This is a remarkable study of what the author, widely recognized as a leading authority on the Victorian and Edwardian scenes, calls ‘The Golden Age of Whoredom’ — that period, covering roughly the half-century from 1861 to 1911 (from the death of the Prince Consort to the death of King Edward VII) which saw the brief but dazzling flowering of the Grand Strumpet, who enjoyed riches, fame and power on an astonishing scale.
There have been individual and general studies of the great whores of this period; there has never before been a study of the unique prostitution of this time — unique because, although whores have been with us since Lilith, those of the period under consideration enjoyed an unprecedented social standing. During this brief epoch, they were no longer demi-mondaines; they constituted a world of their own. For the first time in history, Society had, as it were, two tops: that based on the Establishment of birth, religion, political power, and that — triumphantly led by the great harlots — based on expensive sin.
The author sets out in this extraordinarily fascinating book to answer his own intriguing question: Why did it suddenly become fashionable, about 1860, to be ruined by a status-symbol whore? The answer involves many a surprising truth; not the least surprising being that the people who held the harlot-ruined man in most respect were the eminently respectable.
Through a consideration of their personal backgrounds, their characters, their powerful and wealthy clients, and—not done before in any book—the flourishing industries which owed their prosperity to the patronage of these free-spending trollops, Michael Harrison has produced a social document unique in its scope and revelations. But, though a serious sociological study, it moves with all the racy speed which made his London by Gaslight, 1861-1911 so well-deserved a success.
(Tina Rhea #50)
ISBN 978-1-55497-276-0 $10.00