Mail Chute

I've been reading this really interesting book called Postal Pleasures: Sex, Scandal, and Victorian Letters by Kate Thomas (2012), so many of my upcoming stories will probably be from there.

What I found really interesting in learning about the early postal system is how deeply sexual and–most specifically–homoerotic it could be read as. There are loads of stories in which allusions are made to phallic or transgressive imagery, as will be seen in the story below.

Any citations are directly from the text. The quotations-within-quotations in this particular story are from the Illustrated London News (18 Nov. 1865), p. 496.


"In 1865 the Post Office unveiled an underground pneumatic dispatch tube, which ran from Euston Square to Holborn. 'A number of scientific gentlemen' were invited to watch the carriages full of postbags be sucked through the mile-and-three-quarters-long pneumatic tunnel, and after seeing several trains disappear into and emerge from the 'mouth' of the tunnel, some of these gentlemen 'expressed a strong desire to pass through the tube themselves'.

"The Illustrated London News reported the event, applauding the men's gumption:

"'They were warned that they line was "not constructed wit ha view to passenger traffic," and that they might find the way "a little rough." The spirit of adventure, however, prompted them to take this strange journey, and each of the waggons had soon as many occupants as it could comfortably accommodate in the recumbent posture enforced by circumstances.'

"Playing at being a postbag, or a piece of mail, apparently produced some 'not agreeable […] sensations' as a result of the 'suction' and 'friction' and 'here and there [in the tube] a strong flavour of rust was encountered.'"

As you may already be noticing, this is where things start to get a little intrinsically homoerotic, as the author reads the situation:

"The romance of this new technology, and of speedy communication systems turns these 'scientific gentlemen' into giddy boys who 'strongly desire' a 'rough' ride and who bundle up togehter to experience being jostled around like parcels. This is a fantasy in which you lay aside your top hat (the accompany illustration show hatless travelers witnessed by a firmly hatted crowd) and stuff yourself into a canister with other men, for the sensations of suction and the taste of a tunnel." (2-3).

Of course, these connections between homosexuality and the Post Office (of all things) were only encouraged in popular Victorian culture when a young male prostitution ring was discovered being conducted under the guise of the Post Office. But that is a tale for another day! Stay tuned . . .

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One Response to Mail Chute

  1. Pingback: BizarreVictoria: Celebrating 3 Years | BizarreVictoria

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