The National Vigilance Association and Oscar Wilde

The National Vigilance Association (NVA), was a private British organization focused on "the enforcement and improvement of the laws for the repression of criminal vice and public immorality". As such one of their more well-known tasks was pursuing authors that published immoral works. This timeline is focused on the creation and work of the NVA and why they may not have pursued Oscar Wilde for his famous book The PIcture of Dorian Gray.


Chronological table

Displaying 1 - 5 of 5
Date Event Created by Associated Places
4 Jul 1885

"Notice To Our Readers" Is Published

Notice to our Readers, a short article by William Thomas Stead published in the Pall Mall Gazette, was the first installment in the hugely groundbreaking work of investigative journalism, The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon. Published on July 4, 1885, it details the purpose of the rest of the articles. Stead writes that, "The story of an actual pilgrimage into a real hell is not pleasant reading, and is not meant to be." The following articles would follow Stead's interviews with London sex workers, people who ran brothels and people who worked in them, in an attempt to garner support for the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, which would, among other things, raise the age of consent in Britain from 13 to 16. Most shocking, perhaps, is that for the purpose of proving that it could be done, Stead arranged for the purchase of a young girl, Eliza Armstrong.

Emma Mayers
Aug 1885

The National Vigilance Association is Formed

The National Vigilance Association (1885-1953) was formed as the debate over the Criminal Law Amendment Bill and Contagious Diseases Acts had drawn public attention to the severe issue of the trafficking of women and children. The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon, an investigation into child prostitution by WT Stead published in the Pall Mall Gazette, increased pressure on the government to ensure women and children were legally protected. In order to achieve this and support any future changes to the law deemed necessary, the National Vigilance Association was formed.

Emma Mayers
20 Jun 1890

Dorian Gray Is Published in Lippincott’s Magazine

Oscar Wilde, Irish playwright and writer, published the first edition of his book The PIcture of Dorian Gray in Lippinciott's Magazine with controversial reception. The book contained a sometimes unconventional opinion of morality, and shocked the public with its clear allusions to homosexual relationships and depictions of criminal excess. It would be revised before it could be republished, with 500 words of the most stirringly controversial portions taken out so as to mute the "immoral" aspects of the book.

Emma Mayers
24 Jun 1890

A Study In Puppydom is Published

The first formal review of The Picture of Dorian Gray, A Study In Puppydom was published in the St James's Gazette. The review, written by Samuel Henry Jeyes, was thoroughly unflattering of the novel and kicked off its history of poor critical reception. Jeyes called the novel "tedious and stupid" among other things and attacked Wilde's ability to write in less than delicate terms, spurring Wilde to write back to the Gazette the next day addressing the claims made.

Emma Mayers
10 Jul 1890

Dorian Gray Is Withdrawn from Sale

On July 10, Britain's largest bookseller, W.H Smith and Son, informed Lippincott's Magazine that they felt "compelled to withdraw" the novel from their book stalls. This was the direct result of the negative public reception for the novel, and the immense critical backlash Wilde had been facing. A revised version of the novel, with 500 words removed and published in the July edition of The Atlantic, was also refused by W.H Smith and son despite the attempt at making it overall more palatable. Since the book was taken out of print for the time being, Oscar Wilde was protected from the National Vigilance Association, as they had no means of attacking him if it wasn't still being released.

Emma Mayers