A Letter Humbly Address'd to the Right Honourable the Earl of Chesterfield

A Letter Humbly Address'd to the Right Honourable the Earl of Chesterfield. Sex Work, Teresia Constantia Muilman.
A Letter Humbly Address'd to the Right Honourable the Earl of Chesterfield
A Letter Humbly Address'd to the Right Honourable the Earl of Chesterfield
A Letter Humbly Address'd to the Right Honourable the Earl of Chesterfield
A Letter Humbly Address'd to the Right Honourable the Earl of Chesterfield
A Letter Humbly Address'd to the Right Honourable the Earl of Chesterfield
A Letter Humbly Address'd to the Right Honourable the Earl of Chesterfield
A courtesan and memoirist calls out patriarchal double standards regarding sex: "At present, the Thief is exempted from Punishment, and it is only the Party despoiled who suffers"
A Letter Humbly Address'd to the Right Honourable the Earl of Chesterfield

London: Printed for the Author and sold at her House in White-Harte Street, 1750. First edition. Later half calf over marbled boards with gilt to spine. Several small scuffs; a pleasing volume. Modern bookplate of Frederick A. Frye, MD to front endpaper. Internally clean and unmarked but for one contemporary ink signature to the final page. Measures 115 x 200mm. Bound with Cadogan, William. An Essay Upon Nursing...By a Physician. London: Printed for J. Roberts, 1749 (Third edition). One of three issues with unknown priority, the present first edition of A Letter Humbly Address'd conforms to ESTC N2340, issued without half title, including the dash in White-Harte, and collating complete: 43, [1]. All variants except for ESTC T82111 are scarce, with the present variant documented at only 7 US institutions. No copy of any variant has come to auction in the last 25 years.

Having entered the sex trade at the age of 12, Teresia Constantia Phillips leveraged her marginalized position to publicly narrate her experiences in ways often denied to women within the patriarchally sanctioned marriage economy. Beginning with her celebration of non-normative sexuality in The Happy Courtezans (1735), she became a master of generating and then utilizing scandals around her to achieve greater reputation. While the responses to The Happy Courtezans prompted her to further publish The Fateful Courtezans and The Secrets of a Woman's Heart, her autobiographical works have solidified her historical fame. Her Apology for the Conduct of Mrs. TC Phillips, "written in three parts, the first of which was published in 1748," provide us with much of what we know of her life, though she was an admittedly unreliable source and the salacious details may have been designed to blackmail men she felt had wronged her (Murden).

In the present work, released in three variant issues in 1750, Muilman takes an opportunity to show that is not only an appetative figure roiled in sexual scandal. A Letter Humbly Address'd -- reissued a decade later as The Real Duty of a Woman -- was a space where she logically takes patriarchy to task, considering the academic and social educations of women as well as the double standards placed upon them. "My Lord," she begins, "when you jocosely recommended to me the writing of the Whole Duty of Woman, I dare say you imagined the Thought expir'd in the Birth: first, that I believe your Lordship does not conceive me capable of such a Task of such Solidity and good Judgement, and lastly that my own Actions have been conducted with so little Wisdom and Discretion that it is hardly possible to imagine that she, who has judged so ill for herself, can have any conception of what the Duty of a Woman really is, or ought to be." While Muilman admits to her past choices, allowing the reader to place some blame upon her, she does not seek forgiveness. Rather, she embraces a position of "a female rake" whose "libertinism is marked by a double transgression of gender as well as class" and who can defend socially vulnerable women because she no longer is one (Wilson). Thus, in calling out her own actions she also calls to task the men who do the same; she asks why they should not be condemned or punished alike, if their actions violate the same rules. "I think, in Honour and Justice, there should be some lesser Punishment [for seduction] than that of eternal Infamy, affix'd to a Crime in Which men are the principal Aiders and Abetters, or else that Crime should be equally odious in both: for at present, the Thief is exempted from Punishment, and it is only the Party despoiled who suffers."

ESTC N2340. ESTC N564.
(Item #4626)

Price: $3,250