When Flesh Becomes Word: An Anthology of Early Eighteenth-Century Libertine Literature

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Bradford K. Mudge
Oxford University Press, Apr 1, 2004 - Literary Collections - 368 pages
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When Flesh Becomes Word collects nine different examples of British libertine literature that appeared before 1750. Three of these--The School of Venus (1680), Venus in the Cloister (1725), and A Dialogue Between a Married Lady and a Maid (1740)--are famous "whore dialogues," dramatic conversations between an older, experienced woman and a younger, inexperienced maid. Previously unavailable to the modern reader, these dialogues combine sex education, medical folklore, and erotic literature in a decidedly proto-pornographic form. This edition presents other important examples of libertine literature, including bawdy poetry, a salacious medical treatise, an irreverent travelogue, and a criminal biography. The combination of both popular and influential texts presented in this edition provides an accessible introduction to the variety of material available to eighteenth-century readers before the publication of John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure in 1749.

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When flesh becomes word: an anthology of early eighteenth-century libertine literature

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The publication of John Cleland's Fanny Hill in 1749 marked the emergence of what we term pornography. What might be called erotic and bawdy literature certainly stretches back to Ovid and Martial ... Read full review


British Libertine Literature before Fanny Hill 1749
CHAPTER 1 The School of Venus 1680
CHAPTER 2 The Pleasures of a Single Life 1701 The Fifteen Comforts of Cuckoldom 1706 and The Fifteen Plagues of a MaidenHead 1707
CHAPTER 3 Gonosologium Novum 1709
CHAPTER 4 Venus in the Cloister 1725
CHAPTER 5 A Dialogue Between a Married Lady and a Maid 1740
CHAPTER 6 A New Description of Merryland 1741
CHAPTER 7 The Female Husband 1746

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Page xxxi - Truth ! stark naked truth,* is the word, and I will not so much as take the pains to bestow the strip of a gauze-wrapper on it, but paint situations such as they actually rose to me in nature, careless of violating those laws of decency, that were never made for such unreserved intimacies as ours...
Page xxi - ... had the same kind of impulse which made Giulio Romano do the original paintings, and inasmuch as the poets and the sculptors, both ancient and modern, have often written or carved— for their own amusement only— such trifles as the marble satyr in the Chigi Palace who is trying to assault a boy, I scribbled off the sonnets which you find underneath each one. The sensual thoughts which they call to mind I dedicate to you, saying a fig for hypocrites. I am all out of patience with their scurvy...
Page xxiii - Charing Cross and drove to St. Paul's. Then walked to Lime Street. Was to have gone to Woodford with Preston. Was too late. Called Dr. Johnson; not at home. Called on old Cleland.9 Found him in an old house in the Savoy, just by the waterside. A coarse, ugly old woman for his servant.1 His room, filled with books in confusion and dust, was like Dupont's and old Lady Eglinton's, at least old ideas were suggested to me as if I were in a castle. He was drinking tea and eating biscuits. I joined him....

About the author (2004)

Bradford K. Mudge is Professor of English at the University of Colorado and the author of The Whore's Story: Women, Pornography, and the British Novel, 1684-1830.

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