Monday, October 8, 1711.
‘Servitus crescit nova …’
Since I made some Reflections upon the general Negligence used in the Case of Regard towards Women, or, in other Words, since I talked of Wenching, I have had Epistles upon that Subject, which I shall, for the present Entertainment, insert as they lye before me.
‘As your Speculations are not confined to any Part of Humane Life, but concern the Wicked as well as the Good, I must desire your favourable Acceptance of what I, a poor stroling Girl about Town, have to say to you. I was told by a Roman Catholic Gentleman who picked me up last Week, and who, I hope, is absolved for what passed between us; I say I was told by such a Person, who endeavoured to convert me to his own Religion, that in Countries where Popery prevails, besides the Advantage of licensed Stews, there are large Endowments given for the Incurabili, I think he called them, such as are past all Remedy, and are allowed such Maintenance and Support as to keep them without further Care till they expire. This manner of treating poor Sinners has, methinks, great Humanity in it; and as you are a Person who pretend to carry your Reflections upon all Subjects, whatever occur to you, with Candour, and act above the Sense of what Misinterpretation you may meet with, I beg the Favour of you to lay before all the World the unhappy Condition of us poor Vagrants, who are really in a Way of Labour instead of Idleness. There are Crowds of us whose Manner of Livelihood has long ceased to be pleasing to us; and who would willingly lead a new Life, if the Rigour of the Virtuous did not for ever expel us from coming into the World again. As it now happens, to the eternal Infamy of the Male Sex, Falshood among you is not reproachful, but Credulity in Women is infamous.
Give me Leave, Sir, to give you my History. You are to know that I am a Daughter of a Man of a good Reputation, Tenant to a Man of Quality. The Heir of this great House took it in his Head to cast a favourable Eye upon me, and succeeded. I do not pretend to say he promised me Marriage: I was not a Creature silly enough to be taken by so foolish a Story: But he ran away with me up to this Town; and introduced me to a grave Matron, with whom I boarded for a Day or two with great Gravity, and was not a little pleased with the Change of my Condition, from that of a Country Life to the finest Company, as I believed, in the whole World. My humble Servant made me to understand that I should be always kept in the plentiful Condition I then enjoyed; when after a very great Fondness towards me, he one Day took his Leave of me for four or five Days. In the Evening of the same Day my good Landlady came to me, and observing me very pensive began to comfort me, and with a Smile told me I must see the World. When I was deaf to all she could say to divert me, she began to tell me with a very frank Air that I must be treated as I ought, and not take these squeamish Humours upon me, for my Friend had left me to the Town; and, as their Phrase is, she expected I would see Company, or I must be treated like what I had brought my self to. This put me into a Fit of Crying: And I immediately, in a true Sense of my Condition, threw myself on the Floor, deploring my Fate, calling upon all that was good and sacred to succour me. While I was in all my Agony, I observed a decrepid old Fellow come into the Room, and looking with a Sense of Pleasure in his Face at all my Vehemence and Transport. In a Pause of my Distress I heard him say to the shameless old Woman who stood by me, She is certainly a new Face, or else she acts it rarely. With that the Gentlewoman, who was making her Market of me, in all the Turn of my Person, the Heaves of my Passion, and the suitable Changes of my Posture, took Occasion to commend my Neck, my Shape, my Eyes, my Limbs. All this was accompanied with such Speeches as you may have heard Horse-coursers make in the Sale of Nags, when they are warranted for their Soundness. You understand by this Time that I was left in a Brothel, and exposed to the next Bidder that could purchase me of my Patroness. This is so much the Work of Hell; the Pleasure in the Possession of us Wenches, abates in proportion to the Degrees we go beyond the Bounds of Innocence; and no Man is gratified, if there is nothing left for him to debauch. Well, Sir, my first Man, when I came upon the Town, was Sir Jeoffry Foible, who was extremely lavish to me of his Money, and took such a Fancy to me that he would have carried me off, if my Patroness would have taken any reasonable Terms for me: But as he was old, his Covetousness was his strongest Passion, and poor I was soon left exposed to be the common Refuse of all the Rakes and Debauchees in Town. I cannot tell whether you will do me Justice or no, till I see whether you print this or not; otherwise, as I now live with Sal, I could give you a very just Account of who and who is together in this Town. You perhaps won’t believe it; but I know of one who pretends to be a very good Protestant who lies with a Roman-Catholick: But more of this hereafter, as you please me. There do come to our House the greatest Politicians of the Age; and Sal is more shrewd than any Body thinks: No Body can believe that such wise Men could go to Bawdy-houses out of idle Purposes; I have heard them often talk of Augustus Caesar, who had Intrigues with the Wives of Senators, not out of Wantonness but Stratagem.
it is a thousand Pities you should be so severely virtuous as I fear you are; otherwise, after a Visit or two, you would soon understand that we Women of the Town are not such useless Correspondents as you may imagine: You have undoubtedly heard that it was a Courtesan who discovered Cataline’s Conspiracy. If you print this I’ll tell you more; and am in the mean time, SIR.
Your most humble Servant, REBECCA NETTLETOP.
‘I am an idle young Woman that would work for my Livelihood, but that I am kept in such a Manner as I cannot stir out. My Tyrant is an old jealous Fellow, who allows me nothing to appear in. I have but one Shooe and one Slipper; no Head-dress, and no upper Petticoat. As you set up for a Reformer, I desire you would take me out of this wicked Way, and keep me your self.
‘I am to complain to you of a Set of impertinent Coxcombs, who visit the Apartments of us Women of the Town, only, as they call it, to see the World. I must confess to you, this to Men of Delicacy might have an Effect to cure them; but as they are stupid, noisy and drunken Fellows, it tends only to make Vice in themselves, as they think, pleasant and humourous, and at the same Time nauseous in us. I shall, Sir, hereafter from Time to Time give you the Names of these Wretches who pretend to enter our Houses meerly as Spectators. These Men think it Wit to use us ill: Pray tell them, however worthy we are of such Treatment, it is unworthy them to be guilty of it towards us. Pray, Sir, take Notice of this, and pity the Oppressed: I wish we could add to it, the Innocent.