And now here I am churning out fake Victorian lit. My influences are probably painfully obvious: There's a bunch of Conan Doyle in my nineteenth-century diction, and rather too much Wodehouse (who's substantially later, anyway). But mostly there's the numerous anonymous authors of The Pearl: A Magazine of Facetiae and Voluptuous Reading, that strange, funny, repetitive, wildly uneven condipendium of late-Victorian literary smut.
At a party a few years ago, a friend remarked, when the Pearl was being discussed, "Oh, it's fascinating stuff. But completely devoid of any actual eroticism." A couple of us there sort of blanched. "Um, yeah. Completely. No frantic masturbation sessions and lifelong favorite erotic images there, no-siree-bob."
These Victorians' sense of the taboo was completely different from ours. The stories in the Pearl are entirely casual about male bisexuality. Rape is not just eroticized; it's pretty much mandatory, in a rather appalling--albeit thoroughly stylized--way. A female character, no matter how debauched and
At one point, a male character encourages the girl he's with to talk dirty while they're having sex. She responds: "Prick - cunt - fucking - belly - bottom!" Presumably all these terms were of similar obscenity to the author's ear.
I started writing pseudo-victorian porn with Victim/Victorian: City Manners. It was quite conciously both homage to and an expression of frustration with the peculiarities of sexuality in the Pearl and other Victorian smut. The tangled power dynamics in that story are my response to the strange expectations of that era.
"Mr. Brandywine, you must forgive my rash words." She seated herself on the divan, and drew Corky down beside her, turning her slender shoulders toward him, and passing her arms about his neck. "Do my manners seem extraordinarily free to you, William?" she asked.
"No, no, not at all, Mrs. Dalrymple!" he lied desperately, feeling a bead of perspiration run down his temple. He was ashamed of his recent outburst, and painfully aware of the uncomfortable prominence in his trousers. The two daughter seated themselves in flanking chairs, Maggie watching the conversation with an expression of barely suppressed glee, Beatrice with rapt concentration.
"I spoke imprudently, and I hope you did not take offense," the widow continued as her nails tickled at the base of his scalp, sending chills up his spine. "I was simply overcome by my delight at finding such a fine, well-bred, and handsome boarder to fill out a household that has been too-long given over entirely to the weaker sex. You see, a woman becomes used to the presence of a man about the house, to perform the necessary masculine duties."
Corky's spine stiffened and his face blanched. He wasn't certain exactly what she meant by this, and he hesitated to speculate.
"Why, only last Sunday, I was forced to carve the roast myself! "
Corky relaxed a little.
"I'm so glad you understand," she said, kissing his cheek repeatedly. So distracted was Corky by the thrilling sensation of her warm lips upon his face that he failed to notice her hand creeping along his trousers, until she reached their distended apex.
"Oh, you poor man!" she exclaimed, grasping his rigid member.
"Madam!" Corky exclaimed, and attempted to spring from the divan, but found himself hindered by the widow's hands at his shoulder and his inflamed groin.
"You must be in terrible discomfort," she cooed, massaging his shaft through the fabric. "Here, let me relieve the pressure a little."
And with those words, she pressed her new tenant back onto the cushions, and began to undo his trouser buttons.
Attempting to shield himself, Corky cried, "Mrs Dalrymple! This is entirely indecent!" He leapt from the divan, and made for the door. "I think this interview is at an end," he exclaimed, his voice trembling with agitation. "Good evening, madam. I shall seek lodging—" The doorknob was failing to turn. "I shall seek—" It appeared to be firmly stuck. "I shall seek lodging else—"
Turning, he saw that Maggie Dalrymple—the daughter who had expressed such enthusiasm for the prospect of posing—was smiling triumphantly with a key in her hand. Without her eyes leaving his, she slid the key down the front of her dress.
"Girls," the widow said, "Mr. Brandywine seems to be terribly agitated. Do help him to relax.
As the story expanded, these dominance games got even more recomplicated, which seemed to me to make it both funnier and hotter. Here's a bit from Chapter 3: Just Desserts:
The sight of the girls rosy posterior galvanized Corky into sppech. "Mrs. Dalrymple," he croaked, "I've changed my mind."
"I'm not going to spank Margaret. It's, it's, it's not right, and it's not decent."
"But William—" Mrs. Dalrymple began, when Maggie interrupted her.
Voice a little muffled by her inverted position, she said, "But I want you to spank me, Mr. Brandywine. Wasn't I awfully cruel teasing you like that this afternoon?" She wiggled her hips indecently at him. "Don't you want to give my naughty little bottom what it deserves?"
"Oh no," said Corky, "you're trying to play with my mind again. Well, it wo'n't work this time, Miss Dalrymple! I will have nothing to do with this lascivious so-called punishment."
"You're right to be angry, William," said Mrs. Dalrymple. "The little vixen thinks that if she coaxes you in being the one wielding the hairbrush, you'll let her off easily with a few light taps and she'll be done with it."
"She's underestimated you, hasn't she, William? After this afternoon, she thinks she has you wrapped around her finger. She doesn't realize that you are made of sterner stuff"
"You certainly are. Remember how she tricked you into helping her undress? Remember how she lewdly displayed her body to your eyes, while you were too courteous to prevent her? Remember her mocking little grin when she made you spend in your trousers?"
Corky found that at some point in Mrs. Dalrymple's speech she had pressed the handle of a wooden hairbrush into his clenched fist. Beatrice's playing was reaching a crescendo, performed creditably, though with perhaps more enthusiasm than precision.
"Is that how you want Maggie and Beatrice thinking of you? A figure of mirth and derision?"
"No!" Corky fairly cried, fired with the older woman's inspiring words.
"Then teach that young lady some manners!"
That language and that setting seems to exert a hold on many erotic writers.
British Lesbian author Oosh set her graceful and sly Pavlova's Bitches in that era, and Portland smut wunderkind Nicholas Urfe's sadly incomplete swashbuckler Indigo: The Swordsman's Tale: The Adventures of a Lady of Unnatural Appetites likewise has a nineteenth-century setting. Most importantly, of course, there is Circlet's own fabulous Like a Wisp of Steam, whch has been successful enough that rumor has them already planning two sequels.
What do you guys think? Is there something iresistably erotic about the nineteenth century? Is there another era being sadly neglected? Is it possible to read the line "prick - cunt - fucking - belly - bottom" without giggling?