Victorian erotica  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Victorian attitude that pornography was for a select few can be seen in the wording of the Hicklin test stemming from a court case in 1868 where it asks, "whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences."

Contents

Literature

Victorian literature

In the Victorian period, the quality of erotic fiction was much below that of the previous century — it was written by 'hacks'. Some works, however, borrowed from established literary models, such as Dickens. It also featured a curious form of social stratification. Even in the throes of orgasm, the social distinctions between master and servant (including form of address) were scrupulously observed. Significant elements of sado-masochism were present in some examples, perhaps reflecting the influence of the English public school. These works were often anonymous, and undated, and include such titles as The Lustful Turk (1828); The Way of a Man with a Maid; A Weekend Visit, The Romance of Lust (1873); The Autobiography of a Flea (1887); Venus in India (1889) by 'Captain Charles Devreaux'; Raped on the Railway: A True Story of a Lady who was first ravished and then flagellated on the Scotch Express (1894); Flossie, A Venus of Fifteen: By one who knew this Charming Goddess and worshipped at her shrine (1897) and My Lustful Adventures by 'Ramrod'.

Clandestine erotic periodicals of this period include The Pearl a collection of erotic tales, rhymes, songs and parodies published in London between 1879 to 1880.

Towards the end of the century, a more "cultured" form of erotica began to appear by such as the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne who pursued themes of paganism, lesbianism and sado-masochism in such works as Lesbia Brandon and in contributions to The Whippingham Papers edited by St George Stock, author of The Romance of Chastisement. This was associated with the Decadent movement, in particular, with Aubrey Beardsley and the Yellow Book.

Prostitution

Victorian morality, Women in the Victorian era, Prostitution in the Victorian era

Beginning in the late 1840s, major news organizations, clergymen, and single women became increasingly concerned about prostitution, which came to be known as "The Great Social Evil". Estimates of the number of prostitutes in London in the 1850s vary widely (in his landmark study, Prostitution, William Acton reported that the police estimated there were 8,600 in London alone in 1857). When the United Kingdom Census 1851 publicly revealed a 4% demographic imbalance in favour of women (i.e., 4% more women than men), the problem of prostitution began to shift from a moral/religious cause to a socio-economic one. The 1851 census showed that the population of Great Britain was roughly 18 million; this meant that roughly 750,000 women would remain unmarried simply because there were not enough men. These women came to be referred to as "superfluous women" or "redundant women", and many essays were published discussing what, precisely, ought to be done with them.

See also

Bibliography




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