Henry Spencer Ashbee (1834-1900)
Henry S. Ashbee, F.H.S., Collector & Writer of Erotica
He was born in Southwark, London, and became a senior partner in his brother-in-law's legal firm, Charles Lavy & Co. In his spare time, he travelled extensively and became an avid collector of books. Aside from his collection of the works of Miguel de Cervantes, he accrued perhaps the world's largest collection of pornography and erotica. Using the pseudonym "Pisanus Fraxi" he wrote erotica too and he is also widely believed to be "Walter" the author of "My Secret Life: Sex Diary of a Victorian Gentleman". He left his entire collection to the British Library. He married Elizabeth Lavy and they had three daughters and a son, Charles, who became one of the leading architects and designers of the Arts & Crafts Movement. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he became increasingly alienated from his family and in 1895 he retired to Fowler's Park in Kent with his 15-year old cousin, Louisa - to the further scandal of the locals - although the relationship was almost certainly innocent. Although he claimed to have slept with over 1,200 women, many of his boasts were the result of a bored and wishful mind!
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 25/04/2021 and last updated on 25/04/2021.