The Burgher and the Whore: Prostitution in Early Modern Amsterdam

THE BU
R
GHE
R
AND THE WHO
R
E

Frontispiece to
D’Openhertige Juffrouw, of d’ontdekte geveinsdheid
, ii (Leiden,
c
.1681).

THE BURGHER
AND THE
WHORE
P R OSTITUTION IN EAR LY MODERN AMSTERD AM

LO TTE VAN DE POL

Translated by Liz Waters

1

1

Great Clarendon Street, Oxford ox2 6dp

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© Lotte van de Pol 2011

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First published 2011

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MPG Books Group, Bodmin and King’s Lynn ISBN 978–0–19–921140–1

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Contents

List of Illustrations
ix

Introduction
1

Prostitution and whoredom
4

The sources
7

About this edition
14

  1. ‘Amsterdam is the Academy of Whoredom’:

    Prostitutes, Brothels, and Music Houses
    18

    Prostitutes by type
    19

    Courtesans and kept women
    22

    Women and men as organizers
    24

    Whorehouses
    27

    Music houses
    29

    Urban expansion and the introduction of street-lighting
    34

    Music houses and official policy
    36

    Violence in music houses
    39

    The elite turns its back on the music houses
    40

  2. ‘Whores and scoundrels always talk of their honour’: Honour, Prostitution, and the Respectable Citizenry
    43

    Criteria of honour
    46

    Female honour and male honour
    48

    Honour and disgrace in linguistic usage
    49

    The ‘theft of honour’
    50

    The margins of society
    52

    Neighbourhood conflicts over prostitution
    56

    Acceptance of prostitution?
    62

    The Jonkerstraat and the
    R
    idderstraat
    64

  3. ‘The caterpillar in a cabbage, the canker in the leg’:

    Attitudes to Prostitution, Prostitutes, and Women
    67

    Abhorrence of ‘silent’ whores
    69

    vi contents

    From caring mother to punishing father
    70

    Syphilis, or the great pox
    74

    Women as born whores
    76

    Het Amsterdamsch Hoerdom
    and
    D’Openhertige Juffrouw
    79

    Changes in the eighteenth century
    81

    The female perspective
    86

    The male perspective
    88

  4. ‘The world cannot be governed with a Bible in

    the hand’: Prosecution Policies and Their Background
    91

    Legislation
    92

    The judicial apparatus and legal proceedings
    93

    R
    emanding in custody
    94

    Punishments
    95

    The Spin House as symbol and reality
    97

    Prosecution policy in figures
    102

    The municipal authorities and the
    R
    eformed Church
    104

    Government and parental authority
    107

    Some prosecution trends
    111

    The reasoning behind the policy
    112

  5. ‘The devil! I must have money for this’: The Dark

    Side of Prosecution Policy
    116

    Pecuniary interest
    118

    The characters of the bailiff and his men
    120

    The police and the people
    122

    Buying off charges of adultery
    125

    The extortion case of
    1739 128

    Deputy Bailiff Schravenwaard and the West Frisian

    hay-farmer
    131

    Profits and punishments
    133

    The case of Deputy Bailiff François Spermondt
    134

    Was the Amsterdam police force corrupt?
    137

  6. ‘Birds of a Feather Flock Together’: Prostitutes,

    Clients, and Seafaring
    141

    Profile of prostitutes
    142

    Work, origins, and migration in context
    144

    A harlot’s progress
    147

    Amsterdam’s surplus of women
    149

    Clients
    152

    contents vii

    Prostitutes and VOC sailors
    155

    Seafaring
    158

    Sailors’ wives
    160

  7. ‘Miraculous tricks, to earn a living by idling’:

    Sex for Money and Money for Sex
    166

    Terms of employment in prostitution
    169

    Debt
    171

    Clothes
    176

    Finding customers 182

    Negotiations
    186

    Money for sex
    187

    Sex for money
    191

    Earnings
    195

    In conclusion
    199

    Notes
    201

    Appendix
    1
    .
    Contemporary Writers on Amsterdam

    Music Houses and Prostitution
    232

    Appendix
    2
    . Trials for Prostitution in Amsterdam by Decade,
    1650

    1749
    239

    Appendix
    3
    . Dutch Currency of the Early Modern Period
    240

    Bibliography
    241

    Index
    259

    This page intentionally left blank

    List of Illustrations

    Cover:
    The Prodigal Son
    (
    1622
    ). Painting by Gerard van Honthorst (
    1592

    1656
    )

    page ii: Frontispiece to
    D’Openhertige Juffrouw, of d’ontdekte geveinsdheid
    , ii (Leiden,
    c
    .
    1681
    )

    1. Prince Eugene of Savoy in Madame Thérèse’s brothel on the Prinsengracht,
      c
      .
      1720
      . Pen-and-ink drawing by Cornelis Troost (
      1696

      1750
      )

    2. The Spin House on the corner of the Oudezijds Achterburgwal

      and the Spinhuissteeg. From
      Historische beschryving der stadt Amsterdam

      (
      1663
      )

    3. Interior of a music house. From
      Le Putanisme d’Amsterdam
      , the French version of
      Het Amsterdamsch Hoerdom
      (
      1681
      )

    4. The interior of the music house De Pijl in the Pijlsteeg, late eighteenth century

    5. A Dutch Abbess and Her Nymphs
      . Print by Thomas
      R
      owlandson (
      1756

      1827
      ),
      1797
      .

    6. Frontispiece to
      Le Putanisme d’Amsterdam
      (
      1681
      )

    7. The Proposition
      ,
      1631
      . Painting by Judith Leyster (
      1609

      60
      )

    8. The workroom in the Spin House. From Tobias van Domselaer,

      Beschryvinge van Amsterdam
      (
      1665
      )

    9. The workroom in the Spin House, second half of the seventeenth century. Drawing by Francoys Dancx (? –
      c
      .
      1703
      )

    10. The Regents and Regentesses of the Spin House
      , (detail). Painting by Bartholomeus van der Helst (
      1613

      70
      ),
      c
      .
      1650

    11. VOC sailor dancing with his sweetheart. Mezzotint by Jacob Gole (
      1660

      1737
      ) after Cornelis Dusart (
      1660

      1704
      ),
      c
      .
      1700

This publication was realised with the support of the Prince Bernhard Cultural Foundation and the Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature

Introduction



I

n the early morning of
29
January
1701
, in a public privy in Ham- burg, the body of a woman was found: murdered, stark naked, and without a head. The culprits, a man and two women, were quickly caught. The man had strangled the victim and together they had de- capitated the body because they needed a human head to brew a magic potion. One of the three, Anna Isabe Buncke, was further accused of living as a man for several years and even of having twice been offi- cially married to a woman.That too was a serious crime, but Buncke had an excuse. At the time, she explained in court, she really had been a man. Dressed in men’s clothing she had travelled to Holland as a seasonal worker and there had been given a male body, through sor- cery, by the whores of Amsterdam. ‘From the men who lived in her neighbourhood, and with whom she had gone to a whorehouse, she had heard that the whores could remove the “membrum virile” of men whom they disliked or who refused to pay. Also, any fellow un- happy with his penis need only go to them and they could supply him with a bigger one.’ She had done exactly that, acquired a penis, and stuck it to her body.Then she went for a bite to eat with the whores and was able to have sex with one of them a few hours later without

any problem at all. It had cost her a ducat.
1

Anna’s tale of the Amsterdam whores is a fabulation, but no doubt another story lies behind it. Perhaps some of her compatriots in the harbourside lodging house where she was staying cajoled Heinrich, as she called herself, into visiting a whorehouse with them. They may have told the timid ‘boy’ that if he failed to perform the women would deprive him of his sexual organ, and that if he was worried his prick was too small they could sell him another.Anna Isabe Buncke was not quite right in the head, and a feeble-minded youth could easily be

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