Sunday, March 12, 2006

Early Modern Zoophilia

I was trying to knot my shoelaces yesterday without getting Lupin the rabbit's whiskers caught in the bow: she was, as ever, right up there with the action, working out what was going on at a hazardous proximity. Then my son and I had to run back from the bus-stop, having seen a red kite circling right over our back garden, where Lupin was roaming around chomping the scenery, as ever (and, we assumed, representing to a kite the living equivalent of a hot pie on a plate). Whether she has enough instinct left after generations of captive breeding to scan the skies for trouble I really doubted. No harm was done.

This sense of stupidity in your pet made me think of a lurid 17th century pamphlet I had come across, A true narrative of the proceedings at the sessions-house in the Old-Baily (1677), in which a married woman in her thirties, 'a person of lewd conversation', is charged that 'having not the fear of God before her eyes, nor regarding the order of Nature ... to the disgrace of womankind, did commit ******* with a certain Mungril Dog.' The witnesses against her are two women who are (reading between the lines) quite accustomed to spying her extra-marital adventures through holes in the wall that divides their insalubrious-sounding lodgings. The woman denies it, and with her husband, alleges malice on the part of the witnesses. So the dog is brought into court: 'and being set on the Bar before the Prisoner, owned her by wagging his tail, and making motions as it were to kiss her.' The dog having so completely done the wrong thing, silly boy, she is found guilty. 'Yet cannot the Bearded Sex, though pretending to a stronger reason, justle on this unhappy President upbraid the Weaker Vessels' (the pamphlet continues, rather oddly, but the intended sense is clear enough), as the next case involves a man charged with a similar offence against two mares in a field. He gets off, as the witnesses were 60 yards away, even though he says something highly self-incriminating about having meant no harm. The mares were not brought into court against the man (one supposes that, as females, they would have had to shun their abuser to secure his conviction, while the dog only had to behave like a dog does to convict the woman).

1 comment:

Don Carter said...

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