Friday, 22 August 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014 -

The Life & Times of Lydia Hartwell

by Stanlegh Meresith
a tale of erotic flagellation
Published: Jul 18, 2014
Words: 17,182
Category: victorian
Orientation: mixed
Click HERE for further details and purchase options.

The actual identity of the woman referred to in this monograph as 'Lydia' has only recently come to light as a result of continuing research. However, in order to protect the privacy of her family, her full name will not be revealed here. Suffice it to say that she was born into wealth, the daughter of a knight of the realm, and it is for that very reason that the career she chose to follow in the 1870's, as outlined in the pages that follow, is so remarkable.

Lydia was a submissive who performed in houses and small theatres given over to the perceived pleasures of flagellation. Unlike many of her fellow submissives, whose origins were to be found almost exclusively in lower classes of society, there is no evidence at all that Lydia was a prostitute (if by that term we mean 'one who engages in sexual activity for pay'). She was paid for most of her performances, but these involved solely the submission on her part to various forms of flagellation.

Houses and brothels catering to a broad range of sexual proclivities became ubiquitous in London throughout the 1860's and onwards, despite the apparent contradiction posed by the commonly-held view of the Victorian era as being excessively prudish about sexual matters. Such establishments were frequented by many of the highest-ranking officials and aristocrats, and houses specialising in flagellation were among the most popular. Estimates suggest that as many as three to four thousand such places existed in various locations around London, though their existence was often fragile and transitory.

Evidence for research into this subject is of necessity restricted to a range of private and often elusive sources. Flagellation as a source of sexual stimulation and pleasure is to this day regarded with a mixture of condemnation and mockery. It is taboo, and will no doubt continue to be so. In the absence, therefore, of any official documentation (beyond occasional police or court papers detailing charges of 'lewdness' and the like), I have had to draw on the letters, journals, notices and sundry writings of a number of contemporary participants. I have also been fortunate enough to gather the spoken testimony of some witnesses yet living.

Before we turn to the outline of Lydia's career that is the main purpose of this monograph, a brief explanation of the titles of the three parts is required. They are explained by reference to Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, from which Lydia chose to borrow her stage names. In the play, a young woman (Viola) is shipwrecked on the shores of the fictitious country of Illyria, ruled by one Duke Orsino. Fearing for her safety, she adopts the disguise of a young man, taking the name Cesario. After many plot twists, she reveals herself as Viola, and marries the Duke Orsino.