Your Case is Hopeless

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Author: Karl Sabbagh
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Where did the Victorian boy go for answers to his embarrassing problems?

That stammer that people made fun of; the mole or the freckles that he was sure everyone was looking at; the bare upper lip where every other boy seemed to be growing a luxuriant moustache.  Who could he ask about those troubling thoughts that led to unspeakable temptations? Or about the rabbit or parrot or hamster that seemed on the point of dying for no obvious reason?

And for the older boy, there was the looming prospect of leaving school and taking a job – but what job?  Did the army accept recruits who didn't like fighting?  What would the navy think about a very short-sighted applicant?  Was his handwriting good enough to become a bank manager?

All these and many more were the questions that the tireless editor of the BOP, as it was called, was faced with in daily sacks of mail, usually including parcels of birds eggs and beetles for identification which the Post Office had crushed beyond recognition. Karl Sabbagh has sifted through twenty thousand answers published in the BOP between 1879 and 1900 to compile a selection which gives a unique glimpse into the secret worries and concerns of Victorian boys, and the brisk, sometimes cruel, way they were dealt with.

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