Sponging house

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(Eng. Law) a bailiff's or other house in which debtors are put before being taken to jail, or until they compromise with their creditors. At these houses extortionate charges are commonly made for food, lodging, etc.

See also: Sponging

References in periodicals archive ?
Instead of putting characters like Wilkins Micawber and William Dorrit in the Marshalsea sponging house, he could portray a society of feckless fools running up astonomical levels of debt and walking away grinning and free of stigma.
Indeed, even the occasional criticism of it showed what an innovation it had been - bringing much of the erudition and sense of proportion of classical writing to an account of the lives of ordinary Englishmen (hence Samuel Richardson, a rival, dismissed the novel as springing from "lowness...excusable only had he been borne in a stable or a runner from a sponging house").