In the late 1850’s two bills were being debated in London’s House of Lords. One dealt with the sale of deadly poisons. The other dealt with the “problem” of erotica, which was enjoying a wave of popularity despite the rigid strictures of Victorian society.
While the exposure and sale of erotic books and images was already a misdemeanor crime, for a certain Lord Chief Justice Campbell who called the dissemination of erotic
images and prose “a sale of poison more deadly than prussic acid, strychnine or arsenic.”
Lord Campbell made his impassioned plea during arguments for the Obscene Publications Act of 1857. Under the act, any erotic material sold to a clandestine agent would force the seller into court, where he or she would have to argue for why it should not be destroyed.
Curiously enough, the act did not define “obscene.” That was left up to the common courts. Even so, the act was not without controversy. It was debated heavily in both houses of Parliament prior to passage, and the Houses of Commons eventually changed the bill to exclude Scotland, on the grounds that their laws in regards to erotic material were already tough enough.
For British authors, the consequences could be grave. Many were jailed, and others were aggressively targeted, including notable author Sir Richard Francis Burton, who brought the west its first translation of Arabian Nights. But this world traveler and diplomat had a spicier side, also bringing a translation of the Kama Sutra to the United Kingdom. Burton died before finishing his transcription of The Scented Garden. His wife, Isabel, upon finding the manuscript deemed it so offensive that she ordered it burned.
So what does any of this have to do with a modern-day publisher like Blushing Books? Well, plenty if you enjoy the kind of authentic Victorian erotica that sent bold writers to jail and proper women running for the smelling salts. Blushing Books has recently acquired a collection of Victorian era erotica. Frank and I was first offered here a week ago. This week’s update features the Victorian classic Beatrice. Both books were considered quite scandalous, and still are. The origins of Beatrice, in fact, have come under debate in some quarters. Both books are authored by “Anonymous,” so the identities of the actual writers remain a mystery over a hundred years after their publication.
These books will prove a unique experience for those unfamiliar with the writing style of the day. The prose can be both choppy and rich, and the books are richer still on sexual content, some of it extremely graphic. Themes of dominance, submission and spanking abound. It seems these themes were perennial favorites among an audience told they should not want such things. Interesting, huh?
It is a credit to the world of literature that despite the efforts of Victorian era censors, these books remain in circulation today. And we are pleased to bring them to you. New titles of these Victorian classics will be featured each week; we do hope you will enjoy them.