Amsterdam [Edinburgh]: [N.P.], . First edition. Original printed self-wraps, with contemporary ink notations to title page. Measuring 185 x 110mm and complete in 16 pages. Outer leaves somewhat soiled and chipped along fore-edges; archival paper repair along spine and to outer margin of pages 13-14. Internally unmarked. An incredibly scarce piece documenting the community relationships among sex workers of the period, ESTC reports only 3 institutional copies. It does not appear in the modern auction record, and the present is the only copy on the market.
As with a number of works in this genre, A Funeral Oration contains heavy satirical elements. This does not detract in any way -- and perhaps adds -- to the memorial's ability to provide insight into the experiences, points of view, and relationships among members of the sex trade. In Edinburgh as in London, there existed communities of "prostitutes who clubbed together to share carriages and clothes, build community, and support each other" in a legally and socially mysogynistic world where sex work could provide autonomy and financial independence (Rubenhold). Mentorship, education, and healthcare were often components of these communities; and the present depicts such a generational relationship among Hannah Marine, the lately deceased Jeany Muir, and her own "dear friend and successor" Betty Montgomery.
Without a publication such as the London Harris' List of Covent Garden Ladies to document the names and locations of Edinburgh's courtesans, less is known about the individual participants in the trade there. As yet, we have been unable to locate the three women mentioned in this piece. Thus, the Funeral Oration becomes even more important as a record -- factual or fictional -- of how the city's workers viewed themselves and each other. Providing a history of her mentor's life, the narrator Betty notes that Jeany entered the trade by choice, having been shaped early on by her father's ownership of a billiard hall and her mother's own history of prostitution. She also had the benefit of a mentor. "Hannah Marine was then alive, and in the greatest reputation for capacity and skill in her profession; she contracted an early prejudice in favour of Miss Jeany Muir...she formed a design for rearing her up for a successor; and for that purpose carried her to all her gossipings, introduced her to many private retailers...and instructed her." Indeed, Jeany would eventually inherit the lucrative business when Hannah "joined to some diseases to which the well-employed practitioners of the mute arts are frequently exposed." To the same purpose, Jeany took Betty under her own wing; and with Jeany's death the cycle continued. Throughout, Betty narrates that this is a community that, whatever its faults, sought to uplift members. "I do not pretend to say, that the practitioners in our profession are entirely faultless, it would be false and absurd if I did. It must be remembered, that though we are who--es, still we are women, and though our employment purges us of many female weaknesses, yet still some few will remain. Upon this principle it was natural to expect among the elders a general dissatisfaction and opposition to young intrants...But no such thing happened. Envy's snaky head was scarce heard to hiss."
At times biting in its satire, the Funeral Oration nonetheless speaks to how differently the sex trade is discussed, depicted, and experienced when considered from the perspective of the people who work within it.
ESTC T128536. NB: The notations on the present copy suggest that the medical philanthropist Dr. John Clark (1744-1805) and the practictioner and professor Dr. William Cullen (1710-1790) were in some way involved with this publication or with its subjects. Although the relationship is unclear, further research could be done into whether they were providing treatment to sex workers in their city. (Item #4247)