Venus in England  

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Image:Hogarth Dashwood.jpg
Portrait of Francis Dashwood, 15th Baron le Despencer by William Hogarth from the late 1750s, parodying Renaissance images of Francis of Assisi. The bible has been replaced by a copy of the erotic novel Elegantiae Latini sermonis, and the profile of Dashwood's friend Lord Sandwich peers from the halo.

Related e



world erotica, English censorship

Along with Paris, London in the second half of the 19th century was one of the first modern, urbanized societies with a literate population. Literacy is one of the prerequisites for the spreading of printed erotica and pornography. Henry Spencer Ashbee's bibliography has proven to be invaluable in documenting this period of erotic fiction.

The quintessential English erotic novel is Fanny Hill, but even Richardson's Pamela and Clarissa provided voyeuristic satisfaction to a new English audience. The development and rise of the novel as new genre, parallels the development of the erotic novel.

Even in the 17th century, when France had the reputation for erotica, and some English erotica consisted of French translations (the famous "whore dialogues") there were local authors of bawdy erotica like John Wilmot.

A special mention must go to the authors of Grub Street.

English erotica has some characteristics of its own, the most notable is that they are believed to be fond of spanking and flagellation. The French even called it Le vice anglais. Theresa Berkeley ran a brothel specializing in these services.


Middle Ages

Sheela na Gigs

Sheela na Gigs

Sheela na Gigs (or Sheela-na-Gigs) are figurative carvings of naked women displaying an exaggerated vulva. They are found on churches, castles and other buildings, particularly in Ireland and Britain, sometimes together with male figures. One of the best examples may be found in the Round Tower at Rattoo, in County Kerry, Ireland. A replica is located in the County Museum in Tralee town. Another well-known example can be seen at Kilpeck in Herefordshire, England.

Exeter Book

Exeter Book

Among the other texts in the Exeter Book, there are over ninety riddles. They are written in the style of Anglo-Saxon poetry and range in topics from the religious to the mundane. Some of them are double entendres, such as Riddle 25:

I am a wondrous creature for women in expectation,
a service for neighbors. I harm none of the citizens
except my slayer alone.
My stem is erect, I stand up in bed,
hairy somewhere down below. A very comely
peasant's daughter, dares sometimes,
proud maiden, that she grips at me,
attacks me in my redness, plunders my head,
confines me in a stronghold, feels my encounter directly,
woman with braided hair. Wet be that eye.

Answer: Onion

The Canterbury Tales

The Canterbury Tales

Well-known stories include the marriage group and "The Wife of Bath" (trope of the loathly lady), "The Miller's Tale (trope of the misdirected kiss)," "The Merchant's Tale" (senex amans) and "Troilus and Criseyde" (love at first sight).

The Merchant's Tale

The Merchant's Tale, AT 1423

The Merchant's Tale is one of the bawdier tales of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The Merchant's Tale is the story of a cuckolded an older husband and his young wife who by quick-witted lying get away with it. Though several of the tales are sexually explicit by modern standards, this one is especially so. One question that splits critics is whether the Merchant's tale is a fabliau. Typically a description for a tale of carnal lust and frivolous bed-hopping, some would argue that especially the latter half of the tale, where Damian and May make love in the tree with the blind Januarie at the foot of the tree, represents fabliau.

17th century

18th century

18th century England, Scottish Enlightenment

Visual arts

18th century English art


18th century English literature, Eighteenth-Century British Erotica (5-Volume Set)

The Ladies Delight (1732)* Harris's List of Covent-Garden Ladies (1786(?)-93)

19th century

Victorian erotica, 19th century erotica, William Etty

William Etty (York 10 March 1787 – 13 November 1849) was an English painter, best known for his paintings of nudes, such as Standing Female Nude, Sleeping Nymph and Satyrs (1828) and one of Gyges of Lydia.

20th century


In postwar Britain digest magazines such as Beautiful Britons, Spick and Span, with their interest in nylons and underwear and the racier Kamera published by Harrison Marks were incredibly popular. The creative force behind Kamera was Harrison Marks' partner Pamela Green. These magazines featured nude or semi-nude women in extremely coy or flirtatious poses with no hint of pubic hair.


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