Death sentences in 1800s were hardly ever carried out, despite claim in authors book Outrages
It was only published this week, but already the writer Naomi Wolf has admitted an error at the heart of her latest book. Instead of being actually executed for sodomy in 1859, as the writer claims in Outrages, Thomas Silver was apparently paroled two years after being convicted.
Silver, who was 14 when he was convicted, is just one of several cases cited in the book but, according to the writer and broadcaster Matthew Sweet, the error stems from a simple misreading of a historical record and raises wider questions about the argument Wolf puts forward.
In Outrages, which was published by Virago, Wolf examines the effect of 19th-century legal changes on the lives of Victorian poets such as John Addington Symonds and argues that the Obscene Publications Act of 1857 marked a turning point in the treatment of gay people.