just another suicide note

Ophelia

The suicide note of a young Victorian-era prostitute of New York, in its entirety:

Please bury me in my silk dress and bracelets

A simple request, yet what do you think are the chances that she was, in fact, buried in her silk dress and bracelets? The extant record (and this suicide note is the only proof we have that she ever existed) remains silent on the point. Those who sell love are often profoundly alone, never more than in their moment of need.

No explanations, no good-byes, no bequests. Regrets? We don’t know. Perhaps she regretted life itself, and all the rest was simply more of the same.

Did she even know who would find the note? Did she trust that person, was it someone she felt was a friend, or did she simply hope, in her last, most perfectly hopeless moments, that an unknown someone would find and honour the last request of an anonymous whore who probably looked so, so pretty in her silk dress and bracelets?

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15 thoughts on “just another suicide note

  1. Those who sell love ? You can’t actually sell love, can you? Only the semblances love, which would include sex.

    She may well have been the tragic romantic figure you’ve created for us here. She may also have been a nasty, selfish piece of work who didn’t want anyone else to have the use of the few bits of finery she possessed.

    You just never know.

  2. Yes, you just never know. I didn’t put in anything about her character, az, because we don’t know anything about her character. We know only that she left a suicide note, and that’s enough to be food for thought. Re-read it; even nasty people can have sad endings, and we don’t need to cut off all feeling for people just on the off-chance we’d find them tacky.

    Prostitutes deliver sex, but they are selling many different things, including attention, power, and all of the actions we associate with love. My philosophy professor at Langara was quite clear that love was just the expectation that someone would behave a certain way towards a certain other person; an interesting theory.

    Many clients do fall in love with prostitutes, and it’s one of the key pipe dreams of the profession to marry a rich, wonderful client.

  3. If she was buried as she requested, it is likely that they did not remain on her corpse for long. Graverobbery was a common occurance in the Victorian era and a lucrative business in part due to that it was customary to bury the departed in their best jewelry. As a result, those who could afford to hired guards to watch over beloveds’ gravesites.

    How very sad.

  4. True enough. Not to mention that paupers were wrapped in a sack and dumped in a hole. I wouldn’t doubt that she was picked over pretty well unless she happened to leave behind someone who cared and who was right there and able to take care of her. Someone, after all, saved that note.

  5. Probably not: abortion was routine and relatively inexpensive back then for prostitutes, who obviously broke the law with impunity. I think it was probably personal, not circumstantial, reasons, but then how can we know?

    I could be reading too much into the note, but it seems to indicate to me either a pathalogical shallowness or a guardedness about personal feelings that’s common in sex trade workers. If it’s the first, one wonders how she could be deep enough to feel despair; if the second, how sad that even in her final statement she was keeping things back. Her one chance at consequence-free honesty, and she didn’t take it.

  6. sad that fulfilling a need is so universally frowned upon. that suicide may have been her only ever action for herself. that it takes two to make a prostitute, yet only one is vilified.

  7. That’s a good point. That’s why there’s more resistance to “Shame the Johns” movements than there is to naming the accused in the paper. Because really, who ever gets busted for paying for sex?

  8. She probably did it for the same reason as most people: because she could not reconcile the world outside of her with the world inside of her. Of course, she also might’ve had syphilis and wanted to choose her own death before the spirocytes got at her brain.

  9. mmmm

    “…. anonymous whore ….” ~~~~~ it doesn’t seem adequate …. or accurate, because of so much that it does not say

    She was an anonymous Lady – she was some 2 people’s daughter, peut-etre a sister ….. vielleicht a Mother …. certainly a Creature in the image of God, that the Good Lord cared about …..

    I wish we could have been there to help, before she died

    Alles Gute und tot siens

    G Eagle

  10. Indeed, we’re generally labeled by what we do for a living, and often written off for it. I used that word carefully, after much thinking. I do, after all, know women who do this for a living, and that is the one word in the world they most despise. But I thought in the context of the whole post it would have both the power to shock and the power to raise questions, which it normally does not.

  11. Are we to think that you believe Elizabeth Siddal to be a prostitute who killed herself? I hope not!
    Putting THAT picture with that story is fucking outrageous. Know your shit before you spout off! Idiot. Read some Jan Marsh you ignorant middle class bigot.

  12. No, you are completely misinterpreting the use of the image which was, after all, a portrait of the Shakespearian character OPHELIA. For your information I am also not claiming that June Tabor, for whom Elvis Costello wrote that song, is a dead Victorian-age prostitute. I thought I’d better clear that up.

    Jan Marsh? You would make me laugh if you were not so sad, yourself. I have two of her books, and I can even read and comprehend them. Confusing the model for a painting with the subject of a painting is jejune and Marsh would be ashamed of you.

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