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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harriette's personal story
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...
Published on 16 Oct 2003

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amusing memoirs; dated introduction
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...
Published on 16 Nov 2009 by Amazon Customer


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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
This review is from: Harriette Wilson's Memoirs: The Memoirs of the Reigning Courtesan of Regency London (Paperback)
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 revenge...to 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. She asked for their help and most of them wouldn't give it. Particularly Lord Ponsonby who professed undying love etc (and who broke her heart and then gave her adieu in a freaking letter because he didn't have the nerve to tell her to her face that he'd promised his wife he'd give up his mistress). I wouldn't call this book so much a memoir as the most cunning revenge. The thing is; if any of these wealthy men had bought the manuscript (ie offered enough money to buy her silence) the book would have gone into the fire and we wouldn't have any it. They underestimated her ammunition!

I was gripped from the first page. She sometimes rambles, but that's usually when she tells the funniest stories. This isn't a dry list of happenings; she's inviting you into her parlour for a long cup of tea (with plenty of cake on hand all served by the hilarious William). All you have to do is sit, listen and laugh and/or cry. If you enjoy reading Regency romances. If you write Regency romances. If you love getting to know interesting people do sit down with Harriette for a few hours. I can't imagine how anyone would regret 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
This review is from: Harriette Wilson's Memoirs: The Memoirs of the Reigning Courtesan of Regency London (Paperback)
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
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J. A. Johnson (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Harriette Wilson's Memoirs: The Memoirs of the Reigning Courtesan of Regency London (Paperback)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Partly Raised Curtain ..., 14 Jun 2012
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N. Wilson "gogleddwr" (Yorkshire, UK of GB and NI) - See all my reviews
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We often understand less about the past and people in it than we think we do; here we are in the period when Jane Austen and Lord Byron were writing ... and many others ... we have a good deal of correspondence from Wellington's soldiers in the Peninsula ... and much, much more. Novelists, poets, very ordinary people, great people; plain official records. I am no expert on the period and for me it can all seem a bit too easily familiar: that can be deceptive. Harriette Wilson was clearly a lady of some wit and imagination, as well as ambition and, if she is to be fully believed, a fairly remarkable range of acquaintance in the upper ranks of power and influence in society. The result, as you read carefully, is that her memoirs are both both fascinating and elusive. She was not writing just for herself and for pleasure, but for profit, for deliberate white mail (not exactly "black mail", which is for cattle, but certainly for silver) and one must judge how much that she writes is barbed, pointed and ex parte. One wonders how far, in her anecdotes and sprightly tales of her Cyprian social realm, she is telling the tale unembroidered and is truly revealing herself. (Indeed, was much editing done for her?) People in the past, however familiar they seem, are often more remote than we think: here we are hearing a genuine voice of someone clearly lively, witty and intelligent - and also clearly capable of quite fierce and cutting action in a far from wholly conventional way of life. You hear the voice, but would have to meet the lady herself face to face to judge properly what sort of person she really was. How selfish or generous would you find her in fact? Certainly she seems witty, and you leave the book feeling a real concern and affection for her. As I say, I am not expert enough to appreciate her context reliably, but there is indeed much here to appreciate. One wonders what may have been in the passages she was paid not to publish!Harriette Wilson's Memoirs: The Memoirs of the Reigning Courtesan of Regency London
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4.0 out of 5 stars Book review, 27 Oct 2011
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An interesting insight into how the upper classes conducted themselves in years gone by -from a lady who was acquainted with many of them. The writing style is a bit chatty for me -but enjoyable nontheless
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5.0 out of 5 stars Harriette Wilson's Memoirs, 24 Nov 2010
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Need me some tunes (Hagerstown, MD, US) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Harriette Wilson's Memoirs: The Memoirs of the Reigning Courtesan of Regency London (Paperback)
This is a lovely book written by a lovely, articulate woman who both took advantage of her age and was taken advantage of by it. The editor provides an insightful amount of front matter tying together some social, political and sociological information to give a setting for Harriette's story. I write Regency romances, and this material was wonderfully helpful in providing insights into the age, and particularly into the wealthy, titled men fortunate enough to thrive in it and know Harriette. The book was also an interesting portrait of the difference between a woman who was purposefully attractive on many levels--a true courtesan--and what modern women do with their gender role. It should also be noted that Harriette manages to prose on at great length without ever once lapsing into the truly intimate. She hints, she innuendos (spending time with the Duke of Wellington was described as "very uphill work,") but she never quite opens the bedroom door. A lovely, lovely book.
Grace Burrowes
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Engaging Regency Trollop, 17 Oct 2005
By 
microfiche (Scarborough, ON Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Harriette Wilson's Memoirs: The Memoirs of the Reigning Courtesan of Regency London (Paperback)
I think this is the book Thackery's Becky Sharpe would have written if she was not a fictional character. The differences between her society (and century) and ours makes her prose a little hard to follow - and you know you can't believe all she wrote. I think she didn't expect her readers to swallow it whole because 1)who would but the book if there was ho hum and little scandal in it? and 2)she was trying to extort hush money so she had to write something worth hushing up.
But she's so breezily brazen that, like Becky, you turn the page to find out if she wins or loses.
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