Now joining the ocean of filth online: The British Library’s “Private Case” of obscene literature, which has been fully digitized, including an 18th century written under the frankly hilarious name of “Roger Pheuquewell.” Get it????
The Guardian explained that the Private Case is a collection of 2,500 volumes that, until fairly recently, was basically locked away in a literal private case. “There was essentially a series of cupboards in the keeper’s room from the 1850s, where material that was deemed to be unsuitable was kept locked away – usually because of its obscene nature, so pretty much anything to do with sex,” Maddy Smith, curator of printed collections, told the paper. It’s been gradually opening up since the 1960s, and this is the final step, making it widely available through an academic database. (So, relatively widely available, though certainly not universal.)
We’re talking 40 copies of Fanny Hill, My Secret Life, and “Memoirs of Dolly Morton, an 1899 novel about the erotic adventures of a Quaker woman in the American south before the civil war,” which we’ll just assume is an absolute nightmare.
More on the work of—again—Roger Pheuquewell:
First published in the 1740s, the Merryland books were written by different authors, all describing the female anatomy metaphorically as land ripe for exploration. Thomas Stretzer, who died in 1738, was the then-anonymous author of A New Description of Merryland, credited in a 1741 edition to one Roger Pheuquewell. In it, the author describes his “instrument” as “of a large radius … inferior to none”, writing of how “to say truth, the nature of the Soyl is very strange, so that if a man do but take a piece of it in his hand, twill cause (as it were) an immediate Delirium, and make a man fall flat upon his face upon the ground, where if he have not a care, he may chance to lose a limb, swallowed up in a whirl-pit”.
Sounds imperialist as hell. Nevertheless it’s incredible that so much can change over the centuries, yet “Roger Pheuquewell” remains absolutely hilarious.