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Communication from Buttocks

In response to:

The Century of Crisis from the March 3, 1966 issue

To the Editors:

I have read Professor Lawrence Stone’s most interesting article on the crisis of the 17th century (March 3), in which he touches—alas, too briefly—on an important fact, viz: that in Puritan England, and nowhere else, “for reasons which are at present wholly obscure,” there was general practice of coitus interruptus. A friend of mine has also read to me (from behind a screen) the learned paper which the professor circulated to a recent Past and Present conference, in which he illuminated the problem of Social Mobility by pointing to the prevalence among the Puritan gentry of “anal eroticism.”

I am engaged in a study of the English Civil War in Westmorland, in which my ancestors played an energetic part (on the puritan side), and I am anxious not to miss any of the penetrating and seminal ideas which Professor Stone so casually ejaculates, but which might, if correctly received, have a fertilizing effect on my researches. But being a somewhat oldfashioned spinster, I fear that I may lack expertise among these delicate details. May I therefore solicit Professor Stone’s help? In particular, could he tell me where I may find contemporary documentary evidence about the prevalence of coitus interruptus in Caroline England and its apparent absence in other countries? I am not quite sure what coitus interruptus is, but it sounds like one of those things which foreigners do so much better than we. But perhaps I am exposing myself in too provincial a posture: We in Westmorland are admittedly regarded as sluggish and conservative: slow to warm up to any encounter, slow also to disengage.

(Miss) Agnes Trollope
The Quern
Buttocks
near Ambleside
Westmorland

Lawrence Stone replies:

My wife has read to me (from behind a screen) the letter addressed to you by “Miss Agnes Trollope.” Natural modesty and the Supreme Court forbid me to give detailed clinical answers in public to the intimate questions asked by “Miss Trollope.” But let me suggest that she begin her historicopsychologico-demographico-sexual education (so understandably defective in a provincial backwater like Buttocks near Ambleside) by a study of some of the works of Freud and N. O. Brown, Erik Erikson and Margaret Mead, T. H. Hollingsworth and E. A. Wrigley, Louis Henry and Pierre Goubert.

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