Covent Garden Ladies Don't Quite Mind Their Ps & Qs

By london_ken Last edited 157 months ago
Covent Garden Ladies Don't Quite Mind Their Ps & Qs
the red on my tummy

Anyone who's ever idly channel-hopped the digital channels of a late night will sooner or later stumble across a programme which purports to be a documentary but in reality is a simple excuse to show some people having anything other than vanilla sex. Sit through enough repeats and you will go blind encounter a character by the name of George McCoy. McCoy is responsible for a guide to the oldest profession as practised in Britain, personally reviewing the ladies and their establishments. Not being in possession of one of McCoy's guides, we're not sure if there's an appendix reviewing the local GUM clinics, but there should be.

Turns out McCoy is hardly a pioneer, though. According to This Is Bath, a book written by some woman called Hallie Rubenhold claims that in the mid-late 18th Century, Samuel Derrick:

created a scandalous best-selling directory of prostitutes in London.

His List of Covent Garden Ladies sold at least 250,000 copies and was considered the essential gentleman's guide for almost 30 years.

What makes this particularly noteworthy, though, is that Derrick was a Master of Ceremonies in Bath. This gave him responsibilities on setting rules on public behaviour and decorum, on top of his guest appearances at Beastie Boys gigs. It's rather like finding out that the dubiously-qualified Gillian McKeith had also written about the best curry houses in Brick Lane for the 'shit through the eye of a needle' experience in the morning.

There's no happy ending for Derrick, though. Despite his salary of £800 per year (£96,000 in today's money), he died penniless in Tunbridge in 1769, although the This Is Bath story doesn't make it clear if he was riddled with syphilis at the time.

Photo taken from R@punseLL's Flickr feed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 licence.

Last Updated 22 February 2006