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English erotica

Related: Lustful Turk (1828) - Anonymous - Henry Spencer Ashbee - Theresa Berkeley - Charles Carrington - erotica - Erotic Print Society - Fanny Hill - flagellation - Steven Marcus - Merryland (1740) - The Pearl: A Journal of Facetive and Voluptuous Reading (1879) - Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740) - Pamela Green (pin-up model) - UK - John Wilmot

Connoisseurs: Ian Gibson


under construction

Along with Paris, London in the second half of the 19th century was one of the first modern, urbanized societies with a literate population. Literacy is one of the prerequisites for the spreading of printed erotica and pornography. Henry Spencer Ashbee's bibliography has proven to be invaluable in documenting this period of erotic fiction.

The quintessential English erotic novel is Fanny Hill, but even Richardson's Pamela and Clarissa provided voyeuristic satisfaction to a new English audience. The development and rise of the novel as new genre, parallels the development of the erotic novel.

Even in the 17th century, when France had the reputation for erotica, and some English erotica consisted of French translations (the famous "whore dialogues") there were local authors of bawdy erotica like John Wilmot.

A special mention must go to the authors of Grub street.

English erotica has some characteristics of its own, the most notable is that they are believed to be fond of spanking and flagellation. The French even called it Le vice Anglais. Theresa Berkeley ran a brothel specializing in these services.

How the Victorian Era Spawned Pornography's Golden Age

By Marianna Beck, Ph.D.

During the 19th century, the traffic in pornography grew at an enormous rate and shifted from France, where it had been dramatically shaped by Sade, to England, where it would become highly commercialized. Ironically, the morally severe Victorian Age yielded some of pornography’s most popular classics: The Romance of Lust, The Amatory Experiences of a Surgeon, and The Autobiography of a Flea, to name just a few titles. In a century characterized by its rigid moral codes and authoritarian controls, pornography evolved into a genre whose sole raison d’être was sexual arousal. --Marianna Beck via http://www.libidomag.com/nakedbrunch/archive/europorn06.html [May 2005]

Windmill girls and tableaux vivants

The Windmill Theatre introduced shows that featured singing, dancing, sketches and comics and glamorous nude females on stage, inspired by the Folies Bergères and Moulin Rouge in Paris. This coup was made possible by exploiting a loophole in obscenity laws that forbade the display of nudity in theatres: since the authorities could not credibly hold nude statues to be morally objectionable, the theatre presented its nudes — the legendary "Windmill girls" — in motionless poses as living statues or tableaux vivants. The Windmill produced a series of nude tableaux vivants based around themes such as Annie Oakley, Mermaids, Red Indians and Britannia. The Windmill's shows became a huge commercial success. Piccadilly and Pavilion theatres copied the format and ran non-stop shows too which took its toll on the Windmill's ticket sales. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windmill_Theatre [Jun 2006]

Goodbye () - Thomas Rowlandson

Goodbye () - Thomas Rowlandson

Thomas Rowlandson (July 1756 - April 22, 1827) was an English caricaturist. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Rowlandson [Dec 2005]

See also: UK - erotica - caricature

Le vice anglais

Although flagellation is often considered to be 'le vice anglais' par excellence, the first medico-scientific treatise on the subject probably came from Germany. De Flagrorum Usu in Re Veneria & Lumborum Renumque Officio (On the Use of Rods in Venereal Matters and in the Office of the Loins and Reins), by the German doctor Johann Heinrich Meibom, known as Meibomus, was first published in Leiden in 1629. It attempted to explain, in the light of contemporary understanding of anatomy and physiology, why chastisement might be arousing. --http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/en/pain/microsite/culture1.html [Jan 2005]

Gynecocracy (1893) -

In 1893 a clandestine publisher brought out a flagellation novel with an entirely new  twist: the hero/victim is dressed as a girl. This was Gynecocracy: A Narrative of the Adventures  and Psychological Experiences of Julian Robinson (afterwards Viscount Ladywood) Under Petticoat-Rule, written by himself, in three volumes, Paris and Rotterdam, MDCCCXC111. 

An ill-disciplined youth, having failed to settle down at school and having recently behaved indecently to one of the maids, is sent away to be educated with his three girl cousins under the control of their governess. Shortly after his arrival he is compelled to wear girls’ clothes as his normal attire. After much flagellation of all parties except the governess, and sexual interaction with all the women of the household, Julian marries one of the cousins, but continues to wear corsets and to remain under her dominion. A similar work, entitled The Petticoat Dominant, or Woman’s Revenge, appeared in 1898, possibly by the same author. --Peter Farrer http://www.petticoated.com/petpunessay.htm [Jan 2005]

William Dugdale

Dugdale, William. "One of the most prolific publishers of bawdy books. b. Stockport, 1800, d. in House of Correction, November 11, 1868." See Ashbee I, pp. 118, 127, 135, 192. Rose --http://www.immortalia.com/html/bibliography/bawdy-chapbooks-and-songsters-bibliography.htm [May 2005]

1800 - William Dugdale is born in Stockport, England. He later becomes active in the erotica publishing trade between 1825 and c.1865 in London, which consists of translations, mainly by James Reddie, and reprints of erotic literature that had been previously published between 1825 and 1840. --http://www.eroticabibliophile.com/people19.html [May 2005]

Not to be confused with: Sir William Dugdale (September 12, 1605 - February 10, 1686) was an English antiquary. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Dugdale [May 2005]

Mighty Lewd Books : The Development of Pornography in Eighteenth-Century England (2003) - Julie Peakman

Mighty Lewd Books : The Development of Pornography in Eighteenth-Century England (2003) - Julie Peakman [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
Mighty Lewd Books describes the emergence of a new, home-grown English pornography as seen in flagellation novellas which burst to the fore in the 1770s. Prior to this, English erotica had included a particular style of bawdy material marked by its euphemisms and double entendres. Through the examination of over 500 pieces of British erotica, this book looks at sex as seen in erotic culture, religion and medicine throughout the long eighteenth-century, and provides a radical new approach to the study of sexuality. --Amazon.com

See also: erotic books - 1770s

Reading Sex in the Eighteenth Century : Bodies and Gender in English Erotic Culture (2005) - Karen Harvey

Reading Sex in the Eighteenth Century : Bodies and Gender in English Erotic Culture (2005) - Karen Harvey [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Karen Harvey explores the construction of sexual difference and gender identity in eighteenth-century England. Using erotic texts and their illustrations, and rooting this evidence firmly in historical context, Harvey provides a thoroughgoing critique of the orthodoxy of recent work on sexual difference in the history of the body. She argues that eighteenth-century English erotic culture combined a distinctive mode of writing and reading in which the form of refinement was applied to the matter of sex. Erotic culture was male-centred and it was in this environment, Harvey argues, that men could enjoy both the bawdy, raucous, libidinous elements of the eighteenth century and the refined politeness for which the period is also renowned. This book makes a significant contribution to the history of masculinity and advocates a new approach to change in gender history, one capable of capturing the processes of negotiation and contestation integral to cultural change. --via Amazon.co.uk

When Flesh Becomes Word: An Anthology of Early Eighteenth-Century Libertine Literature (2004) - Bradford K. Mudge

When Flesh Becomes Word: An Anthology of Early Eighteenth-Century Libertine Literature (2004) - Bradford K. Mudge [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
When Flesh Becomes Word collects nine different examples of British libertine literature that appeared before 1750. Three of these--The School of Venus (1680), Venus in the Cloister (1725), and A Dialogue Between a Married Lady and a Maid (1740)--are famous "whore dialogues," dramatic conversations between an older, experienced woman and a younger, inexperienced maid. Previously unavailable to the modern reader, these dialogues combine sex education, medical folklore, and erotic literature in a decidedly proto-pornographic form. This edition also presents a range of other examples of libertine literature, including bawdy poetry, a salacious medical treatise, an irreverent travelogue, and a criminal biography. The combination of both popular and influential texts presented in this edition provides an accessible introduction to the variety of material available to eighteenth-century readers before the publication of John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure in 1749.

"Bradford K Mudge's The Whore's Story is an important contribution to this project...a welcome addition to the literature on gender and sexuality in the period...with its thorough discussion of both familiar and obscure primary texts and its engaging readable style..."--ECCB

"The Whore's Story thus offers a new answer to the question of how writing that today is called the novel, and it sexuality as active agents-they became its subject....In spite of the large amount of literature already existing on the subject, Mudge finds new and striking examples."--Eighteenth-Century Studies

"The Whore's Story's most valuable contribution is in widening our understanding of eighteenth-century literary are diminished from view when we privilege one set of authors, or literary techniques, over another....In the early twenty-first century we have accepted the separation of literature from pornography as 'natural.' The Whore's Story asks us to rethink this assumption and provides a provocative literary history in which to understand pornography and literature as mutually dependent, mutually generative."--The Worldsworth Circle

"Makes an important contribution to the understanding of the genesis and historical development of pornography in 18th- and 19th-century England. The author makes the bold, yet fully persuasive, claim that women, as both literary producers and consumers, played a crucial role not only in the rise of the novel...but also in the ascendancy of pornography.... Wonderfully researched and beautifully written, this book will appeal to both students doing upper-division undergraduate work and scholars who desire a more complete picture of the development of the British novel and its early cultural context."--Choice

"A persuasively argued scholarly monograph and a good read.... Bradford Mudge's Monograph is an important study that will change our understanding of the evolution of erotic fiction."--Eighteenth Century Fiction

--http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/LiteratureEnglish/BritishLiterature/18thC/?view=usa&ci=0195135059 [Nov 2005]

See also: libertine - 1700s

The Autobiography of a Flea

The Autobiography of a Flea and Other Tart Tales (1995) - Anonymous [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

My title comes from a nineteenth century work of pornography. The use of it for the title is a joke. I started with a joke that I expect no one to understand for the purpose of emphasizing the distance between my culture and yours.

"The perception of that distance may serve as a starting point of an investigation, for anthropologists have found that the best points of entry in an attempt to penetrate an alien culture can be those where it seems to be the most opaque. When you realize that you are not getting something--a joke, a proverb, a ceremony-- that is particularly meaningful to the natives, you can see where to grasp a foreign system of meaning in order to unravel it." [Robert Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre (New York: Vintage Books, 1985) p. 78.]

My joke is about how the culture positions me. I am a graduate student, but sorry that's not the real joke. Even though fleas and other vermin are low in a hierarchy of value and graduate students are low in the academic hierarchy of value, correlating the two as equal doesn't make the title as funny as it can be. It can get funnier. In the real Autobiography of a Flea, the flea is not the deviant. The flea gets to communicate about the deviant. So here's the real joke: for the purpose of this essay, I am struggling to be the flea. --Lisa Sigel via http://eserver.org:16080/cultronix/sigel/ [May 2005]

The Autobiography of a Flea is a Victorian era erotic novel published under the name Anonymous in 1887 in London. The novel is narrated by a flea who tells the tale of a beautiful young girl named Bella falling into her own curiousity of her sexuality and the people who take advantage of her own ignorance. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autobiography_of_a_flea [Jan 2006]

The Fifteen Plagues of a Maidenhead

The Eighth Plague.

  Now I am young, blind Cupid me bewitches,
I scratch my Belly, for it always itches,
And what it itches for, I've told before,
'Tis either to be Wife, or be a Whore;
Nay any thing indeed, would be poor I,
N'er Maiden-heads upon my Hands should lie,
Which till I lose, I'm sure my watry Eyes
Will pay to Love so great a Sacrifice,
That my Carcass soon will weep out all its Juice,
Till grown so dry, as fit for no Man's use.

-- MADAM B[RAN]LE, 1707 via http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13972/13972-h/13972-h.htm [Jan 2006]

1707 – James Read and Angell Carter of England are found guilty of publishing The Fifteen Plagues of a Maidenhead. At the same time John Marshall is found guilty for publishing Rochester's Sodom: of, the Quintessence of Debauchery and The School of Love (An English translation of L'Academie des Dames). Although all were found guilty, James Read moved their arrest be in lieu of judgement on the grounds that obscene libel was not something the court had the power to deal with. The court agreed. --http://www.eroticabibliophile.com/censorship_history.html [Jan 2006]

See also: erotic fiction - obscenity - censorship - UK - 1700 - 1709

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