a little 18th century erotica

08WEBER-articleLargeCaroline Weber at The New York Times:

Long before Cole Porter observed that birds, bees and educated fleas do it, the French poet Alexis Piron made the same point in his X-rated “Ode to Priapus.” Anthologized in “The Libertine,” the literary historian Michel Delon’s delectable new volume of 18th-century French erotica, it catalogs an array of fauna (“Dromedary, whale, and duck, / Insect, critter, man”) united in their lusty predilection for verbs and nouns too obscene to print in this newspaper, though collectively identifiable by Porter’s own euphemistic pronoun of choice: “Everything does it, reasonable or not.” Reminiscent, too, of the catalog aria from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” — an enumeration of the skirt-chasing hero’s thousands of conquests by age, rank, nationality and hair color — Piron’s dirty laundry list underscores both the dogged ubiquity of the sex instinct and the inexhaustible variety of its ­expressions.

Delon’s anthology performs a similar function, displaying the dazzling breadth and depth of the 18th-century obsession with pleasures of the flesh. In the final decades of ancien régime France, an unsentimental, frankly hedonistic brand of thrill-seeking called libertinage — an enterprise in which, according to the playwright Pierre de Marivaux, “one still said to a woman: ‘I love you,’ but this was a polite way of saying: ‘I desire you’ ” — infused every genre from fiction to poetry, theater to philosophy, memoir to popular song (all well represented in short, artfully selected excerpts).

more here.