The Way of a Man with a Maid
The Way of a Man with a Maid is an anonymous, sadomasochistic, erotic novel, probably first published in 1908. The story is told in the first person by a gentleman called "Jack", who lures women he knows into a kind of erotic torture chamber, called "The Snuggery", in his house, and takes considerable pride in meticulously planned rapes which he describes in minute detail.
Most of the story takes place in a room in his house called 'The Snuggery', which the narrator "Jack" converts into a kind of erotic torture chamber equipped with beds to which women can be strapped and held helpless and which is soundproofed to make their screams unheard. Other equipment includes cords and pulleys, flagellation implements and a mechanical "Chair of Treachery" to which helpless females are lured to be restrained in.
The first of many victims lured into 'The Snuggery' to be raped is a girl called Alice, a member of Jack's social set who had earlier jilted him and on whom he takes revenge by subjecting her to a whole series of sexual acts without her consent (and without any more thought of marrying her). The very detailed description of Alice's rape, with the narrator repeatedly expressing great satisfaction at her fear and humiliation, takes the whole of the first part, called "the Tragedy". At its end, Alice had completely submitted and become Jack's willing sexual partner.
In the second part, called "The Comedy", Alice locates for Jack further victims, helps lure them to be raped in turn, and actively helps in making them sexually available to Jack. The rape scenes of Alice's servant Fanny and Alice's friend Connie follow the same pattern, with the new victim vainly protesting and resisting the gloating Jack, only to be finally converted (as Jack puts it) into a willing and eager sexual partner and an active accomplice in the rape of the next victim.
By the final episode, when the wealthy Lady Betty and her daughter Molly had been lured into the rape room, Jack need not exert himself to tie up and undress the new victims. All this dirty work is being performed eagerly by his earlier victims turned accomplices. Thereupon, mother and daughter are not only subjected to repeated rape but also forced into a long series of incestuous acts with each other, carried out so as to inflict the very maximum of humiliation and degradation upon mother and daughter and accompanied by endless gloating and taunting from Jack and his three female accomplices.
In his introduction to the Star edition of the book Alexis Lykiard notes its mordant humour and opines that it "is that rarity – an entertaining, funny and sexy book". Susan Griffin comments that when the hero forces the heroine to remove her clothing he gloats over not her beauty but her humiliation: "The virgin is punished by carnality". It is then taken for granted sexual intercourse, even in the form of rape, will awaken any woman's sexual passions.
In addition to the "quite perverse" scenes of rape, bondage, mother-daughter incest, whipping and "odd things done with feathers" to force women into orgasm, the book has a major element of lesbianism.
The book can be considered to be irreverent of the British class system prevailing at the time of writing – all women, be they servants or great ladies, are "equal" in having to submit to the narrator's every sexual whim.
Origin of title
The book's title is derived from the Bible's Book of Proverbs, where the wise King Solomon mentions "The way of a man with a maid" as one of the "things which are too wonderful for me, yea, which I know not". The ancient king's wonderment is manifestly not shared by the arrogantly self-assured Victorian narrator.
The date of first publication of The Way of a Man with a Maid is not printed in any of the early editions of this book. However, a note by a collector indicates that the first edition was published in Liverpool by H. W. Pickle & Co. in 1908. Previous suggestions that it was first published in 1895 or 1896 seem to be based on the erroneous back-dating – to 1896 – of a translation, by "the author of The Way of a Man with a Maid", of an erotic work called Parisian Frolics, which further research indicates was actually published c. 1912.
Grove Press put this book out as "A Man with a Maid" in 1968. On the "copyright" page ("All Rights Reserved") is the statement, "This is a reprint edition distributed by Bookthrift, New York".
The protagonist Jack returns in three more pastiche sequels. One of these is called A Weekend Visit, in which he "entertains" three lady friends at their house in the country – though in this case there is no rape involved, but rather two older women inviting Jack to "initiate" a younger girl into sex.
There were variant texts with changes and additions. For example, a Hebrew translation current in Israel in the 1970s had an added "flashback" not found in the English original, according to which Molly had already undergone repeated anal rape by the doctor in her boarding school, before falling into Jack's hands
The book was filmed as The Naughty Victorians in 1975, in a hardcore pornographic version by noted theater director Robert Sickinger. One of Jack's victim's, the servant Fanny, is renamed Cecily, and Lady Betty is renamed Lady Bunt, though her daughter is still named Molly. The character of Connie, Alice's friend, is omitted. In a twist on the ending, the four raped women team up at the end to get revenge on Jack.
In Other Literature
- Clifford J. Scheiner (1996), The Essential Guide to Erotic Literature, Part One: Before 1920. Ware, Wordsworth: 326-9
- Katchadourian, Herant A.; Donald T. Lunde (1972). Fundamentals of human sexuality. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. p. 380. ISBN 978-0-03-083053-2.
- Gifford, Don; Robert J. Seidman (2008). Ulysses annotated: notes for James Joyce's Ulysses. University of California Press. p. 309. ISBN 978-0-520-25397-1.
- Mendes, Peter (1993). Clandestine erotic fiction in English, 1800–1930: a bibliographical study. Scolar Press. ISBN 978-0-85967-919-0.
- Pease, Allison (2000). Modernism, mass culture, and the aesthetics of obscenity. Cambridge University Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-521-78076-6.
- Lansbury, Coral (1985). The old brown dog: women, workers, and vivisection in Edwardian England. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 121. ISBN 978-0-299-10250-0.
- Alexis Lykiard (1981), "Introduction" to A Man with a Maid. Star Books: ix–xvi.
- Susan Griffin, "Pornography and silence: culture's revenge against nature", Harper Row, 1995, ISBN 0-06-090915-3, pp. 21–22, 56.
- Alan Norman Bold, "The Sexual dimension in literature", Vision Press, 1983, ISBN 0-389-20314-9, pp. 97–99.
- Book of Proverbs, 30:18
- Zatlin, Linda G. (Autumn–Winter 1990). "Beardsley Redresses Venus". Victorian Poetry (West Virginia University Press) 28 (3/4): 111–124. ISSN 0042-5206. JSTOR 40002293.
- Hinz, Evelyn J. (1985). For better or worse: attitudes toward marriage in literature. University of Manitoba. p. xii. ISBN 978-0-919475-26-7.
- Clifford J. Scheiner (1996), The Essential Guide to Erotic Literature, Part One: Before 1920. Ware, Wordsworth: 188.
- Quoted in Avraham Kedmi, "Militarism and pornography in Israeli pulp literature" (in Hebrew), Tel Aviv, 1987, P. 35-39 (among references to various translated works which were given "unauthorised" additions and/or were substantially changed in Hebrew translation).
- Donald C. Willis, Horror and science fiction films II, Scarecrow Press, 1982, ISBN 0-8108-1517-6, p. 161.
- 'The Naughty Victorians' (1975), The Rialto Report: Audio interviews with Robert Sickinger, and the stars of 'The Naughty Victorians' film
- Jackson, Shirley; Hangsaman; Ace Publishing Corp., 1951; p. 158.
- The Wordsworth Book of Classic Erotica (2007) contains the full text of The Way of a Man with a Maid and A Weekend Visit.
- The Way of a Man With a Maid by Anonymous (2009). Harper Perennial Forbidden Classics.
- Simon Sheridan Keeping the British End Up: Four Decades of Saucy Cinema (3rd edition) (Reynolds and Hearn Books, 2007) discusses the film.
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