Anonymous. 1749. Satan's Harvest Home: or the Present State of Whorecraft, Adultery, Fornication, Procuring, Pimping, Sodomy, And the Game of Flatts, (Illustrated by an Authentick and Entertaining Story) And other Satanic Works, daily propagated in this good Protestant Kingdom. London.
This post is part of a series of primary source materials illustrating how Europeans perceived, reported, and discussed female homoeroticism in the Ottoman Empire during the 16th to early 18th centuries. I’ll give a larger context for why this is a period of interest for European interactions with a non-European, non-Christian culture that could not be dismissed easily as not being of equal power an importance to their own. Attitudes toward, and practice of homosexuality was far from the most noteworthy difference that these reports covered, but it’s the one of interest to us within the scope of this Project. I’ll be presenting the descriptions from ambassadors, travelers, and others in chronological order of their time spent in Constantinople and other key cities, followed by some additional primary sources that show how the echos of these interactions became part of European myths about lesbianism.
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Satan’s Harvest Home is an anonymous polemic (published 1749) railing against the perceived rise of effeminacy, sodomy, and prostitution in English society. The full title is: Satan's Harvest Home: or the Present State of Whorecraft, Adultery, Fornication, Procuring, Pimping, Sodomy, And the Game of Flatts, (Illustrated by an Authentick and Entertaining Story) And other Satanic Works, daily propagated in this good Protestant Kingdom. The text has been cobbled together from several sources, some attributed, others not.
The first section is entitled The Present State of Whorecraft, Adultery, Fornication, Procuring, Pimping, Etc. In Great Britain, which includes material that is a direct reprint (or plagiarism) of the 1734 text Pretty Doings in a Protestant Nation, by the pseudonymous Father Poussin (part of which appears to be lifted from William Walsh’s A Dialogue Concerning Women).
The second section is entitled Reasons for the Growth of Sodomy, Etc., which directly lifts the text of a 1731 pamphlet Plain Reasons for the Growth of Sodomy in England and then appends as chapter V the text “Of the Game of Flatts,” which consists of a brief introductory passage followed by a direct (and attributed) quotation of Busbecq’s story of the old woman who fell in love with a girl at the baths. Of particular interest is the term “game of flats” which is clearly a slang term for lesbian sex (which did not appear in Busbecq).
It can be difficult to tell whether the pamphlet was genuinely intended to arouse a moral panic, or whether it used the cover of morality to collect up a number of salicious texts for prurient purposes. In any event, Satan’s Harvest Home is an excellent example of the syncretic nature of popular culture texts regarding sexuality in this era.
The text I used is downloaded from Google Books and proofed against a pdf of the original from the same source.
The first passage of interest discusses all manner of offenses against authorized sexuality, and includes a passage that is clearly equivalent to part of Walsh’s Dialogue (published earlier), but with some rearrangement and rewording. Sappho is invoked, lesbian sex is nicknamed “the flats”, and a connection is made between lesbianism in Turkey and lesbianism in England, though without implying a causal relationship.
I must confess, that in the Business of Lust we ought to submit to the Ladies, and with Shame allow them the Preference; ’tis that can make Sappho witty; Eloisa eloquent; a country Wife politick…
Sappho, as she was one of the wittiest Women that ever the World bred, so she thought with Reason, it would be expected she should make some Additions to a Science in which Womankind had been so successful: What does she do then? Not content with our Sex, begins Amours with her own, and teaches the Female World a new Sort of Sin, call'd the Flats, that was follow'd not only in Lucian's Time, but is practis'd frequently in Turkey, as well as at Twickenham at this Day.
The second passage of interest is the one lifting Busbecq’s story, but with a brief introduction asserting that this “new and most abominable vice” of lesbianism has “got footing among the w[ome]n of q[ualit]y” and gives it the name “game of flats.” Once again, this makes a direct connection between lesbianism in England and Turkey, though without explicitly claiming a causal relationship.
Chapter V Of the Game of Flatts
I AM credibly informed, in order to render the Scheme of Iniquity still more extensive amongst us, a new and most abominable Vice has got footing among the W—n of Q—y, by some call'd the Game at Flats; however incredible this may appear to some People, I shall mention a Story from an Author of very great Credit, applicable to the Matter, who, speaking of the Turks, says,
“A Turk hates bodily Filthiness and Nastiness, worse than Soul-Defilement; and, therefore, they wash very often, and they never ease themselves, by going to Stool, but they carry Water with them for their Posteriors. But ordinarily the Women bathe by themselves, Bond and Free together; so that you shall many times see young Maids, exceeding beautiful, gathered from all Parts of the World, exposed Naked to the view of other Women, who thereupon fall in Love with them, as young Men do with us, at the sight of Virgins.
By this you may guess, what the strict Watch over Females comes to, and that it is not enough to avoid the Company of an adulterous Man, for the Females burn in Love one towards another; and the Pandaresses to such refined Loves are the Baths; and, therefore, some Turks will deny their Wives the use of their public Baths, but they cannot do it altogether, because their Law allows them. But these Offences happen among the ordinary sort; the richer sort of Persons have Baths at home, as I told you before.
It happened one time, that at the public Baths for Women, an old Woman fell in Love with a Girl, the Daughter of a poor Man, a Citizen of Constantinople; and, when neither by wooing nor flattering her, she could obtain that of her which her mad Affection aim’d at, she attempted to perform an Exploit almost incredible; she feign’d herself to be a Man, changed her Habit, hired an House near the Maid’s Father, and pretended she was one of the Chiauxes of the Grand Seignior; and thus, by reason of his Neighbourhood, she insinuated herself into the Man’s Acquaintance, and after some time, acquaints him with the desire of his Daughter. In short, he being a Man in such a prosperous Condition, the Matter was agreed on, a Portion was settled, such as they were able to give, and a Day appointed for the Marriage; when the Ceremonies were over, and this doughty Bridegroom went into the Bride-chamber to his Spouse; after some Discourse, and plucking off her Headgeer, she was found to be a Woman. Whereupon the Maid runs out, and calls up her Parents, who soon found that they had married her, not to a Man, but a Woman: Whereupon, they carried the supposed Man, the next day, to the General of the Janizaries, who, in the Absence of the Grand Seignior, was Governor of the City. When she was brought before him, he chide her soundly for her beastly Love; what, says he, are you not asham’d, an old Beldam as you are, to attempt so notorious a Bestiality, and so filthy a Fact?
Away, Sir, says she! You do not know the Force of Love, and God grant you never may. At this absurd Reply, the Governor could scarce forbear Laughter, but commanded her, presently, to be pack’d away and drown’d in the Deep; such was the unfortunate Issue of her wild Amours.”
See Busbequius's Travels into Turkey, P. 146, 147.