The Orange-Girl at Foote's to Sally Harris: or, The Town to the Country Pomona. An Heroic Epistle

London: S. Bladon in Pater Noster Row, 1773.

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An orange-girl peddling her body at the theater has some advice for the rising courtesan Sally Harris

(Item #6090) The Orange-Girl at Foote's to Sally Harris: or, The Town to the Country Pomona. An Heroic Epistle. Sex Work, Anonymous.

The Orange-Girl at Foote's to Sally Harris: or, The Town to the Country Pomona. An Heroic Epistle

London: S. Bladon in Pater Noster Row, 1773. First edition. Second issue bearing "A New Edition," and a reprint from the standing type. Disbound, measuring 260 x 200mm and without the half title, else collating complete: [2], 11, [1, blank]. A Near Fine example, with a bit of foxing to title and final leaf; pinhole to center of title, marginal stab holes to first leaf and final leaf, and small paper flaw to header of pages 3-4 (none affecting text). A scarce satirical work about the scandalous affair between famed courtesan Sally Harris and Thomas Lyttelton, the libertine son of politician George, Lord Lyttelton, we have been unable to access ESTC for a more accurate sense of institutional holdings; but OCLC locates fewer than 20 copies of any edition, and Jisc Library Hub clarifies that all but 8 UK holdings are digital. The only copy on the market, it has only once appeared at auction (in 1933, in a large lot).

Once a waitress at the inn at Hockerell (now Bishops Strotford), Sally Harris was during this period rising in position among the London "prostitutes who clubbed together to share carriages and clothes, build community, and support each other" in a mysoginistic world where sex work could provide autonomy and financial independence (Rubenhold). Having gained the mentorship of the beautiful but temperamental Lucy Cooper, she became more publicly visible -- "an Acquisition to [Venus'] blooming train" -- in what this piece describes as "this gay town, where wanton Venus reigns." While success in the sex trade could certainly lead to a glamorous life, it was not without its risks. And both of these facts are acknowledged in The Orange-Girl, which depicts an older, less successful sex worker (an orange-girl at the theater) advising the younger courtesan Harris to exert caution in her decisions, to exercise cold calculation, and, to maintain independence, and to avoid the dangers of romantic entanglement. "Welcome, dear Sister, welcome. I alone Of all the Girls in this gay, vicious Town, Thy Youth, thy Bloom, thy Charms unmov'd can see...My Muse experienc'd shall direct thy Ways, Thro' this enchanted Town's perplexing Maze; Teach thee (too well it knows) to shun each Snare, Laid for the young, the innocent, and fair."

The first advice the Orange-Girl provides is that Harris proceed with caution in her relations to Thomas Lyttelton and men like him. "Whim and caprice, thy erring Heart betray'd: In Lyttelton what didst thou hope to find? His body worn with Lust, with Vice his mind. Say, cou'd his languid, enervate Frame, Wither'd and dry, appease thy potent Flame? Thou, who so oft had view'd both bad and good, Love's Weapons better shou'd have understood." These men are temporary fixtures always in rotation; either they lose interest, lose vigor, or lose money. One should never have a courtesan's emotional loyalty.

Having learned this lesson, Harris is then warned for the remainder to be wary of the women around her; for they too, she says, want to take for their own profit. "Let not a [Charlotte] Hayes, or [Mary] Collins, with curst Art, Tempt thee with Health and Liberty to part...light are [a slave's] Woes, compar'd With the poor Girl's by some old Bawd ensnar'd: Her blooming Charms, her youthful Hours, are doom'd To be by Anguish and Disease consum'd." Whether working in the service of a lower class bawd in a brothel, or even under the tutelage of famed courtesans like Charlotte Hayes, Mary Collins or, though unnamed here, Lucy Cooper, Harris would lose her independence, her control over her client list, her time, and her finances. Freedom in this world is crucial. "Prostitution was the only way in the 18th century a woman born into poverty could scale the heights and potentially even marry a man of title. Selling their bodies was one of the only means by which they could achieve some control over their lives and, in many cases, was a far better option than marrying a man of her own social class and passing their days in poverty and endless childbirth. If successful, a prostitute could choose her own lovers and make her own life decisions. But there was a high rate of failure too" (Rubenhold). Greedy bawds could entrap their workers in usurious schemes related to room, board, and clothing, forcing their girls into sexual slavery for unpayable debts. Though more successful courtesans provided a softer, more supportive life to many of the girls under their wings, their best retirements as they aged often came from running successful houses designed for their own profit.

Ultimately, the Orange-Girl hopes Harris will "detest this worthless Tribe," though it's clear she won't. And it is notable that one year later, another poem featuring Harris would depict her, again, getting advice from a more experienced sex worker. Themes of this piece are echoed there as well, as the ghost of Lucy Cooper urges Harris' caution in dealing with all men, but several specific, real-life clients as well, who are known for their cruelty. Like the Orange-Girl, she warns Harris against allowing other women to seize her autonomy as well -- including the infamous Charlotte Hayes (who ran the brothel competing with Cooper's).

ESTC T172418.
(Item #6090)

Price: $3,500 save 20% $2,800

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The Orange-Girl at Foote's to Sally Harris: or, The Town to the Country Pomona. An Heroic Epistle
The Orange-Girl at Foote's to Sally Harris: or, The Town to the Country Pomona. An Heroic Epistle
The Orange-Girl at Foote's to Sally Harris: or, The Town to the Country Pomona. An Heroic Epistle
The Orange-Girl at Foote's to Sally Harris: or, The Town to the Country Pomona. An Heroic Epistle
The Orange-Girl at Foote's to Sally Harris: or, The Town to the Country Pomona. An Heroic Epistle

My Muse experienc'd shall direct thy Ways, Thro' this enchanted Town's perplexing Maze; Teach thee (too well it knows) to shun each Snare, Laid for the young, the innocent, and fair."