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Libertines, Lotharios or Bastards?

There’s something strange about George.

There’s something strange about George.
George Selwyn 1719 - 1791

Dead Sexy

1757

George Selwyn is watching a man being torn limb from limb; this is the best holiday ever.

He’s made a special trip to Paris just so he can attend the execution of Robert Damiens, a former soldier who recently attempted to assassinate Louis XV.  Fortunately for the king, he only succeeded in lightly wounding him with a knife.  Unfortunately for Damiens, the penalty for attempted regicide is to be drawn and quartered. Fortunately for Selwyn, it’s the first time this sentence has been passed in over one hundred and fifty years and he has a front row seat.

You wouldn’t think to look at him that Selwyn is a sadist obsessed by death and suffering.  Completely inoffensive, he lacks ambition and even the tiniest spark of energy. He floats around town in an effete haze charming everyone he meets with his languid wit.

He is well known for regularly losing huge amounts at the gaming tables of St James but barely summons up a shrug as he hands over his cash. After gambling, when the boys head off for some brothel fun he is the one who stays downstairs chatting while they are busy knocking off the doxies.

Truth to tell, he doesn’t seem interested in women or indeed men (although there are rumours). What really gets him going is watching public hangings at Tyburn, he can’t get enough of some luckless cracksman or footpad getting turned up in front of a baying crowd.

The kicking and struggling as they are hauled aloft on the gallows is like a coy glance at the beginning of an assignation, the bulging eyes, lolling tongue and purple face, the most sensual delight and if it’s a man, the involuntary erection just before death is almost too much to bear.

Selwyn's idea of "A great day out" Selwyn’s idea of “A great day out”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being seen becoming aroused at the death agonies of others could be considered a bit strange so Selwyn often disguises himself as a woman, concealing his obvious excitement beneath the folds of his hoop skirts.

"Looking good George, no one suspects a thing" “Looking good George, no one suspects a thing”

Those who know of his “fascination” suspect it may have all started at Oxford from where he was sent down for Blasphemy.  Cutting your arm, collecting the blood in a chalice and inviting fellow students to drink your health with it, probably seems like youthful high spirits now.

In 1747 (dressed as a man) he went to Tower Hill and thoroughly enjoyed the beheading of several members of Jacobite nobility captured at Culloden. The way the condemned Scotsmen dropped their handkerchiefs to signal the executioner to strike, was really most affecting. Selwyn offered to buy a couple of the severed heads so he could take them home but wasn’t allowed. One lady who found his unadulterated glee a little offensive took him to task as the bodies were being piled onto a cart. He replied that if she was offended at his watching the heads being cut off, he was more than happy to make amends by going to the undertakers so he could watch them being sewn back on.

"How much for the heads?"....."Please go away Mr Selwyn" “How much for the heads?”…..”Please go away Mr Selwyn”

There are unsavory rumours about his visits to undertakers and what he gets up to with the bodies but nothing has been proved.

By 1757 he’s an aficionado of death, a gourmet of suffering. So much so that he will complain to executioners if they finish off their victims too quickly, no leg pulling for George.

Standing in the Place de Greve waiting for the big event to start, Selwyn is in a froth of anticipation. His prominent place had been assured when the French heard how far he had been prepared to travel to witness Damiens unpleasant demise.

Breathing heavily, he wants to get even closer; they’re going to pull a man apart with horses after all.

As he jostles a few more bystanders aside, someone asks if he is going to perform the grisly deed himself “No monsieur” he replies sadly  “I have not that honour”.

As he is led from his cell Damiens proves that whilst he is a lousy assassin he is a master of understatement “La journée sera rude” he tells his captors, “The day will be hard”.

For Selwyn the day is a triumph. First Damiens knife wielding hand is burnt with hot wax, then the flesh of his legs, thigh and chest is torn with special pincers. Next,the resulting wounds are filled with a mixture of molten lead and boiling oil. Selwyn observes that while he does make some truly ear splitting screams, Damiens never swears despite having a reputation for using bad language.

Horses are then securely tied to each of his limbs and encouraged to pull as hard as they can. When they fail to have any effect, (apart from causing Damiens extreme discomfort) two more horses are added. They prove equally as ineffectual; one even falls over with the strain. Eventually the executioner uses a knife to cut Damiens limbs loose at the joints, so the exhausted horses can finally pull them away.

Harsh but fair Harsh but fair

Selwyn hears people say that Damiens is still vaguely alive when they throw his torso onto the fire but he can’t be sure.

Legendary ladies man Giacomo Casanova has a better view. He has hired a room overlooking the execution site which he is sharing with a male friend and two ladies. The ladies are leaning out of the window to watch the show with the gentleman standing behind them. Casanovas friend takes the opportunity to lift his companion’s skirts and enjoy her from behind. A pious woman, she allows him her favours without complaint, Casanova generously turns his head away so she will not feel embarrassed.

Grandstand view Eighteenth century style. Grandstand view, Eighteenth century style.

It seems Selwyn isn’t the only one aroused by the sight of suffering.

After four hours it’s all over and what’s left of Damiens is nothing but ash. George Selwyn returns to England and continues with his unambitious political career (In 44 years he never once makes a speech in the House of Commons) He also continues with his morbid “Private Interests”.

His epitaph will be written by his friend Lord Holland who, as he lies on his deathbed in 1771 is told by a servant that Selwyn has come to visit “If I am alive I will be delighted to see him” he replies “and if I am dead he would like to see me.”

George enjoys an erotic fantasy. George enjoys an erotic fantasy.

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