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Thursday, 22 April 2010

Erotica in the 18th Century

Recently the custodian of a National Trust house near where I live found a hidden stash of eighteenth century erotica in the library.
These were chapbooks - printed on cheap flimsy paper and designed to be sold for pence - they were the Playboys of the day. Because they wre thin and flimsy they were able to be concealed behind other  books on the shelves.

 'The Merchant he softly crept into the room. And on the bedside he sat himself down. Her knees through the counterpane he did embrace. Did Bess in the pillow did hide her sweet face.

'He stript of his clothes and leaped into bed saying now lovely creature for thy maidenhead. She strug led and strove and seemed to be shy. He said divine beauty I pray now comply.
Read more about the find.

Of course what strikes us most is that the extracts seem to be saucy rather than explicit - but then this was an age where to bare an ankle might be considered too revealing. In a Daily Mail interview Emma said 'The Chapbooks have really caught the imagination. The Brownes were obviously far from straight-laced.'

The Library at Townend
Townend is a house that has been in the same family, the Brownes, since it was built in 1646 right through until the twentieth century, and so houses one of the most important libraries anywhere in Britain. Important, because it shows what an ordinary yeoman farming family might read for pleasure and leisure through the ages. The collection, which is looked after by custodian Emma Wright, is shelved in the original library, but visitors are not allowed to handle the books. Instead there are facsimiles provided for visitors to read and enjoy.

I have a particular interest in Townend as I am going to launch The Lady's Slipper there. It was one of the buildings I used for  research and just seemed a very appropriate place. I have not yet decided whether to read my own erotic parts of the novel out loud to carry on the tradition! But I suspect not, launching a novel is enough excitement already!

Townend, Troutbeck


  1. How fascinating! Thanks for this insight, Dee.

  2. Hi Alis,
    hope your little rest from blogging is giving you the writing time you need.