Mrs. Margaret Leeson
Peg Plunkett, or Mrs. Margaret Leeson as she liked to call herself, was the leading courtesan and brothel-keeper of late 18th-Century Dublin. She was born in 1727 (or 1742 according to some sources) into modest prosperity in Co. Westmeath. A headstrong girl from the start, she bitterly resented her brother's domination and rejected the elderly shopkeeper chosen to be her husband. After one savage beating too many, she left home and took up with the first of her many lovers. He abandoned her in due course, and, there being no place for a woman other than virgin, wife or whore, she embarked on her career as an "impure." After a series of lovers, heartbreak, abandonment and the birth and death of several children, she set up as the keeper of a very high-class brothel. She and her "nymphs" did business first in Smock Alley, and then in Pitt St. (now Balfe St.) in a very fashionable area of Dublin. Her clients included Lords, Members of Parliament and (alas!) also con men who swindled her out of much of the money she had earned. When she grew too old, she took up religion, and to relieve her poverty wrote these memoirs, which are sprightly, witty and full of remarkable anecdotes of the last flowering of the old pre-Union Ascendancy.