Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Needham, Elizabeth

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NEEDHAM, ELIZABETH, commonly known as ‘Mother Needham’ (d. 1731), a notorious procuress, kept a house in Park Place, near St. James's Street. She is said to have been employed by the infamous Colonel Charteris [see Charteris, Francis], and in ‘Don Francisco's Descent into the Infernal Regions’—a satire published upon Charteris's death in February 1732—she is represented as proposing in hell to marry the colonel, much to the latter's horror and disgust. She is represented in the first plate of Hogarth's ‘Harlot's Progress,’ in the courtyard of the Bell Inn, Wood Street, cajoling with flattering promises the then innocent Kate Hackabout on her first arrival in London. She is depicted as a middle-aged woman, simpering beneath her patches, and well dressed in silk. The male figure leaning on his stick, and leering at the maid from the inn door, is supposed to represent Charteris himself, while behind him stands his factotum, Jack Gourlay. In spite of pertinacious efforts made to screen her, Mother Needham was committed to the Gate House on 24 March 1731, convicted of keeping a disorderly house on 29 April, and ordered to stand in the pillory over against Park Place on 30 April 1731. She is described in the contemporary journals as lying upon the pillory on her face; notwithstanding which evasion of the law, and the diligence of a number of beadles and other persons who had been paid to protect her, she was so severely pelted by the mob that her life was despaired of. She actually died on 3 May 1731, declaring that what most affected her was the terror of standing in the pillory again. She is alluded to in the ‘Dunciad’ as ‘pious Needham.’ Pope states in a note that she ‘was a matron of great fame, and very religious in her way,’ her constant prayer being that she might get enough by her profession to leave it off in time and make her peace with God. ‘Mother Needham's Lamentation,’ a sixpenny pamphlet, was published in May 1731.

[Daily Advertiser, 1 May 1731; Grub Street Journal, 25 March, 29 April, and 6 May 1731; Stephens's Cat. of Satirical Prints, Nos. 1833 and 2031; Hogarth's Works, ed. Nichols and Steevens, 1810, ii. 96–8; Wheatley and Cunningham's London; Elwin's Pope, iv. 124.]

T. S.