Harris’s List (of Covent Garden Ladies) – ed. Hallie Rubenhold

Now I am not sure whether readers of this blog know or not, but I have a degree in history and absolutely love learning about the past. It is sometimes far more interesting than the present or even in fact dictates what happens in the present. So when this book dropped through my letterbox recently, I was intrigued. I had not been sent such a book before and certainly not been sent a book about prostitutes before! Can I just add here, that this book does not dictate anything of my life that is happening in the present.

But what I have found as I have dipped in and out of this book, is a pure delight. Not just the fact that in the Eighteenth Century it was considered okay to publish such a book. Oh imagine the outcry now if such a book was printed. The language is a dream, and when reading it with Twenty First Century eyes, knowledge and vocabulary it I think has more than one meaning. Allow me to share the odd little snippet:

A knowing one, lives in the first floor…if she returns you a favourable glance, she will immediately conduct you in a very complaisant manner to a convenient sofa, and suffer you there to take a view of her have of delight…in return she likewise expects a view of nature’s gifts from you, which if she thinks clean and properly adopted, she will unload for two pounds two.

She lives elegant, and is a great economist, is tall and genteel, about twenty-four years of age, rather dark complexion, a little pitted with the small  pox, her price is one pound one, but will not refuse half a guinea.

And so this list of ladies goes on and their prices are given, the complexions and age commented on and it seems that having a good set of teeth is a must when choosing. Don’t worry if your request may be of the little perverse, there are some of those ladies mentioned to!    It is all in the description and the language, the odd little drawing or sketch that appears in the book makes this a rather naughty little read. Forget 50 Shades of Grey this is the book to read this year.

This is the ideal book for those who perhaps have spent the last few years receiving saucy calendars, for Christmas. This could give them a good education!

From the Press Release :

HARRIS’S LIST OF COVENT GARDEN LADIES was a bestseller in the Eighteenth Century, shifting 250,000 copies in an age before mass consumerism. A ‘guide book’ published annually at Christmas, it detailed the names, attributes and ‘specialties’ of the capital’s prostitutes. During its heyday (1759 -95) HARRIS’S LIST was the essential accessory for any serious gentleman of pleasure.

 Hallie Rubenhold has collected the funniest, rudest and most bizarre entries penned by Jack Harris, Pimp-General-of-all-England, into this fascinating and mischievous collection.

This book was published in hardback by Doubleday on 8 November 2012, priced £10.

Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy.