Lives of Fair and Gallant Ladies
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Les Vies des Dames Galantes (1665-1666), English title Lives of Fair and Gallant Ladies is a collection of anecdotes and memoirs by French soldier and chronicler Brantôme (c. 1540–1614). These are part of posthumously published mémoirs and consist of biographical sketches of the "gallant" ladies of the European court life. Les Vies des Dames Galantes was quoted by Freud in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life with regards to the lapsus.
The book is divided into seven discourses:
- Of Ladies Which Do Make Love, and Their Husbands Cuckolds
- On the Question Which Doth Give the More Content in Love, Whether Touching, Seeing, or Speaking
- Concerning the Beauty of a Fine Leg, and the Virtue the Same Doth Possess
- Concerning Old Dames as Fond to Practise Love as Ever the Young Ones Be
- Telling How Fair and Honourable Ladies Do Love Brave and Valiant Men, and Brave Men Courageous Women
- Of How We Should Never Speak Ill of Ladies, and of the Consequences of So Doing
- Concerning Married Women, Widows and Maids: to Wit, Which of These Same Be Better Than the Other to Love.
A. R. Allinson translation
The preface states that it "includes "modifications based upon good taste and not on any fearful prudery."
It further remarks that a "few of Brantome's examples that illustrate his points belong more in a treatise on abnormal pathology than in a book of literary or historical interest and value, so nothing of any value is lost by omitting them. The rare charm, shrewd wisdom, amusing anecdote, literary merit and historical and social information will be appreciated by intelligent readers.
The cover design used on this book was made by C. O. Czeschka.
There is also a set of annotations, see Notes and Appendices to Lives of Fair and Gallant Ladies and a Historical Note by Henri Vigneau.
Unreliable narrator and gossip
Brantôme can hardly be regarded as a historian proper, and his Memoirs cannot be accepted as a very trustworthy source of information. But he writes in a quaint conversational way, pouring forth his thoughts, observations or facts without order or system, and with the greatest frankness and naiveté. His works certainly gave an admirable picture of the general court-life of the time, with its unblushing and undisguised profligacy. There is not an homme illustre or a dame galante in all his gallery of portraits who hasn't engaged in what Medieval Christian prescriptions as well as the Victorian society would regard as sexual immorality; and yet the whole is narrated with the most complete unconsciousness that there is anything objectionable in their conduct.
Themes include general promiscuity, older women, female infidelity and male cuckolds, chastity belts, a response to antifeminism and misogyny, forced seduction, succubi, Aretino's positions, excitement by visual stimuli by way of paintings, lesbianism (donna con donna), descriptions of the female intimate parts, thirty beauties of a woman, cunnilingus, fetishism, Magdalen's skull, sodomy, hermaphroditism and godemiches.
At the end of the chapter "Sur les dames qui font l'amour et leurs maris cocus," Brantome apologizes spiciness of some tales but assures his female readers, his "honourable ladies" (because he is well aware that women will be his main audience) that he has left out some tales which he deemed "impossible to cover ... with any veil of decent modesty". He adds that his tales are "no petty stories of market-town and village gossip" dealing with "common and humble personages" but "come from high and worthy sources" and with "with great and high subjects."
- "I beg all honourable ladies which shall read any of my tales in this chapter, if byhap they do pay any heed to the same, to forgive me and if they be somewhat highly spiced, for that I could scarce have disguised them in more modest fashion, seeing the sauce such must needs have. And I will say further I could well have cited others still more extravagant and diverting, were it not that, finding it impossible to cover the same with any veil of decent modesty, I was afeared to offend such honourable ladies as shall be at the pains and do me the honour to read my books. Now will I add but one thing further, to wit, that these tales which I have here set down are no petty stories of market-town and village gossip, but do come from high and worthy sources, and deal not with common and humble personages. I have cared not to have aught to do but only with great and high subjects, albeit I have dealt with such discreetly ; and as I name no names, I think I have well avoided all scandal and cause of offence. "
- "In what I say of women, I do speak of some, not of all; and of these, I do use only false names and garbled descriptions. I do keep their identity so carefully hid, none may discover it, and never a breath of scandal can come on them but by mere conjecture and vague suspicion, never by certain inference."source
[He] did enjoy the flesh he had thought to be spoiled
- I have heard a tale told of a certain great lady, which had been exceeding fair and much devoted to love. One of her old lovers having lost sight of her for the space of four years, through some journey he did undertake, on returning from the same did find her sadly changed from the fair countenance he had known erstwhile, the which did so disappoint him and chill his ardour as that he did no more care to board her nor to renew with her again the pleasure of former days. She did recognize him readily enough, did endeavour all she could to get him to come and see her. Accordingly to this end she did one day counterfeit sickness, and when he had come to visit her by daylight did thus say to him : "I know well enough, Sir ! you do scorn me for my poor face so changed by age; but come, look you, and see if there be aught changed there. If my face has deceived you, at any rate there is no deception about that." So the gentleman examining her and finding her as fair and sound as ever, did straight recover appetite and did enjoy the flesh he had thought to be spoiled. "Now this is the way, Sir," said the lady, "you men are deceived! Another time, give no credence to the lies our false faces tell ; for indeed the rest of OUR bodies doth by no means always match them. This is the lesson I would have you learn."
It is interesting that from the above passage has been omitted the phrase (et sur ce elle luy descouvrit toute la moitié du corps nud en bas) present in the excerpt below:
- J'ay ouy conter d'une grande dame qui avoit esté très-belle et bien adonnée à l'amour : un de ses serviteurs anciens l'ayant perdue de veue l'espace de quatre ans, pour quelque voyage qu'il entreprit, duquel retournant, et la trouvant fort changée de ce beau visage qu'il luy avait veu autresfois, et par ce en devint [si] fort degousté et reffroidy qu'il ne la voulut plus attacquer, ny renouveller avec elle le plaisir passé. Elle le recogneut bien, et fît tant qu'elle trouva moyen qu'il la vint voir dans son lict; et, pour ce, un jour elle contrefit de la malade, et, luy l'estant venue voir sur jour, elle luy dit : « Monsieur, je sçay bien que vous me desdaignez à cause de mon vi- sage changé par mon aage; mais tenez, voyez (et sur ce elle luy descouvrit toute la moitié du corps nud en bas) s'il y a rien de changé là. Si mon visage vous a trompé, cela ne vous trompe pas. »
- Le gentilhomme, la contemplant, et la trouvant par là aussi belle et nette que jamais, entra aussitost en appétit, et mangea de la chair qu'il pensoit estre pourrie et gastée. « Et voylà (dit la dame). Monsieur, voylà comme vous autres estes trompés! Une autre fois, n'adjoustez plus de foy aux menteries de nos faux visages : car le reste de nos corps ne les ressemble pas tousjours. Je vous apprens cela. » Les Vies 
She covered her face with a fair white kerchief
- I have heard speak of another lady, who whenever she did lie by daylight with her lover, was used to cover her face with a fair white kerchief of fine Holland web, for fear lest, if he should look in her face, the upper works might chill and stay his affection, and move him to mere disgust; for indeed below was naught to chide at, but all was as fine as ever. This doth remind me of yet another very honourable lady I have heard tell of, who did make a diverting and witty reply. Her husband one day asking her why her hair in one place was not grown white and hoary like that of her head, "Ah, yes," she did exclaim, "the wretch it is ! It hath done all the folly, yet doth it feel naught, nor experience any ill consequences. Many and many a time hath it made my head to suffer; whereas it doth ever remain unchanged, in the same good estate and vigour, and keepeth the same complexion, and above all the same natural heat, and the same appetite and sound health. But how far otherwise it is with my other parts, which do endure aches and pains for it, and my hair which hath long ago grown white and hoary."
Female infidelity and male cuckolds
Well, this is all I shall say on the subject of this Chapter, one I could have made a thousand times longer than I have done, having matter so ample and lengthy, that if all the cuckold husbands and their wives that do make them so, were to hold hands, and form a ring, I verily believe this would be great enough to surround and encircle a good half of the globe.
In the days of the late King Francis an old song was current, which I have heard a very honourable and venerable dame repeat, to the following effect :
- Mais quand viendra la saison
- Que les cocus s'assembleront,
- Le mien ira devant, qui portera la banniere ;
- Les autres suivront apres, le vostre sera au derriere.
- La procession en sera grande,
- L'on verra une tres longue bande.
(But when the season shall come that the cuckolds shall muster, then mine shall march in front, and shall bear the banner; the rest shall follow after, while yours shall bring up the rear. A grand sight will the procession of them be, a long, long train !)
It is not in the competence of the upper part to pledge itself for the lower
- "Other ladies there be which are complaisant herein up to a certain point of conscience and charity. Of this sort was one which would never suffer her lover, sleep with her as oft as he might, to kiss her the least in the world on the lips, giving as her reason that 'twas her mouth had made the oath of faith and fealty to her husband, and she would fain not foul the same by way of the very mouth that hade made and taken it. But as for that of the body, the which had said never a word and promised naught, this she did let him do with at his good pleasure, and made no scruple to yield to her lover, seeing it is not in the competence of the upper part to pledge itself for the lower, any more than for the lower for the upper. For that the custom of Law doth say that none can bind himself for another without the consent and word of either party, nor one only for the whole. " --Sur les dames qui font l'amour et leurs maris cocus
Always take the upper station and bring her man under her
- Woman on top (sex position)
- "Another most conscientious and scrupulous dame, when granting her friend enjoyment of her, would always take the upper station and bring her man under her, never abating one jot of this rule. For, by observing the same straitly and regularly, she would say, if her husband or any other did ask whether such an one had done to her, that she could deny even on oath, and assuredly protest, without sinning against God, that never had he done so with her. This oath she did so emphatically make as to quite satisfy her husband and others by dint of her confident swearing in answer to heir questions. So did they credit her in what she alleged, "yet had never the wit," she would say, "to demand if ever she had taken the upper part herself; by the which question they would have brought much scorn on me," she said, "and sore trouble of mind."--Sur les dames qui font l'amour et leurs maris cocus
Enjoy her through the bung-hole
But 'twere best of all to follow the advice given in the refrain of an old song of King Francis' time, which saith,
- Qui voudroit garder qu'une femme
- N'aille du tout a l'abandon,
- II faudroit la fermer dans une pipe,
- Et en jouir par le bondon.
In the reign of the late King Henri of France there was a certain jeweller which did import and expose for sale at the great Fair of St. Germains a round dozen of a certain contrivance for confining women's affairs. These were made of iron and were worn like a belt joining underneath and locking with a key, and were so cunningly framed that the woman, once confined therein, could never find opportunity for the pleasures of love, there being only a few little tiny holes in the thing for empissoyent through.
'Tis said that five or six jealous husbands were found ready to buy one, wherewith they did confine their wives in such wise they might well say, "Good-bye, good times for ever and aye!" Yet was there one wife who bethought her to apply to a locksmith very cunning in his art. So, when she had shown him the said contrivance, her husband being away in the country, he did so well use his ingenuity that he forged a false key therefor, so that the good lady could open and shut the thing at any time, whenever she would. The husband did never suspect or say a word, while the wife took her fill of the best of all pleasures, in spite of the jealous fool and silly cuckold her husband, who did imagine all the time he was living free of all apprehension of such a fate. But truly the naughty locksmith, which made the false key, quite spoiled his game ; yea \ and did even better, by what they say, for he was the first who tasted the dainty, and cuckolded him. Nor was this so extraordinary, for did not Venus, which was the fairest woman and harlot in all the world, mate with Vulcan, ironworker and locksmith, the which was exceeding mean-looking, foul, lame and hideous.
They say, moreover, that there were a number of gallant and honourable gentlemen of the Court which did threaten the jeweller that if ever again he should have aught to do with bringing such villainies with him, he would be killed. They bade him never come back again, and made him throw all the others that were left into the draught-house ; and since then no more has been heard of such contrivances. And this was wisely done; for truly 'twas as good, or as bad, as destroying one half of mankind, so to hinder the engendering of posterity by dint of such confining, locking up and imprisoning of nature, -- an abominable and hateful wrong to human productiveness.
Response to antifeminism and misogyny
"Estes ou fustes, d'effet ou de volonte, putes" is a antifeminist line of poetry by French author Jean de Meung written in Roman de la Rose which translates as "women every one are, or have been, mere whores, if not in deed, then in desire."
Brantome remarks that:
- "By these verses he did incur such ill will on the part of the Court ladies of that day, that by a plot sanctioned of the Queen and with her privity, these did undertake one day to whip the poet, and did strip him stark naked. But as all stood ready to strike, he did beseech them that at any rate the greatest whore of all should begin first. Then each for very shame durst not strike first; and in this wise he did escape the whip. Myself have seen the story represented in an old tapestry among the ancient furnishings of the Louvre.
Brantome mentions a lady who confessed that she liked to be "half-forced" by her husband, and he remarks that a woman who is "a little difficult and resists" gives more pleasure also to her lover than one who yields at once, just as a hard-fought battle is a more notable triumph than an easily won victory. --"Sur les dames qui font l'amour et leurs maris cocus"
- "I have heard speak of a Frenchwoman, town-bred, a lady of birth and of handsome looks, who was violated in our civil wars, in a town taken by assault, by a multitude of men-at-arms. On escaping away from these, she did consult a worthy Father as to whether she had sinned greatly, first telling him her story. He said, no! inasmuch as she had been had by force, and deflowered without her consent, but entirely misliking the thing. Whereon she did make answer: "Now God be praised, for that once in my life I have had my fill, without sinning or doing offence to God !" "--"Sur les dames qui font l'amour et leurs maris cocus"
- A lady of good quality, having been in like wise violated at the time of the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew, and her husband being dead, she did ask of a man of knowledge and right feeling, whether she had offended God, and whether she would not be punished of His sternness, and if she had not sorely wronged the manes of her husband, who had but only quite late been slain. He answered her, that if, when she was at this work, she had taken pleasure therein, then had she surely sinned ; but if she had felt but disgust at the thing, it was as if it had never been. A good and wise judgement!
- I once knew well a lady who held quite other views, for she was used to say : Never did she feel so great a pleasure in these doings, as when she was half forced and all but violated as it were, and then was there much pleasure therein. The more a woman showeth herself rebellious and recalcitrant, so much the more doth the man wax ardent and push home the attack; and so having once forced the breach, he doth use his victory more fiercely and savagely, and thereby giveth more appetite to the woman. The latter is for very delight like one half dead and swooned, or so it seemeth; but really 'tis by reason of the extreme pleasure she findeth therein. Indeed the same lady did actually say further, that oftentimes she would make these ados and show resistance to her husband, and play the prudish, capricious and scornful wife, and so put him the more on his mettle. Whereby when he did come to it, both he and she did find an hundredfold more pleasure; for many writers have noted, a woman pleaseth better who makes some little difficulties and resistances than when she lets herself straightway be taken. So in War is a victory won by force more signalised and hailed with greater delight and enthusiasm than when had for nothing, and the triumph thereof is sweeter. Yet must not the lady in all this overdo the part of the peevish and evil-tempered jade, else may she likely be mistaken rather for a silly whore wishful to be playing of the prude. But at such interference would she be sore offended, to go by what I am told by such dames as are most versed and apt in these matters, to the whom I do appeal. For far be it from me to give them instruction in things they do understand much better than I !
An anecdote of a gentleman who made love to a woman, always in the dark and who wanted to know who she was, for he feared she was a demon succubus.
- "Thus we see the said gentleman was much at fault to have asked her any questions. Rather should he have steadily pursued his pleasure and eaten his meat in quiet, just as tasty without candle at all as if illuminated by all the lights of a festal chamber. Still he had a right to know who she was ! and in a way his inquisitiveness was raiseworthy, seeing, as the Tale doth declare, he was afeared he had to do with some kind of demon. For devils of the sort love to change shape and take the form of women for to have intercourse with men, and do so deceive them sore. However, as I have heard sundry skilled in magic arts declare, such do find it more easy to take on the shape and countenance of a woman than to imitate her speech."
Pietro Aretino, who was born about fifty years before Brantome, is mentioned 8 times in this book.
More excitement by visual stimuli by way of paintings
In likewise do I remember me how once, in a gallery of the Comte de Chasteau-Villain, known as the Seigneur Adjacet, a company of ladies with their lovers having come to visit the said fair mansion, they did fall to contemplating sundry rare and beautiful pictures in the Gallery thereof. Among these they beheld a very beautiful picture, wherein were pourtrayed a number of fair ladies naked and at the bath, which did touch, and feel, and handle, and stroke, one the other, and intertwine and fondle with each other, and so enticingly and prettily and featly did show all their hidden beauties that the coldest recluse or hermit had been warmed and stirred thereat. Wherefore did a certain great lady, as I have heard it told, and indeed I do know her well, losing all restraint of herself before this picture, say to her lover, turning toward him maddened as it were at the madness of love she beheld painted; "Too long have we tarried here. Let us now straightway take coach and so to my lodging; for that no more can I hold in the ardour that is in me. Needs must away and quench it; too sore do I burn." And so she did haste away to enjoy her faithful lover.
Suchlike pictures and portrayals do bring more hurt to a weak soul than men think for. Another of the same sort there, was a Venus naked, lying on a couch and eyed by her son Cupid ; another, Mars a-bed with Venus, another, a Leda with her swan. Many other there be, both there and elsewhere, that are somedel more modestly painted and better veiled than the figures of Aretino; but all do come pretty much to one and the same, and are of the like nature with our cup whereof I have been speaking. This last had, as it were, a sort of likeness in unlikeness to the cup which Renault de Montauban found in the Castle Ariosto doth tell of, the which did openly discover unhappy husbands that were cuckolds, whereas this one was more likely to make them so. But while the one did cause somewhat too great scandal to cuckolds and their faithless wives, the other had no such effect.
From Sur les dames qui font l'amour et leurs maris cocus by Brantôme in the first discourse of Les Vies des Dames Galantes.
- "Martial in Epigram CXIX of his First Book. Therein doth he introduce and speak of a woman by name Bassa, a tribad, reproaching the same greatly in that men were never seen to visit her, in such wise that folk deemed her a second Lucretia for chasteness. But presently she came to be discovered, for that she was observed to be constantly welcoming at her house beautiful women and girls; and 'twas found that she herself did serve these and counterfeit a man. And the poet, to describe this, doth use the words, geminos committere cunnos. And further on, protesting against the thing, he doth signify the riddle and give it out to be guessed and imagined, in this Latin line :
- "a strange thing," that is, "that where no man is, yet is adultery done." "
There are several passages left untranslated in the Allinson translation:
- Voici un autre point, c'est que ces amours feminines se traitent en deux facons, les unes par fricarelles, et par, comme dit ce poete, geminos committere connos.
- Cette faon n'apporte point de dommage, ce disent aucuns, comme quand on s'aide d'instruments faconnes de . . . , mais qu'on a voulu appeler des g. . . .
- J'ai oui conter q'un grand prince, se doutant de deux dames de sa cour qui s'en aidaient, leur fit faire le guet si bien qu'il les surprit, tellement que 1'une se trouva saisie et accommodee d'un gros entre les jambes, si gentiment attache avec de petites bandelettes a l'entour du corps qu'il semblait un membre naturel. Elle en fut si surprise qu'elle n'eut loisir de l'oter; tellement que ce prince la contraignit de lui montrer comment elles deux se le faisaient.
- On dit que plusieurs femmes en sont mortes, pour engendrer en leurs matrices des apostumes faites par mouvements et frottements point naturels.
- J'en sais bien quelques-unes de ce nombre, dont ca ete grand dommage, car c'etaient de tres belles et honnetes dames et demoiselles, qu'il cut bien mieux valu qu'elles eussent eu compagnie de quelques honnetes gentilhommes, qui pour cela ne les font mourir, mais vivre et ressusciter, ainsi que j'espere le dire ailleurs; et meme que pour la guerison de tel mal, comme j'ai oui' conter a aucuns chirurgiens, qu'il n'y a rien de plus propre que de les faire bien nettoyer ladedans par ces membres naturels des hommes, qui sont meilleurs que des pessaires qu'usent les medecins et chirurgiens, avec des eaux a ce composees ; et toutef ois il y a plusieurs femmes, nonobstant les inconvenients qu'elles en voient arriver souvent, si f aut-il qu'elles en aient de ces engins contrefaits.
- J'ai oui faire un conte, moi etant lors a la Cour, que la reine mere ay ant fait commandement de visiter un jour les chambres et coffres de tous ceux qui etaient loges dans le Louvre, sans epargner dames et filles, pour voir s'il n'y avait point d'armes cachees et meme des pistolets, durant nos troubles, il y en cut une qui fut trouvee saisie dans son coffre par le capitaine des gardes, non point de pistolets, mais de quati'e gros g. . . . gentiment faconnes, qui donnerent bien de la risee au monde, et a elle bien de l'etonnement.
- Je connais la demoiselle : je crois qu'elle vit encore ; mais elle n'eut jamais bon visage. Tels instruments enfin sont tres dangereux. Je ferai encore ce conte de deux dames de la cour qui s'entr'aimaient si fort et etaient si chaudes a leur metier, qu'en quelque endroit qu'elles fussent ne s'en pouvaient garder ni abstenir que pour le moins ne fissent quelques signes d'amourettes ou de baiser; qui les scandulisaient si fort et donnaient a penser beaucoup aux homines. II y en avait une veuve, et 1'autre mariee ; et comme la mariee, un jour d'une grande magnificence, se fut fort bien paree et habillee d'une robe de toile d'argent, ainsi que leur maitresse etait allee a vepres, elles entrerent dans son cabinet, et sur sa chaise percee se mirent a faire leur fricarelle si rudement et si impetueusement qu'elle en rompit sous elles, et la dame mariee qui faisait le dessous tomba avec sa belle robe de toile d'argent a la renverse tout a plat sur l'ordure du bassin, si bien qu'elle se gata et souilla si fort qu'elle ne sut que faire que s'essuyer le mieux qu'elle put, se trousser, et s'en aller en grande hate changer de robe dans sa chambre, non sans pourtant avoir ete apercue et bien sentie a la trace, tant elle puait: dont il en fut ri assez par aucuns qui en surent le conte; meme leur maitresse le sut, qui s'en aidait comme elle, et en rit son saoul. Aussi il fallait bien que cette ardeur les maitrisat fort, que de n'attendre un lieu et un temps a propos, sans se scandaliser.
Descriptions of the female intimate parts
- "There be many husbands and lovers among us Christians which do desire to be in all respects different from the Turks, which last take no pleasure in looking at women closely, because they say, as I have stated above, they have no shape (they refers to the female intimate parts, E/N). We Christians on the other hand do find, 'tis said, great contentment in regarding them carefully and do delight in such. Nay ! not only do men enjoy seeing them, but likewise in kissing, and many ladies have shown their lovers the way."
Thirty beauties of a woman
The thirty then are as followeth :
- (Translated, for the reader's better comprehension:)
- Three things white: skin, teeth and hands.
- Three black: eyes, brows and lids.
- Three red: lips, cheeks and nails.
- Three long: body, hair and hands.
- Three short: teeth, ears and feet.
- Three wide: chest or bosom, forehead and space betwixt the eyes.
- Three narrow: mouth (upper and lower), girth or waist, and ankle.
- Three big and thick: arm, thigh and calf.
- Three long and fine: fingers, hair and lips.
- Three small and delicate: breasts, nose and head.
- Making thirty in all.
- Bezo las manos y los pies, senora!
- Senor, en el medio esta la mejore stacion
- "'Tis not only in our own day men have esteemed the beauty of fine legs and pretty feet (for 'tis one and the same thing; but in the time of the old Romans likewise we do read how Lucius Vitellius, father of the Emperor Vitellius, being very sore smit with love for Messalina and desiring to be in favour with her husband by her means, did one day beseech her to do him the honour of granting him a boon. The Empress asked him, "What boon?" " 'Tis this, Madam," he replied, "that you be pleased one day to suffer me to take off your shoes." Messalina, who was ever full of courtesy for her subjects, could not refuse him this favour. Then he, after removing her shoes, did keep one of them, and bore the same always about with him betwixt his shirt and his skin, kissing it as oft as ever he had opportunity, in this wise worshipping his lady's pretty feet in the guise of her slippers, forasmuch as he could not have at his disposal the foot itself nor the fine leg appertaining thereto."
- " J'ay ouy parler d'une grande Dame de par le monde, mais grandissime, qui ne se contentant de lasciveté naturelle 5 car elle estoit grande putain & estant mariée & veuve, aussi estoit-elle très-belle ; pour la provoquer & exciter d'avantage, elle faisoit despouiller ses Dames & Filles, je dis les plus belles, & se delectoit fort à les voir, & puis elle les battoit du plat de la main sur les fesses, avec de grandes clacquades & blamuses assez rudes, & les filles, qui avoient delinquè en quelque chose, avec de bonnes verges, & alors son contentement estoit de les voir remuer, & faire les mouvements & tordions de leurs corps & fesses, lesquelles selon les coups qu'elles recevoient, en monstroient de bien estranges & plaisantes. Aucunes fois, sans les despouiller, les faisoit trousser en robbe ; car pour lors elles ne portoient point de calçons, & les ciacquetoit & fouettoit & sur les fesses, selon le sujet qu'elles luy donnoient, ou pour les faire rire, ou pleurer, & sur ces visions & contemplations s'y aiguisoit si bien ses appetits, qu'après elle les alloit passer bien souvent à bon escient avec quelque galant homme bien fort & robuste," Vita ÌJ*£ Matate Galantea,
- "J'ay ouy dire à une honneste Dame, qu'estant fille, sa mere la fouettoit tous les jours deux fois, non pour avoir forfait, mais parce qu'elle pensoit qu'elle prenoit plaisir à la voir ainsi remuer les fesses et le corps, pour autant en prendre d'appetit ailleurs : et tant plus elle alla sur l'aage de quatorze ans, elle persista et s'y acharna de telle façon, qu'à mode qu'elle l'accostoit elle la contemploit encor plus."
- The first time ever I was in Italy, I was told, when passing through Venice, what did purport to be a true story of a certain Albanian knight, the which having surprised his wife in adultery, did kill the lover. And for spite that his wife had not been content with him, for indeed he was a gallant knight, and well fitted for Love's battles, so much so that he could engage ten or twelve times over in one night, he did contrive a strange punishment, and so did seek out carefully in all quarters a dozen stout fellows of the right lecherous sort, who had the repute of being well and vigorously built and very adroit in action. These he took and hired, and engaged the same for money. Then he did lock them in his wife's chamber, who was a very fair woman, and gave her up to them, beseeching them one and all to do their duty thoroughly, with double pay if that they did acquit themselves really well.
In the Cent Nouvelles of the Queen of Navarre will be found the most touching and saddest tale that can be read on this matter, the tale of that fair lady of Germany the which her husband was used to constrain to drink ever from the skull of her dead lover, whom he had slain. This piteous sight did the Seigneur Bernage, at that day ambassador in the said country for the French King Charles VIII., see and make report thereof.
The Heptameron is frequently mentioned, although Brantome refers to them as the Cent Nouvelles.
Male homosexuality and sodomy
Next there is yet another sort of cuckolds, one that of a surety is utterly abominable and hateful before God and man alike, they who, enamoured of some handsome Adonis, do abandon their wives to men of this kind in order to enjoy their favour in return.
The first time ever I was in Italy, I did hear of an example of this at Ferrara, the tale being told me of one who, captivated by a certain handsome youth, did persuade his wife to accord her favours to the said young man, who was in love with her, and to appoint a day and consent to do all he should bid her. The lady was willing nough, for truly she did desire no better venison to regale herself withal than this. At length was the day fixed, and the hour being come when the young lover and the lady were at their pleasant game and entertainment, lo! the husband, who was hid near at hand, according to the compact betwixt him and his wife, did rush in. So catching them in the very act, he did put his dagger to the lover's throat, deeming him worthy of death for such offence, in accordance with the laws of Italy, which herein be something more rigorous than in France. So was he constrained to grant the husband what he did desire, and they made exchange one with the other. The young man did prostitute himself and the husband did abandon his wife to the young man. Thus was the husband cuckold after an exceeding foul fashion.
I have heard tell of a lady, which being desperately in love with an honourable gentleman whom she had taken for lover and chief favourite, and this latter fearing the husband would do him or her some ill turn, did comfort him, saying, "Nay ! have no fear, for he would in no wise dare do aught, for dread I should accuse him of having wished to practice the backdoor Venus, which might well bring about his death, if I were to breathe the least word thereof and denounce him to justice. But in this way I do hold him in check and in terror, so that for fear of my accusation, he dares not say one word to me."
Without a doubt such accusation would have involved the poor husband in naught less than peril of his life; for the legists declare that this act is punishable for the mere wish to commit the same. But mayhap the lady did never mean to let out the word altogether, and would not have gone so far as this without reconsidering her intent.
I have heard a tale of a certain great lady, a Princess, which among all her maids of honour did love one above all and more than the rest. At first were folk greatly surprised at this, for there were plenty of others did surpass her in all respects. But eventually 'twas discovered she was a hermaphrodite.
I have heard a certain great lady also named as being hermaphrodite. She hath a virile member, but very tiny ; yet hath she more of the woman's complexion, and I know, by having seen her, she is very fair. I have heard sundry famous doctors say they have seen plenty such.
- "This lady was named Donna Madallena de Soria, the which, in the judgment of some, did a fine thing to kill her husband for the wrong he had done her; but did no less foolishly to slay herself, and indeed she doth admit as much, saying "for lack of understanding she did herself to death." She had done better to have led a merry life afterward, were it not, mayhap, she did fear the law and dread to get within its clutches, wherefore she did prefer to triumph over herself rather than trust her repute to the authority of the Judges. I can assure you, there have always been, and are yet women more astute than this ; for hey do play their game so cunningly and covertly, that lo ! you have the husband gone to another world, and themselves living a merry life and getting their complaisant gallants to give 'em no mere artificial joys with godemiches and the like, but the good, sound, real article. "
Usually, in the Allinson translation, the godemiche is presented by a g followed by an ellipsis, the written equivalent of the fig leaf, left untranslated in the Allinson translation:
- "Cette faon n'apporte point de dommage, ce disent aucuns, comme quand on s'aide d'instruments faconnes de . . . , mais qu'on a voulu appeler des g. . . . "
Here, Brantome mentions a strap-on godemiche:
- "J'ai oui conter q'un grand prince, se doutant de deux dames de sa cour qui s'en aidaient, leur fit faire le guet si bien qu'il les surprit, tellement que 1'une se trouva saisie et accommodee d'un gros entre les jambes, si gentiment attache avec de petites bandelettes a l'entour du corps qu'il semblait un membre naturel. Elle en fut si surprise qu'elle n'eut loisir de l'oter; tellement que ce prince la contraignit de lui montrer comment elles deux se le faisaient."
And here he adds that some women have died from using the godemiche:
- On dit que plusieurs femmes en sont mortes, pour engendrer en leurs matrices des apostumes faites par mouvements et frottements point naturels.