Note: There is sexual content in this post which may not be suitable for some readers.
It's probably about time we got down to the nitty-gritty and talked about sex. Let's have a look at some of Peg's clients; the services they enjoyed; and, how much they payed for their pleasures.
Peg's house was open for entertainment every evening. Officers arrived from the Royal Barracks and Dublin Castle. Local businessmen mingled with Lords of the realm. Peg tells us "I was visited by nobles and gentlemen of the first rank in the kingdom; for it became quite the fashion to be acquainted with me."
When talking about the activities of the house, Peg's language can by coy, she rarely uses the word sex. Instead she mentions "sipping" with gentlemen or "sitting in company". While alcohol and conversation were certainly on offer, the men were paying for a lot more than sipping and sitting. We know that Peg recruited some of her women from London. The go-to-guide for sexual services in London at this time was Harris's List. Here, the language is far less reticent and may give us an idea of the bedroom activities. If you fancied some straight-forward action you could consider the enthusiastic Mrs Pi-ce
This girl at present possesses every requisite to form the good, the agreeable bed-fellow. She is still in her teens, with fine dark eyes and hair, her mouth opens to display a regular set of teeth, pretty, panting bubbies. In bed she will twine and twist, sigh and murmur, pant and glow with unsigned emotions and never be tired of love's game.
and if fellatio tickled your fancy there was Miss H-isb-ry
This young lady is finely made, and may in more senses than one, be pronounced a great linguist. A velvet salute of this kind, had nearly disguised Lord L-; but having got over the first impression, he found that her tongue was attuned to more airs that one; but she never admits either of her mouths to be play'd with for less than two guineas."
or how about Betsey Miles who was known for:
her immense sized breasts, which she alternately makes use of with the rest of her parts to indulge those who are particularly fond of a certain amusement... backwards and forwards are all equal to her, posteriors not excepted, nay indeed by her own account she has most pleasure in the latter. Entrance at the front door tolerably reasonable, but nothing less than two pound for the back way.
Peg's contemporary, London madam, Charlotte Hayes left a list of services along with prices in her ledgers. Hayes was known to charge highly for her girls, but who would balk at handing over 2 guineas (about €400) for manual stimulation provided by such competently named hands?
Dr Pretext, after church is over, delicate with a very white, soft hand, pliant and affable. Poll Nimblewrist or Jenny Speedyhand .... 2 guineas
or if you preferred to whip up your excitement, you couldn't beat Miss Birch (though the fee of 10 guineas - about €2,000 - might sting a little)
Sir Harry, exactly at nine. Nell Handy or Bet Flourish or Miss Birch herself... 10 guineas It is likely Peg offered similar favours. She too kept ledgers but her record-keeping was more a list of IOUs rather than bills actually paid. Quite often she didn't catch a gentleman's name. Instead she referenced them by their clothes, personal defects or provincial accents:
Captain Longnose, the whiskered hero with the county Limerick brogue. For Wine and passing my word to Miss Groves and Fanny Beresford that he would not bilk them: £18—6—6 [about €4,000]
Flat W——l——n, whose father lived with the Collector who hanged himself.—This buck was snaffled by two Catchpoles, Mooney and Sheridan, and I not bearing to see a gentleman in such hands advanced 3 Guineas, which with 2 flasks of Champagne he drank at my expense to thank me,—amount to 4 Guineas,—which he handsomely never thought proper to pay for: £4—11—— [about €1,100]
The curly pated Squire from Limerick: one Night's Lodging, a girl and a bottle: £2— 16—9 [about €665]
The Broganier Fool, from Tralee, with the long ruffles and tremendous sword, A— — R——l, Esq;—Politely took a fancy to a gold Seal I had, and for which he promised to pay: £4—11—— [about €€1,100]
Some gentlemen needed to be kept in check. John Whaley, older brother of the famous adventurer Buck Whaley, was immature and demanding. He lived a short walk away at 86 Stephen's Green. If ever he called to Peg's and found her missing he would break her windows and pull the rails out of her kitchen stairs in fits of pique. One day, Peg cornered him in the box room, gave him a "severe slap on the cheek" and refused "to receive him ever after."
Another young client, David La Touche, was the son of the wealthy banking family. He showed more interest in admiring himself in Peg's large looking glass than in any of her girls.
"He would contemplate his person with a great degree of complacency and self-approbation, then would turn round to me, cut three or four capers, and cry out,—"Well Leeson [Peg's also went by the name was Margaret Leeson] l, ar'n't I a damn'd handsome fine fellow?". Peg humoured him and praised him highly "in order to coax him out of something genteel".
ÒPeg had long-term relationships with some of her clients. She speaks about being in love a number of times and lived with these gentlemen as a sort of common-law wife. At one stage she actually did marry, though this union had little to do with affection. The man in question was the Honorable Barry Yelverton of Fortfield House, Terenure. His father was soon to be created a peer and Peg had a hankering to be a lady with a title.
They were most unsuited.
In a remarkable short space of time, the couple realised how much they disliked each other. Peg recounts "alas! the hard-hearted man, no sooner was he surfeited of very imperfect enjoyment indeed, than he grew as cool as a cucumber, and had the impudence to say, he could not bear to kiss my lips they being always so plastered with salve or spermaceti ointment,"
However, Peg's luck was in. Yelverton's father did not accept the match. He sent for Peg and demanded the union be annulled. She was able to assure him that she "looked upon the connection with such loathing, that for a very trifling consideration I was ready to relinquish every claim I had on young hopeful; whereupon the taking me at my word gave me five hundred guineas," (about €75,000). She was well rid of him. A few months afterwards "he was arrested for a variety of peddling debts, and lodged in the Sheriff's Prison, where he remained in the most profligate course of life,"
Interestingly, Peg was a rather moral madam. She refused to offer virgins to her clients. A lot of money could be earned by procuring innocent, untouched girls, but she tells us "I never in my life was accessory or instrumental to the corruption of any girl; nor ever received into my house anyone who had not already been deluded". One of my favourite accounts of her business probity concerns the Earl of Westmorland, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland 1789 - 1794. She refused to accept him as a client on the grounds that he was cruel to his first wife.
It was a different story with the Charles Manners, Duke of Rutland, who held the same post of Lord Lieutenant from 1784 to 1787. Rutland was the original 'Good Time Charlie'. He was not shy of a wild night. During his term as the Viceroy, the parties at Dublin Castle were unusually decadent. Frequently the carriages to take exhausted revellers home were not ordered until seven in the morning. The wine bill for his first year in office came to £2,688 (about €600,000 in today's money).
The newspapers were full of the stories of Peg and Rutland. It was a fitting coupling: the King's representative with the monarch of madams - the Viceroy with the Queen of Vice. One evening at the theatre, while Peg was sitting in her box, the mob in the Gods called down to her. She was popular, she was a celebrity, the crowd wanted her to engage. "Who lay with you last?" they roared. Quick as a flash, she retorted with mock severity yet complete honesty. "MANNERS you black-guards."
Peg ran a good house. Her business was about entertainment and pleasure and she knew how to enjoy herself. As I do this research, I frequently find myself thinking of Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. No doubt, in reality Peg's life was filled with frustrations, fears and unpleasant bodily fluids, but the spirit of the hedonistic, decadent reputation she cultivated is captured beautifully in the clip below.