Victorian London - Crime - Prostitution - Attitudes towards

    The letter [click here] is, to the best of our belief, a revelation of the feelings of the class to which the writer openly declares that she belongs. Now, the singularity of the communication consists in tbis,—that the writer, who must be supposed to be tolerably well acquainted with the feelings of her associates and friends—bids us, in considering the subject, to dismiss from our apprehension all the crudities with which divines, and philanthropists, and romance-writers have surrounded it. The great bulk of the London prostitutes are not Magdalens either in esse or posse, nor specimens of humanity in agony, nor Clarissa Harlowes. - They are not—the bulk of them—cowering under gateways, nor preparing to throw themselves from Waterloo Bridge, but are comfortably practising their trade, either as the entire or partial means of their subsistence. To attribute to them the sentimental delicacies of a heroine of romance would be equally preposterous. They have no remorse or misgivings about the nature of their pursuit; on the contrary, they consider the calling an advantageous one, and they look upon their success in it with satisfaction. They have their virtues, like others; they are good daughters, good sisters, and friends, at least proportionately so with other classes of the community.

From a leading article in The Times, London, February 25, 1858.

see also J. Ewing Ritchie in The Night Side of London - click here (and throughout the book)

    This Act [Contagious Diseases Act], however, is something more than a means of imparting health both physical and moral. It forms the commencement of a new legislative era, being a departure from that neutral position previously held by English law with respect to venereal diseases, and admits that there is nothing in the nature of prostitution to exclude it from legislative action, but that, on the contrary, it may be necessary to recognize its existence, and to provide for its regulation, and for the repression, so far as possible, of its attendant evils. It is, in fact, the adoption - so far as it goes - of the principle for which I have always contended, that prostitution ought to be an object of legislation.
    I believe I may claim, without vanity, to have in some measure paved the way for, and guided the progress of, this change, and I hail with satisfaction the advent of the time which has at length arrived when we may contemplate work accomplished, and, guided by the experience gained from results attained, consider what more remains to be achieved.
    Although the benefits that have resulted from the recent legislation - as regards this special class of disease - are undoubted, there is great unwillingness in certain quarters to extend them from a class to the nation, and a radical distinction is sought to be drawn between the case of the army and navy and that of the civil population. Strange as it may appear, the same arguments that were urged against interference by the legislature with venereal maladies previously to the passing of the Contagious Diseases Bill - of whose futility that measure is the strongest possible acknowledgment - are still put forward with as much confidence as though they had never received such authoritative refutation, and must still be met and answered, so far as the civil population is concerned. Opposition to legislative interference is still based mainly on religious and moral grounds, the risk of encouraging sin, and the injustice of curtailing individual freedom. I yield to no man in my love of liberty and regard for religion. I am therefore especially careful in the following pages to show that the interference which I propose with personal liberty is unhappily necessary both for the sake of the community at large, and of the women themselves. Such interference is, in fact, not special - it is the extension to venereal disorders of the principle on which the Government endeavours to act in dealing with other forms of preventable disease. Nor have the objections on religious grounds to the course which I propose any real foundation; on the contrary, religion is on my side. 
    The fresh phase assumed by the question discussed in the ensuing pages has necessitated considerable changes and modifications on my part, and I find that much of the matter contained in my first edition may now be conveniently omitted. The whole work has been carefully revised and remodelled, and to a great extent rewritten; moreover, sources of information formerly closed or unknown, are now open to me. My statistics are no longer solely dependent on my own opportunities for investigation. I have been enabled to make use of the researches of others, and much official assistance has been accorded to me. I have described the actual state of prostitution at home and abroad, and have shown the different methods of dealing with it employed in this and other countries, thus rendering easy the comparison between the state of things existing in England and on the Continent, and the rival systems of legislation prevailing here and there.
    It will he seen that on a great part of the Continent the necessity for the RECOGNITION of prostitution by the State, and the adoption of remedial and preventive measures, has long been acknowledged, while in England such recognition has been, till within the last few years, steadily refused, and is now conceded only in the exceptional case of the army and navy. The Continental system, owing to the way in which police supervision is there carried out, has been termed the licensing system; the English, under which prostitutes are left to themselves (except in districts to which the Contagious Diseases Act applies)] has been termed the voluntary system.
    In considering the attitude which it becomes us to assume towards prostitution, one fact must be carefully borne in mind: that it is no evanescent evil, hut that it has existed from the first ages of the world's history down to the present time, and differs but little, and in minor particulars, in this the nineteenth century, from what it was in the earliest times. The records of the human race, from the Book of Genesis downwards, through the whole range of ancient and medieval literature to the writings of our own day, bear witness to the perpetual presence among men of the daughters of shame. Kings, philosophers, and priests, the learned and the noble, no less than the ignorant and simple, have drunk without stint in every age and every clime of Circe's cup; nor is it reasonable to suppose that in the years to come the world will prove more virtuous than it has shown itself in ages past. From time to time men's purer instincts, revolting from the sin, have striven to repress it; but such efforts have too often ended in failure, and entailed disasters more terrible than those from which relief was sought; and it is evident that it would be unreasonable to expect any other result. Equally irrational is it to imagine that this irrepressible evil can exist without entailing upon Society serious mischief; though incapable of absolute repression, prostitution admits of mitigation. To ignore an ever-present evil appears a mistake as fatal as the attempt to repress it. I am, therefore, an advocate of RECOGNITION.
    It is high time for us to get the better of a fear that starts at shadows'. This word RECOGNITION may sound very dreadful, and be regarded by many as the precursor of a coming deluge of continental immorality. But what is the real fact? Is not recognition already accorded by society ? Who are those fair creatures, neither chaperons nor chaperoned, those 'somebodies whom nobody knows', who elbow our wives and daughters in the parks and promenades and rendezvous of fashion? Who are those painted, dressy women, flaunting along the streets and boldly accosting the passers-by? Who those miserable creatures, ill-fed, ill-clothed, uncared for, from whose misery the eye recoils, cowering under dark arches and among bye-lanes? The picture has many sides; with all of them society is more or less acquainted. Why is the State - that alone can remedy a condition of things that all deplore - alone to refuse recognition? The voluntary system has been tried long enough with its affected ignorance and empty parade of hospitals, penitentiaries, and asylums. Individual efforts are powerless to effect either the cure of disease or the reformation of the prostitute. The nation's weakness can be assisted only by the nation's strength; and I propose to show that concentrated effort, sanctioned by authority, can alone stay the ravages of a contagious and deadly disorder, and that only by methodical and combined action, and by gradual and almost imperceptible stages, can any moral cure be effected.
    To the licensing system of the Continent I am as strongly opposed for the reasons given in the text as I am to the voluntary system hitherto adopted in England - the necessary consequence of the neutral position assumed by the legislature. My examination of the character of prostitution - the causes that produce [it] and the evils that result from it - leads me to this conclusion: that the consequences of RECOGNITION must be threefold, and embrace PREVENTION, AMELIORATION, and REGULATION. For the sake of greater clearness I have devoted a separate chapter to each of these three divisions.
    Although some of the causes of prostitution are undoubtedly beyond the reach of legislation, others are clearly amenable to it. To these last I address myself in the chapter on Prevention. Thus I propose to diminish the amount of prostitution by putting an end so far as possible to the overcrowding of families, and making better provision for the relief and suitable employment of women. With this object also I propose to remodel the laws relating to seduction, making the seducer substantially responsible for the support of his bastard offspring - providing facilities for procuring affiliation orders - and assisting the pregnant woman during her confinement. Such legislation would, I am fully persuaded, diminish the number of seductions by increasing the responsibility thereto attaching, and would as a necessary consequence decrease the amount, not only of prostitution but also of ILLEGITIMACY and INFANTICIDE. With this object, I demand that the funds of the Foundling Hospital, producing as they now do an annual revenue of the present value of £11,000, and an assured income within the present century (according to the Charity Commissioners) of £40,000 a year, shall for the future be applied more in accordance with the intention of the founder than they are at present.
    I could hardly have avoided, had I wished to do so, alluding to the kindred subjects of ILLEGITIMACY, BABY-FARMING, and INFANTICIDE, following as they do, with prostitution, in the wake of seduction. It seems to me that all these forms of evil, germane to and dependent on each other, should be the subjects of legislation, and I have gladly availed myself of the opportunity of pointing out the direction which that legislation should in my opinion take. It seems to me that the mischiefs attendant on SEDUCTION, PROSTITUTION, and ILLEGITIMACY, require careful and comprehensive handling. These evils are all to a certain extent preventable, and the agency to which any one of them is amenable is capable of dealing with all the rest. I propose the formation of a GOVERNMENT BOARD, to which might be intrusted the working of the amended bastardy laws and the Contagious Diseases Act, the care of illegitimate children, and the amelioration of fallen women. By this means the various evil consequences of seduction would be subjected to that methodical and organized action which it seems to me essential to provide, if we desire to deal effectually with evils too vast and too difficult for private enterprise. To the preventive measures advocated in the following pages I apprehend little hostility, as it is agreed on all hands that the temptations to adopting a life of prostitution should be removed as far as possible; but when I insist upon the duty of REGULATION and AMELIORATION, I find that my more timid friends fall away from me, and accuse me of countenancing sin, and of encouraging people in immorality by making the consequences of their evil ways less painful and degrading. I repudiate this unjust accusation as a cruel calumny, and am sure that no impartial reader, after examining my proposals, and the reasons by which I support them, will consider it to be well founded. It seems to me vain to shut our eyes to the fact that prostitution must always exist. Regret it as we may, we cannot but admit that a woman if so disposed may make profit of her own person, and that the State has no right to prevent her. It has a right, however, in my opinion, to insist that she shall not, in trafficking with her person, become a medium of communicating disease, and that, as she has given herself up to an occupation dangerous to herself and others, she must, in her own interest and that of the community, submit to supervision. My proposals go to this extent, and no further - viz., to make the evil that we cannot repress as little injurious as possible. I desire to protect both society at large, and the individual, from the permanent injury at present inflicted by a highly contagious and virulent disorder. I desire also to heal the sick prostitute, and to cleanse her moral nature. The State must moreover set its face against anyone, man or woman, making a profit of another's prostitution. I may here observe that it unhappily appears necessary to extend toleration to persons who keep accommodation-houses; otherwise hotels, coffee-houses, and other places of public resort will become debased.
    If, in spite of all the precaution that can be taken, the woman becomes a prostitute, our next object should be to attempt to ameliorate her condition, so as to enable her to pass through this stage of her existence with as little permanent injury to herself and as little mischief to society as possible. This is the more important because I prove that the great mass of prostitutes in this country are in course of time absorbed into the so-called respectable classes, and I maintain that in proportion as they are assisted or neglected during their evil days will they assume the characters of wives and mothers with a greater or less degree of unsoundness in their bodies and pollution in their minds. Notwithstanding the incalculable importance of working such reformation as may be possible in these unhappy women, no adequate effort in this direction has ever yet been made, and it is a lamentable fact that while the penitentiaries and asylums on the one hand effect but little good, and are at once expensive and useless, on the other the present hospital system is inadequate to the task of coping with the diseases incidental to prostitution.
    To give access to and control over the woman whose amelioration we desire to accomplish, it seems to me absolutely necessary that the Contagious Diseases Act should be extended to the civil population, for by means of its machinery alone can we discover and detain till cured the women afflicted with syphilitic diseases, and in no other way that has occurred to me can the supervision necessary for enabling us to work a gradual improvement in their lives be obtained. In our efforts to ameliorate the prostitute, we must doubtless tolerate much that we would willingly discountenance, but of two evils we must choose the least.
    In the consideration as to the advisability of extending the above- mentioned Act, the expenditure that must be thereby incurred, though not a primary [element], is undoubtedly an important [one]. I have entered fully into the necessary calculations, and I believe that the figures which I have placed before my readers will convince them that the expenditure will be moderate, when weighed with the benefits obtained.
    The reader who is a conscientious parent must perforce support me; for, were the sanitary measures I advocate once in operation, with what diminished anxiety would he not contemplate the progress of his boys from infancy to manhood? The statesman and the political economist are mine already, for are not armies and navies invalidated - is not labour enfeebled - is not even population deteriorated by the evils against which I propose we should contend? The sympathies of all who can look kindly upon the sick, the sorry, and the fallen, must gain new impulse from the study of the facts, figures, and deductions, possibly new to them, which I have here marshalled for their use. 

William Acton, Prostitution, Considered in its Moral, Social and Sanitary Aspects, 2nd edition 1870

    The attitude assumed by the law towards prostitution may be briefly stated as follows:
    It requires the police to repress flagrant acts of indecency and disorder in the streets and places of public resort; 
    It restrains the opening of theatres and places of amusement or refreshment without a licence, which must be applied for annually, and is continued only during good behaviour, thereby making it the interest of managers and proprietors to discountenance gross disorders, and to maintain so far as possible the outward forms of decorum in their establishments;
    It prohibits the opening of refreshment houses during certain hours of the night, a prohibition imposed, notwithstanding the hardship thereby inflicted on some classes of workmen, for the purpose of putting an end, if possible, to the shameless debauchery nightly exhibited in the Haymarket and its environs;
    It encourages the prosecution of keepers of brothels and other disorderly houses;
    But it ignores the existence of prostitution as a system, exerting its authority in those cases only which, by open contempt for order and decency, obtrude into notice and demand repression. Men and women are, in fact, left in this matter to their own consciences; and so long as they respect public decency, their private conduct passes unchallenged, while the different parishes are left to decide for themselves whether or not they will permit known prostitutes to find shelter within their borders. How far this state of the law is wise and right will form the subject of consideration in a future chapter. 

William Acton, Prostitution, Considered in its Moral, Social and Sanitary Aspects, 2nd edition 1870

    I have now accomplished my task, but before taking leave of the reader I would press most earnestly upon his mind and conscience the duty of reflecting seriously on the subject to which in these pages I have called attention. We have in the midst of us a great and fearful evil, whose existence is acknowledged and deplored by all, while to the consideration how best we may deal with it, all seem to give the go-by with one consent. I ask, is this right? If I am told that it is a matter that must be left to itself to work its own cure, that as the world grows older it grows wiser, and that the progress of education makes virtue more loved, vice more detested, I ask, is this really so? Does anyone in his heart of hearts believe it? Does the course of passing events lend credit to the hope? Is society growing more virtuous? is it not quite the reverse, and patent to everyone that there is a change passing over it, and that not in the right direction? Lest I should be considered a prejudiced witness, let me call on my behalf one of the most popular journals of the day. In the Pall Mall Gazette for the 16th of April, 1869, appeared the following remarkable commentary on the sights to be witnessed daily in the very centre of fashionable life:
    The Ladies' Mile. - Although up to this period of the season the people who ride or drive in the Row have not been distracted by any specially sensational ponies under the direction of anonymous ladies, questionable broughams and horsebreakers have even thus early appeared in Hyde Park in excess of the number with which the assemblage is usually enlivened. But it is not so much of this circumstance, however, that we now write. In itself it is bad enough, but it is difficult to see how such people could be kept out of the Parks. There is a significance, however, in another social aspect of the matter which is more important. Until very recently there was no such thing as a demi-monde in London, using the term in its imperfect meaning, as understood here. The wretched women went down rapidly from one stage to another without being encouraged or systematized sufficiently to form a regular set - having establishments and holding receptions such as distinguish a corresponding class in Paris. But within a very brief period - not much more than a year, perhaps - there has been a change among us. Previous to that time, indeed, moralists in the press complained of the frank terms which young men of fashion held with such women in places of public resort. This familiarity is now so much on the increase (as anyone who watches what goes on in the Ladies' Mile can perceive) that it calls for some remonstrance.
    Formerly Aspasia and her associates were passed with a nod, or only spoken to by men who were indifferent to notice because they were themselves unknown, or, at any rate, if they recognized such women they were cautious where it was done. At present the yellow chignoned denizens of St John's-wood and Pimlico draw up their carriages or horses close to the rails, and are chatted with as candidly as if they had come from some dovecot in the country watched over by a virtuous mother. The audacity of these reunions is unprecedented. A notion seems to prevail that the loose women of our own day are undistinguishable from the women of virtue. The superstition is preposterous. In the Park, at least, there is no difficulty in distinguishing the carriage that anybody may pay for, or in guessing the occupation of the dashing equestrienne [horsewoman] who salutes half a dozen men at once with her whip or with a wink, and who sometimes varies the monotony of a safe seat by holding her hands behind her back while gracefully swerving over to listen to the compliments of a walking admirer. Of course the men who talk with these women of the highway are perfectly aware of what they are about, and a London lady tempered in the atmosphere of one or two seasons learns discretion enough not to ask relevant questions when she meets in a ball-room the same gentleman she has observed tête-a -tête with Aspasia in the Row: If things go on, however, as they seem likely to, this sort of reserve will be tested with unusual severity in the months of May and June.
    The manner in which what again, for want of a more convenient phrase, we must call the demi-monde class, has been freshly developed among us is not unknown. There are certain perfumers' shops at the West-end notorious for enterprises not immediately connected with bloom for the lips and glitter for the eyes. It was from one of these establishments that a well-known photograph and its original were, so to speak, floated. Here loungers turn in, and are invited to balls, for which cards are given them. Thence spring intimacies of which we say no more than that the acknowledgment of them should be suspended before virtuous women in the Park. The ladies have a remedy in their hands which they deliberately abandon when they pretend blindness to what is as obvious as the Duke's statue at the Corner. And, of course, if they choose to encourage the open and flagrant disrespect to which they are treated there is no help for them.

    I appeal with confidence to everyone acquainted with London life, and ask if this statement is not strictly true? but in that case, what becomes of the notion that the mischief, if left to itself, will work out its own cure? I appeal to those who fear God, and reverence His laws, and who therefore refuse to recognize, lest by so doing they should be supposed to countenance, vice, and I ask them to consider whether this attitude of indifference is not open to a construction far different to that which they themselves would put upon it. May not those who follow evil courses say, 'We know that our lives are obnoxious to censure, that the finger of scorn is pointed at us, but the law will not touch us, and why? because it dare not; and it dares not, because whatever good people may think or say to the contrary, our sin, if sin indeed it be, is committed in obedience to natural laws; surely nature's teaching is at least as good as that of religion.'
    And so it comes to pass that men consider the sin as a thing that everybody practises, though nobody talks much about it, until to abstain is looked upon almost as a mark of want of manhood, and the natural consequence is that what everybody does nobody feels ashamed to acknowledge participation in, and if such is the state of public feeling, who can be surprised at the condition of things to which attention is called by the article above quoted. Now, I say the time has arrived when serious men should give to prostitution serious thought. It can no longer be ignored. The evils attendant on it are too great and too much on the increase. Evil agents are active and stirring, and those whose lives are pure, who love their country and their fellow men, must show an equal diligence. The field of inquiry may be repulsive, the problems that meet us difficult of solution, and my fellow labourers must expect for a season at least to have only their labour for their pains, and for their only reward an approving conscience. But we may trust that the time is approaching when the justice of our cause will be acknowledged. It cannot be that the people of this country will for ever ignore the misery to be found in their midst. Nor even to human ears can 'the crying of the poor and the sighing of the needy' for ever appeal in vain.
    It is absolutely impossible to exaggerate the suffering entailed by a life of prostitution. Instead of the scorn so freely lavished on the poor lost daughters of shame and misery, I plead for a little pity - nay, far more than pity, I plead for justice. If unequal laws between man and woman compel to a shameful and a hated trade the helpless and shuddering victim of seduction, whose fall, though it has soiled and stained, has not utterly polluted her, I charge those laws with cruelty, and I say further that her blood is on the head of those who know the injustice of such laws yet will not help to alter them. If human beings are left to herd together with indecent indiscriminacy, because in this rich and luxurious city they can obtain no more fitting shelter; if they are allowed to grow up from childhood to youth, and from youth to adult years amid scenes of depravity and sin, I ask on whose shoulders does the blame really rest; whether on the victim's, reared to a life of infamy, or on society's, that leaves them to a fate so awful. If in this wide world, teeming with abundant supplies for human want, to thousands of wretched creatures no choice is open save between starvation and sin, may we not justly say that there is something utterly wrong in the system that permits such things to be? If the traffic in human flesh and female honour is not repressed by the arm of the law, may we not justly accuse the law of falling far short of its duty? And if all this be true, is there not abundant cause of prostitution that is capable of removal? Is it too much to say that by amending the bastardy laws, by improving the dwellings of the poor and keeping the young from haunts of vice, by encouraging and promoting emigration, and resolutely putting down so far as possible the great body of night-house keepers and brothel-keepers throughout the country, the number of prostitutes will be greatly decreased? Prostitution we cannot prevent, but we can mitigate the misery entailed by it, and can do much, if we will, to prevent women becoming prostitutes. The evil cannot be done away, but it may be lessened, and that to a very great extent. We cannot do all we wish: is that a reason for doing nothing? Let us do what we can. The mischief that must always exist will have more or less intensity according as we regulate it, or leave it to itself. The women will become more or less depraved, according as good and healing influences are brought to bear upon, or withheld from them. The numbers who resort to a shameful trade will lessen or increase according as the causes of prostitution are removed or neglected. The neutral position has been fairly tried, but the nation is certainly not improving. Let us assume a position at once more manly and more humane. The evils to be overcome are too intense for individual effort to cope with, but the good which scattered philanthropists, earnest and self- devoted though they be, cannot achieve, is not beyond attainment if wise, discriminating and concentrated power is enlisted in the cause. While men stood with folded arms aghast at the evil which appeared of too long standing, and too stupendous for human power to cope with, the filth of the Augean stables continued to accumulate, but when resolute will, high intelligence, and manly courage took the task in hand, and let loose upon the filthy stalls the cleansing waters, the mischief was removed. Laugh not, neutral reader, at the old classic tale, mutato nomine de te fabula narratur'. 

William Acton, Prostitution, Considered in its Moral, Social and Sanitary Aspects, 2nd edition 1870

They used, in the brave days of George Edwardes and Harry Hitchins, to say that the lounge at the back of the dress-circle of the Empire was the best informal club in the world; indeed, it was the Cosmopolitan Club of Empire. It was like the terrasse of the Café de la Paix in Paris: if you sat there often enough you would see pass everyone you wanted to meet, all your acquaintances. Your so-called man-about-town dropped into the Empire after dinner as a matter of course and very seldom did he trouble himself to take a seat: he paid five shillings and could roam about: he roamed from one bar to another, and from that to look for a moment over the rows in the dress-circle at Adeline Genée or Katie Seymour. And so did the returned tea-planter, the soldier home on leave, the seasoned undergraduate from Oxford and Cambridge, the racing man, the voluptuary and the man who without being a sensualist still every now and then was glad of the opportunity of temptation. And, naturally, there were at least as many women to supply the presumed wants of these easy patrons. I suppose these ladies paid to come in! I was never sure. Their usual fee was a "fiver". If the poor girl wasn't successful in meeting an old pal or making a new friend at the Empire, she would go on to the Continental in Lower Regent Street, which stood where British Columbia House stands now; or if she was of a slightly lower class she would go to the Globe in Coventry Street, a supper restaurant long since swept away, or to "Jimmy's", of which I have already written. The scenes at the moment of closing-time outside these various places of resort would astonish people to-day, but they had the quality of being picturesque. Manet might have painted one or other of the little groups - Manet or Toulouse-Lautrec or Felicien Rops.

Grant Richards, Memories of a Misspent Youth, 1932

     Some ten years ago-so scant even then was the provision made for those who were longing to escape- a weary wanderer of the streets sat for twenty-four hours at the door of a certain refuge in London. In answer to her appeal, "For Christ's sake take me in!" she was told it was impossible, for means were wanting, and not a foot of room was to be had in the poor over-crowded place. She went away, and turning the corner of a dark and wretched street, her face covered with her hands, as if to exclude the sight of that to which she must descend, she cried in a voice, shrill with agony, "God! God! There is no door open to us but hell's." Are those who look coldly on efforts made to withdraw women from public abuse prepared to face the echo of that cry in the day when every whisper in corners and in dark places shall be proclaimed upon the house-top; when those passionate words shall prove not to have fallen merely on indifferent bystanders, but also to have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth?
    It may be well to explain with clearness that the complaint uttered here of the wrong done to fallen women, from the earliest times till now, is not based on the assertions which are made, sometimes with exaggeration, that woman is most frequently the victim of seduction, betrayed, and abandoned. We are not at present considering the chief causes of her fall, nor is our imagination dwelling on pathetic tales of individual wrong, innumerable though such wrongs have been since the beginning of the world. Neither are we complaining of the fact that women whose profession is infamous are kept apart by society. That it should be so inevitable-is right; for to weaken this barrier, confound this class with the rest, would be to introduce into society an evil worse than that which at present exists. God forbid that we should wish or ask for these poor women that they should stand in the place of the pure while they remain what they are; that to any one of them it should ever be granted that without repentance, she should be accepted and indulged by society as a man who may be her equal in guilt is accepted-a doubtful privilege surely, an uncertain gain, for the avenger is non the less terrible for his delay, and there is no statute of limitations to bar the recovery of the debts of God.

Josephine Butler, Contemporary Review, 1870

full text available from The W T Stead Site

see also Causes of Prostitution - click here