Monday, 3 January 2011

Boswell and 'sexual favours'

In a chapter about London's sexy life (Chapter 41 "You sexy thing"), Peter Ackroyd relates some of Boswell's sexual encounters. 
Boswell's diary of street life in 1762 provides an account of sexual favours currently on offer. On the evening of Thursday 25 November, he picked up a girl in the Strand, and 'went into a court with intention to enjoy her in armour [i.e. wearing a condom]. But she had none... she wondered at my size, and said if ever I took a girl's maidenhead, I would make her squeak.' On the night of 31 March, in the following year, 'I strolled into the Park and took the first whore I met, whom I without many words copulated with free from danger, being safely sheathed. She was ugly and lean and her breath smelled of spirits. I never asked her name. When it was done, she slunk off.' On 13 April, 'I took a little girl into a court; but wanted vigour'. Boswell, often a moralist after the event, does not regard the fact that it was a 'little girl' as of any significance; this suggests that there were many such thrown upon the streets of London. (pp. 374-375)
Is Ackroyd's reading of 'little girl' too literal or anachronistic? Could there be other interpretations?

From Hogarth's "Morning" (the first in the Four Times of the Day series,  1736)


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