Wilde did sue the Marquess… unwisely, since he had only been accused of posing as a sodomite. He lost the case and was prosecuted in turn for sodomy. Sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour, he fled abroad after his release and died in poverty.
It wasn’t called a strip club, of course. Ostensibly it was the Temple of Health and of Hymen, a quasi-medical establishment run by a quack doctor who claimed to help infertile couples conceive. All they had to do was hire his ‘Grand Celestial Bed, with pink sheets and Mattresses filled only with the Hair of English Stallions.’ Add music and a mirror-lined ceiling and what more could anyone want?
To get customers in the mood, the girl acted the role of Vestina, Rosy Goddess of Youth and Health. She stripped naked and stood on a pedestal, striking erotic poses and talking about love, while dirty old men sat and stared. The job was better than prostitution, which the girl had also tried, but she hated it all the same. She was very relieved when a rich baronet asked her to be his mistress and took her to live with him in Sussex.
HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 48. The girl was so beautiful that the empress Catherine of Russia asked to see her picture. She later married well and became the companion of a national hero. Who was she?
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