Before the Regency period came along there was the Georgian era, which had a far more lenient view on prostitution and the women engaged in the profession. Harris’s List was a guide published once a year that listed all the prostitutes working in Covent Garden with some very colorful descriptions of their skills and note-worth tips. It was the ultimate review guide.
Each entry listed a prostitute’s age, her physical appearance (bust size being an important factor of course) and her sexual specialties. Addresses and prices were listed as well. Some of the listings were in fact hilarious:
Miss B-nf-ld was “frequently mounted a la militaire, and as frequently performed the rites of the love-inspiring queen according to the equestrian order, in which style she is said to afford uncommon delight'”
Miss Clicamp is described as “one of the finest, fattest figures as fully finished for fun and frolick as fertile fancy ever formed … fortunate for the true lovers of fat, should fate throw them into the possession of such full grown beauties.”
Miss B-lm-t “on the other hand, while not at all pretty, compensated for her lack of looks by her mouth, which seemed ‘by its largeness, prepared to swallow up whoever may have courage to approach her'”
The entries were made anonymously by men and while were mostly flattering could also be scathing. Prostitutes were criticized for having bad breath, cursing, and drinking. The women were also badly reviewed if they appeared too mercenary or were just plain lazy and uninterested in the act.
The Harris List was published between 1757 to 1795 and was sold for two shillings and sixpence, making it affordable for the members of the upper and middle-classes but expensive for the working class.
Interestingly, the name of the guide itself is said to have been inspired by a Covent Garden pimp by the name of Jack Harris. And while it wasn’t the first prostitute directory to be published in London it was by far the most popular one. The Harris List was also used as a platform to defend the sex trade, even going so far as to say that prostitution helped young women as it provided an outlet for frustrated men.
In the last few years of its publication, the guide saw a decline in the quality of its content. Old material was recycled, listings were often inaccurate, and it lacked the euphemisms that had it so popular to begin with. The Man of Pleasure’s guide met its demise at the end of the 18th century when public opinion turned against prostitution and moral reformers petitioned the government to take action against the publishers.