“Were I to fall in love, indeed, it would be a different thing; but I have never been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.”
The classic Victorian novel of love and lust, submission and punishment. Originally published in German in 1870. Translated by Fernanda Savage in 1921.
This new edition includes a selection from Psychopathia Sexualis (7th edition, 1893), by Dr. Richard von Krafft-Ebing, who was the first to define the term "masochism", much to Leopold's displeasure. And stick around to the end for a lengthy first-hand account of an anonymous man dealing with an intense case of masochism, as recorded in the Psychopathia Sexualis.
Curious about how the book begins?
My company was charming.
Opposite me by the massive Renaissance fireplace sat Venus; she was not a casual woman of the half-world, who under this pseudonym wages war against the enemy sex, like Mademoiselle Cleopatra, but the real, true goddess of love.
She sat in an armchair and had kindled a crackling fire, whose reflection ran in red flames over her pale face with its white eyes, and from time to time over her feet when she sought to warm them.
Her head was wonderful in spite of the dead stony eyes; it was all I could see of her. She had wrapped her marble-like body in a huge fur, and rolled herself up trembling like a cat.
“I don’t understand it,” I exclaimed, “It isn’t really cold any longer. For two weeks past we have had perfect spring weather. You must be nervous.”
“Much obliged for your spring,” she replied with a low stony voice, and immediately afterwards sneezed divinely, twice in succession. “I really can’t stand it here much longer, and I am beginning to understand—”
“What, dear lady?”
“I am beginning to believe the unbelievable and to understand the un-understandable. All of a sudden I understand the Germanic virtue of woman, and German philosophy, and I am no longer surprised that you of the North do not know how to love, haven’t even an idea of what love is.”
“But, madame,” I replied flaring up, “I surely haven’t given you any reason.”
“Oh, you—” The divinity sneezed for the third time, and shrugged her shoulders with inimitable grace. “That’s why I have always been nice to you, and even come to see you now and then, although I catch a cold every time, in spite of all my furs. Do you remember the first time we met?”