Mes étapes amoureuses (My Stages of Love), illustrated by Conrad with eight of his most explicit erotic drawings, is one of several volumes first appearing around the turn of the twentieth century by the mysterious author ‘E.D.’ Others include Jupes troussées (Pencil Skirts, 1895), L’odyssée d’un pantalon (The Story of a Pair of Knickers, 1889), Odor di femina (Feminine Fragrance, 1900), Mes amours avec Victoire (My Loves with Victoria, 1900), and Memoires d’une danseuse Russe (Memoirs of a Russian Dancer, 1905).
The authorities on French erotica of the period follow the lead of Jean-Pierre Dutel and Jean-Jacques Pauvert in ascribing the initials to one Edmond Dumoulin, but given there is no evidence for an author of that name it is hard to imagine that it is anything more than a generic attribute to an author who was producing text from the mill (moulin) of erotica. Other names suggested for E.D. are Émile Desjardins and Édouard Demarchin, but neither connects with a known author, the gardens (jardins) and marches (strides) also being rather suspicious.
Whoever the author Mes étapes amoureuses might be, the two volumes follow a rather pedestrian format of a young woman exploring her sexual awakening, with chapters titled ‘Promising beginnings’, ‘I am making significant progress’, ‘A skilful maid’, ‘Finally, I undress her’, ‘Delicious afternoon’, and finally ‘Journey to the moon’. The book was first privately published in 1890, so is the earliest known E.D. title; this illustrated edition was published by Marcel Seheur in a limited numbered edition of 500 copies.
We are grateful to Steve Mullins of the Olympia Press website (www.parisolympiapress.com) for these illustrations.