Cracks in the Image: Victorian Erotica

3/12/09

When most people think of the Victorians, they think stodgy, right?

The conservative clothing, the formal language, and the strict rules of society, all lead us to believe that the Victorians were exactly that--stodgy to a fault, and not exactly the type of people you'd want to invite to a frat party.

And for the most part, that was true. The Victorian era was a reaction to the debauchery of the 17th and 18th centuries.

However, there are more than a few cracks in the image we have today--cracks I'll explore in the coming weeks.

So, on to the first crack--Victorian Erotica.

Yes, I said it--Victorian Erotica. And, I do mean erotica, naughty bits and all. Some of the most classic erotic texts available today were written during the Victorian period, and although not always widely available, some of them were quite popular.

Not that the Victorians invented erotica by any means, but before you go off on a tangent about the horrors of sex on the shelves at your local bookstore, take a gander at some of these.

(It should be noted that these texts are erotica and often contain adult material. So, if you're not over 18...Don't click!)

The Pearl
Although many of these stories are obviously written for a male reader, the "Journals of Voluptuous Reading", first published in July of 1879, share numerous tales of sexual exploration--including kissing cousins (who do more than just kiss), and letters from an old maid.

The Perfumed Garden
This instructional work translated by Sir Richard Burton, which first appeared in 1886, shares such noted wisdom as "Prescriptions for Increasing the Dimensions of Small Members and Making Them Splendid".

Rosa Fielding
Rosa Fielding experiences a "thorough" preparation for her wedding before ending up in one of London's most debauched brothels.

Venus in India
First published in 1889, Venus in India describes the sexual liaisons of Captain Charles Devereaux while he is stationed there. The work was so popular there's actually a second volume.

Eveline
First published in 1904 (so it's technically Edwardian), Eveline is the story of an 18 year old Victorian lady who loses her virginity to her brother, and then proceeds to seduce almost every man she comes into contact with. (I have to admit this one shocked even me a bit.)

So, all of this begs the question, were the Victorians nearly as stodgy as we think they were?

1 comments:

Evangeline said...

Nope. I fight against the common perception that the Victorians were prudes. The myth has grown out of proportion and only came about because those of the first half of the 20th century looked back on the 19th with disdain--and it all started with Lytton Strachey's Eminent Victorians.

 
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