Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
on 27 December 2014
I stumbled upon this book whilst looking for Harriette Wilson`s memoirs and decided to order it, as one chapter was about her.
Hickman`s book is actually a very well researched study of five English courtesans dating from the Regency period to the Edwardian; though I knew quite a bit about Wilson and Cora Pearl the others - Sophia Baddeley, Elizabeth Armistead and Catherine Walters were less familiar.
The chapters deal with each woman in chronological order; while Hickman provides a fair bit of contextual detail which helps the reader understand both social mores and the day-to-day conventions of each period, there is occasionally some divergence from the main topic when her source material runs thin; this results in anecdotal material and a few meandering passages exploring interesting, if rather secondary subjects.
Pearl and Walters spent much of their time in France so a good deal of the primary source material is delivered in French, mercifully with a full translation in most cases.
This was a pretty good and informative read despite some minor padding; an interesting set of biographies, certainly a worthwhile book on a subject conventional histories of women either ignore or condemn through ignorance, prejudice and projected modern values that are not particularly valid or relevant to the people and times under scrutiny.