Carrying on with the “Peckers dildos and peccadilloes” theme:
At present I am much enjoying reading James Boswell’s London Journal – an account of his foray to the capital between 1762 and 1763. One of the early threads in the narrative is his ardent desire for a spot of nookie; how he befriends a young actress called Louisa and over a period of some weeks persuades her to accompany him to a coaching inn, where they spend the night at what he describes as “a luscious feast.” He is particularly proud of his “godlike vigour” as five times he was “fairly lost in supreme rapture.” Boswell, always skint at the time, rather proudly records that the total expense for his night of passion was eighteen shillings all-in (rather better than the “splendid Madam at fifty guineas a night” he describes in an earlier passage, and ostensibly less risky than going with what, in the vernacular, was described as “a Three Penny Upright” – in other words a whore who would stand while offering her virtue for threepence).
Detail from Newton’s “Progress of a Woman of Pleasure”
In the account Boswell describes with some humour how the heightened anticipation of the chase is followed by a somewhat less godlike performance over the ensuing encounters, until the couple end up practising their French on each other rather than thrashing about in wild ecstacy…
Young Boswell was right to worry about the high surgeon’s fees in the City – indeed he would have done just as well if he had saved his money and gone with the cheaper option, for it is not long before he describes the fiery pain which “too too plain was Signior Gonorrhoea.”
The diaries are delightfully open about the whole episode, and how Boswell had to seek treatment – probably involving being injected into his errant member with a mercury concoction delivered by a clyster like this one shown courtesy of the Wellcome Institute site.
Boswell berated young Louisa for giving him the clap, but she insists that although she had the disease some eighteen months prior to their encounter, she considered herself cured. At the time it was thought that the only “armour” against catching the Great Pox (to distinguish it from the Small Pox) was to wear a condom.
In 2000 Christie’s auctioned three such prophylactics and raised a magnificent £881, describing them as “Three 18th-Century sheep gut condoms, with silk ties, the longest — 9in. (23cm.).” They were apparently “Condoms (French Letters or Cap-Anglais) discovered by Lady Salmong amongst some 18th Century documents.”
The condoms – always intended to prevent infection for the man rather than to avoid pregnancy in the woman – were made from sheep intestines. Manufacture was a laborious process involving soaking the intestines in water for some hours, softening the tissue by soaking it in a mixture of lye for several days, changing the solution regularly, scraping off the mucous membrane, softening it by steaming it over hot sulphur, washing and drying it thoroughly before finally cutting it to fit and threading pink ribbon around the top edge. The thread was intended to be tied around the man’s “yard” so as to keep everything in place. Simples! Oh, and it needed to be soaked in water before use, to make it supple…
Quality control in a condom warehouse, c.1744
I am reminded of the fascination, as a child, of coming across a box containing my father’s re-usable condom. Ironic really – even that horrendously thick and sensation-destroying monstrosity was insufficient to prevent my appearance in the world, since my birth was neither planned nor intended! Mind you, I know another relative who was so scared of conceiving that she insisted on her husband wearing not one but two condoms at the same time, the first held firmly in place with an elastic band! Ah, the delights of spontaneous love..
(I am indebted to History Hoydens for the picture of “Quality control in a condom warehouse”, apparently taken from “Sex in Georgian England” by A.D. Harvey).