Friday, October 24, 2008
Tart of the Week: Sally Salisbury
For this week's tart, let's travel to the very beginning of 18th century London. The daughter of a bricklayer, Sarah Pridden was born around 1692. Her original plans were to go into the dressmaking business. She was a seamstress' apprentice at the age of nine but ran away when she lost some pricey lace. After trying a few odd jobs around St. Giles Sarah eventually was given the career opportunity she couldn't resist: being the mistress to Francis Charteris. Luckily the creep (and convicted rapist) didn't keep her around too long. He got sick of her by the time she reached the ripe old age of 14 so Sally, as she was probably known by this point, thought she may as well just become a streetwalker.
The wanton life seemed to work out for Sally. She became a brothel resident, even staying in the fancy smancy bordello of Mother Needham. She adopted the last name of Salisbury because it was one of her clients' names and she thought it sounded cool. It was probably a good career move too because she soon became one of the most popular prostitutes in all of Covent Garden! Even King George II was rumoured to have enjoyed her company. As a successful prostitute the viviacious and fiery Sally lived a typical hedonistic 18th century life. This landed her into prison a few times for short stays, usually for debt and minor crimes. One time she even got out of a prison stay because the judge had a huge crush on her.
But Sally got a little carried away one night in 1723. John Finch, second son of the Duchess of Winchelsea, had bought some tickets to the opera and had given them to Sally's sister and not to Sally. Well, it must have been a very good opera because Sally was pissed off that John had neglected her. An argument broke out between the two at Three Tuns Tavern and Sally, blinded by her anger, stabbed John in the heart! Ever the gentleman, John responded, "Madam, you have wounded me." Apparently, Sally wasn't aware of this and immediately began apologizing for trying to kill John. He was fine, by the way. John forgave her but the law didn't. She was sentenced to a year in prison and had to pay £100 fine. The sentence would have been more severe but was brought down due to Finch's forgiveness of her. Of course the trial was a huge social-event where every person of fashion appeared. When she was taken to Newgate to serve her sentence many lavish gifts and visitors followed, to make her more comfortable. There is no evidence as to whether she made these visitors more comfortable when they visited, wink wink.
Despite these prison luxuries Sally never made it out of Newgate. After serving nine months of her year sentence Sally succumbed to syphilis and died. It's too bad too; imagine what other mischief she could have entertained us with!