The Cleveland Street scandal, involving a homosexual brothel reputedly visited by the Queen's grandson, shocked Victorian Britain in 1889. This is the first full-length account of one of its key players, Jack Saul, a working class Irish Catholic rent boy who worked his way into the upper echelons of the aristocracy, and wrote the notorious pornographic memoir The Sins of the Cities of the Plain. Glenn Chandler, creator of Taggart, explores his colourful but tragic life and reveals for the first time the true story about what really went on behind the velvet curtains of Number 19 Cleveland Street.
Bringing Victorian lgbt people back to life
Glenn Chandler unearths the life of Jack Saul, perhaps the most notorious Victorian gay man this side of Oscar Wilde. Saul figured in two Victorian era sex scandals and is the author is of an early gay (explicit) autobiography. Chandler painstakingly researched Saul's life following him from an upbringing mired in poverty,to his eventual "rise" as a sought after male escort in London. Chandler also covers Saul's part in the Cleveland Street scandals.
The prose the is easy to follow and there is a sense of humor throughout the book that I think Jack would like. Rather than being a victim of a careless Capitalistic society, Chandler is well aware that Jack moved beyond structural limitations, forging a life the best way he could. Jack was a survivor and had a keen instinct for his own interests.
My only criticism about Chandler's (thorough research as much as one can tell) work is that he does not use a scholarly system of source citation. It would have been nice to know the sources that form the basis of his study. To be fair, he does have a few sources listed in most chapters, but it is nowhere near enough to satisfy an academic.
Overall "The Sins of Jack Saul" is a delicious read, and will be pleasurable reading for the general public, those interested in lgbt history, Ripperologists (for context), or in Victorian society. Chandler has done an admirable job at unearthing a life that many scholars assumed was lost to history.