Victorian erotica has been overlooked, but erotic Victorian photographs are some of the most powerfully charged images of that century. Victorian pornography did not exist, after all, in a vacuum, and erotic photographs were among the first productions of the invention of photography.
'Pornography falls into two categories: historic and contemporary. For most, the latter is only for masturbatory purposes. But the former can act as a fascinating window on the murkier areas of our past...
We listen to poetry, look at a painting, read a novel and we see the world through the mind's eye of the poet, painter or novelist. With photography, it's different - we must look through the photographer's lens with him. With pornographic photographs, actions are often reduced to a kind of frozen, sexual choreography, yet, despite the ham-fisted direction, the veil occasionally lifts and we encounter a moment, often one of great poignancy, that is almost tangible in its realism.'
Probably the first book published in this country to unite the most highly explicit nineteenth-century pornographic images with similar texts of the same period, we explore the outer limits of Victorian depravity. Often amusing, sometimes touching, usually explicit and always extremely erotic, these images, juxtaposed with their literary sisters, bring the Victorian era to life in a way that has eluded most historians.
'Sir Edward could contain himself no longer and, grasping Alice's head with both his hands, he pushed his weapon well into her mouth and spent down her throat. He lay back in a swoon of delight, and the girl, wet as she could be, leant her head against his knee, almost choked by the violence of the delightful emission and stunned by the mystery revealed to her.'
Taken from the anonymous erotic novel The Yellow Room, published in 1891, the excerpt above is only a sample of the notorious Victorian 'underground' texts. Others included are The Lustful Memoirs of a Young and Passionate Girl and The Adventures of a Schoolboy.
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