THE OLD REGIME POLICE BLOTTER: Prostitution
Did Manon Lescaut have to go to New Orleans?
In the novel, she is sent there as a prostitute. But she was the mistress of several men in turn, not available at one time to a wide range of men, and so, under Old Regime law, she was a woman of lewd conduct ("of bad life"), but not a "public prostitute". The same - despite public opinion - could be said of all the royal mistresses. A woman, on the other hand, who, without being paid, slept with more than one or two men in a short period was, legally, a prostitute:
Bordellos & Public Prostitution
By public prostitutes, in Latin meretrices, are understood women, or girls who debauch themselves, & prostitute themselves publicly, & to the first comer, either for free, or for money... Thus, the woman, or girl, who only abandons herself to one, or two persons, even for money, must not be regarded as a public prostitute, but only a girl or woman of bad conduct.. A woman, even if married, is no less a public prostitute, when she gives herself to the first comer." (Jousse, Traité de la Justice Criminelle, III (273))
This however was a fine legal distinction. In La Police de Paris en 1770 (nominally by Sartine), "kept women" are listed as one of the three classes of prostitute, and even described as the most dangerous: "This class is perhaps the most dangerous of all, because the luxury they display at the cost and ruin of those to whom they belong can seduce many others" (Sartine, 92). The generally matter of fact author strikes a compassionate tone, however, in describing the lot of the normal "working girl":
Although there are many of these women in Paris, they cause no trouble there because of the care with which they are contained. The severity of the punishments they suffer for the most minor infractions, the infamy of their state, the treatments to which they are exposed, the horrible misery to which the majority are reduced, making them the most unhappy, as if the last of creatures, there is no reason to fear that the example of their debauchery might lead to the corruption of those who have not yet fallen into it
Old Regime law, it should be noted, uniformly treats prostitution itself (as opposed to pandaring) as a female crime, although there is scattered evidence of male prostitution. The subject of the various punishments inflicted on prostitutes merits a separate article. Confinement to the Hospital General (in particular the Salpetrière) was the most common punishment for prostitutes in Paris. Surprisingly, this was not considered a disgracing ("infaming") punishment. (Denisart, Decisions Nouvelles, II (368) (NOTE: This was essentially a prison sentence. Theoretically prison time itself was not a sentence in Old Regime France. With women, however, there was often at least a pretense of reform, and a number of convents existed with the word 'Penitent' in their names, especially intended for reformed prostitutes and other "lewd" women.) But the possible sentences varied widely:
The King's Declaration of July 26, 1713 concerning the correction of women and girls of ill-repute, says that the Lieutenant of Police of the city of Paris, can summarily conduct the trials of these sorts of persons, in the case of public debauch, & scandalous living, in the simple report of Commissioners, & on neighbors' declarations, when it will only be a matter of sentencing them to fines, to alms, or injunctions to quit the premises, or even the cities, & to order that the furniture of the said girls, or women, be thrown on the pavement and confiscated...
Jousse (III, 281).
Such sentences could sometimes be appealed to Parlement (before the Great Chamber), as when the women were "locked up for a time in the prison of the Hospital-General."
Manon, for instance, could have appealed her sentence on this basis. A Military Statute of June 25, 1750 said that prostitutes found with military personnel would be handed over to the local Royal Judge, with no penalty, unless they were "outsiders & without resources", in which case they would be beaten with sticks after being displayed on a sawhorse (Denisart, II, 159). (The sawhorse may have been sharpened, as it was at one point in Abbeville (François César Louandre, Histoire ancienne et moderne d'Abbeville et son arrondissement, 1834, 401).) "But this punishment having always given rise to very indecent remarks, that of March 1, 1760.... wisely banned this practice..." (Intermediare des Chercheurs, 1882-2 (56)). One writer says (without providing a date) that women convicted of transmitting venereal diseases were sometimes dunked in cages (IC, 1885 (369)). The Dictionnaire de la Conversation, in its article on the prison of Bicetre, says, "Under Louis XVI Bicetre was destined to receive men and prostitutes infected with syphilis. Before treating them in the two rooms especially dedicated to them, the surgeons had them whipped." (Other classes of infected people were, as well.) (1852, Tome 3, 167) Overall, the Old Regime adopted a pragmatic attitude towards this activity:
We have in France several Statutes which impose penalties against prostituted women and girls who live in a scandalous and public debauch, but these Statutes are not strictly observed, because of the great number of the guilty it would be necessary to punish. It is enough to make examples from time to time, & to punish those who are most extreme.
Jousse (II, 273)
Other strictures must have simply been humiliating and/or annoying. In Abbeville, the cure of Notre-Dame-du-Chatel became the "Roi des Ribauds" ("King of the Rascals") during one local fair, and one of his rights there (as elsewhere) was to have prostitutes clean his room for all of May. (Louandre (521)) The testimony of prostitutes was, in principle, excluded in court (Du Rousseaud, Traite de Matiére Criminelle (271)). But if Rose Keller was a prostitute (as some have claimed), it did not prevent her from pressing charges against Sade (until being paid off), nor, presumably, did it silence the prostitutes who later claimed he'd poisoned them. One particularity of the eighteenth century in France was that bordellos were initially illegal, though that had not always been the case:
Public bordellos lasted in France until the reign of Francois Premier, who abolished them. Currently there is nowhere in the Cities a district intended for debauched women, nor Places of Ill Repute, & the custom is to condemn prostitutes to be confined to the Hospital for a certain time, the madams to be whipped, sometimes branded, & almost always to be marched through the streets, wearing a straw hat with written signs in front and behind. These penalties normally are pronounced against madams or pimps.
Denisart (II,157-159) - Denisart, rather than having a separate article on prostitution, discusses it (in 1766) under "Lewd places" (Mauvais Lieux - literally, "Bad places").
In fact, most recorded cases (and so those cited here) concern procurers or others who benefited from prostitution, rather than the prostitutes themselves. (One reason might be that prostitutes could often pay a fine, which must have offered a strong temptation for off-the-books "arrangements" between them and the local police.) It was Sartine who re-established "houses of tolerance" in Paris, restarting a tradition in France of prostitution being under legal control. (The Dictionnaire de la Conversation says that this and other "taxes on vice" helped offset the expenses of the police. (1857, Tome XV, 766)) Finally, the police did their best to make use of these women's "access":
They are obliged... to pay particular attention to the men who come through their places, to gather the statements they may make against the government, the plots and the projects they might have to the detriment of the public security and tranquility and if they discover that some of these have commiteed a theft, a murder or other crimes, they are obliged to denounce them...
He adds that they can be arrested if it is discovered that they have failed to do this (and that they are rewarded when they have). Though examples of this will be shown here, anyone with a cursory knowledge of underworlds may be a bit skeptical as to the willingness of some women to betray men who often lived casually violent lives.
-- THE PALAIS ROYAL
Efforts to 'clean up' the Palais-Royal probably reoccurred from time to time before and after the Revolution. But it was still known for this trade in the nineteenth century.
July 18, 1772. Since last winter, the girls called *hookers* [literally, though the word "raccrocheuses" has no common root with the American term], & and who came at the height of the day to the Palais-Royal to exercise their trade, had been expelled from this garden; but they gradually returned: they began their annoyances with more liberty & impudence than ever, when a new event got them banned without return. M. the Duke of Chartres was walking in his garden; in passing by one of these girls he yelled out in turning towards his retinue, 'Ah, f.... but that one is ugly!....' The self-respect of the offended woman did not allow her to ignore this remark, which she heard very well....'Ah! f....' she replied: 'You have uglier ones in your harem.' So impudent a lack of respect did not remain unpunished, & the punishment fell on the whole species: so that now only the opera girls, the kept women, those that are called high class, can show themselves in this place. Which has not failed to cause great regret, since in the number of these hookers there were some very pretty ones, very well-dressed, who decorated the promenade, pleased the eye & attracted men.. today the Palais-Royal, except on opera days, is only a vast desert.
Bachaumont, Mémoires Secrets (6, 161))
December 9, 1778. The shameful whoremongers of this capital, untroubled by the last police statute concerning streetwalkers, because they did not believe it would be carried out, begin to complain bitterly since they see themselves about to lack this product by the considerable removals of it being made. But libertinage and corruption have been carried to such an excessive point, that other means are needed to dry up the source.
Bachaumont (12, 185)
-- JOHN AND MARK
Jousse says, "When theft is joined to public prostitution, it is punished much more severely", and offers this case as an example. "A Provostal Judgement of May 3, 1714 condemns two girls of ill repute to be whipped & branded, & to be locked up for three years in the Hospital-General of Paris... & then to banished for three years from the Provosty & Vicounty of Paris, for having publicly prostituted themselves in the court of the Champs-Elysees, & having robbed the men to whom they prostituted themselves."
-- WITH THIS RING...
A girl who had been locked up for lewd conduct could be freed if a young man asked for her hand in marriage (as, conversely, until at least the fifteenth century in Abbeville, and possibly other places, a man sentenced to be hung could be spared if he agreed to marry a prostitute (Louandre, 218)). Note that the women here were being detained in the Conciergerie, but that their actual sentence was to be confined in the Hospital-General.
Decision of the Parlement of Paris of March 17, 1716, by which two girls who had been condemned to be confined in the Hospital for lewd conduct were exempted from the sentence by means of two young men offering to marry them, which was done. It is ordered by this Decision (which was delivered without conclusion and only at the request of the two young men), that from their consent they would go to celebrate their marriage at the Church of Saint-Barthelemi in Paris, where the girls were conducted from the prisons of the Conciergerie under good and sure guard by a Huissier, for the marriage to be celebrated in his presence, & the said girls to then be given to their husbands; if not, & in case the boys refused, that the said girls be returned to the Conciergerie.
Jousse (III, 279-280)
-- A DUBIOUS SOURCE
This is an example of the authorities trying - with hesitation - to use a prostitute as a source (Lemesle was suspected of sedition.) It is also one of several examples of a woman being casually disguised as a man (illegal in itself).
D'Argenson to Pontchartrin
Versailles, April 9, 1710
Lemesle has just been arrested and taken to the B. [Bastille], and I owe this discovery to the new indications M. de Piedcourt gave me. Meanwhile our man from Dunkirk did not remain in the place he indicated to me, but as he made me aware of the public trade in which Lemesle was involved with a woman of ill-repute disguised as a man, another woman of the same sort who knew that one indicated his current residence where they were in fact found, the one and the other, it would be easy to arrest her if you considered it appropriate, although there is no indication that if Lemesle has criminal designs against the State, he would have confided them to this unfortunate person, who is known as a true prostitute.
Ravaission, Archives of the Bastille (Tome 12, 1709-1772, 15)
-- NO HONOR AMONG....
This kind of denunciation was probably more dependable than those imposed as a "duty" by the police.
A PROSTITUTE'S VENGEANCE- September 3, 1703 - Finally Le Moine, who had escaped from the Hospital general was arrested yesterday, thanks to a prostitute who wanted revenge on him. He had found, in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a convenient hiding place, but he was not wise enough to be able to keep away from bad company in Paris, and he had not been there for more than two hours, when this woman delivered him to the officers who were looking for him.
Argenson, Rapports (128-129)
From CHEZ JIM Books:|
An EIGHTEENTH CENTURY VEGETARIAN COOKBOOK:
APRES MOI LE DESSERT - VOLUME II
and a history of the CROISSANT:
AUGUST ZANG AND THE FRENCH CROISSANT
18th CENTURY RECIPE: Salad à la Vendôme
Los Angeles has many Persian restaurants, and one of my favorite touches in them is sabzi, the dish of fresh herbs that is often brought as a matter of course at the start of the meal. During our scorching July this summer, I was inspired by the refreshing memory to take the fresh leafy herbs I would usually put in a salad - basil, mint, cilantro, etc. - and treat them AS the salad, adding garlic and olive oil, and then some feta and chicken or tuna. A remarkably light and refreshing dish for a hot day. Little did I dream that eighteenth century cooks had a word for such salads composed of garnishes. Here, from the Cannameliste, are two entries:
GARNISHES ["furnishings"], said of herbs, or plants used to garnish salads, such as chervil, tarragon, balm, or domestic mint, salad burnet, buckhorn plantain, spring onion, garden cress & stonecrop... Salads are made of only garnishes, called salad a la Vendome.
SALAD à la Vendôme, is a salad of Spring to eat it at its best. Take all the sorts of garnishes which I have noted in the article Garnishes: peel them carefully; wash them separately, & lay them out in a salad plate by compartment.
Note that the herbs used to flavor and decorate salads have changed a bit since the period. For those who would prefer a (modern) Persian version, here is one recipe.
FOR READERS OF FRENCH
ON-LINE BOOKS: Medecine; prostitution
These can both be found on Google Print: Paul Delaunay, Le monde médical parisien au dix-huitième siècle, 1906 - 460 pages and C. J. (Charles Jerôme) Lecour, La prostitution à Paris et à Londres, 1789-1870 - 1870 - 372 pages.
Magasin Pittoresque: No 47 - 1879
REMINDER: The Magasin Pittoresque was a nineteenth century French magazine. Issues can be found on Gallica. Also, most articles are accompanied by at least one image, and so some may interest even those who do not read French.
In some libraries, staring at the ceiling is research enough - in 1791, out of 600,000 people, Paris had about 98,000 poor - an image of Joan of Arc, a mere century after her death - a man who opened the door to ancient Rome, through its epigraphs - the name a writer chose to disguise his shoemaker father's name formed the anagram: "You renounce yourself" - "Midnight pass": the disguised arm you took with you in your cane, your pocket or... your key - "This piece of jewelry so rich, but of an incorrect and heavy design" was worn at someone's wedding - a Raphael on an apothecary's jar? - All the news that's fit to trumpet - Did Poe ever see a tintinnabula? - A Parisian is from Paris; an Argentinois is from... Argentan - What if you tried to ransom a town's bells and... they were glad to be rid of them? - Janssens was doing fine until that damned Rubens appeared - "Intendants... were sent [by Richelieu] to combat all the institutions opposed to the centralization of royal power" - The older Corneile was "master of waterways and forests", but what title rivaled being his son's father? - German two-pringed forks were "better suited to piercing one's tongue than bringing food to the mouth" - Diderot found Lepicie's figures "stiff, cut-out, applied one upon the other" - In 1640, the ecu became an exclusively silver coin - Imagine Asterix opening an oyster... - "A sergeant in a town is enough to ruin everything" - The Tahitians called a bull "a very big pig" - A warrior became the "Le Notre of his time" - "Ah! Fuge!" was the battle cry of Berniac - Kleber: "Be slaughtered with your troops"; Schouardin obeyed - Beryl: jewel; bericle: eyeglasses (two crystals) - Even the minstrels had their guild (not to mention a king) - A bookseller's daughter got a rich and unexpected dowry - "I promised you seven; I must have the seventh and I will take it from the enemy's beard" - "In the Fouillouse woods are twenty thieves" - "This digging machine was invented by the Fowler house to help great sheep farmers in Australia" - Suzanne's "undress" was very much in fashion in 1785 - Did Salome dance... the somersault? - "At four years old I surely did not know why I loved him; but... the proof is his sorrows touched me more than mine" - At the start of the 17th c., a machine caused unemployment in Rouen - If you asked for a light and your friend pulled out a pistol... imagine the misunderstandings - an abbe ended the isolation of a town - De Witt "took great care of his health and little of his life" - "We get up to receive a visit; the Polynesians and Malays sit down" - "One is better conceived, better conducted and better achieved, but I wish I had made the other" - The Prodigal Son, shown playing a guitar - "The first academy in France to receive a woman among its members, was in Arles" - "There are few trades as old as that of butcher, and also very few which have given rise to so many regulations, in the interest above all of public health" - Forbin fought a mad dog at ten, but could not brave court intrigue - A Swedish naturalist finds a serpent too big for a jar - "At Rouen then, among the Visitandines, lived a famous parrot" - "The face of the count of Rostaing... is that of a man of war, accentuated, energetic, hardened and tensed" - Should the post office put its posters in verse? - "Men of genius were made to be judged and not to be judges" (Diderot, for instance) - in 1649, 350 houses were marked in Rouen for the plague - Even before the Revolution, in 1785, the tricorner hat was done - De Cotte had to fight to put mirrors over fireplaces, but the ladies took his side - "a simple resolution which revealed not the great captain, but the great man" - There were about 2000 booksellers in France at the end of the 18th c. - Were these the "true remains" of Columbus?
12 - indigent population of Paris
28 - little dictionary of old trades: boot maker, shoemaker
32 - key-stylus
44 - ornaments of the Sainte Maison de Lorette (including pots by Raphael?) described in 1728
76 - Buying back church bells
89 - Intendants
104 - 17th c. Dutch fork
105 - a Chardin or Lepicie?
112 - coins of pleasure and mirlitons of Louis XIII and XIV
136 - 17th c. oyster knife
155 - Sergeants and huissier
163 - The first bull in Tahiti (1804)
179 - Battle cries
184 - eyeglass cases
210 - The Normandy "chauffeurs" (thieves)
217 - a dress from the Marriage of Figaro
223 - trade and the Navy in Normandy in the 16th-17th c
224 - 18th c pistol-lighter
241 - a repairer of pots
251 - Jobelins and Uraniens (1638); the Abby of Averbode (1726)
255 - the first woman in an academy
260 - little dictionary of old trades: butchers
275 - the achrochorde of Java
299 - the first mail box in Paris
316 - silhouettes (reference to Diderot)
331 - the plague and the poor
339 - clothes under the Revolution
356 - the taking of a fortification in 1796
371 - little dictionary of old trades: baker
391 - andirons from Fontainebleau
403 - little dictionary of old trades: bouquet-makers
4 - Romanelli, painter of ceiling of Galerie Mazarin
20 - Bartolomeo Borghesi, founder of Latin epigraphy
76 - painter Victor-Honore Janssens
98 - Pierre Corneille pere
176 - warrior and horticulturist Jacques Boiceau
183 - martyr warrior Schouardin
190 - The last of the minstrel kings (1741-1774)
203 - La Bruyere and the dowry; the soldier Jacques and Bassompierre
220 - Mlle de Conde on her little brother
229 - cure and roadbuilder Abbe Felix Armand
236 - a medal for the martyred De Witt brothers
252 - painter Duplessi-Bertaux
271 - naval leader under Louis XIV, the Count de Forbin
287 - Gresset and his poem Vert-Vert
288 - medal of the Count of Rostaing
345 - Robert de Cotte, architect of Louis XIV
376 - medal of Chancellor Seguier
380 - Louis XIV at the Gobelins
385 - Greuze's portrait of the bookseller Babuti (his father-in-law)
16 - the earliest image of Joan of Arc
37 - door ironwork (knockers, etc.) German 15th c.
40 - wedding crown from Transylvania (16th c)
50 - the influence of heralds on historical truth in the middle ages
64 - an early tintinnabula
70 - names for inhabitants of different French cities
207 - Steamscoop (steam shovel)
220 - Somerset/somersault
247 - Jewish proverbs ("Peace is a precious vase containing all blessings")
250 - salutations in different cultures
357 - Beranger in Rouen
388 - The Bottle - images by Cruikshank
394 - Columbus' remains
"Those who recommend books to others - always a difficult, sometimes a thankless, proceeding - remind one of those dietetic fanatics who persist in forcing some one certain and circumscribed form of food or cookery on all and every sort of constitution: vegetables, eggs, and milk; a chop and port wine for breakfast; gruel; raw steaks and what not. The philobiblical physiclan has always his favorite prescription."
Arnold Haultain, "How to Read", The Living age ... / Volume 208, Issue 2695: Feb 29, 1896 (513-576, 518)