A pair of living turtle doves on a little bed of roses

Okay, I have discovered something AMAZING. I was reading The Facts of Life: The Creation of Sexual Knowledge in Britain, 1650–1950 by Roy Porter and Lesley Hall, as you do, and I read what may be the greatest phrase of all time:

Graham was, perhaps, a wizard showman flourishing in the lubricious twilight world of sex aids

I’m going to let you read that again

Graham was, perhaps, a wizard showman flourishing in the lubricious twilight world of sex aids


Dr. James Graham, wizard showman flourishing in the lubricious twilight world of sex aids

In fact, I think I’m just going to start carrying those and passing them out at conferences.

Dr. James Graham was a sexologist (quack?) whose greatest claim to fame was his Celestial Bed, built in 1780, which he described as “12 ft. long by 9ft. wide, supported by forty pillars of brilliant glass of the most exquisitive workmanship, in richly variated colours. The super-celestial dome of the bed, which contains the odoriferous, balmy and ethereal spices, odours and essences, which is the grand reservoir of those reviving invigorating influences which are exhaled by the breath of the music and by the exhilarating force of electrical fire, is covered on the other side with brilliant panes of looking-glass.

On the utmost summit of the dome are placed two exquisite figures of Cupid and Psyche, with a figure of Hymen behind, with his torch flaming with electrical fire in one hand and with the other, supporting a celestial crown, sparkling over a pair of living turtle doves, on a little bed of roses.

The other elegant group of figures which sport on the top of the dome, having each of them musical instruments in their hands, which by the most expensive mechanism, breathe forth sound corresponding to their instruments, flutes, guitars, violins, clarinets, trumpets, horns, oboes, kettle drums, etc.

At the head of the bed appears sparkling with electrical fire a great first commandment: ‘BE FRUITFUL, MULTIPLY AND REPLENISH THE EARTH’. Under that is an elegant sweet-toned organ in front of which is a fine landscape of moving figures, priest and bride’s procession entering the Temple of Hymen.

The chief principle of my Celestial Bed is produced by artificial lodestones. About 15 cwt. [hundredweight] of compound magnets are continually pouring forth in an everflowing circle…

Any gentleman and his lady desirous of progeny, and wishing to spend an evening in the Celestial apartment, which coition may, on compliment of a £50 bank note, be permitted to partake of the heavenly joys it affords by causing immediate conception, accompanied by the soft music. Superior ecstasy which the parties enjoy in the Celestial Bed is really astonishing and never before thought of in this world: the barren must certainly become fruitful when they are powerfully agitated in the delights of love.”

3 thoughts on “A pair of living turtle doves on a little bed of roses”

  1. Yes, isn’t that wonderful! It’s partly the Fact of the man, but also the tongue rolling suggestiveness of “lubricious”. There’s an interesting biography of Graham – http://www.lydiasyson.com/books/doctor-of-love-james-graham-and-his-celestial-bed/.
    If you come across anything useful on the treatment of infertility (other than the usual “this was a little known area and always the woman’s fault anyway”), I’d be very very grateful for a steer…

      1. Most of the writing on this I can track down (covering the period up to about 1830/40) seems to be giving what I’d call warm fuzzy advice (not based on what we might recognise as medical realities) – infertile women are recommended to travel, as a change of air is considered beneficial; “taking the waters” also crops up.
        Instead, I’d be interested in any evidence of advice given to women where the effects would approximate to modern medical thinking. E.g. dietary changes which would offer vitamins useful in conception; for possible PCOS, an exercise regime. etc. etc.

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