Now allow me, Dear Brother, to acquaint you with a common practice of which you may not be aware. You have no doubt heard it said that a sailor has a wife in every port. However there are many women in Portsmouth, Plymouth and doubtless other port cites as well, who can truly, or as near as makes no difference, say they have a husband on every ship! These happy creatures find no shame whatever in the fact that they have several husbands, or so they call them.
There is some good fortune in the fact that two or more of these “husbands” rarely find themselves in port at the same time as their rivals. They therefore enjoy in blissful ignorance the tender adulations of their “wives” not knowing they are being cuckold while at sea. This practice is so common that a number of these ladies earn what may be called a decent living at it and have accommodated themselves quite well. One may be inclined to think that this fact alone might arouse the suspicions of their husbands. Perhaps the poor fellows are content to partake of the kisses and tender embraces that are proffered for a short season without asking too many questions. Knowing seamen as I do, I cannot believe them so thick that they cannot discover the game.
Lest you think these ladies have elevated their station beyond their birth, fear not. Their manners betray them. Having spent the greater part of their time amongst sailors of one description or another they have adopted, without the least degree of shame, their customs in every regard. In the most bold and audacious way they swear and swagger about the waterfront finding no shame in their trade.
Letters from a Life at Sea, Scenes from Aboard and Ashore During the Late War
by Lieutenant Gideon Parkinson, Late of HMS Salisbury.
Pub. By Fischer and Collins, Fleet Street, London, 1824