We're stopping at my own blog today for the most provocative of my posts for Mistress: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, with Parts Not Suitable for Those Who Have Not Reached Their Majority. Yep, we're going to talk about pornography.
The portion before the jump won't have any illustrations or graphic exerpts, so don't worry if you're not wanting to see the, uh, nitty grittier details. After the jump will be decidedly NSFW, however.
It's safe to say that "research pornography in the Georgian era" was not something I expected would wind up on my to-do list when I first began writing JAFF. It became necessary because in Mistress, it is of the utmost importance for Darcy and Elizabeth's first night together to go well, and Darcy, being a well-read, considerate guy, takes it upon himself to do the research so that he's better prepared to woo her:
He had considered returning to the establishment he had gone to in his younger days – those days in which he had wanted any woman, and not a particular one – and requesting a woman, someone who could help him learn such arts, but to do so would have made him feel inconstant to Elizabeth. So he had gained his knowledge through books, as best he could, books sold in the unsavoury little shops on Holywell Street, read during the carriage ride back to Pemberley and ever since. It was not unusual for the master of Pemberley to hide himself away in the library or his private sitting-room for much of his day, so this prompted no particular notice from his servants, although they all would have been wholly scandalised if they had known what he was reading. They would have been still more scandalised, to know the state of arousal some portions of these books put him in. To read of such things, to see such illustrations, and then consider doing them with her, was to know an almost overwhelming desire.
I don't like to write with knowledge gaps, just presuming that everything Darcy would need to know was magically out there for him to read. So I embarked on my own research, to see what sorts of materials would be available to him.
John Cleland's Fanny Hill would almost certainly be on the list, the fictitious memoir of a former prostitute. This is one I suspect he would already have read at some point in his life – indeed, I suspect it's been passed around at Eton since just after it was published. It was illustrated, although the illustrations were somewhat crude compared to others.
For more ideas on how to, erm, go about things, L’Aretin Francais would certainly have been on the list. I don't have a firm opinion on whether Darcy would have learned French in addition to the classical languages that would certainly have been part of his gentleman's education, but comprehension of French is not necessary to find this book useful for his purposes. Because it's all about the illustrations. And whoa are they some illustrations.
Caricature sketches often ventured into the pornographic. Of these caricaturists, Thomas Rowlandson was probably the most famous of the time. Common sexual themes in Rowlandson's work included voyeurism and adulterous couples in the midst of being discovered. Below is one of his less bawdy works; two more are beyond the jump.
I expect that the illustrations you'll find beyond the jump weren't the only ones out there at the time, nor were the works mentioned in this post the only ones available. That Lucy Inglis writes of the pornographic shops on Holywell Street in Georgian London: Into the Streets indicates that there was a fair amount of material out there for sale, and I suspect only the most (in)famous has survived.
I didn't just look at pictures and read Fanny Hill, though. I also read two books on pornography and sex during this era, which were very useful to gain a greater understanding: Sex in Georgian England by A.D. Harvey, and Governing Pleasures: Pornography and Social Change in England, 1815-1914, by Lisa Z. Sigel. The most important theme that came out of these was the notion that during the Georgian era, writings about women's pleasure underwent a key change, from indicating that women did gain pleasure during sex to stating, well, the opposite.
The older Conjugal Love Reveal’d (Tableau de l’amour conjugal), by Nicolas Venette, shows the attitude of the earlier writings, and I like to think Darcy acquired a copy or found one in some dusty corner of the Pemberley library:
But above all the beauty of the face and the handsomeness of the body in the harmonious proportion of its members most powerfully excite us to love. If a young man beholds a virgin of a blooming and agreeable carriage or if youth of a lusty make or comely is seen by a girl there is a desire which from the eyes convey to the heart. In a word, man and woman, like a loadstone have an attracting virtue, and a mutual desire for each other. From seeing, they must proceed to touching; and as from the steel and flint there sparkles fire, so from the mutual conjunction of their bodies there follows conception; and the womb of the woman is the mould where the child is formed.That "mutual desire for each other" is what Darcy is hoping for, but Elizabeth's experiences, and what she's generally been told, align more with the later philosophy, that women are not supposed to like sex.
I also had to decide on, ah, terminology to use for certain things, and gave a read to the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, as well as the timelines linked out of this Gizmodo article. Some of them are decidedly NSFW; some of them are entirely hilarious to modern sensibilities!
And now we've come to the end of the non-graphic portion of the post. For those who want to win a copy of Mistress but don't want to see the illustrations, you can enter the giveaway by posting a comment on this alternate post.