From the

Georgian ‘erotic pamphlet’ collection goes on display

Saucy chapbooks held in the library of Townend House in the Lake District have been put on show for the first time by the National Trust.

It could almost be the title of a modern-day Mills & Boon novel – but The Crafty Chambermaid’s Garland is actually a 240-year-old erotic pamphlet which has just been unearthed in a Lake District house.

Telling the story of a chambermaid who is seduced by a young man, the book was found in the library of Townend House at Troutbeck, and forms part of the collection of the Browne family. Yeomen farmers, the Brownes owned Townend House for more than 400 years, handing the property and its 1,500 books to the National Trust in 1943. Only recently were the steamy chapbooks finally added to the library’s catalogue.

The Crafty Chambermaid, published around 1770, is one of several saucy chapbooks included in the collection. Printed on cheap, thin paper, such books – which ran to around eight pages – were sold from house to house by pedlars in the 18th century.

The story of The Crafty Chambermaid falls into three parts: “How the young Merchant fell in Love with his Mother’s Chambermaid”; “How they met in a Grove, where the young Merchant attempted her chastity”; and “How the Crafty Chambermaid outwitted the Merchant, by putting an old Bunter to her bed, which so affrighted him that he ran down Stairs and alarmed the Family; Concluding with their happy Marriage, and other things of Note”. Another title in the collection is The Devonshire Garland. “This one’s slightly racier,” said custodian Emma Wright. “It includes incest and all sorts of things – the main protagonist dies when she realises she’s inadvertently slept with her son.”

The stories, said Wright, are often in rhyme. “I almost liken them to the soap operas of the day. I could imagine the family sat around after dinner reading them – a lot have got finger prints and grease stains on them,” she said. “The Brownes were farmers – down-to-earth people. They’d have enjoyed a little racy tale.” Townend House is currently displaying the manuscripts to visitors, with facsimiles available to study as well as audio recordings.

Posted on 09/04/2010, in Book Review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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