Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture Copyright © 1996 Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture
All rights reserved.
ISSN 1070-8286

Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 4(3) (1996) 50-79


Antony E. Simpson
Professor, Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice


Professor, Ph.D. Program in Criminal Justice
Graduate School & University Center
The City University of New York


The development of the law relating to prostitution, and the patterns of its prosecution in 18th century England, are discussed in the context of how this activity was viewed in a modernizing society. Street prostitution was seen as posing a continual threat to public order in a place and time increasingly intolerant of rowdiness and excess. Against this, public and judicial attitudes toward the prostitute were informed by a great deal of sympathy, probably associated with a strong element of guilt. It is suggested that the relatively benign application of the criminal law to prostitution was largely influenced, not by reality, but by the sensational imagery used in popular fiction and the press to characterize the typical prostitute's career. Repression of streetwalking, when it eventually came, did not reflect a less sympathetic climate for the prostitute. It was rather a function of middle class concerns for crime and the quality of everyday life, perhaps supported by elitist worries about the social and political consequences of public immorality.

Ambiguity toward prostitution, and indeed toward sexual relations in general, is amply reflected in the popular literature of early modern England. On the one hand, it was perceived as necessary to alleviate male sexual tension and therefore as protective of respectable womanhood. On the other, its associations with disease, crime and public disorder, immorality, and the erosion of family life and religious belief made it appear threatening and a desired object of social control. Through the 18th century and beyond, these perceptions in varying degrees colored social [End page 50] attitudes and legal responses to prostitution.[1] Much of the early literature of this genre conveys information that is largely attitudinal, but serves to highlight generally confused attitudes toward prostitutes and their trade.[2]

Eighteenth century England was, of course, the birthplace of the modern novel, a form of literary endeavor which sought (sometimes consciously) to inform and influence public opinion as well as to reflect its substance. This influence was particularly focused on matters concerning gender and related issues of power and commerce. It occurred in a climate of increasing flexibility in the rules of moral conduct (Watt 1957; Eagleton 1983; Porter 1982). Scholars who have used the novel to address gender relations in this historical context suggest its portrayals of the prostitute's career and lifestyle to be generally inaccurate. However, they also suggest the novel's characterizations of underlying and conflicted attitudes toward prostitution, and toward female sexuality in general, to be more revealing.[3]

These and other sources certainly indicate that changes in attitudes toward various forms of vice occurred in England during this century. They perhaps reflected the emerging humanitarian concerns of a modernizing world, moderated by the civil needs of this same world. This is not to deny that England in this period continued to be influenced by the public morality of the religious revival begun in the late 17th century (Bristow 1977). Public pronouncements against vice and immorality were prolific. The substance of them combined religious belief with an apparent concern for the excesses of an undisciplined society. Its basis did, moreover, have a strong foundation in the social and political realities of the day. A society which was increasingly becoming urbanized,[4] yet had no effective system of order maintenance, relied heavily on moral suasion as a means of social control. Severe though the penal code was, there was very little in the way of a formal mechanism for its enforcement. Theatrical displays of the authority of the state served in its place. The spectacle of the gallows and the elaborate ritual of the assizes served as demonstrations of the power of the state and reminders of the enormity of the transgressions being punished.[5]

The lack of formal control systems is not, however, sufficient to explain the considerable focus on licentious conduct at this time. Causal relationships between immorality and excess, and between excess and crime, were fully accepted throughout the period. Expressions of such understanding frequently invoke a medical model of sin as contagion. Evil company is thought to congregate naturally and to feed off itself. Contact with it must be avoided. If it is not, then the vulnerable one "is taken captive by the Devil, and is bound in the chains of his own wickedness" (Woodward 1770, p. 9). In this view, sin is a disease and, like any other disease, [End page 51] can be acquired innocently. Once invested in the body, its hold on the individual tightens inexorably: "(I)f you habituate yourselves to ill company, you run on the mouth of a cannon. The leprosy of Sin is often spread by familiar conversation. And such as converse with people that are sick of the plague, will be in danger of dying of the same distemper" (Woodward 1770, p. 13). It is the presence in our midst of the sick, or the vicious, that makes us all vulnerable to infection.

Sexual restraint had an important role to play in all this, in part because calls for it could be couched in terms compelling to all. For example, over half of one very extensive survey of prostitution is devoted to a diatribe on the debilitating effects of sexual congress in general. This is presented in terms apparently calculated to sow fear and doubt in all who are sexually active, and not just in the licentious.[6]

A view of sexuality which is effectively guilt- inducing must recognize that the behavior being proscribed is inherently appealing. Such recognition was an important characteristic of the 18th century view of sex in general as seductive and corrupting. Proper appreciation of the chasm which awaits those who indulge in pleasures of the flesh can only be instilled in those who understand that the dangers risked are attractive as well as frightening. An awareness of this is evident in all the homilies stemming from advocates of the belief in vice as a source of moral contagion. People do not feel guilty about rejecting things they do not really hanker for in the first place. Recognition of attraction as an intrinsic part of danger pulls both the virtuous and the licentious into the same Foucauldian web of guilt. Josiah Woodward's invocation of the haunting Old Testament admonition that "The Mouth of strange Women is a deep Pit" echoed through the century and was cited often.[7] The imagery of the verse conveys all the attraction and apprehension people, and especially men, were led to feel about their sexual thoughts as well as their actions.

In the latter part of the century and beyond, vicious thought and action came to be regarded in an even more sinister light. Between the French Revolution of 1789 and the Great Reform Act of 1832, political and social unrest in England reached levels frightening to the upper classes. In this politicized scenario, the sins of vice and immorality acquired more threatening overtones. Rejection of accepted standards of morality and religion came to be associated with potential rejection of the established social order.[8] Immorality was accordingly linked to the specter of revolution (Bristow 1977, Trudgill 1976). Superimposed on these essentially political reactions to vicious conduct was the emergence of a middle class code of values that, in its advocacy of restraint, sobriety, and thrift, was intrinsically opposed to outrageous forms of behavior. As this class [End page 52] grew in numbers and political power, its code became dominant throughout urban society (Lofland 1973, pp. 56-65; see also Place 1972; Malcolm 1808, pp. 481-83). Considerations of style therefore combined with fear of revolution and beliefs about the origins of crime to strengthen concerns for immoral conduct. By the early 19th century, the net effect of all this was a greatly decreased tolerance of its public manifestations.

Prostitution was an obvious target for this kind of thinking. It was rife and largely uncontrolled in 18th century London. Estimates of its extent are infrequent and unreliable, but the numbers cited are invariably large. The 'Reformed Rake' estimated that the Metropolis in the 1750s supported 62,500 whores, although the basis of his calculations is suspect (1758, p. 41). A rather later account suggested that rogues and whores between them accounted for one-sixth the population of London (Universal daily register 1 August 1786). Patrick Colquhoun gave a figure of 50,000 in the 1790s, although this included an estimated 25,000 women living with men without benefit of clergy (1806, p. 340). A decade earlier the German traveler von Archenholz also gave a figure of 50,000, but appears to have included only full-time prostitutes in it (1789, 2, p. 75). Michael Ryan's 1839 figures suggested that in London there were then about 80,000 prostitutes, 5,000 brothels, and a grand total of 400,000 people living directly or indirectly off the wages of sin (1839, pp. 120, 133, and 192). Ryan's estimates sound fantastic for an urban area whose population did not then exceed 2,000,000 (Mitchell 1988, p. 25). It was, however, generally agreed in the early 19th century that prostitution was increasing. This may have been due to accelerating moral decay or perhaps because the introduction of street-lighting throughout the Metropolis in 1808 allowed it to spread beyond the City and the West End (Bloch 1938, p. 109).[9]

Whatever the case, central London remained the focus of prostitution (along with the crime and disorderliness that went with it) throughout the period of study and much attention was given to this fact. However, complaints of the rowdy goings-on of prostitutes and their customers became inreasingly directed at the inefficiency or venality of the police, rather than the actual culprits. The Bow Street Police Office, in the heart of Covent Garden (the most vice-ridden area of town), came in for a good deal of abuse. Sir John Fielding's efforts at vice control were widely scorned and his proposals for retraining prostitutes in more conventional trades ridiculed. Beneath this ridicule one usually finds oblique suggestions that he and his Runners had a financial interest in maintaining things as they were.[10]

Not only were prostitutes a highly visible presence in London, but association with them was demonstrably fraught with danger. Physical risks of [End page 53] consorting with them included being robbed, pickpocketted, trepanned, or murdered. The greatest risk of all, however, was of catching venereal disease. Such disease was widespread. Many people "of fashion" were reportedly crippled by it (A trip through London 1728, pp. 17-18), its incidence posed a serious threat to military efficiency (Hell upon earth 1729, pp. 24-25), and it was incurable. Supposed nostrums included a mercury treatment which could be fatal in itself. Far from being able to treat these diseases in any therapeutic way, physicians did not even have the knowledge to be able to distinguish between syphilis, gonhorrea, and other sexually- transmitted maladies (Davenport-Hines 1990, pp. 16- 54). The possibility of infection can hardly have encouraged people to take a relaxed attitude toward sex. Popular perceptions of the origin of venereal disease cannot have induced a favorable male opinion of single women who lived a sexually active existence. One belief widespread in the medical profession held that syphilis could arise spontaneously, but only in a woman, if she had sexual relations with a number of healthy men (Buret 1895, pp. 249-50). The most interesting facet of this belief is, of course, that it goes a fair way toward placing the blame for the infection squarely on the woman. This belief, or the thinking that went with it, probably accounts for the lack of recognition in popular writing of the time that men had much to do with the communication of the malady.

The identification of womankind as a source of physical and moral infection was therefore well- established. Foreigners are supposed to have reported that Englishwomen "possessed the fairest outsides in the world, but that, like painted sepulchres, all was foul and fetid under cover" (Lobcock 1795, p. 94). Their male English listeners had extensive authority for believing that this hidden corruption was moral as well as physical.

Given all this understanding of the female sexual urge as a destructive force of some potency, it is something of a surprise to realize that during the 18th century little formal legal attention was directed to its control. Even this was limited: Lesbian activities have never been in violation of English law, even at times when male homosexuals were being executed for their predelictions with some regularity. Eighteenth-century society at large appeared to combine an intense interest in male sexual deviance with a general lack of interest in its female counterpart (Simpson 1984, pp. 364-75 and 427-584). Infanticide was a crime almost invariably committed by women and generally associated with illegitimate births. Although a capital crime which could be successfully prosecuted on the basis of very little physical evidence, the courts in practice showed considerable tolerance for women accused of it (Hoffer 1981). Not until the mid-19th century was statute law enacted explicitly for the control of prostitution (Walkowitz 1980). Grumbling about the wantonness of women and the evil effects thereof may have been rife, [End page 54] but until the early 19th century no real interest was taken in this matter by the criminal courts.[11]

Prostitutes were afforded a certain amount of compassion by the law and society. I would suggest that this reaction did not reflect tolerance of immorality, but rather sympathy with the nightwalker's unhappy lot, distaste for the economic and cultural circumstances that produced it and, perhaps, a certain feeling of responsibility for the lack of male restraint that encouraged it. In the many accounts of the evils associated with prostitution, little opprobium is attached to the individual prostitute. Widespread sympathy existed for girls forced on the streets by circumstances beyond their control. In the latter part of the century, the displacement of women from the workforce was regularly cited as a principal cause of their downfall although, not surprisingly, this argument was primarily raised in times of peace.[12]

Widespread publicity was given to the common practice of brothel-keepers (mostly women) to entice or even kidnap young girls into their service and to the difficulties of convicting those guilty of this offense.[13] So great was the demand for female children as sexual partners that it was estimated in the 1830s that about 400 people in London alone supposedly made their livings by the kidnapping of children for this purpose (Ryan 1839, pp. 118-20). It has been suggested that this perverse male appetite, well-documented throughout the period studied here, was supported by the common belief that sex with a virgin was the only certain cure for venereal infection (Simpson 1988). Regardless of the genuineness of this belief (it is, of course, a most convenient one for the pedophile), very young girls were much sought after both, for commercial sex and as targets of sexual assault (Simpson 1988). Luring of children into brothels is described frequently in the press and in terms which strongly imply the truly guilty parties to be the male patrons of these establishments.[14]

The unhappy position of the prostitute was much commented on. In the 1780s, the statistic that 5,000 prostitutes died in London every year was much quoted (for example, The Times 31 October 1785). The fact was that the career of a prostitute was not generally a long one and, fictional exceptions like Fanny Hill and Moll Flanders apart, was commonly thought to end in an early death. People of the period were very familiar with the kind of tale of exploitation and progressive degradation related by Miss W. to Roderick Random.[15] If they had no personal experiences of such stories, they would have been aware of them through novels and through reports in the press. It is by no means certain that Miss W.'s account typified the career of the run-of-the-mill whore. If the character of prostitution in 18th century London was anything like that in early Victorian Plymouth or York, most girls would not have stayed on the game [End page 55] after their early twenties (Walkowitz 1980, pp. 194- 96; Finnegan 1979). Evidence suggests that few London prostitutes were over the age of twenty-five (Trumbach 1987). Prostitution was, for most women forced to engage in it, probably only a temporary stage in their lives. This was certainly the belief of the better- informed in Victorian times (Chesney 1972, pp. 363- 433), although the image of the prostitute as unredeemable and doomed continued to be projected in popular culture.[16] Eighteenth-century perceptions of the whore's career was similarly focused on those like Miss W., regardless of the facts, and it was these that helped buttress male guilt.

It was appreciated that with prostitution came disorder and crime. At the same time there was general understanding that the prostitute, or the streetwalker at least, did not reap many advantages from her situation, and that her way of life called for compassion and not condemnation: "What must the mind of sensibility feel when they contemplate the miserable wanderer of the night exposed to the inclement season, subject to the brutal usage of the intoxicated rake, as well as the disgusting caresses of the debauchee" (On prostitution 1786). Prostitution was therefore viewed as a social condition with ramifications beyond its traditionally criminal associations. This assessment should not, however, be seen as the 18th century version of the liberal 'we are all guilty' position. Guilt there was, but it was confined to one section of the population. Conditions giving rise to prostitution could be ameliorated by increased employment opportunities as well as care and social guidance for the fallen: the Magdalen Hospital was founded in 1758 explicitly for this purpose (Nash 1984). However, as the ultimate cause of the problem lay in the attitudes and behavior of men, these approaches were seen as having limited value.

Male guilt was very likely heightened by the well-known vulnerability of female servants. Sexual exploitation of them by their masters was common.[17] In rural areas, the strong possibility of this circumstance was recognized as an occupational hazard for servant girls bound for the capital.[18] Most people would have accepted Patrick Colquhoun's estimate that the great majority of whores had such a history (1806, pp. 333-50). Women servants looking for employment were subject to organized exploitation of this kind. 'Intelligence offices' (employment agencies) were notorious as fronts for the true purpose of luring female domestics into enforced prostitution at home or in the colonies. This was as true at the end of the century as at the beginning (Ward 1706, 1, p. 73; King 1795, pp. 29-30; Ryan 1839, pp. 118-70). Moll Flanders, who understood such things from personal experience, knew exactly what she was doing when she decided to remove her maid from London before discharging her (Defoe 1722/1969, p. 134).

The miserable lot of the streetwalker was as fully appreciated as the level of social annoyance she [End page 56] represented. Contemporary discussions which denigrate women as venal, inferior, morally weak, and sexually powerful therefore have no trouble in maintaining a sympathetic attitude toward whores. Nor was their position inconsistent with the condemnation of men as the agents of female misfortune. This sentiment was expressed in terms that are forceful and accusatory: "O man! Thou monster of ingratitude! How can you passed unmoved those unhappy objects, made so by yourselves! Wast thou not ordained by your creator protectors to the weaker sex!" And so on (On prostitution 1786).

Assertions of male power in this unequal setting undoubtedly had their costs. Women might have been intimidated by the knowledge that female sexuality was no match for male disposition of it, but the very act of assertion served to inflict psychic damage by obliging men to direct blame inward.[19] Men were made aware that they control but at the same time they were conditioned to the realization that exercise of this control over vulnerable women entails the application of cruelty. The price of this is guilt and shame. 'Jerry Lobcock,' not a man overly sensitive to the female condition, had an appreciation of some of this and realized that sexual license was the distaff side of sexual restraint: "There must be Whores, that there may be chastity" (1795, p. 19). In the 'Lobcock' world view, the evil effects of license demonstrate the need for restraint, and the existence of an outlet for sexual misconduct permits the imposition of standards of good behavior in areas where these matter.

Contemporary discussions of prostitution therefore underscore the fact of helplessness in the female, and the tragedy of the extreme manifestations of it. To the male they suggest that guilt is inherent in triumph and that peace of mind accompanies self- restraint. Such attitudes toward male sexuality do not just celebrate male superiority: they start from this position and point to contentment as the reward for its benevolent exercise.

Legal attitudes toward prostitution reflected this understanding. In theory at least, prostitution as such was never in violation of statute or common law. It could only be prosecuted when associated with disorderly conduct, public indecency, or some other crime. The position in common law was clearly stated in a case heard in 1705 (Bullough 1985). Streetwalkers were not hindered by the Vagrancy Acts of 1609 and 1744 which very clearly did not criminalize sexual solicitation.[20] An Act against bawdy houses, passed in 1752, did not address street prostitution, although it was probably, and illegally, used against it (Goldgar 1985). Despite numerous proposals during the century to criminalize their activities, they were not specifically targeted by statute law until 1824 when a new Vagrancy Act (5 Geo. 4, c.83) was passed after intensive lobbying by the Guardian Society. Even then, they could only be charged if found "behaving in a [End page 57] riotous or indecent manner" and the outrage had to be very gross if a conviction was to be assured.

However, Sir John Fielding had much earlier advanced his professional opinion that constables had an obligation as well as the legal power to arrest "Night-walkers" just for this offense (1762, p. 345). There is no doubt that this opinion was widely followed. Prostitution arrests are almost invariably listed in the petty sessions records of the City of London under charges of "being a common Prostitute" or "wandering abroad picking up men." Only occasionally were charges such as "being idle, disorderly, profligate characters" also included. The law on this point was probably not interpreted in a manner that encouraged fine distinctions. One woman was convicted and sentenced to a term in Bridewell after the parish beadle went out of his way to encourage her to accost him. However, the trial was held at the Marlborough Police Office and the beadle was shown to have acted as he did in response to numerous complaints by parish residents (The Times 1 November 1805).

In the more professional courts of the City of London, things may have worked more by the book, and more in the interests of those arrested. On many occasions, alderman-judges cautioned constables against arresting women who had only solicited customers in a restrained manner. Two women arrested "sitting quietly in a house" were discharged as "the Ald(erman) s(ai)d he thought their apprehension improper" (Guildhall Justice Room Minute books, hereafter GJRMB, 4 September 1780). A group of twelve women were all discharged after it was determined that they had simply been "standing in the Street, committing no Offence--nor behaving in any riotous Manner, or breaking the Peace" (GJRMB 24 July 1784). However, it is hard to see how the aldermen could have compelled their constables to only arrest those who offended the letter of the law. "Disorderly conduct" no doubt meant anything the police wanted it to mean. One wag offered a practical definition of it as behavior "which, in the watchhouse vocabulary, appears to mean disobeying the orders of the watchmen" (The Times 24 August 1825).

Moreover, the police undoubtedly had their own priorities in their arrest policies. Extortion of prostitutes was a time-honored practice within law enforcement agencies, and even the police of the pristine City of London did not have the heart to break with this tradition. The practice was well-known and the culprits rarely punished.[21] A rare instance of a policeman being brought to book for attempting to exact more than financial tribute from streetwalkers occurred in 1828. Samuel Hall was charged at Bow Street with the indecent assault and it was claimed "That the watchmen, as a body, were a worthless and depraved set of fellows. Not only did they levy contributions on the pockets of the unfortunate women who walked the streets at night, but it was a fact they reduced them to such a state of terror, that they [End page 58] durst not refuse them any favour they might demand" (The Times 13 June 1828). One must take seriously contentions that the main activity of constables in this regard was to impose an informal "Impost on Whoring" and that those prostitutes arrested were from the most impoverished stratum of the profession: "She that has the Prudence to whore with Half a Crown in her Pocket, is as sure of a Protection, as a cheating Director, and may sin on without any Danger. While the poor needy Wag-Tail must be cautious how she kisses, lest she be carried to Bridewel, where, instead of being reclaim'd, she is harden'd by her indelible Shame in her miserable State of Wickedness" (Satan's harvest home 1749, p. 3).

The table represents an attempt to characterize patterns of arrests for streetwalking from the scanty manuscript records that survive. This table's principal deficiency is that it includes only those cases in which prostitution was specifically charged. Many of the arrests of both men and women for disorderly conduct probably reflected a concern for prostitution, but it is impossible to know how great a proportion of the whole these represented. One cannot, moreover, take City of London statistics to represent the Metropolis as a whole. Corrupt police activity associated with prostitution has been documented for the City, but there is no indication that the alderman-magistrates of this jurisdiction cooperated in any way with this. Given their wealthy backgrounds and aristocratic connections (Rogers 1979), it is hard to see why they would have tolerated any form of petty corruption.

In the neighboring City of Westminster on the other hand, things were quite different. Until stipendiary magistrates were instituted in 1792[22] to replace the venal and ill-born 'trading justices,' Westminster magistrates made a practice of organizing massive sweeps of whores for the purpose of extorting bail-money from them.[23] Although the 1792 Act limited this practice, another factor probably maintained arrest rates for streetwalkers at a higher level than elsewhere. Under the same Act, justices in Westminster were given extended powers, denied to those in the City and elsewhere in the country, to arrest and punish persons accused of a very wide range of disorderly behavior. It is reasonable to assume that these powers were used, inter alia, against prostitutes.[24] The principal item of information to emerge from the table is that there were few policies of a general nature guiding these prosecutions. Prosecution rates fluctuated erratically from year to year, although they increased somewhat in times of war: the average annual arrest rate for nine years of war was 165; for twelve years of peace it was 107. There is a logical reason why such arrests should have increased in wartime. Manpower was always a problem for the armed services in time of war. To alleviate this, a series of statutes extended the power of magistrates "to [End page 59] seize and send for soldiers, all such able bodied men, as they may call idle and disorderly...The words idle and disorderly, are such vague expressions, as a ministerial Justice of the Peace may construe as he pleases."[25] In fact, these Acts were not used in this way in the City, at least in arrests associated with prostitution. The surviving Minute-books of the Guildhall Justice Room document only 22 cases between 1752 and 1796 of men being arrested as patrons or associates of streetwalkers. Only three were convicted, all in 1752. The records of the Mansion House Justice Room are complete for 1786 and show that 118 women and one man were tried for offenses related to prostitution in this year. Three-quarters of the women were convicted and punished, the man discharged. Men were often charged with other kinds of disorderly behavior and given over to the military.[26] Those patronizing street prostitutes were not so penalized. The limited concern of the criminal justice system with prostitution did not extend to men.

Conviction rates of streetwalkers were very high, but for reasons most closely related to the desire of magistrates to protect the arresting officer. An arrested prostitute who was acquitted could sue her captor for false imprisonment. This right was strengthened in 1803 when it became explicitly stated in the law (Tooley's case, East 1803, 1, p. 303). Prostitutes arrested were therefore usually convicted as a matter of form. Those convicted but discharged without punishment can be considered to all intents and purposes as having been acquitted. They are so regarded in the table.

Discharge (or 'acquittal') rates fluctuated even more wildly than arrest rates and in ways that cannot easily be explained. Some were undoubtedly freed by conservative magistrates who did not consider soliciting to be in itself a crime.[27] Variations in legal interpretations of the nature of the offense may have accounted for variations in the conviction rate. One policy often adopted by magistrates was to discharge prostitutes whenever they could find a reason to do so. They were usually given the benefit of any slight doubt.[28] This policy was undoubtedly motivated by genuine compassion, but it was also influenced by a number of other factors. The organized business of the forcible recruitment of girls to prostitution through kidnapping was known to be impervious to legal intervention. Some of the periodic roundups of whores undoubtedly represented genuine efforts to rescue victims of this practice.[29]

Other of the frequent mass arrests were clearly spurred by pressures from local communities. Complaints of gross behavior and abuse by prostitutes were frequent, particularly toward the end of the century. When the targets of such behavior were respectable women, official reaction was harsher and the penalties more severe. In January 1816, "fifteen more of those wretched females whom the Lord Mayor has [End page 60] determined to expel from the streets" were arrested, convicted, and given a month in Bridewell (The Times 27 January 1816). Hatton Garden magistrates took similar action later the same year (The Times 13 November 1816). It is likely that the level of community protest against this kind of annoyance accelerated in the early 19th century due to decreased tolerance of the rowdiness which accompanied street prostitution. It seems clear that, in the 1790s and after, it was the objectionable behavior of streetwalkers which drew unfavorable attention, and not their means of earning a living. Attention has already been drawn to the forces encouraging stricter standards of public behavior from about 1800. Particular among them was the growth in power and numbers of a rising middle class (Lofland 1973, pp. 56-65; Nash 1980, pp. 476-86). It has even been argued that the London Metropolitan Police, founded in 1829, quickly saw street activity related to prostitution as the biggest single threat to public order. Finding strategies for controlling this was an early challenge, and an early success, for the 'new police' (Storch 1977).

Local and occasional responses to community pressures aside, there were practical reasons why magistrates would have little desire to send women to Bridewell. This women's prison was notorious for its harsh regime and for being a training-ground for criminals. Magistrates were reluctant to commit anyone to it who showed any signs of redeption. One alderman justified discharging a group of women by remarking that "however dissolute the women might be when they entered, they would quit Bridewell with an additional share of infamy in their character and disposition" (Gazetteer 4 September 1777). Bridewell was for lost causes like Elizabeth Tooley, a veteran of 37 sojourns in the Clerkenwell Bridewell who had once been tried on a capital charge (London evening-post 31 January- 2 February 1764). The resignation with which magistrates invoked Bridewell is often apparent in sentencing reports.[30]

After arrest, streetwalkers were confined either in watchhouses or in one of the two City prisons, the Poultry Compter and the Wood Street Compter, until trial. Wherever they were held, pretrial confinement could be a severe ordeal. Life in the two prisons was fraught with danger and the possibility of disease and physical abuse (Sheehan 1982). Those kept in watchhouses perhaps fared rather better, although women unable to pay the exorbitant fees demanded by their keepers could expect to be badly treated (Universal daily register 10 November 1785). Jails in Westminster were worse. William Bird, keeper of the Roundhouse in St. Martin's Lane, was convicted of murder in 1742 for causing the deaths of four women prisoners. He had crammed 28 women who could not pay him his garnish into a tiny cell and left them overnight. The four died from suffocation (R. v Bird, Old Bailey proceedings sessions beginning 9 September and 13 October 1742). As prisoners could remain in custody for several days (much longer if [End page 61] they were charged with indictable offenses), they had usually suffered considerable punishment before reaching court. This fact was appreciated by magistrates, and a number were quite willing to discharge streetwalkers on this ground alone.[31]

The fact is that prostitutes were not treated harshly by the courts. Repression of them began with the start of the powerful campaign for public order in the 1830s. It intensified in later decades in the wake of heightened, and perhaps justified, fears that veneral infection had become a national problem and even a serious threat to the efficiency of the armed forces (Walkowitz 1980). Male concern for prostitution in the century before Victorian times was characterized by ambivalent feelings of fear and compassion. Awareness that it was male appetites that created the problem conspired to keep the law regarding it toothless and policies in its application largely benign.

Attitudes toward brothel-keepers were quite different. Trade in children was widespread and very profitable. Prices charged for intercourse with children were much higher than for more conventional encounters.[32] However, bawds were not treated harshly by the law because of particular problems in how this offense was defined. 'Keeping a disorderly house' was a minor offense which could easily be dealt with summarily as a "public nuisance". It primarily dealt with houses serving alcohol under illegal circumstances, or permitting unlicensed dancing, gambling, or other entertainment. 'Keeping a bawdy house' was an indictable misdemeanor under common law (Blackstone 1765-69, 4, 168). To support a conviction for it, the identity of the proprietor had to be clearly proven and the nature of the activities supported by the kind of direct testimony which only could only be provided by one who had patronized the establishment in the fullest sense of the word. Moreover, bawds were well-organized and often quite wealthy.[33] They could hire sophisticated legal help and pay high court fees.

In fact, prosecution of such establishments was one of the few avenues in the criminal law which allowed for public prosecution. Traditionally, the English legal system permitted prosecutions for only murder and treason to be supported from public funds. The Disorderly Houses Act of 1752 (25 Geo. 2, c.36) required that a parish support a prosecution of a brothel if its existence was attested to by two parishioners. This law never worked well. Parish officers were unwilling to engage in activities in brothels which they would later have to testify about. Citizens' reluctance to offer themselves as witnesses was cited by Sir John Fielding (in a charge made to a grand jury in 1773) as the main obstacle to the prosecution of bawdy houses. They "are deterred from it by the hateful idea indiscriminately annexed to the name of an informer" (quoted in Malcolm 1808, p. 119). They could also have been deterred by other [End page 62] consequences of informing against powerful and unscrupulous criminals who were also their neighbors.

A further difficulty lay in the rules of legal procedure and the extraordinary costs of bringing a prosecution for this offense. Until 1818, brothel- keepers were permitted to remove their cases to the Court of King's Bench on writ of certiorari. This process made their prosecution much more expensive and also denied the prosecutor any hope of financial assistance from the Crown. This tactic was stopped by the Disorderly Houses Act of 1818 which at the same time relieved the prosecution of the burden of making a precise identification of the brothel proprietor and enabled it to prosecute "any person...who shall appear, act or behave him or herself as master or mistress, or as the person having the care, government, or management of any such house" (58 Geo. 3, c.70). This appeared to correct a situation which had rendered prosecution of brothel-keepers a generally hopeless matter. As the Society for the Suppression of Vice (an expert on such matters) observed in 1803: "as the law now stands, the punishment for the offence of keeping a brothel, one of the most heinous and mischievous that can occur in society, is attended with such difficulty as almost entirely to deter from prosecution" (Society 1803a, p. 62).

The legislation of 1818 did not have the salutary effect one might have supposed. An indication of this is provided by the detailed record of the efforts of one City parish to rid itself of a number of brothels in 1825 and 1826. The substance of this account provides an excellent insight into the difficulties of bringing this sort of prosecution (Parish of St. Sepulchre 1825-26). The effort was eventually successful, but the cost to the parish was very high, both in money[34] and in the time of its officers. The victory was only achieved because this parish was both wealthy and tenacious. It is doubtful if a poor parish would have had the resources needed to tackle such a problem with any expectation of success.

At no time did the prosecution of brothel-keepers occupy much of the attention of the courts. My analysis of cases heard by the City of London Quarter Sessions between 1735 and 1835 shows that the hundred or so cases heard every year by this court were almost entirely concerned with some form of assault or other public order offenses (Simpson 1984, pp. 810, 850-51). Rarely did the number of prosecutions of possible bawds exceed ten percent. It is, in fact, impossible to know just how many there were: prosecutions were usually for the lesser offense of 'keeping a disorderly house' and bawds cannot always be distinguished from more innocent offenders in the records. The high conviction rate (usually 65 percent or higher) can be attributed to the lower standard of proof needed for a 'disorderly house' conviction. No change in the pattern of prosecutions occurred after 1818. As late as 1828, a London alderman could tell of [End page 63] being pressured to quash proceedings against a wealthy brothel-owner supported by backers of property and genteel status (The Times 17 June 1828).

This situation persisted until the late 19th century. Not until 1885 was it possible to suppress brothels through summary action. Under the Criminal Law Amendment Act (48 & 49 Vict., c.69) of this year, procuring, pimping, and brothel-keeping were all brought within the jurisdiction of the magistrate. This development was due primarily to the lobbying of Josephine Butler and other feminist reformers: a force finally powerful enough and sufficiently well- organized to defeat the entrenched interests of the trade (Chesney 1972, pp. 432-33).

If individuals and parish governments were deterred from prosecuting brothels in the previous century, no one stepped to fill the gap. The several reform societies that were active at various times in the period funded prosecutions of a wide variety of wrongdoers, but neither whores nor bawds featured prominently on their hit lists. The Societies for the Reformation of Manners, which were active between the 1690s and the 1740s, did in the early days focus on prostitution. One of the earliest of the "Black Rolls" of the London societies includes a list of persons prosecuted made up almost entirely of brothel-keepers, "Night Walkers," and "Plyers in Bawdy-Houses" (Society 1694, pp. 34-35). Many others in these occupational groups were prosecuted in the half-century of the Societies' existence. As they boasted of having initiated well over 100,000 prosecutions in London alone (Bahlman 1957, pp. 62-63), it would have been surprising if prostitution had not been an object of their attention. However, the Societies had other interests and in later years prosecutions related to prostitution ceased to dominate their activiities. Their last published report indicates that in 1735, rather more than half the 600 or so prosecutions they supported were for "Lewd and Disorderly Practices." Most of the rest were for Sabbath-breaking (Societies 1738).

It is, moreover, to be doubted that the Societies' beliefs were representative of any persons other than their members. They were actively disliked at all levels of society and their willingness to employ informers was greatly resented. Their downfall came from public distaste for this mode of operating and from Establishment suspicion of them as potential hotbeds of religious and political dissent (Bahlman 1957, pp. 83-98). However, as late as 1762 the Societies were sending out their 'constables' in organized swoops on ladies of the night. One such raid in this year netted 40 whores. According to standard practice, the magistrates sent eleven to prison and discharged the rest (Malcolm 1808, p. 199).

Reform societies of the late 18th century and beyond were much less interested in prostitution and [End page 64] its related trades. The Guardian Society did have an avowed interest in whores, but its intent was to rehabilitate them and not to punish them. The Society for the Suppression of Vice had Sabbath-breakers as its top priority and the suppression of "blasphemous, licentious and obscene books and prints" as its secondary objective (Society 1803b, p. 43). Other concerns of the Vice Society included shopkeepers using fraudulent weights and measures and those organizing illegal lotteries. These concerns were reflected in the patterns of Vice Society prosecutions. Of 487 convictions obtained in 1802-03, the first year of its existence, 440 were of profanation of the Sabbath: that is, of shopkeepers conducting business on Sundays. Of the remainder, only two were against brothels and none against prostitutes (Society 1803b). Between 1802 and 1817 only eleven brothels were suppressed by the Society (Bloch 1938, pp. 216-17).

Unlike those of the old Societies for the Reformation of Manners, members of the Vice Society were neither dissenters nor religious zealots. They were adherents and ministers of the Established Church and their concerns were more political than evangelical. They were men of rank and purpose with strong opinions that they wished to translate into policy (Society 1803b). Their social standing is to be contrasted with members of the old Societies who, as far as can be told, were largely tradespeople and persons of 'middling' rank (Isaacs 1979, p. 152). The enemy perceived by the Vice Society was not so much sexual license as those who rejected religion, as exemplified by the precepts of the Established Church. Rejection of the Church of England and its authority was quite accurately viewed by the Society as a direct affront to the existing social order. Sexual misconduct was only proscribed as a harbinger of attacks on the moral order. Blasphemy was far more threatening to the Society than prostitution as it was seen as a vehicle for the expression of freethinking and revolutionary principles.

These perceptions were stated quite explicitly by the Society. Growing depravity and abandonment of religious belief was recognized as ultimately leading to rejection of the existing social order. Acceptance of immorality and profanity in an increasingly politicized world carried the risk of danger to "the security of those political and social blessings which so proudly distinguish this nation from all others" (Society 1803b, p. 10). The purpose of the Society's prosecutions was manifestly "to diminish the gross mass of public enormity, to circumstance the wasting contagion of vice; to bring back a sense of public decency and morality, and by a temperate enforcement of the laws, to effect a general respect for Civil Order and Religion" (Society 1803a, pp. 44-45). Immorality was therefore a bad thing in itself but, as the Society was acute enough to appreciate, its main consequences at this crucial point in English history were political and not spiritual. The emphasis here was a long way from conflict between the sexes. The [End page 65] criminal law, as used by these reformers, was a weapon for use against political dissidents, or those who could potentially fall within this category. Its use to reinforce gender-related stereotypes does not fit in with this perspective.

Toleration of bawds, most of whom appear to have been female, did not always extend to other areas of law. The great demand for young girls by their clientele led to a number of trials of bawds for the capital crime of rape, as principals in the second degree. Between 1730 and 1830, 26 people who can be identified as brothel-keepers were tried in this way in the Old Bailey. Ten were women and none was convicted; six of the 16 men in this group were found guilty: yielding a total conviction rate of 0.23. The conviction rate of all those tried for rape in this court in this period was 0.17 (Simpson 1984, pp. 412, 811-14). This is in spite of the fact that brothel- keepers accused of rape would most certainly have had superior legal defenses, as in their other dealings with the law. Moreover, proving the presence of a bawd at the scene of the crime must often have been problematic.

The prostitute had no monied interests working for or against her. She had, moreover, no politicized aspect in contemporary perceptions of vice. Unlike the blasphemous libeller, she represented no threat--real, potential, or imagined--to the state. Sympathy for her existed on the part of magistrates and other men whose decency was perhaps supported by their privileged status in life. It was translated into a reluctance to penalize her in the law or to treat her harshly in the courts. As noted, repression of streetwalking came in response to the rise of middle class standards, a related concern for public order, and the creation of a police bureaucracy powerful enough to enforce it.

I have suggested that male guilt was a strong factor in influencing legal attitudes in this area. Guilt is certainly a strong mover of attitudes. Sigmund Freud thought of "the sense of guilt as the most important problem in the evolution of culture" and believed "that the price of progress in civilization is paid in forfeiting happiness through the heightening of the sense of guilt" (1949, p. 123). Wilhelm Reich believed its sexual manifestations were politicized in serving existing social arrangements. Sexual repression "creates inhibition and cripples the power to rebel." This is so because repression and guilt obsess individual thought and lame "the critical intellectual powers of the oppressed masses" by siphoning off "psychic energy" that might otherwise be directed against the state" (1966, pp. 245-46). Michel Foucault is, of course, the authority on the power of sexual repression and on the ultimate inability of any class or group to control its direction (1980).

One must be wary of imposing psychological states presumed to exist in the present upon a defenseless [End page 66] past. Eighteenth-century England was, amongst other things, a world undergoing the erratic transition into the first of modern societies, with all the shifts in values and behaviors that this transition requires.[35] Efforts have, however, been made to interpret changes in the male psyche in this period. Gordon Rattray Taylor suggests that changes in family relationships and attitudes toward educating boys created a climate of greater sensitivity toward women (1958). Taylor, who is essentially concerned with upper-class mores, is careful to point out that this sensitivity was limited to its protective and otherwise benevolent aspects. It did not reflect any notion of gender equality. My own work focuses on the different and class-based value systems of the period. However, it suggests that all systems were subjected to the influence of an 'ethos of masculinity' which provided the basis for modern concepts of manhood which stress power and toughness as desirable male attributes (Simpson 1984).

Students of 18th century literature have recently stressed the emergence of the novel as a powerful vehicle for the vaunting of middle-class values. Some have argued that the novel was deliberately used to propagate these values. The work of Samuel Richardson, particularly Clarissa (1740/1967), has been characterized as the exemplar of this trend (Eagleton 1983, Watt 1957). Even those who stop short of such a perspective acknowledge the power of the novel and other forms of popular literature as influences on people's notions of the ultimate personal tragedy of the prostitute: "The more we read the more we are impressed with the near-impossibility, for an English writer of the first half of the eighteenth century, of evoking the pleasures of whoring without alluding to its pains, diappointments, shortcomings, or baneful consequences. In most such utterances there are nuances of patronizing compassion or moral disapproval, not to speak of distrust, resentment, and fear" (Nelson 1987, p. 181). These sentiments were reinforced later in the century by fiction informed in its sympathy by a heightened awareness, exemplified in the poetry of William Blake, of the hypocrisy that could produce such abysmal conditions for the street prostitute (du Sorbier 1982).

Given the strength of popular imagery, it is perhaps unnecessary to delve too deeply into the 18th century male psyche to explain the sympathy offered to the prostitute in the courts, if not in more tangible fashion by the larger society. The existence of a class of women whose lives appeared to be truly horrible, and at the mercy of the vicious, cannot be condoned by any male value system. This is so whether it is a middle-class system that upholds restraint and morality, or an upper- or lower-class one that celebrates courage and honor. Patriarchal values that support the male ego must also support the protection of the weak and the powerless. The well-publicized fact that young children were the most desired targets of the 'sportsmen' who patronized prostitutes could not be supported by any socialized male values. It [End page 67] made the gap between the power of patriarchy and its failure to meet its self-ascribed obligations that much more apparent.

Eighteenth-century England was a scenario in which many of the attributes of modern Western civilization were beginning to emerge. Prostitution provided a vehicle for the development of some of the kinder aspects of these. One cannot doubt that many 18th century whores faced hideous lives. The point is whether their experiences truly reflected the maelstrom descent into oblivion that the imagery of popular and fictional representations suggested. These were probably exaggerated. As noted, detailed examination of the life-histories of prostitutes suggest that this way of living was but a temporary phase for many working class women. Sympathetic attitudes toward whores were perhaps not drawn from reality but rather from its sensational depiction. One can hardly fault the courts for this. Then, as now, attitudes and even public policies were strongly influenced by media-formed images of reality, rather than reality itself.


These figures are taken primarily from the few surviving Minute-books (popularly known as Waiting- books) of the Guildhall Justice Room, one of the two courts of petty sessions held in the City of London. Records of the other comparable court, the Mansion House Justice Room, have also been examined but for the year 1786 only. These records are complete for this year. Figures from this source are so marked in [square] brackets. The records are held in manuscript in the Corporation of London Record Office.

Those Guildhall records surviving are spotty in their coverage and the second column shows the number of calendar days in each year which existing records document. In an attempt to get comparable data I have calculated projected annual charges by dividing total number of charges by days recorded and multiplying the product by 365 (366 when appropriate). This calculation has only been carried out where the number of days for which data are avilable exceed thirty in a given year. Guilty rates are based on absolute figures.

Guildhall Justice Room. (1752-1796). Minute-books of proceedings. (incomplete). CLRO 204B.

Mansion House Justice Room. (1786). Minute-books. CLRO 237E. [End page 68]

                      PETTY SESSIONS,
                     1752 THROUGH 1796
Year    Days       Number      Number     Guilty    Proj'd   Peace
      Recorded     Charged     Guilty      Rate     annual    or
                                                    charges   War
1752      26          15         12        0.80                 P
1761      45           2          2        1.00        16       W
1762      21          20          7        0.35                 W
1775      49          19         10        0.53       142       P
1777     106          78         46        0.59       268       W
1778      27          63         15        0.24                 W
1779      65          83         17        0.20       466       W
1780      65          73          9        0.12       410       W
1781     174          20          2        0.10        42       W
1782      89          39          3        0.08       160       W
1783      97          31          2        0.06       117       P
1784     168          41          1        0.02       101       P
1785      23          21          3        0.14                 P
1786      81          48         18        0.38       216       P
[1786]  [365]       [118]       [89]      [0.75]     [118]      P
1787      53          16          4        0.25       110       P
1788      62           3          1        0.34        18       P
1789      84           2          1        0.50         9       P
1790      44           0          0         0           0       P
1791     126           1          1        1.00         3       P
1792      66           8          3        0.38        44       P
1793      41          46         42        0.91       409       P
1794      55           6          3        0.50        40       W
1795      34           6          2        0.34        64       W
1796      39           2          0         0          19       W


1. For an excellent discussion of the historical contexts of attitudes toward prostitution in England, see Nash (1994) and the primary and secondary sources cited in it.

2. Until the early 18th century, forms of popular literature included broadsides, chapbooks, sermons, reports of trial cases, criminal biographies and other forms of 'gallows literature.' Many well-known examples are both cited and summarized in Nash (1994). There are a number of extensive bibliographies of these materials: see particularly Neuburg (1972 and 1977).

3. Trumbach (1987), for example, compares the romanticized life of Fanny Hill with the careers of her real-life counterparts. See also Nelson (1987); Radner (1976); Staves (1980-81). Analysis of portrayals by female contemporary novelists is included in Kern (1981) and Schofield (1986). [End page 69]

4. The population of metropolitan London grew from an estimated 200,000 in 1600 to 575,000 in 1700 to 900,000 in 1800 (Wrigley 1967).

5. For elaboration of these themes, see Hay (1975) and Cooper (1974).

6. For example: "There are few diseases which have not resulted from venereal excesses; indeed, some doubt if there be a single malady which may not be (so) induced" (Ryan 1839, p. 291).

7. The quote is from Proverbs 22:14 and continues "he that is abhorred by the Lord shall fall therein." Proverbs includes other verses with similarly compelling imagery. Woodward cites this verse in his Soldier's monitor (1776, p. 22). This was a work first published in the early 18th century and reprinted in various editions over the following 150 years.

8. "One of the chief causes of the French Revolution consisted in the immorality which prevailed throughout the highest classes in France, and from thence found its way among the inferior people. This immorality originated in the destruction of religious principles; the natural consequence of which was the want of observance of the rites of religious worship" (The Times 6 April 1798).

9. After 1808, punters in the suburbs would presumably have felt safer and been better able to inspect the wares on offer.

10. A congratulatory epistle (1758). See also The police (1769), addressing Fielding's supposed incompetence, and a belated obituary of Fielding which comments slyly on the large estate left by the magistrate (London evening-post 14-16 December 1780).

11. I exclude here the very material issues raised by illegitimacy and the potential costs it brought to the parish if fathers could not be identified and accountable.

12. For example, the entrance of "a set of effeminate men who are not ashamed to measure out tapes and ribbons" into the traditionally female occupations of [End page 70] haberdashery was cited as the start of a path which eventually led the women so displaced into prostitution (Universal daily register 10 January 1785).

13. Mary Crouch was brought up before the Lord Mayor on the charge of murder after a girl she had kidnapped died after being abused by the man to whom she had been rented out. She was discharged without trial for want of evidence and in the face of the mother's impassioned plea "I'll pray for the justice of Heaven, since there is no security on earth--no protection against the shedding of the blood of infants" (The Times 13 November 1817). The best-known instance of kidnapping in this context was the Elizabeth Canning case which in 1753 caused so much embarrassment to the sympathetic Henry Fielding (de la Torre 1945).

14. After the body of a suicide, a girl of eleven, was fished out of the Thames, it was reported that she had been thrown out of the brothel where she had worked "when her face grew common, and the charms of extreme youth and novelty were no longer a temptation to debauched constitutions, and debilitated age" (Universal daily register 16 June 1786).

15. The once-desirable whore, her career curtailed by venereal disease, eventually "degenerates into brutal insensibility, and rots and dies upon a dunghill" (Smollett 1748/1967, pp. 141-42).

16. This image is conveyed strongly in the lengthy section on prostitution included in Mayhew's classic London labour and the London poor (1861-62/1968, 4, pp. 210-272). It should be noted that this work originally came to the attention of the public when published in serial form in a major newspaper.

17. (I)n no age, in no country, in no city, in the whole world, is this fashionable, but atrocious crime come so notoriously common as among us" (Morning post 24 November 1777).

18. The following verse was traditionally addressed to young West Country women about to make this Journey: "Now Hussey a Month's Wages or a Month's Warning; And Bed to your Master every Morning" (Satan's harvest home 1749, p. 4).

19. This is the position discussed at length in Taylor (1958). [End page 71]

20. 7 James 1, c.4 and 17 Geo. 2, c.5; Bristow (1977), pp. 53-54. One contemporary opinion contrasts the legal position of street ballad-singers and prostitutes under these Acts. The former could be prosecuted; the latter could not (Trusler 1786, pp. 131-33).

21. Four constables were charged for extortion in this context at the City Quarter Sessions in 1775 but only one convicted of an indictable offense. He was fined five pounds and imprisoned for three months (St. James's chronicle; Or, British evening-post 21-23 March and 14-17 October 1775).

22. Justices of the Peace, Metropolis, Act, 32 Geo. 3, c.53.

23. This information was supplied in 1828 by Townshend, the most famous and most experienced of the Bow Street Runners (Fitzgerald 1888, 1, 128-29) .

24. Colquhoun (1806), p. 509. Under the Act, Westminster justices could arrest and convict summarily anyone found "loitering about in such a manner, and under such circumstances, as might create reasonable suspicions of his character and intentions" (Annual register 1792, Part 1, p. 352).

25. London evening-post 27-30 June 1778. The usual form of the charge was "being Loose, Idle, Disorderly, and fit to serve the King": not the greatest compliment ever paid to the House of Hanover.

26. Fourteen of 20 men arrested at an unlicensed 'hop' in St. Giles's were sent to the colors (The Times 5 February 1805).

27. Sixteen out of 17 were released by one alderman because they had only been "walking the streets as common prostitutes" (The Times 31 October 1827).

28. Of 30 women charged at Bow Street, 25 known prostitutes were discharged because "they did not appear so confirmed in their vicious habits" (The Times 24 June 1816). Sarah Bocke was discharged as "she had not been here (in court) lately, though formerly an old Offender" (GJRMB 9 February 1778). [End page 72]

29. In one of these, a group of 22 women arrested at the same time included a large number of "very young girls, (who) were ordered to be passed to their parents, from whom they had been infamously decoyed" (London chronicle 2-5 February 1765, p. 122).

30. Most of the 40 women arrested by Bow Street officers in a pre-Christmas sweep were "sent to Bridewell for the Holidays, and that rather from a View of preventing their doing any Mischief, than from any Hope of doing them any Good" (The Whitehall evening-post; Or, London intelligencer 25-27 December 1755).

31. Eight women brought before the aldermen from Wood Street were immediately discharged as they "had already suffered three Days Confinement" (GJRMB 9 March 1779).

32. In the 1880s, the standard charge for a child virgin was five pounds (Harrison 1977, p. 226). However, this may be one of the few areas where deflationary pricing operated as a long-term trend: Fanny Hill was offered 150 guineas for her virginity (Cleland 1749/1964, p. 27). Prices charged for normal transactions in 18th century brothels were usually much less than one pound (du Sorbier 1982).

33. A Mrs. Wilkinson, charged with assault by her son-in-law, was reported to have employed 300 girls, many of whom were under twelve (The Times 15 June 1816). Edward Parr, convicted in the Court of King's Bench of keeping a disorderly house, owned 19 brothels and had amassed a fortune of 20,000 pounds from them (The Times 17 November 1815).

34. Stanley Nash suggests that it was the policy of the City of London to underwrite such prosecutions (1980, pp. 63-64). This does not seem to have occurred in this instance.

35. Consideration of this transition is the principal framework for my study of changing gender relations in this period (Simpson 1984).


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