"the (unnatural) trade"; bonus: James Dalton's _A Genuine Narrative_ (1728; ECCO)

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Aug 8 15:37:54 UTC 2010

Rictor Norton's __Mother Clap's Molly House_ (1992) alleges two
quotations for "trade" = prostitution:

1)   c1693/1694, in a letter from Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of
Sunderland, to Edward ("Beau") Wilson.  Sunderland accuses Wilson of
behaving like a harlot in "the Trade".  The source presumably is
_Love Letters Between a certain late Nobleman And the famous Mr.
Wilson_, 1723 ("In a collection of Tracts, British Library shelfmark
Cup. 363gg. 31 (1)."  In Norton: 38 and n.9.

2)   1728.  "Let the Fops of the Town upbraid / Us for an unnatural
Trade".  James Dalton, _A Genuine Narative_ (London: 1728),
42-43.  [Available in ECCO.]  In Norton: 118.

I have not confirmed either "trade" quotation.

The OED has trade (n), sense 6.c, "prostitution", first in 1680, then
1937.  If confirmed, these would fill in the gap a little.

The Dalton may have additional pay-backs.  (It is presently the
source for 4 quotations in the OED, including "molly".)

Author:  "Dalton, James, street-robber."
Title [somewhat fuller]: A genuine narrative of all the street
robberies committed since October last, : by James Dalton, and his
accomplices ... III. Some merry Stories of Dalton's biting the Women
of the Town, his detecting and exposing the Mollies, and a Song which
is sung at the Molly-Clubs: With other very pleasant and remarkable
Adventures. To which is added a *key to the canting language*,
occasionally made Use of in this Narrative.  [Emphasis added.]

I note the "biting the Women of the Town".  This might mean "score a
trick" or "arrange for sex, possibly for money" (as alleged by Norton
elsewhere) -- or possibly "bite, n.", sense 1.i, "Slang phr. to put
the bite on: to borrow money from (someone); to ask (someone) for a
loan; also, to threaten, to blackmail, to extort money from. orig.
and chiefly U.S." -- but the  first quotation for this is "1933 D.
RUNYON Furthermore (1938)."


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