Today’s blog entry is about literary sex scenes - which writers of former times would have liked to put more sex in their books? – and appears on the Guardian books blog here.
‘No writer of fiction among us has been permitted to depict to his utmost power a MAN’ – this is WM Thackeray introducing his book Pendennis and, perhaps surprisingly, it is very clear that he means something very specific: he was upset that ‘society will not tolerate’ a truthful depiction of a young man’s sexlife. He made the complaint several times: that he was constrained by convention from being honest about what he saw as a huge and vitally important part of life. It seems clear that if he had had the chance he would have included sex scenes in his book - rueful, good-natured, non-judgemental ones, surely.
So, his fellow-writers (in the Victorian era and up to more open modern times) – did they share his wish for more honesty? It’s a complete guessing game, as respectable writers didn’t even write about the constraints, let alone try to breach them, but let’s do some guessing. Who was bothered by the conventions, who would exercise their freedom if they were writing now?
Click here to read on…