The Vauxhall Gardens Omertà

I read somewhere that Vauxhall Gardens was the premier site for pick-ups and commercial sex in 18th-century England. The chief point of these “Pleasure Gardens” was not the botany, not the food, not even the music, but the opportunity for a quick fuck in the shrubbery. And yet I would have been hard put to it to name my source – until I was fortunate enough to read the complete memoirs of Giacomo Casanova. Who ought to know.

He does not, however, describe it as an in-your-face meat market in precisely the same style as the contemporary Palais-Royal in Paris. My impression is rather of that class of women who, because they extract a somewhat higher price than their despised sisters, would deny being prostitutes at all. For on the subject of getting paid, the women of the Vauxhall Gardens told Casanova, “We never talk about such things”. Which is clearly an admission that they were there to provide play-for-pay, but that the precise parameters were never discussed openly.

What we are dealing with is, therefore, a cartel but a coded cartel. In which the principles of exchange are entirely tacit. I leave it to the reader to decide how much of the rest of life follows the same rules of obfuscation. In conjunction with other things we know, what the Vauxhall Gardens ladies said to the Venetian visitor suggests that a feminine indignation about prostitution driven primarily by the breach of a code of silence.

Posted on February 7, 2012 at 18:15 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE NAME OF THE GAME, The Matrix Of Exchange

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