[Public Morality in 1907: 'Living Statuary' and the National Vigilance Association.] File of cards, press cuttings, circulars, copy letter to Daily Chronicle, from papers of William J. Taylor of London Female Preventive and Reformatory Institution.

'Living Statuary' [W. A. Coote, National Vigilance Association; E. Fox Butler, London Council for the Promotion of Public Morality; 'La Milo', i.e. Pansy Montague; Music Hall; London County Council]
Publication details: 
Between April and June 1907 [Daily Chronicle; National Vigilance Association; London Council for the Promotion of Public Morality; London Female Preventive and Reformatory Institution.]
SKU: 22315

A marvellous slice of unexplored Edwardian social history, raising questions of morality, censorship, art and pornography, from the papers of William J. Taylor, Secretary of the London Female Preventive and Reformatory Institution. The 'Living Statuary' controversy arose over 'the propriety of the living statuary exhibitions in music-halls' (Daily Chronicle, 30 April 1907), and in particular the performances of the Australian artiste Pansy Montague (b. 1885), known as 'La Milo', who posed as a living statue covered in alabaster whitening with a few strategically placed pieces of white material. The scandal was not restricted to London: a parade in Coventry in 1907, in which 'La Milo' took part as Lady Godiva caused an outrage. The present collection gives a full picture of the range of opinion, with Taylor invoking John Ruskin, and a large number individuals quoted in the newspaper reports, some of the quotaions lengthy, from individuals ranging from leading clerics and Mrs Bramwell Booth to Millicent Fawcett, Hall Caine, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Max Beerbohm, the last of whom comments with characteristic wit: 'It is no more improper for human beings to represent statues than for statues to represent human beings. But the practice strikes me as rather absurd.' The result of the controversy was inconclusive, and the practice of 'living statuary' continued for decades in the 'tableaux vivants' at Soho's Windmill Theatre. The collection is in good condition, with light signs of age and wear, apart from the three loose newspaper cuttings, which are in poor condition. ONE: Duplicated copy of letter on 'LIVING STATUARY', by William J. Taylor, as secretary of the LFPRI, 200 Euston Road, NW, 4 May 1907, 'To the Editor of the Daily Chronicle'. 2pp, 8vo. With a few minor manuscript corrections. 'Having for nearly 49 years laboured to rescue the victims of ungoverned passion', he is in the present case 'surprised that not more references have been made to that prince of art critics, John Ruskin. His words are surely worth of recall.' A long quotation from 'the “Eagle's Nest,” Lecture 8' follows, on how 'The study of the nude is injurious, beyond the limits of honor and decency in daily life'. Taylor feels that 'the words of Ruskin should be written in letters of fire, and burned into the consciences of men and women everywhere. The only safe path to the maintenance of virtue is not to go in any direction calculated to excite our baser nature, but in striving to keep as far away as it is possible.' TWO: Two typewritten circulars and two manuscript cards from the National Vigilance Association, And International Bureau for the Suppression of the White Slave Trade, London. All four items on the NVA's letterhead, and the first three signed by both the NVA secretary Willliam Alexander Coote (1842-1918), and the secretary of the London Council for the Promotion of Public Morality, E. Fox Butlin. First circular, 15 May 1907, 2pp, discussing the fact that 'the Music Halls have for some time been giving an entertainment described as “Living Statuary”, in which men and women appear apparently in a state of nudity', and the 'strong protests' that have been made 'in London and the Provinces'. The NVA and LCPPM are joining a deputation to the London County Council, which is to be headed by the Bishop of London, and they request a delegate, so that 'the deputation shall be thoroughly representative of the efforts being put forth in London to help young men and women to a more excellent way of life'. First card, postmarked 16 May 1907, and addressed to the secretary of the London Female Preventive and Reformatory Institution, written in manuscript, and giving the date of the deputation. Second circular, 29 May 1907, 1p, giving details of the time and place of the delegation. Second card, postmarked 3 July 1907, unsigned and in manuscript, a reminder of the date for the deputation. THREE: File of newspaper cuttings from the Daily Chronicle. In brown paper folder with the following on the cover: 'Row III | Hole I | Correspondence | Daily Chronicle | April – May 1907 | Living Statuary'. A series of fourteen cuttings of long articles in small print, from between 30 April and 6 June 1907, each headed 'LIVING STATUARY', laid down on one side each of twelve ruled 8vo leaves. The date of each article is given in manuscript. Subtitles: 'Exhibitions Withdrawn in Manchester. | Managers' Decision', 'Attitude of the London County Council. | La Milo's Reply. | Protest by Mr. Thornycroft, the sculptor', 'Is it degrading? | What famous painters think. | Sir L. Alma-Tadema's view.', 'Influential Deputation to the L.C.C. | No answer given.', 'Leading public men on the controversy. | Artists' views. | Influential appeal to the L.C.C.' [includes quotations from figures including Conrad Dressler, Hayden Coffin, Charles Hawtrey and Evan Spicer], 'Further protests from notable men. | Bishop's opinion. | Effect of campaign on the managers.' [quotations from figures including the Bishop of Ripon, W. R. Colton, G. R. Sims, Mrs. Bramwell Booth], 'Birmingham exhibitions withdrawn. | Father Vaughan. | Trenchant attack on the performers.' [many quotations, including ones from Hall Caine, Walter Crane, Max Beerbohm ('It is no more improper for human beings to represent statues than for statues to represent human beings. But the practice strikes me as rather absurd.'), Bishop of Manchester]; '”La Milo” Makes an Appeal to the L.C.C. | Artists' Deputation.', 'Rev. Silvester Horne's Visit to Music Hall. | His impressions.', 'Nottingham Police as Censors of the Exhibitions. | Mr. Straus is pleased.', 'Licensing Committee to view La Milo. | Dr. Emil Reich. | “Revolting untruth of the accusations.”', 'Exhibitions Withdrawn in Glasgow. | The London Crusade.' [several quotations], 'Bishop of London to Lead Deputation to L.C.C. | Action in Wigan.' [including long quotations from 'Mr. John Davidson', 'Dr. Horton' and 'Mrs. Fawcett'. FOUR: A further four cuttings, the first three loose and in poor condition, with detached sections, chipping and loss to text. The first from the Tribune, 26 June 1907: 'Living Statues Banned. | County Council's Decision. | Indignant Artists.' The second an editorial from the Evening News and Evening Mail, same date: 'The Death of Living Statuary.' The third without source or date: 'Living Statuary. | Important Deputation to the L.C.C. | Action Probable.'The fourth, laid down on paper, an unrelated short report on 'Art and American Morals', from the Evening News, 4 June 1907.