Postal Pleasures: Sex, Scandal, and Victorian Letters

Postal Pleasures: Sex, Scandal, and Victorian Letters

by Kate Thomas


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Postal Pleasures: Sex, Scandal, and Victorian Letters by Kate Thomas

In 1889 uniformed post-boys were discovered moonlighting in a West End brothel frequented by men of the upper classes. "The Cleveland Street Scandal" erupted and Victorian Britain faced the possibility that the Post Office-a bureaucratic backbone of nation and empire-was inspiring and servicing subversive sexual behavior. However, the unlikely alliance between sex and the postal service was not exactly the news the sensational press made it out to be. Postal Pleasures explores the relationship between illicit sex and the Royal Mail from reforms initiated in 1840 up to the imperial end of the nineteenth century. With a combination of historical details and literary analyses, Kate Thomas illustrates how the postal network, its uniformed employees, and its material trappings-envelopes, postmarks, stamps-were used to signal and circulate sexual intrigue. For many, the idea of an envelope promiscuously jostling its neighbors in a post boy's bag, or the notion that secrets passed through the eyes and fingers of telegraph girls, was more stimulating than the actual contents of correspondence. Writers like Anthony Trollope, Eliza Lynn Lynton, Henry James, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Conan Doyle, and others, invoked the postal system as both an instrument and a metaphor for sexual relations that crossed and double-crossed lines of class, marriage, and heterosexuality. Postal Pleasures adds a new dimension to studies of the era as it uncovers the unlikely linkage between the Victorian Post Office and the queer networks it inspired.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199731169
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date: 12/16/2011
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Kate Thomas is Associate Professor of English at Bryn Mawr College.

Table of Contents

Victorians Go Postal

1. Postal Digressions:
Mail and Sexual Scandal

2. "This Little Queen's Head Can't be Untrue:" Trollope's Postal Infidelities

3. A Queer Job for A Girl:
the Communicative Touch in Trollope, Hardy and Lynn Linton

4. All Red Routes: Blood Brotherhood and the Post in Doyle, Kipling and Stoker

5. Post Script: Henry James's Public Servant

Works Cited


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