Teresia Constantia Phillips and the Shame of Publick Fame

phillips portrait.jpg

Unidentified engraver after Joseph Highmore (1692-1780), Teresia Constantia Phillips, [18th century]. Mezzotint. Sold by Robert Sayer opposite Fetter Lane Fleet Street, between 1748 and 1795. Graphic Arts Collection GA2013- in process

Teresia Constantia Phillips (1709-1765) was a notorious London courtesan who wrote several memoirs during her lifetime. A portrait painting by Joseph Highmore became the source for numerous engravings and mezzotints, published as frontispieces and sold individually with great success.

“It is probable that she commenced a life of intrigue at a very early age,” begins her biography in the DNB. “To avoid arrest for debt, on 11 Nov. 1722 she went through the form of marriage with a Mr. Devall, who had previously been married under another name, and with whom she never exchanged a word. According to the ‘apologist’ of Lord Chesterfield, although her amours were soon ‘as public as Charing Cross,’ she married, on 9 Feb. 1723, Henry Muilman, a Dutch merchant of good standing. In the following year Muilman managed to obtain from the court of arches a sentence of nullity of marriage, but he agreed to pay Constantia an annuity of 200l. This was discontinued upon her cohabitation at Paris with another admirer (Mr. B.). Henceforth the sequence of her adventures becomes bewildering.”

“…After many experiences in France, England, and the West Indies, she determined to blackmail her friends by publishing ‘An Apology for the Conduct of Mrs. Teresia Constantia Phillips, more particularly that part of it which relates to her Marriage with an eminent Dutch Merchant.’ A motto from the ‘Fair Penitent’ adorned the title-page of the book, which, in consequence of the difficulty of finding a bookseller, was printed for the author in parts, subsequently bound in three volumes, in 1748. A second edition was called for at once, a third appeared in 1750, and a fourth in 1761.”

See also:
Oxford scholar, The Parallel; or, Pilkington and Phillips Compared: Being Remarks upon the Memoirs of Those Two Celebrated Writers (London: M. Cooper, 1748). Rare Books (Ex) PR3619.P442 Z4683 1748

Teresia Constantia Muilman (1709-1765), A Letter Humbly Addressed to the Right Honourable the Earl of Chesterfield (Dublin: printed by George Faulkner, 1750). Rare Books (Ex) 2007-0519N

Lynda M. Thompson, The Scandalous Memoirists: Constantia Phillips, Laeticia Pilkington and the Shame of Publick Fame (Manchester, UK; New York: Manchester University Press; New York: Distributed exclusively in the USA by St. Martin’s Press, 2000). Firestone Library (F) PR756.W65 T48 2000