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Libertines, Lotharios or Bastards?

Where’s Walter?

Where’s Walter?
Henry Spencer Ashbee 1834 – 1900

Mucky Books

Winter 1901

Of an evening, there is nothing I like better than adjourning to my study, bolting the door securely, relaxing before a roaring fire in my favourite armchair, opening a well thumbed copy of erotic masterpiece  “My Secret Life” and vigorously masturbating until my fingers cramp and I cant even hold a teacup.

We live in a sadly puritanical age where even the shapely legs of a table are covered lest they inflame a gentleman’s passion.

Aficionados of “Le Monde Sensuel”  are few and shun the public eye for fear of moral censure and possible imprisonment. These men (women who enjoy the sexual act , invariably being sluts, harlots and nymphomaniacs) are erotic explorers, pushing back the boundaries of pleasure, like an engorged Galileo.

Unique among these fine fellows was (until his recent demise) a man whose single minded dedication to quim led to him amassing the worlds largest pornographic library and who many suspect of being “ My Secret Life’s” eponymous hero ,Walter.

If my trousers weren’t round my ankles and my right hand wasn’t locked in the shape of a claw, I  would stand this very moment and raise a heartfelt toast …. “To  Henry Spencer Ashbee!”

Of course, to society at large Ashbee was a respectable married man with a thriving textile business. A keen traveller and member of many honourable clubs and societies , he was well known as an avid book collector and a world renowned expert on the work of Miguel Cervantes.

However, there are only so many copies of Don Quixote one can own, so he used his frequent excursions to Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels to fill his valise with as much pornography as he could carry.

"Excuse me my dear, I'm an intellectual and I was wondering if you knew the meaning of fellatio?" “Excuse me my dear, I’m an intellectual and I was wondering if you knew the meaning of fellatio?”

This vast collection was stored in rooms about three quarters of a mile away from his family home at 4 Greys Inn Square, London. In the convivial privacy of these chambers he would regularly meet other like minded gentlemen and together they would pore over antique texts, discuss salacious woodcuts, engage in manly discourse and touch up the serving girls.

The company included the explorer Richard Burton , who translated the Kamasutra , poet and opponent of the Obscene Publications Act 1857 Richard Monckton Milnes whose erotica filled house was nicknamed “Aphrodisiopolis”,  Algernon Charles Swinburne infamous for his poems about lesbianism and necrophilia, author James Campbell Reddie who wrote for risqué newspaper “The Exquisite” and ex guardsman Frederick Hankey, a sadomasochistic obsessive who Ashbee described as being  “a second de Sade but without the intellect.”

"...And I say to YOU sir, tickling ones balls with am ostrich feather produces the most effusive ejaculation" “…And I say to YOU sir, tickling ones balls with an ostrich feather produces the most effusive ejaculation”

A dedicated core of bibliophiles, they  were joined at times by Pre Raphaelite notaries such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt and William Morris along with visiting American James McNeill Whistler.

One thing most of these talented intellectuals (and Hankey) had in common was a fascination for whips and spanking.

Flagellation is of course known as “The English Vice” and  Ashbee wrote of it extensively under the pseudonym “Pisanus Fraxi” (a jumbled combination of the Latin for “Ash” and for “Bee”)

He was very, very  familiar with the work of notorious  dominatrix Theresa Berkley, the inventor of the “Berkely Horse” and inflictor of pleasurable pain to men and women of wealth throughout the 1820s.

"For Gods sake madam, at least wait until I've pulled my trousers down!!" “For Gods sake madam, at least wait until I’ve pulled my trousers down!!”

In his exhaustive (and unputdownable) reference work  on banned books, Index Librorum Prohibitorum, Ashbee wrote of her:

“Her instruments of torture were more numerous than those of any other governess. Holly brushes, furze brushes; a prickly evergreen, called butcher’s bush; and during the summer, a glass and China vases, filled with a constant supply of green nettles, with which she often restored the dead to life. Thus, at her shop, whoever went with plenty of money, could be birched, whipped, fustigated, scourged, needle-pricked, half-hung, holly-brushed, furze-brushed, butcher-brushed, stinging-nettled, curry-combed, phletbotomized, and tortured till he had a belly full.”

"You've all been very naughty boys" “You’ve all been very naughty boys”

But the question which most occupies the minds of “Aesthetic Onanists”  such as myself involves the authorship of the eleven volume, 4200 page erotic odyssey known as “My Secret Life.”

Of its over 1000,000 words, 5357 of them are “Cunt”  4032 of them are “Fuck”  3756 of them are “Prick” and 1299 of them are “Frig” and I should know because I’ve counted.

It’s a wrist numbing journey through 40 years of  sexual escapades wherein our hero (Walter) copiously spends into the accommodating  orifices of whores, maids, shop girls, sailors and landladies.

It begins :

“I had from youth an excellent memory, but about sexual matters a wonderful one. Women were the pleasure of my life. I loved cunt, but also who had it, I like the woman I fucked and not simply the cunt I fucked, and therein is a great difference. I recollect even now in a degree which astonishes me, the face, colour, stature, thighs, backside, and cunt of well nigh every woman I have had, who was not a mere casual, and even of some who were. I recollect also largely what we said and did, and generally our baudy amusements.

When I have named the number of times I have fucked a woman in my youth, I may occasionally be in error, it is difficult to be quite accurate on such points after a lapse of time. But as before said, in many cases the incidents were written down a few weeks and often within a few days after they occurred.

But my doings with man and woman are as true as gospel. If I say that I saw, or did, that with a cousin male, or female, it was with a cousin and no mere acquaintance; if with a servant, it was with a servant; if with a casual acquaintance, it is equally true. Nor if I say I had that woman, and did this or that with her, or felt or did aught else with a man, is there a word of untruth excepting as to the place at which the incidents occurred. But even those are mostly correctly given, this is intended to be a true history, and not a lie.

"There's more to life than books you know...but not much more" “There’s more to life than books you know…but not much more”

If it is indeed the recollections of Henry Spenser Ashbe then it beggars belief that the man had time, energy and fluids for anything else except copulation. Whatever the truth, it is “ a rattling good yarn”

As he grew older, Asbee’s secret libertarian ways grew more conservative, ironically as the views of his family became more liberal. He despaired of his wife’s support for the suffragette movement (quite right too) was irritated by the “Excessive education” of his daughters (why do they need to understand mathematics?)  and became estranged from his homosexual son (who once wore a straw boater and flannels to the office….to the office!)

Despite this he still catalogued every written depiction of perversion and vice with an obsessive attention to detail (Good man!)

After a lifetime of fucking and flogging , Ashbee passed away last year, leaving his unique Cervantes collection to the British Museum on the condition that they also preserved his volumes of pornography.  With barely concealed distaste the museum agreed and it is now eternally preserved for the nation. God Save The Queen!

"Got any mucky books?" “Got any cheap filth?”

Ashbee’s legacy will probably lie dusty and forgotten in some obscure basement when it could be put to much better use by people who appreciate it.

I wish I had a bigger bookcase.

" Ten o clock..time for a wank" “..I wonder if I could get it in the waste paper basket from here”









“The English nation possesses an ultra-squeamishness and hyper-prudery peculiar to itself.”

Henry Spencer Ashbee



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