My dearest Readers,
The Pretty Women of Paris; Their Names and Addresses, Qualities and Faults, Being a Complete Directory; Or, Guide to Pleasure For Visitors to the Gay City (1883 Privately Printed at the Press of the Prefecture de Police, by Subscription of the Members of the Principal Parisian Clubs).
Preface: "Every Woman has her Price." - The Author
When I saw that PREFACE, I actually snorted loud enough to make everyone in the Rare Book Room look up from their studies. I cringed and tried to pretend that I didn't do it by reading on. Boy did I ever get an eye full of that book. There were no illustrations but the words didn't need any. All the names of the women were listed in Alphabetical Order. Quite literally from A to Z. What fascinated me most was learning more about the details that get lost in history. Like what the life of a whore might have REALLY been like back in the 1800's. I think this book, though clearly sexist in its nature for the author had very few positive "reviews" of any of the women in his guide, it gives us a glimpse into the daily life of these women.
Here's two of my favorite excerpts:
11, Rue Miromenil
For beauty in stature in stature and elegance in every limb, no handsomer woman will be found in Paris. She has a fine bust, and has just reached the ripe age of 29. She has a slight down on her upper lip, and affects a pince-nez, which gives her a very saucy appearance. She is very strong and a fine swimmer. Her lovers are to be found among the busy members of the Stock Exchange, and her only fault is the too frequent recurrence of some slight symptoms of venereal disease. She gives very pleasant balls and parties, where many young beginners may be picked up by the amateurs of female beauty. Last winter our brunette appeared at one of her reunions, attired in nothing but a loose gauze chemise and red-satin boots, exactly as if she was only a simple bawdy house wench. Her bosom friend, Antoinette Duret, who we notice further on, was attired, or rather, not attired, in the same way, and soon all the guests male and female, followed suit. She is very good-hearted, and does her best to please both old and young. The smallest contribution thankfully received.
Red-satin boots? I want those! And I just love the whole "slight symptoms of venereal disease." He was probably trying to get her into trouble with the police.
And my next favorite excerpt:
Rue Saint GeorgesNearly every visitor to Paris has noticed an elderly lady, who drive in the fashionable promenades, handling the whip herself with consummate cleverness. She is always attired in the height of fashion, and generally has at her side a young and comely companion. The old baroness herself is old and ugly, but her turn-out is always a marvel of coaching display. Sometimes she disdains to drive, and a postilion, be-wigged and be-powdered, with brilliant, old fashioned costume, conducts this luxurious old bawd; while on other days a tiny tiger, dressed in the perfection of taste, dances up and down on the spring-board behind her airy vehicle. IN any other capital of Europe this person known as the “Shame of Paris” would be simply pelted with mud and stones, for everybody is aware of her trade. It is that which Martial, in his epigrams, so unmercifully condemns. She, nothing more than a fellatrix, or, so to speak more plainly, she produces the venereal spasm by the contact of her mouth, and the tickling of her tongue. Only a common whore, provided with a card by the police, compelling her to submit to the search of the speculum at stated times, she manages to avoid this disagreeable duty by clever bribery. Her house, which, contrary to the usual habit in Paris, is inhabited by her alone, is magnificently furnished, and full of costly pictures, statues, and works of art. The visitor is generally conducted to a splendid bedstead in Algerian style, and after copious ablutions with rose-water, proffered in a silver basin, the goddess deigns to prove the power of that marvelous piece of mechanism – the female tongue. The snug retreat is also tenanted by two or three young nymphs, but none are so clever as this old woman. Her large fortune proves her vogue, as all Paris has passed her doors. Well worth a visit, if only out of curiosity, especially as one short séance is only 10 francs, with a slight gratuity to the waiting-maid, who in return for your kindness, will show you over the house.
What struck me about all the entries was realizing how real these women were and the hardships and the craziness they must have endured. Not only did they create it for themselves but the men placed that burden on them as well. Many think that the Victorian era erased vice and created modesty in women. In some, yes. But sadly, in many no. Their stories are overlooked. After all, who cares about a whore? Which comes to show that our perception of history is messed up. We want the romantic side of how people lived back in the day as opposed to how they really lived. In doing so, we are slapping these women in the face. They may not have lived the most moral or honorable of lives, but they lived them. To pretend these women didn't exist makes us the ones in need of moral reassessment. I'm just saying. Praise be the whore who lead a life unlike anything I could ever write (though I will try, lol).
Cheers and much love until next time,