Mar 26

An everyday story of Victorian cross-dressers by Tim Stanley, The Telegraph

Dr Tim Stanley wrote an article about Fanny & Stella recently in The Telegraph

On April 28, 1870, two young gentlemen turned up to the Strand Theatre, London in evening frocks. Ernest Boulton went by the name of Stella and Frederick Park liked to be called Fanny. The behaviour in their box was outlandish and outrageous, a performance far more colourful than the one on the stage. Yet in the bar afterwards, they were perfect ladies. The aristocratic Fanny even went to the ladies’ room and politely asked the attendant to help pin the lace back onto her dress where it had fallen off.

They were just leaving the theatre, about to get into their carriage, when a man jumped out of the crowd and said, “I’m a police officer from Bow Street and I have every reason to believe that you are men in female attire.” The jig was up and the boys were hauled off to the cop shop. When the police raided the house that Stella and Fanny kept together, they found:

sixteen dresses in satin or silk with suitable lace trimmings, a dozen petticoats, ten cloaks and jackets, half a dozen bodices, several bonnets and hats, twenty chignons, and a variety of stays, drawers, stockings, boots, curling-irons, gloves, boxes of violet powder and bloom of roses.

The scene was sketched for the newspapers in the manner of a Jack the Ripper crime scene:

The whole story is reported in Neil McKenna’s book Fanny and Stella – a recommended read – and it offers a fascinating, surprising insight into Victorian sexual culture.

You can read the rest of the article here