The tradition of six of the best dates back to the halcyon days of the 19th century when flagellation was all the rage. The most famous dominatrix was Theresa Berkeley who ran a lucrative house of flagellation at 28 Charlotte Street in London. The majority of paying punters who pitched up at her boudoir were looking to get themselves ‘fladged’ with birches as their instruments of choice. However, she also played hostess to a number of floggers and she therefore retained several girls on her staff who were willing to bend over for a good thrashing. These famous London Flogging girls, such as Miss Ring, One-eyed Peg and Ebony Bet, could take dozens of strokes of the birch but complained that extended sessions with the cane took too long to recover from and reduced their business opportunities. Accordingly Berkley allowed visiting floggers’ six strokes per session at a fixed price if they chose to beat the girls with the Nilgiri canes she had imported from Eastern India so that her girls would be ‘fully recovered on the morrow’. Additional strokes could be purchased at increasing ad valorem duties.
In an obituary, published in the London Times, following her death in 1836 she was described as ‘Six of the Best Berkley’.
Learned authorities on the subject tend to concur with Berkeley. Deborah Morton, who is an internationally respected pundit on the subject, has authored several treatises on Corporal Punishment, including the widely read, ‘Why Six of the Best is Always the Best’ and ‘The Five-Minute Six’.
In the former article Miss Morton observes that a punishment caning is supposed to result in some considerable degree of discomfort without becoming debilitating. She acknowledges that three or four cuts of the cane are not really adequate and although painful they are a mere inconvenience. She observes that an extra two strokes was ample to fully get her attention and would result in the feeling that smoke was billowing out from beneath her skirt for several hours. She is convinced that six is the optimum number for a caning and, although she could undoubtedly absorb more strokes, to avoid any latent wriggling, squirming, hopping, rubbing or squeaking while going about her daily business, further strokes were unnecessary.
Another aficionado in the fine art of caning Claire Brooks agrees with Miss Morton’s findings that anything less than six hardly really amounts to much of a caning.
Recalling her first caning at the exclusive Dayton Manor boarding school she wrote, “Everything was extremely polite at Dayton. We communicated a lot through little notelets that we left in each other’s pigeon-holes. I still have my favorite invitation. I had been at the school just a few months when I found a pretty pink envelope placed in my box. I opened it expecting to be invited to a birthday feast or, better still, a polo match. The message inside was neatly hand written.”
“It read, ‘Dear Miss Brooks, You are invited to repair to the House Captain’s quarters to participate in a six o’clock swishing. Yours Faithfully, Monica Rodgers’. Even more bizarrely at the bottom she had written RSVP!”
“Monica Rodgers was a prissy little thing with pigtails and a really big snooter; we used to call her Monc the Conk behind her back, but receiving an invitation to participate in one of her six o’clock swishings was a little unnerving. She was rumored to be rather good with the stick.”
“I found Monc in a terrible tizzy. She said that I had a bad case of the dt’s and was getting her house a bad reputation. I couldn’t very well argue; I had taken up permanent residence in the detention room since I arrived at Dayton. She suggested we try a swishing.”
“I had no objection in principle to the suggestion. Ma always told me that she far preferred a swishing to writing boring lines or spending hours in the detention room. So I agreed we should give it a try. She bent me over the back of her sofa and gave me three hot ones, but we all know that is only half a caning, so I felt obliged to go back a few days later and get the other half.”
Miss Susan Lawton, a highly respected disciplinarian, offers the opinion that ‘women are born broad of beam and perfectly designed to absorb six of the best’. She also believes that a successful caning is a partnership.
It is the job of the martinet to make sure that the strokes land safely in the sweet spot of the upturned behind, avoiding dangerous wraparounds or unnecessarily painful high or low riders. It was recipient’s task to ‘put it up and keep it up’ and to present the target as high and steady as possible.
Susan Lawton also emphasizes the importance of the last stroke, commonly known in the disciplinary trade as ‘the Closer’. Having carefully applied the first five parallel tramlines across the fleshy crown of the rump the final stroke should be delivered diagonally across the existing strokes forming a five-bar gate.
Deborah Morton also offers the opinion that the duration of a caning is crucial and in the article ‘A Five Minute Six’, she extends the thesis that five minutes is the perfect timing for delivery of six of the best, writing, “First there should be a sixty second set-up where you are in position over the back of a straight-backed chair (or another appropriately selected furnishing) with your skirt neatly turned back. This might not seem long but I can assure you a lot goes through your mind when you’re head down, arse up for sixty seconds. The next phase is delivery of the actual whops. One every thirty seconds, which gives you sufficient time to experience the full cycle of each stroke. Finally we should be given another sixty seconds to gather ourselves before being given the release command. It is an extremely practical approach to caning and very fair on the recipient. We know exactly what to expect and there are no surprises.”
Most educational and reformatory institutions heeded Berkeley’s sage advice regarding six of the best and it became the tradition that British canings were limited to this magic number … So now ya know … Bottoms Up!!! … RH