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The Case of the GBP5 Virgin

In 1885 the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette published an account of a girl of thirteen being sold by her mother to a brothel, where her virginity would be highly prized. The editor was W T Stead, and his audacious scoop was telegraphed around the world. What became know as the story of the GBP5 virgin - the price that Stead claimed had been paid for the girl - was a sensation, one of the greatest scandals of the Victorian era. But was the story a 'put up job' as the playwright George Bernard Shaw judged it? With meticulous detective work Gavin Weightman has pieced together the true story of how the W T Stead, hero of the moral purity campaigners, fell victim to his own salacious imagination and wound up in the dock at the Old Bailey. At the heart of the story is an innocent cockney girl who later found immortality as the model for Eliza Doolittle in Shaw's most popular play, Pygmalion (My Fair Lady).
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About the Author

Gavin Weightman is the author of a series of colourful history books including The Frozen Water Trade, Signor Marconi's Magic Box, The Industrial Revolutionaries, and Children of Light: How Electricity Changed Britain Forever. After taking a degree in sociology at London University Gavin joined the staff of New Society in the mid-1970s as a feature writer. In 1978 he was recruited by London Weekend Television to produce and direct documentaries. These included two six-part history series entitled The Making of Modern London, as well as City Safari, Brave New Wilderness, London River and Bright Lights, Big City. For two years he was the presenter of The London Programme on LWT. He has published more than twenty books and written for numerous publications including History Today, the Guardian, the Sunday Times and the Independent. In 2012 the Royal Literary Fund appointed him as a Fellow at Queen Mary College, University of London. He lives in Stoke Newington, North London with illustrator Clare Beaton. You can find him at: www.gavin-weightman.co.uk

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