The Midnight Spy, or, A View of the Transactions of London and Westminster, From the Hours of Ten in the Evening, till Five in the Morning; Exhibiting a great Variety of Scenes of High and Low Life, with Characters of some Well Known Nocturnal Adventurers of both Sexes...With General and Particular Descriptions of some of the Women of the Town

London: Printed for J. Cooke at the Shakespear's Head, 1766.

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A "reformed rake" provides readers with a guidebook on enjoying London's bagnios and brothels

(Item #5971) The Midnight Spy, or, A View of the Transactions of London and Westminster, From the Hours of Ten in the Evening, till Five in the Morning; Exhibiting a great Variety of Scenes of High and Low Life, with Characters of some Well Known Nocturnal Adventurers of both Sexes...With General and Particular Descriptions of some of the Women of the Town. Early Erotic Literature, Anonymous, Erotic Tourism, History of the Sex Trade.

The Midnight Spy, or, A View of the Transactions of London and Westminster, From the Hours of Ten in the Evening, till Five in the Morning; Exhibiting a great Variety of Scenes of High and Low Life, with Characters of some Well Known Nocturnal Adventurers of both Sexes...With General and Particular Descriptions of some of the Women of the Town

London: Printed for J. Cooke at the Shakespear's Head, 1766. First edition. Contemporary full calf with gilt and morocco to spine. All edges gilt. Marbled endpapers. Measuring 165 x 100mm and collating complete including half-title, frontis and adverts: [4], 5-151, [5]. A lovely copy with faint offsetting to front board and some tenderness to joints; armorial bookplate of Asa French to front pastedown below a 1928 bookseller description. Internally fresh with occasional minimal foxing to margins. In the absence of ESTC, we have consulted OCLC and located 9 physical first edition copies (with only five of these being in the US). Of its six appearances at auction (in 1929, 1931, 1934, 1935, 1962 and 2021) the majority were rebound; and the present is the only example currently on the market.

A "descriptive view of mankind under the prevalence of vice and folly," The Midnight Spy was purportedly written by a "reformed rake...a penitent debauchee." Despite claiming his "blushes to acknowledge his having been present at many of the scenes hereafter mentioned, as well as being conversant with many of the characters hereafter displayed," he uses his alleged first-hand knowledge of London's sinful spaces to titillate his readers. These people and their actions are, in fact, real and discoverable if only one follows his guidebook.

What follows is both an erotic tourism guide to London as well as an erotic novel of sorts -- for the reader is either welcome to physically pursue the same spaces and characters or to simply imagine doing so through the characters of Agrestis and Urbanus. These two friends respectively represent the landed gentry exploring London for the first time and the upwardly mobile London tradesman familiar with its back alleys and their ways. Together, across a night, they visit the low end and high end entertainments of London to indulge their appetites. This progress begins in the taverns and coffee houses where men exchange ideas and women casually exchange sexual favors for money under the table. From here, they wander towards the theatres as performances end and patrons make their way towards the bagnios and brothels. Interested in a higher quality experience to satisfy Agrestis, the companions move toward Covent Garden in search of "neither maid, wife, nor widow but a woman who tho' extremely beautiful, was yet a mercenary strumpet." Here, along with Agrestis, we meet pseudonymous representations of the true London demi-monde community. Characters such as "Charlotte Welldon" (likely representing Charlotte Hayes), "Sally Ploughman" (likely Sally Harris), and "Lucy Lofty" (likely Lucy Cooper) either welcome or reject the gentlemen, who revel in gossiping about the ladies' backstories and falls from innocence as well as finding space for masculine moralizing as they speculate about the poor ends these beauties will likely find.

The Midnight Spy ultimately crosses genres in ways that also make it an important history, presenting the stories of London's sex trade from its lowest levels to its top.

Not in the Register of Erotic Books.
(Item #5971)

Price: $6,500 save 20% $5,200

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The Midnight Spy, or, A View of the Transactions of London and Westminster, From the Hours of Ten in the Evening, till Five in the Morning; Exhibiting a great Variety of Scenes of High and Low Life, with Characters of some Well Known Nocturnal Adventurers of both Sexes...With General and Particular Descriptions of some of the Women of the Town
The Midnight Spy, or, A View of the Transactions of London and Westminster, From the Hours of Ten in the Evening, till Five in the Morning; Exhibiting a great Variety of Scenes of High and Low Life, with Characters of some Well Known Nocturnal Adventurers of both Sexes...With General and Particular Descriptions of some of the Women of the Town
The Midnight Spy, or, A View of the Transactions of London and Westminster, From the Hours of Ten in the Evening, till Five in the Morning; Exhibiting a great Variety of Scenes of High and Low Life, with Characters of some Well Known Nocturnal Adventurers of both Sexes...With General and Particular Descriptions of some of the Women of the Town
The Midnight Spy, or, A View of the Transactions of London and Westminster, From the Hours of Ten in the Evening, till Five in the Morning; Exhibiting a great Variety of Scenes of High and Low Life, with Characters of some Well Known Nocturnal Adventurers of both Sexes...With General and Particular Descriptions of some of the Women of the Town
The Midnight Spy, or, A View of the Transactions of London and Westminster, From the Hours of Ten in the Evening, till Five in the Morning; Exhibiting a great Variety of Scenes of High and Low Life, with Characters of some Well Known Nocturnal Adventurers of both Sexes...With General and Particular Descriptions of some of the Women of the Town
The Midnight Spy, or, A View of the Transactions of London and Westminster, From the Hours of Ten in the Evening, till Five in the Morning; Exhibiting a great Variety of Scenes of High and Low Life, with Characters of some Well Known Nocturnal Adventurers of both Sexes...With General and Particular Descriptions of some of the Women of the Town
The Midnight Spy, or, A View of the Transactions of London and Westminster, From the Hours of Ten in the Evening, till Five in the Morning; Exhibiting a great Variety of Scenes of High and Low Life, with Characters of some Well Known Nocturnal Adventurers of both Sexes...With General and Particular Descriptions of some of the Women of the Town