THE MEMOIRS OF A VOLUPTUARY BY CHARLIE POWERSCOURT
The Memoirs of a Voluptuary, of which the half devoted to pederastic sex is presented here, is of interest and importance as the only publication in English from nearly such an early period with substantial and explicit descriptions of such sex. As such, it is an invaluable guide to the sexual vocabulary and attitudes of adepts of man/boy sex in its Victorian setting. It contains, for example, the first known usage of the word “wank”.
It was first published by Charles Carrington in three volumes in Paris in 1905 in 150 numbered copies “issued to subscribers only”, though New Orleans appeared on the title page as the pretended place of publication. The only copy of this edition now in a public collection is that in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. It was republished in 1908 by the same publisher in the same city, but this time in two volumes and with the pretence of publication by “James Kennedy, 40, Fenchurch Street, London”. This is the edition of which the British Library has a copy. The first, 1905 edition was reproduced in facsimile by Grove Press, New York in 1971.
Fact or fiction?
As will be seen, the author says in the preface that these are his memoirs and that those with personal experience will know they present a real picture of “the secret life of an English boarding-school”. Early in chapter 8, he is even more insistent on the accuracy of his record, claiming “I am able to vouch for its entire correctness, all the doings and happenings of my first week at school being impressed upon my brain with a remarkable clearness.”
The sections of the book that seem most over the top are surely the “yarns” recounted by Gaston de Beaupré, but the author, evidently aware of this, goes on to say of these: “I have endeavoured to retain, as far as my mind will serve me on looking back, the general style of the narrator as he delivered them to us. So far as the facts and incidents are concerned, these are exactly as related; indeed, to make sure of this, I submitted the whole, when written, to my friend de Beaupré, who kindly revised and corrected this portion of my work, so that I have the weight of his authority in giving an assurance of its authentic character.”
As, however, would be expected in a work of this nature, people’s names at least are entirely fictional. Besides “Powerscourt”, on which more below, there never was a Duke of Surrey or Beaupré or Duchesse de Regnier, for example.
The author’s name is not given on the title page, but he is referred to throughout the text as Charlie Powerscourt. This is certainly and unsurprisingly a pseudonym, as there was no one in England of that name. It has been suggested that he might really have been Charles Reginald Dawes (1879-1964), a writer and collector of erotica with a special interest in pederasty, who owned one of the rare copies of the book and wrote glowingly about it in a surviving manuscript. However, this identification presupposes that the book is heavily fictional, as Dawes came from a much humbler social background and, as a boy, had a living mother and siblings, which conflicts with a critical point in Powerscourt’s story.
Date of setting
“At the end of Chapter I, Bob, frustrated after being left on the sidelines during Charlie’s ﬁrst sexual encounter with Lord Jimmy, says ‘I am like the boy in the advertisement of Pears‘ soap, I shan’t be happy till I get it’. In Chapter , Charlie is shown the sights of Paris by his school-chum Gaston de Beaupré: ‘Notre Dame, the Jardin des Plantes, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, all came in for a share of my admiration’. John Everett Millais‘ painting, ‘A Child’s World’ or ‘Bubbles’, was exhibited in 1886, reproduced in the Illustrated London News in December 1887, and acquired and adapted for a Pears Soap advertisement shortly after. The Eiffel Tower was completed in March 1889.”
On the other hand, writing by 1905 in Chapter 8, the author defends his story as “a truthful journal of what happened a considerable number of years ago.” “Considerable” suggests more than ten, so the setting must have been around the early 1890s.
The following synopsis is this website’s, designed to clarify what is and is not presented:
Chapter 1. The Gates of Dawn.
The narrator, innocent thirteen-year-old Charlie, about to go to boarding-school for the first time, goes to stay with family friends, so that their son Bob, sixteen, already a pupil, can accompany him there. Bob easily seduces and fucks him.
Chapter 2. A New Acquaintance.
Charlie learns to fellate Bob. The next day they go to school. That night they meet Jimmy, the Duke of Surrey, who shares their dormitory and proves more than willing to join in their fun.
Chapter 3. Doctissimus Puer.
The following day, they are joined in their dormitory by a fourth boy, “Blackie” Gaston de Beaupré, an experienced French friend of Jimmy and, like him, about Charlie’s age. They pair off for more erotic thrills.
Chapter 4. Venus and Adonis.
Gaston tells his three friends the story of his seduction in Paris six months earlier by Cécile, a girl of twenty-two. Aroused, his friends appoint him their master of ceremonies for more fun together.
Chapter 5. A Masquerade and the Penalty.
Charlie is sexually humiliated by two fifteen-year-old bullies. Gaston tells his friends the story of how Cécile took him disguised as a girl to a lesbian party, leaving which, he was taken for a girl by an insistent prince who, far from being deterred when he discovered his mistake, took him in both orifices.
Chapter 6. A Lesson in Physiology.
Resuming his story, Gaston tells of the sex he had with Cécile the next day, interspersed with her defloration with a dildo of a new maid of fourteen and flagellation of an errand-boy of twelve. The day after the story-telling, the four friends resume their sexual antics in their dormitory and hear more about the two bullies.
Chapter 7. A Reprisal and a Study in Flagellation.
The four boys enjoy an afternoon at the sea-side, where they meet the bullies and humiliate them suitably. Gaston tells of a visit with Cécile to a Russian princess who punishes her maids and pages with sexually-exciting canings and spanks Gaston’s bottom until he comes, then he and a trained dog perform cunnilingus on Cécile and the princess respectively.
Chapter 8. Glimpses from the Golden Age.
Gaston introduces honey to the boys’ dormitory sex games. More about the antics of one of the bullies. Charlie learns about the affair a boy called Lacy is having with a master, and Lacy joins in their fun.
Chapter 9. The First Vacation.
A despondent Charlie goes home for the school holidays, where his loneliness is a little relieved by observing the sexual ragging of the young servants of both genders, of which he gets a taste, and hearing about their heterosexual experiences.
Chapter 10. In Lutetia.
Charlie eagerly accepts a sudden invitation from Gaston to stay with him in Paris. They visit Cécile, who introduces him to coitus, while Gaston mounts her rear orifice. (See below for the only paragraph of Greek love interest).
Chapter 11. The Rites of Flora.
Cécile takes Charlie and Gaston to assist as attendants at a Roman-inspired orgy where she and her women friends are given cunnilingus by boys, girls and each other, while watching copulation involving children, goats and hounds. Afterwards, Charlie and Gaston are sexually relieved by Cécile’s maid.
Chapter 12. Lord Henry.
Charlie leaves his new friends in France, and rejoins his schoolfellows, with whom he resumes erotic games. They are invited to stay with Jimmy’s uncle, Lord Henry Wilmot in his castle for most of the Christmas holidays, Charlie going first on his own. The persuasive and attractive Lord Henry wastes no time introducing himself as “extremely fond of boys.” He and Charlie are soon engaged in soixante-neuf, Charlie’s first experience with a man.
Chapter 13. Hebworth Castle.
The next day is taken up with sex games involving two Japanese boys of thirteen and a younger English boy who live with Lord Henry, and the latter’s two gigantic negro man-servants, but the ever-titillated Charlie is not allowed to come until his host has fucked him that night. Similar games ensue when Charlie’s schoolfellows arrive.
In penning these memoirs, it occurs to me that they may not prove an uninteresting contribution to the general body of amatory literature, as they deal with a subject not often touched upon therein: the secret life of an English boarding-school. That I have not drawn an unreal picture will, I am sure, be felt by all those who can bring the light of personal experience to bear on these pages. It would not be true to say that all scholastic institutions are exactly as I have depicted, as the governing principles of these establishments differ very considerably; but there is always a strong undercurrent of eroticism present, which only needs the existence of favourable circumstances to render itself prominent on the surface as well as below it.
These preceding remarks leave it unnecessary for me to say that the present volume deals principally with my school-time, and treats of the awakening in me of the germinal instincts of sensualism and of my preliminary initiation into the Mysteries of Eros. Crude and unregulated as my ideas were in the period which I have treated of, I cannot but have an affectionate regard for that embryonic stage, in which, indeed, I am satisfied that all the component parts of the system of passional philosophy I have since formed were present in a dormant state, and only awaited fructification in due season.
Whether I shall follow this work up by others dealing with my later life, depends upon the reception the one now under consideration will be accorded, and I shall therefore regard its career with corresponding solicitude.
I have nothing further to add in conclusion, beyond craving the reader's indulgence for the many errors and shortcomings which will doubtless be apparent to him.
This isolated paragraph of pederastic interest comes as part of Charlie’s introduction to Paris by his friend Gaston de Beaupré:
Gaston had a good deal to say about the cocottes, and also pointed out one or two establishments of the class which had a considerable reputation. He told me that there were some places, besides, where boys were to be procured, as well as girls, and also that some women of fashion even gave such houses secret patronage, and made assignations there with men, while a few went to the length of engaging the services of the girls belonging to the institutions.
 Keri Davies and Angus Whitehead, “An Early Usage of Wank, Antedating OED Entry” in Notes and Queries, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 1-3.
 Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale: Enfer, 1340. The Memoirs presumably found their way into the Bibliothèque Nationale’s Enfer after being condemned by the cour d’assises de la Seine on 23 December 1914. See Pascal Pia, Les Livres de l’Enfer: Bibliographie critique des ouvrages érotiques dans leurs différentes éditions du XVIe siècle à nos jours, 2 vols (Paris, 1978), II, 448, cols 845–46.
 The surname Powerscourt literally did not exist in England, as demonstrated by its absence from the 1891 census. The only Powerscourt children with it whose births were registered there between the beginning of registration in 1837 and 1900 were two children of Lord Powerscourt, surnamed Wingfield.
 For details of this and further information about Dawes, see The Erotic Library of Charles Reginald Dawes by Patrick Kearney, Santa Rosa, California, 2016, which hints gently at Dawes’s authorship of The Memoirs.
 Davies and Whitehead, op. cit., p. 3.
 “Cocottes” had just been described as “those smartly-dressed women of pleasure, who could be seen parading the thoroughfares with a rustle of silks, and thronging around the fashionable cafes and theatres.”