Monday, April 9, 2012

From the Top Shelf - Harriet Marwood

Harriet Marwood, Governess is a tale by that prolific Victorian author, Anonymous. Set in the 1880s, it involves the Lovel family and the governess hired by Mr Lovel after his wife passes away. His son, Richard, is a tall, reserved young man, intelligent but dreamy and not a little lazy. Mr Lovel engages a governess to prepare him for college and to discipline him as she sees fit. The relationship quickly becomes one of pleasure and pain. As you will soon see, their physical relationship is entirely consensual.

In this excerpt, Miss Marwood has obtained permission to take her pupil to the family's country home to get away from the large, oppressive house in the city. Mr. Lovel agrees and the governess breaks the news to Richard.

"We will go to Christchurch together," she said. "Down there, I shall have you under my authority even more firmly than now. I will make you a well-trained boy indeed, Richard!" She looked at him affectionately. "Well, are you glad to be going down to the country with me? To live there with me, just the two of us alone?"

"Yes! Oh yes, Miss!" he breathed.

She took him in her arms and kissed him with such warmth that his head reeled.


She packed the boy's trunk with him; and she also made him carry a parcel containing the ruler and a new rattan: the first cane had long since been worn out, and already at least a half-dozen had succeeded it in turn.

"I think," said Harriet with a kind of bantering gaiety, "that we shall be able to find in Christchurch everything necessary to whip you with, but it is better to be on the safe side. I have packed my strap, and I may need the cane as soon as we arrive. On the way down, my voice and hand should be enough to keep you in order..."

The trip passed without incident, except that Richard leaned out of the train window and caught a cinder in his eye, and the governess declared, in the presence of two very elegant women in the same compartment, that he was a foolish boy and would be soundly thrashed for his imprudence as soon as they arrived at their destination. This announcement had the immediate effect of gaining the favourable notice of the two ladies who, extremely distant heretofore, at once entered into conversation with Miss Marwood without deigning to acknowledge any further the existence of her companion.

They arrived at Christchurch in the evening.... While waiting for their luggage to arrive, the governess and pupil went on a tour of inspection of their new home, as pleased with it as if they were a newly wedded couple.

The house, standing in the midst of heavily wooded grounds encircled by a high brick wall, enjoyed the greatest seclusion and privacy. At the end of the garden was the wall was pierced by a small door which led to the park itself, a pretty stretch of woods made up mainly of oak, ash and birch. From the lawn behind the house, where she was standing with Richard looking at the trees, Harriet observed the white satiny trunks of the birch-trees, and pointed them out to her pupil.

"See," she said, with a little laugh in her throat, putting her arm around him, "at least we will not lack for rods!"

He sighed: it might have been a sigh of trepidation or of pleasure. He was still suffering from the cinder which had lodged in his eye, and he had not forgotten the promise which Harriet had given him in the train.

After the trunks had arrived, and under Harriet's superintendence, the clothes had been unfolded, shaken out and hung up; and the linen unpacked and laid out in the drawers, there was still a good half-hour before dinner.

"Now let us look at that eye of yours," said Harriet, drawing Richard to the window of her own room.

She explored the underside of the eyelid, and after patient effort succeeded in removing the unlucky cinder; when this was accomplished, she bathed the eye carefully, and then, having dried his cheek with her own handkerchief, she murmured with a smile, "But after all, I might have saved myself the trouble of bathing your eye, since you will be shedding tears in a few minutes..."

He raised to her a glance full of appeal and anguish.

"Have you forgotten what I promised you in the train?" she said pleasantly. "Your imprudence deserves a sound whipping." She looked around her thoughtfully. The cane and ruler were already unpacked and lying on the massive mahogany table placed in the middle of the comfortable old-fashioned room. "Unless you are fastened to my bed," she resumed, "I can hardly see how to place you so I can whip you properly...No, wait: you will lean over this table and hold on to the far edge with your hands. That is the best way."

He obeyed, whimpering: but when he was standing in front of the table, stripped to his shirt, he looked at Harriet pleadingly. "Miss, please! I've never travelled in a train before...I didn't know—"

"That is doubtless an extenuating circumstance," she replied. "But simple common sense should have told you one does not lean out of railway coaches...Bend over at once, sir—Very good. Now reach out and hold onto this edge. Excellent!" She stepped back and surveyed him with satisfaction. "Suppose, Richard, that at the very moment you put your head out, the train was entering a tunnel! You would have been decapitated, my boy—just like that. The correction I am going to give you may serve to put a little sense into your head for the future. It seems indeed, Richard, that the whip is the only language you understand...

During this brief lecture she had raised his shirt above his shoulders, and emphasised her remarks with a few ringing slaps which made his flesh shake and quiver. Then, picking up the cane, she proceded to flog him vigorously for almost five minutes. He wept and writhed, but took good care not to release his hold on the table.

"Very well, Richard," she said at last, laying down the cane. "You may get up now. And now come here and kiss me, and promise to be more sensible in future."

His face still bathed in tears, he kissed her smiling mouth as she had ordered, feeling the same disturbance he always felt in bestowing this salute,—this kiss was, in fact, designed at once as a stimulus to his adolescent sensuality and as a last refinement of humiliation.


From Hermione's Heart


Anonymous said...


Wow! Now, I am really in the mood for a good caning.

Thank you for sharing.


Hermione said...

I first read that passage in an anthology, over 30 years ago, and it's stayed with me ever since.


OldFashionedGirl said...

It's an intense read, isn't it? I read an excerpt years ago and it had this episode in it - looks out of window, is promised a caning - gets it later. I liked the fact that when she promised him his punishment she did it in pulbic in the presence of other passengers.
When I bought an ebook version a year to two ago this train journey episode wasn't there. So, thanks for the post - good to re-read it.

Hermione said...

I love the buildup to the punishment. Odd that this scene was edited our of the ebook. Abridged spanking stories?

Anonymous said...

I think it was too much of a punishment for a childish looking out of a train window, but I suppose it's okay for fantasy.


Anonymous said...

This has been published in several editions and in some of them, I think that scenes were added and others removed. In fact I recall having at one time a version edited by Paul Little (A de Granamour, Kenneth Harding, etc.) with additional scenes. I borrowed heavily from this work in my novella, The Mills Governess, and my main character is based upon Harriet.

Hermione said...

She punished him for not being able to swim in a subsequent chapter. Fantasy at its best:)

Hermione said...

cool! I must read that soon.

ricky said...

Oh, yeah!
and well,
I love the choo-choo, too!

ronnie said...

Quit harsh for looking out of the window. I like the way the writer builds up to the punishment. Thanks for sharing Hermione.


Hermione said...

Thanks. I thought it suited the story.

Hermione said...

I agree, the buildup is everything!

Indy said...

Oh, that is lovely. I'll have to get that e-book, even if it leaves gems like this one out. Thanks!

Brian Busby said...

Hermione, please forgive this late comment, I've only just seen your post.

I thought you might be interested - and take a bit of pride - that Harriet Marwood, Governess is the work of fellow Canadian John Glassco.

You can find more info on the work in these blog entries and, if I may, my biography A Gentleman of Pleasure: One Life of John Glassco, Poet, Translator, Memoirist and Pornographer (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2011).

Hermione said...

Brian - Welcome, and thank you for your informative comment. I had no idea! I will certainly read your other blog posts. What a delightful surprise!


Brian Busby said...

My thanks for the welcome, Hermione. It would be wrong of me not to add that flagelantine fantasies figure largely in Glassco's work, notably Squire Hardman, Fetish Girl and his completion of Aubrey Beardsley's Under the Hill. Glassco's "translation" of Venus in Furs is, I think, the best.

If you don't know it already, you might also be interested in another old classic, The Whip Angels by Canadian Diane Bataille.

Hermione said...

Brian, I am acquainted with Squire Hardman, but not the other titles. I'll be sure to investigate The Whip Angels.