Life for the poor in 18th- and 19th-century Ireland was hard and, for many women, prostitution was the only option. But the bawdy houses were rife with disease and police did little to protect women from violent customers.
Courtly love, celebrated in numerous songs and poems, was the romantic ideal of western Europe in the Middle Ages. Yet, human nature being what it is, the realities of sexual desire and the complications it brings were never far away, says Julie Peakman.
Sex, scandals and celebrity were all part of a blame and shame culture that existed in the 18th century, one that often fed off the misfortune of women at the hands of men. Julie Peakman looks at how prostitutes, courtesans and ladies with injured reputations took up the pen in retaliation.