Victorian Queer Archive Texts

Dear class,

In a comment below, please type the title of your text and any other information (author, year, publication history, etc) that you currently have.  This will simply serve as a running list for us in class tomorrow.



43 thoughts on “Victorian Queer Archive Texts”

    1. Great, Noah. I request that you pull a small snippet of the play to accompany your visual texts as well. Even if it is a few lines so that there is a textual link to the play.

  1. “Lecture II: A Mock Salvation and a Real Deliverance from Sin” from Popular Christianity (1888), a collection of sermons by Catherine Booth; all delivered in Princes Hall, Piccadilly and published by the Salvation Army. Goes into detail (however coded) about fun things like latent sexual desires in children, corrective/palliative institutions to quash that lovely itch to fornicate, and the masculine sex drive epidemic, all articulated from a female perspective. Reinforces, yet unpacks, Victorian heteronormativity.

    1. Great! Your job will be to find the part of the poem that you think will work best for highlighting the queer, or non-heteronormative aspects of this Victorian text.

  2. Hey, so I have two ideas towards texts that I want to look at:

    The first is a diary of a young girl named Emily Pepys, related to Samuel Pepys. In it she has a dream about marrying a woman and how wonderful it is. Although, I’m having a hard time finding the actual text or a pdf online. But it was written over 6 months starting in 1844. Found in the late twentieth century, it was published in 1984.

    I also found an interesting article from The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine about corporal punishment and its rather erotic nature. This one in particular is form 1868.

  3. I am interested in investigating the relationship between religion and sexuality during the Victorian Era. More specifically, I hope to dig deeper into Josephine Butler’s use of religious rhetoric to incite social change. She thought critically about venereal diseases and sexual empowerment. So far, I discovered her address in 1879 on “Social Purity” and I’d like to figure out how to structure my research from this point.

    1. I think this sounds ok– your task will be to articulate what is socially “unpure” according to this text and then link it to the ideas of the queer we are talking about in class. Good luck and let me know how/when I can help!

  4. I’m looking at the book Mesmerism: A Translation of the Original Scientific and Medical Writings of F.A. Mesmer. This text was edited by George Bloch, translated by E.R. Hilgard, and written by Franz Mesmer. It was the first complete collection of Mesmer’s writings, so while the book itself was published in 1980, the texts it contains are much older.

    1. Sounds good– because the book is not published until the 1980, you may not be able to post an image (because of copyright) and that is ok. Once you decide on your excerpt though, email me or reply again and I can help you look to see if there is an archival holding of the piece that is digitized and made available on the web.

  5. I am looking at the book Aphrodisiacs and anti-aphrodisiacs: three essays on the power of reproduction: with some account of the judicial “congress” as practiced in France during the seventeeth century by John Davenport, “privately published” in 1869 and “publicly published” in 1873.

  6. My text is a chapter from Olive Schreiner’s book, Dreams, published in 1898 by Roberts Brothers. The book is a collection of transcribed dreams presented in the order Schreiner says she had them. The chapter I have chosen is called, “The Sunlight Lay Across My Bed.” The entire book is available on the Indiana University Victorian Women Writers Project website:;;toc.depth=1;;brand=vwwp;doc.view=0;query=.

  7. The text that I will be analyzing is a criminal court proceeding from the Old Bailey, regarding a violent altercation between Louisa Vincent (possibly forced into prostitution) and Thomas Soarston (likely father of her illegitimate child). I chose this text because it indicates the often forgotten underbelly of Victorian society and because the figures who appear in the court proceedings exist so far outside of the realm of acceptable society. Finally, this court case also fits within the perimeters of the sex scandal.

    1. Great! Use Cohen (from earlier in the semester) and his articulation of “sex scandal” to help you write your blog post on the piece. I think that will help you tremendously as you articulate why this text belongs in the archive we are building.

  8. My text is Jane Eyre, specifically the scene of Rochester’s proposal to Jane, and an image from an 1897 edition of JE where the gender relations described in the book are subverted or ignored. The conversation between the original queered gender relations and the conventionalized relations in Edmund Garrett’s illustration leads to another potential un-expression of queerness: the intentional ignoring of queered genders and the insistence on an inaccurate or unrealistic gender binary.

    1. I like what you are already doing here to point out how the heteronormative is set up, only to be subverted or ignored by our titular character.

  9. I decided to look at the anonymous memoir My Secret Life. This 4,000 page, three volume work is the story of “Walter’s” (speculated to be Henry Spencer Ashbee) sexual encounters and experiences with sexuality, starting when he is but a small child. Unlike many other Victorian texts regarding sexuality, this one is not written in any kind of coded language and is full of incredibly explicit descriptions of sexual encounters.

    1. Great– get your hands on this 1st book and then start to see if you can find an advertisement or article circulating in Britain. Come see me for help, or feel free to email Josefine.

  10. I would like to examine the works of Samuel Butler, especially his poem about the passing of one of his supposed lovers, Hans Rudolf Faesch, as well as Butler’s letters to Faesch. It is believed that Butler was a closeted homosexual. His close friend (and possible lover), Henry Festing Jones, published Butler’s hidden poetry, letters, and other works after Butler died in a text entitled “Samuel Butler, Author of Erewhon (1835–1902): A Memoir”. It is this primary text by Jones containing Butler’s works that I would like to use.

  11. I will be using a newspaper article from Reynold’s Newspaper, published Sunday, December 1, 1889 called “The Terrible Scandals in ‘High Life,'” about the Cleveland Street Scandal and the police reaction to upper class versus lower class offenders.

  12. I chose a painting by Dante Gabriele Rosetti called “The Bride” because the stares from the subjects in the painting to the audience seem to be haunting and hypnotic, and there is an element of a sexual gaze from the subjects of the painting to the audience. What also struck me as interesting was that there was one Black girl who is the only one without a shirt on, putting her adolescent body on display and sexualizing it before she reaches adulthood. There is an exoticism and eroticism of the Black female body in this painting and the bright red flowers in the painting seem to symbolize fertility and wild/ fruitful sexuality- of whom, I’m not certain.

    Here is a link to the museum website I got this image from:

  13. I will be using a book (not the whole thing) called “The Psychology of Sex” by Havelock Ellis. The copy I found was published in Philadelphia in 1902. I will need to find the information on the first edition, but I am not quite sure how.

  14. I plan on using excerpts of Anne Lister’s original diaries as my archival text for this project. Anne Lister is known as the first “modern lesbian” and lived from 1791-1840. The diary that I am looking at is titled “No Priest But Love” which has entries written between 1824 and 1826. These entries (from what I gather) cover her affairs and her love life in great detail, especially her affair with another woman named Marianna Lawton.

  15. I aim to look into the Jack the Ripper events that ravaged London in 1888. I will hopefully be using a letter that is thought to be from the murderer himself (, an article in a newspaper of one woman’s account of her friend’s murder (, and an image from a newspaper at the time depicting the police in a hopeless search for the serial killer ( By looking at these, I’m hoping to look into how this scandal forced the public to put sex crimes into public view, how the public sensationalized this mysterious killer, and how prostitutes were regarded (i.e. their humanity) during these deaths.

    1. Great! Depending on how much is here, you may have to only upload one to the archive, but you are welcome to refer to and quote from all three in your blog post essay!

  16. I’m looking at Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Gothic novella “Carmilla,” originally published in the literary magazine The Dark Blue in late 1871. The protagonist, Laura–yes, another Laura!–meets (and possibly falls in love with) a female vampire named Carmilla. I chose this text because, in addition to having a slight addiction to Buffy the Vampire Slayer/vampires, the novella actually predated and heavily influenced Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” which I find extremely interesting. I’m really excited to delve into this text and see how Le Fanu expresses the sexual attraction between Laura and Carmilla because, not only does their relationship challenge societal norms, but Le Fanu’s writing also seems to be more sexually explicit in general: “her hot lips travelled along my cheek in kisses…” (Le Fanu, The attached illustration (found at was also printed alongside the novella in the literary magazine. Carmilla can be

  17. I’m looking at finding an excerpt in “Jude the Obscure” by Thomas Hardy, published in 1895. The plot itself seems to be really interesting in that Jude and Sue live together and have children but never get married, and they each seem to have two partners they keep swinging back and forth from. I’m currently looking at the part where Sue asks her husband, Phillotson, after they got married if he would allow her to move out on her own, not denying that she might live with Jude in doing so. It seems to be an interesting point on double-polygamy, except they aren’t quite married…

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