Rogues Gallery Uncovered
Dr James Graham
Rogues Gallery Uncovered
Bad behaviour in period costume
A non-judgmental disrobing of the scandalous lives of history’s greatest libertines’ lotharios and complete bastards
Containing Adult themes and a touch of colourful language.
THE ELECTRIC SEX BED
Its “danger high voltage” with the 18th century’s most tech savvy sex expert
Dr James Graham
One thing that wasn’t around so much in ages past were health and safety disclaimers but as we live in a world where manufacturers of 2000 watt paint stripping air guns – have to put “not to be used for drying hair” on the box i suppose id better add this one.
I always wonder who would be stupid enough to do that, but better to be safe etc.
Connecting your bed frame to the electrical mains is very dangerous and should never ever be attempted- in period costume or not.
And while we are on the subject of keeping persons and feelings safe from harm
A gentle and regular reminder that
The following tale is written in the present tense of the period in which its set…. and as such, may contain attitudes and opinions of the protagonists and their times which would today be considered unacceptable.
I am not a grumpy 18th century gentleman hoping to put the spark back into his sex life – so those attitudes and opinions are OBVIOUSLY not mine.
Dr James Graham has buried himself up to the neck in soil – for the good of his health.
“Earth bathing” as he has christened it, is a guaranteed method to reinvigorate and rejuvenate the body by immersing it in the very ground from which all life sprang and in doing so absorb its healing energies.
In his mind’s eye Graham imagines therapeutic fields of grateful patients – row upon row of smiling heads poking out of the loam like so many vivified turnips.
Sadly, as far as he can see - from his albeit limited perspective - he is alone, gazing at the sky from the garden of his Edinburgh home with only a few lacklustre runner beans for company.
The sky darkens, and a flash of lightening briefly crackles across the horizon.
As the first droplets of rain begin to fall upon his upturned face, Graham remembers when he was considered a scientific pioneer, despite having failed his medical degree.
Ten years ago, he had been a sensation, a sexual prophet no less – and the toast of fashionable London.
Another bolt of lightning forks across his view.
To Graham this can only be Gods way of reminding him that the element which made all of his success possible is one of nature’s most primal forces, an energy that one day, will dominate the world – Electricity. It was in America that graham had his “Road to Damascus” moment regarding the power of electrical applications.
Until then he had been an unremarkable apothecary living in Doncaster dishing out mercury pills and mustard plasters.
After four years of this and overcome with a desire to better his circumstances Graham, informed his wife that they were leaving their Yorkshire home and relocating to London – where he intended to study more advanced medical theories.
Just as Mrs Graham was adjusting to life in the capital, he then announced that they were crossing the Atlantic and moving to America where - armed with his new medical knowledge – he claimed to be an eminent surgeon. With the only people in a position to contradict him thousands of miles away, Graham began touring the country, delivering lectures about his revolutionary and largely fictious approach to treating conditions of the eye.
Finally, the couple settled in Philadelphia, a city whose rooftops were spiked with long metal poles, which immediately captured Graham’s attention.
These poles or “Lightning Rods” were an invention of the pioneering scientist Benjamin Franklin who had been extoling the benefits and practical uses of electricity since the 1750s.
His work had captured the imagination of many learned men, some of whom had spent the last thirty years trying to construct devices capable of generating this elusive energy or at the very least harness the natural power of an electrical storm.
Graham was entranced and the more he discovered about electricity the more convinced he became that it could be used for medical and in particular sexual benefit.“ I was suddenly struck” he wrote “with the thought that the pleasure of the venereal act might be exalted or rendered more intense if performed under the glowing, accelerating and most genial influences of that Heaven-born, all-animating element or principle, the electrical or concocted fire'.
The Grahams returned to England in 1774 and James established a practice in Bristol, specialising in conditions affecting fertility.
It was recommended to most patients that they adhered to a diet rich in vegetables and practice more scrupulous personal hygiene. For both sexes this meant thoroughly bathing their private parts (genitals and fundament) with very cold water every morning and night.
Gentlemen in particular could benefit from this icy regime and Graham made it very clear that by immersing his lower parts into freezing water, an amorous fellow could prevent additional semen leaking out of his penis after intercourse by “Locking the cock,” thus ensuring that he had plenty of sperm left for his next ejaculation.
It would also, Graham claimed, have a reviving effect on the appearance of his testicles.
“Certain parts, which next morning after a laborious night would be relaxed, lank, and pendulous, like the two eyes of a dead sheep dangling in a wet empty calf's bladder.” “By the frequent and judicious use of the icy cold water, [they] would be[come] like a couple of steel balls, of a pound apiece, inclosed in a firm purse of uncut Manchester velvet!'
What man of spirit would not want to find out more?
Graham promoted his services with vigour, using pamphlets posters and press advertising to inform the public that he provided “Effluvia, vapours and applications aetherial, magnetic or electric.”
The grandiosity of his claims, their risqué subject matter, and the fact that Graham erroneously said that he’d actually studied under Benjamin Franklin all helped to make him an increasingly well-known figure.
The proceeds of his Bristol practice funded another “fact finding mission” to Europe where Graham travelled around Holland, Germany and Russia. Back in England, Graham relocated his practice to the fashionable town of Bath in the hope of attracting the wealthy and health conscious clientele who visited every year to avail themselves of its restorative waters.
Graham gave his new patients the opportunity to sit in a special bath of his own invention, through which a mild electrical current was passed – enhancing the waters invigorating properties.
With his mind firmly fixed upon the money to be made from using electricity to promote sexual fulfilment, Graham began work on a prototype “Electrical Bed” theorizing that engaging in congress surrounded by a gentle field of electricity could greatly enhance sexual performance, pleasure and even aid fertility.
He took a conventional iron bed frame and replaced the legs with glass pillars to insulate it from the floor. Then he passed an electrical charge through the frame using an ingenious arrangement of copper wiring.
Volunteers to try out this pioneering piece of reproductive technology were surprisingly few until a stout Dutch lady who hailed from Lancaster agreed to push forward the boundaries of science.
For her it was something of a last resort.
She had been married for seven years and had yet to conceive of a child, her courses having stopped completely. To add to her woes, a seizure had robbed her of the power of speech and left her partially paralyzed.
She and her husband “A strong likely man” spent the night in the electrical bed and in the morning, both enjoyed a freezing cold bath before the husband gave his wife a vigorous massage using all of his considerable strength.
According to Graham within two months not only was the woman with child but she was also able to walk unaided.
When Bath’s other married couples heard of this, the more curious among them were eager to try it for themselves and found - according to Graham - that without exception the pleasure it generated was not only guaranteed but also much more intense that in a spark free environment.
Interviewed by The Gentleman’s Magazine, Graham eulogised his” chaise d’amour.” 'Wonderful, often-times, are the effects of holding venereal congress in situations where the passions are very highly excited.
'The influence of the electrical fire warms and invigorates the whole system, exciting and exalting the amorous ideas of both sexes.
'Stimulating them to the enjoyment of love, and greatly heightening and prolonging its sweet pleasures.'
As his fashionable reputation increased, Graham cultivated the support of a local celebrity - the author of The History of England from the Accession of James I to the Revolution and the world’s only female historian, Catherine Macaulay.
A sickly woman in her late forties, Macaulay engaged Graham as her physician and under his care recovered her vitality in sufficient quantities to wed his younger brother – who was only twenty-one years old at the time.
The ensuing scandal, while damaging to Macaulay’s social standing acted a powerful advertisement for Graham’s methods and he soon found himself with as many interested female patients as men.
But it was another influential woman whose support brought Graham to national attention – socialite and fashion icon Georgina Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire.
Graham had met her mother, the philanthropist Georgina Spencer, during another of his European “fact-finding missions” this time to France. She asked what advice; he would give her famous daughter – who was trying to conceive.
Graham suggested that she regularly pour an entire flask of ice-cold champagne into her vagina. He added that if, immediately after having sex, she would also lay upon her back with her feet above her head, the chances of successful conception would be even greater.
Georgina - who was arguably responsible for an alarming trend among young English women to sport extremely tall hairstyles – not only followed Dr Graham’s advice, but also supported him with money and influence in what would be his greatest venture.
It was 1779 and time for James Graham to bring his treatments and remarkable electrical devices to London, and he knew just the place.
Adelphi Terrace was a recent building development, in the fashionable heart of the city, just off the strand – the actor David Garrick lived there! Facing the north bank of the river Thames, it was made up of eleven, four story townhouses each with a double basement. Exterior stonework was decorated with elaborate carvings inspired by the palace of Roman emperor Diocletian.
It was a location fit for a temple – A Temple of Health.
I blame the claret.
A convivial night at Boodles and I’m playing one more hand of whist when that oaf Jeffrey bets me twelve guineas that I won’t fuck Harriot on that Scottish charlatan’s ridiculous Electrical bed.
If I hadn’t been so tipped, I’d have dammed his impudence and gone home.
But I didn’t, which is why I took my wife to Schomberg House on Pall Mall last week.
The bloody woman was so pleased she clapped her hands with joy; she’s been begging me to let us try it out for months.
I overheard her taking tea with Alice and Jane a few days before and one of them said it was the most invigorating night she’d ever spent and the other claimed that it had cured her husband’s gout.
As far as I’m concerned, I don’t need some parlour trickery to keep my pecker up but I thought if it’s good enough for Charles James Fox, The Duke of Richmond, John Wilkes and his Highness the Prince of Wales, it’s certainly good enough for me.
So, we arrive by carriage and of course Harriot pulls her veil across her face so she won’t be recognised. “Why so incog?” I asked her “Elizabeth Armstead and Mary Robinson don’t mind people knowing that they worship at the Temple of Hymen, so why should you?”
“Because one is a whore and the other’s reputation is falling lower by the day” was her reply.
I was all for getting straight on the dammed contraption and lifting her skirts the minute we arrived but first we had to sit through a lecture on “Earth Bathing.”
They say the fellow Graham is tall and imposing but I couldn’t tell because as he gave his presentation buried up to his neck in a bucket full of mud.
To hear him talk you’d think he had a cue for every ailment known to man. “James Graham, conqueror, under God, of diseases', is how he introduced himself.
Bloody idiot was sticking out of the ground like a fence post so I whispered to Harriot that I agreed with Walpole who called him “The Prince of Quacks” – and she gave me one of her looks.After some nonsense about dipping your prick into freezing cold water, we finally adjourned to the famous Celestial Bed.
Of course, I had to tell Graham that we wanted to use the bed in order to conceive rather than simply for pleasure or he might not have let us use it. Although considering how much I paid for the privilege I should hope he wouldn’t have minded.
Fifty bloody pounds it cost me to spend one night on that thing – that would buy me a carriage and pay for my groom for a whole blasted year.
“Graham must be making an absolute fortune” I said “but if he really believes this tom foolery then he’s even more of a buffoon than he looks.
So, we change into our night attire and climb into bed, Harriot was already more excited than I’d seen her in years and they hadn’t even turned the current on.
The bed itself is about twelve feet by nine and stands on forty glass pillars – to keep it insulated from the floor.
It was covered by a huge dome on top of which were representations of Cupid and Psyche, one of them holding an electrical crown, the other a blazing torch – don’t ask me why.
The first thing I noticed when I got into bed was the smell of perfume wafting down from the inside of the dome – there were bunches of fresh flowers hanging from it. I could have sworn there was some ether mixed in with it as well, I certainly felt lightheaded.
And we weren’t entirely alone either, the inside of the dome also held a cage full of turtle doves cooing all over place and above the head of the bed was a disturbing – although technically very impressive- display of clockwork automata I was so intrigued watching mechanical brides and bridegrooms being led through a replica of the temple’s doors by a trio of mechanical nymphs that I almost forgot why I was there in the first place.
Looking down however I was soon reminded as emblazoned on the bedhead itself were the words “Be fruitful, multiply and replenish the earth!" The letters had been formed of some conductive material so that they crackled and sparkled with energy.
When we finally began the act of love, Harriot seemed almost instantly transported and I have to say I didn’t mind the gentle tingling of the electrical current one bit – even if it did make our hair begin to stand on end.
What did concern me was that when I looked beyond my wife shoulder as she brazenly straddled me it was to see my own face reflected in a series of mirrors lining the inside of the domes canopy.
And if glimpsing my own spiky haired visage wasn’t distracting enough, every time, we moved the most appalling noise would bellow from organ pipes underneath the bed.
I think they were supposed to be “celestial sounds” matching our movements and providing an acoustic companion to our passionate coupling, but to me it sounded like an ox stuck in a five-bar gate.
The bed frame could be tilted to support a couples preferred position which I found to be a most ingenious contrivance, although the mattress was stuffed with a mixture of oats, spices and “hair from the tails of English stallion’s “which, while soft, made me sneeze like the very devil.
It wasn’t long however before I was behaving like an English Stallion myself, pumping and sneezing while trying to close my ears to the deafening organ music and my eyes to the reflection of my clown-like face.
Harriot had wrapped her legs around me and started quoting bloody poetry or something when I started to feel a series of regular painful jolts all over my person.
These were no doubt from the 1500 lbs of magnets that had also been stuffed into the mattress to aid with virility and conception.
Graham’s pamphlet had said that the magnets were there to provide 'irresistibly powerful tides of the magnetic effluvium' creating 'that sweet undulating, titulating, vibratory, soul-dissolving, marrow-melting motion which is at once so necessary and so pleasing'.
As our motions became more frenzied the current – provided by two or more hard working servants who were frantically spinning the electricity generating cylinder in an adjoining room – seemed to grow in its ferocity.
Harriot’s eyes rolled back in her head and she cried out to Jesus, which she had never done before.
I however felt as if I were trapped in a cacophonous, reflective hell, enduring the striking of my body with tiny hammers while being dipped in fire.
After what seemed like an eternity, I discharged adequately and with much relief.
On the way out some trollop in a see-through hand kerchief tried to sell me some “Aetherial Balsam” for fifteen shillings.
I told her to fuck off.
The rain is pouring now and James Graham calls to his wife to come and help dig him out.
Within a few years of his success the tide of popular appreciation had turned and fashion had inevitably moved on.
The outfitting of his temples had caused him to run up huge debts, eventually rendering him bankrupt.
A very public argument with another fellow who made bold claims, Gustavus Katterfelto, the self-styled “Greatest natural philosopher since Isaac Newton” had resulted in merciless public mockery.
Katterfelto, was another eccentric fellow who conducted his lectures with a black cat always by his side, claimed to have flown a hot air balloon before the Montgolfier brothers and adopted the catchphrase “Wonders, wonders, wonders”
Graham became regarded by the very people who once hailed him a genius as a sordid quack and embarrassing charlatan.
Even lecturing about earth bathing and his latest theories concerning the beneficial effects of fasting could not halt his decline and he had been forced to leave London in disgrace.
As the soil falls from his body however Graham smiles for in the midst of all this defeat, he had finally found God and become “Born again.” He had founded his own religion, with himself as its sole member and had taken to wearing clothes made from pieces of freshly cut turf so he could enjoy the benefits of earth energy where ever he went.
With the good lord in his heart, and his time spent buried or fasting, a return to success is all but assured.
On top of that, he has plenty of time as his health regime means he could live for anther century or more
Who needs electricity?
Despite his high hopes for earth energy James Graham died two years later at the age of only 49.
His decline is a salutary tale into the fickle nature of popular fads – and how a celebrates once most ardent supporters will quickly turn against them once the tide of fashion has turned in another direction.
It’s interesting to note that the famous mistress of Horatio Nelson Emma Hamilton was rumoured to have once worked at Grahams Pall Mall Temple as a young woman named Emma Hart.
A stunning beauty she was said to have played the part of Vestina the goddess of health, dressed in diaphanous robes. She possibly also sold a few medicinal extras to the temples well-heeled clientele.
When looming bankruptcy forced Graham out of London he relocated to Edinburgh and tried to set up another Temple of Health on South Bridge.
Unfortunately, unlike anything goes London the Scottish magistrates took a dim view of anything even remotely hinting at sex let alone electrically shocking people into having better orgasms.
They took him to court and they were also the ones who decided if he was guilty or not it cam as a surprise to no one when he was fined 20 pounds and sent to prison.
Earth bathing was his attempt to see if he could manufacture lightening a bottle twice.
As he shuffled around town - an increasingly pitiful figure with his mental health clearly in disarray it was obvious that this was not to be the case.
It was the extreme fasting – something else not to be recommended - that it appears finally killed him as his sickly body simply couldn’t cope with all of the demands put upon it.
He was rich and famous for a bit though so some might say that it was worth it and he gave a lot of very wealthy people a naughty night out with a difference and who doesn’t like one of those?
His electric bed was even immortalized in verse with the poet William Mason writing
. thither haste with knocking knees;
Genial and prolific fires,
Shall wake your pulse to new desires;
Tho' your embers should be dead,
Stretch on his celestial bed;
Soon you'll feel the vital flame,
Rushing thro' your icey frame!'
Grahams lasting legacy however was as pioneer of sex therapy – he was way ahead of his time and a whole industry and its beneficiaries have much to thank him for.
Next time on Rogues gallery uncovered
AVIN IT LARGE
Unlimited funds, constant boredom and a love of port.
Horse racing, hunting and hiccups - The short and very colourful life of a Regency gentleman who couldn't give a fuck.
MAD JACK MYTON
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