The moment Harriette was scene in disguise having visited Lord Worcester, was perhaps the moment his parents believed her truly capable of duplicity and permanently entrapping their son, because after this the relationship between Harriette and Lord Worcester begins showing its strain and starts to unravel.
But before I tell you what happens next as usual for anyone reading this series of posts for the first time today, here’s the background. And if you’ve already read it, read on from 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.
Harriette tells us that when Lord Worcester wrote to her to say she had been seen in unladylike dress near Oxford, that at that time, there were two young men staying with his mother. ‘Her Grace of Beaufort, who is known to have always encouraged a very motherly kindness of feeling towards you men, particularly when they were well looking. Perhaps she wanted them for her daughters; and yet that beauty soon fades, is the cry of most moral mammas.’
Oh, do you think Harriette is claiming Lord Worcester’s mother immoral? She is probably just being a little vicious, a lot of water has passed under the bridge between this moment in Harriette’s life and when she actually wrote these words. But there was certainly several older women of the era who entertained young men in their homes, and before their husbands. Lord Byron was one of those who willing accepted such offers.
Harriette tells us a little later in the piece that one of the two young men noted to be extremely handsome, was Mr Meyler, he was Lord Worcester’s friend at Christchurch, and Lord Worcester had introduced him to his mother. He had only recently become of age, and was not gentry, he had money from a sugar plantation bought by a previous generation. Harriette’s aristocratic friends had nicknamed him the sugar-baker. Harriette says he was a favourite of the Duchess and always agreed with whatever she said. So of course both young men were noted in Worcester’s letters to thoroughly and crudely denounce her. Meyler so crudely, that he was ordered to never speak of Harriette.
Lord Worcester recounted some of his less crude words, ‘it would be impossible for any man, in his right senses, to be in love with that woman Harriette Wilson; she may have been better once; but she is now in ill health, spoiled by flattery, and altogether the most disgusting style of woman I know.’
Harriette’s response… ‘If, said I, one day to Fanny’ (her sister), ‘if all this abuse of me could be reconciled to good taste in a gentleman, and this Meyler is really so handsome, it would be worthwhile changing his dislike into love.’
Well if you have read my earlier posts on Harriette, we kind of knew she was not going to take that lying down, didn’t we. No, here is a contest to be won. So while Lord Worcester is still in the clutches of his parents, having her name constantly denigrated to him, Harriette starts asking all her male friends about Mr Meyler to find out if he is truly good-looking and what his character is like.
The next step in the story – which as Harriette didn’t actually write her memoirs in order may have come before the above, or perhaps she had just sensed she’d lost Worcester for good. Or possibly even his money had just stopped arriving. But anyway however she must have realised she was losing Lord Worcester and any hope of a happy ending. And his father then made that bluntly clear – he sent a man known for doing dirty work for the nobility to call on her.
He asked for all the letters Lord Worcester had ever written to her promising marriage, back.
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
I’ll let you know what happens next, next week.