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The Pearl

Title: The Pearl : Erotica from the Underground Magazine of Victorian England.
Editor: Anonymous
Publisher: Ballantine Books, NYC. 1968.

This soft cover book has a muted color scheme for the cover. The frontpiece image of a woman in a partially unlaced corset is done in rose tinted shades with the image intentionally in soft focus. Beneath this, on the cover, is a turquoise band with the title printed in an elegant font. Beneath this, in a smaller font, is the subtitle. The back cover has a turquoise band in the approximately the same position as on the front cover with the title printed. Above this is a rose colored rectangle is the background for similarly hued text in what I believe is the Arial font. It gives a brief description of the history of the text within and an even briefer overview of the contents. At the top of the cover is another turquoise band with the notation that this book contains the full text of all of the issues of this underground Victorian magazine.

The glued binding is fairly well put together and pretty much industry standard. The paper stock used for the pages is of average composition. The text is presented in a more modern version of the font used in the magazines. At the beginning of each issue presented, with a reproduction of the headline text from the magazine at the header of the page. The text on the page is presented in a font that is of average size and spacing. It is only moderately fatiguing to the eye to read for an extended period of time.

The text itself covers a very wide range of things. Two things are immediately apparent. The writers of the works within the magazine are predominantly male and have little understanding of what women experience in the process of the scenes that are written. I confess, I was a touch disappointed when I discovered that even the works that were supposedly written from a female perspective lacked the authenticity of things written from said perspective. The descriptions of the acts, for example, focused more heavily upon the males in the equation or glossed over the female response. It had the effect of muting any interest I may have had as erotic reading for myself.

This said, I was entertained by the wider range of euphamisms used for the male genitalia and the almost poetic language used to describe the female genitalia. I was also amused by the way the males of these scenes seemed to have inexhaustible appetites and unflagging stamina. In one serial story, the hero acquires no less than 10 concubines (many of them under what the era would have called questionable conditions, but honestly it is kidnapping and rape). He speaks of having many more women under his auspices within a grand mansion that is outfitted solely for debauchery of the most sexual sort. Somehow, the hero of this series of stories manages to charm his way into the arms of all women he encounters and remain with sufficient vigor to repeat his performance in short order with another.

The list of taboo subjects (of the era) that were touched upon in the various issues of this magazine include (but are not limited to):

  • Incest

  • Rape

  • Pedophilia

  • Corprophilia

  • Birching and physical discipline

  • Homosexuality

I had hoped for some variety in the writing, as this was a periodical that was supposedly fashioned from the contributions of many. Unfortunately, the stories were very uniform in their construction, execution, and subject matter. I found the same to be the case with the limericks and bawdy ballads that were littered through out the latter issues. The high degree or similarity between the various works leads me to believe that there was a core group of writers who presented themselves under various pseudonyms who forumulated the material that made up the majority of the issues. Occasionally, there were brief points of departure in writing style but they were the outliers.

Rating: 4/10