Evil fame
Posted: 09 January 2020 03:50 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Every now and then I encounter an old reference to someone being charged with “evil fame”.

I’ve found some specific mentions in statutes but it seems to me that it is some kind of euphemism and I can’t work out what it is a euphemism for. I mean I assume people weren’t just being charged for having a bad reputation. I previously thought that it meant prostitution but some examples make it clear it doesn’t quite mean that.

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Posted: 09 January 2020 04:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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A couple of examples:

Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky (1841) (found via Google Books)
Screenshot-Acts-of-the-General-Assembly-of-the-Commonwealth-of-Kentucky-Kentucky-Google-Books-Google-Chrome.png

Kalgoorlie Miner, Mon 31 Aug 1908 (a local newspaper)
kal.png

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Posted: 09 January 2020 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It seems to be a synonym of “ill fame” and “infamy”; the OED defines infamous as “Of ill fame or repute; famed or notorious for badness of any kind; notoriously evil, wicked, or vile; held in infamy or public disgrace”; ”Law. Of a person: Deprived of all or certain of the rights of a citizen, in consequence of conviction of certain crimes; Of a crime or punishment: Involving or entailing infamy” and adds:

infamous crime was chiefly applied to abominable and disgusting crimes, as sodomy and kindred offences: see the Larceny Act of 1861, sect. 46. In U.S., ‘in general, an offence punishable in a state prison’.

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Posted: 09 January 2020 07:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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A little bit of digging makes it apparent to me that this question is not easily resolvable. It’s more question for a legal historian and would take a major research effort to suss out all the meanings. The exact definition seems to change depending on jurisdiction and time period. LH is right in the general meaning, but the exact criminal charge varies. In some cases, it seems to be a factor in determining bail (the Australian example posted above fits this sense). In others it’s a particular crime, ranging from vagrancy to prostitution. In older periods, it seems to have had a sense of betraying the public trust, in particular by the nobility.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t a law review article somewhere that outlines the history of the term.

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Posted: 09 January 2020 10:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Audrey Eccles on the history of Vagrancy laws and its extensions into the vague category of “Evil Fame” in 18th century law.

Vagrancy in Law and Practice under the Old Poor Law
By Audrey Eccles

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Posted: 10 January 2020 01:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Thanks all.
Certainly “Evil Fame” sounds like a cooler charge than sodomy or vagrancy.

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