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Great social history that reads like a novel
on 19 November 2006
Harris's List was an annual publication that listed all the prostitutes in and around the Covent Garden area and their 'specialities'! In The Covent Garden Ladies, Rubenhold explores the story of how the list came into being and the three main personalities behind the famous book; Samuel Derrick (a down and out Irish poet), Charlotte Hayes ( a prostitute and then procuress) and John Harrison, also known as Jack Harris, who lent his name to the project.
This is facinating social history. Not only do we learn about the lives of our three main protagonists, but also what it was like to be in the Fleet prison, what is was like to be a struggling writer at the time and also about the theatres, pubs and brothels of Covent Garden.
The book also includes many of the entries from Harris's List, some of which are hilarious. I would have loved to have met a woman with 'breath like a Welsh bagpipe' or the prostitute who 'if you can forget she's hunchbacked, she's a little Venus'!
I would have liked to know more about the lives of the prostitutes at the time. All this was confined to the last chapter of the book, which was unfortunate as it was one of the more interesting parts of the book as a whole.