The way Harriette Wilson speaks of her agreement with Lord Worcester is poles apart from how she told her love story when she wrote about Lord Ponsonby. But his affection for her bleeds from her words, while her own affection seems to be only a shallow liking and perhaps gratitude (or gloating) for his adoring behaviour.
But before I progress, as usual, for anyone joining this series of posts today let me do a quick recap on the history, and if you’ve read it before, please skip to the end of the italics.
In 1825 Harriette Wilson, a courtesan, published a series of stories as her memoirs in a British broad sheet paper. The Regency gentleman’s clubs were a buzz, waiting to see the next names mentioned each week. While barriers had to be set up outside the shop of her publisher, Stockdale, to hold back the disapproving mob.
Harriette was born Harriette Debochet, she chose the name Harriette Wilson as her professional name, in the same way Emma Hart, who I’ve blogged about previously, had changed her name. Unlike Emma, it isn’t known why or when Harriette changed her name.
She was one of nine surviving children. Her father was a watchmaker and her mother a stocking repairer, and both were believed to be from illegitimate origin.
Three of Harriette’s sisters also became courtesans. Amy, Fanny and Sophia (who I have written about before). So the tales I am about to begin in my blogs will include some elements from their lives too.
For a start you’ll need to understand the world of the 19th Century Courtesan. It was all about show and not just about sex. The idle rich of the upper class aspired to spending time in the company of courtesans, it was fashionable, the thing to do.
You were envied if you were linked to one of the most popular courtesans or you discovered a new unknown beauty to be admired by others.
Courtesans were also part of the competitive nature of the regency period too, gambling was a large element of the life of the idle rich and courtesans were won and lost and bartered and fought for.
So courtesans obviously aspired to be one of the most popular, and to achieve it they learnt how to play music, read widely, so they could debate, and tried to shine in personality too. They wanted to be a favoured ’original’.
The eccentric and outspoken was admired by gentlemen who liked to consort with boxers and jockeys, and coachmen, so courtesans did not aim for placid but were quite happy to insult and mock men who courted them, and demand money for any small favour.
Harriette had a two-day journey from London to her new love nest in Brighton. But in his dedicated style of romantic hero, unlike her other lovers, Lord Worcester did not await her arrival; instead he rode out to meet her carriage. Unlike the view Jane Austen gave the Bennets in Pride and Prejudice, when Harriette sees a young man in uniform riding up the road, she is not impressed ‘A gentleman always looks so much better in plain clothes.’ But she had forgotten that Worcester’s purpose for being in Brighton was to join the regiment.
She describes the young Marquis as blushing and bowing by the side of her carriage as he welcomes her, and explains that he has a servant readying the new house he has rented for her in Rock Gardens.
Again here she stirs up my suspicions over her interest in the young wealthy future duke. I still believe she’s busy picturing her happy ever after.
She says, when they arrive, the servant has readied the house with such a desire for her comfort, that she could have been the Duchess’s chosen daughter-in-law, and then only two paragraphs below, when she complains about the servants, she describes herself as having, ‘very unmarchionesslike humility’ then adds, ‘but then I never set up for anything at all like a woman of rank.’ – again, I think she doth protest too much.
She describes their first night together in a lot of detail, and once more Worcester is passive and charming. She says when his servant leaves them alone downstairs, Lord Worcester holds her hand to his lips and then his heart, and cries over the fact he has finally won her, then offers not to invade her bed that night, but to let her sleep alone to recover from her journey; offering to sleep on the servants’ bed in his dressing room.
Harriette accepts the chance of escape, again showing her lack of any deep feeling when she says, ‘At present everything is a little strange here, therefore, if I am a little melancholy, you must not, my dear Worcester fancy it proceeds from want of regard for you.’ (Protesting too much again).
However after sharing a very pleasant dinner with him, when he walks her so charmingly up to her room, she declares herself regretting her decision not to take him to bed, and in the style of jolly, scheming, teasing and confident Harriette, she says, ‘Do you think there are any ghosts in this part of the world?’ Hoping the young Marquis will offer to keep her company and safe, by sharing her bed. But the innocent young man does not pick up her hint, and merely declares himself only a bell pull away 😀
Next week I’ll share just how Harriette settles into life as the mistress of a young member of the regiment…
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 www.janelark.co.uk 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