Category Archives: London

Cosmetics London Women

The Picture of a Painted Woman

These snippets come from an early 17th century text on the ungodly dangers of face-painting. I stumbled on the pamphlet by accident, and initially hesitated over sharing it on Fragments, since the text is somewhat intractable in nature. However the author reveals some interesting details about the perception of women who decorated their faces with cosmetics; and in addition, provides us with a glimpse into the world of the puritanical preacher.  This textual portrait of a woman given over to the pleasures of beauty products and wigs not only conflates unnatural beauty with ungodliness, it also draws some fascinating parallels between the city of London and notions of depraved debauchery. The image above comes from the title page, and bears an uncanny resemblance to Elizabeth I.

She is a creature, that had need to be twice defined;  for she is not that she seemes. And though shee bee the creature of God, as she is a woman, yet is she her owne creatrisse, as a picture. She loves a true looking-glasse, but to commend age, wants and wrinkles, because otherwise she cannot see to lay her falshood right. Her body is of Gods making: and yet it is a question; for many parts thereof she made her selfe. View her well, and you’ll say her beautie’s such, as if she had bought it with her pennie. She’s ever amending yet is she for all that no good penitent. For she loves not weeping. Teares and mourning would marre her making: and she spends more time in powdring, pranking and painting, then in praying. She’s in her oyntments a great deale. Her religion is not to live well, but die well. Her pietie is not to pray well, but to paint well. She loves confections better a great deale, than confessions, and delights in facing and feasting more than fasting.

Religion is not in so great request with her, as riches: nor wealth so much as worship. She never chides so heartilie, as when her box is to seeke, her powder’s spilt, or her clothes ill set on. A good Bed-friend shee’s commonly, delighting in sheetes more than in shooes, making long nights, and short daies. All her infections are but to gaine affections; for she had rather die, than live & not please. Her lips she laies with so fresh a red, as if she sang John come kisse me now. Yet it’s not out of love, excepting self-love, that she so seekes to please, but for love, nor from honesty, but for honor: tis not piety, but praise that spurres her. She studies to please others, but because she would not be displeas’d her self.  And so she may fulfil her own fancy, she cares not who else she doth befoole. A name she preferres to nature, and makes more account of fame, then faith.

And though she do affect singularity, yet she loves plurality of faces. She is nothing like her self, save in this, that she is not like her self. She seldom goes without a paire of faces, and shes furnished with stuffe to make more if need be.  Her own sweet face is the booke she most lookes upon; this she reads over duly every morning, specially if she be to shew her self abroad that day: And as her eye or chambermaid teaches her, somtimes she blots out pale, & writes red. The face she makes i’th day, she usually marrs i’th’night, & so its to make anew the next day.  Her haire’s seldom her own. And as for her head, thats dressed, and hung about with toys & devises, like the signe of a tavern, to draw on such as see her.

Shes marriageable & if she survive her husband, his going is the coming of her teares, and the going of her teares is the comming of another husband. ‘Tis but in dock, out nettle. By that time her face is mended, her sorrows ended. There’s no physick she so loves, as face physick: and but assure her she’st ne’re need other, whiles she lives, and she’ll die for joy.

She takes a journey now and then to visit a friend, or sea cousin: but she never travels more merrily than when she’s going to London. London, London hath her heart. The Exchange is the Temple of her Idols.  In London she buys her head, her face, her fashion. O London, thou art her Paradise, her Heaven, her All in all!  If she be unmarried, she desires to be mistaken, that she may be taken. If married to an Old man, she is rather a Reede and a Racke unto him, then a Staffe and a Chaire, a trouble rather then a friend, a corrosive, not a comfort, a consumption, not a counsellour. The utmost reach of her Providence is but to be counted Lovely, and her greatest Envy is at a fairer face in her next neighbour; this, if any thing, makes her have sore eyes.

Her imagination is ever stirring, and keepes her mind in continuall motion, as fire doth the pot a playing, or as the weights doe the jacke in her kitchen. Her devises follow her fansie, as the motion of the Seaes doe the Moone. And nothing pleases her long, but that which pleases her fansies.  Once a yeere at least she would faine see London, tho when she comes there, she hath nothing to doe, but to learne a new fashion, and to buy her a perwigge, powder, ointments, a feather, or to see a play. One of her best vertues is, that she respects none that paint: and the reward of her painting, is to be respected of none that paint not.  To conclude, whosoever she be, shee’s but a Guilded Pill, composde of these two ingredients, defects of nature, and an artificiall seeming of supplie, tempered and made up by pride and vanitie, and may well be reckned among these creatures that God never made.

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved

Death London

Infection hath shut up four thousand doors

These fragments come from a text entitled London’s Lamentation, written by Thomas Dekker, and published in 1625. Dekker was a notorious pamphleteer and social commentator, and this text acts as an admonishment to the thousands of people who have fled the capital in an attempt to escape the plague. For as Dekker points out, with so many people leaving London to its fate, there are few left to care for the sick and dying.  These fragments paint a stark and terrifying picture of London in the grip of a terrible epidemic.

Thou maist here see (as through a Perspective-Glasse) the miserable estate of London, in this heavy time of contagion. It is a picture not drawne to the life, but to the death of above twelve thousand, in lesse then six weekes. If thou art in the Countrey, cast thine eye towards us here at home, and behold what we endure.

None thrive but Apothecaries, Butchers, Cookes, and Coffin-makers. Coach-men ride a cock-horse, and are so full of ladish trickes, that you cannot be jolted sixe miles from London, under thirty or forty shillings. Never was Hackney-flesh so deare.  Few woollen Drapers sell any Cloth, but every Church-yard is every day full of linnen Drapers: and the Earth is the great Warehouse, which is piled up with winding-sheetes.

There were never so many burials, yet never such little weeping. A teare is scarce to be taken off from the cheeke of a whole Family for they that should shed them, are so accustomed, and so hardned to dismall accidents, that weeping is almost growne out of fashion. Why, says a Mother, do I shower teares downe for my Husband or Childe, when I, before tomorrow morning, shall go to them, and never have occasion to weepe any more?

(Whilst I am setting these things downe, Thursday the 1st of July brought me that this weeke have departed 3000 soules and that the Plague is much increased).

Infection hath shut up, from the beginning of June, to the middle of July, almost foure thousand doors. Foure thousand crosses set on these doors. Foure thousand Red-Crosses have frighted the Inhabitants in a very little time. But greater is their number who have beene frighted, and fled out of the City at the setting up of those Crosses. In many Church-yards, Graves still gaping for more want of roome, they are compelled to dig Graves like little Cellers, piling up forty or fifty in a Pit.

A woman (with a Child in her armes) passing through Fleet-street, was strucke sicke upon a sudden; the Childe leaning to her cheeke, immediately departed. The Mother perceiving no such matter, but finding her owne heart wounded to the death, she sat downe neere to a shop where hot Waters were sold. The charitable woman of that shop, perceiving by the poore wretches countenance how ill she was, ran in all haste to fetch her some comfort; but before she could come, the Woman was quite dead: and so her childe and she went lovingly together to one Grave.

A Gentleman having spent his time in the Warres, and comming but lately over in health, and lusty state of body, going along the streets, fell suddenly downe and dyed, never uttering more words then these, Lord, have mercy upon me. Another dropped downe dead by All gate, at the Bell-Taverne door.

A Flax-man in Turnebull street, being about to send his Wife to market, on a sudden felt a pricking in his arme, neare the place where once he had a sore, and pon this, plucking up his sleeve, he called to his Wife to stay; there was no neede to fetch any thing for him from Market: for, see (quoth he) I am marked: and so shewing Gods Tokens, dyed in a few minutes after.

A man was in his Coffin, to be put into a Grave, in Cripple-gate Church-yard, and the Bearers offering to take him out, he opened his eyes, and breathed; but they running to fetch Aqua vita for him, before it came, he was full dead.

A lusty country fellow, that came to towne to get Harvest-worke, having sixteene or eighteene shillings in his Purse, fell sicke in some lodging he had, in Old-street; was in the night time thrust out of doors, and none else receiving him, he lay upon Straw, under Suttons Hospitall wall, neere the high way, and there miserably dyed.

A woman going along Barbican, in the moneth of July, on a Wednesday, the first of the Dog-daies, went not farre, but suddenly fell sicke, and sat downe. The gaping multitude perceiving it, stood round about her, afarre off; she making signes for a little drinke.  Money was given by a stander by to fetch her some, but the uncharitable Woman of the Ale-house denyed to lend whosoever a cup of cold water, and her Pot to any infected companion.  The poore soule dyed suddenly, and yet, albeit all fled from her when she lived, yet being dead, some (like Ravens) seized upon her body (having good clothes about her) stripped her, and buried her, none knowing what she was, or from whence she came.

How many every day drop downe staggering, strucke with infection in the open Streets?  What numbers breathe their last upon Stalles?  How many creepe into Eatries, and Stables, and there dye?  How many lye languishing in the common High-wayes, and in the open Fields, on Pads of Straw, end their miserable lives, unpittied, unrelieved, unknowne? The Gospell has a long time cryed out against our iniquities, but we are deafe, sleepy and sluggish; and now there is a Thunder from Heaven to wake us.

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved
London Poetry Prostitution

Corinna, pride of Drury-Lane

Today’s fragment is a poem by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) which explores the artifice and reality of life as a prostitute.

A Beautiful Young Nymph Going To Bed

Written for the honour of the fair sex

(1731)
Corinna, pride of Drury-Lane,
For whom no shepherd sighs in vain;
Never did Covent-Garden boast
So bright a batter’d strolling toast!
No drunken rake to pick her up,
No cellar where on tick to sup;
Returning at the midnight hour,
Four stories climbing to her bower;
Then, seated on a three-legg’d chair,
Takes off her artificial hair;
Now picking out a crystal eye,
She wipes it clean, and lays it by.
Her eyebrows from a mouse’s hide
Stuck on with art on either side,
Pulls off with care, and first displays ‘em,
Then in a play-book smoothly lays ‘em.
Now dext’rously her plumpers draws,
That serve to fill her hollow jaws,
Untwists a wire, and from her gums
A set of teeth completely comes;
Pulls out the rags contrived to prop
Her flabby dugs, and down they drop.
Proceeding on, the lovely goddess
Unlaces next her steel-ribb’d bodice,
Which, by the operator’s skill,
Press down the lumps, the hollows fill.
Up goes her hand, and off she slips
The bolsters that supply her hips;
With gentlest touch she next explores
Her chancres, issues, running sores;
Effects of many a sad disaster,
And then to each applies a plaster:
But must, before she goes to bed,
Rub off the daubs of white and red,
And smooth the furrows in her front
With greasy paper stuck upon’t.
She takes a bolus ere she sleeps;
And then between two blankets creeps.
With pains of love tormented lies;
Or, if she chance to close her eyes,
Of Bridewell and the Compter dreams,
And feels the lash, and faintly screams;
Or, by a faithless bully drawn,
At some hedge-tavern lies in pawn;
Or to Jamaica seems transported
Alone, and by no planter courted;
Or, near Fleet-ditch’s oozy brinks,
Surrounded with a hundred stinks,
Belated, seems on watch to lie,
And snap some cully passing by;
Or, struck with fear, her fancy runs
On watchmen, constables, and duns,
From whom she meets with frequent rubs;
But never from religious clubs;
Whose favour she is sure to find,
Because she pays them all in kind.

Corinna wakes. A dreadful sight!
Behold the ruins of the night!
A wicked rat her plaster stole,
Half eat, and dragg’d it to his hole.
The crystal eye, alas! was miss’d;
And puss had on her plumpers piss’d,
A pigeon pick’d her issue-pease:
And Shock her tresses fill’d with fleas.

The nymph, though in this mangled plight
Must ev’ry morn her limbs unite.
But how shall I describe her arts
To re-collect the scatter’d parts?
Or show the anguish, toil, and pain,
Of gath’ring up herself again?
The bashful Muse will never bear
In such a scene to interfere.
Corinna, in the morning dizen’d,
Who sees, will spew; who smells, be poison’d.

Actor London Shakespeare Theatre

He is tragicall on the stage

This fragment is a description of an actor from the 1620s.  Not only does it reveal much about the way actors were perceived in the 17th century, it also sheds light on how Shakespeare himself, who spent his time both on the stage, as well as writing for it, might have been regarded by his contemporaries in the theatre.

A Player

He knows the right use of the World, where in he comes to play a part and so away.  His life is not idle for it is all Action, and no man need be more wary in his doings, for the eyes of all men are upon him. His Profession has in it a kind of contradiction, for none is more dislik’d, and yet none more applauded; and he has this misfortune of some Scholler, too much wit makes him a foole.  He is like our painting Gentle-women, seldome in his owne face, seldomer in his cloathes, and he pleases, the better hee counterfeits, except onely when he is disguis’d with straw for gold lace.  Hee does not only personate on the Stage, but sometime in the Street, for he is mask’d still in the habit of a Gentleman.  His Parts find him oathes and good words, which he keeps for his use and Discourse, and makes shew with them of a fashionable Companion.

He is tragicall on the Stage, but rampant in the Tyring-house, and sweares oathes there which he never con’d. The waiting women Spectators are over-eares in love with him, and Ladies send for him to act in their Chambers. Your Innes of Court men were uvndone but for him, hee is their chiefe guest and employment, and the sole business that makes them Afternoones men.  The Poet only is his Tyrant, and he is bound to make his friends friend drunk at his charges. Shrove-tuesday hee feares as much as the Baudes, and Lent is more damage to him then the Butcher [the theatres were closed during Lent].  He was never so much discredited as in one Act, & that was of Parliament, which gives Hostlers Priviledge before him, for which hee abhors it more then a corrupt Judge.  But to give him his due, one well-furnished Actor has enough in him for five common Gentlemen, and if he have a good body for sixe, and for resolution, hee shall Challenge any Cato, for it has beene his practise to die bravely.

Source: John Earle, Microcosmography (1628)

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved

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