walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

I was _so_ prepared to like this book

_The Sexual History of London_, Catharine Arnold

The introduction listed a bunch of books I've already read (altho to be fair, anyone who describes Walter's biography as "bleak" makes me somewhat nervous. Bleak? Did we read the same book? Walter had some fun times in that book. Walter had some issues. Walter had a lot of self-awareness about those issues. Didn't seem that bleak to me.). The tone is zippy and fun. But then ...

"According to the Roman poet Catullus, women hung garlands on the god's enormous penis to indicate how many lovers they had entertained the previous night. Quite often, the garlands of a single woman were sufficient to cover the penis from root to tip." The note is to Burford, _Bawds and Lodgings_ p 17, which I don't have a copy of so I can't speak to it. What I _can_ point to is this:


"Females as superstitious as they were lascivious might be seen offering in public to Priapus as many garlands as they had had lovers. These they would hang upon the enormous phallus of the idol, which was often hidden from sight behind the number suspended by one woman alone. Others presented to the god as many phalli, made of willow-wood, as the men whom they had vanquished in a single night."

You can see where the confusion might have entered in, but that's no excuse. The garlands covering the penis were a _lifetime sex number_, not a one-night number. The one-night number was the willow-wood phalli. In any event, that's from the introduction to Burton's translation of _The Priapeia_, not present in Catullus' text. Again, not having Burford, hard to know what he had to say about it and it hardly seems relevant because people have been finding errors in Burford for decades anyway.

I suppose it's possible there's something in one of the epigrams that I overlooked -- don't hesitate to point it out. It's also possible that the reference to Catullus means some work other than _The Priapeia_ -- again, don't hesitate to point it out. There are days that I feel like tracking the source of an assertion in a non-fiction book is like playing Telephone.
Tags: not-a-book-review, sexuality

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