A courtesan scorned

Harriette_Wilson00In my last post I left Harriette having just discovered that her long-term protector, the now twenty-one year old Marquis of Worcester, who she’d lived with for years, had run off with a woman on the continent. After Harriette had lived for a whole year out of society to prove her faithfulness. So what did Harriette do next?

Well as always before I tell you, here’s the background to this series of posts for anyone joining Harriette’s story today, and if you’ve read it before just 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.

Well as I said last week, of course she’d hot footed it off to town, to the hallowed ground of London, men and parties, but the man Harriette had been holding in reserve for a year, Mr Meyler, was sadly out of town in the country, so there was no immediate romantic welcome.

Her sister fanny however forbid Harriette to write to the second young man before first seeking compensation from the Marquis of Worcester’s father, the Duke of Beaufort. Harriette had been offered a sum of money if she left his son as he disagreed with the relationship. Of course Harriette, as usual, claimed she would not have sought it if her sister had not persuaded her to ask, but her sister did.

Her request for the originally offered £500 was rejected with a denial that he’d ever said such a sum, he offered £300, with no ground to bargain.

Harriette had little choice but to agree and so ‘the Duke set his attorney to work to draw up the papers.’

But then two ‘parcels,’ I think she means letters, arrived from Lord Worcester. ‘He had not seduced Mrs Archdeacon, for Mrs Archdeacon had followed him up to the army, whether he would or not, and he had her sent her back immediately, and wished her dead for her disgusting assurance: and he adored me, etc. etc.as usual.’

The prize was definitely in Lord Worcester, she has been telling us for weeks she never loved Lord Worcester but had already begun falling in love with Mr Meyler, and now she does not progress her move to leave Lord Worcester behind, but puts the brakes on everything, and tells his father she cannot sign any document – yet… Perhaps Lord Worcester’s future dukedom calling again – maybe 🙂

Anyway, most of her little games she’s played well, but this one she got completely wrong, of course her delay gave the Duke of Beaufort time to hear the same rumour about his son that Harriette had heard, and the moment he heard the tale that his son had moved on to a new woman, any offer of money was instantly withdrawn. ‘the Duke heard of Mrs Archdeacon, and, believing his son had forgotten me, kindly wrote me word, he would now do nothing for me, and I might starve if I did not like to live with another man.

Harriette’s answer, ‘I could no longer endure the Duke’s excessive selfishness calmly, and therefore assured him that I had still many letters, with promises of marriage, from Lord Worcester, written since those I had delivered up to him, trusting to the frail reeds, his generosity and honour, all which were, at that time, in my possession.’

‘The Duke now wrote me a most insulting and impertinent letter, declaring that, if I were humble and civil, he had no objection to giving me a small sum for my letters; but recommended me to be moderate in my demands, otherwise he should not think them worth attending to, or taking any notice of.’

This time the Duke had the honour of putting me in a passion, and I consequently wrote to this effect.

Your Grace must excuse my flattering, with civility, you whose conduct has been so invariably selfish, mean, and artful towards me, as to have, at last, inspired me with perfect contempt. Having your promise of £300 provided I fulfil certain conditions, without one bit of the civil humility you recommend, I beg to acquaint you that, if the annuity is not made out directly, I will publish the promise of marriage, and put an execution into your house for the annuity.’

This won the Duke over – within days she received an agreement although not for £300 a year, but for £200 a year, but there was one other condition, that Harriette never spoke to or wrote to Lord Worcester again. Harriette therefore once again passed over all the letters she’d received from Lord Worcester, and the agreement was signed and witnessed.

Lord Worcester wrote a parcel of very pathetic letters to my sister Fanny: he wished me happy: he knew well that he should never be allowed to see me again: he did not think I could have agreed never to write or speak to him again: he had heard that I was with Mr Meyler; but, even in that case; he could not fancy my having cut him.

He wrote three or four letters to Fanny in the same style, but then he wrote to Harriette…

‘It was impossible to resist addressing me, cruelly as I had left him, etc.etc.’

‘So it is, very mercenary, cruel, and unnatural,’ said I to Fanny, after having finished His Lordship’s letter to me: ‘in short, were he to be killed abroad, I should never enjoy another hour’s rest’; and in spite of all they could say or do to prevent me, I wrote to tell Worcester, that I trusted to God, and to his good heart, for seeing that I was somehow provided for; but that nothing should again induce me to cut him, while I believed him still fond of me, and unhappy for my sake.’ – or perhaps willing to make her a duchess 😉

After writing this letter, Harriette received her first half-year payment £100 from the Duke of Beaufort, ‘and in less than a month afterwards, the same attorney applied to me for the £100 back’

Harriette believed the whole thing was a set up, and that Lord Worcester had quite deliberately written to her, so that she would write back and break the contract so his father would not have to pay a thing. ‘Lord Worcester has acquainted his father that you have written to him, and therefore, since you are not entitled to that £100 the Duke insists on its being returned.’

When Harriette argued, should she not be allowed it if she remained separated from Lord Worcester? The answer was, ‘Certainly not even then, The fact is, His Grace believes that his son has left you altogether.

And when she called on his good nature, for the fact that she could have been his daughter years before, and did not take the opportunity, and did they not care what became of her, it was said, ‘That is a matter of perfect indifference to His Grace, and also to me.’

But I said weeks ago, when I began the tale of Harriette and Worcester, that all along I wondered if her real hope was to acquire a Duke and a title of her own (especially as her younger sister was marrying his uncle, a Baron, when they met) – so when all her attempts to win over fail now, and Harriette’s affair with Lord Worcester finally comes to an end, what does she say? ‘for this I had left the gay world, and buried myself in a village. It was to ensure the esteem of the Beauforts, that I refused to become one of them.’ Almost her last statement on the subject.

What does Harriette do now? Well there’s little choice really, for income, and for her self-esteem, she must move on to the next man, and make him fall in love and flatter her.  TO BE CONTINUED 🙂

Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romance stories.

See the side bar for details of Jane’s books, and Jane’s websitewww.janelark.co.uk to learn more about Jane. Or click  ‘like’ on Jane’sFacebook  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

About janelarkhttps://janelark.wordpress.coma writer of compelling, passionate and emotionally charged fiction

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