Richard Manton is a prominent pseudonym in the genre of erotic flagellation or chastisement. The name has appeared as author, or editor or foreword writer on at least thirty-five to forty erotic novels, many of them set in historical periods, particularly the Victorian era.
The books are all competently written with well above average skill in comparison with much written erotica. The content of this body of works is remarkably consistent and their appeal is limited therefore to those aficionados who seek stories of the discipline and subjugation of young women by men. Consensual sexual activity happens in Manton’s work but it is secondary to the chastising and assault on the usually unwilling victims.
Since much of the work was published anonymously, or under other pseudonyms, attributing a work to a specific author means making an analysis of style and content. Unless, of course, the book is identical to another work already ascribed, a situation common in pornography. Identifying a Manton is generally a straightforward task due to the number of stylistic clues available.
The most characteristic identifier is the reappearance of the same female characters in different novels. It doesn’t matter whether the tale is set in the antebellum south of the United States, Victorian or Edwardian England or in the south of France in the nineteen-thirties, Elaine Cox, Cara Jolly, Noreen, Maggie and the ubiquitous Lesley are likely to appear in leading or cameo roles. They all have the same personalities and ages whatever the plot line – Elaine “the cheeky sixteen year old tomboy”, Noreen a sluttish nineteen, Lesley the twenty something runaway wife and Sally Fenton the leggy schoolgirl. It seems the books are peopled by a sort of pornographic Commedia dell’ Arte troupe of stock characters.
In addition to the common characters there are a number of verbal clues evident in Manton’s style. The hair of the female characters is often described as “lank”, “top-knots” abound and “fringes” are common. Girls’ buttocks are featured pretty frequently, unsurprisingly, and often noted for their “pallor”. The women often wear “singlets” or “breast-halters”. None of these descriptors are strange in themselves but their frequency is remarkable. The male characters are of all ages but are all suitably lecherous and often affect a strait-laced hypocrisy which is almost self-mockery.
Most of the novels are narrated by the hero who controls the girls, or is a not disinterested observer. There is almost no dialogue between the characters, with the exception of a couple of epistolary novels. The spoken words are usually instructions and commands addressed to the sufferers – “present your bottom properly, Lesley” is a typical phrase. The girls may cry out or complain but they seldom answer back. This is almost de rigeur in flagellation works where a personality would intrude on the fantasy.
The man behind the name
The most intriguing question in the analysis of this form of literature is to identify a real person behind the pseudonyms. There is good reason to believe that the author of the Richard Manton is the English writer, historian, poet and novelist Donald Serrell Thomas.
Donald Thomas’s extensive output includes works of social history, criticism, poetry and translation. He is an acknowledged expert on Victorian England with The Victorian Underworld amongst his history books. As a novelist he has written three series of about fictional detectives in Victorian times as well as pastiches of Sherlock Holmes adventures.
As a biographer he has written, significantly with regard to the Manton persona, a biography of the poet Swinburne, a noted Victorian flagellant. In 1968 Odyssey Press published Summer in the Country his translation of a 19th century French epistolary novel between two lesbian lovers.
In the middle seventies he published a series of crime novels, under the pseudonym of Francis Selwyn, about the cases of a Sergeant Verity set in the 1850’s and 1860’s. These are well written and entertaining stories in the historical crime genre and show his considerable knowledge of the Victorian milieu, particularly concerning the criminal undergrowth. While these novels are not erotica, some of Richard Manton’s characters appear in the Verity stories with the exact names and characteristics as in the erotic works. In Sergeant Verity Presents His Compliments (1977) both Cara Jolly and Elaine Cox appear, the lynx eyed oriental and the sixteen year old tomboy. Both characters going on to star in their own eponymous Grove Press and Blue Moon titles. In the above story they are both only threatened with whippings, but in Sergeant Verity and The Blood Royal I (1979) , Jolly receives a very Mantonian thrashing. She appears briefly in the earlier Sergeant Verity and the Imperial Diamond (1975) but her bottom escapes its usual fate on this occasion. In all of these stories there are hints of punishments commonly inflicted but not described and in several places descriptions of female figure and clothing that remind the reader of Manton.
In the second series on fictional detectives, this time Inspector Albert Swain of Scotland Yard and set in the 1880’s, there are subtle hints. In Belladonna (1983), a fictional account of Lewis Carroll and his penchant for photographing naked young girls, the descriptions of the girls remind one irresistibly of Manton’s schoolgirls.
One of Thomas’ other published works is Rotten to the Core , a biography of the sadistic murderer Neville Heath, published in 1988. In 1983 a fictional crime story The Ladykiller, based on Heath, was published under the name Todd Mallanson. This is also Thomas’ work and again contains a whipping very reminiscent of Manton.
Richard Manton and Janus
Among the earliest Manton works appeared as short stories in the English spanking magazine, Janus, in 1982 beginning with a story in Janus 13 (October – in the large format series). His contributions continued for several years.
One story, a 2-parter in Janus 14 and 15, called the “The Man with the Golden Rod”, is significant. It is part research article on the prevalence of corporal punishment of girls in the nineteenth century and part fantasy. The research section quotes several references to historical documents and is the sort of thing that would come very easily to Donald Thomas as the author of The Victorian Underground (London, 1998) and acknowledged expert on Victorian crime and punishment. It relates the story of James Miles, an historical individual and the overseer of the Hoo Union workhouse in Kent in the 1840’s. His disciplinary activities, and the birchings inflicted upon his young female charges in the performance of his duties, created a minor controversy. In the event he was convicted and dismissed from his post. The theme of the infliction of punishment on young women for sexual pleasure under the excuse of morality is the leitmotif running through much of Manton’s work. Manton takes this historical incident and builds a fantasy around a detailed description of the caning of Elaine Cox in the workhouse. This same story frequently appears again in Manton’s work, in Captain de Vane, School for Scandal, Aphrodizzia and is the central theme of Tomboy. Significantly these are not ‘cut and paste’ copies, but rewritten episodes redeveloping the story each time with varying participants.
James Miles is referred to frequently in the introductions to the novels and features in the later, and more derivative, work under the Blue Moon imprint. This is a characteristic of Mantonia, the re-appearance of characters and their chastisements re-written rather than copied. As will be argued later, this seems to be due to the persistence of the author’s fantasies rather than to a lack of imagination. It does raise a question, however, of how much of later Manton is actually his rather than someone unknown copying his style in the endless quest for more material which characterises Rossett’s various imprints over the last third of the last century.
The Janus catalogue
- Janus 13 Lesley – Behind Closed Doors
- Janus 14,15 The Man with the Golden Rod
- Janus 16 Top Girls with Bottom Marks
- Janus 17 Claudia and Elke
- Janus 18 Elke and Helena (sequel to Janus 17)
- Janus 56 The Bareback Girls
- Janus 59 Noreen
Richard Manton and Grove Press
In the archives of Grove Press, deposited after Barney Rossett’s death, at Syracuse University, there is an index entry for Richard Manton dating to 1980 in regard to an edition of Surburban Souls, a Victorian erotic novel and a mention of other works.
In 1982 Grove Press began issuing a new series of paperbacks under the imprint of the Grove Press Victorian Library. Richard Manton was to play a large part in this series. The aim of the series was to republish Victorian period erotica, much of which involved flagellation as well as sexual adventures. Some of works issued had been previously printed by Grove Press, such as The New Ladies Tickler and Altar of Venus, while other issues were new to Grove. In order to pad out the list, a number of new works were commissioned and published as Victorian or Edwardian reprints, usually under the credit “Anonymous”. Manton’s contributions are listed below.
Grove Press Victorian Library
This title was also published in a hard back edition as part of a parallel Grove series called “The Victorian Imagination”. The anthology serves as an introduction to the series. Richard Manton is identified as the editor. There are five extracts from genuine, and well known, Victorian novels featuring flagellation : A Man with a Maid, My Secret Life, Beatrice, Suburban Souls and Eveline. These are followed by three extracts from Birch in the Boudoir, Nights of the Rajah and The Days at Florville, all most definitely not Victoriana. The tenth extract is titled A Study in Flagellation and again features James Miles, Master of the workhouse
The linking feature of the anthology is the figure of Charles Carrington, surely the most significant figure in flagellation pornography. Manton’s introduction includes a short, and mostly accurate, history of Carrington’s work as a publisher of Victorian and Edwardian pornography. Manton includes a fictionalised account of Inspector Drew of Scotland Yard arresting Carrington and finding copies of all the titles in the anthology – including the ones actually written by Manton himself. One presumes this was all part of the attempt by Barney Rossett to give the impression that the Grove Press Victorian Library was all authentic material.
Inspector Edward Drew was a real person and is mentioned in Donald Thomas’ excellent non-fiction history The Victorian Underworld. Charles Carrington appears in Thomas’ novel Belladonna under his real name, Paul Ferdinando.
Examination of the Mantonian extracts quickly give the game away, even if the reader is unfamiliar with Manton’s standard cast of characters. Heroines of genuine Victoriana did not wear singlets and tight denim trousers or schoolgirls short skirts and white cotton knickers. Since Manton(Thomas) is an expert on Victorian times these are not accidental errors but part of the individual obsessions exhibited by most authors of erotica. In the foreword to the novel Max, published by Blue Moon in 1995, Manton recalls a discussion in the late 1970’swith the then editor of Janus, A.G. Van Okker, about an idea to set a tale about a modern girl of the contemporary era, Elaine Cox, in a Victorian reformatory setting with modern clothing and manners (or lack of them). This story appeared in Janus 14, and is described above in the Janus section. This meme features throughout all of Manton’s pseudo-Victorian work as deliberate anachronisms, rather than ignorance, and is a dominant theme of the Mantonian fantasy universe.
The sexual adventures of an English soldier in 1900. Set in England where Charles has access to a bevy of willing and unwilling young ladies, and later in South Africa in the war against the Boers. The story is well written and entertaining with plenty of “fucking and fustigation”. It has the usual cast of Mantonian characters, Miss Jolly, Lesley and Noreen.
Birch in the Boudoir (Anonymous) – 1983 GPVL-483
An epistolary novel with the exchange of letters between Charlie, who has been bequeathed a girl’s seminary by an obliging relative, and Lizzie who is a willing guest in the harem of an Arabian Pasha. Charlie regales Lizzie with details of his rampages among his young pupils and she, in turn, reveals the secrets of the Pasha. The work is notable for mocking protestations of both correspondents that they are upholders of moral virtue and the canings and birchings inflicted richly deserved.
Another adventure of Captain de Vane, this time bound for India on the P&O with, naturally, a bevy of maidens to keep amused and to be kept in order with strap and cane. After various military encounters on the North West frontier, he is forced to take refuge with the Rajah of Shivapore and his harem. The Rajah, educated in England, is himself an aficionado of chastisement and welcomes De Vane like a brother. In a typical Mantonian joke, the Rajah of Shivapore was actually an English comic opera by Souter and Hill of 1914.
Summer in the Villa Rif at Florville, an imaginary town on the French Mediterranean coast and Lesley, the runaway young wife, is taught discipline and submission by Kurt and Anton. Add in a schoolgirl and some nubile maids and the time passes quite delightfully, at least for Kurt and Anton. It includes a dream sequence where Lesley is possessed by Anton.
Another epistolary novel, this time between Dolly and Jack. Dolly a widow with a houseful of maids in Berlin, and Jack, who runs a English summer holiday villa for girls from the Continent. Stern flagellations, lesbian adventures and a little sodomy take place in both establishments.
Gardens of the Night (Anonymous) – 1986 GPVL-514
This story is a sequel to Days at Florville and tells the continuing story of Lesley this time as the slave of Anton and Mano. She undergoes a series of lessons in submission enforced by punishments, both arbitrary and deserved, which transforms her from reluctance to complete acceptance. The male protagonists are served by other girls who participate in the sex and discipline. Lesley becomes the ideal slave – submitting, but deliberately rebelling so that her master can take pleasure in her punishment. The book contains an interesting postscript which records an interview by the author with the artist Lynn Russell (Paula Meadows) with whom he worked at Janus. Russell’s personal experience in submission make her a real life psychological match for Lesley.
Lord Frederick C. finds he has inherited Coombe, a fine old house with a fine set of young maids for pleasuring. He soon makes the acquaintance of Mr. Bowler and his establishment of girls, Mr. Snook and his strange passions and the redoubtable Master Miles and his reformatory. These three , morally upright pillars of society as they are, instruct Lord Frederick in the proper and necessary exemplary discipline (and constant sodomy) required to maintain proper order. The tone of the story, like much of Manton, is sardonic, and the hypocrisy of the principals is evident throughout. The introduction to the work is purported to be by a F.M. LePays but it is all Manton.
This another pseudo-Victorian epistolary novel in the Birch in the Boudoir manner. The correspondents are Augustus, obsessing over Julie, a London shopgirl, and Maude on holiday at Lake Garda in Italy. Cara Jolly makes an appearance (as Cara Jones) and Mr. Bowler has set up shop in Italy for the summer. There is a good deal of voyeuristic sex and anticipation of the ultimate fate of the girls before the flagellation starts, but the shopgirls (several of them) lose their denim trousers and get what they deserve. The girls are then disposed of to slavery in Arabia. The correspondence ends and the last section is a narration of Mr. Bowler’s disciplinary adventures.
Set in New Orleans and the American South on the cusp of the Civil War, this is a tale of slavery, and in particular the acquisition of harems of young woman by southern patriarchs. Lynx-eyed Miss Jolly of the almond flesh is the principal attraction. Curiously almost all of the girls featured are not black but various shades of lighter skin. Miss Jolly is bought at auction by a plantation owner who amuses himself with her training. She resists and is whipped and ends up in a brothel. The background of the story contains much convincing detail about the South at that time with accurate depictions of Charleston in South Carolina.
This is the definitive novel of the Victorian age of reformatory and injustice. The male characters, Master Miles, Mr Bowler and Mr Snook, full of moral hypocrisy, flog and sodomise the girls under their control. All of the Manton female universe are present – Elaine Cox, Lesley, Sally Fenton, Jane Michener, Noreen, Maggie and Sian. Very much in the same mood as School for Scandal with the same characters indulging their lusts to the full extent of their indignation.
The last book in Manton’s contribution to the Grove Press Victorian Library is also an anthology of fictional tales of the harem. Manton provides an entertaining introduction on the links between European women and girls with Middle Eastern slavery in both contemporary and historical times. Flagellation, rather than sex, is the dominant theme of the fourteen extracts included which are from the following novels :
- The Lustful Turk (Anonymous) 1828 and much reprinted since.
- Woman and her Master (Jean de Villiot) Carrington 1904. (Jean de Villiot is a much used pseudonym associated with Carrington and conceals a multitude of mostly unknown authors).
- Charles de Vane
- Nights of the Rajah
- The Sultan’s Reverie (The Pearl 1880).
- Walter – My Secret Life (from 1888 and probably by Ashbee)
- Augustus and Lady Maude
- Miss Jolly
Again we see the interpolation of genuine Victoriana with Mantonian originals overtly masquerading as 19th century works.
In all of the Grove Press Victorian Library, Manton’s contribution shows a detailed knowledge and understanding of Victorian life and morals. His introductions are instructive as well as entertaining and his fiction melds well into the historical chronology. One asks then why his female characters are so recognisably modern. It would not have been difficult to have them arrayed in stays and drawers and crinolines and to sprinkle the texts with Victorian language and sexual argot. His alter ego, Donald Thomas, has all this at his fingertips.
The most likely explanation is surely that, for Manton, these characters are real people, known to the author, not necessarily as named individuals, but as people observed, and perhaps lusted for, and who now are enshrined in the products of his imagination.
Report from The Times December 1840
Upwards of half-a-dozen girls in the Hoo workhouse, some of them verging on womanhood, have at times had their persons exposed in the most brutal and indecent manner, by the Master, for the purpose of inflicting on them cruel floggings and the same girls, at other times, have, in a scarcely less indecent manner, been compelled by him to strip the upper parts of their persons naked, to allow him to scourge them with birch rods on their bare shoulders and waists, and which, from more than one of the statements from the lips of the sufferers, appears to have been inflicted without mercy. One girl says, ‘My back was marked with blood.’ Another, a witness, who had not herself been punished, says, ‘We women were called to hold one of the girls while the Master flogged her; but we went down in the yard out of the way, because we could not bear the sight; afterwards we got ointment out of the sick ward to rub her back, for it was all cut to pieces.’ Again, `One Sunday the Master flogged little Jemmy (a pauper’s illegitimate child, then two years of age) with a birch rod, so that the child carried the marks a month, because it cried for its mother, who was gone to church, and for its little brother, who was that day put into breeches, and taken away from the children’s ward.
Works by Donald Thomas
- Summer in the Country , Odyssey Press, London, 1968.
- The Victorian Underworld, John Murray, London, 1998.
- Belladonna, Macmillan, London, 1993.
- Rotten to the Core?: The Life and Death of Neville Heath ,Routledge and Kegan Paul,1988.
As Francis Selwyn
- Sergeant Verity and the Imperial Diamond , Andre Deutsch, London, 1975.
- Sergeant Verity Presents His Compliments, Andre Deutsch, London, 1977.
- Sergeant Verity and The Blood Royal, Andre Deutsch, London, 1979.
As Todd Mallanson
- Ladykiller, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London, 1980.