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Harriette Wilson's Memoirs [Paperback]

L. Blanch
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Oct 2003
Nineteenth century London produced a fine flowering of eccentrics and individualists. Chief among them was Harriette Wilson, whose patrons included most of the distinguished men of the day, from the Duke of Wellington to Lord Byron. She held court in a box at the opera, attended by statesmen, poets, national heroes, aristocrats, members of the beau monde, and students who hoped to be immortalised by her glance. She wrote these memoirs in middle age, when she had fallen out of favour. She advised her former lovers that for 200 she would edit them out. 'Publish and be damned!' retorted the Duke of Wellington. The result is an elegant, zestful, unrepentant memoir, which offers intimately detailed portraits of the Regency demimonde. First published in 1957.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Artus Books; paperback / softback edition (6 Oct 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1898799679
  • ISBN-13: 978-1898799672
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 247,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Back Cover

Harriette Wilson's Memoirs These are the memoirs of the reigning courtesan of Regency London whose patrons included most of the distinguished men of her day, from the Duke of Wellington to Lord Byron. Hard-pressed for money in middle age, she sold her memoirs after offering to edit out any lovers who paid her the sum of 200 Publish and be damned! cried the Duke of Wellington. She did and she was. Edited and Introduced by Lesley Blanch, author of The Wilder Shores of Love. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Lesley Blanch was born in London, England, and has travelled over most of the globe. She began her career as a painter, illustrator and theatrical designer, but in 1937 transferred her allegiance to journalism and became features editor of London VOGUE. Her essays and articles have since appeared in most of Britain's leading periodicals, including the OBSERVER and the NEW STATESMAN. Harriette Wilson (1786-1846) was one of the most glamorous and intelligent women of her age. She allowed herself to be seduced by Lord Craven at the age of 15 and rapidly acquired a string of rich and powerful lovers, chief among whom was the Duke of Wellington. After retiring from the courtesan life at the age of 35 she wrote a number of novels as well as her scandalous MEMOIRS. Lesley Blanch, the editor of the present volume, was born in London, England, and has travelled over most of the globe. Her essays and articles have appeared in most of Britain's leading periodicals, including the OBSERVER and the NEW STATESMAN. She now lives in France. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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THE NINETEENTH CENTURY was an age of great personalities, a last splendid flowering before twentieth-century anonymity and mass living engulfed them in its drab tide. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harriette's personal story 16 Oct 2003
By A Customer
The introduction to the memoires gives a good overall picture of Regency life and the place of the courtesan. This is nothing however compared to the actual memoires - they are revealing, enjoyable, and rather like reading a Regency issue of a 'Hello' type magazine. Harriette is very open, rather sweet and at times just a little too humble. She paints a picture of the courtesan life which shows just how open their role was, and yet how much they lived in a parallel world to that of the real Regency folk of the Ton.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magic key hole to Regency England! 14 Sep 2012
Reading this book was like putting my ear to a magic keyhole to Regency England. Whether we're hearing what exactly went on is irrelevant (gossip is rarely reliable - just as any one person's viewpoint is always debatable). The fact remains we are hearing a true Regency voice talking about famous men she's personally known and her dealings with them all interwoven with the story of her relationships with her sisters who were also famous courtesans. If you're interested in the history of words and how they were used this is a fantastic source. The stories she weaves may not be 100% accurate (her contemporary readers knew she'd deleted or left out certain men/stories because they'd paid up because her publisher published the original list of names in the newspapers), but I suspect Harriette will have been honest in her own version of honesty. At the end she mentions Julia (a long term friend/acquaintance) has died when she hadn't died (Julia published her own book after Harriette's to prove it). I suspect Julia did something unforgivable and this was Harriette's make Julia's old lovers think her dead. Julia was dead to Harriette so dead she became.

Harriette seems to have had a personal honor code all her own that went something like; if you be true to me I'll be true to you. She repeats over and over that she has to be open and honest with her lovers; even if she doesn't love them she will be faithful to them as long as she knows they are true to her. As soon as she learns they are unfaithful she's released from her word.

This wasn't just a memoir; she needed to make money to survive. At the time of publishing she was 39 and suffering ill health. Many of these men promised that they would "take care of her" when she needed it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amusing memoirs; dated introduction 16 Nov 2009
Harriette Wilson is notoriously the woman of pleasure who blackmailed her former lovers - if they paid up they avoided detailed mention in her memoirs. The Duke of Wellington had no truck with this - his memorable response, "Publish and be damned!" is nowadays more famous than the book and woman who inspired it.

This edition was published and edited in the late fifties and it shows. The lengthy introduction reveals quite a moralistic attitude, with no consideration of the sort a modern feminist might give, of the world of women "of that kind" and the options available to them. It also takes for granted a rather more detailed knowledge of French courtesans like La Paiva and Edwardian demi-reps than is actually likely today.

Harriette's memoirs are lively and clearly utterly unreliable, but enormous fun for anyone who knows their way round the history and literature of the period or, for that matter, is a Georgette Heyer fan! My advice is to skip the introduction and dive straight into the world of this silly, outrageous "Tart with a heart" of two centuries ago, which, as another reviewer says, could almost be culled from the pages of a modern celebrity scandal magazine.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious! 27 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
You know when you watch a period drama and women are all fluttering eyelashes, coy looks and decorum?
The hell they were! They were a fabulously b****y bawdy sarcastic bunch.
I nearly had an attack of the vapours at some points.
I had read the biography of Harriete Wilson ' The Courtesans Revenge' and realised that the most interesting bits of that book were the extracts from Harriettes' own memoirs so I duly ordered it and I was right.
She's a joy. Sharp, funny, wicked and a contrast of ruthlessness tempered with kindness.
Men paid large sums of money not to be mentioned in her memoirs.
The one's that wouldn't cough up such as the 'Publish and be damned' Duke of Wellington make for great reading but how I wish we could read her comments on the one's that did submit to her blackmail.
They must have had an awful lot to hide.
Harriette,( who when her younger sister Sophie took up with the love of Harriettes life Lord Ponsonby) would ensure that she sat in the opera box above Sophie's ....just so she could spit on her head.
Great character!
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