A bitter sweet break-up, Regency style ~ a courtesan who just can’t let go of a young handsome man

Harriette_Wilson00When Harriette’s and Mr Meyler’s relationship begins to fall apart, she tells us she cannot remember who became tired of who first, but her eyes begin to wander…

As always, before I tell you the story though, here’s the background for this series of posts for anyone joining today and if you have already read it, skip to the end of the italics where I have highlighted the text in bold.

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.

Napoleon had been captured, and The Peninsular War was finally over, so Meyler suggested they move for a stay in Paris, now the continent was open again. But they were rowing regularly, having ‘serious quarrels’ at the time, and Harriette speaks of watching other men and wondering if she would be better off with someone else.

‘‘Meyler,’ said I to him, a short time before we went abroad, ‘you and I cannot live together. You are honest enough to admit your temper is abominable; for my part, I do not believe that there exists a woman who could endure it. I hold myself no longer therefore, under your protectionI don’t mean to say that I will be unfaithful to you: but from this hour I am my own mistress, and you, when we meet any visitors, are to be turned out, the first moment you treat me with a want of politeness.

But it was the nature of their relationship to row and argue, and break up and get back together, so, ‘we had, in one month, mutually agreed to part at least twenty times over, and then made matters up again. The deuce was in the both of us. We really hated each other, and yet sheer jealousy kept us together.’

Then Meyler admitted to being determined to end their relationship and stick to it. But his resolution made Harriette ‘very unhappy.’ ‘To conceal my real feelings, I dressed gaily, I went blazing to the opera, and to every other place of resort where I might expect to meet Meyler’s friends, one of whom told me that Meyler was actually staying at Melton, quite alone.’

‘In about three weeks, he came to town. I dreaded encountering him at the opera, since we were to cut each other dead, and yet the effort must be made. He shall see me merry, and surrounded with handsome admirers, if I am to die the next hour. The little, provokingly handsome sugar-baker must not know that I still remember him, and am dying for his kiss.’

This is one of the sections of Harriette’s memoirs that I love, because it makes it all so real, mirroring relationships today, hovering around his friends, missing him, but acting happy, and then…

For several opera nights I saw Meyler, in the Duchess of Beaufort’s box and in the round room, and we mutually cut each other. At last he came slyly up to our party, and addressed my sister Fanny. His beautiful, white, petit hand was held towards mine, and I pressed it, malgré moi, (in spite of myself/involuntarily) for an instant, without speaking to him, and the next moment, found myself seated in his carriage, on our way home.

‘Don’t tell my friends,’ said Meyler, ‘I have so sworn never to speak to you again that I shall not be able to support their incessant quizzing.’

‘We shall never attempt to live with each other,’ said I. ‘Our tempers never can assimilate, and I will be as free as the air we breathe; but you may, indeed you must, come and visit me.’

‘Swear then, upon your soul, that you will acquaint me, if you should prove unfaithful to me.’

Harriette swore not to deceive him, and so then they tried to continue their relationship under these new terms, and Harriette headed off to Paris alone, in her own carriage, to set up her own house, with an agreement that a week later he would follow…

More next week 😀

A Lord’s Desperate Love Part Two ~ A Historical Romance Story

Part one

Part Two

Lord Geoffrey Sparks dropped the door knocker thrice more. It hit the brass plaque with a heavy ring.

Bloody hell. Why was her butler not answering?

“Violet!” he shouted through the door, hoping no one else in the street was awake. Damnation. Why was she shutting him out all of a sudden? He had not seen her for three nights, and he’d done the rounds of every damned venue.

She had not been out.

He’d called one afternoon too, to be told she was not at home.

He rapped the knocker again.

It might be two in the morning but he was not going until he’d spoken to her. “Violet!”

He’d sent her four messages and received no reply.

Why the hell had she gone cold on him? They’d been thick for weeks. He’d slept here most nights for the last four.

He hammered the knocker once more. “Violet!”

He’d probably had too much to drink, but it was the brandy which had given him the courage to come and make a spectacle of himself. He felt like such a bloody fool, falling for her so heavily if she had just been playing games.

But he hadn’t thought she was playing games. They’d grown comfortable. He’d thought a true companionship had developed between them. She’d trusted him more and more in the last weeks, leaning on him for support when her closest friend had gone missing a couple of weeks ago.

For Heaven’s sake, she had accused Barrington, whom her friend, Jane, had just married, of being a threat to Jane, of potentially breaking her heart, and now Violet was breaking his.

Why would she suddenly throw him off like this? Was there someone else?

In the past he knew she’d flitted between men. He’d shared a few casual liaisons with her over the year before they’d stepped into the new territory of a proper affair.

He’d been one of many then, and it hadn’t bothered him, but once he’d got to know her better, he’d wanted to keep her for himself. They’d spent hours and hours together over the summer and he’d swear she’d been with no one else.

So why now? Why had it changed?

“Selford! Violet! I am not going away, so open the bloody door!” He thrust the knocker against the wood again, yelling to her butler.

Finally, he heard movement inside, and a moment later there was the scrape of bolts and locks shifting.

He held his breath, his right hand slipping from the knocker and closing into a fist.

What would he say when he saw her? What would he do? Cry? Plead? Is that what this woman had brought him to?

God, Barrington would laugh his head off when he learned of this. While Barrington had found happiness, Geoff had been discarded.

It was pitiful.

He gritted his teeth as the door opened and then he faced Selford, who held the door open only a few inches and looked through the gap. “Lady Rimes is not at home, sir”

Was she not, or was she in bed with someone?

Geoff pushed the door wider and forced the man back as he stepped in.

Shock petrified Selford’s face for a moment as he lifted a hand to warn Geoffrey back. “My Lord.”

“Is she upstairs?” The hall span a little, Geoffrey had definitely had too much to drink.

“No, sir, Lady Rimes has left town.”

“Left town, do you think me a fool, Selford? The knocker is still in place!” He thrust his arm out to indicate the open door behind him. It would have been removed if she’d left.

“Because Lady Rimes wished it so, sir, she wished no one to note her absence.”

A frown furrowed Geoff’s brow. That did not make sense.

He moved then, walking past Selford, convinced she was hiding upstairs.

Perhaps she was with another man.

Geoff raced upstairs as the butler called him back, and then ran along the hall, taking-in nothing but the fact he had to find her.

He burst into her rooms, thrusting the door aside. The curtains were open, he’d been so angry he hadn’t even noticed from outside.

He strode through the sitting room, calling, “Violet! Violet!” expecting her to answer even though it was obvious she was not there.

“Violet,” he said again as he entered her bedchamber.

The bed was empty, though the room still carried the invading scent of her perfume. There were not even any sheets on it. He walked to the wardrobe and opened it. That was empty too. He went to the drawers and pulled the top one open, then the one below it and the one below that. They were all empty.

Why had she gone? Why had she said nothing? Not even goodbye. She’d not even sent a note to say it was over.

He sat on the bed, letting the scents in the room overwhelm him. Where the hell had she gone? And why had she gone without him?

A cough rang from the chamber door, and Geoffrey realised his head was in his hands; with his elbows on his knees, he’d covered his face. He felt like weeping. He did not weep; he stood and looked at Selford.

“Where has she gone?”

“I do not know, sir. I was only told she has gone to the country.”

“Where in the country?”

“Honestly, I do not know, my Lord.”

“Does she own any property outside of London?”

“No, sir.”

“Has she gone to a friend’s?”

The butler stepped forward and lifted a hand as if, if it were appropriate, he might touch Geoffrey’s arm, of course he did not.

“I’m sorry, sir. I can give you no more details. Lady Rimes quite specifically did not tell me where she has gone. It was very clear her ladyship did not wish her absence nor her whereabouts, disclosed.”

“What?” What on earth was going on? “Selford?”

“Honestly, sir, I have no idea where her ladyship is, and you cannot stay here….”


This is the  story of two of the characters from the 2nd book in the Marlow Intrigues Series ~ The Passionate Love of a Rake.

The true story of a courtesan, which I’ve been telling every Sunday, will continue alongside this.

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

See below on 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