Guest Post by Christina E. Pilz, author of Oliver & Jack At Lodgings in Lyme

Author Christina E. Pilz is on Blog Tour with HF Virtual Book Tours for Oliver & Jack At Lodgings in Lyme, the sequel to Fagin's Boy, and I have a fascinating guest post that I'm so exited to share with you!

I have a giveaway going on as well, so be sure to enter here!

Boys Kissing Boys In 1846 And The Trouble They Could Get Into

Thank you to Passages to the Past for allowing me to be a guest blogger today. It was suggested to me that I write about the issues and dangers facing gay couples in Victorian London in the year 1846, which is the location and era about which I write. I’m currently working on a series of books that collectively are a sequel to Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, staring Oliver Twist and his good buddy, Jack Dawkins (aka The Artful Dodger).

I’m not an expert on gay history, or on criminal justice in Victorian England, but I do pretend to be one when I write my books about Oliver and Jack. That is, I know enough (I think) about that era and use that knowledge to add enough realism to make the story vivid, while not at the same time bogging the reader down with too many facts. For as many a writer of historical fiction knows, doing the research is almost more fun than anything else and can sometimes take over the actual story.

So here’s what I know, or believe I have pinned down, about what my characters are risking by being in love with each other, and by celebrating that love with carnal relations.

The first problem is not just that Oliver and Jack are having intimate and passionate sexy-fun-times, it is that, in addition, they both have shady activities in their respective resumes.

To start with, Jack Dawkins (aka The Artful Dodger) is a pickpocket, which could earn him (and did) a one-way ticket to Australia as a transported convict. Moreover, he associates with thieves and doesn’t really have a job, for which he could be labeled a rogue and a vagabond, and be interred anywhere from three months to a year of hard labor. Also, for larceny and pickpocketing, corporal punishment would have been his reward. So, poor Jack, no matter which way he turned, he would be in trouble. In Victorian England, it can’t get much worse for Jack.

As for Oliver Twist, he is an orphan, to be sure, but he is the son of a rich gentleman, Edwin Leeford, and a lady, Agnes Fleming. He stands to inherit 3,000 pounds upon reaching the age of twenty-one. But that is years away, and so Oliver must either get a job, or hit the streets with Jack. Early on in the series, he messed up the job he had, and is supported by odd jobs and Jack’s talent at picking pockets.

Since he doesn’t have a fixed address or any notable and continuous employment, he too, could be arrested for being a rogue and a vagabond, for which he could be held for several month’s hard labor. For Oliver, it could also get much worse, if the law ever able to connect him to a particular breaking and entering job for a certain townhome on Doughty Lane, or perhaps his old boss takes it on to press full charges on Oliver for assault and battery.

That is not to say, as much as it might sound, that Oliver and Jack have been going around willy-nilly breaking the law and laughing off the consequences. Hopefully in my books I’ve established that these acts do have consequences, even if my boys don’t go to jail for them. (Well, Oliver went to Newgate, but the charges, luckily, were dismissed.) But in spite of their luck at avoiding arrest and prosecution for various and sundry crimes of no one would approve, the most dangerously illegal thing that Oliver and Jack get up to is loving each other.

Criminal courts for young offenders
To clarify, according to (and other sources), up until the year 1861, “penetrative homosexual acts committed by men were punishable by death.” The act of sodomy had to be proven by two witnesses who could state that both penetration and ejaculation had occurred. Except that it was hard to prove, so the courts did what they could to punish those sodomites brought before them.

Hanging at Newgate Prison
Eventually, based on the difficulty of proving sodomy had occurred, the crime of sodomitical intent was invented. Sodomitical intent meant that someone could be charged with attempted intercourse where it was considered undesirable, and certainly, sex between two men would top that list.

Sodimitical Intent

According to The Old Bailey records, sodomitical intent was considered a misdemeanor, which could be punishable by a fine (in lieu of branding), whipping (by this time private, within the walls of the prison, rather than public), the pillory (abolished in 1837), or imprisonment (could take a number of forms and last a variety of months or years). The courts did take care to get evidence, because they discovered that accusations of sodimitical intent could be used for coercion and blackmail.

Corporal Punishment
Perhaps even worse than the legal complications that could arise, should Oliver and Jack ever do the shimmy-shimmy in bed with or without two enemies to witness the deed, would be the social ramifications that they would suffer. Nice people didn’t have sex out of wedlock, let alone with someone of their own gender. Basically, in 1846, sex was considered unnatural and detestable, reprehensible and disgusting, and nobody was having any.

Though, if you were to look up the growth in birth rates at this time, you would see that in 1801, there were 8.9 million people in England, which grew to 15.9 million in 1841, which was an increase of 44%, so SOMEONE was having sex. As well, if you count the number of prostitutes in London at the time, they grew from 6,731 in 1839 to 9,404 in 1841, which is an increase of 33% in just two years, so it’s easy to see that the whole notion of chastity in Victorian times was one big sham.

In addition to the legal ramifications if Oliver and Jack were caught kissing, there was the social and religious stigma attached to homosexuality.

From the Behavior and Not a Person site, I found a marvelous background on how homosexuality was defined as a moral sin. And, because of King Henry VIII and The Buggery Act of 1533, (which defined buggery as “unnatural sexual act against the will of God and man”) if you got caught doing it “per anum,” you got the death penalty. In spite of the fact that The Buggery Act was repealed and modified a number of times, it still retained a mental permanency on the culture as being a Bad Thing. So as you can imagine, not only could dear Oliver and Jack have all kinds of legal trouble if caught kissing, they would also face the wrath of God, and the wrath of any friends or relatives that might be super church-going.

Having been brought up in a den of thieves, Jack probably couldn’t give a rat’s rooty-toot about anything anybody might say about him being together with Oliver. Which makes Jack a much more easy-going soul about the whole thing, and a pleasure to write about.

As for Oliver, the social stigma of what he and Jack are to each other, and the kind of love that they share, is probably almost too much for him to bear. Or at least you would think so, based on the fact that he was raised on a baby farm for nine years and spent six to nine months (depending on how you count the timeline in Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens) at a workhouse—and all of that time under the tutelage and care of people who were supposed to be Good Christians.

However, I always remember the fact that, upon being asked by the Board of Directors of the workhouse where he is about to be admitted, if he says his prayers every night, Oliver replies yes, even though he has no idea what the board is talking about because nobody has ever taught him how to pray.

Nowhere in the book Oliver Twist does Oliver ever go to church, except perhaps there might be some reference to it at the end of the book, when he’s 12. At that point, I think Oliver would have enjoyed the peace and quiet of a country church, but I do not believe that he would have absorbed much of Christian doctrine, except perhaps enough to look and act pious when it was expected of him.

To put it another way, he would have acted pious because it was the fashion to do so. Otherwise I cannot explain him falling in to Jack’s arms in 1846 with hardly a protestation! Because that is what he does. Jack is patient and kind and he feeds Oliver, which Oliver is a sucker for, and after much flirting, it is Oliver who makes the first move. Every now and then, I feel as though I should have had Oliver react in horror at what Jack suggests they do together, but somehow it never felt right. Which results in a character who sometimes wonders if he should be more aghast at how he feels about his beloved Jack. And that makes Oliver a very interesting and complex to write about.

About the Book

02_Oliver & Jack_Cover

Oliver & Jack At Lodgings in Lyme (Fagin's Boy, Book 2) by Christina E. Pilz

Publication Date: June 14, 2015
Blue Rain Press
eBook & Paperback; 450 Pages
Genre: Historical/LGBT/M/M Romance

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An ex-apprentice and his street thief companion flee the dangers of Victorian London and the threat of the hangman’s noose in search of family and the promise of a better life.

After Oliver Twist commits murder to protect Jack Dawkins (The Artful Dodger), both must flee London’s familiar but dangerous environs for safety elsewhere. Together they travel to Lyme Regis in the hopes of finding Oliver’s family. Along the way, Jack becomes gravely ill and Oliver is forced to perform manual labor to pay for the doctor’s bills.

While Oliver struggles to balance his need for respectability with his growing love for Jack, Jack becomes disenchanted with the staid nature of village life and his inability to practice his trade. But in spite of their personal struggles, and in the face of dire circumstances, they discover the depth of their love for each other.

03_Christina E. PilzAbout the Author

Christina was born in Waco, Texas in 1962. After living on a variety of air force bases, in 1972 her Dad retired and the family moved to Boulder, Colorado. There amidst the clear, dry air of the high plains, as the moss started to grow beneath her feet, her love for historical fiction began with a classroom reading of Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

She attended a variety of community colleges (Tacoma Community College) and state universities (UNC-Greeley, CU-Boulder, CU-Denver), and finally found her career in technical writing, which, between layoffs, she has been doing for 18 years. During that time, her love for historical fiction and old-fashioned objects, ideas, and eras has never waned.

In addition to writing, her interests include road trips around the U.S. and frequent flights to England, where she eats fish and chips, drinks hard cider, and listens to the voices in the pub around her. She also loves coffee shops, mountain sunsets, prairie storms, and the smell of lavender. She is a staunch supporter of the Oxford comma.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, September 28
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, September 29
Review at Bibliotica
Spotlight at I Heart Reading

Wednesday, September 30
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Friday, October 1
Spotlight at Book Nerd

Monday, October 5
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, October 6
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Friday, October 9
Spotlight at History Undressed

Tuesday, October 13
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Wednesday, October 14
Review at Broken Teepee

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1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed Fagin's Boy. I was so excited to learn, that you have written a trilogy.Your writing makes me think, that I am reading the continuation of Dicken's original story.


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