A Letter Humbly Address'd to the Right Honourable the Earl of Chesterfield (Signed First Edition)
London: Printed for the Author and sold at her House in White-Harte Street, 1750.
London: Printed for the Author and sold at her House in White-Harte Street, 1750. First edition. Modern drab wrappers, all edges speckled red. Bound with blank pages to rear. Measuring 175 x 100mm. Collating , 41, [1, blank]: bound without the half title, else complete. Signed on the final page of text by the author: "Your Lordship's most obed[ient] serv[ant]! T. Muilman." Internally fresh and unmarked, with pages closely trimmed; no loss to printed text, but minor loss to final letter of author's signature. One of three issues with unknown priority, the present first edition of A Letter Humbly Address'd conforms to ESTC T82111, including the dash in White-Harte and the author's signature to "prevent imposition" (Sloane Museum). All variants are scarce institutionally and in trade. 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 Muilman 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 she is not only an appetitive 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 T82111. (Item #4835)