The Sins of the Cities of the Plain
by Jack Saul (Anon)
For anyone interested in this book (and it is freely available as a .pdf on the net) I offer the enclosed reference (http://graduable.com/2013/04/15/victorian-pornography-part-vi-jack-saul/) as an interesting and scholarly examination of just who Jack Saul may/might be. Briefly, there was a Jack Saul who appeared as a witness in the Cleveland St trial of 1885 as a prosecution witness presenting himself as a ‘maryanne’ and being very open about his lifestyle. The best guess is that this book was anonymous and Jack Saul was used as a pseudonym with instant recognition among the cognoscenti. It was used again in the 1883 ‘Letters from Laura and Eveline’ where Jack is Eveline. Group readers may remember looking at ‘Fanny and Stella’ based on the same material and period.
This original source material can be viewed as anything from a frank but lurid exposition on gay life in London among trannie young men and their customers/clients/protectors through to outright pornography. The author included an obligatory explanatory section at the conclusion touching on historic homosexuality and lesbianism.
So, we have a kind of Fanny Hill tale with less plot and more sexual activity including ‘prostitution, cross-dressing, orgies, voyeurism, BDSM, pederasty, incest and bestiality’. While I found it interesting enough, it is necessarily narrow in its focus, both in terms of the young men (what would happen to them later?) and their ‘superiors’ with their inevitably almost feverish desire to create a secret sexual playground of their own. I would be much more interested to read more of the humdrum middle to lower class lives of gay and lesbian people at that time. There must have been so many who lived lives of sometimes excitement, desperation or humdrum domesticity while maintaining their necessarily ‘secret’ interest whether expressed narrowly or more broadly in keeping with writers, poets and social reformers of the day. I have particularly enjoyed the work of homosexuality historians like Clive Moore who bring to life what is available in the historical record. Similarly, I enjoyed the young hero character of ‘The Disappearing Boy’ which our group recently examined – for that very reason.