Category Archives: Vice

Love Poetry Prostitution Sex Vice

A Ramble in St James’ Park

Continuing with the poetry theme, today’s fragment is from John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester (1647-80) a notorious courtier and poet. His life is deserving of a post of its own, and I will work on a few snippets from his biography for a later post. However, what follows is his scandalous poem A Ramble in St James’s Park, which as a result of its pornographic nature, was still in 1964 regarded as unprintable in England. The poem is fascinating as a counterpart to Gascgoine’s Disdainful Dame, but it also challenges our perceptions of history as remote and disconnected from the modern world.

WARNING: It goes without saying that the poem contains some very strong language and sexual imagery and is not suitable for under 18s.

A Ramble in St. James’s Park

Much wine had passed, with grave discourse
Of who fucks who, and who does worse
(Such as you usually do hear
From those that diet at the Bear),
When I, who still take care to see
Drunkenness relieved by lechery,
Went out into St. James’s Park
To cool my head and fire my heart.
But though St. James has th’ honor on ‘t,
‘Tis consecrate to prick and cunt.

There, by a most incestuous birth,
Strange woods spring from the teeming earth;
For they relate how heretofore,
When ancient Pict began to whore,
Deluded of his assignation
(Jilting, it seems, was then in fashion),
Poor pensive lover, in this place
Would frig upon his mother’s face;
Whence rows of mandrakes tall did rise
Whose lewd tops fucked the very skies.
Each imitative branch does twine

In some loved fold of Aretine,
And nightly now beneath their shade
Are buggeries, rapes, and incests made.
Unto this all-sin-sheltering grove
Whores of the bulk and the alcove,
Great ladies, chambermaids, and drudges,
The ragpicker, and heiress trudges.
Carmen, divines, great lords, and tailors,
Prentices, poets, pimps, and jailers,
Footmen, fine fops do here arrive,

And here promiscuously they swive.
Along these hallowed walks it was
That I beheld Corinna pass.
Whoever had been by to see
The proud disdain she cast on me
Through charming eyes, he would have swore
She dropped from heaven that very hour,
Forsaking the divine abode
In scorn of some despairing god.

But mark what creatures women are:
How infinitely vile, when fair!
Three knights o’ the’ elbow and the slur
With wriggling tails made up to her.
The first was of your Whitehall baldes,
Near kin t’ th’ Mother of the Maids;
Graced by whose favor he was able

To bring a friend t’ th’ Waiters’ table,
Where he had heard Sir Edward Sutton
Say how the King loved Banstead mutton;
Since when he’d ne’er be brought to eat
By ‘s good will any other meat.
In this, as well as allthe rest,
He ventures to do like the best,

But wanting common sense, th’ ingredient
In choosing well not least expedient,
Converts abortive imitation
To universal affectation.
Thus he not only eats and talks
But feels and smells, sits down and walks,
Nay looks, and lives, and loves by rote,
In an old tawdry birthday coat.
The second was a Grays Inn wit,
A great inhabiter of the pit,
Where critic-like he sits and squints,
Steals pocket handkerchiefs, and hints

From ‘s neighbor, and the comedy,
To court, and pay, his landlady.
The third, a lady’s eldest son
Within few years of twenty-one
Who hopes from his propitious fate,
Against he comes to his estate,
By these two worthies to be made
A most accomplished tearing blade.

One, in a strain ‘twixt tune and nonsense,
Cries, “Madam, I have loved you long since.
Permit me your fair hand to kiss”;
When at her mouth her cunt cries, “Yes!”
In short, without much more ado,
Joyful and pleased, away she flew,
And with these three confounded asses
From park to hackney coach she passes.

So a proud bitch does lead about
Of humble curs the amorous rout,
Who most obsequiously do hunt
The savory scent of salt-swoln cunt.
Some power more patient now relate
The sense of this surprising fate.
Gods! that a thing admired by me
Should fall to so much infamy.
Had she picked out, to rub her arse on,
Some stiff-pricked clown or well-hung parson,
Each job of whose spermatic sluice

Had filled her cunt with wholesome juice,
I the proceeding should have praised
In hope sh’ had quenched a fire I raised.
Such natural freedoms are but just:
There’s something generous in mere lust.
But to turn a damned abandoned jade
When neither head nor tail persuade;
To be a whore in understanding,
A passive pot for fools to spend in!

The devil played booty, sure, with thee
To bring a blot on infamy.
But why am I, of all mankind,
To so severe a fate designed?
Ungrateful! Why this treachery
To humble fond, believing me,
Who gave you privilege above

The nice allowances of love?
Did ever I refuse to bear
The meanest part your lust could spare?
When your lewd cunt came spewing home
Drenched with the seed of half the town,
My dram of sperm was supped up after
For the digestive surfeit water.
Full gorged at another time

With a vast meal of slime
Which your devouring cunt had drawn
From porters’ backs and footmen’s brawn,
I was content to serve you up
My ballock-full for your grace cup,
Nor ever thought it an abuse
While you had pleasure for excuse –
You that could make my heart away
For noise and color, and betray

The secrets of my tender hours
To such knight-errant paramours,
When, leaning on your faithless breast,
Wrapped in security and rest,
Soft kindness all my powers did move,
And reason lay dissolved in love!
May stinking vapors choke your womb
Such as the men you dote upon
May your depraved appetite,

That could in whiffling fools delight,
Beget such frenzies in your mind
You may go mad for the north wind,
And fixing all your hopes upon’t
To have him bluster in your cunt,
Turn up your longing arse t’ th’ air
And perish in a wild despair!
But cowards shall forget to rant,

Schoolboys to frig, old whores to paint;
The Jesuits’ fraternity
Shall leave the use of buggery;
Crab-louse, inspired with grace divine,
From earthly cod to heaven shall climb;
Physicians shall believe in Jesus,
And disobedience cease to please us,
Ere I desist with all my power
To plague this woman and undo her.

But my revenge will best be timed
When she is married that is limed.
In that most lamentable state
I’ll make her feel my scorn and hate:
Pelt her with scandals, truth or lies,
And her poor cur with jealousies,
Till I have torn him from her breech,

While she whines like a dog-drawn bitch;
Loathed and despised, kicked out o’ th’ Town
Into some dirty hole alone,
To chew the cud of misery
And know she owes it all to me.
And may no woman better thrive
That dares prophane the cunt I swive!

Booze Crime Propaganda Sex Vice

Drinking, fiddling, prostitutes, hangings

Final snippets from Thomas Platter’s observations of London in 1599.

There are a great many inns, taverns, and beer-gardens scattered about the city, where much amusement may be had with eating, drinking, fiddling, and the rest, as for instance in our hostelry, which was visited by players almost daily. And what is particularly curious is that the women as well as the men, in fact more often than they, will frequent the taverns or ale-houses for enjoyment. They count it a great honour to be taken there and given wine with sugar to drink; and if one woman only is invited, then she will bring three or four other women along and they gaily toast each other; the husband afterwards thanks him who has given his wife such pleasure, for they deem it a real kindness.

In the ale-houses tobacco or a species of wound-wort are also obtainable for one’s money, and the powder is lit in a small pipe, the smoke sucked into the mouth, and the saliva is allowed to run freely, after which a good draught of Spanish wine follows. This they regard as a curious medicine for defluctions, and as a pleasure, and the habit is so common with them, that they always carry the instrument on them, and light up on all occasions, at the play, in the taverns or elsewhere, drinking as well as smoking together, as we sit over wine, and it makes them riotous and merry, and rather drowsy, just as if they were drunk, though the effect soon passes — and they use it so abundantly because of the pleasure it gives, that their preachers cry out on them for their self-destruction, and I am told the inside of one man’s veins after death was found to be covered in soot just like a chimney. The herb is imported from the Indies in great quantities, and some types are much stronger than others, which difference one can immediately taste; they perform queer antics when they take it.

This city of London is not only brimful of curiosities but so populous also that one simply cannot walk along the streets for the crowd.  Especially every quarter when the law courts sit in London and they throng from all parts of England for the terms to litigate in numerous matters which have occurred in the interim, for everything is saved up till that time; then there is a slaughtering and a hanging, and from all the prisons (of which there are several scattered about the town where they ask alms of the passers by, and sometimes they collect so much by their begging that they can purchase their freedom) people are taken and tried; when the trial is over, those condemned to the rope are placed on a cart, each one with a rope about his neck, and the hangman drives with them out of the town to the gallows, called Tyburn, almost an hour away from the city; there he fastens them up one after another by the rope and drives the cart off under the gallows, which is not very high off the ground; then the criminals’ friends come and draw them down by their feet, that they may die all the sooner. They are then taken down from the gallows and buried in the neighbouring cemetery, where stands a house haunted by such monsters that no one can live in it, and I myself saw it.  Rarely does a law day in London in all the four sessions pass without some twenty to thirty persons — both men and women — being gibbeted.

And since the city is very large, open, and populous, watch is kept every night in all the streets, so that misdemeanors shall be punished. Good order is also kept in the city in the matter of prostitution, for which special commissions are set up, and when they meet with a case, they punish the man with imprisonment and fine. The woman is taken to Bridewell, the King’s palace, situated near the river, where the executioner scourges her naked before the populace. And although close watch is kept on them, great swarms of these women haunt the town in the taverns and playhouses.

More from Thomas Platter on Bears and Cock Fighting here, and on attending the theatre here 

Italy Prostitution Vice

Licentious Wantons

These snippets are taken from Coryat’s Crudities, Thomas Coryate’s observations on Europe gathered during a five-month walking tour in 1608, published in 1611.

The woman that professeth this trade is called in the Italian tongue Cortezana, which word is derived from the Italian word cortesia that signifieth courtesie, because these kinde of women are said to receive courtesies of their favourites. As for the number of these Venetian Cortezans it is very great; it is thought there are of them in the whole City and other adjacent places, as Murano, Malomocco, &c. at the least twenty thousand, whereof many are esteemed so loose, that they are said to open their quivers to every arrow. A most ungodly thing without doubt that there should be a tolleration of such licentious wantons in so glorious, so potent, so renowned a city. For so infinite are the allurements of these amorous Calypsoes, that the fame of them hath drawen many to Venice from some of the remotest parts of Christendome, to contemplate their beauties, and enjoy their pleasing dalliances.

And indeede such is the variety of the delicious objects they minister to their lovers, that they want nothing tending to delight. For when you come into one of their Palaces (as indeed some few of the principallest of them live in very magnificent and portly buildings fit for the entertainement of a great Prince) you seeme to enter into the Paradise of Venus. For their fairest roomes are most glorious and glittering to behold. The walles round about being adorned with most sumptuous tapistry and gilt leather.

As for her selfe shee comes to thee decked like the Queene and Goddesse of love, for her face is adorned with the quintessence of beauty. In her cheekes thou shalt see the Lilly and the Rose strive for the supremacy, and the silver tramels of her haire displayed in that curious manner besides her two frisled peakes standing up like prety Pyramides. Thou maist easily discerne the effects of those famous apothecary drugs heretofore used amongst the Noble Ladies of Rome, a thing so common amongst them, that many of them which have an elegant naturall beauty, doe varnish their faces (the observation whereof made me not a little pitty their vanities) with sordid trumperies. Also the ornaments of her body are so rich, that except thou dost even geld thy affections (a thing hardly to be done) or carry with thee some antidote against those Venereous titillations, shee wil very neare benumme and captivate thy senses.

Thou shalt see her decked with many chaines of gold and orient pearle like a second Cleopatra, divers gold rings beautified with diamonds and other costly stones, jewels in both her eares of great worth. A gowne of damaske (I speake this of the nobler Cortizans) either decked with a deep gold fringe or laced with five or sixe gold laces each two inches broade. Her petticoate of red chamlet edged with rich gold fringe, stockings of carnasion silke, her breath and her whole body, the more to enamour thee, most fragrantly perfumed. Moreover shee will endevour to enchaunt thee partly with her melodious notes that she warbles out upon her lute, which shee fingers with as laudable a stroake as many men that are excellent professors in the noble science of Musicke ; and partly with that heart-tempting harmony of her voice. Also thou wilt finde the Venetian Cortezan (if she be a selected woman indeede) a good Rhetorician, and a most elegant discourser, shee will assay thy constancy with her Rhetoricall tongue.

And to the end shee may minister unto thee the stronger temptations to come to her lure, shee will shew thee her chamber of recreation, where thou shalt see all manner of pleasing objects, as many faire painted coffers wherewith it is garnished round about, a curious milke-white canopy of needle worke, a silke quilt embroidered with gold : and generally all her bedding sweetly perfumed. And amongst other amiable ornaments shee will shew thee the picture of our Lady by her bedde side, with Christ in her armes, placed within a cristall glasse.

Moreover I will tell thee this newes which is most true, that if thou shouldest wantonly converse with her, and not give her that payment which thou hast promised her, but perhaps cunningly escape from her company, shee will either cause thy throate to be cut by her Rurfiano, if he can after catch thee in the City, or procure thee to be arrested (if thou art to be found) and clapped up in the prison, where thou shalt remaine till thou hast paid her all thou didst promise her.

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Insanity Stage Vice

A charming lunatic

Today’s snippet comes from the life and times of Mr Alexander Cruden, a British eccentric, and, some might say, raving lunatic. What fascinates me about Cruden is his tenacity. A man who was incarcerated three times, declared war on a woman he’d never met, and patrolled the streets of London armed with a damp sponge deserves both our interest and our respect.

Alexander was born in 1699 in Aberdeen, son to a prominent merchant, and second of eleven children. He was educated in Aberdeen and took a master’s degree, in addition to which he attended lectures on divinity to support his intention of joining the church. Unfortunately, it was at this time that Alexander fell in love with a minster’s daughter. She spurned his affections and instead fell preganant with her own brother’s child. As a result Cruden became slightly unhinged and was confined to the tolbooth for a fortnight, there being no asylum at that time which could suitably hold him. Once released, he made immediately for london and lived as a private tutor there until 1726 when he began work as a proof-reader.


In 1732, Cruden was working as a bookseller and proof-reader at the Royal Exchange. In 1733 he began work on his celebrated Complete Concordance to the Holy Scriptures, and in 1735 he received a royal warrant and began to style himself as The Queen’s Bookseller. He presented a copy of his book to Queen Caroline in November 1737, only days before her death. The death of the queen hit Cruden hard; he had lost both royal patron and a source of income, and once more a crisis exerted a toll on his mental health. He started paying unwelcome attention to a Mrs Pain, widow, and was subsequently confined to Mr Wright’s private madhouse in Bethnal Green in March 1738. Cruden lodged at Mr Wright’s for nine weeks, chained to his bed, until he was able to finally make his escape. Once free, he attempted to take action against those whom he held responsible and published a pamphlet entitled The London Citizen Exceedingly Injured. His attempts to bring his gaolers to justice came to nothing, no doubt in part because he took steps to conduct the court case himself.

In 1753, Cruden became involved in a public street brawl. It was often his habit to intervene in situations such as these in order to maintain the public calm, but on this occasion he was actively engaged in a fight for over an hour with a young man and a shovel. The youngster had ‘so greatly offended him that, contrary to his usual custom, he took the shovel and corrected him with some severity’. As a consequence, Cruden’s sister had Alexander confined to Inskip’s Asylum in Chelsea for seventeen days. When he was released, Cruden tried to bring a suit against her and three others to the tune of £10,000, but his efforts were unsuccessful. As was his request that his sister commit herself to Newgate Gaol for several days in penance.

Appalled by his treatment in Chelsea, Cruden wrote an account of it entitled The Adventures of Alexander the Corrector (1754). By this point Cruden was convinced he had been divinely appointed by God to act as a protector of public morals. He also felt a knighthood, and a spell as a parliamentary candidate might assist his endeavours in this regard. Perhaps unsurprisingly nothing came of these ambitions. Around the same time, Alexander also fell in love with a woman he did not know; Elizabeth Adney, daughter of the lord mayor of London, became the object of his passion. Cruden, convinced Miss Adney was his predestined partner, bombarded her with correspondence, but her reluctance to respond to his flood of letters, or indeed, to entertain him in any capacity whatsoever, resulted in him reconfiguring himself as Alexander the Conqueror, and delivering a formal declaration of war against the unfortunate woman in July 1754. He waged a fanatical and single-minded campaign against her, but, as with so many of his ventures, achieved little in the way of success.

For months he pestered her with calls, and persecuted her with letters, memorials, and remonstrances. When she left home, he caused ‘praying-bills’ to be distributed in various places of worship, requesting the prayers of the minister and congregation for her preservation and safe return; and when this took place, he issued further bills to the same congregations to return thanks.

In 1763, Cruden campaigned against the death sentence of a young seaman he had befriended, and managed to get the sentence reduced to transportation abroad. It was during this period that he spent much time carrying a sponge around the streets of London to efface any offensive scribblings which caught his eye:

he carried in his pockets a large piece of sponge. He subsequently attempted to obliterate all the obscene inscriptions with which idle persons were permitted at that time to disgrace blank walls in the metropolis. This occupation made his walks very tedious.

Cruden returned to Aberdeen in 1769, and a year later returned to London, lodging in Camden Street, Islington. He was found dead on the morning of 1st November 1770. During his lifetime he had expressed a preference to be buried in the churchyard of St Nicholas’s, Aberdeen, but he was interred instead in the dissenters’ burial-ground at Deadman’s Place, Southwark.

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