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The Country Gentleman’s Vade Mecum to the Vices of London

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148.     [COUNTRY GENTLEMAN]. The Country Gentleman’s Vade Mecum: Or His Companion for the Town. In Eighteen Letters, From a Gentleman in London, to his Friend in the Country, wherein he passionately disswades him against coming to London, and Represents to him the Advantages of a Country Life, in Opposition to the Follies and Vices of the Town. He discovers to him most of the Humours, Tricks and Cheats of the Town, which as a Gentlemen and a Stranger he is most exposed to, And gives him some general Advice and Instructions how he may best in his Absence dispose of his Affairs in the Country, and manage himself with the most Security and Satisfaction when he comes to London. London: Printed for John Harris, at the Harrow in Little-Britain, 1699. [22], 1-148, [4, ads] pp., title within double rule border. 8vo (19.2 x 12.7 cm), modern full brown leather Cambridge binding with burgundy morocco spine label lettered in gilt, raised bands, edges gilt rolled, original flyleaves preserved (this duplicates the deteriorated original binding). Text with uniform browning and occasional foxing, overall very good, with contemporary ink ownership signature on blank preceding title.

     First edition of an anonymous satirical “guide” to the vices, cheats, frauds, sharpers, knaves, strumpets, and other perils of London, both amusing and instructive on seventeenth-century customs and social life in England. Jessel, A Bibliography of Works in English on Playing Cards and Gaming 1470. Wing C6533.

     The anonymous “Gentleman in London” is a master of bawdy language. Consider his jaded advice on the question of whether a gentleman should keep a mistress: “But perhaps you may like the Humour of Roveing better, than Keeping any of these Cattle for your Own Riding; hire a Hackney Whore, as your Citizens do their Horses, for a Journey, and no more” (p. 105). The author’s convoluted description of the London theater (“The Humours and Tricks of the Playhouse are Exposed,” pp. 38-44) presents a microcosm of London types in the most extravagant language worthy of study by historical lexicographers:

Sir, having finish’d the first Part of my Design, and, as I said, expos’d the Town to you, as the Spartans were wont to do their Drunken Helots to their Children. I come now to the second thing; i.e. first, to lay before you some of the Humours, Tricks and Cheats of it, which, as a young Gentleman and a Stranger, you are in most danger of; and secondly, to give you some general Directions and Advice, how you may best guard yourself against them. And first, Sir, I will wait upon you to the Playhouse (for thither I’m confident your Inclinations or Curiosity, or both together, will soon lead you) and bear you Company according to the best of my Judgment through the Different Accidents and Adventures which, as a Stranger, you must expect to be encounter’d with as soon as you come there. In our Playhouses at London, besides an Upper-Gallery for Footmen, Coachmen, Mendicants, &c. we have three other different and distinct Classes; the first is called the Boxes, where there is one peculiar to the King and Royal Family and the rest for the Persons of Quality, and for the Ladies and Gentlemen of the highest Rank, unless some Fools that have more Wit than Money, or perhaps more Impudence than both, crowd in among ’em. The second is call’d the Pit, where sit the Judges, Wits and Censurers, or rather the Censurers without either Wit or Judgment. These are the Bully-Judges that damn and sink the Play at a venture; ’tis no matter whether it be good or bad, but ’tis a Play, and they are the Judges, and so it must be damn’d, curs’d, and censur’d in Course; in common with these sit the Squires, Sharpers, Beans, Bullies, and Whores, and here and there an extravagant Male and Female Cit. The third is distinguisht by the title of the Middle Gallery, where the Citizens Wives and Daughters, together with the Abigails, Serving-men, Journey-men and Apprentices commonly take their Places; and now and then some disponding Mistresses and superannuated Poets; into one of these you must go, and truly, considering your Circumstances, I think the Pit is the most proper. Well, when you come there, the Eyes of every Body are presently upon you, especially of the Whores and Sharpers, who immediately give out the Word, to try if anybody knows you; and if they find you’re a Stranger, then a Lady in a Mask, alias Whore, which (as they express it) is a good Tongue-Pad, is forthwith detatch’d to go and sound you, and in the mean time a Cabal of Bullies and Sharpers are consulting which way you must be manag’d, and passing their judgments, upon you. The Lady comes up to you with a kind of formal Impudence, and fixes herself as near to you as she can, and then begins some loose, impertinent Prate, to draw you into Discourse with her. If she finds you a Man of their Turn, and a true Squire, with some sort of Subtil and Insinuating Civility, she leaves you a little, to go and make her Report to her Friends and Allies, that are earnestly waiting to know the Success of her Negotiation, in another part of the Pit; here some proper Measures are soon resolv’d upon, and she’s dispatch’d to you again with new Instructions, and will be sure to stick to you till the End of the Play; and in all the Interludes be constantly chattering to you, to screw herself as far as possible into your Acquaintance, and familiarity. When the Play’s over she certainly marches out with you and by the Way, perhaps does you the Favour to let you have a Glimpse of her Painted Face, &c. if she sees you take no Notice of her, and insensible of her Design, she comes to a close Parley with you, and must needs know which way you go; be it which way it will, her way’s the very same,: and so to avoid the trouble of calling another Coach, if you’ll set her down she’ll give you a Cast another Night, ’tis ten to one but this is agree’d to: and now she got you by her self, she begins to Cajole and flatter you, to commend some particular Part; your Shape, Meen, Carriage, Good nature, and Civility; but above all, the Kindness of taking her into your Coach; in Consideration of which, if you’ll do her the Favour to go Home with her to her Lodging, she’ll do her best to make you Amends: When you come there, the first part of the Entertainment is, with her own Character, and Circumstances, which she commonly makes use of, for an Introduction to enquire into yours; when she has fully equip’d her self with your whole State and Condition, if she finds that you’re worth her trouble, why, then she’s so much captivated with your Genteel Deportment, free Disposition and your Even Temper and Conversation, that you must needs Dine with her to morrow, and thus the Train is laid that will effectually blow you up and ruin you inevitably, if you give her a second Opportunity to touch it with the fatal Coal. You are hardly gone out of her Room, but in comes the rest of the Confederacy, a Set of Bullies, Sharpers, and Whores, and then the Tables are soon turn’d, and you that were but the last Moment one of the most Accomplish’d Persons in the Universe, are now made the grand Laughing-Stock for the Night….

     Other subjects upon which the author waxes profusely are “Tricks of Bawds and Whores are Detected, under the Respective Characters of a Procurer, a Bawd and a Jilt; together with a short Description of a Bawdy-house, and the Art of Trapping,” “Characters of a Bully, Setter, and Spunger, with some general Observations and reflections upon Gaming,” “Humours and Tricks of Cockers and Cock-Matches, and the Cheats of Horse-Races and Foot-matches are expos’d,” “Humours, Tricks and Cheats of the Tennis-Courts,” “Humours, Tricks and Cheats of Bowling Greens, are discover’d, together with an Account of their methods of Betting, &c,” etc.


Sold. Hammer: $1,900.00; Price Realized: $2,280.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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