RnoonSo with Lascivious bodies a sexual history of the eighteenth century now mentally earmarked for reading I heartily recommend this as a way to while away a rainy day It ll produce far uestions regarding Georgian Britain than it will answer but it s never a bad thing to be inspired into random research tangents However this might ruin some of those high ideals regarding this period as a gloriously polite golden age of good manners Jane Austen certainly never covered such naughty topics All in makes for interesting reading Definitely something to dip in and out of ideal to leave about the bathroom to baffle guests especially if easily scandalised However I would have appreciated a slightly expanded glossary and the failure to enclose a segment on further reading lets the book down This is a great little book I d heard of Harris s List from my studies of the period at university and had read some extracts from it This book traces the interweaving stories of three of the people involved in its production and in doing so introduces a lot of other personalities and explores a lot of the issues There are a lot of the usual problems in writing social history of the poor the relative lack of documentary evidence and the propensity of people to change their names does make it hard to piece together people s lives and sometimes the author is forced to rely on conjecture None of her conjectures are unreasonable but some are longer reaches than others especially when it comes to what one or other of the people must have feltBut these are uibbles It s an engaging accessible account which is sensitively written It is compassionate to the women and men who found themselves drawn or forced into prostitution It acknowledges that for some it was a good career choice while recognising that for many it was exploitative and horrid It explores the prevailing gender stereotypes that drove the trade and the attitudes towards prostitutes and their clients and in a move that made my feminist heart glad it includes an appendix listing four pages of names of men who regularly used prostitutes the men who as the author points out have been able evade the scrutiny and judgement heaped on the women who serviced themIt did strike me how much our sexual morality has changed We regard the 18th century especially in terms of high society as a time of rigid sexual morality compared to our own Certainly any breath of impropriety could ruin a woman s reputation and chance of a decent life forever Same sex relationships were illegal and harshly punished But by modern standards many of the men on that list who no doubt felt themselves blameless and were pillars of society would be regarded as criminals Many of these girls were children Many seductions were in fact rapes Many of these filles de joie were no than indentured slaves People who condemn modern morality and long for a return to old fashioned values would do well to remember that This book is a welcome antidote to the over romanticisation of the Regency period I like a Regency romance as much as anyone but this provides a good companion piece I picked this up because I heard it inspired the TV show Harlots and it was absolutely fascinatingReview to comeRead for Medievalathon Hallie Rubenhold author of The Five provides the introduction to a bestselling book from the 18th centuryHarris s List of Covent Garden Ladies gives us information on many of the prostitutes working in London at the time Each lady is described extremely politely respectfully there is little to offend even the most sensitive reader Rubenhold s introduction is concise informative and in some ways interesting than the actual book itself The title did not do justice to this book Indeed it almost kept me from reading it What it is is a group biography of three people involved with prostitution in mid 1700s London The author weaves their stories together in a way that illuminates their sordid worldRubenhold manages to stories together in a way that illuminates their sordid worldRubenhold manages to a way of telling this story that avoids both prurience and fingerpointing letting the story arouse our outrage instead of telling us to be outraged She gives us the information we need to draw our own conclusions Very impressive My only uibble is that much of the information comes from fake biographies published by hack writers which may be largely fiction A bit discussion of her sources in the text would have been illuminating I understand how limited valid sources would be for a book like this I just wanted a little insight into what we know about these sourcesThis is the latest of a long series of books I ve read that make it clear how little respect any modern person should give the British ruling class As Rubenfeld states their sexual tastes would have put most of them in prison today and they would have deserved it They delighted in rape especially that of children They had no compunctions about having people kidnapped for their sexual use Why do so many people romanticize these people and continue to think there was something magical about their high birthAnd what is it about British culture that makes their ruling class so prone to sexually abuse children Though Rubenfeld seems to think this was confined to the 18th century the biography of Waugh I just read made it clear that social acceptance of the sexual abuse of children in that case boys was common well into the 20th century And child prostitution too as long as the children were not of one exalted social classVery radicalizing What a strange little book Basically a who and how much guide to the ladies the evening published in the 18th century My most immediate thoughts on the book center on the many times that the author of those long ago pamphlets would say that such and such woman reuired say five pieces of coin for her favors but will accept 2 or 3 rather than lose the business Cad You ve effectively lowered her priceAnd then there s the times when it s stated that a certain woman in kept by somesuch man but goes on to say that the lady is open for visits when that man is out of town How uh interesting it would be to read that passage if ou were that manAnd one passage where a woman is said to have so much education that she has actually achieved a semblance of intelligence A semblance Sigh But a jolly read nonethelessa look at the time of the Grande Horizontales written with a fair degree of mirth and with respect for women than most literature of the time and uite willing to take jibes at the list s very readers the so called Gentlemen of Sport. Plunges the reader down the dark alleys of 18th century London's underworld a realm populated by tavern owners pimps punters card sharps and of course a colorful range of prostitutes and brothel keeper. Shame and necessity she had no other alternative than to turn let the reader guess what She was long a favourite among the great but some misconduct of hers not to be accounted for reduced to the servile and detestable state of turning common She is a fine figure tall and genteel has a fair round face with a faint tinge of that bloom she once possessed is rather melancholy till inspired with a glass and then is very entertaining company pp 56 57In others girls appear to bring about their own falls through their lusty natures and to thoroughly enjoy doing so like Miss Jo es This lady was born in the country but the circumstances of her parents when she was sufficiently grown up obliged them to send her into London to get a livelihood she was not long before she got a place in St James s Market where whither by being accustomed to see the poor lambs bleed or rather a desire of becoming a sacrifice to the goddess of love is left for the reader to judge but she was shortly found stabbed to the heart in the most tender and susceptible part of her body in short she was unable to withstand the powerful impulse of nature any longer so was ravished with her own consent at the age of sixteen her mistress on the discovery thought proper to send her going for fear her good man should take it in his head to kill the lamb over again She began now to show the bent of her inclinations she listed under the banners of Cupid and marched at the head being of a courageous disposition and always ready to obey standing orders she had great success and often made the enemy to The Complete El yield by which means she gained no inconsiderable share of spoil but her charitable disposition being always ready to relieve the naked and needy soon reduced her pp 69 70Asou can see this book contains euphemisms a plenty At times it felt like reading one of Shakespeare s dirtier plays the amount of veiled references to sex body parts prostitutes and plenty of less orthodox sex acts there were As a social and cultural historian this must be a fascinating book to examine However it might not come as a shock to learn that I am not a jolly Georgian gentleman out looking for a good time and so conseuently a lot of these descriptions started to blur into one after a while They were interesting and the book itself is fascinating because of what it is but there were just too many of them without anything to break them up for it to be a riveting read In the final section of the book which looks at excerpts from outside 1793 the girls are grouped together by type red heads foreign beauties buxom etc and I think I might have enjoyed it had the whole book been arranged like this with some sort of commentary from the author accompanying each section I know Rubenhold has written two other books on the subject The Covent Garden Ladies Pimp General Jack and the Extraordinary Story of Harris s List and The Harlot s Handbook both of which sound as though they are along those lines using the List as a means of illustrating a point rather than as the raison d etre of the book I ll definitely be on the lookout for these as this has proven to be an unexpectedly fascinating topic It s a curio I would like to be able
to read the original but apparently very few exist This short pamphlet style novel details the sanctum sanctorum read the original but apparently very few exist This short pamphlet style novel details the sanctum sanctorum many a Convent Garden Lady Sex Vaguely acuainted with Harris s List from another of Rubenhold s publications The Harlot s Handbook Harris s List this slim volume found its way into my library as one of those spur of the moment bargains It s been sat for about a month on the dresser between the works of Patrick O Brian and Georgette Heyer the main culprits for rekindling my interests in GeorgianRegency Britain Since today was too cold to venture far beyond the duvet this was conveniently close to hand It also promised to be entirely irrelevant to the "report I m desperately avoiding At 158 pages long this made a "I m desperately avoiding At 158 pages long this made a companion for a few hours of procrastination Complete with a brief glossary of terms it would have been nice if this had been expanded upon slightly and an insightful introduction as to the List s origins and publication history we are treated to the Harris s List of Covent Garden Ladies also known as the Man of Pleasure s Kalender For The Year 1793 along with a selection of entries from earlier 1761 91 ListsFrankly some of these entries are uite amusing For example Mifs Godf pg 31 is likened to a Boatswain as every word is uttered with a thundering and vociferous tone and would therefore be an extraordinary good companion for an officer in the army as she might save him the trouble of giving the word of command Others however are a little bleak There are several recitals of sad origin stories There s even some bitchy slander such as Mrs Bi d pg 36 whom I cannot help but think has snubbed some advance made by the writer Stating her to have no visible charms admitting that her price of money or love was unknown it still openly accuses and declares her to be receiving others and in great uantity no less I can imagine that having his tastes uestioned and the plausibility of his sole dominion there challenged the C H whom keeps her wouldn t have been best pleased over this inclusion in so popular a publication Another entrant is told that she would cease to be pleasing if she continued upon the current path of her lifestyle and another is threatened to have details of her exploits published if she continued to engage inappropriately with other members of her sex There is also repeatedly the shameful addition that various ladies would take less than their price sometimes as much as half than risk losing a customer Information they certainly wouldn t want known This feels a bit like gossip rag meets lads mag for the late 18th Century gentleman I just bet it did make their Christmases to receive a copy I have to admit some surprise at the contents There s an alarming volume of ladies available for the birching of their gentleman clients and today people act as though works like Fifty Shades of Grey are so exotic including Mifs Le pg96 a Mrs Mac tney pg 122 with the longest entry in the book dominating five and half pages of this title and one Nancy Burroughs from 1961 who gets through birch rods in a week than Westminster school in a twelvemonth I had happened upon Mighty Lewd Books The Development of Pornography in Eighteenth Century England so was already aware of the 1770 s boom of flagellation pornography but it was still an unexpected discovery for a uiet afte. Book of prostitutes which detailed addresses physical characteristics and specialties The true history of the book is a tragicomedy motivated by poverty passionate love aspiration and shame Its telling. ,
On the plus side this book is a compelling narrative about figures we don t hear much of in history namely prominent members of London s underworld during the Georgian Era Rubenhold s prose is good and it s a fast readRubenhold s obvious disdain for her titular subjects is the book s major weakness and oh man it s a big one While she s not without pity for the titular Covent Garden Ladies that pity is mixed with enough disdain to make it feel disturbingly familiar to actual Georgian and Victorian middle to upper class writings You might hope some things have changed in the last centuries but apparently not for Rubenhold While she acknowledges many of these women had little choice in their given profession she also describes their work as sacrificing their integrity a frankly baffling and archaic moral read on the whole situation She also wants ou to know they were gross REALLY gross We get references to whores harlots foul mouthed tipple loving prostitutes writhing posture girls posture girls being something of the 18th century euivalent to a modern day stripper and brothels that infested London She also puts scare uotes around ladies just to be sure we get it It s jarring to read Rubenhold whipping back and forth between pity and disdain but the two seem closely intermingled much as they were for actual 18th century commentatorsThe main focuses of the book are Jack Harris a pimp Samuel Derrick a failed middle class Irish poet and Harris copywriter Charlotte Hayes a courtesan turned madam and Dennis O Kelly Charlotte s common law husband horse breeder and co operator of her brothels All four of her central protagonists commit appalling acts and all four of them seem to escape the stinging disdain she lavishes on any female sex worker who isn t Charlotte Her admonishments to take these people as products of their time would be a little compelling if she hadn t spent so much time criticizing women who did far less O Kelly s attempted rape of a oung noblewoman and his subseuent arrest is described as English society putting him in his place Maybe there s a grain of truth in this as upper class Englishmen rarely suffered conseuences for the same act But it s just jarring to read after reading paragraphs slamming poor women for having the nerve to pick up a bottle of gin Hayes is a compelling figure and not an unsympathetic one who both faced horrific abuse and inflicted it on others as a madam But it s hard not to feel like Rubenhold is comparatively easy on her due to her high earnings and relatively demure personality It s not that I d exactly prefer to see her deny any sympathy to Hayes who in my view is worthy of a nuanced look but surely her crimes such as kidnapping twelve ear olds are serious than being foul mouthed or tipple lovingThe real nail in the coffin here is the sourcing I ve read a lot of historical biographies that I didn t particularly like or agree with but I was at least able to find and trace sources Rubenhold does provide a bibliography but her chapters are littered with uote marks that don t seem to have any particular attributed source Her notes explain the meaning of specific terms but they don t actually point to where she got her uotes or provide any context for them I have never seen this in a historical biography before and it s extremely shoddy I might say this book was worth it for the information alone but the mess that is her notes pretty much kills that Don t read An interesting story sensitively told The Covent Garden Ladies
fleshes out what life was like for both men and women in Georgian London through the eyesout what life was like for both men and women in Georgian London through the eyes three of its players Jack Harris Samuel Derrick and Charlotte Hayes I would like to have seen details re individual women beyond Charlotte Hayes The women mentioned are seen almost exclusively through the male gaze it would be nice if some of them had a chance to tell their own stories but perhaps source material is limited The read has given me a new perspective on Harlots When I was reading Michael Faber s novel The Crimson Petal and the White recently I was struck by the freuent references to the infamous More Sprees in London a little book detailing the different prostitutes available around the town where to find them what they charged and to which particular specialties each one would cater The chief reason that I was so intrigued by the mention of this book is that although Faber s creation is fictional such books did indeed exist Perhaps the most famous example of such a volume is Harris s List of Covent Garden Ladies which is not Victorian but Georgian updated each Een reis om de wereldin 45 kip en kalkoengerechten year between 1757 and 1795 During the time that it ran it sold than a uarter of a million copies a huge amount for any book at the time indicating uite how many men there must have been out looking for a good time in London Rubenhold s edition collects the most interesting and diverse entries from various editions of the List focussing on theear 1793 and compiles them for the modern reader It starts out with an "Informative Interesting Introduction Which Puts The "and interesting introduction which puts the into its historical context s List was not written by a man named Harris at all but by an Irish poet named Samuel Derrick who had fallen on hard times and needed to find a way to keep himself out of debtor s prison Jack Harris was a notorious London pimp who allowed Derrick the use of his influential name and his extensive list of contacts in return for a one time fee and so he only became bitter while Derrick became increasingly wealthyThe entries on each girl provide a surprising amount of detail and they are often miniature character studies rather than just bawdy adverts promising pleasures Obviously there is physical description and a summary of which particular tastes a girl caters to along with her prices as a rule the specialised the tastes the higher the price but there are also details such as how she came into the public life as the List euphemistically terms it In some cases the writer expresses sympathy for a girl who has been led astray by a man and is forced to turn to this particular line of work as in the case of Miss Char ton This is an old observation but certainly a true one that some of the finest women in England are those who go under the denomination of ladies of easy virtue Miss C is a particular instance of the assertion she came of reputable parents bred delicately and her education far superior to the vulgar et the address of a designing villain too soon found means to ruin her forsaken by friends pursued by. The Covent Garden Ladies tells the story of Samuel Derrick Jack Harris and Charlotte Hayes whose complicated and colorful lives were brought together by the publication of Harris' List an infamous guide.