Way we live: Artful eroticism for the discerning (and older) gent

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A magazine devoted to the erotic and aimed at the more mature reader is to be put on sale to the public for the first time next week. It may be raunchy but, says Steve Boggan, it's all in the best possible taste.

They remember adolescent fumbles during the blitz and hanker for the days of innocent pranks at Oxford in the 1930s. They probably read the Daily Telegraph and frequent London's best gentlemen's clubs.

But this week these top drawer chaps find themselves the target of a new magazine more likely to be found on the top shelf. The Erotic Print Society Review is coming out. After two years of distribution to a select mailing list, the magazine will be available to the public. It will depict explicit sexual frolics and contain the fantasies of some of the country's top writers but it isn't pornography - and that's official.

"We've even had policemen friends look at our stuff and we have a letter from the Customs and Excise saying they regard it as art," said the Review's editor, Rowan Mackinnon, 29.

The reason is simple. The magazine is an offshoot of the Erotic Print Society founded four years ago by Old Etonian James Maclean, and it contains only artwork and writing. In its nine previous subscription-only appearances, there has been only one photograph. And that was from the 19th century. Instead, there are paintings and drawings from 18th- and 19th-century artists such as Thomas Rowlandson and Aubrey Beardsley. Their work is among the prints now sold by Mr Maclean, 48, to a mailing list of 30,000 clients.

Two years ago, Mr Maclean began updating his buyers with a free quarterly newsletter. It was so good that some clients began sending in money, believing it couldn't possibly be free.

Top writers and humourists such as Auberon Waugh, Josceline Dimbleby and Barry Humphries have been persuaded to reveal their deepest fantasies for the price of a free lunch and a complimentary print. In one edition, the novelist Anne Billson described how she would like to be wrapped in Clingfilm while, naked except for a pair of "vertiginous" stilletoes, the entire string quartet of an orchestra made love to her.

From next week, Ms Mackinnon is hoping to distribute the magazine from amenable newsagents in London and at members-only clubs such as Black's, the Chelsea Arts Club and the Cobden Working Men's Club.

"We feel there is a market out there for men aged between 40 and 75 who haven't lost interest in sex but don't like the way it is presented these days," she said. "They hanker after gentler, more innocent and erotic times.

"It's all a bit haphazard at the moment because we're such a small operation, but I used to work as a dogsbody at Private Eye and that made me realise that something can work if the people involved truly love what they're doing."

The 24-page first public edition, priced at pounds 1, has a print run of 12,000 but Mr Maclean hopes it will grow in popularity.

"We've been amazed at the success of the Review when it was essentially only a newsletter," he said. "The standard of people we have been able to get to write for us has been amazing, but I think people realise that it's all very tasteful."

Nevertheless, some of the illustrations are a little strong for some people's tastes, so newsagents may have a problem in deciding where to stock it. "We don't regard ourselves as a top shelf magazine and our front covers are always very tame," said Mr Maclean. "Mind you, the back page is a different story - lots of adverts for our prints, and they're a bit raunchy. So it could be a bit of a problem. It might end up on the top shelf after all."