An Apology for the Conduct of Mrs. T. C. Phillips more particularly, that Part of it which Relates to Her Marriage with an Eminent Dutch Merchant

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by Teresia Constantia Muilman

An Apology for the Conduct of Mrs. T. C. Phillips
George Wythe bookplate.jpg
Title not held by The Wolf Law Library
at the College of William & Mary.
Author Teresia Constantia Muilman
Published London:
Date 1748
Volumes volume set

Teresia Constantia Phillips (1709-1765) was a courtesan who became famed in London for her multi-volume memoir, “An Apology for the Conduct of Teresia Constantia Phillips, more particularly that part of it which relates to her marriage with an eminent Dutch Merchant.”[1] Phillips was a serial bigamist who married at least five men and became mistress to at least seven other wealthy and well-connected men throughout her life.[2] She published her memoir in three volumes between 1748-1749 in an effort to blackmail her husbands and lovers, unsuccessfully requesting annuities in return for suppressing sections of the autobiography that related to her relationships with them. Phillips defended her sexual behavior and career as a mistress, maintaining that her actions were necessitated by poverty and gender. She also noted the injustice of the double standards between men and women, remarking on the nature of laws as being created for the benefit of men.[3]

Phillips’ memoirs elucidated difficulties navigating the legal system at the time, as indicated by her many lengthy lawsuits with her husband, Henry Muilman. Her lawsuits and memoirs contributed to exposing the failure of marriage laws. Clandestine marriages were not uncommon at the time due to marriage requirements being governed by the Church of England, requiring only that the marriage be performed by an Anglican clergymen. Phillips’ history inspired legal reform, particularly Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753, which tightened marriage requirements by requiring that ceremonies be performed in a church after obtaining a license.[4]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "Constantia Philips. 2d. & 3d. v. 12mo." This was one of the titles kept by Thomas Jefferson and may have been sold to the Library of Congress in 1815. Jefferson did sell a copy of volumes two and three of An Apology for the Conduct of Mrs. T. C. Phillips to the Library of Congress, but the library may never have received them from Jefferson. The Library of Congress does own copies of the first edition (1748) of volumes two and three, but they include no signs of Wythe's (or Jefferson's) prior ownership.[5] George Wythe's Library[6] on LibraryThing notes the copy sold to the Library of Congress and indicates "Precise edition unknown. Three-volume editions in duodecimo were published at London in 1750 and 1761." The Brown Bibliography[7] lists the first edition (1748) published in London based on the edition at the Library of Congress remarking "it does accord with the partial set" listed on the Jefferson Inventory.

As yet, the Wolf Law Library has been unable to procure a copy of Apology for the Conduct of Mrs. T. C. Phillips.

See also


  1. Julie Mellby, "Teresia Constantia Phillips and the Shame of Publick Fame," Graphic Arts Exhibitions, acquisitions, and other highlights from the Graphic Arts Collection (Princeton University Library), accessed January 15, 2015.
  2. Lawrence Stone, Uncertain Unions: Marriage in England 1660-1753 (Oxford: Oxford University, 1992), 236.
  3. Ibid., 244-245.
  4. Caroline Breashears, "The Female Appeal Memoir: Genre and Female Literacy Tradition in Eighteenth-Century England," Modern Philosophy 107, no. 4 (2010): 616.
  5. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 4:458 [no.4360].
  6. LibraryThing, s.v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on February 11, 2015.
  7. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012, rev. May, 2014.) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:

External Links

Read the 1750 edition of volume three in Google Books