Friday, February 26, 2010

Safe sex in the 18th century: lecture by Natasha McEnroe and exhibit at the Dittrick

The Handerson Lecture at the Dittrick on March 18 will feature Natasha McEnroe, Grant Museum, University College London. Her talk, entitled “'In armour complete': practising safe sex in 18th-century London,” takes an intimate look at the very private lives of some of 18th -century London's leading literary and society figures. The basis for this work comes from Mrs. McEnroe’s time as past Curator of Dr. Johnson's House, of Boswell and dictionary fame, and co-editor of The Tyranny of Treatment: Samuel Johnson, His Friends and Georgian Medicine (2003).

In addition to Natasha McEnroe’s presentation, the Dittrick staff is preparing an exhibit in our Castele Gallery on “sex and the city” in 18th century Britain. One component of the exhibit will deal with the scientific side of the subject in 18th century London. Specifically, we will present the story of John Hunter and his (self-inflicted) research on sexually transmitted disease. Readers who want a good intro to Hunter’s experimentation with syphilis and gonorrhea are directed to Wendy Moore’s excellent biography, The Knife Man: Blood, Body Snatching, and the Birth of Modern Surgery.

18th century condom with ribald scene of nun and priests.

The other portion of the exhibit, being prepared by Dittrick curator emerita Dr. Patsy Gerstner, will present William Hogarth’s morality tale narrative series. Hogarth’s print series are often called ‘novels’ because they each tell a story. Those stories -- The Rake’s Progress (1732-35), The Harlot’s Progress (1730-35), and Marriage A-la-Mode (1743-45) -- offer a biting satire of London life and society, and present a comedic, dramatic, and dark telling of moral and social decline.

Here, in The Harlot’s Progress, young Moll Hackabout, a naïve farm girl, has just arrived in London, and is being drawn in by the notorious madam, Mother Needham.

Hope you can join us on March 18. See the Dittrick website for details.

Jim Edmonson.

1 comment:

  1. pretty good information about practicing safe sex in 18th-century. However, it would be interesting to know the author's thoughts about how different sex practice would have been if they would have been able to buy viagra at that time.