Books: Improper Victorians

THE GIRL WITH THE SWANSDOWN SEAT (263 pp.)—Cyril Pearl—Bobbs-Merrill ($3.95).

It seems that more things went on behind Queen Victoria's billowing black bombazine skirts than her spiritual grandsons have been led to believe. It is probably too late to set matters straight, but Australian Cyril Pearl has made an industrious try at striking "Victorianism" from the lexicon as the synonym for middle-class prudery.

The legend of Victorian domestic virtue and strict private morals was literally a fiction. Pearl suggests. Dickens, the prose laureate of the era, and Trollope, who boasted that "no girl...