In 1757, a down-and-out Irish poet, the head-waiter of Covent Garden’s Shakespeare’s Head Tavern, and a celebrated London courtesan became bound together by the publication of a little book: Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies. This salacious publication detailing the names and ‘specialities’ of the capital’s prostitutes eventually became one of the eighteenth century’s most successful and scandalous literary works, selling over a quarter of a million copies. During its heyday (1757-95) Harris’s List was the essential accessory for any serious gentleman of pleasure. Yet beyond its titillating passages lay a glimpse into the lives of those who lived and died by the List’s profits during the Georgian era. “The Covent Garden Ladies” tells the story of three unusual characters: Samuel Derrick, John Harrison (aka Jack Harris), and Charlotte Hayes, whose complicated and colourful lives were brought together by this publication. The true history of the book is tragicomic opera motivated by poverty, passionate love, aspiration and shame. Its telling plunges the reader down the dark alleys of eighteenth-century London’s underworld, a realm populated by tavern owners, pimps, punters, card sharps and of course, a colourful range of prostitutes and brothel-keepers.