Friday, 5 June 2015

Julie Peakman: Peg Plunkett, Memoirs of a Whore

I am thrilled today to welcome Dr Julie Peakman, one of my favourite authors, whose works have sat on my bookshelves long before I opened the salon doors; indeed, they were actually one of my main inspirations for doing so.

Julie is here to tell the tale of Peg Plunkett, memoir-writing brothel-keeper of some renown!

I'm gadding about this weekend, so the salon will reopen on 8th June 2015!

Peg Plunkett


Peg Plunkett, Memoirs of a Whore by  Historian Julie Peakman

Peg Plunkett
Peg Plunkett was the first courtesan and brothel-keeper to write her memoirs -  and she related her extraordinary life of sex and scandal in Georgian Ireland and London with gusto. Born in County Westmeath the first part of the C18th, Peg escaped an early life of domestic abuse only to be seduced by her brother-in-law’s best friend. With her reputation in tatters, no longer a virgin and having lost her marriageability, she had no option but to embark on a life as a serial monogamist with a variety of unscrupulous men.

But it was not long before Peg had had enough of a life of relying on unreliable lovers, and took up a life of independence running an elite establishment entertaining wealthy and often titled men. In a time where women’s lives were largely dependent on their male relatives or husband, Peg forged a life for herself financed by various wealthy protectors.

She had affairs with many of Dublin’s elite men and ran a thriving brothel near to Dublin Castle where she entertained aristocrats, barristers, captains and aid-de-camps. She threw extravagant parties and her best clients were Dublin’s top citizens, including Lord Lieutenant, the Duke of Rutland and David LaTouche, Governor of the Bank of Ireland. She blitzed through the balls, races and masquerades of Dublin, creating gossip and scandals wherever she went.

A Woman of Pleasure

‘Living in spendour, enjoying every luxury of dress, table or shew, no matter from which source they were derived, made me resolve not to quit the means of gaining the end.’

ortrait of Joseph Leeson, later 2nd Earl of Milltown (1730-1801), 1751,Pompeo Batoni,
Joseph Leeson, later 2nd Earl of Milltown (1730-1801) by Pompeo Batoni, 1751
After thirty five years, at the end of her career with no financial security after years of extravagant spending, debtor’s prison awaited her. In order to save herself, she wrote her memoirs, the first volume published in 1795. These served a dual purpose. By putting pen to paper, she not only raised enough money to get herself out of debtor’s prison, but she gained an extraordinary position of power over the cream of Dublin society -  for in each new volume, she threatened to expose the dishonourable behaviour of all those men who had treated her badly or owed her money.

Charles Manners, 4th Duke of Rutland by Joshua Reynolds, 1775

Peg Plunkett, Memoirs of a Whore offers a detailed and entertaining insight into the life and society of an 18th-Century prostitute, and the extraordinary strength and resourcefulness she employed to attain security. Full of racy anecdotes and revelations, author Julie Peakman whirls us through Dublin society, following in the footsteps of the vibrant Peg Plunkett. She draws on her extensive research in Ireland and on Peg’s original memoirs, bringing brings this glorious and bawdy character to life.

About the Author

Julie Peakman is a historian in eighteenth-century culture and the history of sexuality. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and Honorary Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is a frequent contributor to academic journals, popular magazines and television documentaries for BBC, Channel 4 and the Biography Channel. Her previous books Mighty Lewd Books:The Development of Pornography in Eighteenth-Century England (Palgrave 2003), Lascivious Bodies, A Sexual History of the Eighteenth-Century (Atlantic Books, 2004) and  The Pleasure’s All Mine. A History of Perverse Sex (Reaktion, 2013) were much acclaimed.
Written content of this post copyright © Julie Peakman, 2015.


  1. Julie Peakman is a woman after my own heart. She writes about what lurks in history's shadows. Henceforth her books will be on my to read list!

  2. How absolutely excellent - and the extract on Amazon convinced me I MUST buy. Another fine post by you, wonderful Mme Gilflurt. Takes me back 31 years when I began to share my life with a wonderful, quite crazy retired lady entertainer. Ah, the stories! Like Mari I'll be looking out for Ms. Peakman's other books.

    1. The credit for this wonderful post must go to Julie, I really cannot recommend her works highly enough and I *like* the sound of your retired entertainer!

  3. Moving to Dublin later this summer so this is definitely something I want to get my hands on.

  4. I have long been aware of Peg (1727-1795) and she has long since taken her place on my top shelf next to the Correspondence of Emily Duchess of Leinster and Mrs Delany.I am sure they
    are both scandalised.

  5. I've finally sent for the book. Look forward to reading. Peg sounds like a prototype for Moll Flanders.