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The Erotic Guide

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The secret dirty sketchbooks of Tom Poulton

I suppose we’ll just have to say Philip Larkin’s poem was wrong. Sexual intercourse didn’t begin “in ninteen-sixty-three / Between the end of the “Chatterley ban / And the Beatles’ first LP.” It had been going on in polite society for a hell of a lot longer than that. Probably as far back as VE Day and Sinatra’s first LP—though I concede not too many people would have known about it.

If Larkin had been paying attention, then he might have just known 1963 was, in fact, the year the great English pornographic artist, Tom Poulton died. But only a few dozen would have probably marked his passing and an even smaller number would have ever been aware of Poulton’s secret life as an erotic artist.

You see, Poulton, Tom of England, was a highly respectable illustrator for science and medical textbooks, guides to fishing and other sensible books. But in secret, he also produced a staggering amount of hardcore pornographic drawings featuring supple young bodies relishing the joyful pleasures of sexual intercourse. He kept this work hidden as he feared he would be prosecuted for obscenity and his respectable life would come to a rather sudden and humiliating halt. However, Poulton did have a few very rich and influential patrons who secretly collected his erotic work—most notably the yachtsman and Playboy Beecher Moore.

Poulton was inspired to produce erotica in the 1940s after being stationed in India where he first came into contact with the explicit illustrations of the Kama Sutra. Poulton’s drawings are equally as explicit but are often humorous and all are filled with a great joy for the pleasures of sex

It was only after Poulton’s death in 1963 that his secret sketchbooks came to light. Then in the 1990s, Beecher Moore sold a considerable part of his large collection of erotic drawings which brought a new generation to Poulton’s work and started a reappraisal of his career as an artist. If you want to know more about Tom Poulton then I recommend you beg, steal, or borrow or even just buy a copy of Jamie MacLean’s book Tom Poulton: The Secret Art of an English Gentleman.

Name of author: 
Paul Gallagher

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