About Me

My photo
Ripon, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom
Gary Dolman was born in the industrial north east of England in the 1960s, but grew up in Harrogate in Yorkshire, where he now lives with his wife, three children and dogs. His writing reflects his fascination by the dark places of the human mind.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Infernal Narrative (Reprise) and a warning to my own readers.

Some two years ago, I published by first post on this blog. It concerned one of the greatest scandals of Victorian-era Britain and its sensational exposure by the great pioneering journalist WT Stead. This was the so-called Defloration Mania

This was my post:

In 1885, as editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, Stead wrote a series of sensational articles entitled, ‘The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon'. These exposed the widespread trade in very young, virgin girls who were procured for rape and prostitution. Stead's, ‘Infernal Narrative,’ as he called it, revealed to a respectable and prudish Victorian readership a seedy underworld of brothels, procuresses and padded chambers where upper-class gentlemen could revel, ‘in the cries of an immature child'.

Under such sensational headers as, ‘Virgins, Willing and Unwilling,’ ‘The London Slave Market,’ and, ‘Strapping Girls Down,’ the articles threw society into a state of near panic and achieved as a consequence, the implementation of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, whereby the age of consent for girls was raised from thirteen to sixteen years.

To demonstrate how easy it was to procure a young girl for prostitution, Stead arranged for the purchase of Eliza Armstrong, the thirteen year-old daughter of a chimney sweep for £5. As a result of what were subsequently considered to be illegal investigative methods, he was convicted of the, ‘unlawful kidnapping of a minor’, and sentenced to three months in prison. Thereafter, every November 10th, (the anniversary of his conviction), Stead would dress in his prison uniform as a reminder of his, ‘triumph.’ 

My debut novel, The Eighth Circle of Hell, published October 2012 by Thames River Press explores the so-called Victorian Defloration Mania through the experiences of a young, orphan-girl who falls into the hands of a group of powerful, predatory men. Decades after she flees from the horrors of her time with them, advancing senile dementia forces her to once again relive her years of hell.

WT Stead was unbowed on his release from prison and remained convinced of his probity in attempting to break what he considered to be the, ‘conspiracy of silence,’ surrounding the subject. Today, over 125 years after the articles were published, the latest research by the NSPCC suggests that some one in nine children have been contact-abused sexually at some point in their lives. The Maiden Tribute is still being paid today.

End of original post.

Since that first first post there have been numerous arrests and convictions of celebrities and notables for child sex offences. Over the next few days, I intend to publish Stead's original articles in full, making no apology for the season. Please find below, Stead's warning to readers of the Pall Mall Gazette. The articles were later to spark the Northumberland Street riots.

Notice To Our Readers: A Frank Warning
(Published in the Pall Mall Gazette. July 4th, 1885)

The Criminal law Amendment Bill, it is said, will be abandoned owing to the late period of the session and the difficulty of finding time to carry it through the Commons. That measure deals with a subject the importance of which has been admitted by both parties, and is based upon the urgent recommendation of a House of Lords Committee of which the Marquis of Salisbury was a prominent member.

It has thrice been passed through the House of Lords, and now for the third time it is threatened with extinction in the House of Commons. The public, it is said, is not interested in the subject, and the bill, therefore, may safety be abandoned. That we are told is the calculation in high quarters. But if Ministers think of allowing the bill to drop because the public is not keenly alive to its importance, it is necessary to open the eyes of the public, in order that a measure the urgency of which has been repeatedly admitted may pass into law this session. We have, therefore, determined, with a full sense of the responsibility attaching to such a decision, to publish the report of a Special and Secret Commission of Inquiry which we appointed to examine into the whole subject. It is a long, detailed report, dealing with those phases of sexual criminality which the Criminal Law Amendment Bill was framed to repress. Nothing but the most imperious sense of public duty would justify its publication. But as we are assured on every hand, on the best authority, that without its publication the bill will be abandoned for the third time, we dare not face the responsibility of its suppression. We shall, therefore, begin its publication on Monday, and continue to publish de die in diem until the whole infernal narrative is complete. But although we are thus compelled, in the public interest, to publish the case for the bill, or rather for those portions of it which are universally admitted to be necessary, we have no desire to inflict upon unwilling eyes the ghastly story of the criminal developments of modern vice. Therefore we say quite frankly to-day that all those who are squeamish, and all those who are prudish, and all those who prefer to live in a fool's paradise of imaginary innocence and purity, selfishly oblivious to the horrible realities which torment those whose lives are passed in the London Inferno, will do well not to read the Pall Mall Gazette of Monday and the three following days. The story of an actual pilgrimage into a real hell is not pleasant reading, and is not meant to be. It is, however, an authentic record of unimpeachable facts, "abominable, unutterable, and worse than fables yet have feigned or fear conceived."

But it is true, and its publication is necessary.

No comments:

Post a Comment