"The Trial of the Century"
Copyright © 2005 Bruce Tober - All Rights Reserved
The Polymath vs the Belly-Dancer
Every generation produces its share of Renaissance Men and Women. And the Victorian Era surely produced quite a few. Noel Pemberton Billing [1880-1948] was one such.
Inventor, Member of Parliament, playwrite, editor, publisher, bricklayer, tram conductor, policeman, boxing champion, estate agent, law graduate, entrepreneur, the man, son of a Birmingham (UK) iron founder, who left school and home at age 14, was beyond question a genius/polymath.
"He also produced the first long-playing record in the '30s. But his patent for it was bought by HMV who promptly squashed it so that it would give no competition to their 78 rpm records. The long playing record's entry into the market was thus delayed by more than 20 years."
Entreprenuer Becomes Politician
In 1913, having returned from South Africa (to which he'd gone after leaving
home) and his experiences as a tram driver and policeman and boxer, he opened Pemberton-Billing Ltd in Southampton.
His interest in the company waned as it ran into financial difficulties in 1914 and he resigned at the end of 1915
in order to pursue a political career.
Pemberton-Billing was prosecuted in 1918 as the result of an article he had
published in his Imperialist
(sometimes known as Vigilante)
magazine, He had claimed in that article, the existence of a black book that listed the names of thousands of English
men and women who were allegedly homosexuals. Maude Allan hand-tinted photo by Reutlinger of Paris in about 1908.
hand-tinted photo by Reutlinger of Paris in about 1908.
This, of course was nearing the end of what was to become known as World War I and England was in mortal combat on the Western Front. "The idea that Britain’s strength was being sapped by traitors within enjoyed widespread support," according to the Casebook website. "Among the propagandists of this idea was Noel Pemberton Billing, an independent MP who held extreme right-wing views...
"On 26 January 1918, he published an article alleging that the Germans had compiled a Black Book containing the names of 47,000 British subjects who, because of their sexual preferences, were being blackmailed into undermining the British war effort."
Clitoris Equals Lesbian???
Seeing herself described (by inference at least) as a lesbian, she brought suit for criminal libel. What was implied?
Well since the late 18th Century until the early 20th Century, according to the Shanmonster website, "one of the most consistent medical characterizations of the anatomy of the lesbian was the claim of an unusually large clitoris. Not only was the clitoris associated with female sexual pleasure separate from reproductive potential, but lesbians were assumed to be masculinized, and the supposed enlarged clitoris was one signifier of this masculinity. In presenting lesbians' bodies as less sexually differentiated than the norm more masculine - it was inferred that they were atavists - throwbacks to an earlier evolutionary stage and thereby 'degenerates'..."
The trial was presided over by Mr Justice Darling and began on 29 May, 1918. It lasted only six days with Billing representing himself. And although we know what's said about lawyers (remember, he passed his law exams) who have themselves as clients, that's not always true clients who have themselves as lawyers.
According to the Casebook website: