the romance of lust

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

Published in: on December 19, 2009 at 7:53 am  Comments (29)  
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29 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Most of the artifacts from Pompeii were promptly removed and have never seen light of day because og their pornographic nature. Blahhaahaha it seems they weren’t backward in coming forward way back when. Many of the brothels had murals detailing the services available…and that was only half of it :)

  2. What would I give to have that hat for the “bring an object from home” Christmas exchange at work on Monday.

  3. “Violate you with her breasts”

    The beginning of this phrase sounds ominous but by the end of it I am giggling. Outside of the occasional nipple that could put an eye out, I am not shaking in my boots here.

    Bessie Mae Mucho

  4. ah, the art of lustful correspondence! my latest ‘wannabe’ could use a lesson. he’s a foot fetishist, and sent me an e-mail with links to ‘trample’ videos… where’s my moth?!?!

    • oh dear…. that boy needs a lesson in romance

  5. I’m concerned for the serving girl too; what was in it for her? Aristocrats might be eccentric but they should not be selfish in their pleasure.

  6. You should have included a paragraph of creepy text messages from Tiger Woods. It’s the next logical progression.

    • Tiger is banned from the Gimcrack ;-)

  7. I always wondered what Judge Judy had on under that robe.

    • Do you have a thing for strict older women bearman?

      • Yes…I love women telling me what to do.

        Clean the garage, change the lightbulb, etc etc.

        I provides so much meaning..haha

      • No, but I have to admit, quite a firm figure for someone her age :-)

  8. My Father used to say to me “Never put in writing what you’d be ashamed of having read out in court.” It always made me wonder what he’d been up to ……

  9. Cad sounds so much more better then
    Manwhore doesn’t it? :-)

    • Manwhore sounds good if you say it with a mouthful of icecubes.

      Andy Wooney

  10. These people knew how to have a good time!

  11. That is a strangely erotic moth – – -

    • It’s beautiful isn’t it Archie?

  12. I am off to the British Library (to meet my ozzie cousin) on 2nd Jan … mmm I wonder if I could persuade a curator or two to let me glance at the hidden stash…. the line about the judge made me giggle I bet the old bugger took them home for his own titillation ;-)

    • I think you’re allowed to look at one book for half an hour. you have to stay seated with your hands in full view at all times…..

  13. This strikes me at the pre-information era equivalent of celebrity sex tapes.

  14. Betrayals aside, it never ceases to amaze me the amount of outrage expressed at the behaviour of consenting adults.

  15. Thank god we have the internet, no longer have to store porn

  16. Now I know why I don’t write love letters… don’t want to leave a paper trail of evidence. Of course with a blacklight there’s a different trail of mine to follow…

  17. Jessie Mathews really begs the question.

  18. This all adds fresh colour to “Mrs. Dale’s Diary”

  19. Hi! I’ll be away over Christmas so I’m here early to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Great post! Now I’m off to confession – take care, Peter

  20. i’ll bet cave dwellers had their porn too, twigs and stones and fruits that excited their passion when arranged just so, like words on a page, sweet whispers made physical, textures for the mind.


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