Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wayward Sloops

These may be the wittiest, most charming cartoons I've ever seen on the subject of sailors and prostitutes...

No, really. Somehow the artists of the eighteenth century had a way of adding a dose of l'esprit to any topic, most particularly those topics surrounding sex. Rather than the crude humor we fall back on today, they tend toward the tongue-in-cheek, the ironic, the pun. As with these, all from 1781:

An English Sloop Engaging a Dutch Man of War

A Man of War towing a Frigate into Harbor

An English Man of War taking a French Privateer

In each of these, the sailor is referred to as a Man of War and his lady friend is a classification of ship--English Sloop, French Privateer, and a Frigate (not sure which port she sails out of). This is amusing enough as ships were often referred to then (as today) with feminine pronouns--that is, a ship is a "she." Adding to the joke is the verbiage used to describe what the two "ships" are doing--"engaging" is to open hostilities with or begin battle, "towing" is for one ship to haul another (often after one has been damaged and taken as a prize) "taking" is to be victorious over, (sometimes literally taking the ship as a prize), in martial nautical parlance. So these are all double-entendres that tell us quite clearly what each couple is doing.

All from WalpoleWeb.


GentlewomanThief said...

These are fantastic! I too love that tongue-in-cheek way that 18th century artists and writers have. You are officially my go-to girl (well, gentlewoman) for entertaining 18th c prints! Thank you :)

Arabella said...

This brings a whole new meaning to the "tight little frigate" in Centlivre's play, The Basset Table. Yes, pre-Victorian humor was full of sex and other naughty things.

brownpaperbaggirl said...

Haha, how clever. Why ever don't we use such humor today? It's a pity we resort to crude language.

Lua said...

I’m always learning so much about the history from your blog!
I loved these- the expressions on their faces are very funny :)

Corra McFeydon said...

I love looking at old pictures/ads/comics! Thanks for sharing. :D

- Corra

The Victorian Heroine