The Merry Order of St. Bridget — Personal Recollections of the Use of the Rod is one of the most famous works of Victorian flagellatory fiction. Mostly concerning the use of the birch by a exclusive group of aristocratic women with sapphic tendencies. It was first published in York, England by John Camden Hotten in 1868 (often incorrectly cited as 1857) as Personal Recollections of the Use of the Rod by Margaret Anson, pseudonym of British author James Glass Bertram (1824-1892). A French translation was published in 1901 by Charles Carrington under the title Une Société de Flagellantes, using the writer's pseudonym Jean de Villiot. The novel has been reprinted many times, and some editions used the title The Merry Order of St. Bridget, and The Order of the Rod.
Bertram was apprenticed to Tait's Edinburgh Magazine and became managing clerk, before joining a company of strolling players. He returned to Edinburgh and set up as a bookseller and newsagent. In 1855 he was appointed the editor of the North Briton and in 1872 of the Glasgow News, leaving to become a freelance journalist two years later. He published 'flagellation' pornography under the names 'Revd William Cooper' and 'Margaret Anson'.
In this graphic unveiling of 19th-century sexual adventures, Margaret Anson, a submissive handmaiden to the notorious Marquise St. Valery, describes the orgies at the Chateau de Floris, where the elite women of Paris submit to the subjugations and exotic indignities of the flesh that trigger ecstatic sensations. "Do you remember how we used to indulge in whipping on the sly, when Madame thought we were in bed? That was a very untutored way of proceeding. I have learned better since, and I can tell you that the passion for the rod is one which grows." It is a fairly gentle treatment of the mutually consensual infliction of pain on the female rear.
The title illustration of a birch rod is taken from the title page of the book The Merry Order of St. Bridget, Margaret Anson (James Glass Bertram). Printed for the Author's Friends, np, York, 1857. Further illustrations from a later reprint (c. 1930), and a modern reprint, are displayed below.