The end of Harriette Wilson’s tale, not told by her… Where does the life of a courtesan end?

Harriette_Wilson00After writing her memoirs, Harriette had the writing bug, and also an awful lot of unsaid information about people who did not want her to tell it. She wrote a play called Bought In and Bought Out to explore in a comedy how some of her former lovers had bought out of her memoirs with certain stipulations…

In 1828 she and the man she called her husband at the time, Mr Rochfort, moved back to London permanently, she purchased a fourteen year lease on a town house on the corner of Trevor Square, and began writing novels. Clara Gazul and Paris Lions and London Tigers

In 1829 though she once again hit the press, as her maid accused her of having pulled away a chair so she fell on the floor, and then refused to feed her anything but bread and water, Harriette was arrested and taken to court Bell’s Life in London, ran an article on her appearance. She was described as old, ugly and grey haired.  And at this court case Rochfort stated that Harriette was not strictly his wife.

In this year Harriette is known to also have begun testing the water in London, as far as possible new courtesan style relationships. She approached an author sixteen years her junior, and he kept her letters. But she is older, and times had changed, and the young author had no interest, other than to be flattered enough to keep the letters. But he marked them stating that he never met her.

In 1830, Harriette wrote a letter stating that in order for Mr Rochfort to obtain his inheritance from his estranged mother, he would need to be single, as his mother disapproved of Harriette and so she had decided to separate from him. Rochfort hired rooms in Berkeley Square.

In December 1831 however Rochfort began another affair. He fell in love with another man’s wife and moved in with her. It was another swift kick to poor Harriette’s ego. At first she still wrote to others as though she was his wife, but in 1832 she stopped mentioning him, and simply pretended he’d never existed, and then began using her real surname Debuchet. She had continued to write to Lord Ponsonby through the years since she published her memoirs, though he never replied. In 1832 the letters to him became even more regular, and were filled with outpourings of the pain she suffered following his desertion of her in favour of her younger sister. At this point she lived at 69 Vauxhall Bridge Road and Lord Ponsonby and his friends wrote to one another using terms such as ‘Obscene harpy’ ‘vile woman’ ‘wretched individual‘ to describe Harriette.

While Harriette spent the next two years falling into being nothing but regretted history, Rochfort used the connections he had made through her to begin walking in the world of the men who had passed her around among them, he began working for the Duke of Wellington.

In 1834 Harriette moved back to Knightsbridge and tried her hand at playing the bawd and bringing younger woman into favour as prostitutes among the men of the ‘first nobility.’ Of course these men no longer trusted her and so the attempt did not succeed. She even wrote a letter to Lord Ponsonby offering him one of the girls, but the letter was as much a message reminiscing on her past with him.

The next we here of Harriette is in 1840, when her life finally took a turn  for the good. She was baptised into the Catholic Church, as Mary Magdalen, and began to preach of her conversion, dedicating all her energy and keen mind to her faith. There is one letter to the young author she had tried to seduce some years before saying her commitment to God meant she was no longer available for ‘love’ … ‘when I was a sinner and a good looking one’ …

Harried lived in a cottage then, tending a cottage garden and devoted now to only her faith. She died on the 10th March 1845 two weeks after her 59th birthday. In her final letters, she asked that the Duke of Leinster and Frederick Lamb pay her medical bills, and that Brougham, Leinster and Lord Worcester, now the Duke of Beaufort pay for her burial. Brougham wrote to Beaufort from Parliament.

My dear Duke,

Our old acquaintance, Mme De Bochet (Harriette Wilson) died the week before last and left a note to say she hoped two or three of her former acquaintance would give the few pounds (fifteen) required to bury her – she having had an estimate price in with all the particulars  of the church and struck off what was merely ornamental – which has reduced it as above. Duke of Leinster has given a little and I think as she also named you and me, we ought to contribute our might.

What say you?

A few days later Brougham wrote again, and asked for a little more saying that she had left additional debts for medical care, which her brother, a piano turner could not afford.

Harriette’s funeral took place at Chelsea Catholic Chapel and her death certificate recorded her as Harreitte De Bochet a ‘woman of independent means’.

It’s not known where she was buried.


So that is goodbye to Harriette and her colourful life. I shall miss her. But perhaps one day we may discover even more of the truth. After Harriette and her publisher Stockdale had died Sophie Stockdale, the publisher’s wife, is known to have tried to begin a new blackmail campaign.

My Lord,

Pardon the liberty I take in writing to your Lordship.

In  looking over my late husband’s papers I find that the MSS of Harriette Wilson is quite perfect, and more than appeared in print, for there are all those who withheld their names only merely crossed out with the pen. In offering the MSS to your Lordship, I was recollecting the circumstances of the late Lord Spencer’s undoubtedly a true history of our times, and there are also the numerous letters of who shall be in print and who shall not, for in years to come who would suppose that the greatest men of any age appear in the MSS.

I am not like Junius, I cannot afford to commit my MSS to the flames.

Sophie Stockdale…

One day then, perhaps, this original manuscript may be discovered…

Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romance stories, and the author of a No.1 bestselling Historical Romance novel in America, ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’.

Look at the index to discover all the true stories Jane has discovered during research, and to find links to excerpts and a FREE novella ~ A Lord’s Desperate Love

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

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

5 thoughts on “The end of Harriette Wilson’s tale, not told by her… Where does the life of a courtesan end?

  1. Aww. Fairwell Harriette. What a colourful life you led. So sad we don’t know where you were buried. I imagine if we did there would be a few bunches of flowers laid. Thanks Jane for bringing us into Harriette life. I very much enjoyed reading about her. Caroline xx

  2. i am terribly sorry for her.:(. i think i cried a bit while i was reading this. so sad that even she had to ask money for her burial. i feel angry to her former protecters. how could. they were cruel in my opinion. at least trying to remember the time when she was still in service with them, when she had been their lovely companion.

    • I know, I cried, a lot, I’ve worked with her story for so many years, I started to feel like I knew personally, but at lest she lived happily in her last years… and 😛 to all those horrible men who used her when she was younger and then turned their backs…

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