Thursday 10 September 2015

'London Brothels'


In our writings under this head, we wish it to be clearly understood that we are not the advocates of vice and profligacy. Our sketches are intended to serve a great moral purpose; and we shall endeavour to say nothing to offend the most fastidious.
    It has been calculated by the society for the prevention of juvenile prostitution, that, exclusive of the city, there are 1500 brothels in the metropolis, and we may presume this census only includes the houses of a public description, and principally in low neighbourhoods. The objects of this association, at once recommend themselves to the consideration of the humane and benevolent. As good wine needs no bush, so the cause of real philanthropy needs little comment at the hands of a public writer. It is not liekly that we should find amongst the 1500 houses many of the private aristocratical nunneries with which the west end abounds. In the most stylish streets where, from appearances, you would imagine, that none but the patrician hosts hold sway, we find, emblazoned in the Court Guide, the names and residences of the common prostitutes of ton. Jermyn-street, Cleveland-row, Bury-street, St. James’s Place, Piccadilly, Regent-street, and other streets in St. James’s may be mentioned as places where they are located. Again, in the fashionable purlieus of Portman-square, the ‘birds of paradise’ nestle in flocks, supported in splendour and luxury, in open defiance of popular prejudice and parochial interference. Somerset-street, Hereford-street, Connaught-terrace, Seymour-street, Berkeley-street, are all alike favoured in the season by the visits of the ‘terrestrial feathered race.’ That they are birds of passage is evident from the fact of their migrating with the rest of the elite of town, either to watering places or inland cities of amusement, as soon as the west-end of London assumes a dull appearance. In York-street, Baker-street, we find a brothel kept positively, for the sole accommodation of a noble duke, and he far advanced in years. Of this house, and some others, we shall treat more fully, under the head of Sketches of Courtezans in the future numbers of The Town. We shall, goodnaturedly, set forth the pecadilloes of his grace, and his fair hair’d inamorato; for we quarrel not with gallantry, and war not with the fair, however frail they may be. Still we can safely promise our readers much amusement at the expensive of his graceless grace.
    Lord Viscount Gage lately presided at a meeting of the society we have alluded to. His lordship concluded by stating that they had met to oppose the great Moloch which has impressed the foulest blot on a civilized community; the abandonment of thousands upon thousands of poor innocent female children to hopeless infamy and vice. We know not if the noble duke, so creditably mentioned, has enrolled his name amongst the list of subscribers to this laudable institution; perhaps his grace thinks it better to have a interview with the poor deluded creatures, and in private bestow that charity and advice, which would appear like ostentation to offer in public.
    The private brothels of the aristocracy seldom contain more than three women; the lady of the house, or lady abbess, generally occupies the parlours; Lord Squander keeps a lady on the first floor; and the second is rented by a damsel of doubtfl age, possessing the relics of great personal attraction, who piques herself upon her small ancle, &c., and whose friend does the mysterious, calls himself Mr. James, and is designated by his mistress as “my city man”. The soubriquet of “city man” is sometimes, however, changed for “my strawberry friend;” for, if the gentleman happens to have a penchant for that fruit, or any other, he gets baptized accordingly. In like manner, if he has ever, in the plenitude of his liberality, purchased half a dozen pair of silk stockings, for a new year’s gift for the lady, he immediately becomes “my stocking man;” so he is named according to his deeds or predilections.
    We do not mean to assert that these ladies, living thus privately, are constant to their respective protectors; it is the nature of women to this class to be faithless. The lady abbess in the parlours has got a good friend who pays her rent; the receipts of her house are not inconsiderable, considering it all let; still there are rumours than an old gentleman in black, with short inexpressibles, wearing powder and a pig-tail, is occasionally seen knocking at the door; and the big, broad-shouldered fellow from the barracks, who enters the house by the area steps, it is faintly conjectured, is not old Sarah the cook’s ‘cousin’; in fact, the boy that cleans the knives and shoes, upon one occasion, made a communication to Lord Squander’s lady, about the mysterious appearance of a pair of trooper’s boots, that occasionally obtruded themselves upon his notice to be cleaned; that he could not find the master for them, unless, as was faintly conjectured by the boy, he “vos in missus’s bed-room”. Lord Squander’s lady is sometimes seen riding out, in the cab of Lord Squander’s friend; and the top-sawyer  in the second floor, once a week regularly dresses herlsef as a respectable scullion, and is watched to an introducing-house kept by old Madame Somebody, in some street near to such a square.

The Town, June 10 1837

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