A Satire on Women's Fashion & The Transactional Nature of Courtship

WOMEN. CONDUCT. SATIRE. Evelyn, Mary (1665-1685)

Mundus Muliebris: or, the Ladies Dressing-Room unlock’d, and her Toilette spread. In Burlesque. Together with the Fop-Dictionary, compiled for the Use of the fair Sex.

London: Printed for R. Bentley, 1690


Quarto: 18 x 13.5 cm. [8], 22, [2, blank] p. Collation A-D4

SECOND EDITION, printed in the year of the first.

"The fop-dictionary" has separate dated title page; pagination and register are continuous. This issue with a colon after “Fop-dictionary” on divisional t.p. Bound in modern blind-ruled calfskin, spine with gilt labels. Slightly soiled, light browning and spotting.

Mary Evelyn's satirical poem, published after the author’s early death of smallpox in 1685. This second edition includes the repulsive recipe for the cosmetic known as “puppidog” (see below.)

Mary Evelyn (1665-1685) was the talented daughter of the diarist John Evelyn, learned and devout, well read in the classics, skilled in music, dancing and languages ('the French tongue being as familiar to her as English’.) Theatre and cards she thought were a waste of time, but she read ‘all the best Romances, & moderne Poemes’. John Evelyn gives an affecting account of his daughter's accomplishments in his Diary: 'The justnesse of her stature, person, comelinesse of her Countenance and gracefullnesse of motion, naturall, & unaffected (though more than ordinaryly beautifull), was … of the least, compar'd with the Ornaments of her mind' (Evelyn, Diary, 4.421). Her mother, Mary, described her to a correspondent: 'The papers which are found in her cabinet discover she profited by her readying—such reflections, collections out of Scripture, confessions, meditations, and pious notions, evidence her time was not spent in the trifling way of most young women' (H. Evelyn, 107)

Mary died of smallpox just short of her twentieth year. The Evelyns were understandably crushed by the ‘unexpressable losse’ of their daughter and it would be five years before John Evelyn felt he could send her poem, for which it is believed he supplied the preface, to the printer.

'Mundus Muliebris' is a verse satire on the extravagance of modern fashions, ‘an enumeration of the immense variety of the Modes & ornaments belonging to the Sex’ (Diary, IV, 424), women's consumerism, and the transactional nature of courtship. It is built around the conceit of advising a young man on what attire he will have to furnish to entice a modern young lady on ‘A Voyage to Maryland’ [marriage] and parallels are drawn to fitting out a ship:

Whoever has a mind to abundance of Trouble,
Let him furnish himself with a Ship and a
For no two things will find you more Employment,
If once you begin to Rig them out with all their

The prospective merchant adventurer to the land of women must stock his bark with:'Twice twelve day Smocks of Holland fine,With Cambric Sleeves, rich Point to joyn,(For she despises Colbertine)Twelve more for night, all Flanders lac’d,Or else she’ll think her self disgrac’d ….In Pin-up Ruffles now she flaunts,About her Sleeves are Engageants:Of Ribbon, various Echelles,Gloves trimm’d, and lac’d as fine as Nell’s ….

But tir’d with numbers I give o’re,Arithmetick can add no more,Thus Rigg’d the Vessel, and Equipp’dShe is for all Aventures Shipp’d….'

The 'Mundus Muliebris' is no love poem. Both the suitor and the woman he desires are out for themselves, their relationship one of mutual deception. The woman who loses her fortune can seduce a fop into giving her money and finery, but the fop has laid his own snare. He gives his out-of-pocket lover Rouleau (money normally lent to losing gamesters) but he expects a return on his investment:

Nor is she troubled at ill fortune,
For should the bank be so importune,
To rob her of her glittering Store,
The amorous Fop will furnish more.
Pensive and mute, behind her shoulder
He stands, till by her loss grown bolder,
Into her lap Rouleau conveys,
The softest thing a Lover Says:
She grasps it in her greedy hands,
Then best his Passion understands;
When tedious languishing has fail'd,
Rouleau has constantly prevail'd.

The second part of the volume, ‘The Fop-Dictionary or, an alphabetical Catalogue of the hard and foreign Names, and Terms of the Art cosmetick, &c.’ (pp. [13]-22 with a divisional title-page) is a valuable glossary of French words (or loan words used by the French) for styles of dress, modes of fashion, cosmetics, and precious objects. Among the entries we find, Gris: The Grey Furr of Squirrels bellies; Pastillo di Bocca: Perfum'd Lozenges to improve the Breath; Plumpers: Certain very thin, round, and light balls, to plump out, and fill up the Cavities of the Cheeks, much us'd by old Court-Countesses; Sultane: A Gown trimm'd with buttons, and Loops; Assassin, or Venez a moy: A certain Breast-knot, as much as to say, "Come to me, Sir, &c."; etc. Some entries preserve for us obscure English term. For instance: Sprunking: A Dutch term for Pruning, Tiffing, Trimming, and setting out, by the Glass or Pocket Mirroir.

See "Women Advising Women: Part 5: Women’s writing and advice, c.1450-1720, from the Bodleian Library, Oxford"

A noxious cosmetic: the recipe for “Puppidog”

According to the OED, “puppy-water” was “the urine of a puppy, formerly used as a cosmetic.” Other sources suggest the recipe for this cosmetic varied, but remained consistently distasteful. The second edition of Mary Evelyn's Mundus Muliebris, for example, includes “a most rare and incomparable receipt, to make pig, or puppidog-water for the face": "Take a Fat Pig, or a Fat Puppidog, of nine days old, and kill it, order it as to Roast; save the Blood, and fling away nothing but the Guts; then take the Blood, and Pig, or the Puppidog, and break the Legs and Head, with all the Liver and the rest of the Inwards, of either of them, put all into the Still if it will hold it, to that, take two Quarts of old Canary, a pound of unwashd Butter not salted; a Quart of Snail-Shells, and also two Lemmons, only the outside pared away; Still all these together in a Rose Water Still, either at once or twice; Let it drop slowly into a Glass-Bottle, in which let there be a lump of Loaf-Sugar, and a little Leaf-gold”. Evelyn's poem, which criticized the excesses of luxury and cosmetic improvement through the spectacle of indiscriminate hoarding in the dressing room, would have included the recipe less for pragmatic instruction than to emphasize the disgusting mixture of ingredients masquerading as an enhancement to beauty.” (Jenkins)

ESTC R31459; Wing E 3523; Keynes, John Evelyn (second edition, 1968), 101 (pp. 215-221)