Dirty books aren’t a recent thing, regardless of past obscenity laws and rules dictating appropriate behavior. In fact, many old school authors can teach today’s writers of erotica a thing or two.
While we’re led to believe that polite and decent people wouldn’t ever be caught reading inappropriate material, the truth is many upstanding citizens throughout the centuries had scandalous reads hidden in their nightstands and under their mattresses. In fact, plenty of novels that are considered classic literature are nothing more than dirty books.
Fortunately, today’s erotica lovers can hide behind their tablets, but back in the day the reading of dirty books or erotica was done on the sly when no one was around to know any better. What follows is a look at some of the “classics” that are nothing more than a juicy, dirty book. In fact, most of the books on today’s list are downright pornographic.
13 Dirty Books Disguised as Classic Literature
by Vladimir Nabokov
Lolita is the story of a man who becomes obsessed with a 12 year old, who, incidentally, becomes his stepdaughter. An inappropriate affair ensues. Published in 1955, the only publisher that would touch it at the time was in France. It wasn’t until 1958 that it was published in America. It wasn’t banned so much because it was a “dirty” book, but rather because of the underage sex.
2. The Story of O
by Pauline Reage
Pauline Reage is the pen name of French author Anne Desclos, who wrote Histoire d’O as a series of letters to her lover who was a fan of the Marquis de Sade. The book puts Shades of Grey to shame as it shares the take of a fashion photographer who becomes a submissive.
3. Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure
by John Cleland
I was 13 or 14 when I found Fanny Hill on my dad’s bookshelf – and as the first “dirty book” I read was it ever an eye opener! It was written in 1748 while the author was in debtor’s prison. According to Wikipedia, it’s one “the first original English prose pornography, and the first pornography to use the form of the novel.” Fanny Hill also has the distinction of being one of the most banned books ever written. Written as a series of letters from Frances “Fanny” Hill to an anonymous recipient, Fanny Hill chronicles the exploits of a young woman who is introduced to prostitution.
4. Lady Chatterly’s Lover
by D.H. Lawrence
Published in 1928, Lady Chatterly’s Lover was the scandalous novel about an upper class woman and her working class lover. It wasn’t only scandalous because of the subject matter, however, but also because of its use of “unprintable” words. Clearly we have no issue with such words now.
5. Justine or The Misfortunes of Virtue
by Marquis de Sad
Written in 1791 – and now in the public domain – Justine is the story of a condemned woman who recants the events that led to her unfortunate predicament. While racy, it certainly isn’t as, um, descriptive as other works by Marquis de Sade.
6. The 120 Days of Sodom
by Marquis de Sade
Written while he was in prison over obscenity charges (which should surprise no one). the Marquis de Sade his the manuscript for The 120 Days of Sodom in his prison wall, and thought he lost it during the storming of the Bastille in 1798. The manuscript was found after his death and published posthumously in 1904. de Sade lamented the loss of his manuscript, citing it as his masterpiece. The tale of three men who lock themselves – and their victims – in a castle for 120 days of debauchery, the manuscript was never finished, but has plenty of graphic (and some extremely gross) elements.
7. Tropic of Cancer
by Henry Miller
Published in 1934 in (where else!) Paris, Tropic of Cancer was originally banned in the United States. In fact, after it was published in 1961, there was a big to-do over whether or not it violated current obscenity laws. In 1964 the Supreme Court determined it wasn’t obscene. Henry Miller’s novel depicts a writer’s life in Paris.
8. Madame Bovary
by Gustave Flaubert
Published in 1856, Madame Bovary is the story of an adulterous doctor’s wife. Originally a serialized novel in a French magazine, Madame Bovary was considered so racy Gustave Flaubert had to answer to obscenity charges of which he was eventually acquitted.
9. The Canterbury Tales
by Geoffrey Chaucer
A series of tales began in 1389, Canterbury Tales shares stories presented as a storytelling contests among a bunch of traveling Pilgrims.Though there are over 24 tales collected, it’s rumored that the book was never finished.
10. Venus in Furs
by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
Published in 1870, Venus in Furs chronicles the conversations of a man who likes to pretend he’s talking with Venus as she’s wearing furs. (Can’t make this stuff up, folks.) Dominance and sadomasochism ensue.
11. Les Liaisons dangereuses
by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
The tale of ex-lovers who use seduction as a means to humiliate or manipulate others, simply for their own amusement. Published in 1782, the story unfolds as letters between the two rivals.
12. The Heptameron
by Marguerite de Navarre
The Heptameron is a collection of short stories written by Marguerite de Navarre and published posthumously in 1558. The stories chronicle the exploits off a group of houseguests who can’t go home because the local bridge is out, as they find different ways to amuses themselves. And amuse they do..
13. Autobiography of a Flea
Originally published in London in 1887, Autobiography of a Flea was published anonymously. However, it was later revealed that the author was really a lawyer by the name of Stanislas de Rhodes. The story is told by a flea, who somehow manages to survive long enough to see a lovely young girl named Bella taken advantage of by everyone from her boyfriend to her priest, to her uncle and others.
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