New York: Printed for the Author, 1832. First edition, all published. Original pictorial front wrapper, renewed and laid down on later wrappers, 104 pages. Illus., music. Worn and foxed and soiled, with small neat repairs at the gutter to two adjacent leaves, closed marginal tears to a few other leaves neatly repaired; a good, sound copy. Item #18978
“The unprincipled and the profligate make common cause against those who expose their vices. When their vices are exposed, they will assume even the garb of sanctity, and pretend that the exposure is indelicate, and deleterious to morals, and should not have been made, if true. . . . An admirable illustration of these remarks is found in the result of the Report made in this city in June, 1831, by the executive committee of the New York Magdalen Society—a society whose professed object was to rescue the guilty from ruin, and to preserve the chaste. . . . Having been brought before the community in connection with this cause, there is no impropriety in my directing its attention to those persons who are the proper subjects of a Magdalen asylum. This, with the divine permission, I shall attempt to do both by sketching and publishing the lives of a few of them, and by inquiring into the existence, causes, extent, effects and remedy of licentiousness.” Detailed first-hand accounts of prostitution and the lives of prostitutes and the licentious in New York—and a defense of the original report of the New-York Magdalen Society, which had grown out of a Sabbath-School mission in the Five Points slums and work in the Bellevue female penitentiary; under the leadership of the Rev. John McDowall, the society argued that prostitution and kindred moral lapses usually sprang from poverty rather than inherent viciousness. The society proposed an asylum bent on reform of fallen women, and here McDowall provides a number of case studies to back up its claims. McDowell’s annual report was a contemporary sensation, prompting both satirical responses and angry public meetings; it was suggested by many outraged Manhattanites that the report itself was pornographic and prurient. McDowall’s “sketching and publishing” of the lives here is not necessarily prurient, but certainly in its low-life details has a certain appeal to a reader’s baser instincts. The Magdalen Society was dissolved later in 1832 amid various recriminations, and McDowall struck out on his own path of reform with McDowall’s Journal, before dying of tuberculosis in 1836. The Magdalen Society likely stands as one of the few charitable organizations which has seen its annual report provoke a string of satirical responses, ranging from The Magdalen Report: A Farce in Three Acts by Peter Pendergrass (1831) to The Phantasmagoria of New-York: A Poetical Burlesque Upon a Certain Libellous Pamphlet . . . Entitled the Magdalen Report (1831) to Orthodox Bubbles (Boston, 1831). Early woman’s ink ownership signature across the head of the front wrapper.