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  • Victorian Urban Legends: A Sexual Misunderstanding June 11, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback


    Beach has long searched for erotic or sexually-charged Victorian urban legends in vain. It is not, of course, that the Victorians didn’t tell them. The problem is that the Victorians seem to have been averse to putting them into print. Only the wrong bed sometimes emerges. But what about this: ‘the kiss-me misunderstanding’?

    As the boat neared Sandford, I was standing, with others, on the deck, when a very pretty young lady came up to me, and, with a sweet smile on her face, looked into mine with a pair of lovely eyes, and asked, ‘Are you going kiss me, sir?’ If someone had offered to lend me $10 I could not have been more surprised, and hardly knowing what to say, and in order to gain a little time, I gasped out, ‘Pardon, miss, but what did you ask?’ I felt that she knew I heard her, but she said, ‘Are you going to kiss me to-night?’ There was no misunderstanding her this time. I heard her, and so did others, and I felt the blood rushing into my face, and I stammered out, ‘I would like to accommodate you, miss; I would truly, but I have a wife and 13 children on board with me, and if my wife should see me kissing you…’ ‘Kissing me, you hateful old thing! Who asked you to kiss me?’ ‘You did,’ I yelled ; ‘you asked me twice!’ ‘You old fool! I asked you if you were going to Kissime —Kissime City—to-night; don’t you know anything?’ and off she went.

    Of course, in 2016 this would be tame. In the Victorian press it probably left readers with goose bumps.

    Note that there is historical precedent for this. Did Nelson, dying in Hardy’s arms, say ‘Kiss me, Hardy’ or ‘Kismet, Hardy’?

    Other sex-based Victorian urban legends: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    This story emerges in various British newspapers in 1884: note that Kissimmee had been founded the year before. The story evidently travelled fast and was repeated long…

    Lehmansterms writes in, 30 Jun 2016, ‘The charmingly innocent and naive story of the friendly young lady, the fellow, his wife and 13(!) children aboard the steamer, U.S.W., probably did have the potential to raise a few blushes and blood pressures in Victorian England (and, quite possibly, similarly innocently ignorant oriented bits of the US) on the basis of how someone unfamiliar with the town on reading its name thought (or hoped?) it would be pronounced, I have to poke a hole or two in the story.  Although I am not absolutely certain how it may have been pronounced at the time – however, being a native American place-name, I suspect its pronunciation was the same then as it is now – the town’s name is pronounced: “ka-SIMee” and I believe that pronunciation would be very difficult to be mistaken, when spoken, for “Kiss me, you fool!” or some other emotive ejaculation. On a similar note, I love encountering this unlikely seeming word in Victorian literature – I suppose it was used because the average “cultured” Victorian person did not know (or, if they did, certainly would never use nor speak) a word for male orgasm.’

    Ruth from WA, 14 jul 2015: Now, Beachy, this is exactly what has been talked about in your column several times lately. I would be willing to bet that, if the story were to be truly factual, the gentleman would have a pronounced Northern accent. The young lady would have a very Southern one, and I can hear this in my mind, and he would not understand her pronunciation of Kissimee. It would be hard to understand the story if you were not familiar with these accents, especially in Victorian England! This is a common problem here with the mixing of tourists so much.