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Returning to fabliaux

Several years later I've gotten around to reading Liaisons Dangereuses, and like the fabliaux mentioned elsewhere in this thread, it doesn't meet modern definitions of "erotic" but it was not a waste of time. It seems a lot of the erotic reputation it has comes from the illustrations that were in many versions. There's a collection of them on Wikimedia's Commons, six of eight from a 1796 edition of the book:

Les Liaisons Dangereuses at wikimedia

A typical description of a night's intrigues is summarized as "And then she yielded everything to me." One of the subplots in Liaisons reminds me strongly of the fabliaux format.

Since my post three years ago, I've read some more fabliaux, and come up with a list of non-fabliaux titles for further reading:

  • Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles (1462 or earlier)
    An English translation at Gutenberg that I've looked at, but not read fully:
    One Hundred Merrie And Delightsome Stories, an 1899 English translation: at Gutenberg
    Like fabliaux, and like the inspiration for the original request, it seems to have stories of monks, etc, behaving badly.
  • Heptam√©ron (published 1558, ~20ish years after author's death)
  • Satyricon (Latin novel)
    A link, for which I have not read anything: at Gutenberg
  • The Golden Ass (Latin novel)
  • The Country Wife by Wycherley (1675 play)
  • Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (aka Fanny Hill, 1748)

(I found Satyricon today looking for Norman Lindsay books.)


I've read Cuckolds, Clerics, and Countrymen. Translations by John DuVal, commentary by Raymond Eichmann. It has a selection of ten fabliaux that Eichmann feels are most representative.

The introduction defines "fabliaux" as "verse meant for laughter". These are bawdy, often involving seductions, but the sex is precursory. Only one of the ten would meet a more modern idea of erotica (material "to stimulate sexual desire"). In "The Lady-Leech" ("De la Saineresse"), a woman sneaks a lover past her husband by having him cross-dress and pose as a doctor (or more specifically a bloodletter) and then uses double-entendre to describe the treatment.

That aside, I didn't feel like I had wasted my time with the book. The tales were for the most part amusing, if very dated in parts. Husbands beating wives, or cuckolds caught, to an inch of their lives for trangressions are the norm here. Several involve the wrong person being beaten. "The Wife of Orleans" ("De la Borgoise d'Orliens") has a husband trying to catch his wife cheating by posing as her lover. She knows what's going on and plays along only to have the household staff beat him pretending it was her trap for the would be lover.

They really began to pound.
They were not bashful with the sticks.
He couldn't have gotten better licks
If he had paid them ten sous apiece.
But after all, it did him good,
And put him out of his bad mood
To know his wife was free from stain.

Which of course, she isn't. I'll probably hunt down some more fabliaux to read.

Final thought: could do without the rhyming couplets, though