For me, the most fascinating thing about the Regency-Georgian period is the huge amount of contrasts. Here's a fascinating one--along with the vast amount of pornography on sale Dr. Bowdler was busy at work cleaning up Shakespeare and concerned parents were strapping their lads into harnesses at night to prevent any involuntary--or god forbid, voluntary--sexual activity. The Victorians perfected the guilt and shame and all the rest of it that their parents and grandparents got things off to a flying start.
This lovely contraption was in use in the first decade of the nineteeth century in France. France, no less, home of the ooh-la-la and all the rest of it.
One of the biggest bestsellers in England of the eighteenth century was a tract published anonymously but enjoying multiple best-selling reprints:
or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution and all its Frightful Consequences in both Sexes
With Spiritual and Physical Advice to Those Who Have
Already injured themselves by this Abominable Practice
To which are added
Divers remarkable letters from such Offenders, to the Author,
Lamenting their Impotencies and Diseases thereby...
And the contrast with this rampant, hysterical prudery? Obviously, all the porn and naughtiness. But also something far more profound, I think--the Romantic movement itself, with its emphasis on solitude and allowing emotions and imagination to run free, the contemplation of the mysteries of nature and love.