restricted access City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian Britain by Judith R. Walkowitz (review)
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

94Victorian Review evidence of improvement. In spite of this, contemporaries complained that things were getting worse, not better. Schwarz says that for men employed in semi-skilled trades this was undoubtedly the case as sweating became more pervasive. London's vast reservoir of unskilled labour, ready to pick up basic skills in a variety of occupations, made it exceedingly difficult for male workers in semi-skilled trades to defend their status and incomes. The situation was made worse since the traditional means of protection these workers had employed — guilds, appeals to the magistracy, and the apprenticeship system — were all being weakened or eliminated at this time. Finally, while war-time recruitment tightened the male labour market, the extensive hiring of women and children also permitted the "dilution of the labour force at a time when the men might not object so strongly" (227). While Schwarz rightly regards Dorothy George's London Life in the Eighteenth Century as still authoritative in many areas, his book updates George's in a number of ways. Schwarz presents important new findings concerning the demography and economy of London, and his book is a useful corrective to George's optimism. Indeed, Schwarz's book seems likely to promote debate in a number of areas — the changes in women's work and the extent of the openness of the bourgeoisie being but two. Nevertheless, in a book so useful, one cannot help wondering at the decision not to highUght the terms of the horizontal axis of many of the figures. It is tedious and annoying having to count along in order to determine which picket in the fence refers to which year. But this is a fairly minor criticism of a book which will be cited continually by historians of London during the age of industrialization. LYNNMacKAY Trent University Judith R. Walkowitz. City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian Britain. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1992. xiv + 353. $35.00 US (cloth); $15.95 US (paper). In her "Foreword" to this informative study, Catherine R. Simpson states that while Judith Walkowitz "retains a commitment to history as the study of human agency, action, and experience in the material world . . ." she adds to the work's frame of reference "a post-structural interest in the ways we organize meaning for ourselves and others; Reviews95 interpret and control our experience through language and narrative . . . [and] . . . draws on the ideas of Michel Foucault about Victorian sexuality and power" (x). In other words, in dealing with the 188Os as the crucial decade in the transformation of British sexual politics, Walkowitz blends (as L.P. Curtis recently observed) feminist theory and the perspectives of Foucault Of course, this interesting approach has its limitations as weU as strengths. The City ofDreadful Delight (a title borrowed from Henry James's view of London in the 1880s) is in many ways a sequel to Walkowitz's exceUent de-mytholization of many aspects of prostitution during the Victorian era (Prostitution and Victorian Society) published twelve years ago. Some parts of the present study (especially chapters five, six, and seven) were previously published during the past decade in the History Workshop Journal, Feminist Studies, and Representations and therefore may seem déjà vu to some readers familiar with these publications. It concludes with an Epilogue (on "The Yorkshire Ripper") which presents a feminist view of the murderer Peter Sutcliffe and contrasts the "gender conflicts" of the 1980s with that of the 1880s. In a very forthright and comprehensive "Introduction", Judith Walkowitz asserts that while the City of Dreadful Delight "observes many conventions of . . . social history" and in parts deviates from "a traditional historical narrative to convey the dynamics of metropolitan life as a series of multiple and simultaneous cultural contests and exchanges across a wide social spectrum", it also emphasizes "the narrative challenges raised by the new agenda of cultural history". In this respect, she readily concedes that her analysis of the "cultural events" of the 1880s is conditioned by "the critical standpoint of my generation of feminist scholars" and their view that the "dilemmas" confronting late-Victorian feminists were quite similar to those encountered by present day feminists (10). Her study...


pdf