A Courtesan deserted – Fanny’s break-up with Colonel Parker

Harriette_Wilson00I am slipping backwards in Harriette’s story today. What I didn’t share, because I didn’t want to break up the elements of her story with Meyler and their inconstancy agreement; was that before Harriette headed off to Paris, her sister had a disappointment that delayed Harriette’s journey…

But before I tell you Fanny’s story, as always, here’s the quick recap of the history of this series of posts for anyone joining today. If you’ve already read it, then 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’s favourite sister, Fanny, had been in a relationship with Colonel Parker for years. She’d borne him one child, and gone by the name Mrs Parker for a very a long time, as he had supported her even when he was abroad for months at a time, fighting during the Peninsular War. But now the Peninsular War was over, and Colonel Parker had been back in England for a few weeks, living with Fanny.

Colonel Parker, being one of those sort of animals whose constitution requires variety, had been, of late, cooling towards Fanny, his amiable, and I will swear, most faithful companion, the mother of his child, too, and merely because he had been in possession of her person too many months for his habit of variety.’

He told Fanny he was going to visit a female cousin, and Harriette says that Fanny joked, ‘he should not make love to her…’

‘Love to her!’ exclaimed Parker, ‘she is the greatest fright imaginable. I wish you could once see her. It would set your mind at rest for the remainder of your life, on that head at least.’

Colonel Parker promised to return to Fanny in a week, but two weeks passed and he did not return, and nor did she hear anything. Fanny grew more and more concerned as each day passed and she heard nothing. Then… ‘somebody told her that he was in town, and residing at a hotel in Vere Street. Fanny set off that very instant, by herself, and on foot, to the hotel, declaring her conviction of its utter impossibility.’

But he was there…

Fanny, ‘met Parker on the steps of the hotel, and placed her hand upon his arm, absolutely breathless and speechless.

‘Fanny,’ said Parker, ‘you are, no doubt, surprised that I did not either go to you, or inform you of my arrival in town… but’ continued Parker—and he hesitated.

‘Pray, speak,’ said Fanny.’ She was feeling ill.

‘I have bad news for you,’ said Parker, rather confused than agitated. ‘I am going to be married,’ he continued, observing that Fanny could not speak.

Fanny was so shocked by the news, that Colonel Parker, finally expressed some concern for her, and hired a Hackney to bring her home, accompanying her on the journey.

Harriette claims she was calling on her friend Julia, who Fanny was sharing a house with at the time, when Fanny and Colonel Parker returned home.

‘The little sitting-room, which Fanny had furnished and fitted up for herself, was a back parlour, looking into the garden. Her veil was down, when she descended from the coach, and, though we expected they would have come upstairs (sitting-rooms were more often upstairs in the regency period) Julia and I determined not to interrupt them. I was to pass the day with Julia: and, when the dinner was on the table, the servant was desired to knock at Fanny’s door, and inform Colonel and Mrs Parker, that we were waiting. The servant brought us word that they must beg to be excused. I became uneasy, and, without knocking, or any further ceremony, entered the room. Fanny was sitting on the sofa, with her head reclined on the pillow. She was not in tears, and did not appear to have been shedding any; but her face, ears, and throat were visibly swollen, and her whole appearance so changed that I was frightened.

‘My dear, Fanny, what is the matter?’

Fanny did not even lift her eyes from their fixed gaze on the ground.

‘Colonel Parker,’ said I, ‘for God’s sake, tell me what has happened.’

‘She heard some unpleasant news, too abruptly,’ said Colonel Parker (so caring :/ )

‘I implore you not to inquire,’ said Fanny, speaking with evident difficulty. ‘I would not be left alone, this night, and I have been on my knees, to entreat Parker to remain with me. He refuses.’

‘Surely you do not mean to leave her in this state!’ said I, addressing Parker.

‘I can do her no good. It is all too late: since my word is passed, and, in ten days, I shall be the husband of another. My presence only irritates her, and does her harm.’

‘Fanny, my dear, Fanny,’ said I, ‘can you make yourself so completely wretched, for a man who acts without common humanity towards you?’

‘Pray, pray, never expect to console me, in this way,’ said Fanny impatiently, ‘I derive no consolation from thinking ill of the father of my dear child.’

‘Come to bed, dear Fanny,’ said I, taking hold of her burning hand.

‘Yes, I shall be better in bed.’

Harriette and Parker helped her upstairs, and then at one o’clock, Parker left.

Harriettes says, that Fanny was stupefied by her loss and sadness, she could not cry, but she stayed in bed to mourn her lover for two days. Then on the third when she rose she said, ‘All I entreat of you, is to keep secret from me the day of their marriage, and everything connected with it.’

Unfortunately for Fanny, as she tried to return to a life of merriment to hide her pain, a man she had rejected in favour of Colonel Parker in the past, was not going to respect her desire to think nothing more of Colonel Parker. He not only told her the day and hour, and place, of Colonel Parker’s wedding, he brought Fanny as piece of Colonel Parker’s wedding cake.

Again, Fanny retired to her room, to deal with her pain. But after a day, she came out and continued on with her life, having lost the stable relationship she’d had for years, and thought would last… Harriette says, after this Fanny was much altered. She was ill often, and changed, ‘from gay to serious.’

So many of the courtesan’s had sad heartbroken endings, as the men they’d committed to walked away from them to continue a respectable life, or a new relationship with a younger, prettier, or just different lover. When the courtesan’s were young and at their peak, they must have felt that all the power was in their hands as they picked  out the men they favoured, and absorbed all the courtship and adoration, but then… When they grew older… They were left alone with very few choices of how they could live…

Back to Harriette’s story next week…

Jane’s contemporary story ‘I Found You’ is still 99p on Amazon in the UK until midnight today!

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

Why not also read A Lord’s Desperate Love the story of two of the characters from The Passionate Love of a rake which Jane is telling for free here, access each part on the index of posts. 

Click here to find out more about Jane’s books, and see 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

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

A Lord’s Desperate Love

A Historical Romance Story

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

None of the inns remembered a blond-haired, blue-eyed woman staying on her own or even passing through. How could anyone forget the vibrancy Violet carried with her?

Perhaps she had not stayed here.

Perhaps she had not come this far at all and left the post-chaise further back.

Geoff was sitting at the table in the private parlour he’d hired to dine. He rested one elbow on the table and his hand gripped his forehead. He needed to think. If she was not staying in an inn, perhaps she’d rented a property here. Perhaps she’d been planning this for ages and their affair had only ever been a finite thing. Maybe she had just forgotten to mention that fact to him.

Tomorrow he would check with rental agents.

Leaning back in his seat again, he lifted his ale and then sipped from it. Damn the woman.

“Your meal, my Lord.”

He’d not heard the maid enter. A sign of how distracted his thoughts were, no doubt. The inn’s staff probably thought him mad.

He ate the meal, but the food tasted like ashes. He felt as though his body was frozen in time. He was only waiting out the hours until his search could start again.

When he went to his room, he undressed to sleep, but sleep only came in fitful patches. His eyes were open at sunrise, and he got up and dressed, then walked the quiet, empty streets of Bath until it was a suitable hour to start calling on the property agents.

He crossed the Pulteney Bridge and walked back into the city at nine, heading for the Pump Room first. Yesterday he’d checked for Violet’s name in the register, today he was here to ask the master of ceremonies for a list of all the letting agents in the city.

He left the Pump Room with the list gripped in his fisted hand. Today was a new day. He was going to find her. If he could not believe that, then what the hell was he doing here?

It was just like yesterday, though, when he’d walked about the inns, every agent he went to denied knowledge of a lone blonde woman.

When the bells of the Abbey chimed at four past midday, he still had no lead. No one remembered a vibrant blonde, with blue eyes.

Geoff remembered her. Her company was all-consuming. How the hell could she have simply vanished? But what if she had come here to meet a man and she was not alone at all. Had she simply moved on from him?


The pain of that thought bit at his heart.

He’d had a conversation with Robert in a coffee-house in London a couple of weeks ago, when Robert had been searching for the woman he was now married to. Robert’s agitation then had been palpable, and Geoff remembered watching his friend with no understanding… now… God… now he knew how Robert had felt then.

If Geoff had just opened his mouth a month ago and spoken the words he should have said, I love you, then he would not have had to bear this anguish. He should have offered for her. But she’d always made it clear to her men that her interest was only in a bed and nothing more. He hadn’t found the courage to try her, to see if that had changed. Fear had gripped his chest with a cold hard sense of steel each time he’d thought of speaking. If she’d wanted nothing more, then she’d have withdrawn from him and left him with nothing at all.

Yet when he’d taken her to bed her gaze had held his, her eyes glowing with something far more than a physical connection. No other woman had looked at him like that. Surely her views had changed.

Her words on the very first night he’d slept with her almost two years ago came into his mind. “You understand, Sparks, this is just what it is, I shan’t expect commitment or any such nonsense, I do not want you falling at my feet one day.” He could hear her laugh as she’d said it, as she’d stripped off his shirt.

Her hooks had slipped into him that night, he’d felt the barbs even then. They’d kept pulling him back to her bed. He’d just been one of her hoard of casual lovers then. But he’d enjoyed her company, and admittedly her sex. Then this summer he had tired of that role, and he’d stopped playing the game her way. Instead he’d asked her to dance and invited her out. It had won him the sole occupancy of her bed. The pleasure of that knowledge warmed his blood even now. He’d liked having her lean on his shoulder, and grip his hand possessively. He’d liked her.

Then his likes had turned to more, his deeper feelings gathering as a storm. He should have spoken. That was his error.

He would now… When he found her… If I find her… He’d tell her what he felt. He’d offer her marriage and pray she’d accept.

But if he found her with another man, what then? Then he’d walk away with a crushed heart, that was what. Even now he could feel it waiting to break in his chest. Like it was porcelain, and any jolt would shatter it.

She’d rip it out of his bloody chest if she took another man now. He was in love with Violet Rimes, the bloody Merry Widow, of all the people to fall for.

The last agent on his list was in Queen Street. He walked beneath the arch from Trim St, into the narrow cobbled back street which ran parallel to Milsom Street.

The agent’s was the fifth door up. His name was engraved on the front door.

“Mr Harrison?” Geoff spoke as he entered.

A short, thin man rose from his position behind a desk. Another man sat at a smaller desk in the corner.

“May I help you…?”

“Lord Sparks… I am seeking –”

“Property, my Lord.” The man immediately turned to gather some papers.

“No, no, not property, I am looking for a lady who may have rented a place locally in the last couple of days. Lad…” He nearly said her name, but instinct suddenly warned him not to. If she was running from him, would she use her name? “A lady with striking blue eyes, the colour of a summer sky, and blonde hair like gold. I believe she was alone.” He hoped she was alone.

The man looked at Geoff with wide eyes which then turned sly and suggestive. The man had seen her. Thank God! “Did she rent from you?”

“And who is it who asks? I should not divulge –”

“I am her brother…” An utter lie, but he’d do anything to find her. “She is in need of protection and I am worried for her?”

“And she is running from you, so she cannot wish for yours, my Lord,” The man’s voice rang with condescension and disbelief, but as he spoke he held out a hand.

Geoff understood and reached for money, withdrawing a note from the roll clipped in his pocket.

The man took it, looking down with a grin. Then he looked back up at Geoff. “Mrs Mayer took a property in a village a little out of Bath, in Lacock.”

Mayer? Geoff’s heart pounded. Was it her? It was the only lead he’d had, he had to follow it.

“Which street, what number?”

The man just smiled. “It was organised by another agent. His office isn’t open for two days, he’s gone away.”

Tiredness washed over Geoff, he was sick of facing dead ends. This was like navigating a bloody maze. It was a game of chance.

When he left, he walked out into a white mist. Fog. The cooler air of night had fallen and it felt cold and bleak. Autumn had turned to winter. He couldn’t even go tonight now, not in this. He’d have to leave in the morning.


Today Jane’s contemporary story ‘I Found You’ is available to download in the UK for just 99p here

A Lord’s Desperate Love 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, who inspired The Illicit Love 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.

Click here to find out more about Jane’s books, and see 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