Sunday, January 24, 2010

Men Behaving Badly: William Hickey's First Time

Sunday, January 24, 2010
Susan reports:

We've already visited the excellent Georgian memoirs of lawyer and would-be gentleman-rake William Hickey (1749-1830). Since we last left young William mumbling excuses about his grass-stained knees in his mother's drawing room, we decided he deserved a (slightly) more flattering excerpt -- and yes, he's still only thirteen!

Notwithstanding my first connection with the fair sex did not answer my expectation, it in no way discouraged me from making further attempts...Returning [one night]towards my boarding house at Westminster, under the Piazza of Covent Garden, a very pretty little girl, apparently not much older than myself, joined me, took hold of my arm, and, looking earnestly in my face, said: "You are a fine handsome boy, and too young to be walking in such a place as this alone. I'll take your maidenhead."

Pleased with her manner, I accepted her challenge, and accompanied her to a very indifferent-looking apartment up three pairs of stairs in a dark, narrow court out of Drury Lane. There we took off our clothes and got into a dirty, miserable bed. This was my first exhibition under a roof. My Companion gave me great credit for my vigour, saying I was a famous little fellow, and should prove an invaluable acquisition to whatever girl was lucky enough to fix me. In this den of wretchedness, I passed three truly happy hours; and very different indeed were my feelings from what I experienced in the St. James's Park scene.

Upon getting out of bed, however, I was dreadfully alarmed at perceiving the tail of my shirt covered with blood, and screamed out. The poor girl seemed to be in great agitation and distress, which increased my fright; whereupon she eagerly endeavoured to assuage my fears, assuring me no sort of injury would arise, that what I saw proceeded from a natural cause, though she had not been aware of it coming on. She added that to avoid discovery she would wash the linen; and, making me again go into the bed, she pulled off my shirt, which she carried downstairs, and in a little more than half an hour returned with it quite clean and dry.

I then produced my half-guinea, which I offered to her. She enquired whether I had any more, from which question I imagined she did not consider it sufficient. I therefore assured her I had no more, but that I would bring her a further supply on the first opportunity. In supposition, however, I did this generous girl great injustice, and she immediately replied: "If that is all you have, I will not touch it."

In liberal feelings my spirit was equal to her own, and a smart contest ensued between us relative to the said half-guinea, which ended in a compromise, she consenting to retain five shillings...and not a penny more could I prevail on her to take...This kind and generous creature I visited for several years after, and she always addressed me as "her dear little maidenhead"....

Above: After by William Hogarth, 1736

8 comments:

ConnieG said...

My, my, poor Willy does have his trials, doesn't he? But its refreshing how he doesn't spare himself in his memoires. Most men would be beating their chests over their 'manhood' instead of being so honest. More, please!

Susan Holloway Scott said...

ConnieG, I know, things never seem to go easily for young William. But his memoirs are full of things like this, and as you say, he doesn't shy away from presenting himself in a less than flattering light. I feel sorry for the girl in this excerpt too -- they're both so young.

Rowenna said...

Poor fellow...little does he realize he's still providing amusement two-hundred-odd years later...

nightsmusic said...

I let this one simmer overnight before commenting, but I have to say, I still have no...idea how to comment. This is just so wrong on so many levels compared to today's standards though of course, one can't measure his actions against 21st century mores.

But even during his time, the whole thing is perversely amusing, even if he wasn't the only one to 'suffer' these kinds of 'trials'.

How's that for a long winded post that says absolutely nothing? :-)

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Oh, Theo, I know! Any parent of teenagers has to shudder over this -- but as you say, it was an entirely differently time, with very different attitudes towards sexual experience. I suppose the novelty here was that William showed the initiative to go out on his own, rather than waiting to have an older male take him to a brothel. It's all pretty creepy, really. And I don't even want to think about what became of the kind-hearted girl.

OTOH, when William's father finds out what his youngest son has been doing, he is duly horrified -- which is some solace. Esp. since William has been funding these first exploits with money given to him for attending puppet shows!

Heather Carroll said...

Typical man. Claiming she refused to take money because he was such an enjoyable client (at 13). Sounds exactly like the stories they tell each other at the bar if you ask me!

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Heather, I also wondered at that "three truly happy hours." Uh, three hours??? Oh, well -- he makes up for that by admitting to screaming at the sight of blood!*g*

LorettaChase said...

I love William Hickey. I can't think of any other memoirs so frankly written.

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