Fanny & Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England

Neil McKenna

Fanny & Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England

28th April 1870. The flamboyantly dressed Miss Fanny Park and Miss Stella Boulton are causing a stir in the Strand Theatre. All eyes are riveted upon their lascivious oglings of the gentlemen in the stalls. Moments later they are led away by the police. What followed was a scandal that shocked and titillated Victorian England in equal measure. It turned out that the alluring Miss Fanny Park and Miss Stella Boulton were no ordinary young women. Far from it. In fact, they were young men who liked to dress as women. When the Metropolitan Police launched a secret campaign to bring about their downfall, they were arrested and subjected to a sensational show trial in Westminster Hall. As the trial of 'the Young Men in Women's Clothes' unfolded, Fanny and Stella's extraordinary lives as wives and daughters, actresses and whores were revealed to an incredulous public. With a cast of peers, politicians and prostitutes, drag queens, doctors and detectives, Fanny and Stella is a Victorian peepshow, exposing the startling underbelly of nineteenth-century London. 4.0 out of 5 based on 3 reviews
Fanny & Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre History
Format
Pages 416
RRP
Date of Publication February 2013
ISBN 978-0571231904
Publisher Faber & Faber
 

28th April 1870. The flamboyantly dressed Miss Fanny Park and Miss Stella Boulton are causing a stir in the Strand Theatre. All eyes are riveted upon their lascivious oglings of the gentlemen in the stalls. Moments later they are led away by the police. What followed was a scandal that shocked and titillated Victorian England in equal measure. It turned out that the alluring Miss Fanny Park and Miss Stella Boulton were no ordinary young women. Far from it. In fact, they were young men who liked to dress as women. When the Metropolitan Police launched a secret campaign to bring about their downfall, they were arrested and subjected to a sensational show trial in Westminster Hall. As the trial of 'the Young Men in Women's Clothes' unfolded, Fanny and Stella's extraordinary lives as wives and daughters, actresses and whores were revealed to an incredulous public. With a cast of peers, politicians and prostitutes, drag queens, doctors and detectives, Fanny and Stella is a Victorian peepshow, exposing the startling underbelly of nineteenth-century London.

Reviews

The Evening Standard

John Preston

You would need to be a very dull — or prim — dog indeed not to find this a terrifically entertaining story. Neil McKenna has thrown himself into it with unfettered glee. If the opportunity arises to describe an anal fistula — and it does, frequently — he does not shirk it. Every so often the campness threatens to tilt out of control, but he’s a sufficiently crisp, colourful and funny writer for it not to matter.

24/01/2013

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The Guardian

Kathryn Hughes

His writing has much of the performative element that characterised Stella and Fanny's appearances on the streets of London and in provincial halls. Showy as a feather boa, McKenna's text takes pleasure in its own silly excess. There are drawers galore, plenty of back passages and chapter titles such as Monstrous Erections, which turns out to refer to the size of his heroines' wigs. Purists and puritans may balk at the book, both its tone and its way of proceeding. But everyone else will have a ball.

26/01/2013

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The Sunday Times

Dominic Sandbrook

McKenna has done a tremendous job of re-creating Victorian London’s gay subculture, weaving newspaper reports, police documents and contemporary diaries into a jolly and rollicking narrative ... there is also an enormous amount here about various anal disorders — too much, perhaps, for more sensitive readers. I was rather distracted, meanwhile, by McKenna’s habit of inserting long Mills-and-Boon passages (“He did not want Mary-Anns that night. He wanted real men, strong men... Men who smelt like men”) that presumably owe more to his imagination than to the documentary sources. All the same, Fanny and Stella is a cracking read.

20/01/2013

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