The “Vision of Salome”: Cosmopolitanism and Erotic Dancing in Central London, 1908–1918

“A new classical dancer has made her appearance in London,” declared the New Jersey Telegraph on March 23, 1908.[1] This “artistic sensation of the hour” was Maud Allan, an interpretive dancer from North America. Her dance program largely consisted of Greek-inspired classical numbers, in the mode developed by Isadora Duncan (see Figure 1), but it was her final dance of the evening, the orientalist “Vision of Salome,” that drew crowds to the Palace Theatre of Varieties, in Cambridge Circus, at the juncture of Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue. “So enthusiastic are her audiences that the English claim her as a Canadian,” explained the New York World, which then proceeded to set the record straight. “Although she was born in Toronto, she was reared in San Francisco, and considers herself an American.” According to the newspaper, Allan’s North American roots only partially accounted for her appeal: “Her art and seductive grace, however, are cosmopolitan,” for Allan “learned the ‘poetry of motion’ in Berlin” and “has studied old Greek and Assyrian manuscripts and tablets” to absorb all she could of “ancient dance lore.”[2]

Figure 1: Maud Allan in classical costume. From Maud Allan, My Life and Dancing (London, 1908). In author’s possession.

At the Palace Theatre, Maud Allan appeared as a superior embodiment of Anglo-Saxonism, a daughter of Greater Britain, who called “open the gates of the World” to “all London.”[3] Her triumph at the Palace Theatre facilitated the migration and reappropriation of dance forms into a national culture.[4] Her London performances enable us to track shifting conceptions of gender and the national body through spaces, moments, and individual histories. The “dance revolution” she helped usher in not only contributed to the cosmopolitan Élan of pre-war London, it also regendered cosmopolitanism, traditionally coded as masculine, and rendered it a cultural practice widely available to women.

Cosmopolitanism exploded into popular print in Edwardian London as a cultural ascription of metropolitan life that possessed positive and negative valences. As popularly advertised, it was less associated with Kantian concerns of universal justice or disinterested humanitarianism than with transnational forms of commercialized culture and with transnational migrants. Popular journalism linked cosmopolitanism to foreign practices, bodies, and spaces that came to mark the central area of London’s West End as a site of pleasure and danger. Commentators at the time frequently remarked on the dramatic materializations of foreign cultural artifacts along the commercial thoroughfares of the center that bordered the foreign, cosmopolitan, and proletarian district of Soho. These attractions seemed to embody the increasingly international status of London, not only as an imperial capital but also as the “greatest city of the world,” as an international finance center and tourist attraction with a range of urban and cultural amenities to support that claim.[5] Taking the form of foreign restaurants, and dance halls, department stores, cinemas, and variety theaters, these amenities promoted a visual culture where women predominated both as spectacles and increasingly as spectators.[6] By the late nineteenth century, cultural entrepreneurs had even refashioned the music hall as variety theater, first incorporating novelty acts and genres from abroad and then featuring the international female star, with her new standards of glamour and celebrity.[7]

As circulated in popular forms, cosmopolitanism conveyed a fascination with these cultural imports but also a suspicion of them as tainted.[8] As a system of distinction and taste, cosmopolitanism reordered the economy of the city, drawing new constituencies into expanding consumer markets. It yoked together both celebrity culture and racial stratifications, and it entailed the social mapping of groups inside and outside the metropolis and the nation. This process confirmed some existing hierarchies, but it disrupted others, altering the social and sexual spaces of the city and challenging Victorian constructions of corporeality that were central to ideas of nation, gender, sexuality, and class.[9]

Dance was a major cultural expression of this double-edged cosmopolitanism, in good part because dance was preeminently regarded as a foreign import, something alien to the national culture. By the late nineteenth century, theatrical dance, including the spectacular form of ballet on display in London music halls, tended to be denigrated as a foreign practice associated with commercialized sex and the demi-monde. But in the decade prior to World War I, dance exhibitions underwent a cultural revaluation that repositioned them as a dignified, but still foreign, cultural form and celebrated the female dancer’s body as noble.[10]

When the North American dancer Maud Allan introduced the “new,” “expressive” dancing into London in 1908, her “nude exhibition” before an audience of “richly clad” Londoners and foreign visitors incited fantasies of escape and pleasure, while simultaneously provoking anxieties of dislocation and unease.[11] Let me summarize the striking features of the body idiom performed across Allan’s repertoire: a solitary, autonomous, unfettered, mobile, weighted, and scantily clad female body whose movements delineated emotional interiority, shifting states of consciousness, and autoeroticism. To be sure, Allan’s gestural system built on available constructions of corporeality and subjectivity, but it gave unusual status to a self-pleasuring, embodied, and expressive female self and to the staging of the internal process of consciousness in public. Her dance gained an added charge from the raffish performance space in which it was staged, as well as from the diverse audience attracted to it, who transported Allan’s interpretive dancing to other social spaces in the city.

Although other critics have recognized Allan’s cosmopolitan appeal, most of them have tended to treat cosmopolitanism as a self-evident and stable term, signifying social worldliness, sexual toleration, and engagement with modernist trends in the arts and fashion. Alternatively, they have interpreted it as a coding for cultural imperialism.[12] I question whether the pre-war cosmopolitanism associated with Allan, not to mention her embodiment of imperialist culture, possessed the degree of social and cultural consistency presumed by these studies. Laden with ambivalent fictions about foreignness, Englishness, and the empire, cosmopolitanism was not simply a mapping of the “international” or even the “imperial” onto Allan. Rather than reinforcing clear-cut geographic and social divisions, it signified a convergence of disparate, even antagonistic, geopolitical associations and bodily dispositions.

Two historic meanings of pre-war cosmopolitanism shaped Allan’s dancing: first, a pleasurable, stylized form of imaginative expatriation, associated with privileged mobility; and second, a debased condition of deracination, hybridity, displacement, and racial degeneration—all the dangers of the unplaced.[13] In practice, these two meanings tended to blur into each other. The attractions of cosmopolitanism in its glossy, pleasurable, privileged sense depended on its association with the dangers and enticements of the second set of meanings. A blending of these two meanings contributed to Allan’s popular appeal in the pre-war years. This double-edged cosmopolitanism was ascribed not only to her dancing but also to her mixed audience, as well to the city space where she performed her art, the Palace Theatre, located at the edge of the proletarian and “cosmopolitan” district of Soho.[14]

The historian who sets out to investigate cultural meanings through nonverbal ephemeral acts confronts a number of challenges. In Allan’s case, there is no complete record of her performance, although the available historical sources allow a partial reconstruction of her dancing. Visual images and printed texts document the overarching sequence of emotional states expressed through her dances, particularly the “Vision of Salome.” They also describe her movement vocabulary, that is, the individual movements of which Allan’s dance was composed, but they do not provide a sustained account of the sequence and combination of movements that contributed to its internal coherence and structure.[15]

Documentary evidence of this sort also raises a second question about the connection between nonverbal communication and print culture. On the one hand, Allan’s wordless art may have magnified the voyeuristic appeal of her Salome, as well as its power of kinesthetic identification. On the other hand, it would be wrong to assume that Allan’s pose dancing operated outside of print culture and textual meaning. Allan’s program was shaped by a range of texts, including aesthetic theory, the science of physical culture, and dramatic literature. Popular reception of her dancing was, in turn, mediated by commentaries and critical reviews, photographs of Allan with elaborate captions, descriptions of the audience and the theater, Allan’s own memoirs, personal testimonials of her appreciative followers, as well as rumors and innuendos about her personal life. Some historians might view the contradictory and fragmentary nature of these historical sources as an impediment to a full assessment of her dance, but I prefer to interpret these conditions as telling evidence of the diverse and frequently contested social effects of her performance.

As the toast of London in 1908, Maud Allan was part of a wave of interpretive American dancers who arrived in Europe at the turn of the century and helped upgrade the status of theatrical dance. In 1895, Allan traveled to Berlin to study at the Royal College of Music, where she immersed herself in the experimental culture of aesthetic modernism, learning about symbolism, photography, and stage lighting. While studying the piano in 1900 and 1901, Allan became interested in the kind of barefoot dancing initiated by Isadora Duncan. Realizing that she would be unable to make a living through music, she abandoned her studies and tried to prepare herself for a career in dancing. With no formal training in dance, she was initially dependent on artist and musician friends who taught her how to stage her art. In need of money and on the advice of a sculptor friend, she began to give public exhibitions of classical dancing, where she interpreted the music of Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, and Rubinstein. She subsequently diversified into the “Vision of Salome,” performed to an orientalist musical score arranged by a friend, the Belgian composer Marcel Remy.[16] By 1906, when Allan made her debut as Salome in Vienna, the field was already crowded: Mata Hari was performing a version of the dance before Allan could even assemble her costume, consisting of beaded chains and not much else.[17]

In 1907, Maud Allan performed her Salome dance in Marienbad, that renowned site of cosmopolitan encounters and political intrigues, to the delight of the king of England, Edward VII. On the basis of his patronage, she was recruited by Alfred Butt, the manager of the Palace Theatre, to perform at his establishment in 1908. For two years, Allan enjoyed top billing in evening programs that also included jugglers, illusionists, character vocalists, Scottish comedians, animal acts, synchronized dance troupes, and the bioscope. For a nightly appearance in which she provided twenty minutes of classical and orientialist dancing, she received £250 a week, a top salary for a music hall star.[18] Her performances broke all box office records, and the shareholders of the Palace enjoyed profits exceeding 30 percent.[19] Allan’s dancing appealed to a wide cross-section of Londoners and visiting tourists, but her most important female patron was Margot Asquith—wife of the Liberal prime minister, a cultural trendsetter in elite social circles and known for her sharp tongue, advanced taste, rebellious modernity, opposition to women’s suffrage, and propensity to make a spectacle of herself.[20]

In 1910, when Allan toured the United States, the American press exposed Allan’s family secret, a story that she had managed to suppress for close to fifteen years by changing her name. Shortly after her arrival in Berlin, her brother Theodore had been arrested in San Francisco for the murder of two young women; he was convicted and executed for these homicides in 1898. According to Allan’s biographer, this personal tragedy and the shame it caused would haunt her for the rest of her life, but in the pre-war years, details of what would later be termed her “degenerate” family history appeared publicly only in the United States. In London, where she returned in 1911, it was still not public knowledge, nor did it shadow her on her tour of Asia in 1913 and 1914.[21]

In 1918, her family past caught up with her. During the last months of the war, theater impresario J. T. Grein announced that he had recruited Allan for the feature role in a private presentation of Oscar Wilde’s play Salome in London at the Royal Court Theatre. He also stated that he intended to export the production to neutral nations as a “war aim,” to enhance British intellectual prestige.[22] This announcement precipitated the startling denouement of Allan’s career. Notices of this upcoming role initially appeared with no adverse comment in the London press, but they were followed by a vicious attack on the production in the right-wing press. The Vigilante, an antisemitic and xenophobic publication, called attention to the forthcoming presentation in an article that appeared under the bold-type heading, “Cult of the Clitoris.” Members of the London audience, the author asserted, would be drawn from a list of 47,000. An article published three weeks earlier in the journal had already introduced readers to the “list”: it was allegedly held by the Germans, and it contained the names of English men and women who were open to German blackmail because of their “sexual perversions.” Supposedly included in the list were the names of “wives of Cabinet ministers, dancing girls, even Cabinet Ministers themselves.”[23] After Grein brought the article to the attention of Allan, she sued the editor, Independent member of Parliament Noel Pemberton Billing, for libel, her legal counsel insisting that the “cult of the clitoris” could only mean “lesbianism,” a term reprinted in the Times, indeed, the first time it had appeared there in print.[24] Like the libel case of Oscar Wilde twenty-three years earlier, Allan became the person on trial, not her libeler. Allan lost her case and never recovered her career. Everyone else associated with the trial was also tainted by the affair.

Allan’s life has been chronicled by biographers and cultural critics. Memoirists of pre-war London, including Lady Diana Cooper and James Macqueen-Pope, allude to the “Maud Allan boom” as one of the media-driven fashions of the gay, pleasure-seeking Edwardian period, before the Great War Changed Everything.[25] A somewhat different body of literature produced by historians of performance has focused on Allan’s pre-war career, assessing her role in avant-garde dance and in the Salomania of the turn of the century.[26] The preponderance of scholarly attention, however, has concentrated on the later story of Allan’s libel suit in 1918. Infamous in its own time, the libel suit has resurfaced in many post-1970s reevaluations of the cultural, social, and even political consequences of World War I.

In these later accounts, the libel case has come to epitomize the wartime “hysteria” of 1918, when the shock and disappointment of the successful German March offensive provoked a renewal of anti-alien sentiment in Britain and fueled spy stories about an “internal enemy” of moral perverts who were susceptible to German blackmail and hence capable of treason. Political historians of the British Right have noted that the trial empowered individuals on the extreme political fringe to vent their hostility toward the Asquiths and to scotch any suggestion of peace negotiations. They have tended to treat this extreme reaction as “short-lived” rather than as a decisive consolidation of postwar political sentiment and affiliations.[27] Cultural historians, in contrast, have emphasized its long-term and deleterious effects on British modernism. The libel trial, argue Samuel Hynes and Philip Hoare, was part of a cultural backlash against advanced thought and cultural experimentalism—all that came to be embodied in the legacy of Oscar Wilde.[28] This backlash alienated and dispersed the pre-war avant-garde, sending the next generation of intellectuals and artists into real or psychic exile, thus producing a permanent alteration of the cultural landscape.[29]

Compared to literary historians, feminist cultural historians have registered more uncertainty about the trial’s long-term effects. They have interpreted the treatment of Allan during the libel trial, coming as it did at the end of the war, as the climax of a series of media assaults on “unruly women” that erupted in wartime Britain: from alarmist accounts of giddy girls, gripped by Khaki Fever, who chased after men in uniforms in the early days of the war, to denunciations of “amateur” good-time girls who spread venereal disease among the troops in 1917, to sensational treatises on the female spy. They also cite wartime media invectives against pleasure-seeking shopping ladies and drug-taking nightclub flappers, while noting men’s complaints against those women who interfered with their pleasures, particularly the uniformed women police.[30] These moral panics, they argue, bore the marks of enduring and repetitive ideologies of gender, but they also reveal new gender formations: the very articulation of dangerous, multifaceted female sexualities eroded pre-war notions of female sexual apathy. Despite its disastrous effect on Allan, the trial may also have registered and publicized lasting changes in pre-war femininities.[31]

Given their focus on the war and its consequences, most of these studies ignore the pre-war history of Maud Allan or treat it briefly as a prelude to the 1918 trial. Overall, they are inclined to treat Allan as a passive object, a cultural fraud who was made into a pre-war icon of advanced taste by a worldly coterie of society ladies and homosexuals, only to be transformed by the radical Right into a whipping boy for Asquith and his supporters in 1918. Moreover, scholars who have treated the 1918 proceedings as a cultural watershed have tended to concentrate on the transformative power of enunciated words and texts—the disputed evidence at the trial—at the expense of nonverbal performances such as Allan’s embodied dance.

Allan was an iconic figure of fantasy, but she was also an active agent in the production of this fantasy. She was the bearer of the Wildean decadent legacy, but that is not all she stood for in the pre-war years. By combining Greek neo-classical dance with her own original composition, the “Vision of Salome,” Allan introduced a set of codes for female bodily expression that disrupted the Victorian conventional dichotomies of female virtue and female vice and pushed beyond such dualisms. She accomplished this shift by positioning herself outside a single national framework. Allan used the “Orient” as a register for female sensual expression, but she also built her dance from a range of other cultural forms, including American physical culture, theatrical posing, and modernist strategies of representation. Her hybrid display accounts in part for her capacity to attract an audience of men and women of radically different, even mutually exclusive, social constituencies, who were also participants in her creative enterprise. An exclusive focus on the 1918 trial obscures this wider cultural dimension of bodily expression, its interaction with pre-war regulatory systems, as well as the implications of Allan’s “boom” for the remapping of urban space. Not only did Allan’s performances materialize a new femininity, they facilitated the entry of respectable women into what one turn-of-the-century writer termed the “Night Side of London”: the cosmopolitan spaces of the commercial West End.[32]

In the Palace Theatre of Varieties, the built environment where Maud Allan danced, the two meanings of cosmopolitanism were spatially and concretely expressed. Opened in 1891, and first launched as the Royal English Opera House in Cambridge Circus at the juncture of Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road, the Palace was located in the center of late Victorian Theaterland. (See Figure 2.) An exuberant expression of Victorian commercial enterprise, featuring a terra cotta façade in the Northern Renaissance style, the building remained the only structure of “distinction” and “beauty” along the Charing Cross Road, a Victorian street improvement that opened in 1887 to facilitate the flow of London traffic between north and south.[33] While its ornamental façade and interiors blended a wide range of European and orientalist historical styles, the Palace also distinguished itself by its modern American steel-frame construction, electric lighting, and air filtration system.[34] Built by the impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte for £150,000 to seat 2,000 spectators, who were spatially demarcated by class, the Royal English Opera House was part of the expansion of a sophisticated heterosocial nightlife in London.

Figure 2: Façade of the Palace Theatre of Varieties. From the Illustrated London News, 1891. Courtesy of the Museum of London.

The official illustration of the theater’s façade presents the Palace as a freestanding edifice, untarnished by any local street associations. Yet commentators frequently observed something dubious about the Palace Theatre’s physical location, constructed as it was along the eastern boundary of Soho, the old, declining, and foreign quarter of Central London. Soho was notorious for its foreign prostitutes, its foreign political intriguers, its foreign restaurants, and what observers called its low “cosmopolitan” immigrant masses, whose latest wave consisted of Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe. [35] For the next century, the Palace Theatre would preside majestically over the southeastern entrance into Soho’s labyrinthine streets (one of the two main entrances into Soho), surrounded along the avenue by “clifflike tenements,” secondhand bookstores, nondescript theaters, “rubber good stores,” and pornography shops. [36]

This spatial liminality may have contributed to the commercial failure of D’Oyly Carte’s theater as an opera house in 1891. Even more troubling than the physical location was the fact that the first year exhausted the supply of commercially appealing English operas. In 1892, under its new name, the Palace Theatre turned to international attractions: it featured a season devoted to the divine Sarah Bernhardt, whose enactment of Wilde’s Salome in French was banned at the last minute by the Lord Chamberlain, the theater censor, on the grounds that it depicted biblical characters on stage.[37] The following year, 1893, the Palace sought a wider public for its entertainments by transforming itself into a variety theater, thus repositioning itself within the leisure market as a site of gentlemen’s entertainment.[38]

As a variety theater, the Palace no longer fell under the supervision of the theater censor but was instead subject to the restrictions of the London County Council and its inspectorate. This marked an important shift in political control, for the Progressives on the council were more responsive to the complaints of temperance and purity reformers than the Lord Chamberlain’s office. Refused a liquor license by the council, the Palace management felt obliged to promote erotic display even more strenuously than its competitors in Leicester Square, the Empire and Alhambra theaters, which advertised themselves as “cosmopolitan clubs,” populist extensions of the West End gentlemen’s clubs.[39] These Leicester Square establishments had gained their “world-wide reputation for naughtiness” from the staging of spectacular ballets as “leg shows” and from the “nightly ballet” of the “Ladies of the Night” in the promenade bar at the back of the dress circle.[40]

To compete with these attractions, the Palace revived tableaux vivants, also known as poses plastiques or Living Pictures, as a form of erotic entertainment in 1893.[41] Presented in a colossal gold frame and accompanied by music, female performers attired in flesh-tinted tights, their breasts often encrusted in plaster of Paris, would strike an “artistic” pose and stand silent and immobile for the delectation of the patrons of the music halls. Sometimes, the tableaux vivants would take their inspiration from genre and history paintings, but the most notorious ones were based on ancient Greek statuary, mythological subjects, or recent orientalist representations of the nude.[42] A feature of tawdry shows since the 1840s, Living Pictures were notable for their suggestiveness, their passivity of female display, and their ambiguous reference to the nude in art.[43] (See Figure 3.) Despite the sensational exploitation of the genre in the music halls, female posing would also continue to be a respectable form of amateur entertainment, highlighting dramatic effect, emotional tension, and incipient action. As amateur theatrics, it would lead to developments from which early modern dance would emerge by the end of the century.[44]

Figure 3: Examples of tableaux vivants similar to those on display at the Palace Theatre, London. French, late nineteenth century. Courtesy of Getty Images.

Inspectors sent out by the London County Council to monitor Living Pictures in the variety theaters had difficulty evaluating the exhibits.[45] However, representatives of the National Vigilance Association, a social purity group with a strong feminist constituency, had no such qualms. In 1894, they challenged the dancing and entertainment license of the Palace Theatre before the licensing committee of the council.[46] W. A. Coote, the paid secretary of the association, denounced the Living Pictures as an “idealized form of indecency” that exposed scantily clad female performers to the public view and violated the standards of taste expressed in English art. Echoing contemporary discussions in the press concerning the salacious influence of French salon painting, he insisted that a demoralizing foreign influence was at work in the selection of original art works selected for reproduction on the Palace stage.[47]

In the end, the Palace license was renewed, but the Palace directors were cautioned to be more careful in the future. Despite these warnings, the Palace continued to promote Living Pictures throughout the 1890s. Thanks to Living Pictures, the Palace sustained a reputation for “candour concerning the human form.”[48] However, in 1907, under renewed pressure from feminist social purity groups, the London County Council finally banned Living Pictures.[49] The Palace manager, Alfred Butt, began to cast around for an act that would provide that candor yet escape the blue pencil of the censor. He invited Maud Allan to perform, as a kind of mobile substitute for Living Pictures who would satisfy the cultural distinctions of high art but also manifest disturbing signs of animated modernity and sexuality.

As the star of the Palace Theatre, Allan achieved a much greater success in London than her North American competitors, Loie Fuller and Isadora Duncan. Her London triumph provoked Duncan admirers, including prominent figures in feminist theater such as Christopher St. John and Edith Craig, to dismiss Allan as a pale imitator of Isadora’s barefoot classical dancing, as repetitious in her dance program and incapable of achieving Isadora’s “extraordinary elevation” of her torso. However, other press commentators actively preferred Allan to Duncan as more musical, more dramatic, better able to express “real feeling and emotion,” and more beautiful in face and figure.[50] Whatever the relative merits of their dancing, Duncan and Allan adopted similar strategies of self-advertisement as cultural innovators who engaged in discourse about their own art. They both repudiated the ballet as mechanized technique, with “low” associations. Each projected herself as a freestanding artist, who managed her career, performed and choreographed her own dancing, made her own costumes, and danced to concert-grade Romantic music. Both enthusiastically embraced the trappings of international stardom, including sumptuous residences and world tours with elaborate retinues. Unlike Duncan, who only appeared in elite performance spaces with a simple curtain backdrop, Allan was willing to appear on the music hall stage, where she still relied on the decorative effects of stage furnishings and set design, particularly for her “Vision of Salome.” Unlike Fuller, who covered herself up in billowing waves of cloth, Allan was willing to strip down to a diaphanous costume. Finally, in choosing the “Vision of Salome” as her featured number, Allan allied herself with the spirit and enterprise of Sarah Bernhardt, who had gained international renown twenty years earlier in London by impersonating exotic princesses bent on manipulating their sexuality for political ends, and by shamelessly engaging in self-promotion as a mobile, serpentine, modern woman.[51]

Fashioning Salome as her star role was a move that gave this American entertainer her credentials in exoticism and sexual display. It also linked her fortune to Oscar Wilde’s, convicted of gross indecency in 1895, and to his Salome (1893), the part of Wilde’s corpus most implicated in his “trial of the decade.”[52] But Allan revised Wilde’s play in ways that were at once more shocking than Wilde’s rendering yet more accessible to a broad social constituency.

Wilde’s Salome was a quintessentially cosmopolitan product: written in French and banned in England, it had made Wilde “a household word wherever the English language is not spoken.”[53] It served as the libretto for the opera by Richard Strauss, who was attracted to the “inherent musicality,” the incantatory and repetitive structuring of Wilde’s text, as well as to its erotic possibilities.[54] Wilde’s play differs from the biblical version in that it centers the story on Salome, who is less the instrument of her mother’s revenge against John the Baptist than a desiring subject with a will of her own. Salome’s dance is a pivotal element in the drama, but Wilde offers no description of it other than to state, in parentheses, “Salome dances the dance of the seven veils.”[55] After dancing for her stepfather, Herod, Wilde’s Salome demands the head of John the Baptist, who had rejected her erotic overtures. Herod orders John’s head to be chopped off and delivered to the dancing princess on a silver plate. Salome makes love to the severed head, kissing it and declaring her love for it. Outraged, Herod orders his soldiers to kill her. Wilde’s realization of the story clarified and highlighted a number of perverse sexualities associated with Salome, most notably her sadism, voyeurism, and fetishistic attachment to the head of John the Baptist.

Wilde’s Salome was performed for 200 nights in Berlin in1901, where Maud Allan claimed to have seen Max Reinhardt’s highly visual and modernist production. Allan was clearly influenced by Reinhardt’s staging: she seems to have lifted the sartorial idea of a transparent costume from his production while borrowing the conceit of jewel-encrusted breastplates from Mata Hari.[56] But there were striking innovations in her reassembling of this material. Allan performed Salome’s dance not as the dance of the seven veils but as a dream sequence in which Salome reenacts the events leading up to the beheading. “Drawn by an irresistible force,” Salome “in a dream” descends the steps of Herod’s palace to the strains of “weird” Oriental music. She relives her dancing “triumph” before Herod when the head of John the Baptist appears to her as a phantasm. By all accounts, including Allan’s own memoirs, the appearance of the head precipitates a “wild desire” in the virginal young Salome, a sensation “hitherto unknown to her.” She caresses the head and then swoons in remorse, “a huddled—but still graceful, still beautiful—mass.” (See Figure 4.) The dream conceit allowed Allan to collapse two of Wilde’s scenes into one, the dance and the encounter with the head, thus eliminating Herod from the scene. The visual juxtaposition of a mobile female body and a very immobile, trunkless male head (a head without a heart) was the most shocking and climactic element of the performance.[57]

Figure 4: Salome with the head. “Is the Head Necessary?” asked the Sketch (March 25, 1908), supplement 3. Courtesy of General Research Division, the New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

The well-oiled publicity machine of the Palace Theatre consolidated Allan’s reputation by blurring aesthetic and erotic meanings attached to her dancing but cleverly incorporating their traces in their promotions.[58] Overall, the British press response to Allan was quite restrained, to the effect that, yes, the dress was “daring,” the head of John the Baptist was a bit “startling,” but “the performance is absolutely free of offence.”[59] It was here that Allan’s “origins”—her Anglo-Saxonism—were displayed to great effect. Reviewers defended the artiste and her superior background against imputations of impropriety. Blame was attached instead to the provocative turns of her many foreign, commercial imitators, who proliferated on both sides of the Atlantic and who seemed to have copied her costume down to the last beaded fringe. (See Figure 5.) These plagiarists were condemned as primitive and mechanized bodies, their acts derided as “vulgar” and “acrobatic.” While exempting Allan from criticism, the press took note of the inauthentic racial markers and lack of bodily discipline of her competitors. Newspapers reported on English dancers who tried to pass themselves off as “voluptuous,” mysterious women of the Orient, as well as on Jewish-American entertainers in the United States who performed Salome dancing with a good deal of parody and satire—and a syncopated rhythm.[60] Reviewers also contrasted Allan’s expressive dancing to the overly disciplined bodies of the well-drilled, precision dance troupe, the Palace Girls, who preceded her in the evening’s program. Part of the John Tiller organization, the Palace Girls were recruited from the factory towns of the north of England; they specialized in “prettiness,” “good teeth,” and marvelous clockwork-like regularity of action.[61]

Figure 5: Maud Allan and her imitators (Allan is on the right). “The Salome Dance by Three of Its Exponents,” Morning Telegraph, July 6, 1908. Maud Allan Clippings. Courtesy of Jerome Robbins Dance Division, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

According to cultural critic Amy Koritz, this kind of publicity enabled Allan to get away with her Salome dance through a successful recategorization of the meanings and practices of her craft, which enabled her to transform what was “Eastern” into something “Western” and what was “erotic” into something “spiritual.”[62] From this recategorization, reviewers drew a political lesson. Because Allan could enact the art of the “East” without the “slightest suggestion of the vulgarity” so familiar to Cairo or Tangier, she could teach the British public about their own empire.[63] “We have the largest Eastern Empire the world has ever seen,” declared a journalist. “[We have] to thank Miss Allan for beginning our education in a branch of art which we have persistently neglected.”[64]

These comments point to Allan’s insider/outsider role within the Imperial Nation. The polyvalent meanings of Allan’s dancing entailed a more complex positioning within imperial culture than Koritz allows. Allan’s dance united the empire and at the same time called attention to the multiple positions within it. Allan’s identification as a Canadian Californian was critical to this revaluation. Her American body seemed to embody many of the qualities associated with Anglo-Saxonism: innocence, racial purity, and the cherished freedoms of a liberal political heritage.[65] Approving testimonials to her American body and spirit appeared in press notices that drew attention to her wholesome upbringing in California, to “her natural litheness never … checked or hampered by the wearing of a corset.”[66] This positive publicity was up against notices (particularly from Duncan devotees) that dismissed her as an amateurish American miss or an American-style publicity hound. But in its positive spin, possession of an American body and a fresh, young, “noble” face, with regular features of a Grecian type, allowed Allan to mediate between the metropolis and its Eastern empire in an acceptable way.[67] Similarly, it was her superior version of cosmopolitan Anglo-Saxonism that established Allan as a “piquant contrast” to the mechanized Palace dancers of the industrial North.

Allan both highlighted and obscured her North American identity when she defended her art in interviews and published memoirs.[68] She insisted that her Californian upbringing brought her close to nature and to the healthful simplicity of the Greeks, but she also asserted her status as an international star, unconstrained by local affiliations and indebted only to individual genius and the inspiration of the great art of the centuries. Like Duncan, she drew on the French symbolist formulations of dance as the “poetry of motion” to legitimate her own artistic practice. She celebrated dance as the “spontaneous expression of the spiritual state,” a transcultural expression of some higher, less material realm, in which her body became an instrument for translating music and emotions into movement through a series of stationary poses and rapid movements.[69] Although up-to-date on contemporary aesthetic theory, she claimed to know nothing of the dance “technique of the day,” the ballet. “I have sought all my attitudes and movement in the art galleries of Europe, on Etruscan vases and Assyrian tablets.”[70] From all accounts, Allan’s historical research translated into torso spiraling, rhythmic footwork, undulating arm gestures, and book-derived body postures, a set of movement techniques on display in both her classical and orientalist dancing. Discerning observers also noted that her dance was not drawn simply from the inspiration of the classical past, from the museums of Europe, and from French symbolist theory, but from American popular dance and physical culture, particularly the precepts and expressive strategies of François Delsarte.

Allan’s Delsartean technique, under-appreciated by historians, was key to her appeal for women. It linked her to the American women’s health reform movement and to the amateur tradition of tableau vivant. Her use of Delsarte was one way in which critics recognized her as an American dancing body, even though Delsarte itself was a cosmopolitan product, an aesthetic and performance theory for expressive movement developed by a French movement teacher, François Delsarte, and imported to the United States during the late nineteenth century. It was enormously popular in North America; it was taught not only in drama schools but also as an exercise program that enabled middle-class women and girls to remake their bodies into noble bodies, into the “bodies of the best type.”[71]

There is little doubt of Delsarte’s influence on Allan. Delsarte’s theories, Allan wrote, “teach us that every fibre, every vigorous impulse, every muscle and every feeling should have its existence so well defined that at any moment it can actually assert itself.”[72] Later, in some notebook jottings, she described her dance technique in Delsartean terms: the rhythm of the dance, she noted, derived from the “law of gravitation,” from the principle of “attraction-repulsion-resistance and yield.” “Freedom through dance” was accomplished through “great strides, leaps and bounds, uplifted forehead, and far spread arms.”[73]

J. T. Grein, manager of the Independent Theatre and the music reviewer of the Sunday Times, recognized the Delsartean heritage. “Good old Delsarte,” he wrote, ” … forgotten in Europe, is having his day. For the Duncans and Maud Allans, what else are they but Delsartians. If proof were needed it would be easy to harmonize their every movement with the doctrines of the French aesthete and the fact that both ladies hail from the American continent where the Delsartian theory is taught in many girls’ schools.”[74]

Although Grein recognized an aesthetic vocabulary in Allan’s dance, other newspaper critics were at a loss to discern any “technique” in her dance. Reviewers were alert to her dramatization of feeling and to her self-presentation as “unconscious of all save her dancing,” but they were unable to mobilize any critical vocabulary to describe her movements in different parts of her repertoire.[75] Despite their respectful praise, reviewers subjected her body to an obsessive scrutiny. They took the occasion to comment on Allan’s “beautiful sinuous movements,” her “well-knit muscles,” and her “uncompromising spine.”[76] When they compared her dance to the “provocative posturing” of Eastern dancing from which it arose, they pitted one set of anatomical parts against another.[77] The “languor and the sensuousness” of her orientalist dance was mostly suggested “in the motions of the dancer’s truly marvelous arms and hands, rather than by any writhings or sinuousities of the torso,” explained one newspaper account.[78] To drive the point home, pictures of her arms, hands, as well as legs, not to speak of her bare feet, were reproduced in the magazines, where journalists countered Salome’s fetishism with their own fetishism of the Salome dancer. (See Figure 6.) Another illustration in the Sketch fetishized Allan in a second way: it made her the centerpiece of a decorative display of Art Nouveau jewelry, marking her as a commodity and linking her visually to fin-de-siècle decadence.[79]

Figure 6: “Maud Allan’s `Salome’ Dance in Sections,” 1908. Maud Allan Clippings. Courtesy of Jerome Robbins Dance Division, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

Visual artifacts of the period convey Allan’s hybrid effects and allow us to fill in some of the documentary gaps about her performance. When other scholars have reproduced theatrical photographs of her, they have not assessed the cultural associations that circulated through them. These photographs capture her dramatic expression; they also record the sensation of her “transparent” Salome costume and the highly realistic head used as a stage prop. In the cover illustration, she is clad in an undulating, jangling costume, consisting of breastplates of pearls and jewels above her waist and a transparent black ninon skirt with chains of pearls strung around her hips. The costume did not so much clothe her as “serve as ambient air wherein she floats,” declared the Times.[80] In her Salome costume, Allan has deployed jewelry and breastplates to mimic the plaster of Paris and fig leaf effect of the commercial tableaux vivants, so that the costume operates as a visual cue to a certain erotic genealogy. And the jangling costume must have accentuated any motion by establishing an audible aftereffect. Even in this still image, her movement is nonetheless encoded in her body. The history of her performance is still visible in the strained neck, the oppositional position of the arms, the twisting of the torso.[81] Despite the orientalist costume, the pose directly mirrors her portrait in classical garb (Figure 1), suggesting the overlapping techniques and movements throughout her dance program.[82]

These techniques derive from her Delsartean heritage. The kinesthetic expressiveness of Allan’s dancing is powerfully conveyed by the sketches reproduced in Figure 7. These newspaper illustrations of her classical repertoire adhere to an Art Nouveau, Aubrey Beardsley style: they present an elongated, slender “S” shaped body, dense hair juxtaposed to decorative squiggles at the bottom of her draped costume. They delineate her mood changes in four classical dances that interpret Romantic music from Mendelssohn’s “Spring Song” to Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite.” These illustrations testify to her ability to dramatize a range of emotional states and personas. They also express the concept of “freedom through dance.” Allan appears as a spiraling torso, head thrown back, in vigorous contraposto. Finally, the sketch on the left of Figure 7 captures her will to power: it pictures her as a force of nature hurtling through time.

Figure 7: “How Maud Allan’s Graceful Gyrations Appealed to Chicagoans,” 1910. Maud Allan Clippings. Courtesy of Jerome Robbins Dance Division, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

In its cosmopolitan hybridity, its mobilization of a range of aesthetic theories and representations of empire at home, Allan’s “poetry of motion” appealed to and reworked a range of gendered fantasies and sexual predilections. Photographs of Allan document her rejection of the “stereotyped dancer’s smile,” her self-absorption and disconnection from the audience. At the same time, they offer a full frontal view and assert a boldness and assuredness about Allan’s desirability. One widely circulated photograph of Allan as Salome goes even further: it captures Allan’s trance-like state, evocative of the hysteric, the mystic, and the autoerotic. (See Figure 8.) She is dancing to please herself, yet encouraging and enabling a voyeuristic gaze.

Figure 8: Maud Allan at the Palace Theatre, March 17, 1908. Maud Allan Clippings. Courtesy of Jerome Robbins Dance Division, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

A wide range of women were drawn to her performance. These included well-off ladies who had already made Central London their trade route for daytime shopping and who had begun to combine an evening visit to the Palace Theatre with dinner or supper at the Savoy Hotel.[83] To accommodate demand, the Palace also ran matinee shows devoted exclusively to Allan’s dancing, where “smoking” would not be permitted.[84] At these events, press commentators observed attending celebrity socialites, whose faces appeared in the photo-illustrated press. The press also noted humbler members of the consuming public, “girls in business” as well as suburban matrons and their daughters, out for a shopping day, equipped with their own binoculars.[85] An overlap with a female political public was also discerned. Commenting on one occasion, the liberal Daily Chronicle, which supported women’s suffrage in 1908, estimated that at least 90 percent of the audience were ladies. “It might have been a suffragist meeting … the ladies were of all ages, well dressed, sedate.”[86]

Lady Diana Cooper remembers going along to these ladies’ matinees when she was a young girl, sent by her mother, the duchess of Rutland, an aesthetic lady of heterodox taste. For Lady Diana, enthusiasm for Allan was part of an avant-garde passion for all things Greek, including Paul Poiret’s Directoire fashions, newly imported from Paris, the opening gambit of Poiret’s “war on corsets.”[87] The uncorseted Allan was in tune with this fashion trend. “Maud Allan had made a sensation at the Palace Theatre,” Cooper wrote. “Greatly daring, she had appeared in a wisp of chiffon and bare legs with pipes and cymbals. My mother who despised the art of ballet [as practiced] by second rate dancers, was enthusiastic about this new Grecian frieze form of movement. She sent us weekly to watch and learn.”[88]

Lady Diana also remembers another aristocratic admirer of Allan, Lady Constance Stewart Richardson, who went on to perform classical dancing on the London and New York stages in 1910, attired in her own wisp of chiffon.[89] Inhabiting what Diana Cooper later described as a “Greek boy’s body,” Lady Constance captured the exhibitionist edge of Allan’s performance. This may have been part of the attraction for the writer Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall, depicted by her biographer as a “striking form still held in by stays, but offset by masculine stiff collar,” when she and her lover visited the Palace to see Lady Constance dance there in 1910.[90]

These imitations were not always socially benign. In Lady Constance’s hands, Salome became not a means of advancing cosmopolitanism but of protesting the infiltration of Jewish cosmopolitans into elite London society. The actress Elizabeth Robins was present when Lady Constance arrived at a house party in London, “dressed in the exact replica of Maud Allan’s Salome costume, right down to the bare limbs and barbaric jewelry.”[91] To the king’s great displeasure, she proceeded to demand the head of Sir Ernest Cassel, the king’s Jewish personal financier, on a plate. By her gesture, Lady Constance highlighted the antisemitic components of Salomania that otherwise remained subdued in pre-war Britain.[92] The intelligibility of Lady Constance’s pantomime depended on a set of Jewish associations surrounding Salome, notably Salome’s status as a historical Jewish princess and as a theatrical role long associated with Sarah Bernhardt, as well as the involvement of contemporary German-Jewish impresarios and financiers with stage and operatic productions of Salome in Great Britain and Germany.[93]

Allan’s performance may have inspired an earl’s daughter to take to the music halls (even as this same performer endeavored to restrict social access to other cosmopolitan bodies), but it also encouraged less privileged members of her adoring public, such as the schoolgirls who exchanged picture postcards of her and wrote of their “crush,” to try out Allan’s movements in the privacy of their own abodes.[94] When she serialized her memoirs in the Weekly Dispatch, a popular Sunday paper, Allan received bags of fan mail, which demonstrates how her performance broke down the distinction between dance as performance and dance as a participatory activity. A careful selection of the letters was republished in her newspaper column.[95] One letter, penned in a “girlish handwriting,” stated, “I saw you and thought your dancing perfect. I tried to move my arms like yours, but they seemed to have much fewer joints.”[96] This testimonial acknowledges recognition, stimulus toward body awareness, identification, emulation, and, of course, a failure to measure up to the international star’s performance. It highlights dance’s power of kinesthetic identification, clearly one source of pleasure attached to observing dance performances. Since Allan’s technique was dominated by very familiar and recognizable movements, it was possible to return to a private space, take off one’s stays, stockings, and shoes, and, with the help of a phonograph, combine “pleasure and physical culture.”[97] Recommending her performance to its trade-union supporters as a way to build “the Body Beautiful,” the Woman Worker noted that Allan’s “beautiful movements are the results of a series of regular and simple exercises.”[98]

Allan also received a strange letter from a young man, part of another constituency drawn to her dancing, “who was earning his living in a City office”: “Madam … I am a dancer (a natural dancer) of rather an exceptional nature, having met with great success privately or rather at private concerts on many occasions. I dance always as a lady. I am sure you will say at once what an extraordinary thing for a man to do; but, believe me, I am not effeminate.”[99] Published in a popular Sunday newspaper as an amusing, and slightly naughty, example of a cultural misreading, this letter signaled a particular constituency for her dance that the Palace Theatre had assiduously kept under wraps. Allan was a magnet for men who used the standing room in the back of the theater as a cruising ground to pick up other men. The writer Ronald Firbank remembers “the Maud Allan boom and the Straus [sic] cult … & the minds of young boys turning from their Greece towards the Palace Theatre, Vienna and Berlin.”[100] For Firbank, Allan represented a series of traditions bound up with the metropolitan decadence of the fin de siècle, the homoeroticism of classical Greece, the license of the Continent, and the missing presence of Oscar Wilde at the center.

Cruising men may have been drawn to Allan’s performance because of its association with Wilde’s Salome but also because the variety theaters were well known to be spaces where “sodomites” circulated in the back with the “ladies of the night” and contributed to the frisson and ambiguity of this sexually charged environment.[101] Female erotic display provided both a pretext for sexual conversation and a prototype for homosexual prostitutes, who often modeled their effeminate performance on sexually aggressive “rough girls,” including prostitutes.[102] The fact that Salome and Maud Allan were popular nicknames for transvestite “queens” and female impersonators of the Edwardian era further confirms Salome as a historical icon of “sodomite” subjectivity.[103] I do not mean to suggest that there was an absolute division between the “men of the world” in the front and the “sodomites” in the back; both could fall into the category of male libertine.[104] The distinctions could turn out to be merely temporal, a snapshot along a wider continuum of social/sexual performances. These activities, unremarked on in the public media but noted in the London County Council records or in later memoirs, would surface with a vengeance during the 1918 libel trial.[105]

Allan’s performance did much to inaugurate and enable a pre-war “dance craze” (and its interwar aftermath) and to feature a new set of movement techniques in popular venues. Ignoring the cruising in the back, the Palace Theatre used Allan’s performance and image to recruit ladies as theater patrons. This strategy clearly paid off. The printed programs introduced in 1911 removed the ballet girl, the Palace’s traditional house icon, from the cover and replaced her with Impressionist studies of a respectable and heterosocial audience. In a program cover from 1914, ladies and gentlemen in evening clothes pass a portrait of a scantily clad Maud Allan in the lobby; in a second cover, a man and a woman in the audience watch a stage where the figure of the female performer is barely visible. This image highlights the public intimacy and vital expressiveness of the couple. They have become the show itself, habitués of a new kind of heterosexual nightlife. (See Figure 9.) As part of a continuation of this strategy, the Palace next recruited Anna Pavlova, of the Russian Imperial Ballet, who combined “the older traditional method” of the ballet with “the freedom that is demanded for the expression of emotional ideas.”[106] With the appearance of Russian dancers in the music halls and the triumph of S. P. Diaghilev’s company Ballets Russes at Covent Garden, a whole new epoch of dancing arrived in London. Dancing schools that offered classes in social and theatrical dancing opened in unprecedented numbers and expanded to meet the female demand inspired by Allan and Pavlova.[107] By this process, elite women and girls were incorporated into the world of dance; they in turn certified dancing’s social respectability and authorized women of more modest means to take up theatrical dancing as a respectable occupation.

Figure 9: Program cover, Palace Theatre of Varieties, October 6, 1913. Courtesy of the Museum of London.

The elite female constituency that adored Allan and Pavlova also embraced a new form of social dancing, when the tango craze spread from Paris to London in 1913. First performed on stage in 1912 as a dance number in The Sunshine Girls, the tango was then refined, polished, and presented in a sophisticated form appropriate for social dancing, under the supervision of professional dance instructors.[108] Department stores like Selfridge’s lost no time in promoting new commodities associated with the tango—tango accessories and tango dresses in yellow and reddish-orange that required women to remove their steel-boned corsets.[109] Some newspaper correspondents denounced the tango and “the rag” as “horrors of American and South American negroid origin” and as threats to English moral fiber. These denunciations called forth a public defense of “modern dancing” as a display of a vital female individuality, the same expressive qualities, now aligned to heterosexuality, that enthusiasts had earlier discerned in Allan’s dancing.[110]

Modern dancing, both as a performance and as a form of social dancing, contributed to a new kind of nightlife for women as well as men. In pre-war years, it sent elite women to the tea dances and dinner dances at the Grand Hotels, where they danced publicly amid tables of seated diners and even hired male partners employed by the establishment.[111] It also moved respectable women into heretofore “forbidden” spaces of the nocturnal city, not only to the Palace Theatre of Varieties but also to Soho. This is a significant shift. Already the pre-war center for after-theater suppers in foreign restaurants, Soho burgeoned into the staging ground for hundreds of clandestine nightclubs that opened during the war to escape the drinking curfews and to feed a new appetite for late-night dancing.[112]

Soho’s clubs sustained a raffish nightlife, where social elites mixed with “lowlife types,” heterosexual and homosexual couples bumped up against each other, and drugs and alcohol were readily available.[113] These nightclubs effectively excluded the working-class residents of Soho, but, after the war, Jewish would-be Salomes from Soho would move to the boundaries of their neighborhood to dance the tango at the Astoria Dance Hall on the Charing Cross Road.[114] Here they would achieve a moment of “freedom through dance,” integrate into English modernity, and often meet their future husbands from the Jewish East End. Not only did dance move women into new social spaces within London, it also promoted dancing women as a “charming” export industry.[115] Thanks to the opening up of all those dance schools, British dancers became the primary staple for chorus lines throughout Europe—including the Folies Bérgères. Meanwhile, the English style of dancing established the criteria for dance competitions and sophisticated social dancing throughout Europe and the empire.[116]

Allan’s dancing also stimulated a new standard of high cultural performances of Salome, which provoked more controversy than Allan’s own variety turn. In 1910, an operatic production was presented at the Covent Garden Opera House, while a private theatrical version was staged in 1911 at Chelsea’s Court Theatre. They were part of a cultural revolution in all the arts, associated with cosmopolitan imports performed in elite spaces but also communicated to a broad reading public through the photo-illustrated press.[117] The operatic and theater productions were indebted to Allan’s music hall performance, with its emphasis on the dancing female body and its prestigious reception, but they did independent work of their own.[118] These productions incited a discussion over Salome’s modernity that was heavily indebted to the fin-de-siècle language of sexology and to a diagnosis of suffrage militancy as an expression of abnormal sexuality.[119] Although these discussions occurred without explicit reference to Allan, they prefigure the recriminations leveled at her in 1918.

The 1910 production of Strauss’s opera was staged at Covent Garden, but only after the impresario Thomas Beecham persuaded Prime Minister Asquith to intercede with the theater censor.[120] The Lord Chamberlain permitted the performance on the condition that Salome appear in an “abridged” form. Consequently, a bloody sword was substituted for the decapitated head, and the character of John the Baptist was renamed “The Prophet.” Strauss’s opera sold out less than an hour and a half after tickets went on sale. The production attracted a “distinguished audience,” left “limp” by the performance.[121] As a live production of Wilde’s decadent, banned play, the opera met with a mixed critical reception. To convey their disgust, critics resorted to a medical lexicon of degeneration, dismissing Salome as the glorification of “erotomania,” a “pathological study of a most unhealthy specimen.”[122]

Reviewers of the production were disturbed and intrigued by the new importance attributed to Salome’s dance. In a public interview, Mme. Acté, the star of the Covent Garden performance, insisted that “Salome” was “essentially a modern part, and … there is more than a piece of Salome in every modern woman … a heart to feel and passion to let loose like floods.”[123] Thanks to Allan and the Salomania she had helped incite, Salome’s dance had become vital to the expression of this modern sexual subjectivity. Mme. Acté followed the example set by Mary Garden in New York at the Manhattan Opera House in 1909 and insisted on performing the dance herself (it had earlier been the practice in Germany for a danseuse to substitute for divas), attired in a costume closely resembling the outfit adopted by Allan and her imitators: “barbaric” jewels, diaphanous skirt, breastplates, and snake bracelets.[124] “Come and see my dance,” Mme. Acté told the reporter from the Morning Leader, “and you may learn something of what really is in us—the modern woman!” This dance, she added, is “all my own … The music is Strauss. The words are Oscar Wilde; but the dance is Acté.”[125]

The success of Strauss’s opera at Covent Garden clearly emboldened another group of Edwardian women, feminist actresses, to enact the “modernity” of Salome and her dance, this time along lines more compatible with militant feminism, and this time provoking an even more critical response from the press. On February 27 and 28, 1911, a private matinee production of Wilde’s “banned” play was staged at the Court Theatre by a group called “The New Players.” This was the third time a private production of Wilde’s play had been staged in London, and it was the first time it had been produced in a “real theatre.”[126] The performance was organized by Adeline Bourne, the honorary secretary of the Actresses’ Franchise League, who assumed the leading role.[127] Bourne made it clear that the production was meant for a select audience. She acknowledged that the drama was not “suitable for an ordinary theatre production”: the public that flock to the “so-called melodramas are scarcely the people to appreciate the literary beauty of some of Wilde’s passionate lines.”[128]

In reviewing the play, the press emphasized the illicit status of the production. A society within a society had arranged for its members to “evade the Censorship by giving private performances of unlicenced plays in public places” and to “wallow in sufficient sensuality to last a lifetime.”[129] Reviewers also noted that “mostly women” were in attendance, including a large contingent of society ladies and well-known actresses. Turning their attention to the performance, critics dismissed Bourne’s acting as strident and overwrought and her dancing as “not seductive enough.” “Anything less seductive than her blandishments we have seldom seen.”[130] Bourne, moreover, misunderstood the dual nature of Salome’s character: “She made no attempt to suggest a seductive daughter of Herodias, preferring to emphasize her dominating animalism.” “It was a sorry spectacle,” declared the Penny Illustrated Paper, fit only for “sexless women and pussycat men.”[131]

The “dominating animalism” of Adeline Bourne’s Salome, unmediated by a seductive dance or “sensuous girlishness,” moved critics to associate the sexual aggression of her performance with the militant spirit of the suffragettes. The Bystander condemned Bourne’s conception of the part as absurdly contemporary and a distortion of its fin-de-siècle spirit: Wilde’s Salome, it declared, was “not a twentieth-century suffragette attempting an entrance into the House of Commons or asking for Mr. Winston Churchill’s head on a charge sheet.”[132] Conversely, the militant Votes for Women defended her contemporary rendition of a modern political princess: “Miss Bourne, who looked very charming in her Eastern dress, was terrible as an army with banners.”[133]

Bourne’s performance challenges conventional historical understandings of the kind of iconography then available to feminism. To advertise feminism, the Edwardian suffrage movement had appropriated the technologies of spectacular theater, involving the massing of bodies and sumptuous set designs and costuming. Like Allan, suffragists made a public spectacle of themselves and tried to control the terms of that spectacle, but they significantly differed from Allan in their desire to forge a civic body, “an army,” out of the ornamental, expressive bodies of women.[134] Suffragists wanted to modernize women by making them into healthy, rights-bearing, national subjects, not, like Allan’s Salome, sensuous, desiring selves, free of territorial constraints. Allan, avowedly no suffragist, aligned herself with the rebellious cultural modernism of Margot Asquith and her set, who celebrated a mobile, expressive individualism but disparaged the aims and methods of political feminism.[135]

The feminist production of Salome in 1911 unsettled these divisions.[136] By appropriating Salome, feminist actresses not only transformed her “morbidity” into a feminist war cry, they also detached her from the antisuffragist milieus of the music hall and smart society circles who patronized Allan. While feminist actresses may have had a number of professional motivations for staging this performance, they brought Salome under the sign of Militant Woman, rendering her a new icon for the expanding militant operations of the Women’s Social and Political Union, which had stepped up its campaigns of window smashing, arson, and political disruption in the streets of Central London.[137]

The New Players’ engagement with Salome signaled a new formation within feminist ranks. A younger generation of feminists were drawn to Salome’s dance because women could embrace it as their own cultural form and use it to claim possession of their own erotic gaze, albeit a hostile and aggressive one.[138] This marked a significant departure from the prevailing agenda of social purity feminists, who labored to control and expose male vice but not to expand the opportunities for female sexual expression.[139] Sensing a cultural alteration, critics wasted no time in denouncing Bourne’s Salome as an incitement to female sensual excess: witness the press condemnation of the Court production as “strident,” “hysterical,” and “crazily erotic.” Without explicitly referencing the performance, the Psychoanalytic Review of 1914 linked the sadism of Wilde’s Salome to a “repressed sexual aggression” that collectively manifested itself in the vandalism, arson, and political disruption of the Edwardian suffragettes.[140]

Ultimately, the female dancer’s association with disorderly sex and politics, with cultural deceit and political treason, began to collect around the figure of Allan herself. An international traffic in rumors started on the Continent even before her visit to London in 1908. These early rumors linked her professional role as femme fatale to her personal life, a media strategy that had developed concurrently with the rise of the international star system. In Britain, such rumors only circulated in print via a pornographic novel, Maudie, which represented Allan’s sexual appetites as rampantly heterosexual.[141] But in 1910, different allegations of sexual misconduct began to percolate in the American press. The rumors emphasized the homoerotic overtones of her female following in London. In 1908, the New York Times reported on “Salome Dinner Dances” in Mayfair, restricted to ladies only, all of whom dressed up in a Maud Allan costume and performed for each other, as if they were women in a harem.[142] The American news media also exposed Allan’s family secret, the fact that her brother was a murderer.[143] Finally, during the months she toured the United States in 1910, the American press discussed Allan’s relationship to Prime Minister Asquith and his wife, noting the unseemly entry into the higher rungs of society and politics that Allan gained through Mrs. Asquith and this lady’s excessive attachment to the dancer.[144] (See Figure 10.)

Figure 10: Allan and the Asquiths. “Most Pestered of Premiers,” in which the prime minister is compared to Job. Maud Allan Clippings. Courtesy of Jerome Robbins Dance Division, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

In the pre-war period, these rumors seemed to have been largely contained, at least in the public media, on one side of the Atlantic. But they prepared the ground for a frontal assault on what was perceived to be the perversity, degeneracy, and political danger of Maud Allan’s cosmopolitanism during the last days of World War I. In 1918, J. T. Grein announced that he had recruited Allan for the lead role in a private performance of Wilde’s Salome in London at the Court Theatre. The Vigilante responded with its infamous “Cult of the Clitoris.” Its attack on Allan as a member of a coterie of sexual perverts, vulnerable to German blackmail, and hence potentially traitors implicated other prominent individuals, notably Grein, a nationalized citizen of Jewish Dutch descent, and the Asquiths. The article, Allan wrote in 1921, was “part of a campaign to get rid of Asquith”; particular “venom” was “manifested against his wife,” who had been accused of fraternizing with German prisoners of war. “The whole was a subtle suggestion that anti-British influences had surrounded the wife of the prime minister, and that I was mainly responsible.”[145] Although Grein warned her against taking legal action, Allan persisted in bringing a libel suit that ended in disaster for herself and her friends.

This courtroom drama at the Old Bailey occupied the attention of the press for six days in June 1918 after the initial proceedings at Bow Street Police Court. Interest focused, first of all, on the elite coterie of society and political leaders “whose names were bandied about” at the trial and whose presence in the courtroom was signaled by newspaper descriptions of the “fashionable queue waiting outside Bow-street.”[146] References to pleasure-seeking society ladies also appeared in discussions of Allan and her Salome costume, which, it was alleged, had encouraged fashionable ladies and women to perform at amateur matinees in even more scandalous attire. All in all, declared The Times, her pre-war popularity was symptomatic of “that passion for excitement and for that last novelty that was always the familiar beginning of a corrupt society.”[147]

Acting for the prosecution, Hume Williams declared that the editor, Billing, “maliciously published a false and defamatory libel concerning Maud Allan.” Williams introduced Allan as the “pioneer of the kind of classic Grecian form which was intended to have a meaning and express a poem” and cited her “Vision of Salome” as an example of this dignified art form. “Possibly” because of her connection to the dance version of Salome, Allan was “invited” to take part in Grein’s production of Wilde’s Salome. Turning to Wilde’s play, which had been performed “all over the world” and even at Covent Garden “many times,” Williams allowed that it was “unpleasant” and “unattractive,” even “horrible,” but denied that it contained any “suggestions” of the “Lesbian or Sodomite practices” that formed the basis of Billing’s slanderous allusions to the “Cult of the Clitoris.”[148]

Following Williams’s opening remarks, Allan entered the dock. Under his questioning, she recounted the history of her performance and insisted that her dance had nothing “to do with Wilde’s Salome.”[149] Acting in his own defense, Billing proceeded to cross-examine her. Neither Allan nor her counsel was prepared for the interrogation that followed. Through innuendo and scandalous revelations pertaining to her private life, most notably her “degenerate” family history and her ambiguous relations with Margot Asquith, Billing set about building a case for Allan’s perversion and for her participation in a cult of high-ranking “moral perverts.” He further tried to discredit her by questioning her about her German education, her knowledge of sexological terminology, and her immersion in symbolic expression. Both Billing and the judge pressed her hard to explain how Salome’s “womanly desire” for the head of the Baptist could in any way be deemed spiritual and not physical? If, as Allan insisted, Salome “fell in love with the holiness and the beauty of this man,” why did she demand “the head of a man she loved?”[150] In response, Allan insisted that Salome’s love was “spiritual” and that her own dance owed nothing to Wilde’s conception of the part. In the end, she ultimately fell back on an orientalist defense: “Salome lived in the Eastern world at a time when our rules were not in vogue,” she explained.[151]

Billing’s cross-examination, tolerated by a confused and inept judge, set the pattern for the rest of the trial. As an exposé of elite moral corruption, the trial remapped private and public knowledge. At the trial, Billing was able to expose secrets of Allan’s private life that had been publicly suppressed in pre-war Britain. He was even able to defy strict wartime censorship codes and present what many newspapers described as “promiscuous innuendoes” about the disloyalty of important personages. Billing clearly benefited from a growing public distrust of wartime censorship and propaganda; the strict control of information fed the flames of gossip and made spy stories, including this one, thinkable (as did the execution of Mata Hari as a German spy in France in 1917).[152]

Ironically, Allan was punished for seeming to possess too much knowledge, particularly knowledge of a dangerous cosmopolitan variety. Billing and his expert witnesses pointed, first of all, to the Wildean legacy of symbolism she seemed to embrace. They denounced Grein and Allan for speaking a kind of “topsy-turvy … jargon,” like Wilde himself; for resorting to a foreign “language generally used by homosexualists” that referred to “physical acts of the senses as spiritual, poetic, beautiful, and pure.”[153] Besides indulging in poetic subterfuge, Allan was also faulted for her familiarity with foreign medical knowledge—even though her opponents heavily depended themselves on the authority of Continental sexology to make their case against her. The sexological tradition informed the specific accusation that Allan was catering to a “cult of the clitoris.” Sexology treated an enlarged clitoris as a conventional symptom of lesbian anatomy, associated with female “hypersexuality” and a masculinized, degenerate condition. Despite the fact (or perhaps because of the fact) that lesbianism was one of the “unnatural vices” that Salome did not perform, it became the sum total of her perversities, which in the end signaled the violence of female sexual arousal. Proof of Allan’s own perverse nature extended to her medical knowledge of anatomical words. The fact that she understood what clitoris meant was cited as proof of her own complicity in the “cult of the clitoris.”[154]

In this way, Allan came to personify Wilde’s Salome and even stand in for Wilde himself, as the embodiment of a tainted cosmopolitanism, one associated with disease, rootlessness, and the unplaced. Salome, declared the Morning Post, was a drama of “disease” and deracination. “These perversions have no home in the healthy mind of England … Far from being a typical English work it is abhorrent to every English instinct … They have, like scum on water, a floating root in the international population which drifts between capital and capital.”[155] A similar line of argument was used against Allan’s training in Germany and her introduction of “German” dancing into England, a type of dancing, Billing insisted, that “was quite foreign to the British public” before her performance.[156] To the jury, this reasoning seemed to justify Billing’s charge of perversion.

At this time of national scandal, Justice Darling, the sitting judge, rather surprisingly invoked British feminism as the antidote to dangerous cosmopolitanism. After the jury delivered their verdict, Darling took the occasion to deplore the kind of dances and the kind of costumes worn by Allan and to condemn Wilde’s play as a “play which never ought to be produced either in public or in private.” He then noted that in “a short time women will be able to have their influence upon legislation, and … I hope they will make it their business to see that much more purity is introduced into public representations than is the case at present.”[157]

Previous critics have seen the trial as a simple repudiation of cosmopolitanism, but the picture is more complex. Billing’s critique of Allan’s cosmopolitanism detached her performance from one set of geopolitical associations&mdashthe; cultural work of a noble, modern Anglo-Saxon body—and highlighted another set, her participation in a perverse fifth column of cosmopolitan, elite traitors in thrall to German interests. This version of cosmopolitanism not only pushed her outside the boundaries of the nation, it even alienated her from her North American roots. It made her “foreign,” as foreign as her Jewish predecessor, Sarah Bernhardt, and aligned her racially to what Billing described as the “German-Jewish” interests who promoted Salome productions and who were protected by the present government.[158] Instead of unifying East and West, body and spirit, Allan’s cosmopolitanism was now seen as a deracination, a propensity for cultural and political treason, a deviation from British decency.

However startling they appeared at the time, the trial proceedings actually reproduced some of the pre-war meanings attached to Allan’s performance, while giving them a new political salience. The trial limited the dynamic effects of her dance to a private, elite cult, whereas her performance had promoted a new body idiom to a diverse metropolitan audience. Allan’s pre-war cultural status depended on a blurring of multiple meanings of cosmopolitanism. The mass illustrated press was complicit in this blurring. It promoted Allan’s dancing as art, while still conveying, in words and images, the multiple sexualities it put on display and its titillating effects on men and women. In other words, Allan’s “perversion” was always in the air, attached to the dark side of her performance, but was held in check by other elements of her Delsartean performance. The ambiguities of Allan’s cultural effects would further intensify, as diverse social constituencies took up her style, including vulgar, voluptuous commercial imitators, schoolgirls who emulated her Body Beautiful, young men who danced as ladies. Allan’s performance set a precedent for high cultural productions as well. Allan’s solo performance paved the way for Pavlova as a prestige turn at the Palace, while it also shaped and incited the operatic and theater productions of Salome at Covent Garden and the Court Theatre, condemned by critics in sexological terms as degenerate and crazily erotic.

Besides narrowing the set of meanings that Allan helped promote, the trial also repositioned feminism in the field of body politics. Billing and his cohorts usurped the role played by liberal feminist campaigners in attacking vicious foreign entertainments; his right-wing journal, The Vigilante (renamed from The Imperialist) even pirated its title from the National Vigilance Association.[159] Darling undoubtedly had this strong feminist tradition in mind (as well as the hyper-patriotism of leading suffragists like Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst during the war) when he expressed his hopes for the salutary effects of women’s suffrage on public morality.[160] As disciplined members of the nation, he implied, mature women could be expected to control unruly female sexuality in the future.

When he counterposed Allan to the suffragists, Darling obscured how feminist purity efforts were part of the “deep background” to Allan’s story in London. Feminist purity opposition to Living Pictures precipitated the Palace Theatre’s interest in Allan in the first place, as the management cast around for a form of female bodily display acceptable to a municipal government strongly responsive to purity interests. In light of this history, there is a decided irony in the judge’s high hopes for women’s supervision of public entertainments in the future—to prohibit the likes of Maud Allan. His endorsement of women’s suffrage, moreover, ignored the degree to which feminists and Allan shared many cultural values: a commitment to female self-expression and mobility, an engagement with a theatrical culture of female spectacle, an ideal of female bodily health and physical culture, but also a capacity to represent female anger and hostility to men. Also passing unnoticed by Darling was the 1911 feminist performance of Salome, signaling the emergence of a radical feminism devoted to individualist sexual expression and to disrupting the categories of virtue and vice that sustained Victorian womanhood.

Besides registering a selective memory about feminism and its discontents, Darling’s remarks tell us something about the class and cultural logic governing female enfranchisement in 1918, when the Representation of the People Act extended the national franchise to adult men and to women over thirty who were householders or the wives of householders.[161] The law distinguished responsible matrons from the disenfranchised adult, a young woman between twenty-one and thirty, who came to be designated as “the flapper”—with all the allusions to dancing and to a new female body image, “overexposed” and “underdeveloped,” that this catchword conveyed in the 1920s. Justice Darling may have anathematized Allan as representative of an elite group of idle, disloyal, pleasure-seeking women, but he simultaneously endorsed a law that disenfranchised ordinary, young women—the female munitions workers central to the war effort—as giddy, unthinking devotees of unseemly dancing.[162]

As the 1918 trial and the disenfranchisement of the “flapper” amply demonstrate, dance was a vehicle for shifting cultural and political identifications of gender and the national body in the early twentieth century. To a considerable degree, before and after the war, the story of dance in London is the story of domestication, of the incorporation of transnational cultural forms into a national culture. This incorporation helped transform the metropolitan consumer economy. However, dancing never lost its negative edge. When the new dancing culture came under wartime siege, some of it relocated from the public venues along the thoroughfares to more circumscribed and clandestine arenas, to new social spaces outside the law. By the end of the period I have discussed, these social spaces took the form of private clubs—nightclubs, cabarets, theater clubs—most of them housed in liminal, cosmopolitan Soho. In 1918, the flapper, with her new body image of youthful, sexual ambivalence, signaled both this domestication and its cosmopolitan subversion. However domesticated the female dancer had become, she remained a disorderly manifestation of sexual modernism, of cultural hybridity, and of disloyalty to the disciplined body politic.

This article was completed while the author was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California. I am grateful for the financial support provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Grant no. 29800639, and by Johns Hopkins University. Earlier versions were presented to groups at the New School for Social Research, Johns Hopkins, the University of California–Berkeley, Texas A&M;, Stanford University, the Clark Library, the Institute for Historical Research, London, and the Center for Advanced Study. Thanks to the editors and anonymous readers of the American Historical Review for their suggestions. Thanks also to the following individuals for their careful reading of the text: Toby Ditz, Martha Howell, Seth Koven, Lara Kriegel, Jane Mansbridge, Sharon Marcus, Frank Mort, Ellen Ross, Janice Ross, Mary Louise Roberts, Michael Saler, James Vernon, Daniel J. Walkowitz, and Rebecca L. Walkowitz.

Judith R. Walkowitz is a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University. She has also taught at Rutgers University, where she participated in the founding of the women’s history program there. Her research and writing has focused on the history of political culture, social and cultural contests over sexuality, and on urban space. She is the author of Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class, and the State (1980) and City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London (1992). Her articles have appeared in Feminist Studies, History Workshop, Victorian Studies, Representations, and Radical History Review. This article is part of a book-length project on the cultural geography of Central London, 1890–1939, which focuses on a particular built environment—Soho and its surrounding thoroughfares—and explores the diverse cultures of modernity and modernism that it helped stage.


1 New Jersey Telegraph, March 23, 1908, Maud Allan Clippings, New York Public Library.

2 “Maud Allan the Rage in London,” New York World[1908], Allan Clippings.

3 On the making of the international star as a self-actualizing, speaking subject, see Eric S. Salmon, ed., Bernhardt and the Theatre of Her Time (Westport, Conn., 1977); Heather McPherson, “Sarah Bernhardt: Portrait of the Actress as Spectacle,” Nineteenth-Century Contexts 20 (1999): 409–54. On the idea of Greater Britain, see Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke, Greater Britain: A Record of Travel in English-Speaking Countries (1869; rpt. edn., London, 1890). On the complex mapping of Anglo-Saxonism, metropole, and empire, see Judith R. Walkowitz, “The Indian Woman, the Flower Girl, and the Jew: Photojournalism in Edwardian London,” Victorian Studies 42 (Fall 1999): 3–46; David Cannadine, Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire (Oxford, 2000); Paul A. Kramer, “Empires, Exceptions, and Anglo-Saxons: Race and Rule between the British and the United States Empires, 1880–1910,” Journal of American History 88, no. 4 (March 2002): 1315–53.

4 Critical works on Maud Allan’s dancing career include Philip Hoare, Wilde’s Last Stand: Decadence, Conspiracy and the First World War (London, 1997); Deborah Jowett, Time and the Dancing Image (Berkeley, Calif., 1988); Amy Koritz, Gendering Bodies/Performing Art: Dance and Literature in Early Twentieth-Century British Culture (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1995); Susan Manning, “The Female Dancer and the Male Gaze: Feminist Critiques of Early Modern Dance,” in Gay Morris, ed., Moving Words: Re-writing Dance (London, 1996), 153–66; Felix Cherniavsky, Did She Dance: Maud Allan in Performance (electronic pub.) (Toronto, 1991); Cherniavsky, The Salome Dancer: The Life and Times of Maud Allan (Toronto, 1991); Elaine Showalter, Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siècle (New York, 1990). Works that also focus on her participation in the 1918 libel trial include Hoare, Wilde’s Last Stand; Lucy Bland, “Trial by Sexology? Maud Allan, Salome, and the Cult of the Clitoris Case,” in Bland and Laura Doan, eds., Sexology in Culture: Labelling Bodies and Desires (Cambridge, 1998), 183–97; Michael Kettle, Salome’s Last Veil: The Libel Case of the Century (London, 1977); Jennifer Travis, “Clits in Court: Salome, Sodomy, and the Lesbian `Sadist,'” in Karla Jay, ed., Lesbian Erotics (New York, 1995), 147–63; Laura Doan, Fashioning Sapphism: The Origins of a Modern English Lesbian Culture (New York, 2000).

5 The Times, June 3, 1897, quoted in Tori Smith, “`A Grand Work of Noble Conception’: The Victoria Memorial and Imperial London,” in Imperial Cities: Landscape, Display, and Identity, Felix Driver and David Gilbert, eds. (Manchester, 1999), 25; Felix Driver and Davis Gilbert, “Heart of Empire? Landscape, Space, and Performance in Imperial London,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 16 (1998): 11–28.

6 Gavin Weightman, Bright Lights, Big City: London Entertained, 1830–1950 (London, 1992); Weightman and Steve Humphries, The Making of Modern London, 1914–1939 (London, 1984); Weightman and Humphries, The Making of Modern London, 1815–1914 (London, 1983), chap. 2. On the theatrical culture of the West End, see Peter Bailey, Popular Culture and Performance in the Victorian City (Cambridge, 1998); Bailey, “Theatres of Entertainment/Spaces of Modernity: Rethinking the British Popular Stage 1890–1914,” Nineteenth Century Theatre 26 (Summer 1998): 5–24; Barbara Green, Spectacular Confessions: Autobiography, Performative Activism, and the Sites of Suffrage, 1905–1938 (New York, 1997); Joel H. Kaplan and Sheila Stowell, Theatre and Fashion: Oscar Wilde to the Suffragettes (Cambridge, 1992); Deborah Epstein Nord, Walking the Victorian Streets: Women, Representation, and the City (Ithaca, N.Y., 1995); Erika Diane Rappaport, Shopping for Pleasure: Women in the Making of London’s West End (Berkeley, Calif., 1999); Lisa Tickner, “The Popular Culture of Kermesse: Lewis, Painting and Performance, 1912–13,” Modernity/Modernism 4, no. 2 (1997): 67–120; Sheila Stowell, A Stage of Their Own: Feminist Playwrights of the Suffrage Era (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1992); Mica Nava, “Modernity Tamed? Women Shoppers and the Rationalisation of Consumption in the Inter-war Period,” Australian Journal of Communication 22, no. 2 (1995): 1–19. For the American case, see Susan Glenn, Female Spectacle: The Theatrical Roots of Modern Votes for Women (Cambridge, Mass., 2000); William Leach, Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture (New York, 1993); Lewis A. Erenberg, Steppin’ Out: New York Nightlife and the Transformation of American Culture, 1890–1930 (Westport, Conn., 1981); Christine Stansell, American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century (New York, 2000).

7 On the Edwardian variety theater, see Dave Russell, “Varieties of Life: The Making of the Edwardian Music Hall,” in Michael Booth and Joel H. Kaplan, eds., The Edwardian Theatre: Essays on Performance and the Stage (Cambridge, 1996), 61–85. On glamour, see Peter Bailey, “Parasexuality and Glamour: The Victorian Barmaid as Cultural Prototype,” Gender and History 2, no. 2 (Summer 1990): 148–72; Rhonda E. Garelick, Rising Star: Dandyism, Gender, and Performance in the Fin de Siècle (Princeton, N.J., 1998); Salmon, Bernhardt and the Theatre of Her Time; McPherson, “Sarah Bernhardt,” 409–54; Glenn, Female Spectacle, chap. 1.

8 Many of these amenities, notably the grand hotels, Selfridge’s department store, and the London Underground, were heavily financed by foreign capital, even as the City extended its financial dominion over the globe, well beyond the boundaries of the British Empire. See Hugh Montgomery-Massingbred and David Watkin, The London Ritz: A Social and Architectural History (London, 1980); Gordon Honeycombe, Selfridges: Seventy-Five Years; The Story of the Store, 1909–1984 (London, 1984); T. C. Barker and Michael Robbins, A History of London Transport: Passenger Travel and the Development of the Metropolis, 2 vols. (London, 1975–76).

9 Georg Simmel, “Fashion,” American Journal of Sociology 62 (May 1957): 541–58; Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, Richard Nice, trans. (1984; rpt. edn., Cambridge, Mass., 2002).

10 On the history of early modern dance and its relation to the ballet, see Jowett, Time; Koritz, Gendering Bodies; Morris, Moving Words; Ann Daly, Done into Dance: Isadora Duncan in America (Bloomington, Ind., 1995); Linda J. Tomko, Dancing Class: Gender, Ethnicity, and Social Divides in American Dance, 1890–1920 (Bloomington, 1999); Lynn Garafola, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes (1989; rpt. edn., New York, 1998); Ivor Guest, Ballet in Leicester Square: The Alhambra and the Empire, 1860–1915 (London, 1992). Two early histories of turn-of-the-century dance include J. E. Crawford Flitch, Modern Dancing and Dancers (London, 1912); Troy and Margaret Kinney, The Dance: Its Place in Art and Life (1914; rpt. edn., New York, 1935). On the English country dance revival, see Georgina Boyes, The Imagined Village: Culture, Ideology and the English Folk Revival (Manchester, 1996); Daniel J. Walkowitz, “City Folk: English Country Dance and the Culture of Liberalism in Mid and Late Twentieth Century America,” paper presented at London History Workshop, London, November 5, 2002.

11 “Maud Allan’s Salome Dance,” New Jersey Sun, August 9, 1908, Allan Clippings.

12 Amy Koritz, “Dancing the Orient for England: Maud Allan’s `The Vision of Salome,'” Theatre Journal 46 (1994): 63–78.

13 The Oxford English Dictionary offers a number of historical definitions of cosmopolitan: “belonging to all parts of the world” and “free from national limitations or attachments” relate to the privileged meanings of cosmopolitanism. Alternatively, G. B. Shaw’s reference to “cosmopolitan riffraff” in John Bull’s Island (1907) is cited as an example of cosmopolitan to mean “Composed of people from many different countries.” On historical definitions of “cosmopolitanism,” see OED Online ( In The Secret Agent (1907), Joseph Conrad employs cosmopolitan in both senses. See Todd K. Bender, A Concordance to Conrad’s “The Secret Agent” (New York, 1979), items 018.05 and 032.27.

14 The contemporary literature on cosmopolitanism is vast, but very few scholars attend to its historical usage. On the history of cosmopolitanism and Victorian concepts of detachment, see Amanda Anderson, The Power of Distance: Cosmopolitanism and the Cultivation of Detachment (Princeton, N.J., 2001). On cosmopolitanism and modernism, see “Conrad’s Adaptation: Theatricality and Cosmopolitanism,” Modern Drama 44 (Fall 2001): 318–36. On philosophical debates about affiliations that establish corporate attachments beyond the nation, see Pheng Cheah, et al., Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling beyond the Nation (Minneapolis, 1998). On the reconfiguration of London as the center of empire and international capital, see Jonathan Schneer, London 1900: The Imperial Metropolis (New Haven, Conn., 1999); Antoinette M. Burton, At the Heart of the Empire: Indians and the Colonial Encounter in Late-Victorian Britain (Berkeley, Calif., 1998); Cannadine, Ornamentalism; M. H. Port, Imperial London: Civil Government Building in London, 1850–1915 (New Haven, Conn., 1995); Bernard Porter, Britain, Europe, and the World 1850–1982: Delusions of Grandeur (London, 1983); J. B. Priestley, The Edwardians (London, 1970); P. J. Cain and A. G. Hopkins, British Imperialism: Innovation and Expansion, 1688–1914 (London, 1993); Driver and Gilbert, “Heart of Empire?” 11–28; David Kynaston, The City of London, Vol. 1: A World of Its Own, 1815–1890 (London, 1994); Ranald C. Michie, The City of London: Continuity and Change, 1850–1990 (London, 1992); Anthony D. King, Global Cities: Post-Imperialism and the Internationalization of London (London, 1990). At the quotidian level, see Mica Nava, “The Cosmopolitanism of Commerce and the Allure of Difference: Selfridges, the Russian Ballet, and the Tango 1911–1914,” International Journal of Cultural Studies 1, no. 2 (1998): 164–98.

15 For a discussion of dance elements and their structuring, see Susan Leigh Foster, Reading Dancing: Bodies and Subjects in Contemporary American Dance (Berkeley, Calif., 1986), 90–92.

16 On Marcel Remy and Ferrucio Busoni, see Maud Allan, My Life and Dancing (London, 1908), 51–69; Cherniavsky, Salome Dancer, 122, 123.

17 Julie Wheelwright, The Fatal Lover: Mata Hari and the Myth of Women in Espionage (London, 1992), 19–24. For a description of Allan’s costume, see Noel Pemberton Billing, Verbatim Report of the Trial of Noel Pemberton Billing, M.P., on a Charge of Common Libel (London, 1918), 90.

18 Felix Cherniavsky, “Maud Allan, Part II: First Steps to a Dancing Career, 1904–1907,” Dance Chronicle 6, no. 3 (1983): 139.

19 Cherniavsky, Salome Dancer, 173, 174; Hoare, Wilde’s Last Stand, 80.

20 On Margot Asquith, see Colin Clifford, The Asquiths (London, 2002); Cherniavsky, Salome Dancer, 175, 176, 181, 182. According to Cherniavsky (p. 181), Mrs. Asquith financed Allan’s move into West Wing, a sumptuous villa overlooking Regent’s Park, a fact that was not public knowledge. On Margot Asquith as a cultural trendsetter, see Daphne Bennett, Margot: A Life of the Countess of Oxford and Asquith (London, 1984); “In the Great World: Mr. and Mrs. Asquith,” Sketch, June 25, 1913, Arncliffe-Sennett Collection, British Library; Pamela Horn, High Society: The English Social Elite, 1880–1914 (Phoenix Mill, 1992). On the mixing of society and the cultural avant-garde before the war, see in particular Tickner, “Popular Culture of Kermesse.”

21 Cherniavsky, Salome Dancer, chap. 2; Lacy H. McDearmon, “Maud Allan,” International Encyclopedia of Dance (New York, 1998), 42, 43.

22 Yorkshire Observer, May 1918, Wilde Cuttings, Oscar Wilde Collection, Clark Library, Los Angeles, California.

23 “As I See It,” Imperialist, October 7, 1916, rpt. in Billing, Verbatim Report, Appendix 1, 449.

24 Travers Humphreys, in Billing, Verbatim Report, 6. On the coverage by the Times, see Doan, Fashioning Sapphism, 211 n.5.

25 Lady Diana Cooper, The Rainbow Comes and Goes (New York, 1958), 82; W. J. Macqueen-Pope, Carriages at Eleven: The Story of the Edwardian Theatre (London, 1947), 179; Leslie Baily, Scrapbook, 1900 to 1914 (London, 1957), 232–34.

26 See Jowett, Time; Koritz, Gendering Bodies; Glenn, Female Spectacle.

27 Richard Thurlow, Fascism in Britain: A History, 1918–1985 (Oxford, 1987); Gerard de Groot, Blighty (Harlow, Essex, 1996), 194; Trevor Wilson, The Myriad Faces of War (Cambridge, 1988). Historians acknowledge that the Right was able to exert great influence over governmental policy during the war, particularly toward immigration policy and the treatment of resident aliens, with long-term effects. They argue, however, that British fascists were unable to sustain popular support in the postwar era. See, for example, Panikos Panayi, “The British Empire Union in the First World War,” in Tony Kushner and Kenneth Lunn, eds., The Politics of Marginality: Race, the Radical Right and Minorities in Twentieth Century Britain (London, 1990), 113–30.

28 Samuel Hynes, A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture (London, 1990); Hoare, Wilde’s Last Stand; Noel Annan, Our Age: Portrait of a Generation (London, 1990). On the pre-war Wilde legacy, see Richard Ellmann, Oscar Wilde (New York, 1988); Regenia Gagnier, Idylls of the Marketplace: Oscar Wilde and the Victorian Public (Stanford, Calif., 1986); Ed Cohen, Talk on the Wilde Side: Toward a Genealogy of a Discourse on Male Sexualities (New York, 1993); Neil Bartlett, Who Is That Man? A Present for Mr. Oscar Wilde (London, 1988); Peter Raby, Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde (Cambridge, 2001); E. H. Mikhail, ed., Oscar Wilde: Interviews and Recollections, 2 vols. (London, 1979); Rupert Hart Davis, ed., The Letters of Oscar Wilde (London, 1962).

29 Other literary historians offer a different assessment of the war’s impact on modernism, pointing to the long-term effects of wartime propaganda on modernist prose. They insist on the further evolution of modernism, not its dispersal. See, for instance, Jodie Medd, “`The Cult of the Clitoris’: Anatomy of a National Scandal,” Modernism/Modernity 9, no. 1 (2002): 21–49; Trudi Tate, Modernism, History, and the First World War (Manchester, 1998); Vincent B. Sherry, review of Modernism, History, and the First World War, in Modernism/Modernity 7, no. 1 (2000): 173. For the French case, see Kenneth E. Silver, Esprit de Corps: The Art of the Parisian Avant-Garde and the First World War, 1914–1925 (Princeton, N.J., 1989).

30 Cate Haste, Rules of Desire: Sex in Britain; World War I to the Present (London, 1992); Susan Kingsley Kent, Making Peace: Gender Reconstruction in Interwar Britain (Princeton, N.J., 1993); Philippa Levine, “`Walking the Streets in a Way No Decent Woman Should’: Women Police in World War I,” Journal of Modern History (March 1994): 34–78; Angela Woollacott, “`Khaki Fever’ and Its Control: Gender, Class, and Sexual Morality in the British Homefront during the First World War,” Journal of Contemporary History 29, no. 2 (April 1994): 325–47. Male memoirists also voiced strong resentment against the flappers and suffragist members of the Order of the White Feather, who offered white feathers as a symbol of cowardice to young men in mufti. See Nicoletta F. Gullace, “White Feathers and Wounded Men: Female Patriotism and the Memory of the Great War,” Journal of British Studies (April 1997): 178–206. Gullace and others also link this backlash to widespread concern over deviant and failed masculinities (shirkers, conscientious objectors, victims of shell shock, homosexuals). On failed masculinities, see, for instance, Joanna Bourke, Dismembering the Male: Men’s Bodies, Britain, and the Great War (Chicago, 1996).

31 See, for instance, Lesley Hall, Sex, Gender and Social Change in Britain since 1880 (New York, 2000).

32 Robert Machray, The Night Side of London (Philadelphia, 1902).

33 “The Palace Theatre,” Queen, October 1, 1958, Westminster Archives Collection Prints and Cuttings, A134. Although the southern part of the Charing Cross Road was carved out of the criminal or semi-criminal “rabbit warrens” of Seven Dials and St. Giles, this local disruption was exceptional. By adhering to an established highway, construction of this thoroughfare (and Shaftesbury Avenue) managed to open up the old, proletarian district of Soho, rather than destroy it. See F. H. W. Sheppard, “Introduction,” Survey of London: The Parish of St. Anne’s Soho (London, 1966), vol. 33.

34 These luxuries included a grand staircase, rising from floor to floor, and the use of green cippolino and “black antique” marble to produce a polychromatic effect. Survey of London, 33: 303. Electricity was a feature already introduced by D’Oyly Carte at the Savoy, the first theater to be electrified in London. The Builder was also impressed with the absence of supporting columns that might impede viewing from the “back rows,” as well as the use of dressing rooms, offices, and cloakrooms to insulate the auditorium from traffic noises (February 14, 1891): 126–27; R. D’Oyly Carte, Monograph of the Royal English Opera House (London, 1891), 9–14.

35 Gerry Black, Living Up West: Jewish Life in London’s West End (London, 1994).

36 Raphael Samuel, “Introduction,” to Wolf Suschitsky, Charing Cross Road in the Thirties (London, 1989).

37 William Tydeman and Steven Price, Wilde Salome (Cambridge, 1996), 20–24; Hoare, Wilde’s Last Stand, 73; Sander L. Gilman, “Salome, Syphilis, Sarah Bernhardt and the Modern Jewess,” in Linda Nochlin and Tamar Garb, eds., The Jew in the Text: Modernity and the Construction of Identity (New York, 1996), 97–120; Showalter, Sexual Anarchy, 150.

38 Percy Burton, “How a Variety Theatre Is Run,” Strand Magazine 37 (May 1909): 515.

39 On the Empire Theatre as a cosmopolitan club, see Music Hall and Theatre Review (London) (February 12, 1909): 106. The West End clubs were renowned for their ostentatiousness, spectatorship, and smoking room attitudes. Steve Dillon, “Victorian Interiors,” Modern Language Quarterly 62, no. 2 (2001): 83–115. On the clubs, see Brian Harrison, Separate Spheres: The Opposition to Women’s Suffrage in Britain (London, 1978), chap. 5.

40 “They All Loved Leicester Square,” Queen (February 1, 1950): 24–26; Survey of London, 34: 442–67; “Empire Theatre of Varieties, 1889–1904,” Theatres and Music Halls Presented Papers, LCC MIN 10,803, London County Council Records, Metropolitan London Archives, London; Joseph Donohue, “The Empire Theatre of Varieties Licensing Controversy of 1894,” Nineteenth Century Theatre 15, no. 1 (1987): 50–60; Guest, Ballet in Leicester Square; John Hollingshead, The Story of Leicester Square (London, 1892); Empire Theatre, Building Site, Theatre Museum, London; Leicester Square Scrapbook, St. Martin’s in the Field Volumes, vol. 1/1, Westminster Archives, London; Compton Mackenzie, My Life and Times: Octave Four, 1907–1915 (London, 1965), 4; Amy Koritz, “Moving Violations: Dance in the London Music-Hall,” Theatre Journal 42, no. 4 (December 1990): 428.

41 Kirsten Gram Holmstrom, Monodrama, Attitudes, Tableaux Vivants: Studies on Some Trends of Theatrical Fashion, 1770–1815 (Stockholm, 1967); Richard D. Altick, The Shows of London (Cambridge, 1978), 342–46; London by Night: or, The Bachelor’s Facetious Guide to All the Ins and Outs and Nightly Doings of the Metropolis … (London, 1859); Robert C. Allen, Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1991), 92, 93.

42 In 1845, Mme. Wharton mounted a series of poses in Savile House noted for their “fleshly embodiment” of such subjects as “A Night with Titian,” or a full-color enactment of “Venus Rising from the Sea.” Altick, Shows of London, 345–46.

43 On the historical shifts in the Victorian nude, see Alison Smith, The Victorian Nude (Manchester, 1996), 2, 8, 166–68. On tableaux vivants as amateur theatrics, from which early modern dance would emerge, see Jowett, Time, 84.

44 Jowett, Time, 84; Judy Burns, “The Culture of Nobility/The Nobility of Self-Cultivation,” in Morris, Moving Words, 203–27. See Daly, Done into Dance, 124, 125.

45 See Inspector M. Holyoake’s report, November 5, 1893, Palace Theatre, Theatres and Music Halls Presented Papers, LCC MIN 10,870. The artistic posturing of tableaux vivants also had its analogue in visual pornography: postcards confiscated as indecent often turned out to be photoreproductions of foreign “art works” of the nude on display in museums. Smith, Victorian Nude, chap. 2.

46 W. A. Coote, A Romance of Philanthropy (London, 1916), 71–85.

47 W. A. Coote, quoted in George Bernard Shaw, Our Theatre in the Nineties, vol. 1 (New York, 1931), 83; Coote, Romance, 75, 79. The foreign-inspired Living Pictures included the orientalist “Moorish Baths,” most probably removed because it contained an openly erotic theme.

48 “Monocle,” [Tatler], August 1, 1894, Palace Theatre Cuttings File, Theatre Museum, London; J.M.P., “Tableaux Vivants at the Palace Theatre,” Sketch (May 28, 1894): 482. As a number of critics have observed, the licensing of music halls did not simply prohibit indecent or controversial acts, it had productive consequences. Music hall regulation partially accounted for the innuendo, parody, suggestiveness, and the double meanings of music hall performance in general, much of which centered on a “brokered,” codified sexuality. See Bailey, Popular Culture and Performance, 189, chap. 6; Russell, “Varieties of Life.”

49 On the 1907 protest by the National Vigilance Association against Living Pictures, see Minutes 184 (February 26, 1907) and 199 (April 30, 1907), Executive Minutes, September 27, 1904–September 28, 1909, GB/106/4/NVA/194.4, National Vigilance Association Collection, National Library of Women, London.

50 On Isadora’s elevation, see Christopher St. John, “All We Like Sheep,” Academy (London) (May 2, 1908): 736. St. John was an intimate of Edy Craig, the sister of Duncan’s lover. For other critical reviews, see Koritz, Gendering Bodies, 41. In the 1920s, Andre Levinson offered a similar critique of Allan. See Elizabeth Weigand, “The Rugmaker’s Daughter: Maud Allan’s 1915 Silent Film,” Dance Chronicle 9, no. 2 (1986): 238. On Duncan’s art of flexion and extension, see Daly, Done into Dance; Tomko, Dancing Class; Jowett, Time. For critical praise of Allan, see J. T. Grein, “The Palace: A New Dancer,” Sunday Times (March 3, 1908), Allan Clippings.

51 See, for example, Elaine Aston, Sarah Bernhardt: A French Actress on the English Stage (Oxford, 1989), 81. Both Allan and Bernhardt were better received in London than in their home country; both found a place in London society that they did not enjoy at home, while they were permitted a certain license to perform risqué acts that British actresses could not emulate.

52 “The Trail of the Decadent,” Modern Society, December 8, 1910, vol. 12 of Wilde Cuttings, Clark Library, University of California, Los Angeles. Salome was Wilde’s only dramatic work not rehabilitated after his death. Salome’s alignment of sex and violence, its manifest expressions of multiple perversions, became inextricably linked with the disgrace and the “morbidity” of the author. As novelist Pat Barker interprets it, for Wilde’s devotees, Salome could well have signaled his martyrdom, a dramatization of the “`primal’ eruption of strong emotions denied a legitimate outlet.” Barker, Eye in the Door (London, 1993).

53 Robert Ross, quoted in Joseph Donohue, “Distance, Death and Desire in Salome,” in Raby, Cambridge Companion, 118.

54 Strauss Clippings, New York Public Library; Koritz, Gendering Bodies, 84, 85.

55 Oscar Wilde, Salome: A Tragedy in One Act; Drawings by Aubrey Beardsley (Boston, 1996), 29.

56 On Reinhardt’s influence, see Cherniavsky, Salome Dancer, 142; Tydeman and Price, Wilde Salome, 140. In her earlier memoirs, published in the Weekly Dispatch, Allan wrote that the basic idea came to her while watching Reinhardt’s Berlin production. On Reinhardt’s staging, see Tydeman and Price, 31–40.

57 Allan, My Life, 126; W. B. Walkley, “The Drama: The New Dancer,” Times Literary Supplement (March 25, 1908): 598.

58 Truth [1908], Allan Personal Box, Theatre Museum. Allan’s appearance as a visionary Salome drew on Gustave Moreau’s pictorial versions, but Moreau’s Salome is not depicted dancing around the head or independent of Herod and his servants.

59 “Programme for Miss Maud Allan” (1908), Palace Theatre File, Theatre Museum; Truth [1908], Allan Personal Box; “Palace Theatre,” Times (March 10, 1908): 5.

60 See, for example, Music Hall and Theatre Review 41 (February 26, 1909): 138; “`Salome’ Dancers the Latest Sensation,” Spokane Review (August 30, 1908), Allan Clippings; Cherniavsky, Salome Dancer, 187, 188, n.21.

61 The Times reviewer recommended that audiences visit the Palace before Allan’s featured performance at 10:15 to see the Palace Girls. In their “violent prancing and whirling and high-kicking,” they offered a “piquant contrast to the wonderful instrument of expression … the mysterious power that dance becomes with Miss Maud Allan.” Walkley, “Drama: The New Dancer.” On the Tiller girls, see Doremy Vernon, Tiller’s Girls (London, 1988); Derek and Julia Parker, Natural History of the Chorus Girl (Newton Abbot, 1975); Ramsay Burt, “The Chorus Line and the Efficiency Engineers,” Alien Bodies: Representations of Modernity “Race” and Nation in Early Modern Dance (London, 1998), 84–100.

62 Koritz, Gendering Bodies, 39–41.

63 Walkley, “Drama: The New Dancer.”

64 “Miss Maud Allan’s Salome Dance,” The Academy (March 21, 1908): 598.

65 See Raymond Blathwayt, “Two Visions of Maud Allan,” Black and White, July 18, 1908, Allan Clippings. On Anglo-Saxonism, race, and the liberal political heritage, see Kramer, “Empires, Exceptions, and Anglo-Saxons,” 1322.

66 Grace Hodson Boutelle, “Maud Allan and Her Dances,” Pall Mall Magazine 7 (July 1908): 702.

67 On the iconography of the American girl, particularly the Gibson Girl, with whom Allan was compared, see Martha Banta, Imaging American Women: Ideas and Ideals in Cultural History (New York, 1987), 433, 136, 508, 509.

68 Boutelle, “Maud Allan”; Blathwayt, “Two Visions.” On her public lectures, see “Miss Maud Allan on Dancing,” Times, February 22, 1909.

69 On dance as the spiritual expression of the spiritual state, see “Modern Dance Criticized by Maud Allan,” Boston Traveler, January 19, 1910, Allan Clippings. On Allan’s body as an “instrument,” see Cherniavsky, “Maud Allan, Part II,” 146.

70 Blathwayt, “Two Visions.”

71 Burns, “Culture of Nobility,” 212, 213; Jowett, Time, 77–101, 123–30; Banta, Imaging American Women, chap. 5; Shannan E. Egan, “The Imperishable Pose: Delsartean Performance of the Feminine Ideal” (BA thesis, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1998); Nancy Lee Chalfa Ruyter, “American Delsarteans Abroad,” American Dance Abroad: Influence of the United States Experience; Proceedings of the Society of Dance History Scholars (Fifteenth Annual Conference, University of California, Riverside, February 14–15, 1992), 275–82; Daly, Done into Dance, 4.

72 Allan, My Life, 65.

73 Maud Allan, unpublished diary, quoted in Cherniavsky, Did She Dance.

74 J. T. Grein, “Duke of York’s Theatre: Isadora Duncan,” Sunday Times (July 12, 1908): 4.

75 Robert Renaud, San Francisco Chronicle, quoted in Felix Cherniavsky, “Maud Allan, Part 4,” Dance Chronicle 8, nos.1–2 (1985): 15.

76 “Palace Theatre Matinee Programme”; “Miss Maud Allan’s Salome Dance,” Academy (March 21, 1908): 599; New Jersey Sun, February 3, 1910, Allan Clippings.

77 “Miss Maud Allan at the Palace,” Truth, March 18, 1908; “Miss Maud Allan’s Salome Dance.”

78 Chicago Tribune, February 7, 1910, quoted in Cherniavsky, Did She Dance. On the other hand, Carl Van Vechten observed, “Miss Allan yesterday executed steps and curved her body in contortions which are now conventionally supposed to suggest Salome.” Van Vechten, “The Dance Criticisms of Carl Van Vechten, Part 1: Reviews Written for the New York Times,” Dance Index 1 (1942): 148.

79 Visually, Salome and Allan were identified with Art Nouveau, the art form of fin-de-siècle decadence. “Very New Art: Miss Maud Allan Even More Ornamental Than Usual,” Sketch (April 28, 1909): Supp. 6.

80 Times, quoted in “Mystery of Noted Dancer Is Solved: Sister of Slayer,” Cleveland News [1908], Allan Clippings.

81 Thanks to Janice Ross for these insights.

82 Genevieve Stebbins, one of the most important popularizers of Delsarte, included thirty-two “illustrations from Greek art” to demonstrate Delsartean expression, but she also believed that Delsarte incorporated key elements of orientalist dancing: “Even to-day, everyone who has traveled with observant eyes in Oriental lands knows that the sacred rites and dances performed in the temples are accompanied with that slow changing of weight from right to left, forward and backward, which give that beautiful swaying motion of the whole body without the feet changing their positions. This, coupled with the natural balance of head, arm, and torso, produces the spiral line from every point of view.” Stebbins, Delsarte System of Expression (1885; rpt. edn., New York, 1902), 470. Norman Bryson has observed the intense “cultural charge” and “structure of linkage” when dance forms seem to combine opposing cultural meanings (such as the primitive body and the machine); under these conditions, “elements from one fantasy migrate to the other and back, as though the images that were involved performed closely related functions in the cultural imaginary.” Bryson, “Cultural Studies and Dance History,” in Jane C. Desmond, ed., Meaning in Motion: New Cultural Studies of Dance (Durham, N.C., 1997), 74.

83 The Maud Allan Clippings collection at the New York Public Library contains the following newspaper fragment: “Lady—requests the pleasure of—company to dinner at the Savoy Hotel.” “`Afterwards Palace Theatre (Salome seance)’ was the wording of an invitation card recently sent out.”

84 Matinees were introduced in the 1870s to entice polite society back into the theaters. They also were used for experimental theater. They were overwhelmingly patronized by women. William Armstrong, “The Nineteenth-Century Matinee,” Theatre Notebook (n.p., n.d.), Theatre Museum.

85 Walkley, “Drama: The New Dancer”; “The Maud Allan Matinées,” Tatler (March 1, 1911): 228, Palace Theatre File, Theatre Museum.

86 “Miss Maud Allan: Palace Crowded with Ladies to See the New Dancer,” Daily Chronicle (London), June 13, 1908, Allan Clippings.

87 On Poiret, see Norah Waugh, Corsets and Crinolines (London, 1954); Valerie Steele, Fashion and Eroticism (New York, 1985); Peter Wollen, “Fashion/Orientalism/The Body,” New Formations (1987): 3–55; Palmer White, Poiret (London, 1973); “Mrs. Asquith and French Dresses,” Times (May 15, 1909): 13; (May 21, 1909): 11. Margot Asquith was severely condemned for her “indiscretion” at exhibiting Poiret’s Parisian fashions at Downing Street, but Poiret’s war on the corset was not strictly a high fashion or Continental innovation. It owed much to the traditions of the Anglo-American women’s health reform and aesthetic dress movement of the late nineteenth century, of which Delsartean physical culture was an integral part. Jill Fields, “`Fighting the Corsetless Evil’: Shaping Corsets and Culture,” Journal of Social History 33, no. 2 (1999): 358, 359; Mary Stella Newton, Health, Art, and Reason: Dress Reformers of the Nineteenth Century (London, 1974).

88 Cooper, Rainbow Comes and Goes, 82.

89 “An Earl’s Daughter Whose Dancing Has Alarmed a `Palace’: Lady Constance Stewart Richardson,” Sketch (February 16, 1910): Supp. 9.

90 On Lady Constance’s Greek boy’s body, see Cooper, Rainbow Comes and Goes, 82. On Radclyffe Hall, who dropped her first name, see Sally Cline, Radclyffe Hall: A Woman Called John (London, 1997), 60. Her sexuality was routed through masculine identification; her presence suggests the diversity of female erotic gazes in the theater audience. Thanks to Sharon Marcus and Laura Doan.

91 Elizabeth Robins, Diary entry, April 26, 1908, Box 6, Robins Papers, Fales Library, New York University, New York; Cherniavsky, Salome Dancer, 174, 175; Macqueen-Pope, Carriages at Eleven, 179. This was a notorious occasion, remembered in memoirs of the period. See, for example, [Julian Osborn Fields], Uncensored Recollections (Philadelphia, 1924), 318.

92 Jamie Camplin, The Rise of the Plutocrats: Wealth and Power in Edwardian England (London, 1978); Anthony Allfrey, Edward VII and His Jewish Court (London, 1991). On Cassel as a cosmopolitan financier and his relations with the Foreign Office, see Kurt Grunwald, “`Windsor-Cassel’—l;The Last Court Jew: Prolegomena to a Biography of Sir Ernest Cassel,” Yearbook of the Leo Baeck Institute 14 (1969): 119–64; Pat Thane, “Financiers and the British State: The Case of Sir Ernest Cassel,” Business History 27 (January 1986): 80–99. On antisemitism and attacks on Jewish financiers, see Bryan Cheyette, “Hillaire Belloc and the Marconi Scandals,” Immigrants and Minorities 8, no. 1 (1989): 131–42.

93 Gilman, “Salome”; and Sander L. Gilman, “Strauss and the Pervert,” in Arthur Goos and Roger Parker, eds., Reading Opera (Princeton, N.J., 1988); Glenn, Female Spectacle, chap. 4.

94 Postcard, addressed to Miss D. K. James, 87 Brudenell Road, Leeds, with a photograph of Miss Maud Allan, with caption, “Chopin’s Funeral March,” 4995 Rotary Photo, Foulham and Banfield, Allan Collection, San Francisco Library of Performing Arts, San Francisco. The letter writer inquires: “Hope you haven’t got this p.c. Are still gone on this person?”

95 “Touching Missives from Miss Maud Allan’s Letter Box,” Weekly Dispatch (London), August 30, 1908; “Marriage Offers for Miss Maud Allan,” September 6, 1908; “Miss Maud Allan’s Last Reminiscences,” September 13, 1908, Allan Clippings.

96 “Marriage Offers.”

97 Lois Draegin, “After Isadora: Her Art as Inspiration,” Dance Magazine (July 1977): 68. Linda Tomko’s comments on Duncan also apply to Allan: because they incorporated cultural resources that they shared with female spectators, their female following could “bring to bear different sets of reference for making meaning out the dancer’s bodily practice.” Dancing Class, 74.

98 “Building the Body Beautiful,” Woman Worker, August 14, 1908.

99 “I have this gift of dancing and movement,” he added, “which everyone tells me is very graceful, and that no one would be able to tell me from a lady, if they did not previously know I was a man.” “Marriage Offers.”

100 Quoted in Miriam J. Benkovitz, Ronald Firbank: A Biography (New York, 1969), 110.

101 See the discussion of the Cleveland Street Scandal, “La Lanterne,” January 20, 1890, DPP 1/95/7, Public Record Office, London; The Sins of the Cities of the Plain: or, The Recollections of a Mary-Anne, with Short Essays on Sodomy and Tribadism, 2 vols. (London, 1881); Morris B. Kaplan, “Who’s Afraid of John Saul? Urban Culture and the Politics of Desire in Late Victorian London,” GLQ 5, no. 3 (1999): 296–300.

102 Kaplan, “Who’s Afraid”; and George Chauncey, Gay New York: The Making of the Gay World (New York, 1994).

103 Michael Harrison, London beneath the Pavement (London, 1961), 256; Cherniavsky, Salome Dancer, 187, n.21; Chauncey, Gay New York.

104 See Judith R. Walkowitz, City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London (Chicago, 1992), 125.

105 See, for example, the anonymous letter complaining of sodomites in the Empire Theatre promenade. October 1894, Empire Theatre File, Theatres and Music Hall Presented Papers, LCC MIN 10,803.

106 Flitch, Modern Dancing and Dancers, 161. The full respectability of the Palace Theatre was certified by the “first ever Royal Command Performance” there in 1912. Weightman, Bright Lights, 100.

107 On dancing schools, see Garafola, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, 225, 226; “A Successful Teacher,” Dancing Times 2 (February 1912): 123; “The Sitter Out,” Dancing Times 5 (June 1915): 298, 299, 331, 332.

108 Jane Desmond, “Embodying Difference: Issues in Dance and Cultural Difference,” Cultural Critique 26 (Winter 1994): 33–63.

109 Nava, “Cosmopolitanism of Commerce,” 163–96.

110 See Simon Collier, et al., Tango: The Dance, the Song, the Story (London, 1995), 83; H. R. Wakefield on “Modern Dancing,” Times (May 27, 1913): 11; Percy Moenich on “Modern Dancing,” Times (May 24, 1913): 43; Peroline Maud Webb on “Modern Dancing,” Times (May 27, 1913): 9.

111 For London, see Victor Silvester, Dancing Is My Life: An Autobiography (London, 1958); Philip J. S. Richardson, A History of English Ballroom Dancing (1910–45): The Story of the Development of the Modern English Style (London, 1945). For New York, see Tomko, Dancing Class, 22, 23; Erenberg, Steppin’ Out, 20–22; Kathy Lee Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York (Philadelphia, 1986).

112 C. Sheridan Jones, London in War Time (London, 1917), 22.

113 Marek Kuhn, Dope Girls: The Birth of a British Drug Underground (London, 1992); Richardson, History of English Ballroom Dancing, 17–24; Robert Murphy, Smash and Grab: Gangsters in the London Underworld, 1920–1960 (London, 1993), 7–10; Cline, Radclyffe Hall, 153, 170; Michael Luke, David Tennant and the Gargoyle Club (London, 1991); “Clubs: Prosecution of Ciro’s Club,” Mepo 3/251, 1916–1919, Metropolitan Police Files, Public Record Office; “Miss Kate Evelyn Meyrick or Merrick: Allegations of Irregularities,” Mepo 2/4481, 1924–1934; “Policy on Night Clubs and Its Effects on Officers,” Mepo 2/4458, 1932–1933; “Night Club Irregularities,” Mepo 2/2053, 1922.

114 Black, Living Up West, 25, 47, 49; “London Dance Notes,” Dancing Times 17 (October 1926–March 1927): 527, 691, 817; Dancing Times 17 (April–September 1927): 123, 253, 373, 479; “London Dancing Notes,” Dancing Times 22 (October 1931–March 1932): 101, 521, 523.

115 “The British Girl in Paris: Our Most Charming Export Commodity,” [n.p.] November 23, 1935, Chorus Girl Cutting File, Theatre Museum; Vernon, Tiller’s Girls.

116 Ross McKibbin, Classes and Culture: England, 1918–1951 (Oxford, 2000); Silvester, Dancing Is My Life.

117 Events such as the Post-Impressionist Exhibition and the Ballets Russes energized London in the years immediately preceding World War I, when, in the words of Virginia Woolf, “human nature changed.” Quoted in Peter Stansky, On or About December 1910: Early Bloomsbury and Its Intimate World (Cambridge, Mass., 1996), 2. See also Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry: A Biography (1940; rpt. edn., New York, 1968).

118 After the successful opening of the opera, the Daily Mirror took a poll of “representative” men and women. It found a general ignorance of Salome’s “true history” and correct pronunciation of her name, as well as a close association between Salome and Maud Allan and her dance. “All about Salome,” Daily Mirror, December 10, 1910, vol. 13 of Wilde Cuttings.

119 On sexology and the modern woman, see Koritz, Gendering Bodies, 187, n. 11; Lisa Tickner, Spectacle of Women: Imagery of the Suffrage Campaign, 1907–14 (Chicago, 1988); Showalter, Sexual Anarchy; Esther Newton, “The Mythic Mannish Lesbian: Radclyffe Hall and the New Woman,” in Martin Duberman, et al., eds., Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past (New York, 1959), 281–93.

120 Strauss’s Salome was wildly popular on the Continent but also controversial. However, it was among the “prudish English-speaking world” that it met its “fiercest opposition.” After a single performance at the New York Metropolitan Opera, the management felt obliged to terminate the production. Oscar Hammerstein took advantage of the sensation aroused by the performance of Allan and her American competitors to stage Strauss’s Salome in 1909 at his rival Manhattan Opera House. Tydeman and Price, Wilde Salome, 127–28; Glenn, Spectacle, 102.

121 “Salome in London,” Times (December 9, 1910), vol. 13 of Wilde Cuttings; “Salome Leaves Audience Limp,” Daily Sketch (December 9, 1910), vol. 13 of Wilde Cuttings.

122 Reviewers regarded the opera as “beautiful art wasted on a vile subject,” a “brilliant fungus sprung from decaying genius.” “Strauss Opera at Covent Garden,” Daily News, December 9, 1910, Wilde Cuttings. “Music: Salome,” Spectator (December 24, 1910): 1184, quoted in Koritz, Gendering Bodies, 84; “Comments and Opinions,” Musical Standard [n.p.], vol. 12 of Wilde Cuttings.

123 “Madame Acté as Salome,” Morning Leader, December 7, 1910, vol. 12 of Wilde Cuttings.

124 On Mme. Acté’s costume, see “Strauss’s `Salome’ to Be Produced after Having Been Banned for Years: Mme Aino Acté as Salome,” Illustrated London News, December 3, 1910, vol. 12 of Wilde Cuttings. On Mary Garden’s costume and dance, see “The Princess and Her Dance,” Strauss Clippings.

125 “Madame Acté as Salome.”

126 “Salome,” Daily News, February 2, 1911, vol. 14 of Wilde Cuttings. On the earlier productions of Salome in London, see Tydeman and Price, Wilde Salome, 40–57.

127 In 1909, Bourne played “Justice” in the Actresses’ Franchise League’s “Pageant of Great Women,” at the La Scala Theatre. She also had a “long” association with Forbes Robertson’s touring company. The Times obituary of Bourne identified her performance of Salome as her “most famous role.” “Miss Adeline Bourne: Actress and Suffragette,” Times, February 10, 1965.

128 “An Unlicensed Production,” M.A.P., January 28, 1911, vol. 14 of Wilde Cuttings.

129 “Afternoons at the Play: `Salome’ at the Court,” The Referee, March 5, 1911; “Stageland,” Penny Illustrated Paper, March 11, 1911.

130 “`Salome’ at the Court Theatre,” February 28, 1911; “Salome with Head on the Charger,” Morning Leader, vol. 14 of Wilde Cuttings.

131 Globe, February 28, 1911, vol. 14 of Wilde Cuttings; “Stageland,” Penny Illustrated Paper, March 11, 1911.

132 “The New Players,” Bystander, March 8, 1911, vol. 14 of Wilde Cuttings.

133 “The New Players,” Votes for Women (March 3, 1911): 358.

134 On suffrage iconography, see Tickner, Spectacle of Women, 151–226. On feminist theater, see Green, Spectacular Confessions, 75. See also Kaplan and Stowell, Theatre and Fashion. Feminist theater had a limited relationship to the avant-garde: it overwhelmingly produced contemporary melodramas of social protest or social satire and rarely adopted strategies of theatrical symbolism.

135 These divisions inform a humorous playlet entitled “Salome and the Suffragettes” that appeared in the weekly magazine The Referee. It turns on the kidnapping of Allan, who was abducted from tea with political leaders at the Houses of Parliament by militant suffragettes in order to extract a pledge from Asquith to “bring in a measure for the enfranchisement of women at once.” “Mustard and Cress,” “Salome and the Suffragettes,” Referee, June 28, 1908. These divisions reappear at the end of Allan’s 1908 memoir, where she considers votes for women. Although she insists that “woman is a human being,” possessing the “absolute right” to education and opportunities in the professions and other vocations, her rightful destiny remains as a “wife and mother” within the “inner sanctum” of Home. At the same time, Allan insists on a “genuine sex difference” that renders women “unsuited” to the legal profession as well as politics. My Life, 113–17.

136 Tickner, “Popular Culture of Kermesse,” 95.

137 Tickner, Spectacle of Women, 205–10. On Edith Craig and the Pioneer Players, whose experimentation included unconventional subject matter and forms drawn from the drama of many countries, see Katharine Cocklin, Women and Theatre in the Age of Suffrage: The Pioneer Players, 1911–1925 (Houndsmill, Basingstoke, 2001); Joy Melville, Ellen and Edy (London, 1987), chap. 14; Stowell, Stage of Their Own, chap. 2.

138 On Salome as a female cultural form, see Jane Marcus, “Salomé: The Jewish Princess Was a New Woman,” Bulletin of the New York Public Library (1974): 105. In Britain, a group of “maverick suffragists” and “minority feminists” clustered around The Freewoman and Freewoman Discussion Circles in 1911 and 1912. See Bruce Clark, Dora Marsden and Early Modernism, Gender, Individualism, Science (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1992), chap. 2.

139 See Laura Ormiston Chant, Why We Attacked the Empire (London, 1895).

140 I. H. Corat, “The Sadism in Oscar Wilde’s Salome,” Psychoanalytic Review (New York) 1 (1913–14): 257–59.

141 Author of “Nemesis Hunt,” Maudie: Revelations of Life in London and an Unforeseen Denouement (London, 1909). Before her London appearance, the American press reported on one private performance of Salome in Budapest, when Allan found herself the victim of a macabre practical joke. As she proceeded to embrace the head of the Baptist on stage, she found that the dead head of a man had been substituted for the property head. See Hoare, Wilde’s Last Stand, 75, 85.

142 “Salome Dinner Dances,” New York Times, August 23, 1908, Allan Clippings.

143 San Francisco Call, April 18, 1908; “Mystery of Noted Dancer Is Solved: Sister of Slayer,” Cleveland News [1908]; “London’s Favorite Dancer Sister of Notorious Durrant,” Detroit News, May 2, 1908, Allan Clippings.

144 “Maud Allan Scoffs at Story Asquith Was Nice to the Barefoot Dancer,” Los Angeles Examiner, March 10, 1910; “Most Pestered of Premiers,” Cleveland Leader, April 10, 1910, Allan Clippings.

145 Maud Allan, “How I Startled the World,” San Francisco Call & Post, chapter 12 (December 24, 1921); chapter 13 (December 26, 1921), Maud Allan Collection. On the fraternization charge, see “Presents for `Hun’ Prisoners,” Globe [1915], Cuttings Collection, mss. Eng. c. 6713, Margot Asquith Collection, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Oxford.

146 “A Deplorable Scandal,” Daily Telegraph, June 6, 1918, HO 144/1498/364780, Home Office Papers, Public Record Office. Reference was also made to Allan’s luxurious “black sealskin coat,” with a large sable collar and muff. Lloyd’s Weekly News, April 7,1918, Wilde Cuttings.

147 “A Scandalous Trial,” Times, June 5, 1918, Wilde Cuttings.

148 Hume Williams, in Billing, Verbatim Report, 51–53, 63.

149 Billing, Verbatim Report, 76.

150 Justice Darling, in Billing, Verbatim Report, 103.

151 Billing, Verbatim Report, 103.

152 Medd, “Cult of the Clitoris”; Trudi Tate, “Propaganda Lies,” in Tate, Modernism, 42–49; Wheelwright, Fatal Lover.

153 Lord Alfred Douglass, 295, and Dr. Serrell Cooke, 249, 262–63, both in Billing, Verbatim Report. Whenever Wilde “was doing something particularly horrible,” testified Douglass, “he always disguised it in the most flowery language and always referred it back to art.” Quoted in Evening Standard, n.d., Wilde Cuttings.

154 Bland, “Trial by Sexology.”

155 “The Honor of England,” Morning Post, June 6, 1918, HO 144/1498/364780, Home Office.

156 “Mr. Billing’s Trial,” Times, April 8, 1918; Billing, Verbatim Report, 90.

157 Justice Darling, in Billing, Verbatim Report, 444.

158 Billing, Verbatim Report, 380.

159 When The Vigilante announced its renaming, it actually printed a notice warning the public not to be confounded “with the objects aimed at by the various `Vigilance’ Societies which appear to be limited to the suppression of sexual vice.” Hoare and others have noted this announcement (Wilde’s Last Stand, 59) without recognizing its feminist genealogy.

160 Jacqueline de Vries, “Gendering Patriotism: Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst and World War One,” in Sybil Oldfield, ed., The Working-Day World: Women’s Lives and Culture(s) in Britain, 1914–1915 (London, 1994), 75–89; Nicoletta F. Gullace, The Blood of Our Sons: Men, Women and the Renegotiation of British Citizenship during the Great War (London, 2002), chap. 6.

161 Kent, Making Peace; Martin Pugh, Women and the Women’s Movement in Britain, 1914–1959 (London, 1992); Gullace, Blood of Our Sons.

162 On the flapper vote, see Billie Melman, Women and the Popular Imagination in the Twenties: Flappers and Nymphs (New York, 1988), 29. In his scathing critique of Margot Asquith’s memoirs, Harold Begbie refers to her as the “grandmother of the flappers.” The Glass of Fashion: Some Social Reflections (London, 1921), 52. On the body of the flapper, see Jones, London in War Time, 126. Many contemporaries, including the arch-antisuffragist Lord Curzon, recognized the hypocrisy of the age bar for women. They deplored the presumption that female war workers were too “young” and “undisciplined” to vote. See Lord Curzon’s speech, quoted in Gullace, Blood of Our Sons, 192.