Today we’ll pick up from the winter Caroline lost her child, when soon after her aunt Georgiana died. But before I tell you the story here is the history to this series of posts for anyone joining today and as always, if you usually follow, just skip to the text highlighted in bold.
I was drawn to Lady Caroline Lamb, who lived in the Regency era, because Harriette Wilson the courtesan who wrote her memoirs in 1825, mentions the Ponsonby and the Lamb family frequently. Also the story of Caroline’s affair with Lord Byron captured my imagination. Caroline was also a writer, she wrote poems, and novels in her later life. I have read Glenarvon.
Her life story and her letters sucked me further into the reality of the Regency world which is rarely found in modern-day books. Jane Austen wrote fictional, ‘country’ life as she called it, and I want to write fictional ‘Regency’ life rather than simply romance. But what I love when I discover gems in my research like Caroline’s story is sharing the real story behind my fiction here too.
Lady Caroline Lamb was born Caroline Ponsonby, on the 13th November 1785. She was the daughter of Frederick Ponsonby, Viscount Duncannon, and Henrietta (known as Harriet), the sister of the infamous Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
Caroline became an official lady when her grandfather died, and her father became Earl of Bessborough earning her the honorific title ‘Lady’ and she grew up in a world of luxury, even Marie Antoinette was a family friend. Caroline was always renowned as being lively, and now it is suspected she had a condition called bipolar. As a child she earned herself a title as a ‘brat’, by such things as telling her aunt Georgiana that Edward Gibbon’s (the author of The Decline and fall of the Roman Empire) face was ‘so ugly it had frightened her puppy’.
And when she grew up Byron once described Caroline as “the cleverest most agreeable, absurd, amiable, perplexing, dangerous fascinating little being that lives now or ought to have lived 2000 years ago.”
Caroline had lost her first child on January 31st, and then her dear aunt Georgiana who’s life had been entwined with Caroline’s due her mother’s extremely close friendship with her sister, began experiencing severe headaches.
Georgiana had suffered ill health for many years but this time she must have felt that it was worse than ever. In February 1806 she wrote to her children and friends, as if closing off her life.
She still managed to attend court one last time, although she was jaundiced, and even then at the point of near death she was sadly juggling her debts, as she begged a £100 from her mother.
Caroline wrote a poem to her aunt.
‘Gentle sleep, they blessings shed-
Soothe her weary soul to rest;
Angels guard her suffering head,
Calm the troubles at her breast’.
The end came in March, though doctors had tried numerous treatments to make Georgiana well, including shaving her head and placing a blister on her scalp – which I am not sure what that means but I have read that it was a common practice for doctors to cause blisters, so that they could pierce them in the belief they were then releasing toxins from the body.
At this time of her life, Georgiana was virtually blind, and in the her last days she was too weak to speak. Harriet (Caroline’s mother) stayed beside her sister for her last three days, listening to her sister whispering unintelligible nonsense as she hallucinated. But her end was not to be at all easy, and she passed into a long period of convulsions until the end came at 3.30 in the morning on the 30th March. Harriet did not believe until the very end that Georgiana would be lost, and she described Georgiana’s death, ‘Anything so horrible, so killing, as her three days’ agony no human being ever witness’d’.
The Duchess of Devonshire, once a celebrated beauty, and a woman surrounded but debt and scandal at times in her life, who lived in a very odd sort of way for a time, with her husband’s lover, was laid out in state until Easter Sunday, and while she lay there her family leapt into motion to resolve what they called the ‘Bess Problem‘ because with Georgiana now gone it left Bess to act the full wife of the Duke, and that would be another scandal. But it was not Caroline’s mother’s generation who attacked, it was the children, who had supposedly been kept blind to the true nature of the situation, certainly between birth and marriage.
On the 4th of April, the night before the hearse was due to carry Georgiana’s body up to Chatsworth. Caroline, joined with little G and Harry O and confronted Bess, and told her in no uncertain terms it was time to go. Georgiana’s only son, and the heir to the dukedom who hated his father’s mistress then also put his voice to the cause and tapped on Lady Elizabeth’s door to tell her to go.
The Duke however was content to ignore the situation, he would not tell her to go. But Bess did concede a little and went to live with Harriet for short period.
However the letters between G and Caroline, give us the impression that Caroline became too tangled up in the battle against Bess. In April she wrote to her cousin begging forgiveness for some argument.
‘I may often say little impudent speeches or speak too loud and too much but all this is for want of thought & will be corrected in a year or two I daresay – if you could see my heart I feel sure you would all love me much better & though I have a thousand faults I may say I think with truth that I never said or thought anything from ill nature or will to any body… I hope you are now none of you angry with my manner to Lady Elizabeth Foster believe me I feel every thing about her but too strongly & yet I will add that I feel still more the greatest compassion for her I think she has lost her best friend & I feel secure she has no other aim or plans than to live quietly with us all I know she feels any kindness very strongly & I am sure she would dislike giving pain to those who are kind to her more than to those who are otherwise…‘
The end of the letter does sort of hint a little though that Caroline thought G to have been kind for a purpose. 😀
More on Caroline and William next week.
If you would like to read my historical romance story that was inspired by Caroline’s life… it is available for pre-order The Dangerous Love of a Rogue, will be out in ebook in January and can be pre-ordered for Paperback release in March and don’t forget you can see images of my inspirations on my Jane Lark Facebook page, just scroll down and click ‘Like‘ in the link on the sidebar to follow.
But if you can’t wait for Regency stories, then grab one of my books many of them are currently on offer in the UK from 69p and in the USA from $1.99 and there are couple of little extras for free…
Go to the index
- the story of the real courtesan who inspired The Illicit Love of a Courtesan,
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’.
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
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