Life as a courtesan begins to age, and lose her fame

Harriette_Wilson00Oh Harriette, I owe you so much, thank you for the words you put down on paper nearly two hundred years ago, your inspiration gave me a number one book! 😀

There is not all that much left of Harriette’s story now, we are drawing towards the end, but I now know several things she left out of her memoirs that I will share with you when I finish her story as she told it, but until then let’s carry on, and, as always, if you are new to this series of posts today, here’s the history behind them, and if you have read this before just skip to the words highlighted 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.

Last week, I told you, or rather Harriette told us, about Fanny’s breakup with Colonel Parker, this week, Harriette relates a letter Fanny sent to her while she was in Paris, letting her know how things went on in London.

Fanny talks about her own loss, and says that Colonel Parker has called to visit his child twice, since his marriage, and is still supporting the child. She is writing sitting on the bed in his old room, ‘Methinks the bed looks like a tomb.’ She sounds empty hearted, and she says later in her letter that another man has been making love to her… ‘The other day, he said something to me which I fancied so truly harsh, coarse, and indelicate, that it produced a violent hysterical affection, which I found it impossible to subdue.

Ward wanted me to submit to something I conceived improper. When I refused, he said, with much fierceness of manner, such as my present weak state of nerves made me ill able to bear, ‘D––––d affection’ Obviously poor Fanny, was facing a need to find another man to support her, when she did not really want to be with another man, and like Harriette she was getting older and her choice of men narrower. The nice men everyone wanted would be in the enthrall of the new women on the market, the younger courtesans.

The other third of the ‘three graces’ which is what they had been called at the height of the their fame, Julia Storer, was doing little better. The young Mr Napier, who’d fallen for her some years before was still devoted, but was tight.

‘Napier’s passion for Julie continues increase. I will not call it love or affection, else why does he, with his twenty thousand a year suffer her to be so shockingly distressed? On the very day you left England, Julia had an execution in her house and the whole of her furniture was seized. I really thought she would have destroyed herself. I insisted on her going down to Mr Napier at Melton by that very night’s mail, to whom I wrote, earnestly entreating him to receive her with tenderness, such as the wretched state of her mind required. A man of Mr Napier’s sanguine temperament was sure to receive any fine woman with rapture, who came to him at Melton Mowbray, where petticoats are so scarce and so dirty; but, if he had really loved her, he surely would have immediately paid all her debts, which do not amount to a thousand pounds, as well as, ordered her upholsterer to new-furnish her house.

Would you believe it? Julia has returned with merely cash or credit enough to procure little elegant necessaries for Napier’s dressing-room, and, for the rest, her drawing-room is covered with a piece of green baize, and, in lieu of all her beautiful knick-nacks and elegant furniture, she has two chairs, an old second-hand sofa, and a scanty yellow cotton curtain. Her own bed was not seized, it is now the only creditable piece of furniture in the house of Napier’s adored mistress, one of the richest commoners in England, who is the father of her infant.’

Their days of fame and complete adoration have truly past.

Next week, to cover her back, Harriette is caught up in a love triangle…

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

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 courtesan’s little deceit for the sake of propriety

Harriette_Wilson00Harriette gives us another fabulous insight into Regency life this week, but before I share it, as usual, here’s the recap for anyone joining the blog today, if you’ve already read it as always, 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.

After Harriette wrote the letter I spoke about last week, she then tells us how the post arrived in the village. This is one thing that has always been a mystery to me when I’ve researched it, but here, Harriette says…

‘Two days after I had dispatched this letter, the little postwoman (for we had no postman), a good old soul, trotted… down the hill with a lanthorn (I think she means lantern); the mail used to come into Charmouth at ten o’clock at night, and Eliza Edmond and I had watched this poor creature, every night, during almost a fortnight, from my little window, as the light of her lamp appeared for an instant, and was lost again, while she stopped to deliver her letters. At last she stopped at our door, and presented two heavy packages for Mrs Wilson.’

Eliza’s mother rushed upstairs with Harriette’s mail, and then Eliza revealed Harriette’s deceit, last week we knew Harriette had not admitted she was a courtesan but now her outright lie is revealed when Eliza said, ‘One of these is a foreign letter, and, no doubt, from your husband.’

Harriette admits she ‘answered in the affirmative’, and then her new friend Eliza drifted from the room.

It was from Lord Worcester, who had already been involved in one battle, ‘He had prayed for me, as to his tutelar saint, kissed my chain, which he wore about his neck, and his party had been successful.’ He wrote the details of the battle to her and said he’d already learned Spanish, and promised eternal love and fidelity.

Then she turned her attention to the second letter. That was from Mr Meyler, the young man who had previously condemned her but was now trying to seduce her away from Lord Worcester. He said he’d sought to forget her, as there was little chance of them meeting while she was in the country, but then he said there was no question of that, and as he was unwell, he might travel down to Devon.

Harriette describes his letters as unaffected, and very different to the gushing she’d received from Lord Worcester for several years. Mr Meyler ‘was anything rather than romantic: his manner and voice were particularly pleasing at all times; but the former had, generally, something of melancholy, till he had drank a few bottles of claret, though not all noisy, ungentlemanlike, he appeared all animation and happiness.’

Harriette immediately wrote back to Mr Meyler – not to Lord Worcester.

‘I can candidly confess that I am glad you have not forgotten me; and I wish you happy, with all my heart and soul; but, believe me, I cannot prove myself more desirous of being liked and esteemed by you, than I have and shall continue to do.

As I keep faith with Worcester, so hereafter will you be inclined to trust me, if unexpected circumstances  should oblige me to separate from him…’

She goes on to tell Meyler, if he should come to Devon, she would leave, and she could not imagine him there with her anyway, as she walked to church on a Sunday wearing her straw bonnet, and helping the elderly and the poor – Pushing him away, but encouraging him not to go too far away, just in case she would like to call him back again, keeping a bird in the bush as it were 😉

She does also ask him if he still sees Lord Worcester’s mother, and speaks of Lord Worcester’s family, which makes me wonder, if had he not been a friend of the Beauforts, she might actually have been tempted to see him regardless.

Perhaps at this point she still had some hope of being Lord Worcester’s future duchess, but equally knew the odds were long and so just in case she lost him, wished to keep another pretty young man on her tether. Good old Harriette.

More next week…

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 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