Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I found the Horse!

A month or so ago, I talked about Theresa Berkeley, known brothel madam and specialist in the birch discipline. One of the items I’d read about was the Berkeley Horse, an invented device but all my sources said that the image was lost.

Not so! While doing research on my upcoming and oft-mentioned talk about Sex During the Regency, I came across an article loaded with images. And the Berkeley Horse was one of them!

According to the author’s article, this image appeared in the collection of the Victorian “Society for the Promotion of the Arts, Manufacture and Commerce at the Adelphi”. The man who donated the item was a member of the Adelphi Society (amazingly, I might add, since by this point he was well known as a publisher of erotic work), and a friend of Theresa Berkeley.

His name was George Cannon and he’s a fascinating man, at least according to Iain McCalman’s accounts. He not only appears in this article “Unrespectable Radicalism: Infidels and Pornography in Early Nineteenth Century London” (Past and Present, No. 104, 1984, pp74-110), but in his book “Radical Underworld: Prophets, Revolutionaries and Pornographers in London, 1795-1840”.

And if those titles alone don’t salivate the creative tastebuds as to the kinds of characters that might be found for future works, well, then maybe you haven’t read Pam Rosenthal’s “The Bookseller’s Daughter”, although her bookseller is a lot more respectable.

This peek at the underbelly of London -- where respectable folk (Cannon started out as either a solicitor or a solicitor’s clerk) gradually become “unrespectable” and really don’t give a damn about it. Cannon was also clever, avoiding arrest for the longest time. And after he died, his wife ran the business, which was not uncommon among these folk.

As you can see, I’ve included a picture of the infamous Berkeley Horse, although I can see from the sketch that it would be quite impossible to whip someone on any part of the body, as a few of them are covered by the boards. But I imagine you would be positioned face forward, as there’s room for your face to stick through and, er, other parts.

I haven’t been able to answer everyone’s questions, although I do wonder if the pet names that sneak through in correspondence come out of bed-talk, but who knows...


Lacy Danes said...

I imagine you would be strapped face inward on the outside of the horse so that your entire backside would be exposed and available for the birching! The other slots are available for touching of the parts of the body facing in...


Lovely pic. I had been wondering what it looked like.

Can't wait to read your new story!


Pam Rosenthal said...

I'll be at the workshop, with bells on (or whatever). Sounds great, Celia. I haven't thought about enlightenment pornography lately. Looking forward to being juiced.

Sharon Page said...

Looking forward to your workshop, Celia. Thanks for posting the picture and your references. I, too, am also looking forward to your story.

Celia May Hart said...

Thanks guys! Let's hope that my editor feels the same way! *fingers crossed*

Anonymous said...

This thing looks mightily uncomfortable. All things considered, I'm thinking it would be far more desirable to be the bircher, not the birchee.

Pam Rosenthal said...

You left me an easy one, anon -- different strokes for different folks, you know.