Tuesday, January 13, 2015

From the Top Shelf - The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine

Most people are familiar with the name of Mrs Isabella Beeton, famous in Victorian England for her cookery recipes, but maybe less familiar with the name of her husband Samuel Beeton, who published a magazine called The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine. This gave the usual tips of the era on diet for ladies, deportment, appropriate table manners and fashion, plus a long-running and quite intense correspondence column on the efficacy of corporal punishment in the home and school.

I have written about this magazine before, but recently I had the good fortune to discover a letter in Experiences of Flagellation, a compendium of spanking experiences

A bit of background: in those days many young ladies left school in their early twenties after spending the later teenage years being groomed for their life in society.

Dear Editor,

I am a young woman and it is not so long since I left school. My mother has shown me some of the letters published in your magazine on the subject of scholastic punishment and it is at her suggestion that I write to you.

When I was still at college I would have participated in any movement that desired the end of physical chastisement, but today I am of the opinion that a good spanking is, on certain occasions, both useful and necessary. I was naturally lazy and was persuaded, or at least stimulated, to work by a number of solid whippings - some received in private and others in the classroom - and I have seen nothing indecent or so terribly repugnant as some of your correspondents pretend to make out.

It is quite simply a painful and disagreeable experience, and no one should desire to renew acquaintance with it. The first time I was led by my teacher into the office of the Principal where, after my teacher had formulated her complaint which had produced a strong reprimand, the Principal called me forward. She leaned over me, raised my skirts which partly denuded the lower portion of my body and held me tight. Madame then proceeded to administer nine vigorous, stinging lashes.

My ways changed for a while, but in a very short time I slipped back into old habits and, after a number of warnings I was punished in front of my class. It was a terrible quarter of an hour, and I believe the fear of having to submit once again to such an experience rendered me most energetic. I was obliged to kneel at the front of the class on a bench, my body bent forward over the top of a desk. Two teachers stood by, one on each side, and having raised my skirts and removed my drawers completely, held me in position. These preliminaries did not take three minutes.

Madame, with a long and supple martinet, applied twelve or fifteen blows, taking her time and pausing between each one so that all might see its effect.

I tried to count the lashes but I was obliged to stop very early; the smarting was too acute, it seemed that my tender flesh was being pierced with hot needles. However no blood flowed, as some of your correspondents would have you believe, and there was nothing either shocking to my sense of modesty nor anything that might be said to awaken disgust. The marks were not as deep as I would have supposed, and the following night had already begun to show signs of vanishing. Among my classmates there was no laughter nor was there a single improper remark from anyone. I found every one of them sympathetic and warmly disposed indeed, and I am certain that the only sentiment which emerged out of these rare ceremonies was one of pity.

Girls often have little faults which, if not promptly attacked, become vices most difficult to extirpate. Immediate and courageous action is necessary while squeamishness, hesitancy, procrastination, or an exaggerated fear of the consequences are decidedly ill-advised. Madame, always good and just, had a singular taste for discovering our weaknesses. When she could cure by good advice or reprimand she never failed to exert herself on our behalf. If her good counsel fell on deaf ears, she had recourse to her trusty rod, but never did she whip unjustly and with passion. I have known many girls whose bad habits she has corrected in that way. For some a single whipping sufficed, for others she was obliged to punish time and again, but all finished by acknowledging that the offences they committed justified the treatment they received. I remember only one girl in the entire school where the whip failed to do its work effectively.


Alice was a truly remarkable young lady of the 1850s to find nothing shocking to her sense of modesty in having her drawers removed for a bare bottom spanking in front of the class!

From Hermione's Heart


Roz said...

I remember Mrs Beeton's cook books but hadn't heard of the magazine.

Interesting letter and perspective, tthank you for sharing Hermoine. I agree with you too.


Roz said...

I remember Mrs Beeton's cook books but hadn't heard of the magazine.

Interesting letter and perspective, tthank you for sharing Hermoine. I agree with you too.


Cat said...

Thanks for sharing this interesting letter Hermione. I have to agree with you...I was surprised that Alice's sense of modesty was not offended in having her drawers removed for a bare bottom spanking in front of the class.

Hugs and Blessings...

Anonymous said...

For that time period spanking was considered a proper punishment and yes it was done in school. I thought the letter was very interesting but was surprised she was not embarrassed by the class room spanking.

ronnie said...

Good find Hermione. Interesting letter.

Same as Cat and Archedone, surprised she wasn't embarrassed to be spanked like that.


Hermione said...

Roz - I was very lucky to come across that letter, as I have been curious ever since I first learned about the magazine.

Cat - Maybe she had seen it all too often.

Arched one - True, it was very common.

Ronnie - Maybe she omitted that detail at her mother's prompting.