Noel Pemberton Billing, MP and patriotic publisher, is being sued for libel by Maud Allan, an actress and exotic dancer. Pemberton Billing had already asserted that 47,000 British sexual deviants in prominent positions are being blackmailed by the Germans to sabotage the war effort. Then in his journal The Vigilante Pemberton Billing published a further article entitled ‘The Cult of the Clitoris‘, asserting that a Miss Allan’s private performance of Oscar Wilde’s Salome is a front for meetings of some of these 47,000 treacherous practitioners of unnatural vice.
Pemberton Billing defends himself at the libel trial. Proceedings at times become farcical. Pemberton Billing has claimed the existence of a Black Book listing all 47,000 of the degenerates being blackmailed by Berlin. It is somehow impossible to produce a copy of this book, despite the fact that numerous persons claim to have seen it. Eileen Villiers-Stuart, called as a witness in Pemberton Billing’s favour, asserts that listed in the Black Book are none other than Herbert Asquith, the former prime minister, as well as his wife, Margot (whom Pemberton Billing has previously accused of being Miss Allan’s lover). When the presiding judge orders Villers-Stuart to leave the witness box, she retorts that his own name is also included in the Black Book. Another witness makes much of Miss Allan’s decision to perform Oscar Wilde’s degenerate play on the Sabbath.
Pemberton Billing gains from the atmosphere of crisis engendered by Germany’s offensives in France. Today the trial ends; Pemberton Billing is cleared on all points. He receives a standing ovation from the court’s public gallery and then from a patriotic crowd gathered outside the court.
In some respects the trial is reminiscent of Mata Hari‘s conviction in France last year on espionage charges. Maud Allan has lost her case but she is perhaps lucky that she is not sent to the firing squad as a scapegoat for military failures.
Noel Pemberton Billing (Wikipedia)
Maud Allan (Socialist Review: Homophobia in the First World War)
see also: Noel Pemberton Billing (Spartacus Educational)