Prose, France, 19th Century
Gamiani, attributed to Alfred de Musset and illustrated by Félicien Rops (1866)
Probably the most famous French pornographic novel of the nineteenth-century, reissued more than forty times after its first publication in 1833, Gamiani, ou Deux nuits d’excès [Gamiani, or Two Nights of Excess] is commonly attributed—without conclusive evidence—to the French Romantic poet, playwright, and novelist Alfred de Musset (1810-1857). The novel recounts, over the course of two nights, the transgressive sexual experiences of Countess Gamiani, Fanny, and Alcide, including zoophilia and necrophilia. The edition exhibited here, which contains a symbolic frontispiece and four explicit illustrations by Félicien Rops, was most likely clandestinely printed for the exiled French publisher Auguste Poulet-Malassis in Brussels in 1866.
Les Diaboliques by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly and Félicien Rops (1882)
Filled with debauchery, revenge, and crime mostly committed by women, the collection of six short stories Les Diaboliques [The She-Devils] by the French Catholic writer Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly (1808-1889) was first published by Dentu in 1874. The book instantly met with tremendous success and sold out in a few days. Although the author initially planned to add six more “diabolical women” to the first six stories, he never did. Stirred up by a scathing article issued in Le Charivari, an illustrated satirical French newspaper, the Public Prosecutor put both author and publisher on trial for affront to public decency, and the remaining copies of the book were destroyed. Arguing that he sought to arouse a feeling of horror in readers through the depiction of human atrocities, Barbey avoided trial thanks to the intercession of the statesman Léon Gambetta. The edition exhibited here, which includes a portrait of the author, a frontispiece, and eight illustrations by Félicien Rops, was published by Alphonse Lemerre in 1882, a few months after the Law on the Freedom of the Press was passed in France on July 29, 1881.