Jack Saul is a handsome young man in London, who has found his body to be his best asset and makes his way through life as a prostitute. One day, Jack is picked up by a male customer in Leicester Square, and after their encounter, the man offers to pay Jack for a written account of his experiences. What follows is The Sins of the Cities of the Plain, a narrative tracing in explicit detail the development of Jack's "vices" as he progresses from boarding school and into young adulthood amidst London's thriving but clandestine gay underworld.
Featuring a mixture of fact and fiction and incorporating real-life personages involved in the Cleveland Street Scandal, the Oscar Wilde trials, and other infamous legal proceedings of the period, The Sins of the Cities of the Plain was one of the first and frankest works on homosexuality in Victorian England. Read by Oscar Wilde and an influence on the more famous gay erotic novel Teleny (1893), The Sins of the Cities of the Plain was privately printed in two volumes in 1881 and is completely unobtainable today. This new edition contains the unabridged text of the first edition housed at the British Library, together with a new introduction by Wolfram Setz and a facsimile reproduction of the original volumes' title pages. Although two previous modern editions have been published under this title, they are severely altered and rewritten versions of the story; this edition marks the first complete reprinting of the original text.