Toward the end of A Most Personal Property, Henry and Martin have a conversation about what sorts of dirty stories they’ve read. Henry tells Martin about the excerpts James read him from Psychopathia Sexualis, and Martin relates the following:
“Oh, there was a book, Sir, that we all read in secret, though our teachers must have known we had it. I don’t know what it was called because the cover was missing—as were some of the pages, for that matter. It was very dirty, Sir! It was from England, I think, as some of the words were different than we use, and it was about a family who all had sex with one another, mothers and sons, aunts and nephews. I know that feeling you referred to, Sir, excited and sick. You don’t want to like it, but you do, in some deep way, and your prick responds just as it would to something you really want.”
There is an actual book I had in mind when Martin gives that description, and thanks to Project Gutenberg, you can read it, too:
It has more than its share of title, as you can see. It is perverse and ridiculous. It contains pedophilia, incest, rape, florid language, and the term “fucker” used as an endearment, and it is absolutely the sort of thing a bunch of teenage Victorians would furtively pass around their dormitory.
There’s actually a lot of Victorian porn available online, and I read quite a bit of it trying to find just the right story for Martin and his friends. Honestly, though, I think they’d have been happy with anything, and that description would fit about half the Victorian porn out there anyway (they were really into incest!). Regardless, it made me happy to have a specific book in mind when writing the scene.