Thirty Marks of a Fine Woman, 1722

Fair readers, I present a rather-bawdier-than-I-expected poem of the early eighteenth century, revealing the author’s idea of the perfect woman.


Thirty sure Marks point out each beauteous Fair;
Such as Helen had, as Histories declare:
Three White, Three Black, Three Red, the Maid must have;
Three Long, Three Short, if she’ll her Credit save:
Three Thick, Three Thin, Three Straight, and eke Three Large;*
Three Little too, if she’ll her Part discharge.

White Skin, White Teeth, and very Flaxen Hair.
Her Eye-Lids, Eyes, and Scut, may Black appear.**
Her Lips, her Palm, her Nails, a blushing Red.
Long Hands, Long Hair, and Taper Shape, ’tis said.
Short ears, Short Teeth, Short Feet. Her lovely Breast
And Buttocks broad; her Eye-Lids as the rest.
Small in the Waste [sic], a straight Mouth, and a Place;
Her Two both tight and plump, will do her Grace.

Her Fingers, Hair and Lips, all subtly Fine.
Her Nose, her Bubbies, and her Head be Mine
If Little each. If Large, let ’em be Thine.

So, let’s regroup. Here, then, is one fascinating historical ideal of feminine beauty. But how many of these ideas still hold today?

This is what our gentleman author requires in a lady:

1) Blonde, with fair skin and sparkling white teeth.

2) Black eye-lids (smoky eye effect always a winner) and black pubic hair.

3) Red lips, nails & palms. Red palms? Perhaps something for Maybelline to consider for Autumn/Winter 2013?

4) Slim, with slender hands and long flowing hair.

5) Delicately small ears, teeth and feet.

6) Broad chest and buttocks; preferably an aficionado of the heavy-lidded look.

7) Slim waist, with a straight mouth & … what I can only assume is a reference to a well-formed vagina. I would be very happy – nay, relieved – to be corrected on the latter point.

8) Perky breasts.

9) Small nose, breasts and head.

What we’re dealing with here, is a slim variation on the hour-glass figure, with blonde hair and a few vampish red cosmetics. Personally, I am envisaging a Georgian Scarlett Johannsson, albeit with smaller boobs and unusually red palms.

And, as our author so politely concludes, if she ain’t all that, someone else can have her.


* “Eke” – in this context, means “also”.

** “Scut” – Defined by Grose as “The tail of a hare or rabbit; also that of a woman.” A bawdy phrase for the female genitalia apparently first used in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

banImage: Detail from ‘Diana Oldboy’, engraved by J. Pettit (1789)

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