Two Rival Prostitutes Fight it Out in 1827 London

Bills of Exchange by Rowlandson


A Sparrow and a Hawk, or at least two young ladies enjoying those aerial designations, were brought up on Wednesday morning, for warbling in the streets the night before in a manner any thing but harmonious; and, notwithstanding the disparity implied in their different species, maintaining a contest both with beak and talon, with a degree of vigour and perseverance which would have done honour to the imperial eagle himself.

From the statement of the watchman, it appeared that these literally “feathered” songsters, between whom an old grudge appears to have existed, met accidentally, or “quite promitcuwusly,” as honest Charley expressed it, on Tuesday night, amid the moonlight groves of Long-acre, each engaged, as usual, in looking after a stray goldfinch [well-to-do man]. No sooner did the Hawk espy the Sparrow, than, with all her characteristic velocity, she came at once down upon her in one fell swoop, which the spirited little bird was not slow in either meeting or returning, and to it they went like lightning.

Caps, feathers, artificial flowers, and hair both artificial and natural, flew about in all directions, intermingled with strips of the best Leghorn chip, and muslin at Heaven knows how much a yard. Long and laborious as are the labours of the toilette in the piping times of peace, it is really wonderful with what celerity two young ladies can assist in mutual disarrayment, when once ” the din of war blows in their ears.” Three minutes more would have made them a couple of Eves, in all but innocence, when the timely arrival of the watchman prevented any further dismantling. The fight became reduced to a mere war of words, and the separated nightingales were, as usual in such cases, safely conveyed to a cage.

This morning, their plumage appeared sadly ruffled, many of their choicest feathers having been left on the field, or borne away, as a sort of spolia opima, by their mutual vanquisher. Their defence now was simple and consistent—“They were overwhelmed with liquor the night before, and with sickness and sorrow in the morning.”

As to the night attack complained of, but for their moulting condition this morning, they would, it seems, from no uncommon lapse of memory, have known nothing at all about it. The Magistrate, however, finding that they were well known, at the office, and that this was far from being their first offence, ordered them to find bail for the breach of the peace, and they were accordingly reconducted to their  “wiry tenement,” to sit and mope and sympathize with Sterne’s starling*.—Globe.

Atlas [London] 29 July1827: p 5

*”‘I can’t get out,’ said the starling.” A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy,  Lawrence Sterne


2 thoughts on “Two Rival Prostitutes Fight it Out in 1827 London

  1. chriswoodyard Post author

    I know–LOVE the language of this article. “muslin at Heaven knows how much a yard…” I’m sure “sparrow” and “hawk” also have some naughty meanings I’ve missed.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s