Author(s): Neil McKenna
The gripping story of the trial that shook Victorian England - a tale of cross-dressing, cross-examinations and the invention of camp.
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. By turns tragic and comic, meticulously researched and dazzlingly written, Fanny and Stella is an enthralling tour-de-force.
Neil McKenna is an award-winning journalist who has written for the Independent, the Observer, the Guardian and the New Statesman. He is a former deputy editor of Elle Decoration and worked as an editor for Channel 4. He has also worked extensively in the gay press where he is known for initiating the campaign for gay law reform in the Isle of Man and leading the fight against Clause 25. He is the author of two ground-breaking books about male homosexuality and Aids In The Developing World: On the Margins (1996) and The Silent Epidemic (1998). His debut biography, The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde, was published in 2003 to wide acclaim.