Stories of Amore in Eighteenth Century Bath – Miss L—

‘Company at Play’, Thomas Rowlandson, Plate 8 from Comforts of Bath, 1798

This week I am going to tell another true story of the life behind the closed doors of 18th CenturyBath, taken from Oliver Goldsmith’s, The Life of Beau Nash.

The story begins one evening in the Upper Assembly Rooms of Bath, where Beau Nash was in attendance. And although the author does not tell us how, Beau Nash must have had heard some rumour, or known something specific was about to occur. He must therefore have been entangled in all gossip and perhaps played confident too.

But by whatever means he came by the information on the evening in question, he approached a lady of ‘no inconsiderable fortune,’ and her daughter, and ‘bluntly told the mother, she had better be at home:’ It was an ‘audacious piece of impertinence, and the lady turned away piqued and disconcerted. Nash, however, pursued her, and repeated the words again.’

The second warning was observed, as the mother perhaps realised the impertinence had some purpose, ‘and coming to her lodgings, found a coach and six at the door, which a sharper had provided to carry off her eldest daughter.’

The sharper, a Colonel M—- ‘At the conclusion of the treaty of peace at Utrecht,’ ‘was one of the thoughtless, agreeable, gay creatures, that drew the attention of the company at Bath. He danced and talked with great vivacity, and when he gamed among the ladies, he showed, that his attention was employed rather upon their hearts than their fortunes. His own fortune however was a trifle, when compared to the elegance of his expense; and his imprudence at last was so great, that it obliged him to sell an annuity, arising from his commission, to keep up his splendour a little longer.

However, ‘he had the happiness of gaining the affections of Miss L—-, whose father designed her a very large fortune. This lady was courted by a nobleman of distinction, but she refused his addresses, resolved upon gratifying rather her inclinations than her avarice. The intrigue went on successfully between her and the colonel, and they both would certainly have been married, and been undone, had not Mr Nash apprised her father of their intentions.

The old gentleman, recalled his daughter from Bath, and offered Mr Nash a very considerable present,

While ‘In the mean time colonel M— had an intimation how his intrigue came to be discovered; and by taxing Mr Nash, found that his suspicions were not without foundation. A challenge was the immediate consequence, which the king of Bath (Beau Nash), conscious of having only done his duty, thought proper to decline. As none are permitted to wear swords at Bath, the colonel found no opportunity of gratifying his resentment, and waited with impatience to find Mr Nash in town, to require proper satisfaction. 

During this interval, however, he found his creditors became too importunate for him to remain longer at Bath, and his finances and credit being quite exhausted, he took the desperate resolution of going over to the Dutch army in Flanders, where he enlisted himself a volunteer. Here he underwent all the fatigues of a private sentinel, with the additional misery of receiving no pay, and his friends in England gave out, that he was shot at the battle of —.

When the Colonel left England the noble man continued to pursue Miss L—- and ‘pressed his passion with ardour, but during the progress of his amour, the young lady’s father died, and left her heiress to a fortune of fifteen hundred a year.’

She thought herself over the Colonel, after an absence of two years ‘and the assiduity, the merit, and real regard of the gentleman who still continued to solicit her, were almost too powerful for her constancy.’  

But in this period Beau Nash, ‘took every opportunity of enquiring after colonel M—, and found, that’ his rumoured demise was untrue ‘he had for some time been returned to England, but changed his name, in order to avoid the fury of his creditors, and that he was entered into a company of strolling players, who were at that time exhibiting at Peterborough.

Beau Nash must have seen or heard something that twisted his conscience over his actions of two years before, for, ‘He now therefore thought he owed the colonel, in justice, an opportunity of promoting his fortune, as he had once deprived him of an occasion of satisfying his love.

To make amends, Beau invited the lady. Miss L—, along with her adoring noble man, to be a member of a party visiting Peterborough, ‘and offered his own equipage, which was then one of the most elegant in England, to conduct her there. The proposal being accepted, the lady, the nobleman, and Mr Nash, arrived in town just as the players were going to begin. Colonel M—, who used every means of remaining incognito, and who was too proud to make his distresses known to any of his former acquaintance, was now degraded into the character of Tom in the Conscious Lovers. Miss L— was placed in the foremost row of the spectators, her lord on one side, and the impatient Nash on the other, when the unhappy youth appeared in that despicable situation upon the stage. The moment he came on,’ he saw her ‘but his amazement was increased, when he saw her fainting away in the arms of those who sat behind her. He was incapable of proceeding, and scarce knowing what he did, he flew and caught her in his arms.

“Colonel,” cried Nash, when they were in some measure recovered, “you once thought me your enemy, because I endeavoured to prevent you both from ruining each other, you were then wrong, and you have long had my forgiveness If you love well enough now for matrimony, you fairly have my content, and d–n him, say I, that attempts to part you.”

Their nuptials were solemnized soon after, and affluence added a zest to all their future enjoyments. Mr Nash had the thanks of each, and he afterwards spent several agreeable days in that society, which he had contributed to render happy.


Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional love stories.

See the side bar for details of Jane’s books, and Jane’s website to learn more about Jane. Or click  ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook  page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark

Stories of Amore in Eighteenth Century Bath – Miss Sylvia S—

The Successful Fortune Hunter – Thomas Rowlandson

On my exploration of life in Eighteenth Century Bath I am going to begin some specific tales to get a more individual view of the people living in Bath in this period. And there are some great stories which emerge from Oliver Goldsmith’s History of Beau Nash written in 1762.

Of course in the daily idle play of the high society which flocked to Bath, what is not listed in the records of their public pursuits (mentioned in my last blogs) is the private activity which went on behind closed doors, or in secret conversations, love affairs. Or as they said in the 18th Century amore and intrigues.

Oliver Goldsmith describes Beau Nash as a lover, and says of him ‘He had assiduity, flattery, fine clothes, and as much wit as the ladies he addressed. Wit, flattery, and fine clothes, he used to say, were enough to debauch a nunnery.’ And Beau Nash had his fair share of intrigues ‘As Nestor was a man of three ages, so Nash sometimes humorously called himself a beau of three generations. He had seen flaxen bobs succeeded by majors, which in their turn gave way to negligents, which were at last totally routed by bags and ramilees. [Editor’s note: These are different kinds of wig.]’

Oliver Goldsmith describes these different ages of amore which Beau Nash viewed and participated with as follows; ‘The manner in which gentlemen managed their amours, in these different ages of fashion, were not more different than their periwigs. The lover in the reign of king Charles was solemn, majestic, and formal. He visited his mistress in state. Languished for the favour, kneeled when he toasted his goddess, walked with solemnity, performed the most trifling things with decorum, and even took snuff with a flourish. The beau of the latter part of queen Anne’s reign was disgusted with so much formality, he was pert, smart and lively, his billet-doux were written in a quite different style from that of his antiquated predecessor, he was ever laughing at his own ridiculous situation, till at last, he persuaded the lady to become as ridiculous as himself. The beau of the third age, in which Mr Nash died, was still more extraordinary than either, his whole secret intrigue consisted in perfect indifference. The only way to make love now, I have heard Mr Nash say, was to take no manner of notice of the lady, which method was found the surest way to secure her affections.’

But the story I am going to recite today is not of Beau Nash, it is of a woman, ‘Miss Sylvia S—‘, who Beau Nash knew and sought to help, though his help did not succeed, and the tale is true as told to Oliver Goldsmith by ‘Mr Wood, the architect of Bath’.

Miss Sylvia S—, a descendent of one of the best families in the kingdom, owned a large fortune, inherited from her sister and she’d consorted with ‘the best company’ from an early age, and therefore had a passion for elegance and expense. Oliver Goldsmith says ‘It is usual to make the heroine of a story very witty, and very beautiful, and such circumstances are so surely expected, that they are scarce attended to. But whatever the finest poet could conceive of wit, or the most celebrated painter imagine of beauty, were excelled in the perfections of this young lady. Her superiority in both was allowed by all, who either heard, or had seen her. She was naturally gay, generous to a fault, good-natured to the highest degree, affable in conversation, and some of her letters, and other writings, as well in verse as prose, would have shone amongst those of the most celebrated wits of this, or any other age, had they been published. But these great qualifications were marked by another, which lessened the value of them all. She was imprudent! But let it not be imagined, that her reputation of honour suffered by her imprudence, I only mean, she had no only knowledge of the use of money,’  In Essence she was rich, well-bred, connected and a perfect disposition.

She arrived in Bath at the age of nineteen with a crowd of lovers (suitors), used to frequent ‘new flattery’ and therefore thought she would be forever adored, never forsaken and never poor. Like most young ladies she believed that with so many lovers she would safely secure a husband, ‘and yet’ Oliver Goldsmith states, ‘I have seldom seen a girl courted by an hundred lovers, that found an husband in any. Before the choice is fixed, she has either lost her reputation, or her good sense, and the loss of either is sufficient to consign her to perpetual virginity.’

Among the number of this young lady’s lovers was the celebrated S—. who, at that time, went by the name of the good-natured man. This gentleman, with talents that might have done honour to humanity, suffered himself to fall at length into the lowest fate of debasement. He followed the dictates of every newest passion, his love, his pity, his generosity, and even his friendships were all in excess, he was unable to make head against any of his sensations or desires, but they were in general worthy wishes and desires, for he was constitutionally virtuous. This gentleman… was at that time this lady’s envied favourite.’

It is said of ‘the good natured man’ in Oliver Goldsmith recount of this story that the ‘thoughtless creature,’  may have ‘had no other prospect from this amour, but that of passing the present moments agreeably.’ Flirtations at this time were frequently a game as much as a serious adventure to either engage a lady’s interest for marriage or intrigue. And often men simply competed for time in a ladies company only for the sake of competition. Oliver Goldsmith said of ‘the good natured man’ that ‘He only courted dissipation,’ but unfortunately ‘the lady’s thoughts were fixed on happiness,’ and Miss Sylvia S thought far more of his flirtation.

At length ‘the good natured man’s thirst for enjoyment led him into debt, which meant he was arrested and thrown into prison. ‘He endeavoured at first to conceal his situation from his beautiful mistress; but she soon came to a knowledge of his distress, and took a fatal resolution of freeing him from confinement by discharging all the demands of his creditors.’ Mr Nash was in London at the time and told Miss S ‘that so warm a concern for the interests of Mr S—, would in the first place quite impair her fortune, in the eyes of our sex, and what was worse, lessen her reputation in those of her own.’  More bluntly that he would ruin them both. He also added, that releasing ‘Mr S— from prison, would be only a temporary relief,’  and that instead of improving their friendship or affection his guilt over such generosity would only encourage him to ‘avoid a creditor he could never repay, that though small favours produce good-will, great ones destroy friendship’

However she ignored Beau Nash’s advice, only to find it true. Paying Mr S’s debts depleted her fortune to virtual non-existence and ‘she found her acquaintance began to disesteem her, in proportion as she became poor.’ At this Beau Nash encouraged her to return to Bath which she did. ‘Yet still, as if from habit, she followed the crowd in its levities, and frequented those places, where all persons endeavour to forget themselves in the bustle of ceremony and show.’

Sadly, ‘Her beauty, her simplicity, and her unguarded situation, soon drew the attention of a designing wretch, who at that time kept one of the rooms at Bath, and who thought, that this lady’s merit, properly managed, might turn to good account. This woman’s name was dame Lindsey, a creature, who, though vicious, was in appearance sanctified, and, though designing, had some wit and humour.’  Dame Lindsey, slyly ingratiated herself with Miss S and manipulated her by offering money and fake which Miss S became reliant upon, and as a consequence she gained control ‘over this poor, thoughtless, deserted girl, and, in less than one year, namely about 1727, Miss S—, without ever transgressing the laws of virtue, had entirely lost her reputation. Whenever a person was wanting to make up a party for play at dame Lindsey’s, Sylvia, as the was then familiarly called, was sent for, and was obliged to suffer all those slights, which the rich but too often let fall upon their inferiors in point of fortune.

Oliver Goldsmith describes Miss S’s acceptance of this ‘In most, even the greatest, minds, the heart at last becomes level with the meanness of its condition, but, in this charming girl, it struggled hard with adversity, and yielded to every encroachment of contempt with sullen reluctance.’ And after three years of this life, despite her ruined reputation Mr Wood said ‘he could never, by the strictest observations, perceive her to be tainted with any other vice, than that of suffering herself to be decoyed to the gaming-table, and, at her own hazard, playing for the amusement and advantage of others.’

It was at this point Beau Nash came to her aid and arranged for her to rent a room from Mr Nash. Accepting she retired there with a single maid, but she could not be happy. ‘She was unable to keep company for want of the elegancies of dress, that are the usual passport among the polite, and she was too haughty to seem to want them. The fashionable, the amusing, and the polite in society now seldom visited her, and from being once the object of every eye, she was now deserted by all, and preyed upon by the bitter reflections of her own imprudence

Eventually, ‘m sorry to say, she took her own life. When Mr Wood and his family were in London she chose the day ‘Mr Wood was expected to return from London,’ ensuring her debts were settled, before dinner ‘Thus resolved, she sat down at her dining-room window, and with cool intrepidity, wrote the following elegant lines on one of the panes of the window.


O death, thou pleasing end of human woe

Thou cure for life! Thou greatest good below!

Still may’st thou fly the coward, and the slave,

And thy soft slumbers only bless the brave.


She then went into company with the most cheerful serenity; talked of indifferent subjects till supper, which she ordered to be got ready in a little library belonging to the family. There she spent the remaining hours, preceding bed-time, in dandling two of Mr Wood’s children on her knees. In retiring from thence to her chamber she went into the nursery, to take her leave of another child, as it lay sleeping in the cradle. Struck with the innocence of the little babe’s looks, and the consciousness of her meditated guilt, she could not avoid bursting into tears, and hugging it in her arms; she then bid her old servant a good night, for the first time the had ever done so, and went to bed as usual.’

She then dressed carefully and read ‘the story of Olympia, in the Orlando Furioso of Ariosto, where, by the perfidy and ingratitude of her bosom friend, she was ruined, and left to the mercy of an unpitying world’ leaving the book open at this page and hung herself with her girdle, it even took her two attempts to succeed, as a weaker broken girdle lay on the floor.

Thus ended a female wit, a toast, and a gamester, loved, admired, and forsaken.’

Society again took interest after her death, and ‘Hundreds in high life lamented her fate, and wished, when too late, to redress her injuries. They who once had helped to impair her fortune, now regretted that they had assisted in so mean a pursuit. The little effects she had left behind were bought up with the greatest avidity, by those who desired to preserve some token of a companion, that once had given them such delight.’  In death she was the fashion again.

As for Mr S, ‘the good natured man’, he died in gaol.


Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional love stories.

See the side bar for details of Jane’s books, and Jane’s website to learn more about Jane. Or click  ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook  page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark