Story from Janus 14.
The Man With The Golden Rod, part one
by Richard Manton
In January 1841, James Miles made headlines for the first time in the Morning Chronicle. When charged with excessive use of birch and cane upon the bare bottoms of girls in his care, the justices laughed the case out of court at Rochester sessions. Mr Miles went on from strength to strength, supported by disciplinarians, press, and the justices — traditionally allowed to come and watch girls under the birch. As late as 1897, his colleague, the Rev Marshall Vine, supported such disciplinary zeal. It was still customary to give 36-stroke birchings in reformatory institutions, Vine insisted. 'And I have done so,' he added proudly in his evidence to the Parliamentary Committee.
In our own time there is a groundswell of opinion, in the polls and in parliament, which favours the return of judicial chastisement. What would it be like? How would the system work? Is it quite as edifying as its supporters suggest? Perhaps before we give it our resolute support we should go back in time and recreate a day in the life of James Miles...
WOULD YOU change jobs with James Miles? Mr Miles was a real man with a real problem, a dedicated upholder of law and order in the England of our great-grand-fathers. Look on the bright side first of all. His job carried a reasonable salary of about £15,000 a year in modern terms. One of the perks was a fine house at Hoo near Rochester with servants and transport provided, not to mention a good kitchen and cellar.
Perhaps you might be put off by noticing that the pleasant house and grounds were surrounded by a high wall to keep snoopers out and to keep the delinquent young ladies inside. As the notice board by the porter's lodge would inform you, this was a very old-fashioned reformatory and James Miles was the master. All his care and trouble was expended on the 50 or 60 pretty miscreants in his charge. Nowadays some of them would have graced the upper forms of a comprehensive school but there were others whose ages ranged (in the case of Phyllis Blake) up to 29!
Before you refuse outright to have anything to do with such a post, rest assured that you will be supported by a willing staff of burly matrons, more than enough to deal with any rebellion among the girls. Look more carefully at the conditions of employment and at the girls. On any given day there will be several of them who will wince and draw breath sharply as they sit gingerly on those hard reformatory chairs. Do you wonder why? Perhaps you notice in the conditions of employment that there is a weekly retainer paid to you for inflicting chastisement. The going rate in the 19th century was ten shillings, which 150 years later would be over £20. Also, as Ronald Pearsall shows in Night's Black Angels, there was payment of half a crown — £6 or £7 in the 1980s — for many a whipping, birching, or caning given.
Are you worried at the cost of all the equipment needed in this new profession? Have no fear. As Mr Pearsall records, there were also 'out of pocket expenses' for such items as canes, birch-rods and whips which would get worn out by constant use.
Perhaps you might simply envy James Miles his prestige? His early achievements were reported in the Morning Chronicle and his powers of chastisement were the subject of an editorial in the Britannia newspaper. With lips pursed and birch raised over some recalcitrant reformatory beauty, he represented the might and majesty of the Law. His story found a place in fiction, as well as folklore, in Ron Rich's The First Victorian. Only the French — whom every decent Englishman of the day despised — suggested that the disciplinarians were having the time of their lives. Small wonder that books like Etudes sur la Flagellation, which blew the gaff on Miles and his kind, were rigorously banned in England. 'Le Vice Anglais' was how they described it in Paris.
The truth is that if James Miles fails to send you rushing out to join STOPP, then STOPP will probably have to manage without you.
Perhaps you would want to spend a day as James Miles before committing yourself either way. The morning's labours must begin after breakfast, for there are so many defaulters to be dealt with. You retire to your sunlit study overlooking the garden and await the first tap on the door.
Is it a coincidence that the first delinquent who comes in is also one of the most beautiful in your care? Why is it that the ugly ones never seem to incur so much retribution? In this case, Judith is quite a tall and graceful girl of 16. The light brown hair is worn in a sweep from her high crown to her shoulders framing the pale oval of her face with its clear fair-skinned features and hazel eyes.
You instruct her to lay her skirt on the chair and to present herself in stockings and tight cotton drawers. In this state you discover that she is not only quite tall but has long elegant legs which any glamour girl or beauty queen would envy. Pulling yourself together, you instruct her to lay her knickers on the same chair. Then Judith must face the chair and bend over it tightly with her hands on the seat.
Just before you attend to her there is some reformatory business to be done. You sit at your desk, quill pen in hand. Two or three feet in front of you is Judith's rear view. The long light brown hair has been braided into a pair of plaits to prevent it spilling forward as she stoops. From the rear you view the long graceful legs and seat. The black stocking-tops at mid-thigh, the elastic suspender arch at her waist and the suspender straps down each flank conveniently frame the area of interest. Perhaps you permit yourself a quiet smile of anticipation as you sit forward and familiarise yourself with the target.
Predictably, though you sit at your desk for half an hour, like the dedicated public servant that you are, you do not somehow get round to the paperwork.
'Bend over more tightly, Judith,' you say from time to time. 'Even more tightly still! No, don't keep looking round at the cane!'
Judith may be a demure and well-spoken young lady, the stuff of which pupil-teachers and governesses are made. But she has broken the rules and this time it is she who is on the receiving end. You rise and touch the bamboo across the pale oval cheeks of Judith's 16-year-old bottom. No smiles now, for your mouth is set firm and your eyes gleaming.
The sharp impacts of the cane ring out one after another across the nymph-cheeks of Judith's arse. Such a ladylike young backside undergoing so undignified a punishment! The silken whisper of stockings rises as her graceful legs squirm together. One knee jams frantically into the back of the other. The elegant ovals of Judith's bum-cheeks twist aside and there is a wild cry. Not surprising when you view the smarting willow-pattern of bamboo printed in fire on her behind. But you cannot permit such wriggling.
'Want me to take you back to the beginning and start again, Judith? No? Then bend properly. Up on tiptoe, forehead on the chair seat. No need to blush about it...'
So the caning continues. You no doubt pause from time to time to survey your handiwork. Then comes the dread utterance.
'Quite still, Judith! I'm not satisfied with your bottom yet!'
Naturally you are ready for your elevenses after such exertion. Fortified again, you turn to the problem of Sally or Sal. Here is a diminutive hooligan with a shock of henna-tinted hair, a high-boned impudent face with rouge on the cheeks, and dark defiant eyes. She and her two friends have been consigned to the reformatory for breaching the peace in no uncertain manner. Through the quiet middle-class street this pint-sized strumpet went bawling: 'I went out on Saturday night! I got into a fucking fight!' Sal was boasting, by the way, not complaining.
Do not imagine Sally in dress and petticoats. She was one for what Miles's contemporary Arthur Munby called 'working trousers' and what we should probably call jeans. Picture her in a black singlet, let us say, and a pair of tight faded blue jeans which show her sturdy thighs and bulging bottom rolling as she walks. The justices knew at a glance there was only one place for her.
As you escort her ahead of you to the study, you may well stare open-mouthed in anticipation at the swagger of Sally's fat young bottom in those tight jeans or 'working trousers.' In the study itself she has to undo the waist-belt and push her pants down below her knees.
'Lie bottom-upwards over the sofa-cushions, Sally!' you say humorously, exchanging a knowing look with her.
Clearly a fresh cane is called for, one with a vicious spring. And two more cushions under her belly to raise and swell the curve of Sal's seat. As you stand over her, you issue a warning.
'You'll be coming here every morning, Sally, until the matrons are satisfied with your improved conduct.' Then the bamboo whacks across the fat little cheeks of Sally's bottom with a report like a ringmaster's whip. You punish Sal with the cane across the crowns of her buttocks and curb her impudence by applying extremely hard strokes across her lower, softer rear-cheeks. Or so you think. When you dismiss her, she is hardly outside the door before you hear her mutter, 'Fucking old creep!'
It is the work of a moment to open the door and summon her back. The matrons will aid the removal of Sally's pants if required. Kneeling tightly forward over the chair-back this time. Now the banter is obviously on your side.
'Morning and evening, Sally! Until we're absolutely satisfied with you! We're very hard to satisfy here!'
If you have a moment to spare from your labours, you may just catch the shrill sounds of your matrons being very strict indeed with Sal's cronies — Tracey, Mandy and the rest of them — in the adjoining rooms.
What a busy morning it has been! Now there is a stern knock at the door. The chief constable! The magistrates! Ah, you thought it was too good to last! Your foul secret is revealed! You see visions of arrest, public disgrace, and a prison cell! Have no fear. These gentlemen are your very good friends and they have come to lunch.
Nowadays they might be eager to spend lunch discussing the latest right wing proposals for the restoration of birching in the grand manner. In default of this, why not entertain your guests, as James Miles, by showing them your scrap-book. First would come your conditions of appointment — all those extra perks for birching and bambooing recalcitrant young ladies — doing well by doing good.
Then you will want to show them the newspaper clippings of your trial. Your trial? Yes, alas, you were once tried before the justices of nearby Rochester. The courtroom was crowded by the national press. You were front-page news in the Morning Chronicle. A few sanctimonious busybodies decided that you were enjoying your public duties too much. They hauled you before the court for 'cruelty' and 'indecency' in your use of birch and bamboo. Can you imagine such absurdity?
To be quite honest, the case gave you a few nasty moments but you need not have worried. For example, Mr Elwes, the legal brain of the prosecution, condemned you for having teenage girls held down while you thrashed their bare bottoms. The judges dealt with this nonsense in no time at all. As one of the older women insisted, she had never known a girl 'that did not struggle' under the birch. 'Then, gentlemen, I must apologise for introducing the suggestion upon this court,' said Elwes the Legal Eagle in humbler tones. The Morning Chronicle of 7 January 1841 reported him without comment.
You see? You need not have worried after all. The court heard that you once caned the bare bottom of a young woman of 28 while she was lying on her bed. There were girls of more tender years whom you tanned in the Schoolroom. (Ironically the same word was used for the place where girls were whipped in brothels.) The court really did not care.
Rather nervously, the girls began to admit under cross-examination that you were a kindly master. Oh yes? Were they perhaps too scared of the retribution awaiting them if they sank out of tune? More probably they preferred regular meals and an occasional sore bottom to the prospect of starving in the streets. So it was that Sarah Barnes, Charlotte Burton and the rest sang your praises.
The prosecution struggled on gamely, doing its best. You had birched the bare bottoms of girls between the ages of 16 and 28! Yes, yes, thought the judges impatiently. Of course you had. That was what the government paid you to do. Some of the strokes, said the prosecutor solemnly, made the girl scream. Of course, they had, thought the justices. It wouldn't have been a very effective punishment otherwise, would it? But, shrilled the prosecutor, the girls had been held down for their bare bottom discipline! Naturally they had, said the court. If you don't hold them, they wriggle.
So the astonishing trial at Rochester continued with the entire country following the details eagerly over its toast and marmalade next day. How did it end? Well that was truly unforgettable — and you are going to have a lot of fun telling your cronies about it at lunch time. First there was an ill concealed snirt-snirt! chortle-chortle! from one of the well-fed Pickwickian justices. Then the others began to join in. Soon the entire bench of them was rolling about, hooting and roaring till the tears ran down their cheeks. Funny? You bet it was funny!
It really was priceless, you see, to prosecute you for skinning a score of schoolgirl bottoms every week. In modern terms, it was like a tax inspector sending out a final demand and being prosecuted for demanding money with menaces.
So the portly justices laughed the case out of court. Birch the young sluts soundly, Mr Miles! Have the skin off their arses, sir! Go to it, by gad! Not that they uttered these sentiments. Instead they began to shout jokes to one another. The entire case foundered in great farting peals of mirth.
You were acquitted. But what did the country at large think about you? Did they condemn you? Were they indignant that you were being paid to have the time of your life while they slaved away in factory or counting-house? For the benefit of your guests you show them what the Britannia newspaper said about you after your trial. 'Wholly up to him to decide what degree of punishment,' said the Britannia in its editorial upon you. Archibald Sinclair in his 1857 Reminiscences, put more power to your elbow. 'First rate disciplinarian,' wrote Sinclair approvingly, 'never gives less than three dozen.'
Three dozen? Small wonder that the witnesses at your trial and the other delinquent lasses. Charlotte Burton, Sarah Barnes, Elaine Cox, Lisa Screese, and the rest, have the reputation of being the best disciplined girls for miles around.
If any of your guests entertain lingering doubts as to the legality of such punishments — and supposing it is now 1904 and you are a spry 90-year-old — you pull down from the shelves the great legal authority of the day. It is the sixth edition of Sir James Stephen's Digest of the Criminal Law, published that year. There on page eight, under the heading 'Whipping', you will find the ruling that 'the number of strokes and the instrument used are at the discretion of the person by whom the whipping is inflicted.'
True, there are one or two subversive types around who make snide remarks about your conscientious performance of your duties. There is a young man called Havelock Ellit. The foul-minded little cad actually insinuates that you are getting secret sex fun by caning the bare bottoms of Jane, Sally, Susan, Maggie, Judith, Elaine, Jennifer, Helena, Ann, Noreen, Mandy, etc., etc. Have no fear, Ellis's books are being prosecuted by the authorities who denounce him as 'a thoroughly filthy fellow.'
Lunch has restored your energies and you decide on an inspection of the girls at work. How about a stroll down to the stables on this sunny afternoon? There you will find a girl of 19 polishing the display of harness and mopping over the tiles. Though she goes by the newly-fashionable name of Angela, she is known by the reformatory contraction of Ange.
For some time you have had doubts as to whether Ange is pulling her shapely weight. She is a girl with a plumpish figure, well shown off by her singlet and those pale faded blue working-trousers, best described as snug-fitting jeans. She has a soft face, though her nose is pert, blue eyes, and a short razor-trimmed crop of light brown hair.
As you arrive, she is on all fours, mopping over the tiled floor. Prudently she keeps her head lowered to her task, the brown fringe falling over her forehead. The soft outlines of her face, her ears and her smooth young neck are revealed by her short crop. In the warm afternoon the singlet clings to her pale back and breasts. From the waist down one must imagine her full thighs and plump hips sheathed by something like a pair of pale blue jeans. Nowadays, under the tightly strained jeans-seat you would see the elastic outline of Ange's knickers — a pair of stretch-briefs arching up high and tight over each of her bum-cheeks. In those far-off times, they were not worn.
Therefore, you will want to take a long and careful rear view of her as she works on all fours. A few years more and Miss Angela is going to be a decidedly plump-hipped young lady! Just now she suits Victorian taste. A slight weightiness in her thighs draws your attention to her seat. Under the drumskin-tight jeans, Ange's buttocks are robustly full and broad. You inspect the area closely as she toils away self-consciously under your feared gaze. The stout central seam of the jeans-set is drawn deep and taut between the lower fatness of Ange's bottom-cheeks.
Is she really working to your satisfaction? As you study Ange's broad young backside, you are not entirely convinced. Well out of earshot there is the 'apple shed' where windfalls are pressed for cider. The power is provided by a young woman bending over a barrel which stands on its side. She then runs like a sprinter on the spot, working the wooden treadle, under which lie the apples to be pulped. What better exercise for a 19-year-old idler like Ange?
She may not be easily persuaded, but you have your way. So you contemplate Ange, arse-upwards over the barrel. Her softly appealing face is lost from view over the wooden curve and you can scarcely see the razor-trimmed crop of her light brown hair. Yet Ange's plump bottom-cheeks are straining those jeans dangerously tight, and they obsess you. You must not risk them splitting as she runs. The only alternative is to undo the waist and ease them down until they slip off over her ankles. Yes, of course, you will want to pause and study the bare bottom so tantalisingly offered.
The girl obeys you, as of course she must. Her trousers are now off. Then, at your second command, she begins her run, her plump young thighs working energetically. The slight extra sheen of pale flesh on Ange's naked bum-cheeks quivers like smacked jelly as she runs on the spot.
Your own trousers feel uncomfortably tight as you remember the words of Sir James Stephen. Ange's fate is entirely at your discretion. You will not, of course, be barbaric. Yet there lies the birch (three yard-long switches bound at the handle) which came from the Reverend Mr Vine's prison-farm. As you watch Ange, those running thighs and fattened young bum-cheeks, you recall that she was due for a tanning anyway. How convenient! You are entitled to give Ange's young backside the severest birching that even a boys' prison-farm allows.
Ange, of course, twists her face round in blue-eyed alarm and her legs go like pistons.
'A full prison birching across your bare bottom, Angela!' you say, warning her to brace herself for it.
Her protests are gasped and breathless as you measure the birch across the rounding and writhing plumpness of Ange's pale mobile seat-cheeks. Thrash! goes the triple-switched rod across her quivering backside. Thrash! ... Thrash! ... Thrash! ... Thrash! ... THRASH! ... THRASH! ... SWISHHH-THRASH!
What an afternoon this promises to be! Ange's shrillness is making the rafters ring. Bottom upwards over the barrel she is going like a champion, legs pumping up and down at twice the speed. Ange's soft pale buttocks are dancing cheek-to-cheek, and it is as well for her that she cannot twist over on her hip. Thrash! ... Thrash! ... 'Push your behind right out now, Ange! Run faster!' ... Thrash! ... Thrash! ... Thrash! ... Lash! ... Thrash!
Perhaps you feel that all this is too much for 19-year-old Angela. And yet it seems you are wrong. You turn away for a moment to lay down your coat, for you are feeling immensely hot. While your back is turned, Ange's mouth delivers a loud and vulgar raspberry as she runs — surely a deliberate defiance of you? As you turn, she gives a cry as if suddenly terrified by her own brazenness.
'Very well, Angela! You know the rules! We shall commence the discipline again! From the beginning!'
Let us draw a curtain of decorum, as the Victorians themselves might say, over the remaining events of the afternoon in that apple-shed. It will be some while before you emerge and, as for Ange, she may prefer to remain there a time and even shed a tear or two of repentance before she emerges to face the world again.
But you are forgetting something, are you not? All that energy put into birching Ange, as well as caning Judith and Sally, is not merely a disciplinary exercise. It also earns you money. In addition to your £15,000 a year and your £40 a week as chastiser, today's three punishments have earned you some £21 at about £7 a time! It may not be as good as first prize on the premium bonds but it surely is more interesting.
Ah, you are wondering how the authorities know the amount due to you. After all, there are some dishonest fellows about who would claim to have birched half a dozen girls a day when they had done nothing of the sort. Naturally, you could be trusted to do your duty but there are some people, you know...
What could be easier than to tell whether the books are cooked or not? The justices' clerk arrives to pay you the day's dues. He does not need books at all. You call Ange, Sally and Judith.
'Slip your knickers off, Ange, and bend over the back of the chair... Judith, lie bottom-upwards on the sofa... Bend over the desk, Sally! Push your jeans right down!'
The justices' clerk, with eyes laughing and mouth rounded in admiration, can read the accounts exactly where you printed them with willow and bamboo. He cannot draw himself away. There is a favour he would ask. He has some apples for pressing. May be bring them? Is the shed free tomorrow afternoon? Might he borrow Ange? How can you refuse a man who is offering to do your job free?
A sceptical modern reader might begin to wonder about the motives of some Victorian upholders of law and order. The justices laughed prosecutions like that of Mr Miles out of court. But they did better than that. They actually supplied James Miles and his kind with the pretty girls whom he 'reformed' with such loving care. Indeed, the justices were eager to see chastisement enforced. They were even, it seems, prepared to bend the law so that a pretty girl with a shapely bottom might bare it regularly for the rod.
Impossible? Take a look at the tip of the iceberg in Richard Whitmire's Victorian and Edwardian Crime and Punishment. Among the records of Huntingdon gaol, for example, are details of girls sent to the reformatory by justices, sometimes with specified birchings. Julia Ogolthorpe is a pretty dark haired schoolgirl in the photograph on her record-sheet. For stealing a loaf at Grantham, they gave her five years in reformatory where, as they say, she might spend more time bending than sitting.
But surely these worthy gentlemen were only doing their job, weren't they? Take another look at her record. It is made out, announcing her summary conviction, on 5 January 1871. It also gives the date of her trial — which did not take place until 27 January, more than three weeks later. Whoops! The greedy justices wore thus able to choose girls for reformatory discipline for the next five years without waiting for such boring details as the trial, the evidence, and the possibility that Julia Ogolthorpe or Sarah Barnes or Sally Fenton might not be guilty. Of course, when the hearing took place, the justices were both judge and jury so there was no danger of getting the wrong verdict.
Before James Miles was born, Edward Ward in his periodical The London Spy had revealed the eagerness of justices and their cronies to see a good display of birching and whipping upon the bare rears of young women. Some of the girls were in their 20s, others in their early teens, according to Ward. The chairman of the justices sat in the 'judgment seat' with a hammer in his hand. 'A woman was under the lash in the next room, where folding doors were opened so that the whole court might see the punishment inflicted.' Ward watched for a while and then went about his business leaving his judicial friends 'to flog on till the accusers had satisfied their revenge and the spectators their curiosity.' In our own time there are many voices urging the return of such punishments. What did Ward think, after watching them? 'I only conceive it makes many whores,' he said, 'but that it can in no measure reclaim them.'
Next time that the advocates of flogging in our own century hold forth, we might do well to remember Ward's remarks. To strip a girl for whipping, he observed, was the first step in making her a whore. When it was over, she regarded herself as one.
As James Miles, of course, you will not wish to hear such arguments. Your day is too busy. As you may recall, you have already tanned Judith, Sal, and Ange, as well as entertaining the local magistracy to lunch. Now the justices' clerk leaves, making Ange wince by an injudicious slap on her light jeans-cheek. You might almost think your day's labours are at an end. Would it surprise you to know that, for a dedicated public servant like Mr Miles, they have hardly begun?
Story from Janus 15.
The Man With The Golden Rod, part two
by Richard Manton
Writer Richard Manton (the pseudonym of a well-known novellist) continues his recreation of just one day in the life of James Miles, the factual Master of the Hoo Union Workhouse at Rochester, Kent during the 19th century. This compelling, obsessive yet authentic account, closely based on records of the time, takes one deep into the world of workhouse discipline for girls and raises many topical questions relating to right-wing moves to get corporal punishment put back on the statute books. Part one of The Man With The Golden Rod appeared in Janus 14.
WHEN, AS James Miles, you were acquitted at your trial, the justices were clearly on your side. Off you go, they said. Birch those young reformatory trollops long, hard, and often. Did you suspect that the justices had a vested interest in the verdict? No? What a trusting sort of chap you are.
The French revealed the truth in such Edwardian hooks as Etudes sur la Flagellation. England's rulers endeavoured to ban such books by prosecution and persecution. Not surprisingly, since the truth revealed applied to those rulers themselves.
Mr Miles was acquitted, we learn, so that the justices might continue to enjoy the sight of girls birched or caned on the so-called 'justices' nights'. Under a veil of Victorian prudery it was possible to attend an evening of tannings which combined striptease, moral self-righteousness, and sex as a blood-sport.
Nowadays, if the polls are to be believed, a substantial majority in the country would support judicial thrashings. Press reports in the Sun and the Liverpool Daily Post on 13 February 1976 revealed Tory MPs proposal to have girl delinquents judicially whipped 'with a birch, cane or strap'. On 10 November 1977 the Daily Telegraph reported how girls in care in Nottinghamshire were to be dealt with until the age of 17. Misconduct was to be punished by bamboo. 'Canings should be on the bottom,' read the instructions, 'always in front of witnesses.'
Papers like the Telegraph are rightly quick to report such stories prominently, thus warning us of the severities which a return to old-fashioned 'discipline' might involve. Yet, for all their enlightened and humane attitude which this careful concern for the subject doubtless shows, they can scarcely conjure up the scenes which a return to 'the good old days' would involve.
As James Miles you would welcome your guests to an excellent dinner, food and wine on expenses. Afterwards you would all retire to the punishment room — the Red Room as they called it at Hoo — prudently out of earshot of the rest of the buildings.
Picture a long stone-flagged room, gaslight glaring harshly on white-washed walls. The windows are high up and barred. At the centre of the floor stands the fixed square block over which each culprit kneels. Several feet to the rear are leather chairs for the witnesses. They take their places, Mr Miles removes his jacket and rolls up his sleeves. He tests a slender three-foot bamboo. It has a rapier's spring. Like a golfer practising his swing, he cuts the air a few times with a trial swish.
The first delinquent is led in. She is just the rebellious tomboy to make a disciplinarian's fingers itch. Elaine is best described as a shouting, striding youngster. Lank fair hair combed from a central parting lies loose upon her shoulders. Narrow eyes and thin mouth give the broad oval of her face a look of snub-nosed insolence. This sturdy young rebel boasts robust young hips and thighs.
The witnesses catch her defiant gaze with quiet smiles of anticipation, their eyes taking in her strong young legs, grey pleated skirt and white blouse. In modern terms it would be the kind of grey pleated uniform skirt worn short enough to bare Elaine's sturdy young thighs.
Her crime, it seems, was breaking the finger of one of your matrons. Just the offence for which the Tory proposal of 1976 advocates birching or caning girls 'guilty of inflicting bodily harm'. Yet Elaine returns the gaze of the portly middle-aged justices with a look of contempt.
It seems she cares nothing for the impending punishment. Hardly waiting for the order, she sheds her skirt and kneels on all fours over the block. The tight white cotton web of Elaine's knickers show her to be 'quite a big-bottomed girl in this posture'.
Despite more lurid suggestions of Mr Miles's involvement, it will probably be a matron who stoops over the block. Elaine's knickers are pushed down, and then she is positioned with meticulous exactitude. The pro-flogging brigade of our own day — MPs and public — would surely approve of such exhaustive precautions. It is, of course, left to you as James Miles to tuck up the tail of her blouse, well clear of the full pale cheeks of Elaine's bottom. Are you startled as she tosses back her fair hair, cranes round, and treats you to a burst of snub-nosed defiance?
Such girls as this were a puzzle to men like the author of Etudes sur la Flagellation — Jean de Villot. Elaine was facing — or perhaps about-facing — a full judicial thrashing with all the trimmings. Yet by her continued defiance and insolence she seemed determined to do everything in her power to make it worse. Later on we shall have to consider why — but put out of your head any mischievous old-wives' tales about the youngster 'enjoying it'. Next day she would scarcely walk without some discomfort or sit without a wince and a sharp intake of breath. What is so enjoyable about that? A blister on the foot could be more fun.
As James Miles, however, you introduce one more refinement. Elaine must call out the number of each stroke before receiving it. Would our present-day advocates of the birch approve the idea? If the girl fails or refuses to do so, she will get the stroke anyway. But it will not count towards the total of her punishment. By defiance she will merely earn herself more lashes of the cane.
So, as James Miles, you must now take the bamboo in your hand. You announce her sentence formally to the girl and the justices, assuring her in the manner of a bawdy sergeant-major that it will be with the bamboo across bare bum-checks. Then you order her to call out the number of the first stroke.
Now comes the biggest shock of all. The rebellious youngster, in a burst of foul-mouthed, four-lettered defiance, refuses to call out the numbers of the strokes. In case you have not got the message, she yells to the world that you are a bastard, and an effing bastard at that.
Tossing back her fair hair, Elaine cranes round at the witnesses. The broad oval of her snub-nosed face is still suffused with defiance in her narrow eyes and thin mouth. How she curses the well-fed justices. In the privacy of the punishment-room they smile back at her knowingly, showing her their amusement and delight in her predicament. They let her see them sitting forward in their chairs for a close-up of the subject. Mouths pursed and eyes bright, they survey the sturdily broadened cheeks of Elaine's backside in its present posture. Whatever the explanation of her vulgar impudence, she must have known better than to hope for a reprieve later on. When the justices have such a bare-bottomed tomboy over the block, all leniency is forbidden.
So Mr Miles gently and almost teasingly measures the bamboo across the full pale checks of Elaine's young bottom. For all her defiance, the youngster is gnawing at her lower lip apprehensively. Her hands are clenched desperately and her fifth-former's buttocks are tensing and shifting under the menace of the bamboo touch.
With all the time in the world, Mr Miles takes aim. Then, raising the cane, he brings it down with 'an ear-splitting smack' across the full pale cheeks of Elaine's bottom. She gasps at the smart and her bum-cheeks begin to arch and squirm. Mr Miles knows from long experience that the initial smarting impact of the bamboo across Elaine's adolescent behind will swell in intensity to a savage climax several seconds later. Expert that he is, he aims each stroke to coincide with that climax of its predecessor.
Naturally there is an electric tension in the room as the smack! ... whip-smack! of two more uncounted strokes rings out across Elaine's rear cheeks. This is accompanied by a gasping, a wrestling, and the strained creaking of the punishment bench. Surely the rebellious youngster must know as well as the witnesses that she will yell at the top of her voice for the first counted stroke, sooner or later. Only then will the official discipline begin. Incredible though it seems, she is actually trying to add to her punishment while she can still bear to.
To be fair to those who now advocate the return of the birch, they do not suggest flagellations on the Victorian scale. The Tory proposal favours 12 strokes, though the figure 18 has also been mentioned. The danger, of course, is where the punishment routine provides for an increase in the number as a reprisal for misconduct while the tanning itself is actually being given. Elaine's five years in the reformatory, under the old-fashioned law, would probably extend from adolescence to 18. One can well imagine the sort of discipline which the present law-and-order brigade might well want to administer to the bare checks of Elaine's strapping young tomboy bottom during such a period of detention.
Back to Mr Miles in the reformatory punishment-room back to the details which the pro-birchers would prefer you not to know....
After a number of uncounted strokes, the inevitable happens. A sizzling lash of the bamboo causes Elaine's sturdy young buttocks to clench frantically. As the impact swells, she tosses back her fair hair, cranes round at the witnesses in consternation, and yells out, 'One!'
The well-fed justices smile knowingly at this triumph of their power over her adolescent rebellion. The eventual submission of the victim is inevitable, but they prefer it when they have to wait. Mr Miles's mouth is set tight. The bamboo thrashes down with a pistol-crack report across the red cane-prints already branching across Elaine's backside. The sequel is predictable and easily imagined.
'Two! ... Three! ... Fo-o-o-ur! .... FI-I-I-VE! .... SIX! .... Please, not across there again! No! N-O-O-O! .... O-O-O-W! .... My BOTTOM! Oh, please count that one! Ple-e-e-e-ase! .... O-O-W-HOO-HOO-HOOO! .... SEVEN! .... E-E-E-Y-OW! .... OH, NO! NOT THERE AGAIN! .... AHH! .... EIGHT! .... NINE! .... No-o! Not there again! It isn't fair! .... Y-O-O-W! .... TEN!'
Does this sound-track show the unacceptable face of law-and-order? Remember, if the present proposal becomes law, much worse than this will be heard many times a day throughout the land. One can well believe that by this stage of the discipline, the fiery spread of Elaine's bottom-cheeks 'resembled a girl made to sit all day on a cruel thorn-bush infested by angry wasps!' However, those in parliament and the courts who support such proposals have considered all this and have decided that the type of punishment inflicted on Elaine and her kind is OK by them.
The rest of us, however, may wonder about the so-called 'healthy' effect of such reformatory discipline. By this stage of the tanning, Mr Miles is finding the front of his trousers uncomfortably tight. Small wonder that the French suggested he was having 'punishment fun' with Elaine. One can well believe that the lads from the adjoining boys' department would have risked their necks to reach the high barred windows on the outside. The master and justices were perhaps too busy to notice. Yet Elaine, as she craned round with eyes brimming and mouth howling, may have glimpsed the faces at the windows — wide-eyed and open mouthed, the lads' legs squirming to hold themselves high up as they peeped in on the scene. Healthy? Well, it beats jogging on the hard-shoulder.
So before we all go out and vote for the return of the good old system, let us consider some of the things it actually involves. Those who advocate it — without ever having seen it — give the impression that a reformatory tanning would he a clean, decent, thoroughly British occupation. Rather like a game of cricket with birch and rump — six strokes to the over. Stiff upper lip? If anything was stiff in the punishment-room it is not an upper lip.
Victorian hooks and magazines thrived on whippings, sport and imperialism. For instance, Miles was quite entitled to cane a girl like Elaine or Ange after breakfast, and then call her back for a second bambooing across her bare bottom after lunch. Were our ancestors shocked by this? Not a bit, it seems. The Captain, 'A Magazine for Boys and Old Boys', assured its readers that a second tanning an hour or two after the first was merely 'a second innings on a sticky wicket'. How England's upper crust chortled over the joke. One imagines the humour may have been lost on Elaine or Ange or Sal.
To begin with, the language in such chastisements as Elaine's is not at all the sort approved by the Viewers and Listeners Association for family entertainment. A vulgar young tomboy like Elaine, when stung beyond endurance, is apt to use terms you would not find in Jane Austen. After more than a dozen counted swipes of the cane across her bare bottom, even a sturdy youngster like Elaine is frantic from the lingering smart. Then there comes a wickedly-aimed stroke across the tender willow-pattern of bamboo already striping her backside. In a fury of anguish, Elaine twists her face round again, yelling, 'My arse! Oh, you bastards! You bastards!'
We can look forward to a good deal of this, if the new proposals become law. The supporters of official corporal punishment, like those supporting the capital variety, are apt to assure us that their method is quick and clean. That's great, as long as you're not the one who has to clean up afterwards.
The last phases of such a punishment are likely to be extremely undignified. A sturdy impudent adolescent girl, kneeling so tightly forward over the block, is not particularly well-placed to exercise psychological self-control under the cane. After a stroke wicked enough to raise goose-pimples, Elaine's tomboy bottom thrashes in a paroxysm of wild agony, and her lips scream profanities. The snub-nosed rebel turns the broad oval of her face to the witnesses, her mouth forming an 'Ooo!' of dismay at what she has so pitiably shrieked. She knows that such impudence qualifies for extra chastisement. Worse still, as her expression indicates to the judicial amusement of the witnesses, Elaine knows that in her present state the next smarting stroke may very well cause a repetition of her 'insolence', for which vengeance will be duly executed.
Supporters of the rod, of course, are quick to suggest that it would be 'different' nowadays. It's hard to see how. Certainly as one correspondent in the Daily Telegraph ('Caning of girls', 26 January 1976) pointed out, the female bottom would continue to be the target zone. 'After all, decorum has nothing to do with it, since the punishment is to be dished out by mistresses.'
That sounds fine until you read another report in the same newspaper on 25 May 1978, 'Home Office turns blind eye to lesbian warders'. And not just lesbian, in this account, but ladies with a taste for sexual violence. In one of its best exposés ever, the paper revealed how Anita Sasin, aged 22, alleged that she had been the victim of lesbian rape at Styal prison in Cheshire. The Home Office dismissed the allegation with customary smug imperturbability as 'Bizarre and untrue'. Unfortunately for the Home Office, Mrs Wynne Egerton, a senior officer at Styal, had the courage to disclose the true state of affairs in some female prisons. The Prison Department, she announced, 'turns a blind eye and retains in the service, staff who are known to be active lesbians, and even corrupt married women.'
So much for the soothing assurance that reformatory canings would be 'all right now' because girls like Elaine would be tanned by female officers. Just imagine two or three ladies of this ilk standing over the culprit as James Miles did, eager to let off some disciplinary steam. It will all be behind closed doors — and no questions asked afterwards. Even if the questions are asked, the Home Office will be able to tell us that the allegations are bizarre and untrue. Picture the scene, the culprit over the block and a good selection of canes in the rack. Can you imagine what would happen to the strapping young cheeks of Elaine's fifth-form bottom in the next half hour?
For the moment, though, you are still James Miles back in the last century. To Elaine's shrill and frantic protests that she can bear no more, you need only reply that she will be made to bear it away. No need to concern herself over that.
During the rest of the evening you ply the cane with the virtuoso skill of a concert pianist before your guests. Every 20 minutes or so, the door of the Red Room opens. One pretty miscreant leaves, rubbing her behind cheeks tearfully, and another is summoned. Sarah Barnes and Charlotte Burton may have praised your virtues at your trial, but that only makes you the more keen to instill a little virtue into them now. Perhaps you progress all the way up the age-range in your disciplinary zeal, all the way to flighty young women of 27 and 28.
Your guests depart, leaving you weary of arm and damp of brow. Time for a nightcap in your study and a quick count-up of the day's earnings. But, devoted public servant that you are, you cannot rest while duty remains undone. Surely when your time comes there will be a statue to your memory: 'James Miles, erected by the girls of Hoo reformatory'.
You have just recalled a sluttishness of behaviour by an impudent young woman of 25. You summon Jacqueline to your study. Under the short bell of blonde hair and fringe, Jackie has a pale sullen face, blue eyed and heavy jawed. As ordered, she is in white singlet and working-trousers of tight smooth denim. Long legs with trim thighs. The softness of breasts and hips suggests one furtive pregnancy.
You employ her in various casual chores first of all, which involve her in a good deal of bending over with her seat towards you. You decide her fate while pondering, in their skintight denim, the fattish cheeks of blonde Jackie's arse. All her sly attempts to seduce you from your duty fail. You are proof against such things.
Trousers and pants off, Jackie. Kneel on the sofa! Now kneel tightly forward over the padded back. Put your palms on the floor to take your weight. Such a pale plump pair of bottom-cheeks, Jackie! Why, you have escaped discipline far too long. I promise you, miss, my trusty bamboo shall soon alter that sad state of affairs! I shall send the matron in charge of your work a message to inform her that you will not be returning there tonight. In a moment, Jackie, the reformatory cane! Did you not guess it would be that when you were sent for? I do not believe I have ever had the opportunity to acquaint myself so well with your bottom before, Jackie! What a sluttish arrogance you must have showed as a shopgirl. Still, I can well understand why the customers were always asking for trinkets which obliged you to turn your back to the counter and bend to rummage in the lowest shelves! Keep that fat young backside of yours quite still, Jackie! No, don't tighten your seat-cheeks as I measure the bamboo across them. Disobedience will prolong the caning!'
A devoted public servant, it seems, knows no rest. And yet, if the French account is to be believed, there is a curious sequel to your busy day.
One morning, not too long afterwards, a party of girls in singlets and trousers is tending the garden outside your study window. Your desk at which you are working stands in the bay of the window, giving you an excellent view. Elaine is there, tightly clad in white singlet and working-trousers of smooth lavender-blue material which are very, very tight-fitting. The cause of this is partly the broad leather waist-belt drawing them in so narrowly. Also the trousers are really too small for her sturdy hips and seat. Indeed, from the rear, the outline of Elaine's well-filled seat is an almost perfect circle — across the back of her waist, out round the flanks of her hips, and under her buttocks.
As you work at your papers, Elaine takes her place at the flower-bed a few feet beyond the glass. She turns her back to you to begin her allotted task of weeding. You are bound to glance up from your correspondence occasionally at her sturdy adolescent buttocks straining the tight smooth trouser-cloth. Once, at least, she stares back at you over her shoulder, the lank fair hair from its central parting framing the broad oval of her face, the snub nose, narrow eyes, and thin defiant mouth.
Then she bends over to weed. By now you are having real trouble with your correspondence. You look up and there, three feet away, you are confronted by the sturdy thighs, the broadened young cheeks of Elaine Cox's fifth-form bottom once more. No one can truly blame you for leaning forward on your elbows and staring with lips tightly pursed at the view beyond the glass! The impudent tomboy is bending right over and, it seems, deliberately thrusting the spread-cheeked seat of her lavender-blue tight trousers in your face!
Understandably, you do not get round to your correspondence. Your lips are rounded with a sharp intake of breath and your eyes gleam at the smooth seat-cloth drawn splittingly tight as the youngster bends. Vulgarly filled and fattened by this posture are the strapping young cheeks of Elaine's bottom. You hold the paperweight in one hand and polish it vigorously but absent-mindedly. From time to time, the insolent youngster tosses back her fair hair and cranes round at you. She shifts a little but deliberately stays bending to confront you with her broadened young bum-cheeks, all morning long. Under the straining trouser-seat, Elaine's arse-cheeks are wantonly and suggestively parted by her posture.
Yet Elaine is deliberately idling, showing you that she has not pulled up a weed all morning. There can only be one outcome to this. At the end of the session, you summon her for a study-tanning.
'You're really in trouble this time, Elaine,' you say smilingly as you escort her in. The other girls stare aghast at her boldness.
Elaine on the sofa this time, kneeling tightly forward over the scroll at the end. Once again those trousers are beautifully tight over the cheeks of her sturdy young backside. Down come the trousers to her knees with Elaine's pants inside them. The afternoon lies ahead of you, the doors are locked, and no tales will be told afterwards.
Why did Elaine invite such retribution? She certainly did not enjoy the strokes. Mr Miles was the only man in her life, of course, and perhaps this form of undressing was the nearest thing to sex she could get? Perhaps his mind would turn to other things? Alas, there is no evidence that he even thought of it! Perhaps Elaine was angry on another girl's behalf. That might account for one incident but not her general conduct.
The likely truth is so obvious one overlooks it. Elaine was bully of the reformatory — like a gangland boss among humble cons. Instead of constant fights which she would one day lose, she held her authority by taking public discipline which other girls quailed at. Hence the incurring of extra strokes while she could still bear them — in order to display a more battered bottom! Hence the deliberate defiance of the master during the garden detail where other girls could see. She was one of those who, as the Telegraph put it on 15 October 1979, 'bare their weals with pride.' Like another problem pupil described by the same paper on 15 January 1976, Elaine 'enjoyed being caned and went back for more.' Like Mr Miles's fifth-form tomboy, this pupil too 'attacked teachers... disrupted classes, defied all rules.' What seems like incredible behaviour by a reformatory girl was all too credible!
Last of all, let us concede that there may well be a case for the return of judicial caning and birching. But certain questions must first be answered which are carefully not discussed in the press advocating it. In a democracy punishments cannot be restricted to one group. Therefore in a modern Miles reformatory there will, basically, be two types of offender. One is the defiant adolescent tomboy of Elaine's sort. The other — for the law in this area always extends to sexual immorality in the end — will be the promiscuous older woman in her middle or late twenties. For such a female, well-established in her waywardness, no other remedy could be appropriate. My story Lesley: Behind Closed Doors in Janus 13, described the case of one such girl.
If reformatories like James Miles' flourish again, readers of Janus may well be among the applicants to become master! There will be many more girls than Elaine and Lesley. Yet the questions which will have to be answered apply very much to their types.
1. Should offenders be sent to the reformatory for a set period and a set number of birchings or strokes? Or should their stay and punishments be decided by the staff there? The old law would require Elaine's presence until the age of 18. Would 6 or 12 months be sufficient for a promiscuous young wife like Lesley?
2. Should tannings be with or without witnesses? Elaine's strapping young fifth-form bottom will naturally get private study canings as well as in front of staff or other girls. Lesley, a liberated young woman, will suffer some humiliation if caned bare-bottomed before witnesses. To avoid this she must bend her urchin-crop and present her firm pale buttocks to her chastiser alone. A real disciplinarian will want to deal very strictly indeed with a trendy young libber who has ditched her marital responsibilities in order to sleep around. Is the risk of extra chastisement justified by saving Lesley a more public shame?
3. Should buttocks be clothed during tanning? Translucent tights over Lesley's bottom-cheeks will be torn by birch or cane. Lesley's black stretch-briefs — like Elaine's white ones — may impede the thrashing and conceal its effects from the person who gives it, which could be dangerous.
4. What punishment posture? Traditionally, Elaine would kneel over a block or lie on the sofa. Lesley's firm pale bottom-moons would be shown while she bent over a tall stool. Should this change?
5. What instrument should be used? Traditionally a birch for a tomboy, a cane or even whipcord on the bottom for an adulterous young wife like Lesley. Few angry husbands have a birch in the house!
6. Should the strokes be set before punishment? What incidents during chastisement require one to reduce — or increase — the number? Should a more absolute obedience be expected from Lesley under correction than from a youngster like Elaine?
7. Should tannings also be awarded and given by subordinate staff? If so, would Lesley or Elaine bend for the master's inspection and the tanning take place later? This guards against unsupervised discipline and ensures fitness for the ordeal. Yet it also ensures 24 hours of 'butterflies in the tummy' and a sleepless night for the young lady in question.
8. With up to a dozen years between age-groups, should severity of punishment differ? Do we accept that Lesley's experience of lovers, marriage, childbearing, makes her more maturely able, physically and emotionally, to endure severe discipline than even a robust tomboy?
Should her greatest feeling of humiliation be taken into account?
9. Would you find work in a reformatory for Elaine and the tomboys or work in one for Lesley and the libbers more rewarding? Try a simple test. You are offered one of two jobs. The way to one lies through a room to the left, the other by a room to the right.
To the left, young Elaine kneels over the block, stretch-briefs down, blouse tail pulled up. Tossing back her lank fair hair she cranes round at you with that snub-nosed insolence which has put her where she is just now. The full pale cheeks of her tomboy bottom are broadly presented. Cane and triple-switched birch lie close by.
To the right, 28-year-old Lesley bends tightly forward over a tall stool, with an air of peevish resentment. The straight fair hair, urchin cropped, is shaped close to her head from the high crown to the jawline. Her blue eyes are dismissive, her fair-skinned features firmly disdainful, her mouth and chin sulky as a spoilt little girl. The short white singlet ends at her waist. Lesley's stretch-briefs and tights lie on the tiled floor. Her long legs, trim from cycling and other exercises, lead up to the proud firming out of the pale moons of Lesley's bottom.
Desertion of marital duties is no longer approved of as 'a woman's right'. Birch and cane lie waiting, together with a short woven pony-lash. Parliament has reinstated Sir James Stephens's ruling. The number of strokes, the instrument used, the frequency of whippings, the removal of panties, will be entirely at the discretion of Lesley's chastiser. A year or two will reform her ways.
Do you turn right or left? The questions are academic. What matters is the answers — and the answers must be yours, aided perhaps by the example of James Miles, the Man with the Golden Rod.