My Secret Life is an anonymous memoir chronicling "Walter's" experiences with sex and sexuality in Victorian England. It is an enormous work, compiling over 4,000 pages and is known for its obsessive fixation with sex and incredibly detailed accounts of one man's sexual encounters throughout his life. Because it was published anonymously, it is difficult to discern how much of the work is fact and how much is fiction, thus making it easy for many perhaps dub My Secret Life as nothing more than possibly the longest erotic novel ever written. However, it's unapologetic descriptions of the hidden aspects of Victorian life such as sex, prostitutes, and fetishes is unparalleled, and gives the reader valuable insight into the side of Victorian life that was often swept under the rug, so to speak.
Some years have passed away since I penned the foregoing, and it is not printed. I have since gone through abnormal phases of amatory life, have done and seen things, had tastes and letches which years ago I thought were the dreams of erotic mad-men; these are all described, the manuscript has grown into unmanageable bulk, shall it, can it be printed? What will be said or thought of me, what become of the manuscript if found when I am dead, better to destroy the whole, it has fulfilled its purpose in amusing me, now let it go to the flames! I have read my manuscript, through what reminiscences I had actually forgotten some of the early ones; how true the detail strikes me as I read of my early experiences; had it not been written then, it never could have been written now, has anybody but myself faithfully made such a record? It would be a sin to burn all this, whatever society may say it is but a narrative of human life, perhaps the every day life of thousands, if the confession could be had. What strikes me as curious in reading it, is the monotony of the course I have pursued toward women who were not of the gay class; it has been as similar, and repetitive as fucking itself; do all men act so, does every man kiss, coax, hint smuttily, then talk baudily, snatch a feel, smell his fingers, assault, and win, exactly as I have done? Is every woman offended, say no, then oh! blush, be angry, refuse, close her thighs, after a struggle open them, and yield to her lust as mine have done? A conclave of whores telling the truth, and of Romish Priests, could alone settle the point. Have all men had the strange letches which late in life have enraptured me, though in early days the idea of them revolted me? I can never know this, my experience if printed may enable others to compare as I cannot. Shall it be burnt or printed? How many years have passed in this indecision, why fear; it is for others' good and not my own if preserved.
Page numbers in original volume
Anonymous. “Second Preface.” My Secret Life , 1st ed., vol. 1, Auguste Brancart, Amsterdam, 1888, pp. 21–22.