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Sin, vice, everywhere!
on 5 January 2012
This is a very entertaining story of the history of `sinful vices' in London (although background material often comes from further afield). I have not read any of the author's other books about London - death, and madness are analysed in these books, but will look out for them.
I feel compelled to point out some errors - page 44 states that after King Henry VI of England died, "his son Edward IV" took the throne. Edward IV was in no shape or form Henry VI's son - Henry's son Edward was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. Henry VI was deposed by Edward, son of Richard, Duke of York, who died at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, during the Wars of the Roses. Edward IV went on to rule until his death in 1483.
On page 53, Hugh Weston is listed as Dean of Windsor - he was not Dean of Windsor until 1556, after he was induced to resign as Dean of Westminster on the return of Westminster Abbey to its monastic character. In 1557, he was removed as Dean of Winsor by Cardinal Pole for "gross immorality". Protestant writers (in 1557, Mary I was still the Catholic ruler of England) wrote of Weston's moral delinquincies at the time (including his adultery)
On page 55, I do not believe that Anne Boleyn was charged under the Buggery Act of 1533, although she was charged with adultery and incest. The first conviction under this act was Walter Hungerford in 1540. Although found guilty of "unnatural vices" his real crime was treason (both that of himself as well as his associates) following from the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536.
From then, I found less to jar my senses. It seems that the author was not in her comfort zone when writing of medieval times; but once the book moved chronologically forward to Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and later times, the work became more of a "social" history of London's sinners, rather than a straight "historical" narrative taken from other sources. This is clearly the author's strength - the social history of the later periods, written wittily and engagingly. We learn of the usual suspects, such as Oscar Wilde, and many others who are not so well known. Some parts of the book are inclined to make the reader blush; but it's all presented clearly and informatively. I shall look to read some of the author's other books quite happily.