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My Secret Life Is Perhaps The Most Infamous Of All Underground Victorian Erotica It Is The Sexual Memoir Of A Well To Do Gentleman Who Began At An Early Age To Keep A Diary Of His Erotic Behavior He Continues This Record For Over Years, Creating In The Process A Unique Social Psychological Document Authorship Of The Book Is Mysterious Henry Spencer Ashbee, A Book Collector, Writer Bibliographer Notable For His Particular Focus On Sexuality Is Suspected By Some To Be Walter He Is Very Likely The Compiler Of The Book S Index, The Provider Of Some Editorial Assistance The Person Who Saw The Text Into PrintGershon Legman Was St To Link Walter Ashbee In Legman S Introduction To The Reprints Of Ashbee S Bibliographies The Grove Press Edition Of My Secret Life Included An Expanded Version Of That EssayMore Recently, However, Ian Gibson S The Erotomaniac The Secret Life Of Henry Spencer Ashbee , ISBN Provides A Detailed Review Of Circumstantial Evidence Arguing That Ashbee Wrote My Secret Life , Presumably Weaving Fantasy Anecdotes From Friends In With His Own Real Life Experiences Just Prior To This, In May , Channel UK Broadcast A Documentary, Walter The Secret Life Of A Victorian Pornographer , Which Also Claimed That Ashbee Was Walter Victorian fun from behind closed doors The anonymous author doesn t flinch in details that would equal a good issue of Hustler and proves that sex doesn t change, only the clothes people undress Whether fact, fiction, or both, as history and erotica this book is essential and once read will stay with you for life. Don t judge me.I have a very good reason for reading this excessively graphic, insistently perverse, Victorian era sex memoir I m researching, you see, for this, ah, for this book I m writing about mid 19th century London scullery maids Or something Let us be honest with each other We all know why I read Anonymous My Secret Life The reason is simple Because it s there I am the Mallory of prurient interest and this is my Everest I can still sense you judging me Alas, this is who I am I read a lot of books Books on the Civil War On World War I and II Biographies about presidents Biographies about generals But every once in awhile, I feel the need to read something bawdy And so we arrive at this place My wife took it rather well The look on her face when I added this to my bookshelf was pretty amazing I didn t know a person could have so many conflicted feelings reflected on their face simultaneously To her credit, she didn t say a thing Just pulled out the ol pre printed divorce forms and made a few updates Eventually, she also came up with a list of ground rules for reading My Secret Life To wit I was not allowed to read it in public, including the patio, where people might see I wasn t allowed to bring it to work, lest I lose my job I couldn t read it in our bedroom, or in my office, or in the kids rooms, or in any room the kids ever entered, or in the kitchen where food was prepared I also couldn t read it in the bathroom unless I was simultaneously taking an ice cold shower Or alone Or in the presence of our children I was not allowed to read this while sitting or laying down I finished this standing in our front hall The last thing you need or want is a sex lecture from me But I think we can all agree on a natural law that people have always engaged in sexual activity And they ve liked it For long stretches of human history, this reality has been cleverly hidden by various scolds and inquisitors Yet it has always been there From pornographic cave art and the Kama Sutra to the whalebone dildos of Nantucket housewives and patent machines sold to alleviate a woman s hysteria , there has always been a sexually charged undercurrent to life on Earth In the history of sex, the Victorian Era has always been held up as a time of high moral dudgeon, a subdued period of restrained language, conservative dress, and oh so proper behavior This is a generality, of course, and generalities are always wrong in the specifics, which My Secret Life aptly proves This book originally came from an eleven volume opus totaling 4,000 or so pages It is important to note so that you don t get a LifeLock alert every time I enter your neighborhood that I did not read anywhere near 4,000 pages My Secret Life is firmly in the public domain, meaning that there are a lot of versions to read Through Kindle, you can even get the whole eleven volumes though I will definitely form an unfavorable mental picture of you if you do The print version I read was slapped together by some internet publisher and put onto 324 pages, sized 11x8.5 The editing is horrible The grammar and spelling errors rampant It is impossible for me to know whether this is the fault of Anonymous you can go to Wikipedia to read the debate as to the author s true identity I m in no position to say whether this is a good use of your time or not , or the fault of the publisher It is also, therefore, impossible for me to know what was excised The version I read answers a philosophical question I have long pondered Why do pornographic films bother with plots The answer, surprisingly, is that sex can get boring Somewhere on the space time continuum, my fourteen year old self is shaking his head in disbelief You need some sort of moral context for sexual activity, or else it becomes this primitive mechanical act that is initially attention grabbing but eventually meaningless This fundamental truth has long been known to smut purveyors, which is why there are so many libidinous aliens and horny copy machine repairmen floating through XXX movies For the most part, my edition of My Secret Life is nothing than a list of graphically described sexual conquests At first, I was okay with this The author, whoever he is, is a provocateur, and he certainly got my attention It takes a lot to shock me, and he succeeded At the start of this memoir, you find the author hidden beneath the privy, staring up at women who are going to the bathroom Disgusted already He s just warming up You will follow him as he purchases prostitute after prostitute, often using his last farthing You will read about every farmer s daughter and scullery maid he ever seduced Every conquest of his life is told in rather graphic detail utilizing his own very unique lexicon of euphemisms One of the indicators that this might be a true account, rather than an epic of Victorian erotica, is that the narrator never attempts to place himself in a positive light This is not an irresistible specimen of manhood having his way with an endless procession of beautiful damsels Quite the contrary, most of his action is purchased, and since he is often nearly broke, there is a lot of begging involved Also, since he does not like to use French letters, he gets the clap You have to read this stuff to believe it Take this excerpt, for instance EXPLICIT CONTENT DELETED Or this section EXPLICIT CONTENT DELETED It turns out there is not a single thing that is suitable to quote Eventually, shock gives way to tedium, with brief moments of reprehensibility Whoever the author was, he seems a mostly terrible person The only interlude in which he approaches humanity is in his affair with a maid, with whom he appears truly in love This portion of My Secret Life is just about the only palatable one Again, I m not a moralist, but without any emotional framework, this guy is just a junkie looking to score his next hit.Since My Secret Life, at least the version I read, is mostly disembodied sex, you don t learn a whole lot about the author or his friends He claims to be keeping them anonymous At one point, he mentions some buddies who went off to fight in Crimea, which gives us a time point If you look closely enough, though, you will find interesting details about Victorian life However, this takes a bit of squinting, and getting this just for some Victorian flavor is akin to the way men used to read Playboy for the articles This is a book that you probably shouldn t read There are other books deserving of your time Actually, literally every other book that has ever been written is probably deserving of your time Every book Of course, that s the very reason I got this in the first place So act accordingly. You will read few books as bizarre as this one It s the multi volume memoir of an anonymous Victorian gentleman, recounting his prodigious sexual exploits with a bewildering variety of partners ranging from whores to little girls to young men to aristocratic ladies and the weird thing is, it s way too weird to be firmly shelved on the Victorian Porn shelf, a la The Pearl It s too compulsive, too fixated on inconsequential detail to be serving the principally utilitarian interests of the genre It s also too self involved to be truly pornographic there s humor here, but it s minimal The book was originally printed by a private European publisher, and the printing was extremely small a handful of copies and somehow one of them ended up, about thirty years ago, in the hands of Grove Press Theories abound as to the identity of the author, but it s the anonymity of the author that s the key to its nature as an archive of experience, a collection of worldly encounters that matter mainly in their enumeration This is autobiography as mathematics. Sort of hard to form an opinion of this book On one hand it it is at first disturbing because the writer begins with recollections of being abused as a child and then moves on to his harassing, exploiting, raping, purchasing and seducing women At times he seems almost delusional in his belief that every woman wants it so i suspect that some of what he believes are seductions are really not as consenting as he thinks On the other hand, here is a rare insight into the sexual psychology of the Victorian man and also some of unsavory particulars of the time Bathroom habits and lack of undergarments for one thing, access to abortions for another I wrote a paper on gender and sexual anxieties as portrayed in Victorian fiction, and that was how i heard about this book, and I wish I would have had this for that paper It s fascinating to watch the narrator as he cycles through immature to worldly, powerful to powerless, confident to sheepish, and lewd to ashamed.There are some issues with knowing how much we can trust this narrator, but important than the truth of each incident, I think, is getting a glimpse at the way language and desires are put together I have lost track of all the slang and nicknames for body parts and functions It is always interesting to see that the things we assumed were so repressed at this time had multiple descriptive phrases Something about his accumulators rogering to frig a wench s motte with his pego So randy Basically, if you are looking for a sexy sexy book, this might disappoint you Every page has sex and bawdy talk, but some of it is sort of depressing and or morally sickening I don t mean that in a depraved acts sort of way, but that for me it was hard to read these true stories about Walter s mistreatment of so many of these girls and servants, and yet at times I also felt sorry for him His beliefs about his body and illness and his overpowering need for women are honest and almost pitiful i wish i could know about his non secret life.To sum up my review This is a gold mine for anyone researching Victorian literature, sexual psychology or sociology But, if you re looking for a jolly good time this won t hit the right note with everyone.