His childhood was spent in an Irish village, with occasional trips to Dublin. Sir W.'s father was a fanatic for tight-lacing, and married a girl whose figure was already trained. He was an intellectual, very gentle by nature, and dominated by his wife who knew she held him by her figure. She kept her shape into her fifties, despite her seven children. The pregnancy and birth in each case was easy; she was quickly bandaged back into shape after delivery, and had no difficulty in breast-feeding them all. There were four girls, all of whom were corset-trained from early childhood, but of whom only the eldest became, entirely of her own accord, a confirmed tight-lacer, determined to out-lace first her mother, and then her governess. At the age of seventeen, she could, on occasion, lace down to 13 and 14 inches. W.'s earliest erotic memories and his sexual apprenticeship consisted of helping to lace his sister, ten years his senior, who loved it.
The governess was chosen partly, at least, on account of her waist, which with the encouragement of Sir W.'s father was reduced progressively while she stayed with them, reaching a limit of 11 1/2 and 12 inches. ''It was a miraculous thing.'' [At this point in our conversation, I registered incredulity. The octogenarian paused, as if doubting himself. Finally he rose, fetched a tape-measure, passed it about a tobacco-jar which was about eleven inches round. He gave a sigh of half-incredulous wonderment.] No, he had not measured his governess' waist himself; she always laced herself; he was sure about the figures 11 1/2 and 12, for these are not details which one forgets; but he agreed that the figures may have represented the inside measure on the smallest corset she ever wore, when new and unstretched. She was very gay in temperament, and physically active, loving to romp with the children.
Corsets were regarded as functional not decorative objects. Each female member of the family had three of them at one time, the smallest in size being reserved for the evening. Tight-lacing was practised not only in the family, but also to a certain extent among their circle of friends. But the family lived a very isolated existence, which explained the lack of photographs, as well as the lack of social notoriety around the fetishism. Sir W. could remember only favourable comment, although there was the case of a cousin who refused to unlace during a pregnancy and died. The cause of death was mentioned at the funeral sermon, and caused some scandal.
W. chose his wife, whom he married when she was 26, for her figure ''which appeared a natural 16 inches.'' He was not attracted to high heels until the 1950s. He now awaits the combination of mini-skirt (of which he heartily approves), high heels and tight waist.
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