Le vice anglais  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Although the first medico-scientific treatise on the subject came from Germany by way of the German doctor Johann Heinrich Meibom, flagellation is often considered to be 'le vice anglais' (the British vice) par excellence. Mario Praz came to this conclusion, corroborated by both Ashbee and Iwan Bloch (Sex Life in England), on the basis of the fact that most flagellant novels have been produced in Anglo-Saxon countries. Theresa Berkley ran a brothel specializing in these services.

In his appendix "Swinburne and 'Le Vice Anglais'" in his classic study The Romantic Agony, Praz traces the literary trope of the sadistic Englishman in French and Italian literature to George Selwyn, Frederick Hankey and Algernon Swinburne. He finds this stereotype in the novels La Faustin by Edmond de Goncourt, The Child of Pleasure by Gabriele d'Annunzio and Monsieur du Paur by Paul-Jean Toulet.

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