The following is an extract, published in 1730, from Thomas Salmon’s Modern History. It describes what might be termed the “genteel” stratum of prostitution in Venice, way below the grandeur of the celebrated courtesans, but nonetheless a long way up from the gutter.
The use of Concubines is so much countenanc’d in Venice, that the Wife generally lives in a good correspondence with them. The Ladies are so indulgent to their Sons, that as soon as they observe in any of them an Inclination for the Fair Sex, they bargain with some of their poor Neighbours for one of their Daughters to be his Bedfellow: whereby they prevent his marrying to disadvantage, or contracting a nauseous Distemper by cohabiting with common Women. The Friends and Relations of the Girl who is to be the young Gentleman’s Mistress, come frequently to wish her Joy upon the occasion, as if she was really married to him. They contract for a Month, a Year, or more, as they can agree; and you shall hear a Mother swear by God, and upon her Salvation, that the can’t afford to take less for her Daughter than she asks. This Commerce is taken to be so little criminal here, that they scarce ever mention it in Confession; and if they do, the Priest tells them he will not be troubled with such Trifles. A late Writer adds, that those who cannot afford to keep a Miss for their particular use, join with two or three Friends, and have one in common amongst them.