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Ruth Derham

Biographer & Social Historian

with a particular interest in the Victorian Divorce Court and changing attitudes to marriage and divorce.

New Release

Decadent Divorce

On Thursday 11 January 1883, the new Royal Courts of Justice opened its door for business. From that day forward a stream of dissatisfied spouses from all over the country passed through the doors of courtrooms I and II with their tales of marital woe. Their desperate attempts to prove their partner's marital crimes to judge and jury unwittingly became something of a spectator sport; the most sensational, instructive or noteworthy stories reported daily in copious detail by Fleet Street's eager press. The great causes célèbres revealed stories of decadence and disregard, arrogance and entitlement; the faults and foibles of the aristocracy that had once held reverence as a birthright exposed to a growing and increasingly scathing middle- and lower-class readership. Members of the professional class tasted the downside of celebrity; and for those of the working class who could scrape together enough money there was at last some relief from abusive, deserting or unfaithful spouses - but to what end?


Decadent divorce takes a peep through the keyhole of the court to witness, not just 'what the butler saw', but what the world was invited to see; to explore what this microcosm of late-Victorian society tells us about society at large. The picture that emerges is one of high drama, humour, pathos and tragedy, brimming with moral comment that throws a light on the social tensions and preoccupations of the age.

Decadent Divorce: Scandal and Sensation in Victorian Britain by Ruth Derham

Featured in the Mail on Sunday:

Mail on Sunday feature The jury who were ordered to peek through an aristocrat’s keyhole to check what the butler REALLY saw by Margarette Driscoll

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Bertrand's Brother - A biography of Earl Russell, older brother of Bertrand Russell - Friendship with Lionel Johnson, Victorian divorce scandal, Radical Victorian politics, Marriage to Elizabeth von Arnim.
To Be Frank: The Politics and Polemics of a Radical Russell by Ruth Derham | A collection of radical social and political writing covering Victorian attitudes to divorce, birth control, women's suffrage, motoring, the Labour Party, religion and rationalism, & more.
The Complete Winchester Letters of Lionel Johnson
Decadent Divorce: Scandal and Sensation in Victorian Britain

About Ruth Derham

Ruth Derham, author of Decadent Divorce

A former health practitioner and university lecturer, Ruth Derham fulfilled a long ambition to write with the publication of Bertrand's Brother in 2021. She now dedicates herself full-time to writing and has a particular interest in changing attitudes to marriage and divorce. An enthusiastic speaker, Ruth has delivered talks to the Bertrand Russell Society, the Santayana Society and the Wells Society on aspects of Frank Russell's life and career and on the Victorian divorce law and its reform. This year she has had two new releases - The Complete Winchester Letters of Lionel Johnson (ed. with Sarah Green) and Decadent Divorce: Scandal and Sensation in Victorian Britain. Ruth is currently researching the life of Virginia Mary Crawford, social-worker, journalist, literary critic and the woman at the heart of the infamous Crawford-Dilke Scandal of 1886. She lives and works in Wiltshire, UK.

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