Friday, October 8, 2010

Prostitute Cooties

For many years prostitution and the English theater went together like peanut butter and jelly.  Actresses and whores were considered to be one and the same and prostitutes would line up in the theaters like our modern-day mollies line the boulevards.  However when celebrity skank*, Mary "Perdita" Robinson decided to get her own box seat at the theater it ruffled the feathers of a certain gentleman who decided to attack her publicly and anonymously through the Morning Post.  What an ungentleman-like manner. 
I know no rank of prostitution that can either lessen the crime or disgrace it; and, however profligate the age may be, I believe that the greatest libertine of our sex would revolt at the idea of handing a wife, sister, or daughter, in to a box where they were certain of being surrounded by public prostitutes. 

The managers owe it to the public, they owe it to themselves, to preserve the side-boxes for the modest and reputable part of the other sex; or at least, it is their duty to refuse them to actresses, swindlers, wantons in high keeping, who have the presumption to ask for them

Based on what we know of the London residents who patronized the theater, and box seats, I have a feeling if the managers enacted this request the playhouses would be quite empty!

*which was the general consensus by the public at the time due to her public affair with the Prince of Wales as well as having her name attached to numerous other affluent men.


  1. It seems like the celebrity of the "skank" in question was the real cause of offense. Perhaps anonymity was the key for prostitutes seeking such diversions? Then again, as the theater was as much about gossip as the show, Perdita's first appearance in the box must have been a very exciting evening, and complaints such as this one probably fueled polite society's desire to see and condemn her. If I were the theater manager, I think I would have laughed at the gentleman's request for exclusivity. What a bad business decision that would be!

  2. And furthermore -- who keeps the prostitutes, high and low, in business??? Perhaps the gentleman in question was afraid he would be recognized . . . Katherine Louise

  3. Well, that's just hypocritical and prejudiced. If the guys hadn't exchanged cash for sex with women *and* let women have proper careers to support themselves, then there wouldn't have been prostitution.

  4. After reading this I ordered the bio of Perdita AND Burney's Camilla. I can hardly wait for them to arrive. Reading Cecilia now, which is just wonderful. Thanks for the inspiration! Katherine Louise

  5. @Alexa, He would be out of business!

    @KL, That's exactly what I thought when I read it!! I'm reading Evelina right now which I just enjoy every bit of so I think Camilla will be next on my list.

    @Tulip, I can't imagine this anonymous man not supporting prostitutes at some point in his life.

  6. KL, I just noticed Camilla is almost 1000 pages long! I didn't realize it was so lengthy!

    I think my copy will have to be in original volumes form!

  7. And the pages in my edition are BIG. I've been reading for days and am only in the upper 200s. But I love Cecilia, both book and character. She's smart, generous, clever, and reads books. But the people around her are dreadful -- the Harrells, Mr Monckton (so smart, but so manipulative), Sir Robert. I like young Delvile -- I hope Burney gives her a happy ending and doesn't let her down. Katherine Louise

  8. Mary Robinson is fantastic! A great poet and amazing woman. Unfortunately, her scandalous past tends to overshadow her acting and literary talents. I have Burney's _Evelina_ & _Cecilia_in oxford editions--hopefully I can start them once _Ulysses_is out of the way. I am enjoying your blog!!

  9. So happy you're enjoying! Evelina is wonderful, you must begin that one soon!

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