A pocket guide to Victorian London’s secret brothels and prostitutes disguised as a wallet was thought too up to £500 at auction but actually went for £4000.
The copy of The Man of Pleasure’s Illustrated Pocket-Book for 1850 provides an eye-opening insight into the the capital’s red light districts during the 19th century. It describes, for men with ‘rebellious members’, individual prostitutes using equestrian and seafaring references as a coded language as well as 50 sketches of women.
It is an interesting document as it shines a light on the darker side of early Victorian morality or lack of. These women below were all someones daughter and maybe someones mother.
The book itself is anonymous – it would be fascinating to know who would’ve used it at the time, something I guess we will never know.
Miss Alice Grey – The love-inspiring queen
One page of the guide describes a Miss Alice Grey, of Portland Road, Westminster, as ‘frequently mounted a la militaire, and as frequently performs the rites of the love-inspiring queen according to the equestrian order, in which style she is said to afford uncommon delight.’
Miss Murray – A frigate fit for a king
The book calls Miss Murray, of Foley Place, Oxford Street, ‘a little frigate fit for a king to board.’
Hansons Auctioneers books expert Jim Spencer said: ‘Early erotic publications are extremely sought after with collectors both nationally and internationally. Books like these were published and sold in secret at a time when they would have been regarded as obscene.’
‘The fact that this latest find was disguised as a wallet speaks volumes about its content.’
Miss A Parks – ‘She performs her part with admirable skill and dexterity’
The raunchy guide goes on to describe other prostitutes including Miss A Parks who is noted for her singing when she ‘visits the side-boxes’.
It says: ‘In duets she employs her tongue and voice full as satisfactory as when it emits the shrillest note.
‘She performs her part with admirable skill and dexterity, and in such cases chooses the lowest part’
However, the unknown author also offers a glimmer of romance among the debauchery, writing of Miss Parks:
‘Observe the rapture-giving squeeze
The glowing cheek, the sparkling eye
The falt’ring voice, the trembling knees
That speak in silent words – I die’
Another unnamed woman found at Jessops near Windmill Street is also recommended.
It adds: ‘Her conversation is pleasing, she drinks little, and swears seldom, so that, as time go, she is a very desirable companion.’
Miss Fowler – ‘Makes the most of her leg’
Then there is Miss Fowler ‘who when stepping into a cab or coach, she makes the most of her leg.’
It continues: ‘She generally sets fire to all the male passengers, so that you see them fidgeting and adjusting their rebellious members the remainder of the journey.’