HISTORICAL NOTES: Sex and Those Eminent Victorians

The 20th century has long been fascinated by what it considers one of the odder aberrations of the 19th: Victorian morality. British Historian J.H. Plumb has aptly described "the Victorian's schizophrenic attitude—the conspiracy of silence, the excessive modesty that made the sight of a female ankle wildly erotic, contrasted with the baby prostitutes in the Strand." American Scholar Steven Marcus, in his study The Other Victorians, wrote of "a world part fantasy, part nightmare, part hallucination and part madhouse." Last week London was atwitter over not one but two sex scandals that came to light when some documents dating from...

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