Affront them, by Kissing each other in their Presence: but that they will set the Gentlemen a Pattern, and shame them out of it by using a Kiss, if it must be used in so decent a Manner, and with so great Restraint, that the most envious shall find no cause of Censure.

The execution of three Molly House sodomites at Tyburn, 9 May 1726

 

CHAP. III.
The Italian
OPERA'S, and Corruption of the English Stage, and other Publick Diversions.

How famous, or rather how infamous Italy has been in all Ages, and still continues in the odious Practice of Sodomy, needs no Explanation[6]; it is there esteemed so trivial, and withal so modish a Sin, that not a Cardinal or Churchman of Note but has his Ganymede; no sooner does a Stranger of Condition set his Foot in Rome, but he is surrounded by a Crowd of Pandars, who ask him if he chuses a Woman or a Boy, and to procure for him accordingly; this Practice is there so general, they have little else in their Heads or Mouths, than Casto and Culo[7] which they intermix with almost every Sentence, (a beastly and withal a most stupid Interjection!) for, let them be talking on never so serious a Subject, these two Syllables must come in, though never so foreign to the Purpose; these they use just as the French do the Word Foutre[8], which must come in by Head and Shoulders in every Company and Sentence. Nay, there are those who will intermingle it Word for Word, to the no small Improvement of Conversation; we are not yet arrived to this pitch of Perfection; but much may be hoped in Time: For since the Introduction of ITALIAN OPERA’s here, our Men are grown insensibly more and more Effeminate; and whereas they used to go from a good Comedy, warm’d with the Fire of Love; and from a good Tragedy, fir’d with a Spirit of Glory; they Sit indolently and supine at an OPERA, and suffer their Souls to be Sung away by the Voices of Italian Syrens; ‘twas just the same in Greece, when they left their Noble warlike Moods, and ran into soft Compounds of Chromatic Musick; of this the Philosopher complains, and to this attributes the Loss of so many Battles, and Dwindling of the Grecian Glory. Rome likewise sank in Honour and Success, as it rose in Luxury and Effeminacy; they had Women Singers and Eunuchs from Asia, at a vast Price: which so softned their Youth, they quite lost the Spirit of Man-hood, and with it their Empire. For they grew so Womanish in Mind, Gesture, and Attire; and withal so fearful of hurting their sweet Faces, which were nurs’d up with all the Cosmetics Art or Nature could invent or produce, that their Enemies kill’d ‘em with their very Looks, and for fear of having their Faces gash’d, or their fine Cloaths spoil’d, they turn’d their Backs upon those ugly dirty Fellows, and gave up their Liberty to preserve their Effeminacy. Heav’n grant the Application may never extend to England; but I leave any reasonable Person to judge, if the Similitude is not too close.

The Beggar's Opera, Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, 1728 by William Hogarth

As the ITALIAN OPERA’s have flourish’d, the English Stage has diminish’d. Where is that Life, Fire and Spirit which adorn’d our Plays of old? Look over the Productions of this last Age (Mr. ADDISON’s Cato excepted) and you will see nothing worthy to be called a Play, or proper to be exhibited to a British Audience: They are rather Drolls or Farces, than Tragedies and Comedies; so that it may well be said Comedy and Tragedy died with Addison and Congreve, and Action with Booth and Oldfield. Our Players are now turn’d Ballad-singers; our Theatres are transform’d to Puppet-Shews, improperly called Pantomimes; for the Pantomimes of the Antients were clever Fellows, that would exactly mimic, or imitate, the Voice and Gesture of any Man they had an Intent to ridicule. But in these Pantomime Entertainments there is neither Head or Tail, Meaning or Connection: Gods, Harlequins, Priests, and Sailors, are all jumbled together, even in Temples, in the most incoherent manner, ten times more extravagant than the most extravagant Dream that ever was yet dreamt: However, these Drolls have crowded Houses, while the best Plays of Shakespear are exhibited to empty Boxes.

This shews the Taste of the Town, and the Genius of the People; who, grown quite Lethargic with Luxury, and in a State of Perdition, dare not think, and only seek to be diverted.

The "Vagabond Swiss": Johann Jakob Heidegger by John Faber

The Masquerades, Ridotto’s[9], and Assemblies of late so much the Mode, at once explain and condemn themselves. ‘Tis the greatest Reproach imaginable to the British Nation, that they have suffer’d themselves to be bubbled[10] at this rate by a Vagabond Swiss [11], who has liv’d profusely for many Years past, at the Expence of English Fools; a publick Cock-Bawd, who while others of his Profession have been punish’d by Justices, &c. has gone on with Impunity, cares’d by the Chief (I was about to say best) of our Quality; but for what Reasons may be easily imagined.

Next to the Abuse of Public Diversions, is that of private Conversation, which is now reduced to these two important Heads, Tittle Tattle and QUADRILLE.

This Whiling away of Time renders us such useless Animals, that we seem to live to no Purpose; for, as our Senses grow depraved, so will our Appetites and Inclinations: For it is evident to Men who have the free Use of their Faculties, that as there is no Pleasure on Earth equal to the Possession of an agreeable Woman; so it must be confess’d, that whoever runs into an Extreme of a contrary Nature, it is because he is neither worthy or capable of enjoying so great a Blessing.

 

CHAP. IV
The Persecution of
Prudes, and Barbarity of Women one to another.

This final short chapter has nothing to say about sodomy except to compare lust for one’s own sex unfavourably with fornication inadvertently leading to illegitimate childbirth, which the reader is encouraged to take a charitable view of. It can be read here.

 

[1] A cotquean is a contemptuous term for “a man that acts the housewife, that busies himself unduly or meddles with matters belonging to the housewife's province” (OED).

[2] A “man of clouts” is “a mere ‘doll’ in the garb of a man (OED).

[3] A “mantua” was “a kind of loose gown worn by women, fashionable esp. in the late 17th and early 18th centuries” (OED).

[4] To meaning of “slop” here is to “slobber” (OED).

[5] A “leacher” was “a man immoderately given to sexual indulgence; a lewd or grossly unchaste man, a debauchee” (OED).

[6] Gay propagandists have unsurprisingly been keen to discredit this pamphlet as ignorant rubbish as much as possible, leading some (eg. George Haggerty In Queer Gothic, 2006) to imply that what the pamphleteer says about Italy is inspired by nothing more than bigoted English anti-Catholicism, but Italy was far more widely known than just in England as Europe’s hotbed of pederasty, and there is plenty of evidence from Italian sources to support her reputation. Nor should it be supposed that educated Englishmen were ignorant of what went on sexually in Italy. This was the age when every young English gentleman with aspirations to culture spent around two years on the Grand Tour, of which a stay in Italy was the essential component. See Ian Littlewood’s Sultry Climates: Travel and Sex since the Grand Tour (London: John Murray, 2001) for the importance of sexual adventure as part of The Grand Tour experience.

[7] “Culo” is Italian for “Arse”.

[8] Fuck.

[9] A “ridotto” was “an entertainment consisting of music, dancing, and sometimes gambling” (OED).

[10] To “bubble”meant “to delude, dupe, or hoodwink; to cheat” (OED).

[11] Johann Jakob Heidegger, who from about 1715 to 1743 arranged masquerades in the Haymarket Theatre. These were fancy-dress parties popular with high society and carried on with royal patronage despite being frequently denounced for lewdness and immorality. (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography).

 

Comments

Comments of general interest will be collected at Letters To The Editor (some editing may be involved)

 

Born to be Mild,  2 April 2022

Our scribe may be anonymous, but I'd be willing to wager he's reasonably advanced in age. A time-honoured geezer lament: standards are slipping, morals are in decline, boys ain't what they used to be... Republican Rome blamed it on warm baths; now a far more exciting cause-and-effect can be targeted for inflation: the molly.

The moraliser rails against "the Fulsome Custom of Men Kissing each other". A huge and ongoing mistake of those opposed to gayness. Trucking a new-found homophobia into the area of ordinary male physical intimacy is in fact a guaranteed way to exacerbate the occurrence of exclusive, gay-tending homosexuality. JA Symonds' memoirs provide a very good example of this. He detested and was unable to join in the rambunctious, often sexual byplay going on between boys. This leads to a fetishisation of the masculine bonding experience he's isolated from. Eventually his entire sexuality is shaped to pursue only boys and young men. This shaping may, in the main, take place very early, but it's a real phenomenon and the one behind the rise in gay identity.

It's also interesting to compare this writer's discussion of homosexuality with Jeremy Bentham's, fifty-odd years later.  Bentham doesn't really address the molly phenomenon, assuming homosexual behaviour to be pederastic. Outside of the secret London clubs and beats, it probably was. Commentators like the Plain Reasons author were a very important part in creating a gay mountain out of a homosexual molehill. The phobic solutions his ilk pursued (and pursue) -- making males afraid of physical intimacy -- was the most ingenious "recruiting" method ever devised.

 

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