The Pearl (magazine)

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The Pearl, A Magazine of Facetiae and Voluptuous Reading was a pornographic monthly magazine issued for 18 months in London by William Lazenby from July 1879 to December 1880,[1] with two Christmas supplements; it was closed down by the authorities for publishing obscene literature. Lazenby followed it with The Oyster (1883) and The Boudoir.[2]

The general format of the magazine was to publish three serial erotic tales simultaneously, devoted to sex in high society, incest and flagellation, respectively, interspersed with obscene parodies, poems and limericks.[3] The publisher William Lazenby also wrote some of the contents.[4] Some of the poems are thought to have been written by Algernon Charles Swinburne.[5][6][7] The format of the magazine can be seen as a parody of contemporary magazines aimed at the family market.[8]

The Pearl contains "My Grandmother's Tale", the first pornographic story based on slavery in the American South.[4]

In Australia in 2011 a man was convicted for possession of The Pearl due to the presence of "child exploitation material".[9] However, the conviction was set aside on appeal.[10]

Rhymes, songs and parodies[edit]

The Pearl published limericks under the label 'Nursery Rhymes'. The heading is facetious, as their content would certainly not be appropriate for the nursery. The following example was included in The Pearl, Issue Nº 1, July 1879.

There was a young man from Peru,
Who had nothing whatever to do;
So he took out his carrot
And he buggered his parrot,
And sent the result to the zoo.

Cultural Legacy[edit]

A selection from the story "Lady Pokingham, or They All Do It" is read during a scene in The Master (2012).

The Pearl's characters and venues, being Victoriana, are featured in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore. In Volume I, Issue 2 (Ghosts & Miracles), a girl's school seems to be haunted by a ghost (The "Holy Spirit") that is raping and impregnating the students. The headmistress is Rosa Coote, a character from one of The Pearl's serials. The "Holy Spirit" turns out to be Hawley Griffin, the Invisible Man.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rachel Potter (January 2009). "Obscene Modernism and the Trade in Salacious Books" 16 (1). Modernism/modernity: 87—104. doi:10.1353/mod.0.0065. 
  2. ^ Vance Randolph, "Unprintable Ozark Folksongs and Folklore: Blow the candle out", Volume 2 of Roll Me in Your Arms: Unprintable Ozark Folksongs and Folklore, ed. Gershon Legman, University of Arkansas Press, 1992, ISBN 1-55728-237-4, p.898
  3. ^ Donald Thomas, "A Long Time Burning", Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1969, p.276
  4. ^ a b Lisa Z. Sigel, "International exposure: perspectives on modern European pornography, 1800-2000", Rutgers University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-8135-3519-0, pp.64,73-74
  5. ^ Frank Bates, "Corporal Punishment in Legal, Historical and Social Context", Manitoba Law Journal 12 (1982-1983) 337
  6. ^ Donald Serrell Thomas, "Swinburne, the poet in his world", Oxford University Press, 1979, ISBN 0-19-520136-1, p.216
  7. ^ Thomas S. Weinberg "S & M: studies in dominance & submission", Prometheus Book, 1995, ISBN 0-87975-978-X, p.226
  8. ^ Marcus, Sharon (2007). Between women: friendship, desire, and marriage in Victorian England. Princeton University Press. p. 289. ISBN 0-691-12835-9. 
  9. ^ Blair Richards (1 March 2011). "Councillor's child porn guilt". The Mercury. Archived from the original on 7 October 2012. Retrieved 27 July 2011. 
  10. ^ Matt Smith (11 August 2011). "Child porn finding revoked". The Mercury. Archived from the original on 8 October 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 


  • Adler, Bill, ed. (2004). The Pearl. Blue Moon Books. ISBN 1-56201-410-2. 
  • Atkins, John Alfred (1982). Sex in literature 4. Calder & Boyars. pp. 334–337. ISBN 0-7145-3756-X. 
  • Nelson, Claudia; Martin, Michelle H. (2004). "Chap.1". Sexual pedagogies: sex education in Britain, Australia, and America, 1879-2000. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-6350-9. 
  • The Pearl: A Journal of Voluptuous Reading, the Underground Magazine of Victorian England, Grove Press, 1968, ISBN 0394171268

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]