Questions of identity and disguise long fascinated English culture. A society made anxious by shifting class, gender, and racial relationships was naturally preoccupied by dress and role playing, by visual codes and clues. The investigation of the life of Willy Clarkson\-\-the man who probably knew more about costumes and disguises than any other individual in the early twentieth century\-\-allows us to understand why the public was at specific times particularly sensitive to the employment of certain disguises, and so provides us with a new view of the cultural preoccupations of the inter-war years. The purpose of the essay is not simply to tease out the reasons why one man led a double life, but to reveal how such disparate deviances as homosexuality, Jewishness, and criminality could be linked in the public mind and why a society, which in principle praised candor and condemned subterfuges, in practice fostered a culture of duplicity.


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pp. 597-618
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