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"Bohemian girl (London, S.W.) 24, in digs, interested most things, educated, lonely, desires man pal, London or abroad."
On September 1, 1920 the Metropolitan police received a tip-off that a certain magazine, the Link, was running extremely dubious personal ads. An investigation and court case followed, and the editor found himself accused of promoting loose living, homosexuality, prostitution, and white slavery. As he struggled to defend himself, the full weight of official disapproval and media outrage was brought to bear on him. So begins this fascinating sideways look at the history of relationships—and attitudes to relationships—in 20th-century Britain. From World War I soldiers hoping for lady friends to send them food packages, to lonely clerks and typists desperate for love in the cities of 1920s England, through to the 1960s and 1970s swingers and today's internet junkies, it shows how the personal ad has mirrored and encouraged seismic shifts in society and popular attitudes to relationships. At the same time, it also unearths the stories of the heroes and villains of the personal ad—the former deb Heather Jenner who in 1939 set up a marriage bureau for Tatler-reading aristocrats, the shadowy Cyril Benbow whose cryptic "Gentleman has books for sale" masked a burgeoning pornography empire, and the tragic figure of Irene Wilkins, brutally murdered in 1921 by a man who scoured the personal ads in his search for victims.
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H. G. Cocks is the editor of The Modern History of Sexuality and author of Nameless Offences.Review:
"a fascinating portrait of changing social mores, from Thirties pornography and Seventies wife-swapping through to modern internet dating" * Mail on Sunday * "This trawl through the passions and peculiarities of the lonely and desperate is fascinating and surprisingly moving in its humanity" * Waterstones Books Quarterly * "A lively, surprising, sometimes saucy story" * The Times * "An interesting, topical and anecdotal journey through the years" * Gay Times * "Packed with fascinating social history ... compelling and informative" * Scarlet *
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