Tuesday, 1 April 2014

THE ANTIQUARIAN: Love for Sale, the Beauties of Covent Garden

Published from 1757 to 1795, Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies is generally attributed to the pen of Jack Harris, the self-proclaimed “Pimp General of All England;” when Harris found himself in Newgate prison for debt, he arranged for publication to continue through the authorship of an Irish poet, then living in London, called Samuel Derrick.

Produced annually, as a pocketbook directory of prostitutes working in London, the 1789 edition introduces its list of available courtesans by describing the sexual impulse as an existential response of human nature.  The author says:

    In the succession of natural things, their progress, and their decay, 
    individuals seem, like atoms in the sunbeams, of little moment, in the
    great scale of Providence.  The preservation of the species in general
    appears to engross the whole scope and attention of nature; she is
    eternally busy in supplying the place of particulars that fall under the
    hand of time, and by a kind of plastic renown reviving in a blooming
    offspring the departed fire; and if you trace her through all the various 
    motions in her wide extent, she will be every where found to tend to
    one great act of love…
Amongst the more than one hundred listings provided, readers will find, the imperious and haughty Miss Thomas of No.28 Frith Street, whose dedication to the motto, “Days of ease and nights of pleasure,” demanded the same lewdness in all her clients that she, herself, possessed; the multilingual and musical Mrs Russel of Bolton street, who engrossed a man’s attention fully and would not offer her own attention for less than five guineas; Miss Smith of Rathbone Place, “so well proportioned, she might be styled symmetry’s truest self,” was never available when her favourite, the coach-maker’s son, was about; and Miss Maria Spencer of South Moulton Street, whose wicked black eyes spoke “the language of her mind.”

"I know, I told you to read something you're interested in---but this is unacceptable!"

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