Tuesday 25 August 2009

The Future of OCR and 18C texts

Benjamin Pauley contributed to a discussion on the C18-List this morning about the difficulty of search the OCR output of 18C texts, a subject close to my heart. (I have presented a number of papers on the difficulties of searching ECCO for certain terms, and have just submitted an essay on the subject). Anyway, Pauley writes:

As best I understand it, the problem is that there currently isn’t any “good” OCR for eighteenth-century material (hence the shaky state of text searching even with resources like ECCO and the Burney Collection, let alone Google). So far, the long-s, as well as the all ‘round variability of eighteenth-century print have just been too hard for OCR to crack reliably: sometimes it’s pretty good, sometimes it’s almost comically bad, but it’s never so accurate as to avoid both false positives and false negatives.

This may be changing in the not-too-distant future, though. Laura Mandell recently announced that 18thConnect, the project she and Robert Markley are directing, has reached an agreement in which they will receive page images from Gale/Cengage (the proprietors of ECCO) and use them to develop an OCR system optimized for eighteenth-century print. She provides some of the details at http://earlymodernonlinebib.wordpress.com/2009/08/07/18thconnect/. The improved clean text that 18thConnect will create will get sent back to Gale/Cengage, so users of ECCO should see improvements in full-text searching when that happens.

The really exciting thing, though, as I see it, is that this improved “clean” text will be also be available for searching at 18thConnect, whether or not you have access to ECCO. Searching for a word or phrase against the new, cleaner textbase that 18thConnect will create will produce a link to the pertinent record in ECCO, another link for an ESTC record, and so on (18thConnect, like NINES, will aggregate peer-reviewed digital materials, so you might get a link to, say, a high-quality hypertext edition of a text, as well).

Subscribers to ECCO will be able to click on the link at 18thConnect and get access to the text through their institution’s subscription. Those who don’t have access to ECCO still get the benefit of knowing which texts they should examine the next time they’re at a research library. Or, armed with the ESTC number, you could try checking my web site, which David Mazella linked to the other day, to see if anyone’s found a copy of the text you want at Google Books, the Internet Archive, etc.

Modestly, Pauley doesn't provide a link to his site, but I will. Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker is here. The site is brilliant, and actually renders a little redundant my Haywood text link pages, but not my Erotica pages. If you look here you will see what I mean.

David Mazella actually links to a preview of Pauley's site on Anna Battigelli and Eleanor Shevlin's Early Modern Online Bibliography: EEBO, ECCO, and Burney Collection Online, which has a "Bibliography of Articles Pertaining to Early Modern Online Text-bases" (here). Discovering this site was both exciting and a bit disappointing, since—as I said at the outset—I have just submitted an essay on this subject and, although I located most of this material, there are a few articles I missed! Battigelli and Shevlin have actually posted on the individual essays in this Bibliography, so their site is a kind-of annotated bibliography of the subject.

As for Laura Mandell and Robert Markley's 18thConnect, well it sounds a very promising development. Mandell's online ALA talk explains that 18thConnect is to be a data aggregator that will allow users to access all the major 18C texts simultaneously. Importantly, 18thConnect has succeeded in getting Gale to hand over the scans of all of their ECCO pages to be re-processed by more sophisticated OCR software producing, it is claimed, better texts, which will be retuned to ECCO and be available to ECCO users.

The ECCO-Text Creation Partnership has manually created 2,418 very accurate (re-keyed texts) typed, which have been encoded for ECCO, but these texts are only accessible to ECCO-Text Creation Partners. So it is not clear how quickly the 18thConnect OCR will be available, and to whom.

Still, Mandell is undoubtedly right: proprietary but junk OCR of the variety that has been thus far generated by mass microfilm scanning projects is doomed. Only clean, open-access texts will be used, copied, swapped and survive the myriad hardware and software changes of the coming decades; changes that will inevitable consign ECCO to an even dingier corner of the library than that presently inhabited by microcard readers.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

The English Aphrodites, Part 2

In my last post, I traced the story of the English Aphrodites, to a French work printed in 1906, “Jean Hervez” [aka Raoul Vèze], Les sociétés d'amour au xviiie siècle.

Although this text was on Google Books, it was not available to me in Australia due to the idiotic restrictions that Google imposes out of fear of copyright infringement. Googles' thinking seems to be this. "Since we can't be sure anywhere outside of America exists, or, if it exists, what the laws are that govern copyright we will abide by American law in America, but act as if copyright lasts forever everywhere else." Or, if not forever, then 200 years (which is 80 years plus the life of the author—which may extend to 120 years). In practice, of course, they actually block material that is more than 200 years old: I have often encountered eighteenth-century texts that were scanned from original editions that are unavailable in Australia. Idiots.

Anyway, I eventually discovered a way around this. It is possible, on the web, to pretend to be American. Rather than adopting a Valley Girl or Texan accent, all you do is search for "Free Proxy Server"; once you find one (like this one) you open up another browser window, do the search that is blocked, copy the URL into the Free Proxy Server and it will make Google think that your query is coming from the US and provide access to the text.

I discovered this neat trick, did my search again, and was able to get access to the full text of Les sociétés d'amour au xviiie siècle. Having done so, I have downloaded and edited the text (below) of Chapter 7 (pp. 206–37). The most important bit is in the third paragraph of this chapter. Raoul Vèze writes:

Comme garantie de leur existence réelle, nous ne possédons qu'un ouvrage d'Andréa de Nerciat, trop licencieusement écrit pour pouvoir être livré au public. (207)

[As a guarantee of their real existence [i.e., the Aphrodites], we possess only a work of Andréa of Nerciat, too licencentious to be delivered to the public.]

Vèze goes on to cite and to summarise André Robert de Nerciat's novel, Les Aphrodites ou Fragments thali-priapiques pour teroir à l'histoire du plaisir (1793). Vèze sketches the main characters, the villa and grounds, the arrangement of the club, and describes in turn each of the characters who appear in this pornographic novel. Mme Durnt, for example is described thus:

A la tête de ce personnel se trouve Mme Durnt, surintendante des menus, la cheville ouvrière du bonheur des Aphrodites, la femme à la fois la meilleure, la plus utile et la plus aimable. Agée de 36 ans, elle est brune, blanche, dodue, irrégulièrement jolie, très bien conservée, et fort piquante encore. Bonne, vive, étonnamment active, intrigante, elle est dominée par un indomptable tempérament. (217)

[The head of personnel is Mrs. Durnt, superintendent of menus, the mainstay of the happiness of the Aphrodites, the best woman and, at the same time, the most useful and pleasant. She is 36 years old, it is a brunette, pale-skinned, plump, irregularly pretty, very well preserved, and extremely piquante still. Cheerful, lively, surprisingly active, a busy-body, she is dominated by an untameable temperament.]

Vèze concludes his overview with a description of the chronicler the Aphrodites:

Le chroniqueur de l'association, consciencieusement explicite, nous a transmis l'album d'une Aphrodite, dont le surnom est trop brutal pour pouvoir être transcrit. L'album enregistre le chiffre de quatre mille neuf cent cinquante-neuf, en vingt ans, à peine par conséquent deux cent soixante à deux cent quatre-vingts par an, pas un par jour. “Le total impose d'abord, au détail ce n'est rien.”
  II comprend deux cent soixante-douze princes, grands seigneurs, gens à cordon, prélats; neuf cent vingt-neuf militaires (officiers, bien entendu); quatre-vingt-treize rabbins (pour ce qu'ils valent au boudoir!); trois cent quarante-deux financiers (pour les sacs); deux cent trente-neuf de la calotte; quatre cent trente-quatre moines, la plupart cordeliers, carmes ou bernadins, quelques ex-jésuites; quatre cent vingt gens de société; cent dix-sept inconnus; seize cent quatorze étrangers (pendant quatre ans de séjour à Londres); deux cent quatre-vingt-huit gens du commun, soldats, ouvriers, gens raccrochés la nuit au Palais-Royal ou sur les boulevards; deux oncles, douze cousins, etc., en tout vingt-cinq parents; cent dix-sept valets; cent dix-neuf musiciens, histrions, sauteurs; quarante-sept nègres, mulâtres et quarterons. Certains des inscrits ont leurs noms marqués de guillemets et de virgules … (234–35)

[The chronicler of the association, conscientiously explicit, transmitted to us; an album of Aphrodite, whose nickname is too crude to be transcribed. The album records the figure of four thousand and nine hundred and fifty-nine liaisons, in twenty years, that is two hundred and sixty to two hundred and eighty per annum, not even one per day. “The total imposes at first, with the details this is nothing.”
  This includes two hundred sixty-[plus one] dozen princes, Grand Lords, men of the cloth, prelates; nine hundred twenty-nine soldiers (officers, of course); four-score and thirteen rabbis (for what they are worth in the boudoir!); three hundred forty-two financiers (for the money); two hundred thirty-nine of the tonsure; four hundred thirty-four monks, the majority cordeliers, Carmelite friars or bernadins, some ex-Jesuits; four hundred and twenty people of company; one hundred seventeen unknown; sixteen hundred and fourteen foreigners (during four years stay in London); two hundred and eighty eight commoners, soldiers, workmen, people hung up at night in the Palais Royal or on the boulevards; two uncles, twelve cousins, etc, in all twenty-five parents; one hundred and seventeen servants; one hundred and nineteen musicians, historians, acrobats; forty seven negros, mulattos and quarters. Some of the registered names have their names marked in quotation marks and commas …]

From all of this it should be abundantly clear now that the documentary evidence for this English club turns out to be—contrary to the claim of Nina Epton—the imagination of a French pornographer. With this in mind it is rather amusing to return to some of the places that this fantasy has recently been represented as reality. Google throws up a typical reference in Jill Tweedie, In the Name of Love: A Study of Sexual Desire (2000), 47:

The Aphrodites of the eighteenth century, for instance, were the lady members of an exclusive and scandalous club … One indefatigable Aphrodite confided in her journal that during twenty years she had had 4,959 amorous rendezvous that included … A swinger indeed and an intrepid one, willing to outface every hazard that confronts a woman when she makes love or lust. Madame, I salute you.

As we have seen, Ms Tweedie's salutation should be to André Robert de Nerciat; and one should be wary of confusing fantasy with reality.

My next post will contain the text of Nerciat's novel.

* * * * *

Jean Hervez (pseud. of Raoul Vèze), Les sociétés d'amour au xviiie siècle (1906), Ch. 7 (pp. 206–37).

Chapitre VII: Les Sociétés on l’on fait l'amour.—Les Aphrodités on Morosophes.—Le temple et ses initiés.—“Andrins” et “Jendis”.—Les grandes Aprodisiaques.—L'Album d'une Aphrodite.

Les Félicitaires avaient quelque scrupule—à moins que ce ne fût un raffinement de volupté—à étaler leurs intimités qu'ils dissimulaient même sous un jargon spécial; les Aphrodites ne veulent pas admettre la gène d'un préjugé, si minime soiti. Ils sont de l'école de la marquise de Palmarèze, l'héroïne de la Petite-Maison, et estiment superflu de prodiguer des paroles là où il faut de l’action, et une action vive. “Hercule, en de pareilles occasions, ne disserte pas; il va au fait, il agit. Dans une seule nuit, il métamorphose cinquante pucelles en autant de femmes. Voilà le modèle qu'il faut toujours se proposer quand il est question d'érotisme.”
  Aussi faudrait-il la langue et la plume de Pétrone pour retracer l'histoire de cette confrérie érotique. Mais si la franchise est en libertinage une atténuation, une excuse, les Aphrodites peuvent sans hésiter en réclamer le bénéfice.
  Comme garantie de leur existence réelle, nous ne possédons qu'un ouvrage d'Andréa de Nerciat, trop licencieusement écrit pour pouvoir être livré au public. Cependant une lettre adressée à M. de Sehonen par le marquis de Châtcaugiron, accompagnant l'envoi de l’Alcibiade fanciullo (manuscrit et lettre possédés en dernier lieu par le duc d'Otrante) donne un détail précis à ce sujet. Voici ce qu'elle dit: “J'y joins les Aphrodites dont je vous ai parlé; cet ouvrage du chevalier de Nerciat est presque inconnu à Paris, ayant été imprimé à l'étranger pendant la Révolution. Il est assez remarquable, comme historique, car il peint, dit-on, au naturel une société qui s'était formée aux environs de Paris, du côté de la vallée de Montmorency, et dont un certain marquis de Persan était président. Cette association, à laquelle chacun des initiés concourait dans une proportion convenue, n'avait d'autre but que le libertinage.”[1]
  Dans son Préambule nécessaire, l'auteur des Aphrodites présente ainsi la Société: “L'ordre de la fraternité des Aphrodites, aussi nommés Morosophes (de deux mots grecs signifiant folie, sagesse, pour indique sans doute que leur sagesse est d'être fous à leur manière) se forma dès la régence du fameux Philippe d'Orléans, tout ensemble homme d'Etat et homme de plaisir; au surplus bien différent de son arrière-petit-fils, qui s'est aussi fait une réputation dans l'une et l'autre carrières. Soit qu'un inviolable secret eût constamment garanti les anciens Aphrodites de l'animadversion de l'autorité publique (si sévère, comme on sait, contre le libertinage porté à certains excès), soit que dans le nombre de ces fidèles associés il y en eût plusieurs d'assez puissants pour rendre vaine la rigueur des lois qui auraient pu les disperser et les punir, jamais, avant la Révolution, leur société n'avait souffert d'échec de quelque conséquence; mais ce récent événement a frappé plus des trois quarts des frères et des sœurs, les plus solides colonnes de l'Ordre ont été brisées; le local même, qui était dans Paris, a été abandonné.
  Des débris de l'ancienne institution s'est formée celle dont ces feuilles donneront une idée. On y verra se développer progressivement le lubrique système et les capricieuses habitudes des Aphrodiles, gens fort réprehensibles peut-être, mais qui du moins ne sont pas dangereux, et qui, fort contents de leur constitution, ne songent nullement à constituer l'univers.”[2]
  Cependant, au dire d'une initiée seconde manière, l'Ordre au début avait fait une espèce de culte religieux de ce qui ne devait être qu'un badinage et une folie. Les gros bonnets d'alors étaient des espèces d'adeptes, qui faisaient semblant d'avoir trouvé la pierre philosophale du plaisir et de vouloir en demeurer seuls dépositaires. Il se tenait de belles et longues assemblées, où l'on s'emmystiquait; et puis il y avait des harangues de réception, des remerciements, des hymnes à prétention, où les prétendus inspirés s'étaient battu les flancs pour être, comme au Parnasse, bien exaltés, bien sublimes, bien ridicules. Aussi lorsqu'il s'agissait de s'amuser tout de bon, on convoquait un essaim de fous et de folles, devant qui certainement on n'aurait osé ni haranguer, ni pontifier.[3]
  L'institution, telle qu'elle s'est reformée, n'y met pas tant de façons. Et d'abord, de par les statuts même de l'association, un Aphrodite professe ne doit jamais avoir l'ombre d'un scrupule. Dans ce qui est uniquement affaire de plaisir, il ne mettra que de la folie. Le parfait désintéressement et l'union des cœurs étant les bases d'une bonne fraternité, un Aphrodite ne doit jamais souhaiter quelque préférence exclusive, ni se croire offensé des inévitables infidélités d'un confrère ou d'une consœur. Grâce à ces principes, complétés par cette formule concise, mais précise: “Peu, mais de l'excellent,”—les Aphrodiles ou Morosophes opèrent entre eux des prodiges de jouissance et de volupté. Ils boivent à longs traits dans la coupe du bonheur. Quelques agitations que puissent endurer ailleurs les membres fortunés de cette confrérie, du moins à leur temple ne sont-ils jamais suivis de leurs peines.
  L'accès de ces temples était au reste sévèrement clos; l'admission y était difficile et coûteuse. Chaque membre, lors de sa réception, faisait à l'Ordre un don proportionné à sa fortune; il déposait en outre dix mille livres pour lui-même et cinq mille livres pour la dame; car les dames ne paient rien. L'Ordre tenait compte des intérêts de ces fonds à cinq pour cent; mais il héritait de ces capitaux, à moins qu'il ne rejetât quelqu'un de ses sociétaires, auquel cas il le remboursait de ses dix mille livres. Le contingent féminin n'était jamais rendu.
  Un statut de la dernière rigueur poursuivait les mauvais payeurs, leur laissant des délais très courts. Mais quand il était question, pour ces messieurs, de demeurer Aphrodites, de n'être pas rayés avec ignominie de la plus heureuse liste, ils négligeaient plutôt toutes leurs autres dettes.
  L'association possédait aux environs de Paris, du côté de Montmorency, un vaste territoire entièrement clos, très accidenté, coupé de jardins, de forêts, de bosquets, et sur lequel était élevé le bâtiment principal, appelé l'Hospice. C'était une retraite fort bien distribuée et dont les différentes pièces rappelaient par leur décor, autant que possible, le plein air. La salle à manger, dans laquelle on servait les diners les plus sensuels, représentait un bosquet dont le feuillage peint de main de maître se recourbait en coupole jusque vers une ouverture ménagée en haut et d'où venait le jour, à travers une toile légèrement azurée qui complétait l'illusion. Sur le fond transparent on voyait les extrémités des feuilles, et quelques jets élancés se découpaient avec une vérité frappante. Tout autour de la pièce, aux troncs des arbres régulièrement espacés, on avait attaché une draperie blanche, bordée de crépines d'or, destinée à cacher tous les intervalles au-dessous du feuillage. Le bas était une balustrade du meilleur style, peinte en marbre, et qui paraissait se détacher. Le tapis était un gazon factice parfaitement imité.
  La salle des séances est une grande rotonde, une espèce de temple sans aucune décoration apparente au dehors. Un corridor de neuf pieds de large, flanqué de deux petites nefs proportionnées, conduit, par une double file de douze colonnes, du péristyle fort simple à l'entrée principale. La coupole hardie qui couronne cet important édifice est tellement ordonnée qu'elle représente le dôme d'un berceau d'arbres fort élevés, dont les branches jetées avec art se bornent irrégulièrement à quelque distance du centre pour former une ouverture vague et fermée de vitrages. Grâce à l'art de l'architecte et du peintre, on jouit dans cette salle d'une éblouissante lumière et d'un air très vif.
  Contre le socle, à l'intérieur, sont appuyés des rangs de gradins concentriques en amphithéâtre, fixes, mais coupés en quatre endroits pour faciliter la circulation.
  Au milieu de la salle se trouve une plate-forme de soixante pieds de diamètre qui sert, aux jours des assemblées nombreuses, à des danses et cérémonies rituelles.
  Une salle est réservée aux grandes pompes du culte aphrodisiaque. Elle est formée d'une enceinte circulaire d'ifs, mêlés de jasmins d'Espagne, et percée de huit hautes arcades entre chacune desquelles s'élève sur un piédestal une jolie statue de génie enfant, alternativement de l'un et de l'autre sexe. Un baldaquin en verre de montre, tendu de taffetas du rose le plus tendre, à pentes retroussées de gaze d'argent, recouvre cette riante enceinte. D'amples rideaux roses partent de la calotte et viennent se perdre en fuyant derrière la haie circulaire qui forme les parois intérieures du salon d'ifs. Une lumière plongeante est criblée à travers le taffetas. Un cercle de loges, desservies par un corridor, entoure la salle: de chacune d'elles on découvre le spectacle à la faveur de mille petites ouvertures irrégulières ménagées à travers les cartons qui tiennent lieu de grilles.
  Au milieu de l'enceinte, à la hauteur de dix-huit pouces, se dresse une plate-forme de dix pieds de diamètre, des bords de laquelle s'incline jusqu'au trottoir un talus rampant de verdure; au centre de la plate-forme, un petit autel autiquej rond d'excellent style.
  Ce local pouvait être combiné de bien des manières, selon les inspirations du jour.
  Les jours d'orgies, on y installe un certain nombre de meubles inventés par Monsieur du Bossage, architecte des bâtiments et des machines de l'Hospice, et dits avantageuses. C'est une espèce d'affût destiné à recevoir un groupe de deux partenaires. La dame, s'y présentant comme à tout autre siège, doit se laisser aller en arrière, après avoir saisi de droite et de gauche deux tores bien garnis représentant deux vigoureux priapes (en style d'Aphrodites, deux boute-joie). Un coussin assez épais et plus ferme que mollet, revêtu de satin, la supporte depuis le haut de la tête jusqu'auprès du sillon des f...; le reste vague eu l'air jusqu'aux pieds qui s'engagent à peu de distance dans deux espèces d'étriers fixes, mais mollement rembourrés. Ainsi les jambes et les cuisses sont déterminées à se ployer en forme d'équerre. Les pieds du cavalier sont appuyés sur un troussequin; ses genoux reposent sur une traverse douillette. S'inclinant dans cette posture, il se trouve parfaitement à portée du but de son exercice; ses mains trouvent deux appuis cylindriques à la boiserie du meuble, en dehors. Ces dispositions obvient à tous les inconvénients des enlacements des bras, qui échauffent et gênent la respiration, ainsi que l'embarras des jambes et des cuisses qui rendent plus lent et moins facile le procédé frictif.
  L'Hospice comprend en outré douze boudoirs progressivement galants ou riches, et tous d'un goût original, garnis de glaces, dans lesquelles sont ménagées des portes dérobées à l'usage des voyeurs. Ils sont meublés à profusion de f..... Ce n'est ni un sopha, ni un canapé, ni une ottomane, ni une duchesse, mais un lit très bas, qui n'est pas non plus un lit de repos (il s'en faut de beaucoup). Long de six pieds, il est sanglé de cordes de boyaux, comme une raquette de paume et n'a qu'un matelas parfaitement moyen entre la mollesse et la dureté, un traversin pour soutenir la tête d'une personne, et un dur bourrelet pour appuyer les pieds de l'autre. On a trouvé bon de donner ce nom à cette espèce de duchesse, d'abord parce que duchesse et f... sont synonymes, ensuite parce qu'on nomme dormeuse une voiture où on peut dormir, causeuse une chaise où l'on cause, etc.[4]
  A l'extrémité la plus reculée du territoire de l'Hospice, on rencontre une colline fortuite au haut de laquelle on arrive d'un côté par une montée peu rapide; l'autre offre des escarpements naturels qu'on a rendus plus pittoresques. On a bâti sur la cime un Hermitage, c'est-à-dire un bâtiment qui a toute l'apparence d'une petite chapelle fort ancienne, avec son péristyle soutenu de deux colonnes de bois, sa porte et ses fenêtres gothiques et ses vitrages diaprés. Il est surmonté d'un petit clocher; une cabane est adossée à ce sanctuaire. Tout le terrain de cette retraite est en bosquets coupés de petits sentiers et d'un ruisseau qui occasionne une cascade artificielle. De ce point l'œil découvre au loin un fort beau paysage; mais l'Hermitage, à cause de ses bosquets feuillus, est vu de peu d'endroits de l'intérieur de l'Hospice. Cette retraite est palissadée et close. Les jeudis en font grand cas (nous ferons bientôt connaissance avec eux): c'est leur champ de bataille pour les petits coups fourrés.[5]
  La chapelle est décorée de tableaux de sainteté, mais d'une sainteté tellement hétérodoxe que leur description risquerait d'embarrasser notre plume. La légende des filles de Loth y occupe une place d'honneur, mais interprétée d'une manière peu familiale. La tentation de saint Antoine y est exécutée en bas-relief: Belzébuth et sa femme sont venus surprendre le saint pendant son sommeil et lui ont attaché la barbe après la queue de son fidèle compagnon. Puis ils éveillent les deux amis. Le saint se prosterne en prières, tandis que Belzébuth abuse de son attitude et que Madame Belzébuth, lui faisant face, enjambe le cochon.
  Enfin la surintendante de l'Hospice a pour son compte, au delà des jardins, un pavillon où elle tient quelques pensionnaires. Les arrangements se font à Paris. On est transporté de nuit dans une voiture sans glaces et scrupuleusement fermée, où l'air est renouvelé par un ventilateur. A l'arrivée on se trouve dans un lieu fort agréable, mais d'où on ne découvre ni Paris, ni le moindre village. Le pensionnaire jouit là de tout ce qu'on peut souhaiter au monde, excepté la liberté. Il paie par jour à proportion de ce qu'il a exigé lors de sa convention, quatre louis par jour en moyenne. Dès qu'il veut retourner, on le renvoie avec les mêmes précautions; on use même de narcotiques dans le cas d'une retraite involontaire.[6]
  Pour administrer le Temple et assurer tous les besoins du culte, les Aphrodites ont fait choix d'un personnel éclairé, expérimenté, prêt aussi à toutes les complaisances. A la tête de ce personnel se trouve Mme Durnt, surintendante des menus, la cheville ouvrière du bonheur des Aphrodites, la femme à la fois la meilleure, la plus utile et la plus aimable. Agée de 36 ans, elle est brune, blanche, dodue, irrégulièrement jolie, très bien conservée, et fort piquante encore. Bonne, vive, étonnamment active, intrigante, elle est dominée par un indomptable tempérament. Ces messieurs ne la voyant qu'à la volée, ne songent guère à lui proposer la moindre chose; mais quand le loup a faim, il sort du bois: elle se propose elle-même, toujours à la grande satisfaction du favori.
  Elle a comme principale auxiliaire Célestine, à peine âgée de vingt ans, une grande et belle blonde au plus frais embonpoint, richement pourvue de toutes les rondeurs et potelures que peuvent désirer tous les genres d'amateurs. Elle a de grands yeux bleus qui semblent demander à tous l'amoureux merci. Sa bouche est riante, ses lèvres légèrement humides ont le mouvement habituel du baiser. Cette fille est parmi les femmes ce qu'est parmi les fruits une belle poire de doyenné, tendre et fondante. Célestine, désirée de tout le monde, aime tout le monde; elle ne put jamais répondre non à quelque proposition qu'on ait eu le caprice de lui faire. Elle a de plus la gloire d'avoir remporté au concours la place de première essayeuse.
  Elle est puissamment aidée par Fringante, une brune magique de 19 ans, qui a figuré quelque temps à l'Opéra, mais s'est dégoûtée de ce tripot, parce qu'elle est sans intrigue et dominée par un vorace tempérament, qui lui gâtait toutes ses affaires d'intérêt. Elle ne prise dans l'homme que sa virilité, et est inaccessible aux petites répugnances. Elle a dans les yeux un charme qui produit des miracles sur certains individus jusquelà condamnés à ne plus se sentir renaître. Elle est animée d'un zèle infatigable pour la prospérité de l'établissement.
  Au-dessous et sous les ordres de ces gracieuses et dévouées intendantes, manœuvre une petite armée dont toutes les recrues doivent être aussi discrètes qu'agréables à voir. Il faut d'ailleurs que tous les genres y soient représentés; caries Aphrodites ne veulent rien ignorer de la science pour laquelle ils se sont constitués en confrérie. Ainsi Mme Durut a-t-elle incorporé Zoé, une négrillonne de quatorze à quinze ans, “le plus piquant museau qu'aient jamais fourni les moules camus de la Côte-d'Or: noir d'ébène, œil philosophique, dents admirables, de la sensibilité, des désirs et de l'espièglerie”. Elle est chargée de purifier, de laver et d'essuyer les combattants avec des linges de coton des Indes.
  Sous le nom méprisant de Pot-de-Chambre, une fille est attachée à l'établissement où elle a sollicité de servir sans gages. L'universalité de ses infatigables services, qu'elle rend par goût, et dont elle se plaint toujours qu'on ne fait pas assez d'usage, lui a valu son sobriquet.
  Des adolescents habillés en jockeys, toujours de fort jolie figure, font le service des bosquets et de la table: on les aime timides, des ébauches d'hommes, presque insexués encore. Tous les jeunes domestiques, ceux désignés couramment dans le monde sous le nom de pages et de demoiselles, sont appelés, les garçons Camillons et les filles Camillonnes; cette dénomination n'est pas de pure fantaisie, elle s'inspire des rites antiques: “Camilli et Camillæ, ita dicebantur ministri et ministrae impuberes in sacris.”[7]
  Le principe de l'établissement est que quiconque fait le service domestique est tenu à d'autres complaisances encore. Le mot d'étiquette que Mme Durut dit à un serviteur, pour qu'il se prête à toutes les fantaisies qu'on pourra lui prescrire, est: Conduisez monsieur (ou madame) au no—et servez.
  Enfin les Aphrodites sont assurés d'un accès discret à leur retraite voluptueuse par le choix que Mme Durut a fait de deux portiers, dont chacun est privé d'un sens fort nécessaire: le premier ne voit point; le second, fixé dans l'intérieur, ne parle ni n'entend. Il prévient de l'arrivée des visiteurs à l'aide d'un sifflet puissant. Il est aussi, grâce à sa surdité, l'inexorable exécuteur de toutes les fessées que Mme Durut se croit en droit de faire appliquer à sa marmaille domestique.
  L'Association devait comprendre non loin de deux cents adeptes; car à une séance présidée par les douze dignitaires de l'Ordre, et dont le procèsverbal fut rédigé par Visard, l'historiographe officiel des Aphrodites, il est dit que la grande maîtresse fut nommée à la majorité de 137 voix contre 26. Ces affiliés appartiennent tous aux classes privilégiées de la société: femmes de cour, abbés, princes, prélats, paradent, avec l'impudeur de demi-dieux, en des tableaux et des dialogues spirituellement, mais plus que lestement troussés. Ils se sont affublés, pour plus de pittoresque et de prudence aussi sans doute, de surnoms très expressifs qu'ils portent comme des enseignes. Il nous suffira de présenter quelques-uns de ces fidèles, dont le zèle et l'activité sont vraiment surprenants.
  Mme de Cognefort, âgée de vingt et un ans, a la beauté du diable: ni brune, ni blonde, ni jolie, ni laide. Une luxure d'enfer. Connue chez les Aphrodites sous le surnom de Mme Encore.
  La comtesse de Troubouillant, vingt-trois ans, brune colorée, nez en l'air, œil brûlant, sourcil impérieux, bouche un peu grande, mais étonnamment fraîche; agréablement spirituelle; formes rondes, dodues et fermes; forêt de cheveux noirs et crépus.
  La marquise de Bardamoi, superbe, vit depuis peu de temps dans ce tourbillon, où elle a été amenée par le chagrin du veuvage. Elle se console comme elle peut dans le sein des Aphrodites, le seul asile qu'il y ait peut-être encore en France pour le bonheur.
  La duchesse de Confriand, dix-neuf ans, jolie poupée blonde, avec tout l'aimant, toute la vivacité d'une brune. En six mois elle a tué de volupté son époux le duc. A sa mort elle a épousé l'Ordre des Aphrodites, et telle qu'Alexandre, elle y fait voir que, dans un petit corps, la nature s'amuse parfois à renfermer un grand courage.
  La vicomtesse de Pillengius, vingt-sept ans, brune, la marche et le maintien d'un cavalier doué de grâces, un goût marqué pour les plus violents exercices du corps. Chez les Aphrodites elle porte le sobriquet de l'Escarpolette, à cause des grands balancements qu'elle fait éprouver à ceux qui ont l'honneur de la servir.
  Milady Beaudéduit, vingt-quatre ans, régulièrement belle, très jolie; peau d'une fraîcheur délectable, maintien, grâce, tons et caprices d'une dame de cour.
  Baronne de Wakiifuth, superbe Allemande, sans pétillante vivacité; modèle de Rubens. Ferme les yeux dans les instants décisifs. Cet accident peut lui arriver quinze à vingt fois par jour.
  La duchesse de l'Enginière, très grande, proportions fortes sans épaisseur et sans mollesse. Traits et caractère de Junon. Grands airs, principes hardis, conduite impudente. Belle peau, belles dents, tempérament ardent et capricieux. Infiniment agréable pour ses favoris et les femmes qui veulent bien figurer sur la liste de ses amants. Peu goûtée des hommes, qu'elle traite moins bien. A peu près vingt-trois ans; en avoue dix-neuf.
  Zaïre de Fortconin, dix-sept ans, brune assassine; tout le coloris et toute la fermeté de la plus fraîche adolescence.
  Parmi les représentants du sexe laid, le marquis de Bellemontre, vingt-sept ans, un des plus aimables débauchés de Paris, tournure d'Apollon. Quelques dames Aphrodites ont eu la cruauté de lui reprocher que son beau nom n'était pas dignement soutenu; mais dans un monde ordinaire cette idée ne serait venue à l'esprit de personne.
  Le chevalier de Boutavant, vingt-quatre ans, grand flandrin bien tourné, sans souci, s'est fait une spécialité d'écraser des gimblettes ou croquignoles, sur un simple désir féminin.
  Le marquis de Fontencour, trente ans, de l'impudence et une belle figure—neuf pouces deux lignes.
  Le baron de Malejeu, vingt-trois ans, le premier homme peut-être qui ait imaginé d'avoir un album amicarum, rempli de certificats féminins. Cent quatorze noms révérés attestent que le baron ne parle que par huit, neuf ou dix. Aussi a-t-il été reçu Aphrodite sans noviciat et par acclamation.
  Le vicomte de Durengin, vingt-deux ans, d'abord destiné à l'état ecclésiastique. A vingt ans, il était encore vierge; fut façonné par une blanchisseuse de rabats. Aphrodite depuis trois mois: les registres font foi qu'il a fait, à lui seul, la besogne de quatre frères. Constamment en arrêt; neuf pouces cinq lignes.
  Chevalier de Tireneuf, garde du roi, l'Hercule Farnèse à vingt-quatre ans. Peu de fortune, mais les femmes et le jeu le soutiennent. Grand causeur, ses discours sont pour l'ordinaire divisés en neuf, dix ou plus de points, mais n'ennuient jamais ces dames. C'est l'effet de la magie de l'organe oratoire, du style et du geste, à la beauté desquels prête beaucoup l'ampleur. Dix pouces.
  Le chevalier de Pinfier, dix-neuf ans, grâces, esprit, charme de la plus adorable petite maitresse de Paris, délicieux libertinage. Blond, mais vif et ardent. Sa mère tient chez les Aphrodites un rang distingué. C'est lui-même un homme à bonnes fortunes, beau, joli, fait au tour. Sept pouces neuf lignes.
  Le prince Edmond, vingt-neuf ans, brave, galant, affable et généreux; persuadé qu'un seul ami console de vingt ingrats, il sert, il oblige avec un zèle infatigable. Heureux avec beaucoup de femmes, jamais aucune n'eut à se plaindre de lui.
  Le commandeur de Concraignant, trente-sept ans, charmant petit-maître à ruban vert. Les plus délicieuses fortunes de la Cour l'ayant successivement accommodé pis que ne l'auraient fait celles des coulisses, il sert l'occidental avec autant de constance que de zèle.
  Le vicomte de Culigny, quarante-deux ans, grand, svelte, bien fait, mais que la petite vérole a enlaidi. Un joujou d'œuvre assez médiocre. Sa maladie lui ayant fait perdre la vogue, il abjura, mais avec tolérance et comme certains renégats, plus près d'adorer la croix que de la fouler aux pieds.
  Un prélat au ton béat, facile amalgame d'indomptable luxure et d'indispensable hypocrisie—à peine sept pouces.
  L'abbé de Dardamour, vingt-sept ans, ancien militaire; très luxurieux, mais l'esprit de son état lui fait sentir la nécessité de jouer l'hypocrisie.
  Le commandeur de Lardemotte, de Malte, cidevant chevalier de Francheville, vingt-sept ans, parfaitement beau, bien fait, libertin; un des plus effrayants boute-joie de l'Ordre.
  L'abbé Suçonnet, spécialiste de la glottinade, sa manœuvre favorite, qu'il a lui-même dénommée à la grecque.
  Tous ces adeptes ont le rang d'intimes; mais les Aphrodites admettent aussi des auxiliaires. Il y a entre ces derniers et les premiers à peu près la même différence que chez les Francs-Maçons entre les maîtres et les servants. Le grade d'auxiliaire donne les entrées, mais limitées, ne s'étendant guère au delà de certaines circonstances, de quelques solennités. Assez souvent l'auxiliaire n'est pas seulement assistant libre, mais commandé, parce qu'il doit consigner dans les registres de l'Ordre chaque fait avec tous ses détails d'une parfaite vérité.
  L'auteur nous présente deux dames assistantes ou auxiliaires: Mme de Montchaud, vingt-quatre ans, grosse et succulente dondon, un peu molle, aux yeux étincelants de luxure; et Mme de Valcreux, vingt-trois ans, brune plus ferme, peau fine, mais vaste, profonde, à faire pitié..... [8]
  Toute femme qui passe quarante ans est nommée vieille; mais ces dames ont droit d'assistance jusqu'à ce qu'elles ne marquent plus. Alors, à moins d'un relief, elles perdent leurs entrées, excepté le jeudi pour le service de ces messieurs les Villettes (adeptes de l'amour à rebours), et le samedi pour des raisons un peu obscures.[9]
  Entre eux les Aphrodites mâles se classent d'après leurs goûts et leurs aspirations personnelles. Les Aphrodites purs aiment l'amour sous toutes ses formes. On nomme jeudis ces messieurs qui sont au moins partagés entre l’œillet et la boutonnière: ils ont pour jour de solennité le jeudi en l'honneur de Jupiter, le Villette de l'olympe. Les femmes qui avaient la complaisance de se prêter au goût de ces messieurs étaient connues sous le nom de Jannettes (de Janus), à cause de leur double manière de faire des heureux. Les amateurs de ces sortes de femmes se nommaient en conséquence des Janicoles. Pour eux il n'y a point de sexe, il n'y a que des formes. “Que m'importe, dit l'un d'eux, qu'au revers de cet enfant charmant il y ait une prolongation et qu'à celui de cette fille il y ait une lacune?[10] J'oublie tout cela quand je suis avec l'un, avec l'autre également étreint dans un élastique anneau, également appuyé sur deux magnétiques hémisphères, d'un satin un peu plus, un peu moins blanc, mais qui procurent à la vue des sensations également voluptueuses. Pourtant dès que le rasoir a fauché sur le visage d'un être masculin certaine fleur enfantine, seul prétexte à l'équivoque, il est rare que sans dépravation on puisse désirer d'avoir un tel personnage. Fi! du grossier pédéraste qui ne recherche pas la féminine illusion!”
  Les andrins, en petit nombre, sont ceux qui, ne faisant cas d'aucun charme féminin, ne fêtent que des Ganymèdes. Cette catégorie d'Aphrodites renégats, ayant sans doute pris une trop grande extension, il fut décidé en assemblée générale, sur un rapport de M. de Culigny, que vingt-huit frères stériles seraient remboursés et biffés, que le local affecté à messieurs les jeudis serait fermé jusqu'à nouvel ordre, et que le service, fixé par les statuts au jour du grand Jupiter, n'aurait lieu désormais que si les femmes daignaient y concourir. Le décret ordonnait en même temps la radiation:
1e De quiconque n'aura pas requis une femme comme telle pendant trois mois;
2e De quiconque sera convaincu d'avoir pris ses ébats avec un être masculin âgé de plus de dix-huit ans.[11]
  Les candidats Aphrodites, s'ils sont du sexe mâle, ne sont tenus, en dehors des obligations financières, qu'à fournir des preuves irréfutables de leur vigueur et de leurs aptitudes techniques. Les femmes doivent être mariées; quant aux célibataires, elles ont vingt et un ans au moins et sont autorisées par un proche parent, membre de la société, tout au moins par un dignitaire qui soit de la famille.
  Les candidats sont affiliés un à un à la suite d'examens pour lesquels les essayeuses ne manpas; mais ils ne sont jamais engagés que deux à deux. Chaque individu d'un couple de profès était respectivement pendant un an parrain et marraine. Des soins approchant de ceux du sigisbéisme d'Italie étaient attachés à cette particulière affmité. Il était de règle, au moment de l'initiation, que pendant trois heures, entre parrain et marraine, on fît ce qu'on pouvait. Le nombre des couronnes rendait compte de ce qui s'était passé. On avait une assez mince opinion du nouveau profès qui n'était pas sept fois couronné. Qui n'avait pu atteindre la cinquième couronne était rernis. Après un second essai malheureux, le frère était exclu de la profession, et restait simple affilié. Il n'y avait aucun moyen de frauder: un incorruptible dignitaire à portée ne délivrait chaque couronne qu'après s'être bien assuré qu'on venait de la gagner légitimement.
  Aussitôt après le temps d'épreuve, le parrain faisait son entrée dans le temple, affublé d'une espèce de tiare presque ridicule par sa hauteur: les profès marchaient par ordre de valeur, le plus couronné en tète, et à côté de lui sa marraine. Pendant ce temps le nouveau grand-maître et la grande-maîtresse avaient lié connaissance de même façon; leurs prouesses devaient être éminentes. Le grand-maître devait conserver pourtant de sa vigueur. Il était salué en effet par les nouvelles professes (cinq ou six en général), qu'il embrassait d'abord sur les yeux et la bouche, tandis que chaque profès baisait les boutons du sein de la grande-maîtresse et, ployant les genoux, rendait plus bas le même hommage. Le grand-maître fêtait ensuite toutes les professes, et la grande-maîtresse recevait dans un boudoir l'hommage d'étiquette de tous les profès.
  Le grand-maître avait deux assistantes; la grande-maîtresse deux assistants. Ces quatre dignitaires, choisis pour leurs talents et leurs grâces, étaient les seconds personnages de l'Ordre.
  La cérémonie d'initiation se terminait par un somptueux banquet.
  Lors de l'entrée en exercice des nouveaux promus, une assemblée solennelle était tenue. Elle était fixée au premier vendredi de mai.—Le vendredi était particulièrement le jour des grandes cérémonies, en l'honneur de Vénus.—Ce jour-là seulement les dignitaires de l'année courante cessaient leurs fonctions et rentraient dans la foule. Cependant ils conservaient encore, avec quelques attributions flatteuses, le cygne d'émail entouré d'une couronne imitant le myrte mêlé de roses, décoration qui se portait avec un ruban vert liseré de ponceau pour les retirés en petit ordre; pour les dignitaires effectifs, au col; pour les grands-maîtres et grandes-maîtresses, en grand cordon. Ces derniers exclusivement étaient ornés au cou: la grande-maîtresse, du signe de la planète de Vénus brodé en argent sur un fond de satin ou paillon vert clair; le grand-maître, du signe de la planète de Mars brodé sur un fond de satin ou paillon ponceau. Autour de ces deux plaques, d'ailleurs égales, brillait une riche auréole à huit pointes de rayons de diamants, de rubis et d'émeraudes placée sur le cœur. Le bijou d'ordre de la grande-maîtresse et celui du grand-maître étaient aussi les seuls enrichis.
  L'initiation terminée, tout récipiendaire audessous de trente ans est obligé de couler à fond la première classe des Aphrodites, c'est-à-dire celle des vieilles, quel que fût leur nombre. A certaines époques il n'y avait pas moins de dix-neuf quadragénaires. Le nouveau reçu leur doit tous les devoirs à discrétion, mais pendant un seul jour pour chacune. Avec les autres il est quitte pour un seul hommage au choix de la dame. Une condition plus dure est de passer parmi les Villettes les quatre jeudis du premier mois de son existence dans l'Ordre; mais le récipiendaire s'en trouve dispensé si quelque dame, de son propre mouvement, daigne l'occuper ce jour-là. S'il est convaincu d'avoir éludé par quelque manœuvre l'invitation d'une dame plus ou moins agréable pour se faire inviter ailleurs, non seulement il n'est pas rachetable par les femmes, mais il tombe aux parties casuelles, c'est-à-dire que tous les jeudis de la première année, il est dévolu aux andrins.[12]
  Les grandes cérémonies sont célébrées dans la salle circulaire que nous avons précédemment décrite, et avec une solennité quasi-rituelle. Au son d'une musique d'instruments à vent exécutant la marche des Mariages samnites de Gaétry, le cortège pénètre dans le temple. En tête Zoé, suivie des musiciens (huit nègres), agite un gros tambour de basque, marque le pas et la mesure. Une draperie de taffetas ponceau est pittoresquement jetée autour de ses hanches. Derrière la musique, un jeune jockey porte au bras un panier rempli de feuilles de vigne, qui ne sont destinées à aucune pudique dissimulation. Derrière lui, sept couples de jeunes garçons et filles ajustés d'écharpes: le premier couple est blanc, le second bleu de ciel, le troisième vert-pré, le quatrième ponceau, le cinquième rose, le sixième violet, le septième orange. Le plus âgé des garçons n'a que seize ans, le plus jeune quatorze. La plus âgée des filles touche à treize ans, la plus jeune à onze. A trois pas en arrière, les servants du culte: les dames ont par-dessus un simple jupon de taffetas blanc, une casaque de fantaisie imitant la forme grecque, les manches tranchées à la hauteur des seins dont elles laissent voir la séparation et plus de la moitié de chacun des hémisphères. Elles ont une écharpe et un ruban dans les cheveux. Les cavaliers, chaussés de pantoufles de maroquin fort découvertes, portent des pantalons blancs et des gilets rayés d'étoffe pareille aux casaques des dames; ils ont le col nu, les cheveux sans poudre et relevés. Chaque cavalier marche à gauche de sa dame, le bras passé derrière ses reins; celle-ci a la main gauche sur l'épaule droite du cavalier.
  A leur suite viennent Célestine et Fringante, et Mme Durut ferme la marche.
  Le cortège fait un tour entier dans l'enceinte circulaire, puis les musiciens se retirent dans le passage, tandis que chaque couple gagne une avantageuse. Mme Durut, Célestine et Fringante montent vers l'autel par trois marches. Pendant tout le temps que les avantageuses sont occupées, la musique ne cesse de jouer des airs de plus en plus voluptueux.
  A ces grandes solennités un prix est décerné à l'auteur du plus grand nombre de prouesses dûment prouvées. Le prix consiste en une montre à répétition enrichie de diamants, pour laquelle chaque Aphrodite masculin donne un louis. A la plus prochaine assemblée, il est fait mention détaillée du concours.[13]
  Il arrive parfois que des Aphrodites ont le caprice de faire représenter sous leurs yeux une saturnale, qui est aussitôt exécutée par les servantes de l'Hospice avec de robustes valets qui servent les membres du sexe féminin à certains jours. Le Pot-de-Chambre est ici la maîtresse de ballet et s'y distingue par un savant pas de deux avec le chef de cuisine. Mais ce sont là grossiers ébats, peu dignes d'Aphrodites raffinés.[14]
  Le chroniqueur de l'association, consciencieusement explicite, nous a transmis l'album d'une Aphrodite, dont le surnom est trop brutal pour pouvoir être transcrit. L'album enregistre le chiffre de quatre mille neuf cent cinquante-neuf, en vingt ans, à peine par conséquent deux cent soixante à deux cent quatre-vingts par an, pas un par jour. “Le total impose d'abord, au détail ce n'est rien.”
  II comprend deux cent soixante-douze princes, grands seigneurs, gens à cordon, prélats; neuf cent vingt-neuf militaires (officiers, bien entendu); quatre-vingt-treize rabbins (pour ce qu'ils valent au boudoir!); trois cent quarante-deux financiers (pour les sacs); deux cent trente-neuf de la calotte; quatre cent trente-quatre moines, la plupart cordeliers, carmes ou bernadins, quelques ex-jésuites; quatre cent vingt gens de société; cent dix-sept inconnus; seize cent quatorze étrangers (pendant quatre ans de séjour à Londres); deux cent quatre-vingt-huit gens du commun, soldats, ouvriers, gens raccrochés la nuit au Palais-Royal ou sur les boulevards; deux oncles, douze cousins, etc., en tout vingt-cinq parents; cent dix-sept valets; cent dix-neuf musiciens, histrions, sauteurs; quarante-sept nègres, mulâtres et quarterons. Certains des inscrits ont leurs noms marqués de guillemets et de virgules. Ceux qui n'en ont pas sont favorisés à l'ordinaire; les autres, cela s'entend.[15]
  L'Association ne devait pas survivre aux troubles de la Révolution, ainsi que nous l'apprend Andréa de Nerciat, dans la Post-face de son ouvrage.
  “Dès la fin de 1791, y est-il dit, les Aphroditeas de Paris et de la province se préparaient à se dissoudre; quantité d'individus des deux sexes s'étaient d'avance expatriés. Le prince Edmond et la nouvelle grande-maîtresse Eulalie s'étaient passionnément occupés de préparer à ceux des Aphrodites qui étaient dignes de survivre à la fraternité de Paris un asile en pays étranger et les moyens de placer avec avantage ce que l'Ordre conserverait encore de richesses, après que tous les confrères, soit volontairement dégagés, soit congédiés, seraient remboursés. Les comptes scrupuleusement apurés par des frères financiers d'une probité à toute épreuve, l'Ordre survivant se trouva riche encore de 4.558.923 livres, que des frères banquiers trouvèrent moyen de faire sortir adroitement du Royaume. L'industrieux monsieur du Bossage s'était chargé de plus loin de dénaturer, en fait de constructions, tout ce qui caractériserait l'Ordre et ses divers objets, de même que de faire parvenir à sa nouvelle destination tous les détails transportables de décoration et d'ornement. Mme Durut, Célestine, Fringante et quelques camillons des deux sexes suivirent à la file les fréquents envois. Quand tout l'Ordre fut écoulé corps et biens, sa feue Révérence (le Grand-Maître) sortit la dernière; elle porte aujourd'hui le nom de Martinfort, et continue à prouver qu'on peut être de très nouvelle noblesse, avoir porté par système un uniforme odieux, avoir même précédemment été moine, sans être, comme certains dédaigneux le pensent, un homme vil, parce qu'on n'aurait pas été fait pour monter dans les carrosses du Roi.
  Les Aphrodites rénovés ont maintenant, dans un pays que nous ne pouvons nommer, un asile délicieux, des statuts épurés et des sujets d'élite.”


[1] C** d'I****. Bibliographie des ouvrages relatifs à l'amour. Paris, 1894, t. I, col. 242.
[2] Les Aphrodites ou Fragments thali-priapiques pour teroir à l'histoire du plaisir. Lampsaque, 1793, t. I, p. 1sqq.
[3] Les Aphrodites ou Fragments thali-priapiques pour teroir à l'histoire du plaisir, t. III, p. 46.
[4] Les Aphrodites, t. I, p. 127.
[5] Les Aphrodites, t. III, p. 67.
[6] Les Aphrodites, t. II, p 19.
[7] Les Aphrodites, t. III, p. 131.
[8] Les Aphrodites, passim.
[9] Les Aphrodites, t. II, p. 153.
[10] Ces jeudis sont à nous ce que les Indiens sont aux Européens: ceux-ci fout le diable noir parce qu'ils sont blancs, ceux-là le font blanc parce qu'ils sont noirs. Ainsi l'apostat Villette appelle revers ce qui est pour nous l'endroit, et réciproquement. (Note de l'auteur).
[11] Les Aphrodites, t. I, p. 84; t. III, p. 80.
[12] Les Aphrodites, t. IV, p. 131 sqq.
[13] Les Aphrodites, t. II, p. 162.
[14] Les Aphrodites, t. III, p. 159.
[15] Les Aphrodites, t. III, p. 52.

The English Aphrodites, Part 1

I recently encountered a description of the English Aphrodites in Geoff Nicholson, Sex Collectors: The Secret World of Consumers, Connoisseurs, Curators, Creators, Dealers, Bibliographers, and Accumulators of ‘Erotica’ (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006), 116:

Considerably more impressive, though unfortunately anonymous, was a female member of an English eighteenth-century orgy society called the English Aphrodites. She listed 4,959 partners, including 93 rabbis, 288 commoners, 119 musicians, 342 financiers, 439 monks, 420 society men, 117 valets, 47 Negroes, and 1,614 foreigners. But I find these statistics confuing. I mean, are musicians and foreigners mutually exclusive categories? Weren’t some of the officers also society men? Was none of the ‘Negroes’ a foreigner? Are we imagining a series of tightly overlapping Venn diagrams here? But at least she gave a precise number.

Since I had never heard of this society, this woman, or her astonishing and—frankly improbable—list of sexual conquests, I went in search of more information. Nicholson does not provide any references—i.e. any evidence—for his claim. Having Googled a few of his numbers, however, I found this:

The first wife swapping club was founded in London in the 18th century. Men had to pay £10,000 to join - women got in for half price. One woman member who kept a diary had sex with 4,959 men in twenty years (including 439 monks, 93 rabbis, 117 valets, 47 negroes and 12 cousins).

This is on "Dr Vernon Coleman's 101 Amazing Facts about Sex," but I found this, with slight variations in a number of places on the net, including on Swinger's information pages. But never with any references.

However, with the prospect of a diary, a manuscript record, solid documentary evidence behind this claim, I looked more deeply.

In October 2000, a post is recorded in the HistSex Archives as follows:

To give an idea, the diary of a female member of the notorious French sex club the Aphrodites, lists nearly 5,000 amorous encounters over a period of twenty years. By the breakdown of profession:

‘272 princes and prelates, 929 officers, 93 rabbis, 342 financiers, 439 monks, 420 society men, 288 commoners, 117 valets, 2 uncles, 12 cousins, 119 musicians, 47 Negroes, and 1,614 foreigners (during an enforced absence to London, probably during the Revolution)’

Now it appeared that our English Aphrodite was French, but that she stayed in London during the Revolution. This discovery was a little disappointing, since I am primarily interested in British erotica. Nevertheless, once on the trail like this it is hard to stop. So I didn't.

The next step back in time was via Bernard I. Murstein, Love, Sex, and Marriage Through the Ages (New York: Springer Pub. Co., 1974), 211–12, 241 n56–57:

French Love Club

On the institutional level, the most notorious French organization devoted to the pursuit of sexual happiness was the Aphrodites, a club whose membership was limited to 200. Each member paid an initiation to the club commensurate with his rank, plus a membership fee (£10,000 for men, £5,000 for women). Money was not the only requirement: the applicant had to undergo a demanding lovemaking bout for several hours, witnessed by a incorruptible judges, before |212| being accepted or rejected on the basis of the performance.
  Thanks to its well-stocked treasury, the club purchased an elegant country house with special decor and grounds for amorous purposes. One item of furniture, the avantageuse, which was designed to supplant the bed as the foundation of love, had some special features:

The lady must let herself fall backwards after having grabbed on both sides two columns representing two Priapes. A thick, firm pillow, covered with satin supports her from the top of her head to the slit of the buttocks. The remaining portion of her body waves in the air down to the feet which fit into what kind of stirrup which is set a short distance away. Those stirrups are not movable but are softly stuffed. Thus the legs and thighs are forced to bend into the shape of an inverted V. The feet of the gentleman are supported by a kind of saddle. His knees rest on a cross beam. Lying in this position, he is perfectly within reach of the aim of his exercise. His hands finds two cylindrical supports on the woodwork on the outside of the piece of furniture.*

  The diary of one female Aphrodite lists 4,959 amorous encounters over a period of 20 years. That sex can sometimes overcome class barriers is testified by the breakdown by profession ‘… 272 princes and prelates, 929 officers, 93 rabbis, 342 financiers, 439 monks … 420 sociality men, 288 commoners, 117 valets, 2 uncles, 12 cousins, 119 musicians, 47 Negroes, and 1,614 foreigners (during an enforced absence in London—probably during the Revolution).**
  The love climbs never became widespread because they required not only an above-average sex drive and pocketbook, but a willingness to undergo notoriety for one’s lechery. To have one lover at a time was fashionable; to have them by droves, without regard to station or publicity, was scandalous. For the average well-to-do person who craved a little excitement without sacrificing security, attendance at a masque proved an admirable substitute.”

* J. Hervez, “Les Sociétiés d’amour au 18-ème siecle”; quoted in N. Epton, op. cit., pp. 256–57 (author’s translation).
** Ibid., p. 241.

And here I came to a stop. “Jean Hervez” (pseud. of Raoul Vèze), Les sociétés d'amour au xviiie siècle. Les sociétés où l'on cause d'amour, académies galantes, le code de Cythère, Les societes ou l'on fait l'amour. Le culte d'Aphrodite et ds Lesbos. Les Arracheurs Depalissades Brevets d'amour … d'après les mémoires, chroniques et chansons, libelles et pamphlets, pièces inédites, manuscrits (Paris: Daragon, 1906) is not on Google Books. Or at least, it is not available in Australia on Google Books. There is no copy in any Australian library and the only copy for sale online is Euro 245.

Nina Epton, Love and the French (London: Cassell, 1959), is held in an Australian library, just not Monash, and so I put in an inter-library loan request and waited. And waited. And while I waited I found a few more references, all citing Epton. So I kept waiting.

When my inter-library loan copy arrived—sans title-page—I discovered more informations, as follows:

In addition, there were secret societies whose members met to make love in special establishments devised by refined debauchees. Such where the Aphrodites, under the patronage of the Marquise de Palmazère, whose headquarters remained in Paris until the Revolution, when most of its members dispersed, either to have their frivolous heads chopped off, or to pursue their activities elsewhere.
  It was not be easy to be accepted by the Aphrodites and, moreover, it was expensive. Every new member of these Order was expected to make an entrance gift compatible with his financial status, and in addition the membership fee amounted to £10,000 for a gentleman and £5,000 for a lady. Bad debtors were pursued relentlessly, but as soon as the question of striking them off the roll arose, they generally paid up on the spot to, neglecting all their other debts rather than have to relinquish the extraordinary pleasures afforded by this unique club.
  The Aphrodites had a special ‘country house’ near Montmorecy, with gardens specially planned for amorous pastimes. The site was well hidden from the outside by high walls. Inside, the grounds were cunningly divided into woods, shrubberies, mazes and groups of pavilions. The central building or Hospice, as it was called, was built in the style of the pastoral retreat; the dining-hall represented a copse with hand-painted breaches curving up to a blue glass dome. Lawns, tree-trunks, marble balustrades, were cleverly disposed so as to give guests the impression that they were dining in the gardens of a château.
  An immense rotunda flanked by colonnaded walks was reserved for special meetings. In the centre was an altar surrounded by statues of the gods and goddesses of love. A series of private boxes upolstered in pink taffeta and hung with silver gauze concealed private love sessions. Each box was provided with ingenious placed peep holes.
  The architect of the Hospice, Monsieur du Bossage, invented a piece of furniture called an avantageuse, which was supposed to be more comfortable than the softest bed or divan and better adapted to the purpose of a rendezvous. The avantageuse has been described as follows full: ‘La dame doit se laisser aller en arrière après avoir […].
  New issue that was limited to 200 addicts family Perez. This season and higher ranking clergy. Aspirin it’s worth thoroughly examined during a to field and wrist test that lasted for three hours, presided diet in proud to all dignity erase ill watered crayons to the victor. New members who filed to win the seven crayons retain the three houses were not highly regarded. The admittance ceremony was a splendid a fading, culminating in effect were three of Roman that can earlier.
  The Journal of one of the female Aphrodite has been preserved; the Lady gives the list of 4,959 amorous rendezvous for a period of twenty years—not excessive when one considers the club’s reputation. This figure includes 272 princes and prelates, 929 officers, 93 rabbis, 342 financiers, 439 monks (nearly all Cordeliers, with a sprinkling of ex-Jesuites), 420 society men, 288 commoners, 117 valets, two uncles and twelve cousins, 119 musicians, 47 Negroes, and 1,614 foreigners (during an enforced absence in London—probably during the Revolution). Like so many other debauchees, the lady had a bent for statistics.

Implausible as I thought this story at the start, Epton's information is very specific and convincing. But, although she says that "The Journal of one of the female Aphrodite has been preserved," it is Raoul Vèze [aka Jean Hervez] that she cites. It was obvious therefore that, come hell or high-water, I was going to have to get a look at a copy of this Les sociétés d'amour au xviiie siècle. While stewing on this, I Googled bits of the French text that Epton quoted, on the off chance that it was reprinted in full elsewhere. This turned out to be a very good move, as you will discover in Part 2 of this saga.

Monday 17 August 2009

John Buncle, Junior, Gentleman, 1776 [Chapter 2]

[For Chapter 1, see here]

[Chapter 2] Editions.

So polite a congé from a Citizen, induced me to apply to some bibliopolist of renown, on the West side of Temple Bar; naturally presuming, that there I should meet with more enlarged sentiments. But unfortunately,

  Incidit in Scyllam cupiens vitare Charybdin,

I fell into the other extreme. I addressed myself to one, whose sentiments were, in some respects, more enlarged than my own.
  Without condescending to turn over my manuscript, or concerning himself about its contents, all his enquiries were confined to the Form in which I proposed to publish my work. He talked much about the beauty of Elziver editions, large types, neat picas, royal paper, the peculiar grace of broad margins, and distant lines.
  ‘But, sir, this manner of printing will infallibly drive out a few familiar epistles, to several volumes quarto.’
  “Aye, to be sure. You do not intend to publish them in a meaner form?”
  ‘Sir, my ambition rises no higher than to humble pocket volumes.’
  “Humble! why humble pocket volumes? Though little, they may yet be proud—You propose doubtless to imitate the modern mode, and to have each single thought elegantly set in the centre of a duodecimo page? Suppose it a trifling one, the Pomposity of the frame will give it an air of consequence.”
  ‘I told him I was by no means insensible to the charms of an elegant edition, yet this new mode was, in my opinion, a most arbitrary and cruel tax upon men of letters; who in general can least afford to pay it.[’]
  “Men of letters, (quoth he) are so few in number, that they cannot reasonably expect particular attention should be paid them; and entre nous, they seldom concern themselves with books of this class: but for the public at large, it is the most kindly tax imaginable—It pleases every body—First, as to the Author; I have already hinted it is a happy and certain method of making a few thoughts valuable.—Besides, sir, the pleasure communicated by an elegant type and superfine paper, is imperceptibly ascribed to the beauty of sentiment, clearness of expression in the work itself.—It is like enunciation in a public speaker; every thought has full justice done it, and is placed in the most conspicuous point of view. Whereas, the choicest ideas of the greatest Wit, huddled together in narrow lines, with a misty letter-press, and on spungy paper, lose all their brilliancy, and absolutely sink in with the ink.
  “Again, it is more gratifying to the pride of the Reader. He sets himself down before a pompous Quarto, or Folio, with all the dignity of a Professor. Or, if he condescend to dip into these duodecimos, as he lolls upon the sopha, with his tooth-pick in his hand, he has the satisfaction to find that even in his indolent moments—he can soon become a very voluminous reader—
  “And, sir, it is infinitely more to our advantage—A single article for a sixpenny magazine, will, according to this happy method of printing, swell itself into a treatise of half a crown or three shillings value; and the same train of ideas communicated to the world in an octavo for five, will, spread upon one of our Quarto’s, entitle us to no less than fifteen shillings or one guinea per volume—What a glorious interest this for the extraordinary consumption of paper!”
  ‘I acknowledge, said I, that there is much force in your remarks, and they deserve attention. But these elegant editions, as they are necessarily more expensive than the others, must consequently diminish the number of purchasers.’
  “Your consequence is not so conclusive as you imagine. They may alter the class of customers, but they may also increase their numbers.”
  ‘Aye! this is a paradox that wants explanation.[’]
  “Why, Sir, expensive editions secure the custom of those, who, though they complain every thing is dear, will purchase nothing that is cheap. And the number of such, in this metropolis, is so very considerable, that, were they Readers, nine parts out of ten, would enquire the price of a book, exclaim against it as exorbitant, pay the money, and look with contempt upon an edition they might have had for one third of the value.”
  “Again, a flattering edition excites every one’s curiosity. It is naturally supposed a work must have some intrinsic merit, or the editor would not have had the presumption to have been at such an extraordinary expence: and the whole impression stands a chance of being sold off, before the public are aware of their mistake.”
  “And finally, these superb impressions are sure to draw the attention of most of your nobility and gentry; who collect books as they collect pictures, or keep mistresses—not from the great pleasure they take in either, but merely as articles of State. To the eyes of these personages, your puny editions of the most respectable authors would cut but a despicable figure—For they would make no shew in their libraries.”
  ‘But do they pay no attention to the nature or contents of a book?’
  “Little or none, sir. They give an order for such a number of Folios, such a number of Quartos, or Octavos, according to the largeness and construction of their book-case; (—or perhaps Duodecimos, where a fortunate corner will admit them, provided the margins be very broad, the lines very distant, the paper superfine, and the type a la Baskerville.—) These are generally required to be the newest publications of some note, but the particular choice is generally left to ourselves—so that it is often in our power to serve a Friend, Mr. Buncle.”
  The surprise I manifested at these declarations, was construed by him as bordering upon incredulity; and, by way of supporting their validity, he assured me that a gentleman had sent him, the other day, several sets of books in boards, to be uniformly bound; some of which had been in his possession ten or fifteen years, and not a sheet of them was as yet cut open. “I was also called (says he) to reconnoitre the empty shelves of a Nobleman’s study, in order to stock them from my shop. Curiosity led me to take down Buffon’s Natural History, which was upon an adjacent shelf, consisting, of about twelve volumes in Quarto; and I found that the blundering Binder had lettered the whole set towards the bottom, in an inverted direction. This celebrated Philosopher hath, of consequence, stood upon his head, it may be seven years, and the proprietor hath not the least suspicion of the indignity done him.”
  So very favourable an account of pompous Editions, and the hopes of considerable gains, by an inconsiderable hazard, made me more than half a convert to his scheme. For the Works of John Buncle, junior, to appear in four or five volumes Quarto; to be bound in Red Morocco; sumptuously Gilt and Lettered on the back; and placed upon a conspicuous shelf in a splendid Library, I will confess, did not a little flatter my vanity:—and yet, upon recollection, it hurt my pride to be treated like a livery Servant;—a meer vassal to another’s greatness: and to have all the praises due to the brilliancy of my thoughts, lavished upon the Printer or Bookbinder. ‘No, said I, in a muttering accent,—when I write it is to be read, not gazed at, to correct, not countenance folly.’ However, I thought it prudent to conceal from my Chapman this inward contest between Avarice and Pride. But to make a virtue of rejecting his advice, I placed my refusal to the score of consistency. I observed, that although I had not much objection to satyrizing others, I did not like to hit myself a slap on the face. ‘Some years ago, said I, my youthful muse brought forth a few lines in ridicule of these pompous publications; in which, either fortunately or unfortunately, there are several ideas similar to your own. Whether they contain any of the true attic salt, or savor of the sal catharticum amarum, possessing more bitterness than pungency; or whether there be salt of any kind in them, I shall leave you to judge—Here they are—

  When authors of old brought their works into light,
*Multum in parvo’s the motto to which they had right:
But now ’tis revers’d,—their matter is slighter,
*Parvum in multo belongs to each modern writer.
Deep margins, large letters, the lines at a distance;
’Stead of genius prolific, become their assistance.
Each pitiful Rhymster has such a proud heart too,
He scorns to exhibit, in less than a Quarto;
And like a physician, expecteth rich fees
For being as pompous, and empty as he is.

  When I read a large volume, with scarce any print,
(An emblem too just of the little that’s in’t,)
Which stript of the swelling parade of its dress,
Would sink to a sixpenny pamphlet, or less;
I think of that worshipful bird, the grave owl,
Which robb’d of its feathers, is but small fowl;
Or the peacock you’ve seen on the stage, and have smil’d,
To hear it contain’d or a dwarf, or a child;
Or, a miser, that wraps up in papers a-many,
You’d think it a treasure—an old silver penny;
Or, a Dutchman’s large breeches, that cover a bum,
No larger perhaps than the bulb of one’s thumb.

  Indeed I’ll confess, that I sometimes am hurried,
Lest under such loads their poor wit mould lie buried,
And suffer the fate of a jay I’ve seen hop
In the chinks of some reams, in a stationer’s shop.
But yet, to their comfort, a Flea will draw breath
Through clothes that would smother large bodies to death.
And book-Lice, will crawl under burdens with ease,
That would give you or me a most terrible squeeze.

  When I’d written thus far, cries a friend, what’s the matter?
Pray lay down your pen, and chain up your satire.
Wit is scarce now a-days; you must take it for granted
To give something more, for what’s so much wanted.
The last happy age, abounding in treasure,
Dealt it out very cheap, with special good measure.
But now, times are hard; they cannot afford it
So cheap by three fourths, and yet they don’t hoard it.
Your dealers in this kind of food, let me tell ye,
Though their stock is but small, are quite willing to sell ye;
And lest their dear country should perish for hunger,
Unripe as it is, they will keep it no longer.
How generous this! Then be not too nice;
Take what you can get, tho’ you pay double price.
In short, wit is scarce, he that has it may boast on’t,
And they who have little—must e’en make the most on’t.

*Pronounced mult’in parv’in.

  My gentleman did not like to recognize his sentiments, when they seemed to be the subject of ridicule; and degenerating into the ceremonious complaisance of the truly Polite, upon the verge of a quarrel, we took a formal leave of each other.
  The truths uttered by our Bibliopolist, have had, however, such weight with me who desire at all times to be open to conviction, that I have resolved to approach nearer to the modern mode of publication than was originally intended—‘If a handsomer fee, (thought I) will either give greater efficacy to my prescriptions, or render them more extensively useful—Well, be it so. Let Benevolence forbid any little foolish scruples of mine from being prejudicial to mankind.’

[For Chapter 1, see here]

John Buncle, Junior, Gentleman, 1776

The first two chapters of Thomas Cogan's John Buncle, Junior, Gentleman (1776) feature an interview between the fictional author, the hero of the story, and two booksellers. John Buncle takes his manuscript to each in turn. The discussions which follow are an amusing—and revealing—satire on publishing and bookselling in the 1770s.

A copy of this book was digitized by Google from the library of the University of Michigan. I have edited the scrambled OCR against the page-images and converted the text to HTML for publication here. I will publish the second half of this text next week. [I have now done this, see here]

Title Pages, and Editions.

Parva leves capiunt animos
Ovid. Ars. Amor.

——but then
These little things are great to little men.

[Chapter 1] Title Pages.

But what’s your Title, sir, your Title? cries the first dealer in science to whom I applied, the moment the MSS. was put into his hands.
  You see, “John Bungle, junior.”
  With a significant pish, he declared it was too simple, much too simple; it would never take.
  Why not? says I, it will distinguish mine from every other publication; and let its merits do the rest.
  Merits! This is just the stile of a young author! Why, sir, tell me, in the name of common sense, can the merits of a book ooze themselves into the first page, or sweat thro’ the binding? Your’s is a title that says nothing; and therefore cannot possibly display its merits, supposing it possessed any.
  I was going to reply, but he saved me the trouble by continuing his harangue.
  “Is not this an age, Mr. Buncle, in which every man, who would make his way in the world, will take care not to conceal the least shadow of merit that may belong to him? Will a tradesman be contented with having the choicest assortment of goods in his shop, without tempting the eye with an exhibition at the window? Do not our news-papers, and advertisements in every corner of the streets, abound with such descriptions of vendible commodities, as may best allure men to purchase? Are not their advantages, their beauties, their elegancies carefully displayed, from a noble man’s villa, to your patentee blacking-cakes? from your superb hotels at the polite end of the town, to a twopenny lodging in Broad St. Giles’s? from your refined academies, which profess to give human nature its last polish, to a night-school, where reedin and spellin is carfuly taut? In a word, is not every thing upon a large scale? Do you not see great choice of goods promised, where you can scarcely meet with a single sample? The best Coniac, and Wines neat as imported, at every gin-shop? The Warehouse for shoes and boots inscribed upon every cobler’s stall?’ [sic, for ”]
  ‘But Literary productions, sir, are superior to such mean arts.’
  He laughed heartily at my simplicity. “You pretend to describe men and manners, forsooth! Why, sir, they are fully as necessary here, as in any other article put up to sale.” He assured me, that many an excellent treatise, to his knowledge, was sunk down to everlasting oblivion, merely by the dead weight of its title-page: and that as to himself, he had rather be concerned in the worst performance that ever reeked from the brain of a Dunce, artfully set off with a name that possesses some secret grace to attract the public notice, than in the works of the most towering Genius, ushered into the world with a flat, tame, insipid appellation. “When I was green in the businesses, sir, I tried the experiment: I entered into the humour of the author, simply announced the publication to the world, and as simply depended upon its merits for success.—But it would not do.—They were a drug upon my hands; and might have remained so to this day, had I not wiped off their dust, vampt them up with a new title-page, that was either interesting or pleasing, and sent them forth from our ark, never to return, thank heaven. If it was not in their nature to soar high in reputation, or fly to the most distant parts of the earth, I have often lent them wings strong enough to carry them fluttering thro’ an edition or two, in spite of all the sands, bogs, and hillocks, which would otherwise infallibly have stopped their course.”
  This naturally excited my curiosity to know a little more of the secrets of his art: and as he was in a talkative mood, he readily gratified it.
  “In some cases, said he, the merit is entirely our own; in others, the authors themselves shew so much ingenuity in this way, that the whole forte of their book seems to lie in its title.
  “When we publish the works of an author, whose name is up, as we phrase it, then indeed we dress them out in the plainest garb imaginable, prudently reserving our ornaments for those who stand more in need of them. The History of England, by Rapin de Thoïras, Philosophical Essays by David Hume, the Works of Alexander Pope, Dryden, Swift, &c. sufficiently recommend themselves; and in these cases, we love to shew how much we scorn to make use of little puffing arts, in order to impose upon public credulity.
  “Again, if an author has not yet arrived to so great a degree of eminence, why we charitably hope the best, as in your case; and by a spirit of prophesy,—which I confess sometimes fails us—we announce him to the world as the Ingenious, the Learned, the Celebrated, carefully displaying all his titles and offices, down to the chaplainship of a regiment; if they appear either posts of honour or of intelligence.
  “These bays we generally reserve for Historiographers, Biographers, writers of voyages and travels, and the rest of the troops that are in our own pay, Mr. Buncle.
  “In slight summer readings, consisting of cursory remarks, light essays upon trite subjects, private histories, novels, romances, pieces of poetry, &c. address is peculiarly requisite: and here, to confess the truth, authors share the bays with us at least. These publications are to be devoured immediately—like a morning-paper, or a hot-roll—or they are not worth a button. In these cases we take no pains to make the Title of the book agree with its contents—quite the contrary—The less we reveal, the better chance of a sale—Our business is to catch the attention, which alone can be done by exciting curiosity; and this again by keeping people in the dark. We therefore make choice of some quaint but insignificant phrase, or curious antithesis, which, without revealing any thing, is calculated to set your superficial readers alonging. Titles of this sort are admirably adapted to Circulating libraries: every pretty Miss sends for them with impatience, and reads them with avidity. I could give you a list of them as long as my shop.

  Something New.
  Did you ever see such damned Stuff?
  Agreeable Ugliness.
  Beauty put to its Shifts.
  The happy Extravagant.
  Each Sex in their Humour.
  Witty Extravagant.
  Happy Repentance.
  Happy Unfortunate.
  Lucky Disaster.

  “Alliteration again, succeeds incomparably well in fictitious names and titles, and saves an author’s wit for the inside of his book. As for example:

  Adultery Anatomized.
  Benjamin Bernard.
  Betsy Biddle.
  Betty Barnes.
  Country Cousins.
  Devil Dick.
  Female Falsehood.
  Fortunate Foundling.
  Frederic the Forsaken.
  Jemmy Jessamy.
  Merry Medley.
  Sally Sable, &c. &c.

  “Where a performance, on the contrary, is rich in materials, and we are not ashamed of our goods, we generally take care to let the world know it. The title-page now becomes a downright chapter of contents; exhibiting, like a broker’s shop, such a variety of articles to the view of the spectator, that the deuce is in it if none of them will catch him.
  When all these methods fail, and we can not get our ware off our hands”—
  ‘—You curse the author, I suppose, for a blockhead, or the world, for its want of discernment; and sit down contented with your gains upon more fortunate productions.’
  “No, not yet. We have still another card to play: which is such a master-stroke of policy, that the inventor ought to have a statue erected to his memory in Stationer’s Hall.
  “What think you, sir, of reprinting the first page of a book, that has not been asked for a dozen times, and boldly calling it the Second Edition, corrected and improved?[”]
  ‘What think I? that it is a direct falshood, and a gross imposition upon the public.’
  “Hush, hush! take care how you abuse your friends—You may stand in need of the assistance yourself, ere it be long. It is true, we had rather they would save us this trouble: but if they cannot be prevailed upon to read for their edification, it is no fault of ours; and why, in the name of justice, should the loss fall upon us? Besides, sir, if, by this artifice, we make mankind wiser and better, which is the undoubted tendency of all our publications, I think, in my conscience, it is a fib well spent.”
  ‘Were I to allow of this curious casuistry, Mr. Editor, I should still doubt of the efficacy of the means; for if the first edition has nothing in it to engage the public attention, its being called a second or a twentieth, cannot make it a whit the better book.’
  “That’s true, sir, but it makes it appear the better, and this is enough for us. You must know that the generality of purchasers never trust to their own judgment in the books they buy. Some people have no opinion of a work till it has gone through two or three editions: and would scorn to disgrace their shelves with the first impression of a Locke, a Pope, or a Milton. Others again, do not desire to be wiser than their neighbours, and yet hate that their neighbours should be wiser than themselves. The sight of a second edition makes these gentry presently ashamed, and they run to our shops with numberless apologies for their inattention. In a word, sir, there are thousands who would have nothing to do with a book that does not seem to take, though it were written by the pen of inspiration; and if it takes, they will have it at all events, though too plainly penned with a goose quill.”
  ‘But to return, Mr. Editor, to this little production of your humble servant. What name would you advise me to give it?’
  “Why, faith, I don’t know. It is such a heterogeneous performance, that I can scarcely tell what to do with it. There is a share of merit in it, and it is too good for my common-place ones, and yet none of my best will fit it, I fear. However, my catalogue of virgin titles is not quite exhausted, I believe.—We will run it over, and see what we can find.”
  ‘Virgin titles! what do you mean?’
  “Why, sir, a man’s inventive faculties are not always at home; when they are, he ought to use them. I often set myself down, when I am in a happy mood for composition, and invent a set of names, for productions, long before they exist.—They are sure to come into play one time or other—”
  He was turning to the word Sentiment:—but I checked his hand.—‘Though to possess genuine sentiment, said I, be the characteristic of every virtuous and sensible heart, yet at this delicate æra of British refinement, when every Cook-maid talks sentiment, and every Porter boasts of his sensibility, the word is become so wretchedly prostituted to subjects void of sentiment, that it must soon be thrown off amongst the exploded phrases. Positively, it begins to sound as disgusting in my ears as ’tis great, very great, immensely great, applied to Breslaw’s tricks with a leg of mutton; or ’tis clever, amazingly clever, infinitely fine, referring to a boy beating minuets upon his chin.’
  “Well then, let us look amongst the miscellaneous articles. Here is

  The Miscellaneous Traveller.
  Yet another Traveller.
  Something Newer.
  The Mental Don Quixote.
  The Spiritual Light-horse-man.
  The Moral Hussar.
  Truth wrapt up in a Falsehood.
  A regular History of a Roving Mind.
  A Word to the Wise, and a Scourge to the Unwise.

Or, if you like our Alliteration better; what think you of calling yourself,

  Billy Buncle.
  Chearful Chatterer.
  Lively Loiterer.
  Talkative Traveller.
  Prating Philosopher.

  It must absolutely be something in that stile.”
  ‘’Tis hard, quoth I, very hard, that after an author has carefully skimmed the cream of his thoughts to regale the public, he must be obliged to inscribe Asses Milk to be sold on the Postern.’
  This unlucky expression offended my gentleman so greatly, that he turned from me without uttering another word; and wishing him a good day, I departed.

[For Chapter 2, see here]

Tuesday 11 August 2009

The Other Betsy Thoughtless, Part 2

Rather than providing a detailed analysis of the other Betsy Thoughtless (concerning which, see my first post here), I have have decided to simply make the text available. I have scanned and corrected the OCR-text from the Grove Press reprint. The text is long (4,235 words), but since it is a pain to keep pdf's available online, I am posting it here anyway.

Betsy Thoughtless.

You fleering harlot, I'll have a horse to leap thee, and thy base issue shall carry thee, and thy base issue shall carry sumpters.—Come, lords, bring her along: we’ll to the prince all, where her hellhood shall wait his censure;—and if he spare thee, she-goat, may he lie with thee again! and beside, mayst thou lay upon him some nasty foul disease, that hate still follows, and his end a dry ditch! Lead, you corrupted whore.
  Cupid's Revenge.
    Beaumont and Fletcher.

  I became acquainted with this lovely girl during my visit to Cheltenham. She is the daughter of a rich commoner in the West of England, and we soon formed an intimacy of the sweetest and most agreeable kind. She was in her eighteenth year, with a form and face seldom equalled: her hair was of a lively brown, her skin perfectly white, and her face full of ardour and beauty. I discovered her secrets very soon after my introduction, by the recital of a warm and very libidinous story, which I read in the French, and which I pretended to have witnessed. This won her confidence, and she confessed that she been seduced by a young gentlemen, a protégé of her father’s.
  I lent the beautiful creature some luscious prints, tastefully executed, and which made her almost mad, as she had never seen anything of the kind before. In return for the these, which I afterwards gave her, she promised me, in writing, and memoir of the circumstances and causes of her seduction, and I cannot do better than give it in her own words:


My dear friend,

'Tis well that I am alone, for I blush to the ears in making a confession, even to you, of the wanton and naughty scenes which led to the first indulgence of my passions;—passions the most ardent and glowing; but which, I am happy to say, have met with a corresponding feeling in those of my lover;—but to my tale.
  A youth had been brought up by my father from infancy. He was called my brother; and though we frequently remarked the want of likeness between us, and other circumstances, no suspicion that he was not my brother ever entered our minds until a few months since. This youth bore our family name; was called Tom Thoughtless; was educated by my father liberally, and a midshipman’s berth was obtained for him. In progress of time he became a lieutenant, and in that capacity, full of life, full of health and beauty, and at the glowing and impetuous age of nineteen, returned from a long station and came to see us.
  Whether Tom had had any intimation of our non-relationship, I know not, but when he took me in his arms, his embrace was impetuous and boisterous, though tender: he dwelt upon my lips with a fervour, that made me thrill all over. He sucked my lips, he grasped my form to his, sighed, breathed short, and seemed full of emotion. Lord! what a tremor and flutter I was in; so new was the character of this embrace. “Oh, Betsy,” said he, full of agitation, “you are the first I woman I have held in my arms for five years.”—“Am I indeed?” I replied, scarcely knowing what I said. I fluttered dreadfully and felt quite overpowered. So new was all this, and so much awakened my passions. I lay back in his arms: he put my ringlets away from my forehead, and kissed my brow, my eyes, and my mouth. Oh! what unhallowed kisses I then thought them; flames wantoned through me and seemed to centre in one spot;—that spot which we keep so sacred, and which had scarcely been visited by my curious touch. “Oh! Betsy,” said he, “that we were not related. Let me at least for a moment indulge the sweet, the blissful idea. “I knew not what he purposed, but he thrust his tongue between my lips—it was in my teeth—upon my tongue. This motion so strange, so unexpected, almost took away my breath. I tried to speak—to cry out. Alas! I could not, my feelings choked me. His right hand had been round my waist; he dropped it to my posteriors; be felt them three or four times through my dress, then carried me to the side of the room, against which he placed me. His body was now against mine; his knee separated my limbs; he stood between them as far as my garments would allow, and began heaving by short tilts his body against mine.
  I cannot describe what I felt; I thought I should faint through excess of delight. This heaving motion continued; it made me mad; I—I—how shall I confess it?—I followed his example, and met his bobs with eager activity, sighing and crying out all the time, “Oh! Tom, Tom, my dear fellow, what are you doing?” But he evidently knew not; he was completely absorbed, and kept wriggling the middle of his person against mine, and I intuitively followed his example—so seductive is passion. In the midst of this I felt him gradually lifting up my clothes: a cold shudder communicated this to me; the next moment a looking-glass, that stood in a recess opposite to where we stood, revealed to me our shaking clothes and agitated persons. In this I saw that my legs were uncovered and part of my thighs!
  This alarmed me dreadfully, and I immediately seized his hands, full of blushes and confusion, and burning with passion, exclaimed: “Tom, what are you doing? The servants will come in, we shall be discovered.” I slipped from before him, and at the same moment heard my father's voice, giving some directions. He very shortly after entered the apartment.
  I will pass over the emotions this interview occasioned, though I dreamt that Tom was my husband, and was happy in my arms. My waking thoughts were of this dear fellow, and so impassioned were they, that I kicked down the bed-clothes, and pulling up my shift, all the lower beauties of my limbs lay open. I said to myself, "Ah? here is a pair of legs handsome enough, and a couple of round plump thighs; there is a good sprinkling of curl about this mount; but what an unmeaning thing is this slit! Can this be what the men hunt us poor women for? I can easily imagine that man has something divine for us: something delightful to feel, to grasp, to handle, to look at. Oh! that I had it now—that it was just dividing these glowing, but opening lips. Tom, look at me—you want to deflower me—I know you do. Cone then, I am ready to receive you—put it in—there, I feel it (and I pushed in my finger). Now it entered—Oh I how delicious—push, push—Tom, my dear fellow—Oh! I feel it—there, there.” With such expressions as these, and in working my fingers upon that susceptible spot we all possess, I soon dissolved in a flood of lascivious joy.
  I dressed myself with peculiar care, and was complimented by my dear Tom on my good looks and beauty. After breakfast he proposed a walk, and I eagerly put on my bonnet, and taking his arm, proceeded through the park, in which my father's house stands. “We were both in high spirits, and enjoyed each other's society. In passing a cottage, which belonged to the estate, we heard bustle and cries, and through the broken palings discovered the cottager's wife in pursuit of her daughter, a full grown girl. She caught her near where we were peeping, and putting her left foot on a washing tub, which was reversed, she pulled the girl across her knee, and drew" from under her apron a birch rod; in a moment the girl's clothes were all gathered up, and her legs and limbs sprawling in the air. Her person was beautifully formed, and her skin particularly white, and rendered more so by her having on black worsted stockings. Not a moment was lost by the enraged mother, who began to flog away at the girl's posteriors like a fury, the violence of which might be seen by the redness which followed the strokes. The girl twisted and kicked about, but was obstinately silent, and after having received about twenty severe strokes, her petticoats were put down by her mother, who exclaimed, "There, that will teach you to stay on your errands, and then tell lies to excuse it.” She left the girl; but chancing to turn her head before entering the cottage she observed the girl making faces at her. Roused by this, she darted at the girl, who was in a moment on her knee, and her clothes again flung up. The eagerness of the mother made her drop the rod, and we had time to inspect the glowing bottom of the girl, the cheeks of which were red with the recent punishment. The mother, mad with passion, now began to switch away at the thighs and buttocks of the girl; and it was evident that she made more impression, for the girl began to entreat for forgiveness; but the mother was inexorable: she kept rattling away without mercy, and after whipping her, for I am sure full a minute, till her bottom was the colour of crimson, flung her down and quitted her, saying. “You'll make faces at your mother again, you young harlot, I dare say."
  Oh! how this scene affected me; it roused my passions to a pitch of frenzy, and had we at that moment been in a place of greater privacy, and I had been solicited, I should have fallen a victim to the excitement. I walked with my impassioned companion, who, after some artful interrogatives, drew from me an avowal, that I had not only enjoyed the whole of the scene we had witnessed together, but should dearly like to have been the administrator of the punishment if it had been inflicted on a girl so pretty as Sally Meadows. We returned home. My father was out, and Tom asked me to show him my boudoir, which my father had praised for its taste the evening before. Ah! how pleased was I to do anything to give the dear fellow amusement or delight. He praised my taste in the disposition of the furniture and general arrangement; spoke of my drawings, the beautiful shrubs which adorned the large balcony of the only window in the room. “How beautiful,” he exclaimed, “how elegantly planned!, what ample admirable chairs for courting, and what a voluptuous sopha.” He came to me, and kneeling close by me, pressed me in his arms. A voluptuous languor crept over me; he saw it, and drew down my face to his; he rapturously kissed my mouth, and when I least expected it, his impassioned tongue burst between my lips. What an electric thrill did this produce! I was absolutely filled with passion; but think, my dear Miss Wilson, what was my surprise when he produced from under his coat the identical rod with which the cottager's wife had whipped Sally Meadows. The sight of it made me giddy: I knew not what I did: I felt him lay his body across my thighs, his coat-flaps were thrown up, his trousers were entirely down, and nothing covered his naked posteriors but his shirt. His putting the rod into my hand had brought me to my senses. “Oh! Tom,” said I, “it must not be—I dare not proceed—do not ask me.” He canted up his shirt, so as to leave his naked flesh entirely exposed to my view. “My dear Betsy,” said he, “don't baulk your wishes, you said you should have been glad to change places with the flogger this morning—gratify me—indulge yourself—we are alone—treat me as a truant—think me an idle boy that deserves chastisement.”—“Don’t look at me then," I said. He promised: I took the rod and began to exercise it gently on his white buttocks. Oh! the delightful sawing through the air, the whisking sound as it met his flesh, the knowledge that his breeches were down, that the secret staff of life was lying on my limbs—kept from my naked flesh only by my garments. All this conspired to fill me full of the most unchaste wishes.
  “Do I hurt you, my sweet fellow?” said I, in a voice of extreme tenderness. “No, my love; use more strength—strike with more nerve—Ah! there—that's it—that's it, my sweet Betsy.” He now laid more in front of me, and I felt him falling in between my opening knees. As my clothes were down I did not heed this; indeed, my active strokes of the birch had changed the colour of the flesh cushions, and I entered fully into the spirit of the adventure. He kept jolting his person in front of mine, at every motion of the rod, and I, to hold him more secure, had worked myself nearer to him, and close to the edge of the sopha. One of his arms was round my waist, the other grasped me lower down; my clothes, by his working gradually, got higher, which he seemed to be aware of, for his workings increased, and his long strokes pushed them higher at every heave of his body. My strokes upon his bottom continued, and I found myself cutting him without mercy. Oh I what a delirium I was in: he was now entirely between my open thighs—they expanded to admit him—Oh! I shall never forget the moment—new, intoxicating and delirious. Something hard pressed against my thighs, then against my belly: it kept repeatedly bobbing against the most sensitive part of my body. I thought he was debauching me: I seemed to feel that he was really entering my—I had not power to prevent him; indeed, I found that I was spreading myself out, jutting up my body, and doing everything that I thought would facilitate his purpose.
  I lost all sense of shame and of propriety: I urged him not to delay my happiness, that I was ready, and would bear anything for his sake. This I accompanied by an eager imitation of his motions. I met his thrusts: we went on in regular cadence: the rod fell from my nerveless grasp; my arms intuitively embraced his naked back: I cried, sighed, and fell back in a state of insensibility. I recovered: he was just in the act of getting from off my body. I now felt confused indeed, and jumped up and made my escape in the greatest disorder into my bed-room.
  Ignorant as I then was of man, I really believed that my virginity had been taken, and having bolted the door, I sat in a chair facing the looking-glass. I pulled up my clothes, and was surprised to find a very large portion of my shift completely wetted in front. This indeed, had saved me. I looked at the wet-with amazement and exclaimed, “What a quantity—I am quite flooded—what an inundation—Heavens! if this had been deposited within my person!” This thought, which at first alarmed me, inflamed me more on consideration; and amid a thousand extravagancies, I eagerly proceeded to obtain all the gratification within my own reach. When my intoxication had ceased, I found it necessary to change my linen, and I accordingly dressed for dinner, taking as much pains with my person as possible, for which I was again rewarded by the extravagant encomiums of the young sailor. When we were alone, he took occasion to remark that my father had informed him that he wished to have a conference with him before dinner on the morrow, as he had something of importance to communicate.
  The morrow arrived; my dear fellow was at my side, and he again led me blushing and trembling to the boudoir. I had reassured myself into the supposition that he would not proceed to extremities with me, from fear of consequence, our fancied relationship, and from his pausing yesterday on the very threshold of happiness, and this made me bold, though excess of passion kept me weak and trembling. He again produced the rod; I tried to persuade him not to proceed. He heeded me not, but put down his trousers. He [w]as kneeling on the sopha where I was sitting. He brought both my legs upon the sopha, against which proceeding I remonstrated, but could not prevent him. He now drew off his trousers, and kneeling between my legs, leaned forward to kiss me. It was impossible for me not to see his shirt bolstering out in front of him, and my imagination was instantly at work. His soul-thrilling kiss set me in a blaze. He seemed to wish to uncover my neck: the removal of my neckerchief and half-a-dozen buttons undone behind, not only enabled him to lay my bosom entirely bare, but my shoulders also. He made the most wanton observations on their whiteness, size and beauty; called them a most charming pair of pouting bubbies, and said, he had no doubt my hidden beauties were equally voluptuous and desirable; but what could exceed my surprise and admiration, when he pulled up his shirt, and discovered to me that monstrous thing, about which I had so often dreamt and agitated myself, of a thickness and length perfectly frightful, as it stood in all its pride and stiffness. I devoured its shape, head and appendages, as it started in convulsive throbs before me. He then tumbled me backwards—I had not the power to resist him, though I fell that he was lifting up all my garments and exposing my most secret parts. An exclamation of joyful surprise broke from him, as he caught a view of my person. My native modesty had made me close my limbs, which were now perfectly naked, but his hands opened them to their fullest extent, in spite of entreaties. “How can you now, Tom, use me so? It’s quite a shame to expose my person in this way.”—“I must, my dear, dear sister,” said he. “What a bright, transparent skin! What beautiful legs! what round, white, soft, fleshy and voluptuous thighs! what a rough and hairy concern you have got here!”—“Really, Tom, you are too bad; you make my face burn like scarlet,” and I put both my hands over the spot he had named. They were soon, however, pulled off, and I found his fingers busily opening the hot and fiery cell of my virginity. I could not prevent him—I lay fluttering like a wounded partridge—the victim of lust. If I looked up, the truncheon of love was throbbing before me, and rendered me perfectly reckless of any consequences. Enjoyment I wanted; and I facilitated all his endeavours for that purpose, He placed a cushion under me—I was completely exposed to his touch:-he opened the lips of the virgin slit; he touched the sensitive nerve; he laid down upon my body, and dividing the lips of my moss-rose, lodged the head of his capacious instrument between them. I still thought he meant to go no further; he put his arms round me—I clung eagerly to him, and abandoned myself to the transports of the moment. We kissed each other with fervour unceasingly. “Have you ever been enjoyed, my sweet girl?” said he. “Oh! never,” said I. “Why cannot we give each other pleasure?—you are ready for the amorous conflict—I am maddening for it. My instrument is throbbing against your eager avenue. Let me enter, my sweet girl—let me push it in but a short way.”—“Ah, no, no,” I exclaimed, “cannot you be satisfied to do as yesterday?”—“Oh! Betsy,” said he, “can I witness your impassioned look?—Can I look at these throbbing breasts heaving with desire, and not feel emotion?—Can I know that I am now standing stiffly, ready for the encounter, placed at the very entrance of the portal of love, and that portal a virginity?—no, no, impossible. I must—I must, by heavens—must put it in!” A gentle movement of his bottom sent the instrument lip deep; another, and the head was in; a third, I found opening the rose leaves of my pucelage. He was on the high way to happiness; I felt him every instant making more way, penetrating by inches. He hurt me, but I heeded it not—I was maddened, intoxicated, and felt ready for sacrifice. He had placed me so advantageously for his purposes that his most trifling movement told. I felt distinctly the fibres of his instrument as he advanced and drew back. He kept up a short and steady rocking motion, which provoked passion, and made me, in spite of myself, reply to his movements. Oh I with what rapture did I meet his thrusts! How loud were my sighs! how ardent my expressions of delight! “Oh, heavens!” I exclaimed, “what pleasure. This is beyond my hopes—beyond my expectations. Oh! Tom, my dearest Tom, I will ever love you; do you love me, are you gratified?” Kisses long and ardent followed these expressions, whilst the mighty engine kept working its way within me. I felt that the narrow limit was filled: I felt the head of the instrument distinctly: I still kept up, working my loins to meet him, and had flung my head back and shut my eyes, to enjoy the full swing of the imagination. “Are you fainting, my sweet?” said he, “are you dissolving?”—“No, my dear Tom,” I returned, hiding my face in his shoulder, “but I think I soon shall” He began to move faster—I kept pace with him—our movements were violent. I cried, laughed and sighed by turns, as I fell the intoxicating moment coming with furious haste upon me. “Oh!” said he, “my love—Betsy—my queen-sister—love—I am coming—I am coming—Oh! there!” At this instant I found shot into my very vitals that hot liquid, so maddening to the female—so exquisite in its administration; but so fatal in its consequences to the unmarried. I shrieked as the boiling juice was spouted into me: another followed; but before I had received a third, I had lost all remembrance of the scene in an hysterie.
  Upon my recovering, I found myself silting upright in the arms of Tom. My clothes were down certainly, but my bosom was entirely bare, and my hair, having got loose from the comb, hung over my naked shoulders, and I was in dreadful disorder. I threw my arms round the dear fellow’s neck, and sobbed upon his bosom, for my heart was full of the tenderest love for him. I wished him to leave me alone, and he kindly complied, kissing me with a fervour that re-kindled my desires; had he pressed it, I should again have yielded—I feel I could refuse him nothing.
  I went to my bedroom, and there found it would be necessary to change my chemise—lord! lord! how it was marked—the whole story of my virginity might be read upon its tail.
  When I had dressed I went down to dinner, and learned with sorrow that Tom had been sent by my father to a neighbouring town, to bring some papers from his lawyer. This evening I passed in a feverish impatience, for he came not. He returned to breakfast in the morning. We met like lovers after a long separation. During the morning I was in my boudoir, when my father entered, leading in my sweet ravisher. I could perceive from the countenance of each that something of importance had passed between them, and my father undertook to explain the cause to me. “My sweet child,” said he, “you are now come to years of discretion, and I ought to explain a secret which, for motives not now necessary to give you, I have kept from your knowledge. Tom is not my son; but the child of an old college friend, whose finances were exhausted by play. You have hitherto looked upon him as your brother; perhaps, in a year or two you could prevail upon yourself to accept him as a husband, for I mean to share my fortune between you.” I could hear no more—I sunk into the extended arms of Tom, who kissed me again to life. When I came to myself, I turned my eyes on my fascinating seducer. “Did I hear aright? are we, indeed, strangers in blood?” A long kiss that half recovered me was the reply. We reeled to the couch—we both sunk upon it. I drew up my clothes (think how shocking that was!) to be ready. He was in the act of unbuttoning his trousers, when it occurred to me that the door was not fastened, and that papa might return. I told Tom of it; he hastened to bolt it, when he luckily heard some one coming: he gave me the signal; I jumped up, adjusted my clothes, and with a pair of old scissors began to trim the flowers in the balcony. My father entered, and was delighted to see me so completely recovered: the rest of the day he spent with us. what need I say more. My dear Miss Wilson? but during the happy fortnight or his stay, every moment we could pass in secret was devoted to passion. He left me only for a short time; he is to return next month, when I am to be a bride, and Tom is to go to sea no more. Think, my dear friend, how my young heart beats for that moment:—think of my impassioned dreams. I go over repeatedly all we have done together, and feel that I must love this dear fellow for ever.

I remain, my dear friend,
  Yours very faithfully,
    Elizabeth Thoughtless.

March, 1839.