The worm in the bud: the world of Victorian sexuality
"This classic book on Victorian hypocrisy reveals the other side of Victoria's Britain, and what really went on behind the lace curtains and aspidistras. Ronald Pearsall exposes, with thorough documentation, the bald facts of sex-life (approved and illicit) among the aristocracy, the middle class and poor in the nineteenth century. His curious record is honest, entertaining, and very humorous. It also reflects the conflicting values of the Victorian double standard - one is the very image of respectability, the other is an underground world in which repressions sought their outlet in depravity and licentiousness. In this book Ronald Pearsall introduces the reader to Ruskin and his unconsummated marriage, Swinburne and his predilection for flagellation, the cult of the corset, the flourishing trade in pornography and obscene photographs and orgies that took place under cover at sedate country houses."--BOOK JACKET.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
Last night I finished reading Ronald Pearsall's The Worm in the Bud, his famous study of Victorian sexuality. Whilst there is lots of interesting information in the book, I had problems with the tone of the book. I think in part this reflects the fact that it was first published in 1969. Although Pearsall appears to sympathise with the general lot of Victorian women, overall he tends to the opinion that men are naturally rapacious, and women just have to lump it. When reporting a particularly shocking and revolting case of sexual abuse upon a very young child, Pearsall's only comment is a rather neutral 'Man can be, indeed, a strange and terrible animal'. Perhaps it's just me, but I catch a whiff of admiration in this sentiment. Pearsall also has some eyebrow-raising things to say about homosexuality, viz, that anal intercourse among gay men 'is not believed to be very common'. Uh? Says who? He relies rather too heavily on the findings of the Kinsey report, and uses this to compare sexual behaviour 'today' with that experienced in the Victorian age. When discussing bachelors, he clearly sympathises with men who preferred to pursue other matters than courtship (although he's happy to generalise that 'The solitary life tends to bring in its train nervous disorders'). When it comes to spinsters, though, his view seems to be that if women didn't marry it was because they were either suffering from a 'constitutional weakness' or were too unattractive to receive any offers of marriage. In other words, according to Pearsall, men naturally shy away from the married state (there are always whores...), whilst woman's 'natural inclinations' were towards marriage. Overall, The Worm in the Bud is a useful resource to dip in to. It's very readable, and there is interesting material presented in bite-sized pieces, but Pearsall's tone will likely grate if, like me, you're a 21st century feminist :-) [January 2010]
Review: The Worm in the Bud: The World of Victorian SexualityUser Review - Goodreads
There are a lot of interesting tidbits in this book, but it's wordy and if it had been written in a more concise manner than it'd be half the length. A lot of names were thrown at the reader, often without date or context, as if the reader should already know who they are.