The Victorian era was buttoned-down in myriad ways, and one was supposed to be prim, proper, and chaste, even though the opium dens did big business, and men were hardly chastised when they ducked into an alley with a sixteen-year-old girl—or when they later gave syphilis to their wives. Again: an age at odds with itself. Decadent poetry presents us with what could well be the age’s matchless literary paradox. The reader who is expecting accounts of full-on salacity—with the legs of women making right angles with their headboards, and one remarkable debauch after another—is going to discover a different brand of decadence on these pages. One that, when fully flowing, shocks us more than a mere sex-laden account of this shadowy Sodom possibly could.
more from Colin Fleming at Boston Review here.