London: Printed for A. Moore, 1728. First edition. Stitched at spine, measuring 205 x 125mm and collating complete in 32 pages. Some chipping and wear along the fore-edge with small archival reinforcements to the lower corner of title and lower edge of leaf D2; minor staining to the upper corners near the gutters of pages 16-25 and to the final leaf with all text remaining legible. Else internally clean. An exceptionally scarce satire about London's widespread sex trade, it bears the "false and misleading imprint" of A. Moore, identified in Treadwell as being used to protect the printers of licentious materials. ESTC reports only 5 surviving copies, its only appearances in the modern auction record occurred in 1937 and 1941. The present is the only example on the market.
A satire on London's rampant and diverse sex trade, the present work is dedicated to Count John James Heidegger (1659-1749), who served as Master of the Revels to George II in addition to running the Royal Opera House in the Haymarket. Giving Heidegger the honorific "Mother" used by the bawds of brothels before the more formal "Madam" became fashionable, the satirist acknowledges Heidegger's reputation "as the principal promoter of vice and immorality in the metropolis" (A Henry Fielding Companion). Certainly the most visible sex workers of the day were the courtesans who lived near and often even worked in the theatres; yet their public operations were more an exception than a rule. "Although London police reports recorded there to be approximately 8,600 prostitutes known to them, it has been suggested that the true number prostituting during this time was closer to 80,000" (Rogers). Sex work took on a variety of forms as well, making it difficult to document. For while some sex work was conducted more formally under the direction of a procurer or house madam, most was performed occasionally to supplement income or provide income during off-seasons by young women working in service, farming, or trade, by widows, or by wives.
This latter group is recognized and satirized in the present pamphlet, in which a Jealous Man and a Cuckold debate the advantages of having a wife who can satisfy her urges outside the marriage while funneling funds into it. This position is not entirely clear at the outset. The Cuckold initially outlines that a man is not implicated in the sins of his wife's indiscretions and needn't be ashamed when a woman conducts herself with the same sexual freedom as a man. In a seemingly proto-feminist mode, the Cuckold discusses the damage done to women by patriarchal systems of marriage based in economics rather than attraction or love; and he points to how a woman's misery may be passed on to her husband or children if she doesn't have a means of satisfaction. But ultimately, the Cuckold gets to his point on sex work -- using an expansive definition through which women and their husbands can profit. "Cuckoldom is the preservation of riches. A Woman that has Beauty and Wit is a great Stay to a Family...Beauty has redeem'd mortgaged Lands, cancell'd Bonds, retriev'd attach'd Goods our of the Jaws of devouring Officers. Will your Landlord seize your Estate, let him but take your wife aside, they'll rest safe enough, for certainly the best Moveable of a House is a handsome Wife." Here, the initial signs of feminist sympathy dissipate and it becomes clear that the argument no longer rests on a woman's right to sexual autonomy and satisfaction; instead, the husband and his interests are re-centered, with his wife pushed back into the place of his commodity. A reminder, in many ways, that while some members of the sex trade were empowered, many of those with untold stories were likely not.
Register of Erotic Books 475. ESTC N188. (Item #5058)