In Liverpool in days gone by,
For ha’pence and her wittles,
A little girl, by no means shy,
Was settin’ up the skittles.
If you could hear the words above, set to music, you’d know that’s the way they used to sing back in those old-timey days. Our bad girl Skittles’ time. Huh. Those suggestive words were meant to shock people. Are you shocked? I’m trying to imagine the modern-day equivalent.
How about Ludacris' “One Minute Man:”
A hard head make a soft ass, but a hard d**k make the sex last
I jump in pools and make a big splash
Water overflowin, so get your head right
Enough with tips and advice and thangs
I`m big dog, havin women seein stripes and thangs
They go to sleep, start snorin, countin sheep and s**t
They so wet, that they body start to leak and sh**t
The old-timey song was written in tribute to how Skittles got her name because when she was a teenager, Catherine Walters apparently had a job setting up nine-pins in the back alley of a pub near the Mersey River docks of Liverpool. The customers were men only, so Skittles was a very popular girl. So popular that she earned extra money on the side turning tricks. Well, that’s what I imagine, anyway. I couldn’t find anything about the mechanics of her sex life in the few biographies I found on Skittles. Nothing about how her body started to leak and s**t.
And isn’t that a shame? Here I am, a serious student of history’s bad girls, and yet I can tell you it was dismayingly hard if not impossible to find any smut or porn related to them. And trust me, I’ve spent hours looking for the dirty parts in old books. As a result of my fruitless labor, I find that I’ve had to make stuff up just to keep the stories entertaining.
For example, let’s talk about Skittles’ sex life. Sometime in her teen years, Skittles lost her virginity for the right price. Why do I know this? Because Liverpool at the time had “beer brothels” with private rooms for prostitutes and their customers. And Skittles was a poor serving wench. And she had a drunk party animal for a dad who didn’t care about her chastity. And a weak mother. And Skittles was very, very sassy and bold, liked men better than women, etc. It says in one of those old books that Skittles earned the devotion of a gang of drunken soldiers when she warned them: “If you don’t hold your bloody row, I’ll knock you down like a row of skittles.”
So here’s the story: Skittles was a modern girl who didn’t value her virginity, and she forgot her first time easily because she just wanted to get it over with. Who was her first? One of the drunk soldiers, let’s say, and he was a terrible lover. Like a fermented frat boy on spring break. But Skittles did like sex, oh yes she did. How do I know this? Because she had other income to support herself, i.e., serving beer and setting up skittles. Clearly, she chose when to prostitute herself, and this allowed her to choose only men she was attracted to--good training for a proper courtesan. Sometimes, I’ve decided, if she liked a chap who had no money, she gave it away for free, and the ones she was most drawn to were her opposite, gentle and shy. Skittles may have been tough, but she was a genuinely feeling girl, and the gentle lovers brought out her sympathetic understanding. With the sensitive poets, unlike with the drunk soldiers, she could let down her guard and be girlish.
As a lover, Skittles was not easily forgotten. She was no innocent, but her simple sweetness shone from her dark-lashed eyes. As much as men might tease her and talk dirty about her fine figure and delicate features, they were powerfully attracted to her and thus protective. And considering the degree to which she was comfortable in her father’s company, each one of her men got the feeling that he was the special one. Naturally, this would provoke jealous scenes (good for business), and around the same time she lost her virginity, Skittles learned about men’s vulnerability.
Versions of Skittles’ young life vary because few people really knew where she came from, and with her steely core of dignity, Catherine Walters preferred it that way. Nobody really knows how she got her nickname, for example. The stories about the nine-pins and the drunk soldiers were made up by now-dead "biographers." My favorite story comes from A Biography of a Fascinating Woman, attributed to William Stephen Hayward, London: George Vickers, 1864.
In this version of events, a dandified London aristocrat named Trevellian walks into the “Merseyside pothouse” where Kitty is setting up skittles. Trevellian is enchanted by the girl's clever impudence, and she is equally taken with his foppish sophistication.
“Ah! My little Skittles,” he says, upon hearing her speak. “I wasn’t aware that you could talk decent English.”
“My name’s not Skittles; and I daresay I can talk as well as you any day in the year,” she responds.
Trevellian invites Skittles to run off with him to London, and she accepts. Taking on the role of mentor, he warns her: “Publichouse ways, my child, are not my ways, nor should they be yours; and your allusion to mixing it rather stiff is evidently more calculated to please a tap-room audience than myself, or those in whose society you ought to, and will most probably move [and s**t].”
So how did Skittles really get to London? Considering her tough self-confidence, chances are that she left Liverpool on her own strength and refined her publichouse ways on her own terms. She would have come across many Trevellians in the early days. And she was never in such desperate straits that she would have been forced to be a common prostitute. More likely, she was set up as the mistress of some kindly yet forgettable gentleman, who provided her with comfortable room and board while she learned to navigate London society.
If you really want to know the mechanics of sex in Victorian England, you must read The Pearl, a filthy, smutty book if ever there was one. I found it on somebody's bookshelf one day years ago, and oh boy, was I shocked! (And titillated.) Here’s a taste, from a poem titled "A PROLOGUE. Spoke by Miss Bella de Lancy, on her retiring from the Stage
to open a Fashionable Bawdy House. (Written by S. Johnson, LL.D.)"
When c**t first triumphed (as the learned suppose)
O'er failing pr**ks, Immortal Dildo rose,
From f**ks unnumbered, still erect he drew,
Exhausted c**ts, and then demanded new;
Dame Nature saw him spurn her bounded reign,
And panting pr**ks toiled after him in vain;
The laxest folds, the deepest depths he filled;
The juiciest drained; the toughest hymens drilled.
Our story has only just begun. Find out in the next episode just how Skittles became the most fashionable whore to ride a horse on Hyde Park's Rotten Row.