The first Sir Richard Burton book I owned was bought from a disreputable book and magazine shop on Tib Street, Manchester in 1961. It’s probably still there but more than likely rebranded as an ‘Adult Shop’. At the time I would have been twelve with a keen interest in both chemistry and the occult. The title was Aphrodisiacs and Love Potions – the exact wording I haven’t found, it appears to be out of print. We schoolboys had become acquainted with Burton’s Victorian writing style through classics such as The Kama Sutra and The Perfumed Garden, both highly prized as sources of arcane knowledge denied to us by the order of teaching brothers who had left America to bestow on English schoolboys the wisdom we could well done without.
Being both intensely self conscious and manipulative, I persuaded my satchel carrying chum to enter the shop with the five shillings I had saved and buy the book which I earnestly thought would change my life for ever. I have no idea how I had bribed him – maybe he just wanted to read it himself. The book was a paperback with a yellow cover and made reference to the dangers of Spanish Fly. Intriguing but impractical. There was also reference to another schoolboy subject of fascination – Nymphomania. Who were these women? What did they look like and, more to the point, were they keen on schoolboys?