Crawford v. Crawford and Dilke was among the first Victorian divorce cases to involve a well-known English politician. It achieved scandalous status in its own time for both its lurid sexual details and its high-profile cast of characters. Focusing less on the chief male actors than its female participants, including Maye Dilke and Virginia Crawford, I consider the response by contemporary feminists to Sir Charles Dilke’s fall from power, as a consequence of his perceived transgressions, and some implications of the scandal for feminist politics in the 1880s and 1890s.
This essay contradicts myths often found in popular writing about Oscar Wilde: (1) Wilde was an aristocrat; (2) Victorians knew nothing about homosexuality; (3) Wilde was put on trial for being a homosexual; (4) once Wilde was on trial, his conviction was inevitable; and (5) after the trials, Wilde disappeared. It concludes by speculating on future directions for work on Wilde and sexuality.