While doing research for my Beau Monde talk back in July (Sex During the Regency: What Jane Austen Knew and Lord Byron Didn’t), I came across this charming cartoon. It’s dated 1826 and is called “Four Specimens of the Reading Public”. The captions above the four are way to small to read, here they are from right to left:
Frank a la Mode: “Pray is a Waverley’s new Novel out----?”
Political Dustman: “I vants a Cobbett”
Sir Larry Lascivious: “Have you the last of Harriette Wilson?”
Romancing Molly: “Hav’nt you no Romances in 5 Wollums?”
That’s “Volumes” by the way, and I have no idea why the Dustman sounds German (or Russian). Cockney doesn’t sound like that. *scratches head*
Anyway, take a look at our Lascivious gent: older, rich, elegantly dressed. This, according to my reading, was the primary demographic for obscene publishers. Secondary, and more likely to come “innocently” come across these novels, were women of the middle and upper classes. That’s how my heroine in SHOW ME from last year, came across this “obscene” literature.
What would a “Four Specimens of the Reading Public” look like today? I’ll leave that to your imagination.