Victorian Era Courtesans: The Man of Pleasure’s Illustrated Pocket-Book (1850)

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In my research, I came across an interesting book (circa 1850) that lists London’s prostitutes, identifying them by name, location, and their special charms. It’s possible to forget that we’re reading about women with a heart and mind of their own, because the way in which they’re described is so objectified.

So-and-So prostitute has…

Screenshot from 2013-09-11 230845“…good teeth…”

“…beautiful legs and feet as the most delicate sensualist would wish to see…”

“…a good complexion, and a fine bloom on her cheeks, but never makes use of any art…”

“…breasts [that] are rather small, but as plump and hard as an untouched virgin’s..”

When describing how these women feel about their profession,  the explanation goes along the lines of: “her life is not worth her care without the thorough gratification of every pleasure.” Prostitution, in other words, allows women unlimited access to their one and only desire: pleasure. Men are therefore assured that there’s no need to feel guilty in seeking out their sexual service.

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But in introducing these prostitutes, the author leaves out one important factor: the reality. Many prostitutes had to deal with sexually transmitted diseases, fickle-hearted patrons/abandonment, abortion, abuse, depression… etc., Life was not always entertaining, glamorous, and pleasurable.

It’s therefore unsettling to read about women as being no more than objects with good teeth, pretty legs, and plump breasts. There’s so much more to ‘fallen women’ than their bodies, but we’re not told their stories, because they’re not given a voiceScreenshot from 2013-09-11 230752. They don’t deserve a voice (or so the Victorian misogynists believed). They were wicked creatures, lesser humans, unnatural, insane…


On a similar note:

In the current manuscript (TRC) I’m working on, my heroine, Amanda Hollingworth, is one of the women listed in the ‘book of prostitutes’. But I give her a voice, so she has a story to tell, and, at present, I’m a little past the half-way point of her life’s story.

I want to write faster (because I really want to share this story), but life has gotten busier after graduating from university. My days can be summarized by this Facebook status of mine:

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My Current Writing Music:

Summer Vacation

Dear Readers,

I won’t be updating my blog too often this month as I’ve flown over to S. Korea to spend some quality time with my family. The scenery here in Korea is sooo lovely that I’ll be wandering around a lot, looking for places to read and write.

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Working on my manuscript @ home

Books I’ve brought with me to read: Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes, Jude Morgan’s Charlotte and Emily, and Mrs. Mortimer’s Bad-Tempered Guide to the Victorian World.

Who else will be going abroad this summer?

BBC’s “The White Queen” (TV Series 2013)

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THE WHITE QUEEN is a period drama (10 episodes long) based on Philippa Gregory‘s bestselling historical novel series The Cousins’ War. While it’s scheduled to premiere on BBC One on 16 JUNE 2013, I’m uncertain how soon it’ll be before we North American folks have access this show.

Summary: Set against the backdrop of the Wars of the Roses, the series is the story of the women caught up in the long-drawn-out conflict for the throne of England. It starts in 1464—the nation has been at war for nine years fighting over who is the rightful King of England, as two sides of the same family, the House of York and the House of Lancaster, are in violent conflict over the throne. The story focuses on three women in their quest for power, as they manipulate behind the scenes of history—Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville. -Wiki

For a more detailed story summary visit the blog FLY HIGH.

I LOVE this trailer:

Another trailer:

Who else will be watching this?

I’ve read other books by Gregory, (such as The Queen’s Fool, which I didn’t enjoy all that much, though The Other Boleyn Girl was pretty decent) BUT I haven’t read The Cousins’ War series. So, having little knowledge of the plot, I’m watching TWQ with little expectations… As long as there is character depth I’ll watch this drama TO. THE. END. But if its like THE TUDORS, focused on the plotting and back-stabbing, but lacking in character development, I’m dropping it.

 

EPISODE ONE (RECAP)

 

Brummell & Byron: The Two heartthrobs of the Regency Era

BEAU BRUMMELL: This Charming Man

The wickedly handsome James Purefoy stars in this drama about the notorious dandy Beau Brummell. Forerunner of today’s celebrity culture, Brummell became famous for his impeccable dress sense and connections with the right people, including the Prince Regent.

Credited with making a less flashy and more elegant style of dress fashionable, the beautifully cut clothing that he made popular is seen as an early version of the suit. Having risen to a height of popularity, however, descent was swift. Brummell died penniless in France, having lost the favour of the Prince.

I am no history buff and yet was able to pick up on many glaring historical inaccuracies. However, as I watched this period movie knowing it would be pretty bad, I was able to enjoy it. After all, I watched this movie only to admire James Purefoy. Gorgeous, and a great actor, I am all bewilderment that he hasn’t been casted in every single period drama.

I could NOT enjoy this period movie to the fullest because of Matthew Rhys who played Lord Byron, a close friend of Brummells (or so it seems to be, according to the movie). He gave me the creepers.

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GEORGE GORDEN BYRON: Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

I think my dislike for Rhys as Byron is due to my having already watched BYRON (2003) in which Jonny Lee Miller played the role of Lord Byron. The movie was very entertaining! Don’t let the movie’s poster frighten you; I was at first put off by it. But intense boredom led me to watch it and I was amazed by how intriguing the movie was.

Byron was considered to be an alcoholic, a sex-addict, a pedophile, and an adulterer who had an affair with his half-sister. Despite the rumours, whether they be true or false, he wrote exquisite poems:

SHE walks in beauty, like the nightOf cloudless climes and starry skies;And all that’s best of dark and brightMeet in her aspect and her eyes:Thus mellow’d to that tender lightWhich heaven to gaudy day denies. One shade the more, one ray the less,Had half impair’d the nameless graceWhich waves in every raven tress,Or softly lightens o’er her face;Where thoughts serenely sweet expressHow pure, how dear their dwelling-place. And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,The smiles that win, the tints that glow,But tell of days in goodness spent,A mind at peace with all below,A heart whose love is innocent!

On another note, Byron inspired for us writers the BYRONIC FIGURE. Maria described the figure as thus: “For Byronic hero we intend the literary type G.G. Byron created in his works: Lara, The Corsair, Manfred and even Don Juan. His literary hero is restless, moody, rebellious, wild in manners but of noble birth, haunted by a secret from his past, loved by women and envied by men. This is what Byronic hero means in literary criticism. You can recognize the same type in Charlotte Bronte’s Mr Rochester or Emily Bronte’s Heathcliffs. They are not pedofiles nor incestuous creatures but they are Byronic heroes. G.G. Byron , the man is not to be confused with his heroes nor with the poet who lives in his beautiful lines. These is what I learnt at university. A literary masterpiece has its own independent life, independent from the life of its author.

Ok. I’ll wrap it up. James Purefoy is gorgeoussss. If you want to drool, watch Beau Brummell. If you’re curious about Byron watch the 2003 movie directed by Julian Farino or buy the biography by MacCarthy and read along with me.

Period Movie Collection

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The deadline by which I will finish my revision and send back to Agent#1: May 13th