Covent-Garden Ladies - Harris's List & the Linen-Lifting Tribe | ILAB
Full catalogue details. From the charitable relief of the Poor Law to the grim conditions of the workhouse, Matthew White examines attitudes to the poor in Georgian Britain. Matthew White explains how the coffee-house came to occupy a central place in 17th and 18th-century English culture and commerce, offering an alternative to rowdy pubs and more formal places of business and politics. Evelina overview Unused to the situations in which I find myself, and embarrassed by the slightest difficulties, I What was the extent of prostitution in London?
Full title: Harris's List of Covent-Garden Ladies: or, Man of pleasure's kalender, for the year , , , , etc. This item is featured in: Georgian Britain. Explore further Related articles. Priced in at two shillings and sixpence , Harris's List was affordable for the middle classes but expensive for a working class man.
It was not the first directory of prostitutes to be circulated in London. The Wandering Whore ran for five issues between and , in the early and newly liberal years of the Restoration. Her sister Elizabeth was less expensive, being "indifferent to Money but a Supper and Two Guineas will tempt her". Each edition of Harris's List opens with a frontispiece showing a mildly erotic stock image opposite the title page, which, from the s to s, is followed by a lengthy commentary on prostitution. This preamble argues that the prostitute is of benefit to the public, able to relieve man's natural inclination towards violence.
It describes the customer as a patron supportive of a good cause: "be your purse strings never closed; nor let the name of prostitute deter you from your pious resolve!
Independent culture newsletter
At a basic level, the entries in Harris's List detail each woman's age, her physical appearance including the size of her breasts , her sexual specialities, and sometimes a description of her genitals. Additional information such as how long she had been active as a prostitute, or if she sang, danced or conversed well, is also included.
Hannah both kind and liberal; notwithstanding which, she has no objection to two supernumerary guineas. He gazed on her a while with eyes of transport and fondness, and gave her a world of kisses; at the close of which, in a pretended struggle, she contrived matters so artfully, that the bed-cloaths having fallen off, her naked beauties lay exposed at full length. The snowy orbs of her breast, by their frequent rising and failing, beat Cupid's alarm-drum to storm instantly, in case an immediate surrender should be refused.
The coral-lipped mouth of love seemed with kind movements to invite, nay, to provoke an attack; while her sighs, and eyes half-closed, denoted that no farther resistance was intended. What followed, may be better imagined than described; but if we may credit Miss W-lm-t's account, she never experienced a more extensive protrusion in any amorous conflict either before or since. The women's route into the sex trade, as described by the lists, is usually ascribed to youthful innocence, with tales of young girls leaving their homes for the promises of men, only to be abandoned once in London.
Some entries mention rape , euphemistically described as women being "seduced against their will". Lenora Norton was apparently "seduced" in such fashion, her entry elucidating on her experience, which occurred while she was still a child. Rural immigrants in search of work could sometimes find themselves at the mercy of unscrupulous employers, or manipulated into the sex trade by underhand means.
Some entries in Harris's List illustrate how some women managed to lift themselves out of penury. Becky LeFevre, once a streetwalker , used her business sense to amass considerable wealth, as did a Miss Marshall and Miss Becky Child, who are each mentioned in several editions. Elements of politicisation appear in some entries. The famed prostitute Betsy Cox's listing describes how, when refused entry to a gathering of polite society at the newly opened Pantheon , she was helped by, among others, the Duke of Fife , who drew his sword to enforce her entry.
Miss Wilson of Cavendish Square thought that "a female bed-fellow can give more real joys than ever she experienced with the male part of the sex", and Anne and Elanor Redshawe provided a discreet service in Tavistock Street , catering for "Ladies in the Highest Keeping" and other women who preferred to keep their activities private. A common complaint regarding street prostitution was the foul language used,  and while generally most entries in the lists look favourably on those women who refrained from swearing, the views expressed in the edition of Harris's List tend towards equivocation.
Mrs Cornish's genteel nature was, on occasion, interrupted by "a volley of small shot", and Miss Johnson's proclivity towards "vulgarity of expression and a coarseness of manner" apparently suffered no shortage of admirers. Mrs Russell, attractive to "a number of clients among the youth, who are fond of beholding that mouth of the devil from whence all corruption issueth", was admired for her "vulgarity more than any thing else, she being extremely expert at uncommon oaths".
Harris's List Covent Garden Ladies
Mrs William's entry of is full of remorse, her having returned home "so intoxicated so as not to be able to stand, to the no small amusement of her neighbors", and Miss Jenny Kirbeard had, in , a "violent attachment to drinking". Not all entries were disapproving though; Mrs Harvey would, in , "often toss off a sparkling bumper," while remaining "a lady of great sensibility Prostitutes may have paid money to appear in the lists, and in Denlinger's view such commentary may indicate a degree of annoyance on the writer's part, the women concerned perhaps having refused to pay.
Others are scorned for wearing too much makeup , and some for being "lazy bedfellows". A popular view that prostitutes were licentious, hot-blooded and hungry for sex was incompatible with the knowledge that most worked for money, and the lists therefore criticise women whose demands for payment appeared a little too mercenary.
The identity of the lists' authors is uncertain. Some editions may have been written by Samuel Derrick,  a Grub Street hack  born in in Dublin , who had moved to London to become an actor. If successful, a prostitute could choose her own lovers and make her own life decisions. But there was a high failure rate too — violence, drink and debt ended the careers of many. So much history has been written about the wealthy and influential, and so little about the people everyone was so keen to forget. Issues are always complex, but I do maintain one thing; never allow anyone to erase the less powerful from history.
The Covent Garden Ladies can also be purchased here. Do you have a fiction not fiction book that pulls all the characters together, or did Hulu take artistic liberties? Hi Cathryn, Thanks for getting in touch. I hope that helps! Best wishes, Hallie.