Saturday, February 05, 2011

Hidden charms . . .

HAVE YOU EVER READ "The Works of the Earls of Rochester and Roscommon"? Me neither. It's an obscure volume of poetry from the 18th century — that was in-print continuously for a century. The secret of its, um, staying power, came to light with the discovery by Oxford University researcher, Dr Claudine van Hensbergen, of a series of erotic poems hidden in the back of the book.

Dr van Hensbergen said: ‘I had just finished entering details of poems typical of miscellanies of the period- satires, imitations and amatory verse, when at the end of the second volume a new title page announced the start of ‘The Cabinet of Love’.

‘To my surprise, ‘The Cabinet’ turned out to be a collection of pornographic verse about dildos. The poems include ‘Dildoides’, a poem attributed to Samuel Butler about the public burning of French-imported dildos, ‘The Delights of Venus’, a poem in which a married woman gives her younger friend an explicit account of the joys of sex, and ‘The Discovery’, a poem about a man watching a woman in bed while hiding under a table.

‘In later years, a celebratory poem about condoms was added, as well as several obscene botanically themed verses attributed to ‘a Member of a Society of Gardeners’ in which male genitalia is described as the ‘tree of life’.’

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