By Liza Picard
Last updated 2011-02-17
18th August 1667 '...but being weary, turned into St Dunstan's church, where I hear an able sermon of the minister of the place. And stood by a pretty, modest maid, whom I did labour to take by the hand and the body; but she would not, but got further and further from me, and at last I could perceive her to take pins out of her pocket to prick me if I should touch her again...'
Samuel Pepys, who enjoyed many sexual encounters, was not typical of his time. Surprisingly, the Puritan ethos enforced before the return of the Merry Monarch, Charles II, lingered on. The rate of illegitimate births remained low. This was not achieved by contraception, which didn't exist as we know it. A man hoping for safe sex might tie on to his penis a sheath made of animal gut, or linen, but neither would be reliable as a contraceptive.
Prostitution was rife. Syphilis had ravaged Europe since the 1500s. The treatment for it was horrific, and unlikely to succeed: mercury, which might well kill the patient before his disease did.
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