I have been telling you the story of Harriette’s affair with the young Marquis of Worcester lately, and I’ve come to a point in her memoirs when there’s a sudden shift in the tone of writing regarding him. Remember she wrote these in 1825, as a kiss and tell series, and they were published one after the other, and a part of me wonders if at this stage, she’s had some correspondence from the now much older Marquis or more likely from his family, because she suddenly gets a little vicious…
But before I tell you more, as usual, here’s the recap for those who’ve not read this series of posts previously. If you’ve read it, continue after 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.
For some time, Lord Worcester’s father, the Duke of Beaufort, and his mother the Duchess, had been trying to persuade him to give Harriette up, and in his usual open-hearted manner he did not keep their letters from Harriette but showed them to her, to prove his loyalty.
Now listen to how catty, Harriette can be.
‘Her Grace of Beaufort’s letters to her son, which I always had the honour of perusing, were extremely eloquent on my subject. The Duchess… was fond of hard words. This absurd attachment of yours, for this vile profligate woman, does but prove… the total subjugation of your understanding…’
Harriette says on this subject. ‘I beg to have to correct the word subjugation. Not that there is any harm in it, on the contrary, it is a very learned kind of full sounding expression, and looks handsome in a letter; but then it is too learned to be so ignorantly misapplied. Her Grace, in her zeal to be fine, must have mistaken it for something else, since I can offer an unanswerable reason why her hopeful son, Worcester, could not have his understanding subjugated, even by the wonderful charms of Harriette Wilson, and that in four simple words: He never possessed any.’
Oo, Harriette, you can be so cruel…
Harriette then goes on to say that in the same letter Her Grace calls upon her son’s good sense to not show Harreitte her letters, but includes an aside stating, ‘she forgot that it was subjugated.’- Ha. Ha. Harriette you make me laugh.
She then goes on to complain to Worcester, putting him as the rope in the middle, as she freely admits him saying he loves his parents, that she has kept him from gambling (you could say to entertain other vices, but hey, we’ll let you have the moral high ground Harriette), refused to let him buy her gifts, refused his offer of marriage numerous times and still his family are urging him to put her out onto the streets. My suspicions are still rising, I still don’t think her goal was ever to reject that marriage offer in the end, only to bide her time until the right moment when he is of age and she can safely accept. She just does not want to be set aside in the meantime. So when his father writes insisting Lord Worcester visit him on his family estates, and Lord Worcester says he will not go, Harriette insists he heads off to keep his papa sweet. And when Lord Worcester says he would rather endure being cut off and having to drive a carriage for his living to support Harriette, well then of course, she even more heartily insists.
But then the decision is taken from either of their hands as Lord Worcester’s uncle arrives to pack Lord Worcester off himself…
To be continued 😀
Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional love stories.
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