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88 Victorian Review tiny proportion of those single women who bore children out of wedlock in Victorian Britain, and by the very nature of the suit were able and wiUing to identify a single male responsible for their pUght They — in sharp contrast to most single mothers — dius represented little threat to local ratepayers, and arguably enjoyed favorable treatment from the courts in consequence. Further research wül, moreover, be required to substantiate Frost's forceful claim tiiat breach-of-promise suits allowed single women successfully to challenge patriarchal legal structures. Frost asserts, alternately, that "probably a large number of defendants never paid damages" and that "Probably most of die defendants paid at least part of die awards" won by female plaintiffs, assertions that call in question the economic utiUty of the breach-of-promise action for the women who pursued diem (35, 38). A more detaUed analysis of women plaintiffs wtil need to address die issue of outcomes more fully and systematicaUy to reveal the extent to which women benefitted — economically, socially, and emotionally — from successful breach-of-promise suits. Greater attention to issues of causation — the processes by which women chose to enter the courts with their claims in the first place — wül also help to clarify die significance and meaning of breach-of-promise litigation for men and women alike. Building upon the important base estabUshed in Frost's Promises Broken, such research wül begin to rectify die glaring dearth of scholarship on civU litigation in Victorian England. MARGOT FINN Emory University Patricia Anderson. When Passion Reigned: Sex and the Victorians. New York: Basic Books, 1995. 209. $23.00 US; $32.50 CAN. This spirited book takes as its premise the idea that die Victorians were not the sexual prudes later generations have thought diem to be. In fact the study proclaims that they were actually sexier than their modernday counterparts. Twentieth century observers, however, have not known how to read die signals and have misinterpreted die levels of passion because Victorians did not talk openly and obsessively about sexual relations as modern generations have come to do. Anderson asks the question, "In an age unlike ours, when people did not talk endlessly about it, was intimacy more intimate? And desire more desirable?" Reviews89 Twenty years ago these questions would not have been asked; instead it was assumed that Victorians were not only prudish but also hypocritical in allowing prostitution and pornography to flourish at the same time that they venerated family Ufe. Drawing on obvious, but previously neglected, sources, the author provides an explosion of new information to support her contention. Advertisements, valentines, songs, romances, diaries, sentimental verse, penny song sheets, and romance Uterature, which was once widely read but is now largely ignored, all play their parts in showing how initial attraction advanced to flirtation, to faUing in love, to courtship, and to the marriage tie. The author shows how physical presence, in the drawing room, at die piano, in the ballroom, aU offered opportunity for titillating temptation. Bosoms heaved, strong men became weak with desire in response to the sexual attractions of corsets, busdes, and stovepipe trousers. One of the strengths of this book is, that although written in a Uvely and popular style, it is based on soUd historical research. Anderson is a trained and experienced historian and she brings the skills of her discipline to her task, but succeeds in imparting her prose with style and verve. Her bibUography itself is a fascinating feature, drawing, as it does, on out-of-the-way sources such as the Catalogue of Erotic and Obscene Books held in the British Library; numerous contemporary essays and tracts such as A Letter of Warning to Lads; obscure romantic fiction and poetry; and misceUaneous guides, manuals, and treatises such as Hints on Husband Catching: Manual for Marriageable Misses. It is worth noting, however, that although the author deals direcdy with subjects not often encountered in modern critical studies, such as use of the term "pearl" as a euphemism for the clitoris, she never degenerates to a level of smut or dirty commentary for its shock value; and she rules out clinical jargon and vulgar language. Instead...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 88-90
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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