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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

Diary #243

Maggie 2-19-15The trip to Seattle went as smoothly as I could have wished; the car performed very well, averaging 30 miles per gallon over the whole trip (and remember, a lot of that was over mountains).  The weather was fine nearly the whole way (aside for very light snow between Amarillo and the Texas border), and I was only harassed by one cop (in a Nevada speed trap where the limit abruptly dropped from 70 to 25 while several prowl cars lay in wait).  On Wednesday the 11th I had a lovely dinner with Dr. and Mrs. David Ley in Albuquerque, then met my husband in Las Vegas the following night; Jae and I left Vegas on Sunday morning, stayed in Reno that night and made Seattle by midnight the following night after a 13-hour drive.  Last week mostly involved settling in, though I did find the time to help Mistress Matisse with one of her clients on Wednesday, to do a photo shoot on Thursday and to throw a party for Reason writer (and super sex worker ally) Elizabeth Nolan Brown on Saturday.  And let me tell you, you haven’t really lived until you’ve been to a party where most of the guests are sex workers!  This week I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and a meeting with a patron tonight; remember, a $500 donation will get you both dinner with me and the satisfaction of knowing you’re contributing to a worthy cause.  If you aren’t in Seattle (or visiting here), keep an eye on this space for my travels and contact me when I’ll be near you.  Even if you can’t afford that much, I truly appreciate each and every donation and I’m working on a way for you to help me out while ordering things you need or might like online.

Needless to say, my life is still in a lot of upheaval right now, so I really appreciate your patience with my chaotic tweeting schedule, slow response to correspondence and other irregularities.  Monday’s column will provide a lot more detail about what’s going on with me, and I’ll continue to keep you posted on developments in these diary entries.

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A cleaner, sweeter bed-fellow does not exist.  –  Greville’s letter praising Emma to Lord Hamilton

When Mandy Rice-Davies compared herself to Lady Hamilton, Lord Nelson’s mistress, it is doubtful that any of the reporters who made her famous for the reference had any confusion about what she meant.  But the 1960s were a more sexually honest time than our own, and nowadays writers are even more likely to prevaricate about Lady Hamilton’s harlotry than they are about Rice-Davies’; a BBC article on the famous affair even goes so far as to say that “[Nelson and Hamilton] had fallen out of love with their partners”, as if the Lady had married her patron due to “falling in love” in the first place.  In fact, there’s another modern term for the way they came to be together, more pejorative  even than “prostitution”; read on and you’ll see what I mean.

Amy Lyon, the daughter of a blacksmith named Henry Lyon and his wife Mary, was born on April 26th, 1765 in Cheshire, England.  Her father died when she was an infant and her mother raised her alone, later sending her to live with her grandmother in Wales.  At twelve she started working as a maid and soon met another maid named Jane Powell, who aspired to be an actress; through her Amy found work at the Drury Lane theatre as a maid to several actresses, during which time she lived in the home of a brothel madam named Mrs. Kelly.  Her beauty and grace attracted the attention of James Graham, the doctor who owned an establishment called the “Temple of Health and Hymen” where couples could pay £50 a night (over £3000 today) to have sex in the “Celestial Bed”, which administered mild electric shocks that were supposed to cure infertility and encourage the conception of “perfect” babies.  Amy’s job was to be a hostess, model and erotic dancer, presumably to augment the effects of the electric bed.  When she was sixteen she was hired by Sir Harry Featherstonhaugh to provide entertainment at a several-months-long standing party; she is known to have danced nude on the dining room table at this shindig, and her other activities may be guessed by the fact that she was pregnant by the end of the summer, presumably by Sir Harry.

As was typical in those days, Sir Harry blamed the pregnancy entirely on Amy, so though he was still supporting her she decided to become the kept woman of Charles Francis Greville, an MP and the second son of the first Earl of Warwick.  Though Greville was in love with Amy, he was quite domineering and appears to have viewed her as a piece of property.  When the baby, who was given the name Emma Carew, was born, he sent her away to be raised by a couple named Blackburn; around this same time he also demanded that Amy change her own name to Emma, specifically “Emma Hart”.  When he had her portrait painted by his friend George Romney, the painter became obsessed with her; he made so many sketches of her (both nude and clothed) at this time and later that he was able to paint a number of portraits of her without further sitting.  Because Romney was a popular painter, Emma became well-known in London society both for her wit and personality and as an artist’s model.

Unfortunately, Greville spent far beyond his means, and by 1783 he needed a new source of funds; he decided to acquire them by marrying the young heiress Henrietta Middleton, but since it was common knowledge that Emma was his lover he had to be rid of her.  He therefore convinced his uncle, Sir William Hamilton, to accept her as his mistress.  Hamilton was an art collector, and no doubt viewed the now-famous beauty as a valuable find; he also wanted to facilitate his nephew’s marriage so as to eliminate his frequent requests for money.  The deal was therefore made without Emma’s input or knowledge, and she was shipped off to Naples (where Hamilton was the British envoy) under the guise of a six-month holiday while Greville was supposedly away on business.  She was, in other words, “sex trafficked”, sent from one owner to another in a different country.

But though Emma was furious upon discovering what was really expected of her, she eventually adapted to her situation.  Hamilton’s home was beautiful and his art collection renowned, and he was a widower who, far from viewing her as an embarrassment, instead encouraged her modeling, singing and other performance.  The form for which she became known was called “attitudes”; this consisted of an act in which she would wear a simple gown dressed up by scarves and shawls which helped her to evoke images from history and classical mythology by posing.  The audience was then supposed to guess who she was portraying.  Though this may sound a bit silly to modern ears, the effect was apparently very striking; Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, “The performance is like nothing you have ever seen before.  With a few scarves and shawls she expressed a variety of wonderful transformations.  One pose after another without a break”.  Within a few years of her first performance in the spring of 1787, a number of other actresses took up the art; over the years Emma herself evolved from mere posing into acting out short pantomimes, most famously portraying Medea.

Sir William eventually married Emma on September 6th, 1791; he was sixty and she twenty-six.  The match gave her the title by which she was forever known afterward, though friends still called her “Emma”.  It also gave her the duties of a diplomat’s wife, among them entertaining Horatio Nelson (then a mere post captain) when he came in 1793 to request reinforcements from the King of Naples.  By the time he returned in 1798 he had lost an arm, an eye, most of his teeth and the majority of his health, but had won both the Battle of the Nile and worldwide fame.  Sir William invited the great man to recuperate in their home, nursed by his young wife, and it was at this time that the two began their affair.

But while one might think this a betrayal of hospitality, the truth is that Sir William definitely knew about and seems to have even encouraged the affair; he and Nelson respected and admired one another, and Emma and Nelson had similar feelings for one another.  Indeed, the relationship soon developed into a ménage a trois; after the Neopolitan Revolution of 1799 the ailing Hamilton was allowed to retire and return to England, accompanied by Nelson, who openly moved in with the Hamiltons despite having a home (and wife) of his own.  In fact, the arrangement became such a huge scandal that the Admiralty ordered Nelson back to sea to keep him away from Emma.  The public, however, was fascinated and the Hamiltons seemed completely unconcerned with what anyone said; when Emma gave birth to a daughter on January 31st, 1801 she named her “Horatia”, flagrantly advertising her paternity.

Alas, their happiness was not to last long.  Sir William, whom Emma had grown to love, died in 1803 and Nelson returned to sea to fight Napoleon soon afterward.  The daughter Emma was carrying at the time died soon after her birth early the next year, and she consoled herself by gambling and otherwise wasting money; when Nelson died at Trafalgar in October of 1805, she had nothing left but Hamilton’s £800/year pension, which she exhausted trying to build up Merton Place (the house Nelson had bought for the three to live together in) as a monument to the great man.  Now the government decided to have its revenge on the woman it considered a double embarrassment for tarnishing the reputations of two of its favored sons: Emma was barred from Nelson’s funeral, and his request that she and Horatia be provided for was totally ignored; money and gifts were instead showered upon Nelson’s widow, brother and other family members.  As her looks and figure were long gone, Emma could no longer attract a patron; she fell deeply into debt and after Nelson’s love letters to her were stolen and published in 1814, the government exacted one more act of petty vengeance by throwing her into debtor’s prison.  After her release that autumn she fled to France with Horatia, where she died on January 15th, 1815.  Men in power are never kind to women who have embarrassed them, and neither Lady Hamilton’s title nor the exalted reputation of her most famous lover could save her from being treated like any other troublesome whore.

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Diary #241

The day is here!  Or more exactly, it will be here tomorrow.  At roughly 10 AM CST tomorrow morning I’ll be headed west and driving all day, to rendezvous for dinner with Dr. David Ley in Albuquerque.  Then on Thursday I’ll be meeting my husband in Las Vegas, and the next day Jae and I will meet up for the trip to Seattle.  I’m not exactly sure when we’re departing or which route we’ll take; she complained that a planned schedule would “take the fun out of the trip”.  So as part of my commitment to loosening up and trying new things, I’m going to acquiesce to her wishes and play it by ear (the sound you hear is my nerves twanging at the thought).  But in any case, we should be back in Seattle by  sometime early next week (though you’ll have to wait until the 24th to read about it because next Tuesday is Mardi Gras.)  Anyhow, today is going to be spent almost entirely away from the keyboard; I’ve done all I can do to keep things running smoothly here for the next week even if I can’t get online very much, and I’ve got far too many real-life tasks to handle prior to departure (including, but not limited to:  a manicure/pedicure, taking the car to my mechanic for a last-minute check, washing clothes, packing the car and transferring all the vital Honest Courtesan files to my thumb drive for portability).  So wish me luck, make an offering to Hermes for me, send me positive vibes or whatever the equivalent is in your belief system; or, if you prefer a more pragmatic form of assistance, donations via PayPal are always welcome!

Incidentally, today’s illustration isn’t an affirmation or mere self-aggrandizement or anything like that; it’s to fulfill a request from my youngest fan, Mancrack’s little boy Storm, who met me when I stayed at her house last August.  Adult readers who appreciate it can direct your thanks to Mancrack.

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Diary #240

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m leaving for Seattle a week from tomorrow, which means I’m moving into full-blown headless chicken mode pretty soon.  I have Jae to thank for my not having hit it yet; though I haven’t even started packing yet she keeps mentioning things she has gotten for me up there, from tea to my brand of shampoo to a computer to a bathrobe to…you get the picture.  Honestly, if I were flying straight there instead of wandering about the country for a week (including several days in Las Vegas), I’d be tempted just to throw a few dresses in my overnight bag and call it good.  Alas, that is not to be; I have to eventually start packing, though I suppose Sunday will be soon enough.  Until then I’ve got to take care of a number of things around here I don’t want to stick Grace with, plus blog work to get ahead on and a book to organize (the rough draft is complete and formatted, and I’m editing it now).  It’s important that I get as much ahead as possible, because Savannah Sly has already said she’s going to rope me into whatever activism she can up there (and with her, that might not be merely a metaphor).

Anyhow, there’s a way you can lessen my stress if you like; moves are expensive, and I’ve totally drained my war chest.  So if you can spare it, could you do a donation for me this week via PayPal?  Pretty please with sugar on top?  Just send it to maggiemcneill@earthlink.net and I’ll send you a thank-you note and add you to my subscriber list; every so often I’ll send out a special gift to everyone on it, and you’ll be there!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo here we are in “scramble” mode; I’m leaving two weeks from tomorrow and as I’ll bet you can guess, I still haven’t even thought about what to pack yet.  I did make one decision about that; I’m only going to take my favorite winter clothes and buy some more up there, because I honestly don’t have very much in the way of nice-looking winter clothes.  Those of you who have seen me in person may find that surprising because I have many lovely spring, summer and autumn outfits, such as this awesome new bathing suit I received from Daz late last week.  But since it never gets all that cold in New Orleans it’s hard to find really pretty winter outfits there, and as a result most of my winter stuff is, well, a bit on the utilitarian side.  But I’ll bet in Seattle I can find some slinky, sweatery long-sleeved dresses, or just heavy skirts to wear with some of the flattering sweaters I already have.  Ooh, maybe some gothy thing with heavy brocade!  And some new boots; new boots are always a winner.  And a motorcycle helmet, but that’s not quite in the same category as the other stuff.

Anyhow, you’ll be glad to hear the book is well underway; I made all my selections last week and I’m finishing up with the transfers today, and then I can start the intensive work of proofreading, turning links into endnotes and rewriting some parts that wouldn’t pass muster by my current standards.  As I’ve stated before, this book is really intended to allow new readers to catch up on my first two years of blogging more easily, without having to slog through so much old stuff about no-longer-current events.  But I still feel it would be a bit lazy on my part just to slap 100 essays in there and call it good.  Incidentally, the last six are important things I’ve published elsewhere, including my research paper “Mind-Witness Testimony“, so die-hard completists won’t feel quite so much as if they’re just shelling out cash for a lot of stuff they’ve already read.   Of course, you could buy it to give it to someone you feel would enjoy my writing, but doesn’t like blogs.  Just sayin’.  I’m not going to do a full-blown book tour this year because I’ll be very busy writing an all-new book in hopes of getting a mainstream deal; however, I will be leaving Seattle at least three times, and in the first (in April-May) I’ll be going down through California and then across on I-40 to New Orleans by way of Oklahoma, so if you’d like me to speak somewhere please let me know in the next 60 days.  One last thing:  I’m now offering my highest sponsorship premium, namely dinner with me, to anyone who wishes to sponsor my work in general (in other words, even when I’m not on tour).  If you’re interested, use this link to email me for details.

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Diary #238

headless chickenI’ll be leaving for Seattle only three weeks from tomorrow, so as you can imagine I’m pretty busy with preparations.  Next week I’ll be in “scramble” mode, and the week after I’ll be in full-blown headless chicken protocol, but for now it’s just “busy”.  I’ve got my touring car back from my mechanic, with a clean bill of health; by Sunday I was caught up on my blog, and starting this weekend I’ll be trying to get ahead.  I haven’t even thought about packing yet; the suitcases are on the bedroom floor, but I haven’t put anything in them.  Do I just pack winter and early-spring clothes, knowing I’ll be back here in April?  Or do I try to take as much as possible this time?  Do I bring whatever kitchen things Jae doesn’t have, or do I just buy new ones up there?  How many books should I try to bring?  Do I take my desktop computer this time, or just work on the Chromebook for now and wait until next time to carry up the desktop?  Such are the weighty matters occupying my brain, and I haven’t even started!

Today I’ll be working all day on my next book, The Essential Maggie McNeill; it’s a collection of all the “must-read” essays from the first two and a half years of the blog, so new readers can catch up more easily without having to slog through quite so much material.  After all, many of the essays from that time have either been superseded or dealt with then-current events that don’t matter so much now, so y’all might find it helpful to have a collection of what I think are the must-read essays from July 2010 to December 2011.  I’m also going to try to reprint some of my outside work, assuming I can get the permission; I know a lot of my readers will buy it just to support me because y’all are wonderful that way, and I want to make that gesture worthwhile.  I hope to have it done before I leave, but…well, you know.  I’ll keep y’all posted.

Speaking of helping me out, I want all of y’all who subscribe, or send me gifts or donations, to know how thankful I am for all that help.  The Christmas email I sent out is only the beginning; I’m going to be taking a lot more cheesecake photos this year, so keep your eyes peeled for periodic holiday greetings.  That’s not to say I won’t be publishing new pictures on the blog, but those I send out privately can be…well, a little more NSFW.  So if that sounds appealing and you haven’t subscribed yet, now would be a good time to consider it!

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Diary #237

Pioneer Square in winterLast Tuesday I brought Jae to the airport, and was I ever sorry to see her go; as you can probably tell from my frequent mentions of her the past few months, we’ve become very close since I stayed at her place while in Seattle last November (though we’ve known each other for about a year and a half).  The last person I bonded with so rapidly was Grace, and they actually share quite a few personality traits; as you might expect they, too, became friends immediately and have already made plans for a road trip together that I’ll report on when the time comes.  But I have a road trip coming long before that; as I mentioned in “Boy Juice” I’ll be headed back up to Seattle in just a few weeks, and I think it’s time to reveal that I’ll be spending a lot of time there this year.  There are a lot of reasons for the temporary relocation, many of them related to a desire to be more directly involved in on-the-ground activism; in the long run we also plan to turn my ranch into a center of the US sex worker community, and my time in Seattle will be instrumental in securing the backing and support to turn that into a reality.  If that sounds cryptic, I apologize; it’s just best not to announce one’s chickens before they’re even laid (let alone hatched).

The relocation is only one of several major life-changes, as I alluded to in my New Year’s Day column; I’ll address the others at the proper time.  But for now, I’d like all the prayers, good wishes, positive vibrations and financial support y’all can give, and I promise to keep you up on developments as they continue to unfold.

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