Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure:
The Scholarly Edition
Abi Frost


I sit down to give you an undeniable proof of my considering your desires as indispensible orders; ungracious then as the task may be, I shall recall to view those scandalous stages of my life, out of which I emerged at length, to the enjoyment of every blessing in the power of love, health, and fortune to bestow .... Truth! stark naked truth, is the word, and I will not so much as take the pains to bestow the strip of a gauze-wrapper on it, but paint situations such as they actually rose to me in nature, careless of violating those laws of decency, that were never made for such unreserved intimacies as ours; and you have too much knowledge of the originals themselves, to snuff prudishly and out of character at the pictures of them. Here, with the manifold compliments due to one of yr standing, some extracts from my journal for the month of May 1749. [All dates are of course Old Style -- ed]

Friday 15 May, morning and afternoon

Knocker-upper does it much too hard as usual; throw slops down on him then expel Dr Swift from bed & send him out to summon chair to take me to Mr C's of Camden Town. Mr C performs in usual Meta-Polydysanalytick manner & spurts in Cyprian enthusiasm, while his sweet Judith prepares smoaking infusions of finest Tay. Not guite exhausted, Mr C suggests a drive to Nott'm, to mix with the Quality at Mexicon. Drive whip-and-spurs up crowded Turnpike (changing horses at Watford Gap) and journey takes a mere 5 hours! Shame he shows not such alacrity in bedchamber.

Friday evening

Put up at Albany Inn; bedchamber simple but pleasant enough for uncivilized parts. Excursion to bar to enjoy Gay Society of wits and people of Fashion interrupted by encounter with Mr H. When petticoats back in proper position he thrusts (again! but into hand this time!) what seems to be seditious Whiggish tract. Spurn it as foul, bluestocking filth but he explains that it is, despite cover by Mr Bell of Gateshead, a deeply moral work, an encrypted message from my friend Mrs A T, such as I have many times received until such time as she did falsely suspect me under the Influence of Animal Magnetism & Galvanic Rays from Mr K of Folkestone. Accept with glozing smiles & apply My Lord Verulam's Great Cypher while descending many stairs to bar. Message reads "Mr Whiteoak of Highbury has just got the piles." Clearly 'tis doubly-encrypted, and will reguire such further labour as must be Fortified with much strong drink.

In bar encounter Mr J of Shoe Lane, & remind him sharply that I am owed a Severe Revenge for his lamentable failure to supply witty satire for fanzine. Or indeed anything at all for fanzine. "Why, sweet Madam, take your Revenge here & now, with the greatest pleasure!" he cries, pulling down his breeches and falling to floor. Do so. (Nota bene: cocktail sticks from bar more use than they look at first.)

While dealing with Mr J exchange glances with fascinating gentleman at bar, one Signor C of the Venetian Republic. But as Mr J spends his ecstatic flood -- to the Awe of the Assembled Wits -- am angered to note Sig. C has turned his Attentions to a brown-haired Drab never seen before. Distract self -- for she who waits oft wins -- by applying Anagramattick Method to message. "Lest Jupiter's oaf-kith hog groats, we hum by hi, H." Meaning Kabbalitick, so have another Glass of Enlightenment.

Meet Signor Michel-Angelo D, and his doxy Signora Greswambo, who, with Signor Ovest, are said to be of the sinister & powerful Leeds Mafia, & intimately connected with Mr K's Mind Rays of Folkestone. Rumoured that Siqnora Accwirto's sharp Stilettoes have dispatched more than a few dissidents, yet their evil power is as nought since they are but putty in the hands of the devilish Contessa Starki, supposed mistress of disreputable Cardinal Accli.

Glad to see my friend Mrs A, and invite her over to discuss Kabbalitick Meaning of message, strong young thighs of charming stranger Mr M'A, vile dereliction of Sig. C, &C. Suddenly notice brown-haired Drab sitting alone at table. Invite her to share a Glass & at once recognise her for my Dear Kitty, formerly Mrs H of Berkshire, sadly alter'd by Woeful Circumstance! Greet her as Lost Sheep, with many fond embraces & carefully avoid subject of Sig. C.

Suddenly my Dear Kitty, grown a Prude with Adversity, takes grave exception to our partiality for Mr M'A, and departs in direction of Mr T, a clergyman of Warwickshire, known for his abhorrence of Strong Drink. Tuff luck Kitty.

Saturday 16 May, morning

Summoned to salon by Mr P to expound upon Historickal works of Mr Bradbury. Easily outshine notorious Criticks, Authors, Drunkards who form rest of panel, including my own semioloqical Jehu Mr C. Spend several hours seeking Printing House to prepare rest of fanzine, foully done by foolish Mr H of Tottenham. Printers of Nott'm idle folk, who will take a Jew's Sabbath as well as a Christian, so finally call Mrs P to Seduce innkeeper into making Good Use of his own Equipment. Innkeeper very spotty. Sooner her than me.

Saturday afternoon

Convention rather boring, so ride hell-for-1eather to Litchfield, there to see old paramour Dr J, quondam of Pembroke Hall, whose pupil Mr G is somewhat cute (quare? Toy-boy?). His Interpretation of message most thought-provoking: "Mr W's jug keeps the fort, oh that guy Al is bohihi!", but still does not have true Ring of Authenticity. Probably not worth it but have to let old friend enjoy Excitement of his Amorous Propensities.

Back at Inn, watch my Rozalinda have at Mr J of Dundee. Mrs P says Innkeeper has Crumpled it all Up, & not made very good job of fanzine either.

Saturday evening

Dine on slops from bar, while Rozalinda entertains Mr J & her own Mr G to Chinaman's Banquet. (Get revenge later.) Continue to work upon message: "The Fiji soak Mr West's Lip, oh bug! he grotty Hauh!" Still not entirely sure of Significance. Smile fleetingly at Sig. C, who immediately turns toward my Dear Kitty. Fi upon it, shall Entrance him later at Ball, with Terpsichorean nets & garment subtly cut to display exquisite Fullness of bosom contrasted with delicate slender back. Shall make my dearest Kitty, in the sweet Flower of Charming Youth, look like fat old bag.

Mrs A comes to chamber while I dress for Ball; discourse upon Male Sex, in particular crimes marital & extra-marital of Mr E; then upon my Dear Kitty, and her strange partiality for the uncouth Mr T. Wonder if Mrs W will play Vengeful Juno to Kitty's Callisto. Could probably sell tickets in Covent-Garden market for that one. Agree that women require not foul men for our pleasure, and act upon this Excellent Principle for some time.

Back in bar, pointedly ignore Kitty & Sig. C; use all my charms & wiles instead on Mr J, whose Artful Pencil is the Cynosure of All. Ball, alas, a mere provincial rout, at which rough farmers perform low country-dances with inflatable fruits. Musicians drunk. Return to bar and briefly patronise Sig. C and Kitty; obtain from them number of bed-chamber in which select orgy is to take place. Called back to dance-floor by Mr H, Sigra. Greswambo & Contessa Starki. After a few Turns, decide to seek out Mrs P & tell idle baggage to put Fear of God into drunken musicians; to my horror, Sig. C and my sweet friend no-where to be seen!

Oh Lord, that I should have so Neglected my Duty for an Idle Frolick with dear Mr H! Should Sig. C, naive bumpkin from wild mountainous parts, succumb to the Cunning Wiles & Blandishments of my dear, sweet, child, he surely knows not -- but I do -- what Yawning Pit gapes beneath his frail Carcass! Must at once follow them to orgy & save him from Utter Destruction!!

Unable to enter orgy sans suppositious Partner in Lust, my eye falls on Mr L, Bookseller & member of infamous Hell-Dave Club, whose Wife is 6 foot tall. Ask him if he has, by chance, the Accomplishments of the Stage. "Madam," he cries, "For Acting, I'm your only man! I've Acted at Drury Lane, in Mr Gay's Beggar's Opera, & in other plays too tedious to recall! The Trumpet's loud Clangour commands us to War! Let us haste to the Orgy -- 'tis too late, 'tis too late, to Retreat!" Wonder (not for first time) what I ever saw in him.

Saturday night/Sunday morning

Though Mr L may have acted at Drury Lane in Beggar's Opera, his performance merely proves that Beggars can't be Choosers. Sig. C for one moment takes eyes from sweet Kitty in order to throw Sarcastic Glance in my direction, then hastily returns to the Lumpish Object of his Entire Attention. Mr L & I, acknowledging Honourable Defeat, leave orgy and return to bar. Sweet Kitty ought to be put in sack. If sack could be found big enough.

Leaving Mr L to his fellow-Conspirators in Daveism, who deserve him richly & he them, join my friend Mr R, the Scotch Political OEconomist & Chymical Enthusiast, in watching Mr P attempt the Virtue of a strange woman -- though not so strange as to succumb to the lust-flamed Mr P. Sit down and curse Actors, Booksellers, False Friends & envoys of Venetian Republic.

Suddenly spy at bar, my beloved Sig. C, safe and in deep conversation with the strong-thighed Mr M'A! Under cover of purchasing Orange Nectar for Mr R, insinuate self into their discourse and make bedchamber eyes at the Young Adonis. Young Adonis flees at once, leaving Sig. C to me as planned. "Sir," I begin my Affront, "Could I but raise a single eyebrow, I should do so."

"Madam," is his elegant retort, "You seemed to be doing well with your -- how you say in English -- toy-boy!"

"Sir," I return, "I never go to an Orgy with a man but in the view of business. I have other hours, and other sort of men," - directing my glance at Mr M'A, who cowers like a corner'd Vole at far end of bar -- "for my pleasure!" Thus routed, Sig. C turns crestfall'n towards lift and the strange mysteries of his bedchamber. Mr R returns to ask what Show he has just been the Sole & Pamper'd Audience to. Start to tell him but Mr P arrives, sits down with us & commences to curse strange women & Mr G. At length he falls asleep, and Mr R and I make our Escape in lift.

Invite Mr R to my chamber for warming Tot of Spiritous Liquor & pleasant gossip. "I shall be honoured, Madam," he says, "But nae funny business, mind!" As dawn breaks over dismal city of Nott'm he releases the Cytherean avalanche & leaves. If that's what he calls funny I'd hate to see the rag-mag of the London School of OEconomics, in Houqhton-Street.

Not yet ready for the healing Breath of Morpheus, I turn again to Mrs A.T's message. Of course! 'Tis to be deconstructed by the Etymological Method.!!! Mr -- indicates male Sex, thus Ideological Unsoundness; White is, according to Travellers, oriental colour of Mourning, thus death; Oak of course indicates the Antient Druids & their Secret Mysteries; of is a reference to my own dear Brother Oliver, an honest tradesman of Wandsworth in Surrey, & indicates that the Message is for me alone; High bespeaks Rottenness; Bury -- death again, thus the death of more than one; has is a typically ill-spelt reference to young Mr B of Bagshott-Heath; Just infers the Majesty of the Law, and in particular, our Scotch Portia Mrs E; got indicates Disease; the remains for now obscure; & Piles, the Key to the Entire Mystery, denotes the Foundations of the Venetian Republic, under which are believed to be Rats & persons of the Jewish Religion! While pondering what to make of it all, bell rings upon speaking apparatus. What happens next is far too tedious to recount.

Sunday 17 May, morning

Mr J as charming at Breakfast as he was last Night. Shame about the cheese. As he chatters of the affairs of Fleet-Street, I use my Toes and smile while concentrating on covert meaning of my dear friend's message. Plainly Sig. C is not what he seems, but a secret Initiate of the Leeds Mafiosi -- in Thrall to Mr K and to the devilish Contessa! He has Conspir'd with Sig. Ovest & with Young Mr B foully to murder our Sweet Scotch Portia, under pretence of examining her failures of Punctuation, and, under Thought-Direction of Mr K of Folkestone, is planning to break with Decent Society & cruelly torment Mr Whiteoak with Immense Weapon of Irony!!! And that is but the Half of It. What a Man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rozalinda, Sig. D, Mrs T of Harrow & her friend Mr M and I sharpen wits by doing "quiz" -- the latest rage -- on subject of Terrible Crimes. Sig. C is present, but, poor stupid foreigner, is unable to understand a word we say.

Sunday afternoon

Sweet Kitty seen at harmless play with her friends of the Bow Street Convention Runners. Sig. C has seen error of ways & suggests a friendly Drop by way of peace-offering. Accept, but once he has hurl'd his throbbing Bucketful upon the doorstep of Passion, retire -- fainting with Liquid Bliss -- to other bar. Learn later that he then seeks company of Sig. Ovest! Is witness to Mrs A.T's noble performance on the soft body of Mr B of Bagshott-Heath! Should not have let him out of sight for even fleeting moment)

Sunday evening

Head akes and belly performs country-dances. Manage to force down bar-slops while Sig. C devours delicacies from Exotic East with his friend Mr P----tt.

Decide to watch Mr P belabour entire convention in its absence with Enormous Stick. Usual sort of thing. Get bored so have fun in back row with dear Mr R. who blossoms forth in Snowy Fountains appropriate to his Native Land.

Later join with Dr G and charming young thing from Oxford University. Get totally rat's-arsed on lime juice.

Sunday night

Sig. C approaches and begs to recount Taedium of last night, when, of Pure Christian Charity, he renounced my myriad Charms, to hear Poor Kitty's endless tale of Woe, Adversity, & Crimes of Mr H, Mr T, & above all Mrs W. Now, having alas spent all his ill-gotten wealth on Exotic Delicacies, he begs a Tot of my Jamaica Rum to Stiffen his Virtuous Resolve. Rozalinda, who can smell a freebie at forty paces, joins us with pointedly empty glass. Discuss vileness of prose in the Tracts of Mr T & Mr G of Birmingham. Enter Mrs A.T! Who wishes to recount her vulgar triumph over the helpless Mr B! Rout her utterly with one curl of Patrician Lip. Sig. C & 1 go promenade in other bar.

Sig. C is distracted by Mr B of Exeter. so I join my sweet playmates, the Fraternity of Poulterers, to the Unconcealed and Throbbing Delight of the Entire Assembly. Later encounter Mr T, & Mrs W, who refuses to budge from his bloated side. So tedious that I decide to retire.

Monday 18 May, morning

Mr C & horses champing at bit an hour before noon. One last brief, trembling, encounter with dear Sig. C then roar down Turnpike at exhilarating speed. Decide to spend rest of week asleep, since in Dreams are often revealed the solutions to mysteries which, waking, cannot be unscrambled.

Thursday 21 May, evening

Wake briefly & visit Wellington Tavern in dishabille. Mrs A.T present & much speaking of Foul Plots and Mr B of Bagshott-Heath. Sig. C. seemingly wishing to distract me, plies me with Exotic Delicacies and Enormous Weapon in nearby eating-house. Many Leeds Mafiosi present; also strange woman with bag of Worms. Realise this is in fact dream, probably of Vast Significance.

Tuesday 26 May, morning

Reading carrier brings ill-printed flyer announcing event which took place at weekend in Birmingham:

The Battle of the Giantesses:
Mrs WELLS to WRESTLE The former Mrs H of BERKSHIRE
To the Death
Tickets to be had of Mr Green, at the sign of the Critical Wave"

Decide to go back to sleep until next week's Reading carrier brings news of match result. Dream of naked Mr M'A swimming Grand Canal full of Jamaica Rum.

From Fanny Hill, at the sign of Lord Rochester's Head, 95 Wilmot St E2 OBP

Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure 2 (1989)