[London]: A. Moore near St. Paul's, 1759. First edition. Bound in modern marbled wrappers with label to front. Measuring 195 x 155mm and collating complete: 15, [1, blank]. A surprisingly fresh and unmarked copy of this satirical piece centered on courtesan Kitty Fisher, who was beginning her career rise to fame. Scarce institutionally and in trade, ESTC reports only 8 copies in libraries. In the last 90 years it has appeared only once at auction, with this being the only example on the market.
Kitty Fisher would eventually rise to become one of "the most celebrated women" in her field, ranking in Harris' List of Covent Garden Ladies alongside "Covent Garden Characters and Reigning Celebrities." The premier 18th century guide to London's sex trade, Harris' List offered readers the names, biographies, locations, prices, and specialties of the city's most infamous sex workers. For women hoping to maintain clientele, being included was of importance. For potential patrons, it was a source for practical information as well as the foundation of a range of pornographic fantasies. In the guide's pages, sex workers "become so many things" and "the women described seem at times to undergo all of Ovid's Metamorphoses. Men, too, are transformed, though chiefly by implication" (Denlinger).
Kitty Fisher's entry stands out among the others, in a way that would inspire literary and social fascination that boosted her career. For instead of including her biography and expertise, the publisher prints a letter allegedly from the lady herself, bribing him to withhold her personal details. This elision puts Kitty Fisher in a position of power on a practical level; she neither commits to nor denies any boudoir activity, and those who seek her services gain an equal level of discretion. On a fantasy level, it also makes her a blank screen onto which readers can cast their own desires.
Several poems and satires would be released about Kitty Fisher in her lifetime; and the present is an example from fairly early in her career. The title itself is a masterful encapsulation of how Kitty has accomplished her clients' metamorphoses: like an Ovidian deity, she has transformed "Nobelmen" who visit her stream into "Fisher-men," that is, men of her own garter or order. This theme follows in the larger satire, which grapples with how such a woman has generated so much power for herself. Within the poem, Kitty's allure is so extreme that she becomes a rival to Britannia, shifting the loyalties of patriots. "Where are her Patriots, learn'd and great, That should adorn Britannia's State? Are all her Friends, that well shou'd wish her, Now turn'd the Dupes of K--y F--r?" In abandoning Britannia, the noblemen also shed their genteel identities and class loyalty. Those "who shun Bellona's dire Alarms, To revel in a Harlot's Arms, Or from the British Senate fly, T' indulge in foolish Lechery...Give for One Night's Lodging more Than would maintain an Hundred Poor." Ultimately, the satirist puts very little emphasis on the sexual acts that Kitty Fisher performs; rather, concern rests on the high price she commands, and the reputation she has built to justify it. "Is She alone the finest Whore Among, at least, an Hundred Score? Are there not fairer on the Town What walk the Streets, and take a Crown?...Look to her Breeding, and you'll see, Of Common Whores, as good as she." Yet Kitty Fisher has established her value socially and economically even at this early stage -- and has convinced London of it as well.
Register of Erotic Books 1863, 2410, 3900. ESTC T124876. (Item #4762)