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In Irvine Welsh’s The Acid House (1994) Gus McGlone is typically uneasy in ‘the Glasgow wide-boy persona he cultivated’: ‘It was easy to con the impressionable bourgeois who filled the University staff-rooms that he was the genuine article. In somewhere like Govan, it was another matter’ (113). In the same novel, other characters cannot see where metropolitan masquerade begins and reality ends. Olly’s friends are ‘all City Café types … who wanted to be musicians, actors, poets, dancers, novelists, painters, playwrights, film-makers, models and were obsessed with their alternative careers’ (247).

Outlawed muscles The criminal, male body does not exist in its own narrative but in a dialectical relationship with the ‘respectable’ body. It is especially noticeable that nineteenth-century representations of men from the lower and the criminal classes focused upon their physical, threatening presence when they are juxtaposed with the middle classes. This is evident in Dickens’s description of Bill Sikes: The man who growled out these words, was a stoutly-built fellow of about five-and-thirty, in a black velveteen coat, very soiled drab Gender and Performance 37 breeches, lace-up half-boots, and grey cotton stockings, which inclosed a bulky pair of legs, with large swelling calves; – the kind of legs, which in such costume, always look in an unfinished and incomplete state without a set of fetters to garnish them.

But the countryside could nevertheless, as today, be perceived as a fairly intimidating place. Indeed, historians argue that the malicious destruction of property was a persistent and important dimension of nineteenthcentury rural crime. 22 As the nineteenth century unfolded, and the social problems of the countryside increased and became more complex, families and even whole sections of villages were driven to crime. However, the Victorian period then witnessed the popular mythologising of certain criminal figures which in turn made the rural a much more ambivalent social phenomenon.

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