The Lustful Turk  

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The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli
The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli

The Lustful Turk or Lascivious Scenes from a Harum is a 19th century erotic epistolary novel first published anonymously in 1828. However, this was not widely known or circulated until the 1893 edition was printed.

This narrative of white slavery consists largely of a series of letters written by its heroine, Emily Barlow, to her friend, Sylvia Carey. When the Emily Barlow sails from England for India in June 1814 their ship is attacked by Turks and afterwards they are taken to the harem of a Turkish dey.


Steven Marcus analysis

For a detailed analysis of this early exploration of the Stockholm syndrome or damsel in distress trope, see Steven Marcus's The Other Victorians, pp. 195-217.

From an integrated perspective of pornography and cruelty, Stephen Marcus makes an analogy between the Dey himself and the Byronic hero figure and remarks that 'The Lustful Turk uses the trappings of the Gothic romance in much the same way as it uses Byron. The Abbots, monasteries, novices, burials, illicit relations, etc. all function as parts of a tissue of reference through which the whole of reality is sexualised' (The Other Victorians, 210). Each of the sexual fantasies represented in The Lustful Turk follows a similar narrative line, starting with a virgin, reluctant, proud, chaste, a young woman who then undergoes a series of violent experiences which ritually include various types of torture like beating, flogging, and defloration in the form of rape.[1]


This work was influential to many other works of erotica, and in fact the theme of the virgin who is forcibly introduced to sexual acts and later becomes insatiable in her appetite for the carnal is a common theme in Victorian erotica. One such work is "The Sheik" written by Edith Maude Hull, and published in 1919.

Other such works would be, "The Way of a Man with a Maid", a work of Victorian erotica concerning the forcible seduction of a girl called Alice by a Victorian gentleman or "My Grandmother's Tale, or May's Account of Her Introduction to the Art of Love", first published in Victorian Erotica periodical "The Pearl".


The novel consists largely of a series of letters written by its heroine, Emily Barlow, to her friend, Sylvia Carey. When Emily sails from England for India in June 1814 her ship is attacked by Moorish pirates and she is taken to the harem of Ali, dey of Algiers. Ali rapes her and subjects her to his will, awakening her sexual passions. Emily's debasement continues when Ali insists on anal sex, arousing the horror of her correspondent Sylvia, who expresses her indignation at Ali's behaviour, in a letter that the latter intercepts. Annoyed at her attitude, Ali arranges for Sylvia to be abducted and brought to the slave market of Algiers. After an elaborate charade in which Ali pretends to be a sympathetic Frenchman, bidding to save her from sexual slavery, and engaging her in a fake marriage, he deflowers her and awakens her sexuality, as he had done with Emily. Revealing his true identity Ali enjoys both girls together. This sexual idyll is eventually terminated when a new addition to the harem objects to anal rape and cuts off the Dey's penis with a knife, and then commits suicide. Seemingly unfazed by this, Ali has "his lost members preserved in spirits of wine in glass vases" which he presents to Emily and Sylvia, sending them back to England with these tokens of his affection.

The novel also incorporates interpolated stories concerning the erotic misadventures of three other girls abducted into the harem and enlarges on the fate of Emily's maid Eliza who, presented by Ali to Muzra, bey of Tunis, is bound, flogged and raped in turn.

The book was one of those condemned as obscene by Lord Chief Justice Campbell when Dugdale was prosecuted in 1857.

Comparison to Fanny Hill

The Lustful Turk comparison to Fanny Hill

1828 title page

Supposedly based on true events:

"A history founded on facts, containing an interesting narrative of the cruel fate of the two young English ladies, named Silvia Carey and Emily Barlow. Fully explaining how Emily Barlow, and her servant, Eliza Gibbs, on their passage to India, were taken prisoner by an Algerine pirate, and made a present of to the Dey of Algiers; who, on the very night of their arrival debauched Emily. Containing also, every particular of the artful plans laid by the Dey, to get possession of the person of Silvia Carey - how he effected his purpose - with the particulars of her becoming a victim to his libidinous desires. Which recital is also interspersed with the histories of several other ladies confined in the Dey's Harem. One of which gives an account of the horrid practices then carrying on in several French and Italian convents by a society of monks, established at Algiers, under pretense of redeeming Christian skaves; but who, in reality, carried on an infamous traffic in young girls. Also an account of the sufferings of Eliza Gibbs, from the flogging propensities of the Bey of Tunis. With many other curious circumstances, until the reduction of Algiers by Lord Exmouth; by which means these particulars became known."

1968 film

Directed by Byron Mabe and adapted for film by David F. Friedman, released in the United States on February 7 1968. Plot outline described as "Two English women and their female servant are kidnapped by pirates and sold to an Arab sheik. However, they all fall for the captain of the pirate ship that captured them." IMDb

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