Marketed by the publishers John Murray in 1900 as a work of non-fiction, An Englishwoman’s Love Letters became a sensational bestseller within a matter of weeks.
The publisher’s advert in The Times just before Christmas (19th December 1900) sought to appease the demand in a tone unthinkable today:
Mr Murray regrets the inevitable delay which purchasers are experiencing in obtaining copies of this book. He is doing all he can to expedite the work. So immediate and unprecedented a success holds him excused.
Written by a much embarrassed English man of letters, brother to the better known poet A. E., Laurence Housman wrote them as ‘Anonymous’ because he was fed up with being broke. His Introduction set the scene and gave the lie:
It need hardly be said that the woman by whom these letters were written had no thought that they would be read by anyone but the person to whom they were addressed. But a request, conveyed under circumstances which the writer herself would have regarded as all-commanding, urges that they should now be given to the world; and, so far as is possible with a due regard to the claims of privacy, what is here printed presents the letters as they were first written in their complete form and sequence.
It was not the first time pornography had come to the aid of the publishing cause or for that matter infiltrated the literary world.
Its success showed what many publishers already knew: the best market for titillating porn are female readers. It is the great unspoken guilty secret of the ‘feminist’ book buyer. While condemning the male groper around the tea machine at the office, the ravishing by a big hunk of a man or, even better, multiple big hunks, graphically written in lurid paragraphs, can pass the time on the Kindle on the Underground very nicely thank you.
The internet has increased the sale of the bodice-ripping, carnal fantasy market tenfold with the ability for women to read porn on tablets without their nearby passengers ever realising. (Many men seem to want to read Mein Kampf in the same manner, but that’s another matter.) Both are perilously on the edge.
For poor men reach their sexual zenith at the age of nineteen – when women have hardly begun their own – and are definitely the weaker of the sexes since they don’t have the benefits of those multiple orgasms which women claim to achieve. We are easily knackered.
The old adage that men are obsessed with sex and think about it every second of every day might have been true long ago but a sharp reversal has now taken place. Women have excelled in their new found role and are now the sex fiends we once were. They take pride, and brag about their seduction capabilities and their sexual stamina that overpowers the male in its durability, and become more rampant with age.
May their reading habits continue to swell poor publishers’ pockets who have, of late, been castrated by the economic downturn that has claimed many a flourishing enterprise. A word of caution, however:+ porn without the essential literary embellishment is short-lived and unlikely to stand the test of time.