Cuckoldom Triumphant; or, Matrimonial Incontinence Vindicated...To which is added A Looking Glass for Each Sex
London: Printed by T. Thorn, .
London: Printed by T. Thorn, . First edition. Contemporary sheep recornered and rebacked to style with gilt and morocco to spine. Measuring 163 x 95mm. Collating , 203, [1, blank]: complete, with A Looking Glass beginning at page 146 with continuous register. Nineteenth century bookplate to front pastedown. Offsetting to outer margins of title and of pages 198-203 not affecting text; lower corner of dedication leaf neatly excised with no loss to text; marginal paper flaw to pages 45-46. Overall internally unmarked and clean. One of two equally scarce variants with no priority, the other printed by J. Bird. ESTC reports only one surviving copy of each, both of these held by the British Library (of these, only the Bird variant is digitized). Neither these first issues nor the later re-issue titled Cupid Turned Spy appear in the modern auction record. An exceptionally rare work.
The widespread cultural assertion that men had control over their own fates led to equally widespread anxiety in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Despite a preponderance of laws and traditions that privileged men and sought to subjugate women and queer peoples, sex outside the boundaries of marriage undermined those systems. Few figures encapuslate this truth better than the cuckhold. "Cuckolds were seen as being unable to satisfy and control their wives; as literary tropes, "they are, more often than not, the target of derision to both their peers on the stage and the audience the theatre, nearly universally to be greeted with laughter as they follow a predictable path of failure in marriage" (Corcoran). As much as these figures assisted male audience members in projecting their fears onto allegedly weaker men, they signify that complete control over women, marriages, and lines of inheritance isn't possible. The denial of women's agency does not equate the complete absence of women's agency.
Women's sexual agency had become highly visible in key sectors of London society by the eighteenth century, thanks in part to the rise of a famed generation of courtesans (often called the "demi-monde") who dominated not only their own brothels and houses, but also theatres, opera houses, and the court itself. Sex work more generally had become extremely common, with studies estimating that anywhere from 8,600 to 80,000 citizens of the city were engaged in some level of the sex trade (Rogers). In this atmosphere, depictions of the cuckold shifted in some erotic works. Rather than symbolizing men's sexual failures, the cuckold's acceptance of his position acknowledged and at times even celebrated women's sexual autonomy. If being cuckolded was inevitable as a result of women's equal participation in sexual desire, then fault might not lie with the cuckold. Indeed, being a cuckold may even have benefits when more conservative social judgement is set aside.
Authored by the pseudonymous "Cornuto" -- a Latin joke, naming the author after the cuckold's "horn" -- Cuckoldom Triumphant is dedicated to the gentry, noting "the amazing encrease of antlers of late among the nobility, whose customs the common people are so fond of copying, [which] gives me the pleasing promise of cuckoldom's becoming universal." Indeed, the author notes, cuckoldom is inevitable, and each must choose his own reaction to the state. To that end, "this work is intended to comfort the afflicted, and confirm the contented, among those who are married as well as prepare the unmarried for the happy state of cuckoldom." In what follows, the author provides readers with a sensational erotic story following the awakening of Mrs. Latitat to the pleasures of extramarital sexuality as well as her husband's transformation from jealous resistance to acceptance and contentment within a more peaceful marital state.
ESTC T62268 (T226126 for the J. Bird variant). Register of Erotic Books 1197 (for a later issue re-titled Cupid Turned Spy). (Item #5080)