The Character of a Town Miss

London: [printed for Charles Hindley], [1873].

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A limited print run of six copies on yellow paper, making a scarce seventeenth century pamphlet available to nineteenth century bibliophiles

(Item #6127) The Character of a Town Miss. Sex Work, Anonymous.

The Character of a Town Miss

London: [printed for Charles Hindley], [1873]. First thus. Original quarter cloth over printed card. Measuring 213 x 143mm and complete in 8 pages. A Near Fine example, with a touch of soiling and offsetting to card wraps; rear endpaper torn with minor loss, with remnant adhering to excess publisher's glue on the rear pastedown. Antiquarian Charles Hindley's first separate facsimile publication of the pamphlet originally published in 1680 by Rowland Reynolds, this being one of six copies on this yellow paper. First separate issue from his 1871-1873 set in 3 volumes titled Miscellanea Antiqua Anglicana: The Old Book Collector's Miscellany which drew together sixteenth and seventeenth century works in history, literature, and biography. Scarce across the board, OCLC reports 15 copies of the 1680 first edition and 5 copies of the present reprint; no copies of either appear in the modern auction record or in trade.

A late seventeenth century satire on the rising fame and wealth of courtesans in London, The Character of a Town Miss opens with a hard distinction among the classes of sex workers. "Miss is a Name, which the civility of this age bestows on one that our unmannerly ancestors call'd Whore or Strumpet," the pamphlet begins. With humor, it acknowledges that the best of this class, however, perform a social service that keeps the world in balance. "A certain Help-Meet for a Gentleman, instead of a Wife; serving either for the prevention of the Sin of Marrying, or else...to render the Yoke of Matrimony more easy." In a system that required men and women to marry for economic purposes rather than affection, engaging with sex workers allowed men to select paid companions who not only fulfilled sexual desires but also conversational and intellectual ones. Thus, women of this rank deserved a different title, "an honest Courtezan...and differs from your ordinary Prostitute...one perhaps has an hundred Customers, t'other but Two or Three...indeed may well she thrive." In what follows, the anonymous author describes such a woman's habits -- from the places she frequents, to her mode of travel, to her companions, clothing, and methods of flirtation. Fluctuating from critical to appreciative and back, the satire acknowledges the foolishness of a world that requires and sustains such a profession; but it also recognizes the limited choices of these women, and the short-lived careers they might face.
(Item #6127)

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"Miss is a Name, which the civility of this age bestows on one that our unmannerly ancestors call'd Whore or Strumpet."