Sep 062014

SSS light guinea lwlpr03817Which do you want: the good news or the bad news? The bad news is that there will probably be fewer blog posts from the Georgian Gentleman, at least for the next 12 months or so. Maybe trickling along at a blog-a-week instead of three or four a week, but certainly a reduction while I concentrate on other matters….

Which brings me to the good news – I have signed a contract with Pen & Sword Books to write a new book, on a topic close to my heart – those scandalous Georgians. It will be entitled “In bed with the Georgians – Sex, Scandal and Satire” and will deal the whole panoply of human foibles. It will feature, amongst other delights, royal shenanigans, crim.con. cases, tarts with hearts, courtesans and strumpets, bagnios and jelly houses, seraglios and nunneries, cundums and the clap. It will look at Harris’s list and the whole range of “sex for sale”. I will be researching posture molls, bawds and “threepenny stand-ups” and I will be looking at the way Society raised the courtesans of the day to celebrity status. They were the fashion icons, the role models, the WAGS of their day – and for many it was a short life but a very merry one.

SSS Catching an elephant lwlpr11603‘Catching an Elephant’ from the Lewis Walpole site (as is the image at the head of this piece).

The book will also look at the way sexual misconduct was represented in Grub Street and in newspapers, and also feature lots of highly improper satirical prints lampooning the great and the good. Let’s face it, I’ve always loved Gillray and Rowlandson, and will relish the opportunity of giving an airing to some of their more indecent prints. It will of course all be done in the best possible taste!

The publishers, lovely people, have given me until 2016 to come up with the completed manuscript. I have already selected many of the seventy-odd images which I intend to use – most of them in full colour but with a handful (mostly newspaper cuttings) in black and white. Many of the illustrations will come from the Lewis Walpole Library site, topped up with ones from the Metropolitan Museum in New York , the Library of Congress, and the Paul Mellon Center for British Art at Yale University. Obviously I will use some from the British Museum site, but at their rates it will have to be kept to a minimum! For those of you who don’t know, the American Museums seem to be rather better-endowed than their British counterparts and often will not seek to make a charge for supplying high-definition copies. Long may they prosper!

So, I will aim to release snippets from time to time as blog material, while continuing to do separate blogs when the fancy takes me. 2016 seems a long way off, but it will pass quickly, especially as I have accepted a lecture tour on one of the cruise ships this coming Spring. I also have my next tome “An Illustrated Introduction  to the Georgians” due out in two months time, so there is a lot of proof-reading and index compilation to do! Meanwhile I am reading loads of 18th Century newspapers such as The Rambler, the Town & Country, the Morning Herald, the Gentleman’s Magazine and so on, as well scouring websites for references to Georgian scandals.

I am well aware of the fact that there is nothing new under the sun, but I hope that the end result will be highly readable. It will not be aimed at academics, but will, I hope, capture some of the smut and innuendo which characterized prints and newspapers of the period. I just hope the publishers know what they are letting themselves in for! Here is one they haven’t yet been asked to approve….

SSS Thomas Rowlandson cunnyseurs                 Cunnyseurs, by Thomas Rowlandson

Dec 062013

This is intended to mark the end of a week which sees a collection of blog posts under the banner of “Peckers, dildos and peccadilloes” – a miscellany of posts “with an adult theme” where the only link is bad taste and smutty humour. For some reason I thought it particularly appropriate to have a week of such posts in that dreary period leading up to Christmas…  If it is not to your taste, look away!

Some of you may know that Thomas Rowlandson was a promising art student who studied at the Royal Academy, who spent time in France, and who inherited a small fortune (well, £7000 was a lot of money in the 18th Century) and then blew the lot on riotous living, gambling and general dissipation. When the dosh ran out he sought to make a living drawing caricatures, and engraving plates for other artists. He also found a profitable side-line in making pornographic prints “for gentlemen” who, presumably, collected them to help pass the time of day amongst friends after a particularly fine  dinner.

I love the underlying theme – that old men are at risk from the predations of scandalously under-clad young ladies, that they are never safe from their womanly wiles. For anyone who is unaware that men and women have sexual organs, I must apologize for the shock, but the un-defaced originals are all there for you to see on Wikimedia Commons here.

3In this picture we have two elderly gentlemen who, for some reason which the artist does not explain, find themselves sans culottes. Maybe it has rained heavily and they found it necessary to lower their sodden trousers. Or maybe, being absent-minded, they had simply forgotten to pull them all the way up that morning. Whatever the reason, nothing can justify the behaviour of the wanton woman who assaults them both simultaneously. Rowlandson has done a wonderful job of catching their shock and horror at having their manhood seized by the well-endowed strumpet who seems intent on having her wicked way with them both. Well, what was a man to do?

Sometimes it looks as though the men are perhaps enjoying the experience, as in this gentle post-prandial scene:


But then look closely – one man in the foreground is being violently sick, but this does not stop the wicked minx lying on top of him. Other men are clearly discussing the cricket score or seeking to have a much-needed drink to quench their thirst. Rowlandson adds the words “With women and wine I defy every care. For life without them is a volume of aire” –  admittedly an ambiguous comment but I choose to think that what Rowlandson is saying here is that he welcomes a breath of fresh air after dinner – not more wine and women! Or perhaps I have mis-read the sorry scene…

4There was no safety in numbers – your friends are waiting outside the door wanting you to come and help them with that morning’s crossword puzzle and you find yourself accosted by a voracious vixen. Such bad form to cavort like that under the beady eye of your fore-father, looking down in a disapproving manner from the wall above! Our hero strives to put a good face on things, but you can be sure that he is an unwilling participant in the sordid scene….

5It wasn’t just above stairs that these unwelcome attentions occurred. Pity the poor manservant in this print. Clearly he has gone to the dairy to fetch a cup of milk, or perhaps to find a quiet spot to contemplate the latest score in the Federation League between Trinidad and Jamaica, and this young lady forces herself upon him. Somehow I think Rowlandson has failed to capture the anguish, the utter despair, on the young man’s face. Perhaps Rowlandson wasn’t too familiar with the Caribbean countenance, but the title (The Dairy Maid’s delight) makes it clear that the pleasure is all hers.

Mr Rowlandson: you were a voyeur and a Dirty Old Man. And also a fine artist with many talents for recording the world around you!

Dec 042013

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"

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.”

a0The 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

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).


Dec 032013

Continuing with the “Peckers dildos and peccadilloes” theme:


What is a merkin? Is it

a) a slang term for an American?

b) a lure used in fly fishing?

or    c) a pubic hair wig?

Answer: All of the above.

LBJApparently it started to be used to describe an American after LBJ, then President of the USA, referred to his fellow countrymen in his Texas drawl as what sounded like “merkin people.” It caught on, especially now on the internet.

aa14The second meaning is clearly derived from the third one – the fishing lure vaguely resembles a patch of  alluring (?) hair. Which leads us on to the original meaning of the word, one which the Oxford English Dictionary dates back to 1614. Nowadays, in a world of “landing strips” and “Brazilians” it may seem odd that anyone uses a merkin, but au contraire, I am assured that there is a market for these hair pieces – either with showgirls wanting to cover their modesty, or with film actresses wanting to evade the censor when it comes to “no full nudity.” aa15Indeed I came across a curious advertisement for “The Kitty carpet” which extols the advantages of “a soft, adhesive merkin that fits over your pubic area to supply you with pubic hair when you need it most.” It gushes:

“Going to the beach with your grandmother? Dating an Amish guy? Filming a nude scene in a 1920’s period piece? The Kitty Carpet can give back a piece of what nature intended you to have. Or maybe your carpet just doesn’t match the drapes. That’s one of the reasons the Kitty Carpet is available in Black, Blonde and Pink….Cover your lady bits with a Kitty Carpet in any situation where you don’t want to show the full monty.”

The Oxford Companion To The Body traces the merkin back to 1450, and gives an account of a gentleman who came into possession of a prostitute’s merkin, washed and dried it, gave it a good brush, and then presented it to a cardinal, telling him he had brought him St Peter’s beard….

It’s a rather nice furry little word. Almost onomatopoeic. But, what has it got to do with life in the Georgian period? Because three hundred years ago merkins were not uncommon. They weren’t made out of nylon, they weren‘t a garish pink colour – indeed they were most likely to have been made from a mouse skin which had been dried and “cut to fit”. For what purpose? Well, taking my inspiration from the fulsome enthusiasm of Kitty Carpet:

“Are you a hooker who wants to hide those syphilitic sores? Are you scared that your next customer might lose interest in you when he sees that you have had to shave ‘down there’? Going bald – or wanting to hide the fact that those itching lice have given you the crabs so bad that you shaved your pubic area? Face the world with new confidence – wear a Mikey’s Merkin. Available from our shop at the Sign of the Cross in St James’s Street.”

No, definitely NOT a merkin! In fact a  red fox fur Dress Sporran from Kinloch Anderson

No, definitely NOT a merkin! In fact a red fox fur Dress Sporran from Kinloch Anderson

Remember, this was in the days when shaving body hair was not for nice girls. But body lice were prevalent in an age before personal hygiene came top of the list, and when washing, whether of your clothes or of your body, could be infrequent. Shaving was the best way of reducing the itch – but it did mean you risked comparison with the other class of shavers – the prostitutes. As venereal disease caught hold they would shave to enable the sores to be treated, and then cover their private parts with a dainty piece of mouse-hide so as not to frighten the punters. And no, I am not sure what they used to attach the mouse skin. Nowadays they are either woven on to a mesh and stuck on with spirit gum, or attached to a transparent G-string. It would be nice to think that the Georgians made theirs out of beaver hide (as in “Nice beaver”) but I have found no record to support that hypothesis…

Apparently it was also popular as a way of warning off a woman who was having an affair with your husband. Knit her a merkin and give it to her (a sign that you know that she is lousy and needs a wig down there). Better still, tell her that your husband ‘says to make sure that you wear it next time’ – meaning that your husband suspects that she has the pox, and that you know that she is no better than a common strumpet.

This theme was followed up in a ballad popularised in the 17th Century, which told the tale of a virtuous woman who is picked upon by her sluttish neighbours. They decided to humiliate her for her decency by making dildos and planting them upright in flower pots and then lobbed them over her garden wall. And then they knitted merkins and sent them to her – in other words implying that she was no more virtuous than they were.


The details appear courtesy of the English Broadside Ballad Archive, and in case your eyesight is as poor as mine, it includes this passage:

“Some that were void of grace and shame,

Merkins and Dildoes made,

And threw them o’re their neighbors wall,

this was a hopeful Trade.

A Person of great worth and fame,

whose Vertues well were known,

These Sluts were minded to defame,

as plainly shall be shown”


So, there you have it – no smirkin’ at my merkin! Wear yours with pride – Gay Pride if you prefer the rainbow look…

 Rainbow_01 (Shown courtesy of Ed Shepp).

Dec 022013

As it is my birthday this week, and I am off looking for African elephants, I thought I would celebrate with some posts under the general umbrella of “Peckers, dildos and peccadilloes” – in other words, if you are of a nervous disposition then avoid my posts for the rest of the week! For those of you  who are adult enough to realize that even the Georgians had sex, and enjoyed it, I hope you will find these researches of interest.

Three years ago a remarkable pair of items came up for auction at Brentwood in Essex – a reminder that sex toys have been around for many centuries. The items were wooden phalluses ( – or is it phallii ?).


©Brentwood Antiques

They sold for £3,600

The website for Brentwood Antiques is here  but the original Lot details no longer appear. They had read:

“Lot Number: 340. Erotica. An extraordinary and exceptionally rare ‘Travel Godermiche’ being a pair of wooden phallus contained within a fitted kid leather covered Treen case with strap fleurs-de-lys decoration, one phallus 10 inches and with testicles and the other 11 inches and without testicles. The case, although having a re-lined interior appears to have age commensurate with those of the phallus and both are thought to date from the late 18th century and are probably French.”

Well, they would be French, wouldn’t they? Staff at Brentwood Antiques Auction described the sex toys as “extraordinary and exceptionally rare.”

Although the pair may well date from the 1790’s the craze for buying such items – whether you call them dildos, godermiches, consolateurs or bijoux indescets – dated back another one hundred years. It may seem odd to know that in the 1690’s dildos could be bought openly in shops in London, although admittedly this illustration may have been a bit of an exaggeration!


John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester wrote a scandalous poem about the availability of dildos in shops:-

“At the Signe of the Crosse in St James’s Street,

When next you go thither to make your Selfes Sweet,

By Buying of Powder, Gloves, Essence, or Soe

You may Chance get a Sight of Signior Dildo.

You’l take him at first for no Person of Note

Because he appears in a plain Leather Coat:

But when you his virtuous Abilities know

You’ll fall down and Worship Signior Dildo. “

Another poem contained the words:

“You ladies all of merry England

Who have been to kiss the Duchess’ hand,

Pray, did you not lately observe in the show

A noble Italian called Signor Dildo?”



Eager to find any other phallic images in 18th Century cartoons I came across this one, lampooning that much-hated hedonist (and, worst of all, foreign) Marie Antoinette. The man riding the grand erection is the great French General and politician Lafeyette – the implication being that he and the Queen were having an adulterous liaison. Highly unlikely – but the Queen was so unpopular that people could say anything they liked about her, and who cares about the truth? Charges of adultery, incest lesbianism and general debauchery were always being thrown at her door, the poor misunderstood woman!




4And to end with, an image which I feel must be granted a wider audience. I came across it on the site of Pepper steak and Polyester at

where it is tagged “dildog.” Rarely have I seen a canine looking so pleased with itself!