NABOKV-L post 0024116, Wed, 1 May 2013 14:16:50 +0200

Erotic Architecture in "The New Epicurean" and "Ada"
Alexey’s recent postings on Ada’s Villa Venus reminded me of my posting of
December 28, 2008, in which I drew attention to The New Epicurean listed in
Pisanus Fraxi’s Index Librorum Prohibitoru (London 1877-1885), reprinted in
3 vols. as Bibliography of Prohibited Books (New York: Jack Brussel 1962). I
wrote that “the extracts cited are very interesting when compared to Eric
Veen's Villa Venus.”

The full title is: The New Epicurean; or, the Delights of Sex, Facetiously
and Philosophically Considered, in Graphic Letters Addressed to Young Ladies
of Quality. London 1740. Reprinted 1865.

The bibliographer states that it is no reprint but an original work first
published by W. Dugdale in 1865 with 8 coloured lithographs. It was
reprinted in 1875* in Brussels for a London bookseller. Author and artist is
Edward Sellon.

This work is interesting because it provides what I would call an “erotic
architecture”, a prototypical floramor on a small private scale, to enable
the architect to indulge in his predilection for young girls as Demon and
Van do.

In The New Epicurean, under the name of Sir Charles Sellon is depicted a
course of life and a habitation which were entirely to his taste.

“I am a man who, having passed the rubicon of youth, has arrived at that age
when the passions require a more stimulating diet than is to be found in the
arms of every painted courtesan.

“That I might the better carry out my philosophical design of
pleasure without riot, and refined voluptuous enjoyment without alloy, and
with safety, I became the purchaser of a suburban villa, situate in
extensive grounds, embosomed in lofty trees, and surrounded with high walls.
This villa I altered to suit my taste, and had it so contrived that all the
windows should face towards the road, except the French ones, which opened
on the lawn from a charming room, to which I had ingress from the grounds at
the back, and which was quite cut off from the rest of the house. To render
these grounds more private, high walls extended like wings from either side
of the house and joined the outer walls. I thus secured an area of some
three acres of woodland which was not overlooked from any quarter, and where
everything that took place would be a secret unknown to the servants in the
villa […] The grounds I had laid out in the true English style, with
umbrageous walks, alcoves, grottoes, fountains, and every adjunct that could
add to their rustic beauty….** The gardeners who kept this happy valley in
order were only admitted on Mondays and Tuesdays, which days were devoted by
me entirely to study, the remaining four being sacred to Venus and love.”

[A detailed description of his sale d’amour furnished entirely in Louis
Quinze style, paintings by Watteau, erotic works by the best authors,
illustrated with exciting prints and charmingly bound.]

“In this Elysium then Sir Charles indulges in debaucheries of
every kind, chiefly with young girls who are brought to him by a
schoolmistress, a tenant of his. Sir Charles is married, but his Lady
Cecilia in no way interferes with his voluptuous idiosyncrasies, but joins
him in his orgies, and indeed enjoys a little page of her own.”

[Cecilia has an affair with her cousin Lord William, Sir Charles surprises
them en flagrant délit, they fight a duel on the spot, which leaves them
both slightly wounded, after which the lady enters a convent, and assumes
the black veil.]

“Sir Charles now takes a disgust to his villa, which he sells,
and retreats, with Phoebe and Chloe, his two female servants, Daphnis, [his]
lady’s page, and old Jukes, his housekeeper, to his Herefordshire estate.”

“[Y]ou will readily suppose,” he continues, “that I cannot
perform the feats of Venus I once indulged in, but two or three blooming
little girls, who pass for the sisters and cousins of Phoebe and Chloe,
serve to amuse me by their playfulness, and tumbling about showing their
beauties, sometimes stir my sluggish blood into a thrill.”

“The book, which, for reasons that are not evident, is in the
form of letters to various women, is written with ability. In accordance
with the false indication of the title pages [London, 1740], the scene and
costume […] are thrown back into the last century, but the delusion is very
clumsily carried out.” Volume I, pp. 314-319.


*By a delicious coincidence, 1875 is the year in which “all the hundred
floramors opened simultaneously” (Ada, 2.3: 350)

** “Whether nestling in woodland dells or surrounded by a many-acred park,
or overlooking terraced groves and gardens, access to Venus began by a
private road and continued through a labyrinth of hedges and walls with
inconspicuous doors to which only the guests and the guards had keys.” P.351

A. Bouazza

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