Dear Visitor, These dilemmas are often highly salacious, so forgive me for asking:
are you over 16 years of age? YesNo
I do have your best interests at heart, trust me...

Yours, Chiffinch

deception-A deception-B

I confused a maiden’s blushes and a harlot’s blusher

— Dear Chiffinch,

I have been tricked into marrying a harlot WHO TAUGHT HER FACE TO LIE: her beauty and innocence were all the effects of make-up!

For it turns out that her natural blush, sildenafil the sign of modesty and virginity, cialis canada is nothing but rouge. Her expensive clothes and jewellery are the result of ill-gotten gains, not good-breeding – and even her full bosom is fake!

Of course, I am aware of the current fashions – I wear full make-up myself (nothing excessive: white face, curly wig, black patches to cover my smallpox scars etc.) – but surely she was in DISGUISE? Her skin is so tarnished with this practice, that when she wakes up in the morning, she scare seems young enough to be the mother of her whom I carried to bed the night before!

I feel like I’ve been entirely deceived: is there anything that can be done?

— Yours, Anonymous
— Dear, Anonymous

I fear nothing can be done: but your sad story can be used as a warning to other men… For you have been thrice fooled: as a lover, as a gentleman - and as a man.

These French fripperies, these wares of love and seduction that can be bought for pennies in stores of the New Exchange, are a terrible danger to us all – one, I believe, that challenges the very fabric of our society. A man such as you, in all good faith, can be fooled into marrying far beneath his class and status by these ‘art-ful’ beauties. You can no longer tell a wench from a woman of honour by her looks or dress – just look at Nell Gwyn, from orange-selling whore to royal courtesan!

And even worse, the natural superiority of men is threatened by women who deceive, cheat and conquer so. With these inventions they steal away the heart and blind the spirit of good men. They change the natural order of things.

Now, of course, one does appreciate some of the results, it would be dishonest to pretend otherwise! But such pleasures are for the occasional frolic with a Nell or Moll backstage at the theatre, not for marriage.

I am at a loss as to how to rectify this anarchy – I fear a revolution led by these painted ladies… 

Maybe some readers might have a solution?

— Yours, Chiffinch

What was the outcome?

Masks and patches worn by ladies were, often, both a fashionable accessory and a disguise, and everyone was well aware of what could be hidden beneath. Apart from the creative concealment of smallpox scars behind beauty patches, make-up in general was derided as a method of forgery whereby women ‘could teach their face to lie, and to show what it is not’. A male correspondent to The Spectator of April 1711 complained that he had been tricked into marrying a ‘Pict’ (a painted lady) whose beauty was ‘all the effects of art’. By their own ‘industry’, he warns, women ‘will make bosom, lips, cheeks and eyebrows’. The use of rouge was especially deceitful: a natural blush was prized as a sign of feminine sensibility and virtue, while the absence of a blush signified lost modesty and worldliness; an artificial blush confounded this, making it impossible to distinguish between an innocent and a sinful woman.

As William Wycherley  maintained in his 1676 prologue to The Plain Dealer,

‘You can no more know a kept wench from a woman of honour by her looks than by her dress’.

If Nell Gwyn, meanwhile, could navigate her way from orange-selling whore to royal courtesan, then there was also the fear of unbridled social anarchy. Access to affordable beauty products allowed a woman of questionable moral compass to ensnare a rich man and acquire the accoutrements of upper-class society: costly clothes and jewellery had the power to erase the distinctions of birth, confounding notions of class identity. There was a misogynistic concern that the arts of beauty actually empowered women (who became ‘art-ful beauties’) to act as subversive agents of social revolution. Beautiful women could deceive, cheat and conquer men, thereby upturning ‘natural’ gender relationships. Women, according to George Etherege, in The Man of Mode

‘will wanton and play with the signs of their eyes, head, hands, gloves, handkerchiefs … with these inventions and artifices they steal away the heart, and blind the spirit of the idolaters of their vanity’.

Do you agree?

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