Manual of Classical Erotology (De figuris Veneris)
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(De figuris Veneris)
One Hundred Copies only of this volume have beenprinted (all on the same paper and the type distributed)for Viscount Julian Smithson M. A., the Translator,and his Friends. None of these Copies are for Sale.
It is perhaps well to state at once that the“Manual of Classical Erotology” is intendedonly for Students of the Classics, Lawyers,Psychologists and Medical Men. Those persons,we think, who may peruse it as a meansof awakening voluptuous sensations will beseverely disappointed. Never did a workmore serious issue from the press. Here wehave no curious erotic story born of a diseasedmind, but a cold, relentless analysis of thosehuman passions which it is ever the object ofScience to wrestle with and overthrow.
As a basis also for the correct interpretationof the drama of the ancient world, Forberg’sstudies are most valuable. Apart from thatextraordinary book, Rosenbaum’s History ofthe Esoteric Habits, Beliefs and Customs ofAntiquity, we know of no other compilationwhich casts so intense a search-light uponthose Crimes, Follies and Perversions of the“Sixth Sense” which transformed the oldenglory of Greece and Rome into a by-word anda reproach amongst the nations.
The present English translation now offeredto Scholars is entirely new and strictly exact.No liberties have been taken with the text. Itwas felt that any attempt to add more colour,or to increase the effect,—involving a departurefrom the lines of stern simplicity laiddown by Forberg,—would have detractedfrom the scientific value and character of thework.
The late Isidore Liseux issued in 1882 aFrench version with Latin text imprimé à centexemplaires “for himself and friends.” Thiswork is now very seldom to be met with becausethe whole edition was privately subscribedby Scholars and Bibliophiles beforeits appearance. The thieving copyists went ofcourse immediately to work and some wretchedpenny-a-liner, utterly ignorant of bothLatin and Greek, produced an English transcriptfull of faults, based only on the Frenchtext.
There is no need to add that such a book asthis is of no value to the Student as a work ofreference, for the faulty and forceless renderingsoften to be met with in Liseux’ versionare reproduced with charming exactness,while the absence of the original text makes itall the more perilous to accept the work as aguide. Having said this much concerning theonly two translations known to us, we proceedto give some account of good master Forbergand what is known of the inception and buildingup of his chef-d’œuvre.
The eminent Author of this book never becamefamous. His name is mentioned occasionallyin connexion with the “Hermaphroditus”of Antonio Beccadelli, known by thesurname of Panormitanus, which he edited.Brunet, Charles Nodier, and the Bibliographiedes Ouvrages relatifs aux Femmes, àl’Amour et au Mariage, speak of him in thisconnexion; while a list of his works appearsmoreover in the Index Locupletissimus Librorumor Bücher-Lexicon (BibliographicalLexicon) of Christian Gottlob Kayser, Leipzig,1834. But with the exception of the AllgemeineDeutsche Biographie, the publicationof which was commenced in 1878 by theHistorical Commission of the Munich Academy,and which has devoted a short notice tohim, all Dictionaries and Collections whetherof Ancient or of Modern Biography are mutewith respect to him. The Conversations-Lexiconand the vast Encyclopaedia of Ersch andGruber do not contain a single line about him,while Michaud, Didot, Bachelet and Dezobry,Bouillet, Vapereau, utterly ignore his existence.For all that he well deserves a wordor two.
Friedrich Karl Forberg was born in theyear 1770 at Meuselwitz, in the Duchy ofSaxe-Altenburg, and died in 1848 at Hildburghausen.He was a philosopher and a collaboratorwith Fichte, while he devoted a partof his attention to religious exegesis: but aboveall he was a philologian, and a humanist,—atonce learned and inquisitive. He followed firstthe career of a University-teacher; Privat-docentin 1792, Assistant Professor in the Facultyof Philosophy at Jena (1793), he wasinstalled in 1796 as Co-Rector at Saalfeld. Hisinaugural thesis: “Dissertatio inauguralis deaesthetica transcendentali”, is dated 1792(Jena, 8vo.); this was followed by a “Treatiseon the Original Conditions and FormalLimitations of Free Will” in German and an“Extract from my Occasional Writings” alsoin German (1795). From 1796 to 1800 hewrote extensively in defence of the teachingsof Fichte in Journals, Reviews, particularlyin the Philosophical Magazine of Schmidt,and in sundry publications emanating fromFichte himself. He published moreover:“Animadversiones in loca selecta Novi Testamenti”(Saalfeld, 1798, 4to.), “an Apologyfor his pretended Atheism”, in German(Gotha, 1799, 8vo.). “Obligations of LearnedMen”, in German (Gotha, 1801, 8vo.), etc.
The second part of his life seems to havebeen devoted entirely to Literature. In 1807he was appointed as Conservator of the AulicLibrary at Coburg, and having had enough ofphilosophy, he turned his whole attention tothe study of Latin and Greek antiquity. Previouslyto this his tastes had already been revealedby the publication of several prettyeditions of the minor Latin erotic poets; theseform a collection of six or eight volumes in16mo., with red margin-lines, and are nowvery difficult to procure. The discovery hemade in the Coburg library of a manuscriptof the “Hermaphroditus” of Panormitanus,offering important new readings and variantsfrom the received text, suggested the idea tohim of producing a definitive edition of thework, with copious commentaries.
The said “Hermaphroditus” so called, “because”,says La Monnoye, “all the filth in connectionwith both sexes forms the theme of thevolume”, is a collection of Latin Epigramsfilled out with a patchwork of quotations fromVirgil, Ovid and Martial, in which memoryhas a much larger share than imagination, andwhich has never appeared to us to possess anygreat literary value. But the mishaps the bookhas had to encounter, its having been publiclyburnt in manuscript in the market places ofBologna, Ferrara and Milan, the anathemashurled against it by some savants, and thefavour with which it was received by others,who were glad to awaken by its perusal oldreminiscences, have given it a kind of reputation.The Abbé Mercier de Saint-Léger wasthe first to publish it in Paris, together withthe works of four other poets of the same sort:Ramusius de Rimini, Pacificus Maximus, JovianusPontanus, and Joannes Secundus.But Forberg, whilst fully appreciating thework and particularly the courage of thelearned Frenchman, found much to find faultwith; the Epigrams of Panormitanus werenot numbered, which made citations fromthem troublesome, a great number of readingswere faulty, and, thanks to his manuscript, hecould correct them; lastly, Mercier de Saint-Légerhad omitted to give any running commentaryon his author, to explain his text bymeans of notes and the comparison of parallelpassages, whereas, according to Forberg abook of this character required notes by tensand hundreds, each verse, each hemistich,each word, offering matter for philosophicalreflections and highly interesting comparisons.He therefore took the book in hand and beganto collect with inquisitive care everythingthe Ancients had written upon the delicatesubjects treated in the “Hermaphroditus.”
But having come to the end of his task, hefound that his commentary would drown thebook, that hardly would he be able to get in averse of it every two or three pages, all theremainder of the book being taken up by hisnotes, and that the result would be chaos.Dividing his work into two parts, he left thesmaller one in the shape of annotations, reducedto the merest indispensable explanations,to the “Hermaphroditus”, while of thesecond and more copious harvest of his eruditeresearches he composed a special treatise,which he had printed as a supplement underthe title, “Apophoreta”, or “Second Course”;this treatise being in his eyes only a kind ofdessert, following upon the substantial repastfurnished by the Latin Poet of the XVIth.century. The whole forms a volume muchsought after by amateurs: “Antonii PanormitaeHermaphroditus; primus in Germaniaedidit et Aphoreta adjecit Frider. Carol. Forbergius.Coburgi, sumtibus Meuseliorum,1824, 8vo.”.
Forberg, good, simple man, was mistaken,owing to his too great modesty; the true feast,at once substantial, nourishing and savoury, ishis own work, the work which he elaboratedfrom his own resources, from his inexhaustiblememory and from his astonishing knowledgeof the Greek and Latin authors down totheir minutest details. On reprinting this excellentwork, which undoubtedly deserved tobe translated, we have given it a new title, onethat is much more suitable than the old, “TheManual of Classical Erotology.” In virtueof the charm, the abundance, the variety of thecitations, it is a priceless erotic Anthology; invirtue of the methodical classification of thecontents Forberg has adopted, it is a didacticwork,—a veritable Manual. He began withcollecting from the Greek and Latin writersthe largest number possible of scattered notices,which might serve for points of comparisonwith the Epigrams of Beccadelli; havingpossessed himself of a large accumulation ofthese, it occurred to him to set them out inorder, arranging them in conformity with thesimilarity of their contents, deciding finallyupon a division into eight chapters, correspondingwith the same number of specialmanifestations of the amorous fancy and itsdepravities:
|VII.||—Of Intercourse with Animals.|
|VIII.||—Of Spintrian Postures.|
He found that he had to make subdivisionsin each class according to the nature of thesubject, to note particularities, individualities;and the contrast between this scientific apparatus,and the facetious matters subjected tothe rigorous laws of deduction and demonstrationis not the least amusing feature of thebook. Probably no one but a German savantcould have conceived the idea of thus classifyingby categories, groups, genera, variations,species and sub-species all known forms ofnatural and unnatural lusts, according to themost trustworthy authors. But Forberg pursuedanother aim besides. In the course of hisresearches he had noticed how reticent theannotators and expounders generally are inclearing up matters which would seem to requireit the most, some in consequence of afalse reserve, others for fear of appearing tooknowing, and others again from ignorance;also how many mistakes and gross blundersthey have fallen into, by reason of their notunderstanding the language of erotics andfailing to grasp its infinite shades of meaning.
It is precisely on those obscure and difficultpassages of the Ancient poets, on those expressionspurposely chosen for their ambiguity,which have been the torment of the critics andthe puzzle of the most erudite commentators,that our learned Humanist has concentratedhis most convincing observations.
The number of authors, Greek, Latin,French, German, English, Dutch, whom hehas laid under contribution in order to formulatehis exact and judicious classifications,mounts up to a formidable total. There areto be found in the Manual of Erotology somethinglike five hundred passages, culled frommore than one hundred and fifty works, allclassified, explained, commented upon, and inmost cases, enveloped in darkness as they hadbeen, made plain as light itself by the merefact of juxtaposition. With Forberg for aguide no one need henceforth fear to go astray,—tobelieve, for instance, like M. Leconte deLisle, that the woman of whom Horace saysthat she changes neither dress nor place, “peccatvesuperne” “has not erred beyond measure”;what a mistake!—or with M. Nisardto translate Suetonius expression, “illuderecaput alicuius” “to attempt some ones life”!
Forberg, a philosopher, has treated thesedelicate subjects like a philosopher,