Getting Down and Dirty with the Nineteenth Century

A History of Erotic Literature by Patrick J. Kearney, MacMillan London, 1982.

A few interesting tidbits from this book (fyi, my combination of quotes and summary are in blockquotes here to distinguish from my general commentary.)

Between 1800 and 1850, Louis Perceau’s Bibliographie  du roman erotique
lists 26 “separate and orignal works” whereas in the period 1851-1900 there are “almost seven times that number.”

In the early years of the 19th century there were a number of successful prosecutions for “obscene libel.”

My personal suspicion is that the Victorians were working so hard at NO SEX ever that the pressure was too much for some people and it came out in erotic writing — which if you have ever read Victorian erotica, oh lord. So repetitive and boring because there is little-to-no emotion. Did Regency folks write less of it because they were less repressed? Or were the prosecutions for “obscene libel” a deterrent? Or were people then still writing for private audiences and those MSS were never actually published, just handed around among friends?

George Cannon published erotica from 1815 to 1864. After his death, his wife continued the business until her death some 10 years later.  In 1830, he was jailed for six months and fined 100 pounds for a volume of deSade’s Juliette.

The Lustful Turk, by J.B. Brookes was published in 1828 and “tells in a series of letters from Emily Barlow to Silvia Carey what befalls the former who, while en route to India, in captured by Moorish pirates and given to their captain, an “English renegade” as a gift to the Dey of Algiers.”  There are some monks engaging in white slavery on the side.  Sex happens etc.

Then Kearney goes on to say:

But the specific influence in The Lustful Turk is Byron. This is apparent from the first, when Emily is captured by that most powerful Byronic image, the ‘English renegade’ corsair. And later, in the sub-narratives that recount the lives of Honoria Grimaldi and Adianti, two of the other girls in the Dey’s harem, there are strong Byronic elements, particularly in Adianti’s story which in part concerns the excesses of the Turks during their occupation of Greece.

Apparently, The Lustful Turk is one of the most frequently reprinted erotic novels in English. Wikipedia on this book.  It’s available on Amazon in print for a little over $10 or on Kindle for $0.99. Kindle it is. As I discovered just seconds ago, the first letter in this story is dated 1815 so I really have to read it.

And now, because Amazon lets you Search Inside The Book (O_O) I’ve discovered the reason for the price discrepancy between the print version and the Kindle version. The print version has pictures. And not crappy ones. So I have ordered the print version, too.

Should I report back next week or is that enough smut?

About carolyn

Carolyn Jewel was born on a moonless night. That darkness was seared into her soul and she became an award winning and USA Today bestselling author of historical and paranormal romance. She has a very dusty car and a Master’s degree in English that proves useful at the oddest times. An avid fan of fine chocolate, finer heroines, Bollywood films, and heroism in all forms, she has two cats and a dog. Also a son. One of the cats is his.
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Celia May Hart
11 years ago

It’s been several years since I read it, but there’s a Donald Low book, The Regency Underworld, that goes into more detail, and I’d have to go back into my research that I did for a Beau Monde talk, but I got the impression that erotica was scarcely rare during the Regency period.

Evangeline Holland
11 years ago

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Evangeline Holland
11 years ago

The number of books printed in the Regency era versus the Victorian is probably due to the rapidly decreasing costs of printing books and (esp after the 1870s) the increasing literacy of the masses.

Janet Mullany
11 years ago

As I remember there was a drop in paper prices at the end of the 18c which propelled a huge increase in printed matter. And that, coupled with new printing technology, really got things steamed up so to speak. The 18c was very big on porn in the form of prints and broadsheets (I remember your presentation, Celia!)

But does anyone read porn for emotional content? I believe porn is created in the eye of the beholder/reader, rather like romance.

Tell us about The Lustful Turk when you get your copy, Carolyn!

Louisa Cornell
11 years ago

Hmm. I feel the need to purchase something Turkish. You girls talk amongst yourselves which I go shopping. Pictures, not crappy ones, are ALWAYS good.