The Romance of Lust  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Romance of Lust, or Early Experiences is Victorian erotic novel published anonymously in four volumes during the years 1873-1876. Henry Spencer Ashbee discusses this novel in his bibliography of erotic literature, the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. In addition the compilers of British Museum General Catalogue of Printed Books list this book.

The novel is told in first person, and the protagonist of the novel is Charlie Roberts. Charlie possesses a large penis, much virility, and a seemingly insatiable sexual appetite. Opening with a line hinting at menage à trois, the novel begins: "There were three of us -- Mary, Eliza, and myself." Charlie describes his sexual initiation as an adolescent, as he is "approaching fifteen." He catalogs his sexual experiences including incest with his sisters Eliza and Mary, sex with his governesses, and his later sexual exploits with various male and female friends, and acquaintances. Besides incest, the book deals with a variety of sexual activities, including orgies, gay sex, masturbation, lesbianism, flagellation, fellatio, cunnilingus, anal sex, and double penetration. Taboo subjects such as incest and pedophilia are common themes in the novel.

Questions of authorship exist for this novel, and there are two likely candidates, William Simpson Potter, and Edward Sellon. Sellon is the author of other erotic novels and a book on snake worship, whereas Potter wrote and had privately printed two books of letters on the Prince of Wales' visit to visit to India in 1875-1876. From examining the text in Letters from India during H. R. H. the Prince of Wales visit in 1875-6, from William S. Potter to his sister, one could make a stronger case for Potter, as there are similarities in writing style between the book of letters and The Romance of Lust.

Scholarship on this novel is minimal, although it is mentioned in passing in a number of historical works on the literature of the Victorian era. Steven Marcus discusses The Romance of Lust in some detail in his book The Other Victorians: a Study of Sexuality and Pornography in Mid-Nineteenth-Century England (1966), as does John Alfred Atkins in his historical survey, Sex in Literature (1970-1982).

Works that make substantial comment on or criticism of the novel

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