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Richard Hornsey

  • Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis 1918-57 by Matt Houlbrook
    Chicago, 384 pp, £20.50, September 2005, ISBN 0 226 35460 1

In December 1932, thirty officers from the Metropolitan Police burst into a ballroom on the ground floor of a house in Holland Park. The party they interrupted was packed with domestic servants and staff from nearby hotels. All the guests were male, half of them wearing lounge suits, the rest evening dresses and make-up. The organiser of the ball, Lady Austin (otherwise known as Austin S., a 24-year-old barman from Baron’s Court), was arrested along with 59 others. Lady Austin was not inclined to go quietly. Claiming to find a passing copper too dishy to be a real policeman, she told the inspector who was apprehending her: ‘I could love him and rub his Jimmy for him for hours.’ The inspector cautioned her. ‘There is nothing wrong in that,’ Lady Austin retorted. ‘You may think so, but it is what we call real love man for man. You call us Nancies and bum boys but . . . before long our cult will be allowed in this country.’

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