A couple of years ago the Bibliothque Nationale presented an exhibition of erotica and pornography gleaned from the forbidden section of the state library
The French are not the only ones to have a hidden stash of such things. The British Library at Saint Pancras also has a Private Case, kept in a strong room and usually only accessible to academics. It holds the correspondence between 45 year old Lady Cavendish and the much younger Count de la Rochefoucauld which was used as evidence in the divorce case of Lord and Lady Cavendish.
image of Private Case found here
“Rouchefoucauld’s letters were so erotic that 12 of them occupy the last 26 pages of the fourth volume of the pornographic classic “Romance of Lust” published in 1876 and confined to the Private Case.
When counsel for Lord Cavendish produced them, he said they were too scandalous to be read in open court. The judge had a look at one or two and told the court, “I entirely agree with my learned friend. I shall take them home and refer to them in my summing up.”
image found here
In them, Rochefoucauld said the Lady Cavendish had picked the ‘flower of his virginity’. He talked of the joys of cunnilingus, fellation, drinking urine and sharing all of the delicacies of each other’s body.
He talked of introducing a naked serving girl to their lovemaking who would perform cunnilingus on Lady Cavendish and ‘violate you with her breasts… filling your womb with her milk to excite your senses’.
image by Becat
He wrote of more debased practices than this but repeatedly stated that Lady Cavendish’s replies were even more explicit than anything he could dream up.
Fast forward to 1930 and another scandalous divorce case used the love letters of Jessie Matthews to her married paramour as evidence.
image of Jessie Matthews found here
Outside the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, crowds stood ten deep, together with an army of photographers, all waiting for the conclusion of what promised to be Britain’s first great showbusiness scandal of the 20th century, an astonishing saga of intense sexual passion, illicit love and steamy, pornographic letters.
The wronged wife was not in court. She was in Hollywood, making a film called One Heavenly Night. In her absence, the court was told about the heavenly nights enjoyed by her husband and his devastatingly attractive mistress, and listening to the sexually explicit love letters which Jessie Matthews had written to her married lover, which his wife had discovered.
Presiding over the court on this afternoon in July 1930, was the most censorious and inflexible divorce judge of his generation, Sir Maurice Hill, a 68-year-old widower with a deeply ingrained distaste for divorce proceedings, which he once described as like having ‘one foot on sea and one in a sewer’.
‘It is quite clear,’ he said, ‘that the husband admits himself to be a cad, and nobody will quarrel with that, and the woman Matthews writes letters which show her to be a person of an odious mind.’
You can read extracts from the letters by clicking the link at the end of this paragraph – they appear to be much tamer than Lady Cavendish’s were purported to be. Her affairs were certainly interesting and included a curious night with two royals and a lover who hired a Gypsy Moth to drop matchboxes containing raspberries on the lawn of her house
Raspberry Moth found here