“This fleshlike isle”: The voluptuous body of the people in Dutch pamphlets, novels, and plays, 1660-1730

Inger Leemans*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


It is the year 1680. A Rotterdam bailiff goes on a guided tour of the Amsterdam brothel district. To this end, he has acquired the best guide one could wish for: the devil himself. The devil takes our man from one public stew to another, and they meet the most beautiful and the ugliest whores, with dominant and cunning madams, aggressive pimps, fiddlewielding musicians, and of course the clientele, ranging from the finest gentlemen, via sailors and peasants to the lowest of rakes. In the middle of the night, in a playhouse in an alley, they meet an impressive prostitute. She is dressed "like a servant" and has little locks "curled like those of the Negroes." Moreover, she is so enormously fat that the bailiff cannot imagine her father had any intention of making a girl "when he started laying the foundations for this fleshlike isle." "Her arms and her hands were… so thick and fat that one’s taste had to be perverted to fall in love with them." And yet, immediately, a gentleman, carrying a jug of Rhine wine to get her in the proper mood and win her affection, jumps upon the lady. The bailiff is fascinated. "What charms does this creature possess, I asked my guide, that can infatuate this gentleman with her?" His guide resolutely answers: "In her whole body, as huge and as fat as it is, there is nothing at all that might entice an honest man." Obviously, all men do not share the devil’s opinion, otherwise she would not be in her profession.1

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIn Praise of Ordinary People: Early Modern Britain and the Dutch Republic
PublisherPalgrave / MacMillan
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781137380524
ISBN (Print)9781137380517
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


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