The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon
Written by crusading editor W.T. Stead, the series was a tour de force of Victorian journalism. With sensational crossheads, such as "The Violation of Virgins" and "Strapping Girls Down", the Maiden Tribute threw respectable Victorians into a state of moral panic, and achieved, as a consequence, the implementation of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, which raised the age of consent for girls from 13 to 16, and also re-criminalised homosexual acts.
Stead and several of his accomplices were later brought to trial as a result of the unlawful investigative methods they used (see the Eliza Armstrong Case) and Stead himself served three months in prison. Stead's reports were an early but potent example of a 'new journalism' which was not afraid of creating a 'news-event' rather than just plain reporting. According to Roland Pearsall, "it was the death knell of responsible journalism".
Stead's account was widely translated and the revelation of "padded rooms for the purpose of stifling the cries of the tortured victims of lust and brutality" and the symbolic figure of "The Minotaur of London" confirmed European observers' worst imaginings about "Le Sadisme anglais" and inspired erotic writers to write of similar scenes set in London or involving sadistic English gentlemen. Such writers include D'Annunzio in Il Piacere, Paul-Jean Toulet in Monsieur de Paur (1898), Octave Mirbeau in Jardin des Supplices (1899) and Jean Lorrain in Monsieur de Phocas (1901).
The title evokes the Greek myth of the Minotaur's virgins tribute.
- Roland Pearsall (1969) The Worm in the Bud: The World of Victorian Sexuality: 373
- Mario Praz (1970) The Romantic Agony. Oxford University Press: 443-451
- Antony E. Simpson, ed. (2007). "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon: An incursion into Sexuality, Power and Law. Review of: Stead, W.T.". The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon: The Report of the Secret Commission. Edited, and with Annotations and an Introductory Essay by Antony E. Simpson. (Malaysia: The True Bill Press).
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- The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon (Full text and facsimiles from the Pall Mall Gazette (1885))