Nocturnal Revels  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Nocturnal Revels is a 1779 two-volume book about prostitution in 18th-century London.

The title page introduces the book as "the history of King's-Place and other modern nunneries", written by a "monk of the Order of St Francis". It soon becomes clear, however, that the Order of St Francis is a mockingly religious name for the Hellfire Club, and the "modern nunneries" he describes are in fact brothels.

The writer provides a detailed description of life at the high-class brothel of Charlotte Hayes in King's-Place (now Pall Mall Place), off Pall Mall, London. There is an itemised price list from a typical day in the brothel, with entries including a client named Doctor Frettext, who would pay two guineas for the services of Poll Nimblewrist or Jenny Speedyhand. We are also given a harrowing account of the recruitment techniques by which Charlotte Hayes tricked young women into joining the brothel.

Most of the book consists of anecdotes about the high-society figures who frequented King's-Place or were otherwise involved with prostitutes. Their names are partly blanked out, but obviously recognisable, with a Miss Armstrong appearing as "Armstr_ng". Particular mention is given to the exploits of the Duke of Queensberry and the Earl of Sandwich.

The second volume opens with an impassioned defence of prostitution as a social necessity:

"Even in the state of matrimony itself, it often happens, that a man who holds his wife in the highest estimation, may be debarred the felicity of hymeneal raptures, from sickness, absence, and a variety of other temporary causes, which may with facility be imagined. If, in any of those situations, a man could not find temporary relief in the arms of prostitution, the peace of Society would be far more disturbed than it is: The brutal Ravisher would stalk at large, and would plead, as in the case of hunger, that the violence of his passion would break down even stone walls: No man's wife, sister, or daughter would be in a state of security: The rape of the Sabines would be daily rehearsed, and anarchy and confusion ensue. In this point of view then, at least, female prostitution should be winked at, if not protected; and though it may be pronounced a moral evil, it certainly is a political good."

See also


  • Nocturnal Revels, or the History of King's-Place and Other Modern Nunneries, 1779, M Goadby, London

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