Thursday, January 28, 2010

Technical Topics -- Historical Words for Explicit Content

In the interest of providing useful bibliographies . . . here's a list of references for  words in use in the Regency Period for explicit behavior.

You'll note a good many of these works are fifty or sixty years after the Regency. If you find a promising word or phrase in some later reference, you'll need to go back and check it.

Educated folks would have also read French and Latin erotic classics. The Satryicon was available in German in the Regency era, for instance.

The Slang Dictionary. Hotten. 1859. Here.

Grose's Classical Ditionary of the Vulgar Tongue. Pierce Egan. 1823. here.

A Physical View of Man and Woman in a State of Marriage. de Lignac. 1798. Here.

Dictionary of Slang, Jargon and Cant. Barrere and Leland. 1889 Here.

The Works of Francis Rabelais. Here .

Slang. Badcock. 1823. Here.

A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon and Cant. Leland. 1890. Here.

Philosophy in the Bedroom and 120 Days of Sodom. De Sade Here.

The Lustful Turk. John Benjamin Brookes. 1828. Here.

A Night in a Moorish Harem. Anon. 1896. Here.

Aphrodisiacs and Anti-aphrodisiacs. John Davenport. 1869. here.

Autobiography of a Flea. Anon. 1901. Here.

My Secret Life. Anon. 1888. Here.

The Kama Sutra of Vatsayayana. Richard Burton. Here.

Liber Amoris or the New Pygmalian. William Hazlitt.

The London Bawd. Anon. 1705. here.

Memoirs of a Young Rakehell. Guillaume Appollinaire. 1907.Here.

The New Ladies Tickler. Anon. 1866. Here.

The Romance of Lust Anon. 1873. Here.

The Three Chums. Ridley. 1882. Here.

The Way of a Man with a Maid. Anon.
I don't know where this is free online, but it can be downloaded for a small fee several places.


I'd recommend picking up C18 and C19 erotic wordage from the period literature rather than period dictionaries.

The couple few C18 slang 'dictionaries' are irreplaceable for confirmation of earliest date.
They're less reliable for showing usage.

What it is -- these early dictionaries were intended for entertainment rather than scholarly reference. They conflate clever one-offs, (a good many created by the author, I suspect,) with true slang.

So it's cute to call a coachman a 'Knight of the Whip'? as per Grosse, but it sounds like literary affectation, not what one character could say to another. And calling a whore an 'Athanasian wench'??
Not so much.

The slang, 'blowen' -- meaning a woman -- gets 630 hits on googlebooks for the 1700-1830 time period. 'Athanasian wench' appears only in Grosse.

So I'd pull erotic usage out of the literature and then check the dctionaries for confirmation.  Or googlebook search.
I am just in love with googlebook search.


  1. Wow! Those are some doozies.

  2. Ah. Historical pornography.

    One of the little known side benefits of writing in the Regency period.

  3. Seriously. (And highly entertaining. {g}) I can't say I'm shocked at the content, but maybe a little surprised the authors found publishers back then. Though I suppose I shouldn't be.

  4. The Kama Sutra was 'printed privately' in English in 1883.

    I guess nowadays it'd be put up on a blog.

  5. It probably is on a blog somewhere. Or at least a reasonable facsimile of it.

  6. Elisa Beatty11:57 PM

    This is such a fabulous list. Thank you!!

  7. I read some Victorian porn when I was in college--well, they were stocked right next to the romances in the college bookstore!

    And that turned me off the name Roger forever. Since to roger was the equivalent of to #@#%.

  8. @ Sherry --

    Peter, Dick, Roger and the ever-popular Ralph.

    I don't know how anybody gets named this.

  9. @ Elisa Beatty --

    These refs are useful and available on-line. I would not go to the barricades defending the literary merit of any of these.

  10. Anonymous9:30 PM

    I actually wrote my junior paper on Prostitution in England and France, and used some of these books.

    My Secret Life is supposed to be autobiography.

  11. I wish I could see your bibliography.

    If you're ever glancing over your old school papers and that Junior Paper looks like it might be interesting to others, think about posting it somewhere.

    In fact, you may consider this an invitation to be a guest blogger here -- (even an anonymous guest blogger.) I'd love to post a paper on Prostitution in England and France.

  12. rofl Leave it to Miss Jo. I am seriously rolling. I still remember the comment at Myrtle Beach. "I'm putting my heroine in a whore house. I wonder why more people don't invite me out."

    BTW Margaret Crowle and Bob Mayer linked to this post on twiiter. You need to make an appearance.

  13. @ Julie --

    Oh yes. La Maison de la Pomme D'Or. It turns up in Forbidden Rose and then again -- I'm thinking -- in the Justine manuscript.

    I am a big fan of Bob Mayer, being a Crusie addict. But not even for the estimable Mr. Mayer am I prepared to tweat. I cannot be pithy. I lack pith.

    I hope folks find the bibliography useful.
    Y'know. For someone who doesn't do the explicit sexxoring in the books, I do seem to come up with some X-rated posts. The one on historical French underwear, for instance, always gets hits.