The novel is told in first person, and the protagonist of the novel is Charlie Roberts. The novel begins with “There were three of us — Mary, Eliza, and myself.” Charlie catalogs his sexual experiences with his governesses, various male and female friends, and acquaintances. The book deals with a variety of sexual activities and taboo subjects.Interesting finds:
- Use of language and vocabulary
Language and the way it was used made these volumes an unsettling read. The writing flowed and even while describing some of the most erotic or shocking moments in the story the formality of expression used by the writer was often at odds with the subject matter, specially throughout the first two volumes. As the novel progressed and its true focus became clear, the use of erotic terminology deteriorated and became raunchier, however the formality and flow of language remained a constant.
Words most often used: lascivious, libidinous, lubricity, salacious, gamahuche, voluptuousness and debauchery. References to Venus and other Roman and Greek gods and goddesses are used in conjunction with sexual acts and body parts. French, Italian and Latin are used freely, although many of the common names used by Anonymous are still used today.
As may be supposed, not a bone was to be traced in her upper neck, but all was dazzling in colour and flesh, which is such a beauty in woman. When a woman shows her gaunt collar bones, it is a proof of bad breeding, and a common nature.
- Social commentary
- Hypocrisy of women and how well they are able to mask their true selves by presenting a false front to society and often to men in general.
- Society's hypocrisy in general, specially that of the gentry and the aristocracy, i.e., how they are viewed by others vs. how they really are.
- Husband's selfishness and disregard for their wives sexual needs. Example:
It is these insensate cold-blooded husbands who raise, without satisfying, their wife's erotic passions, and drive them perforce to seek salacious comfort in other arms.Controversial finds:
- Taboo subject matter - the above book summary mentions taboo subjects, what it does not mention is that the main taboo subjects addressed in this book are incest and the seduction and deflowering of minors, both males and females. What it doesn't explain when it says "There were three of us, Mary, Eliza and myself" is that Mary and Eliza are Charlie's sisters; or that Charlie is fifteen at the beginning of the book, and his sisters are fourteen and thirteen respectively. Charlie himself is seduced by an adult and later on he takes on and relishes the role of seducer.
- On the subject of incest through Charlie Roberts, Anonymous writes:
In after-life, I have always found the nearer we are related, the more this idea of incest stimulates our passions, so that if even we be in the wane of life, fresh vigour is imparted by reason of the very fact of our evasion of conventional laws.Final thoughts:
After reading Romance of Lust or Early Experiences, I will never read a Victorian historical romance where there is a dissolute and corrupt character without thinking of Charlie Roberts. He was portrayed as both and as one who not only relishes but also thrives in corrupting those around him. Charlie has to be the most distasteful character I've ever encountered in a book.
I was able to read the first volume completely and then proceeded to skim through the rest of the volumes, where I basically looked for the information I was interested in finding. The subject matter throughout the rest of the volumes escalated to a point where I could not quite make myself read through the erotic encounters, although I followed Charlie's story through to its unfortunate end.
This is an erotic fantasy, not to my taste and definitely out of my comfort zone, yet in reading it I still found some things that interested me, those few glimpses into Victorian society were definitely a draw for me. The use of language and vocabulary, their idea of what constituted beauty and the social commentary about the times that were included in these volumes made an otherwise uncomfortable and unsettling read, interesting. I would like to conclude by saying that if the writer's purpose was to shock his audience at the time these volumes were published, I'm quite sure he succeeded.