My sister Bernice was in town last week. We had opportunity for long talks and one of the things that came up was whether the Victorians were really so repressed as we've long been told.
There's a post up at Grumpy Old Bookman on the topic. Among other things GOB says, "In 1857, the medical journal The Lancet estimated that the capital could offer over 6,000 brothels and about 80,000 prostitutes: one woman in every sixteen -- of all ages -- was a whore."
So what makes us think they were prudes? The two men most known for the morals crusade, GOB says, were also "proprietors of the two most successful commercial lending libraries; and the libraries were huge buyers of fiction."
Now and then we hear about how evolution (or some other Christian-right opposed fact) has been reduced to a few mealy-mouthings in school textbooks. The publishers of textbooks know they won't be able to sell anything truthful (which would be controversial) to the biggest buyers of textbooks, which would be Texas and, despite its reputation for liberalism, California, and suchlike. Would a reader of U.S. textbooks take away an accurate view of science (or anything much else?)
The publishers of the Victorian era had to look out for two things -- the law (they could be -- and some were -- imprisoned for publishing sexually explicit works) and their biggest customers (who scoured new books for improprieties). The Victorian literature we have to read today, does it really reflect Victorian society?