The Choice of Valentines

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Choise of Valentines Or the Merie Ballad of Nash His Dildo, which alternatively acquired the label "Nashe's Dildo",[1] is an erotic poem by Thomas Nashe, thought to have been composed around 1592 or 1593.[2] The poem survives in three extant manuscript versions[3][4] and was first printed in 1899.[5] It recounts in the first person a sexual encounter in a brothel between the narrator, Tomalin, and his lover, Mistress Frances. The poem contains the most detailed description of a dildo in Renaissance literature, and constitutes the first known use of the word "dildo", though the word may derive ultimately from popular ballads.[6]

In the prologue, Nashe dedicates the poem to “the right honorable the Lord S.”, who is evidently Henry Wriothesly, Earl of Southampton, Shakespeare’s patron and friend. Then in the epilogue when Nashe writes “My muse devorst from deeper care, presents thee with a wanton elegie", it appears that Nashe indeed wrote the poem with the patronage of Southhampton.[7][8]

Plot summary[edit]

As it is Valentine's Day, Tomalin goes to seek his flame, Mistress Frances, where she lives in the country, but discovers that she has been driven away by the local authorities and now resides in a brothel in the city. He enters the brothel, posing as a customer, and is offered other women by its Madame, but it is his lover that Tomalin really wants to see, even though it will cost him more. Tomalin is shown to Mistress Frances' room and is greeted with reciprocal passion, but before penetrating her he suffers from premature ejaculation due to his excitement. Mistress Frances lends Tomalin a helping hand to revive his erection, and the two have sex. During intercourse, she admonishes Tomalin to slow down and sets a rhythm more amenable to her own sexual gratification. Tomalin eventually climaxes, and his lover appears to climax as well, but soon expresses that she is not fully satisfied, and resorts to using a dildo. After a long description of the dildo, Tomalin pays for the services rendered and leaves the brothel, asking the readers, "Judge, gentlemen, if I deserue not thanks?"

Criticism[edit]

The Choise of Valentines was not published until 1899, in an edition limited to subscribers and apparently intended for collectors of pornography.[9] In 1905 Ronald B. McKerrow included the poem in his edition of Nashe's works. The poem is of particular interest to literary scholars concerned with late Elizabethan representations of gender and sexuality.

Ian Moultan reads the poem as expressing anxieties about masculine sexuality, including men's inability to satisfy women and women's sexual autonomy in taking their pleasure into their own hands.[10] Moultan also describes how several of the extant manuscripts differ widely from the more complete Petyt version, three of them omitting entirely the long description of the dildo, and one of these being partially written in cipher.[11]

A Choise of Valentines is a complex poem: Boika Sokolava writes, "For all its explicitness, . . . the poem manages to diffuse the pornographic through sparkling wit, literary allusion and self-conscious mock-seriousness."[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Duncan-Jones, Katherine. Ungentle Shakespeare: Scenes from His Life. The Arden Shakespeare. 2001. page 57.
  2. ^ Moulton, Ian (2000). Before Pornography: Erotic Writing in Early Modern England. Oxford: Oxford UP. p. 187. 
  3. ^ Nicholl, Charles. A Cup of News: The Life of Thomas Nashe. Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1984. page 90–91.
  4. ^ The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Choise of Valentines, by Thomas Nash [1]
  5. ^ Nicholl, Charles. A Cup of News: The Life of Thomas Nashe. Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1984. page 294.
  6. ^ Moulton, Ian (2000). Before Pornography: Erotic Writing in Early Modern England. Oxford: Oxford UP. p. 183. 
  7. ^ Nash, Thomas. The Choise of Valentines, Or, the Merie Ballad of Nash His Dildo. Farmer, John, editor. Dodo Press. 2007. ISBN 978-1406530568
  8. ^ Sams, Eric. The Real Shakespeare; Retrieving the Early Years, 1564-1594. Yale University Press. 1995. page 108.
  9. ^ Moulton, Ian (2000). Before Pornography: Erotic Writing in Early Modern England. Oxford: Oxford UP. p. 187. 
  10. ^ Moulton, Ian (2000). Before Pornography: Erotic Writing in Early Modern England. Oxford: Oxford UP. p. 186. 
  11. ^ Moulton, Ian (2000). Before Pornography: Erotic Writing in Early Modern England. Oxford: Oxford UP. pp. 187–93. 
  12. ^ Sokolova, Boika (2000). A Companion to English Renaissance Literature and Culture. Malden, MA: Blackwell. p. 401. 

External links[edit]