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The Scandalous Lady W: An Eighteenth-Century…
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The Scandalous Lady W: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal and Divorce (urspr publ 2008; utgåvan 2015)

av Hallie Rubenhold (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
2067131,330 (3.85)3
In February 1782, England opened its newspapers to read the details of Sir Richard and Lady Worsleys' scandalous sexual arrangements, voyeuristic tendencies, and bed-hopping antics. This lively true history presents a rarely seen picture of aristocratic life in the Georgian era.
Medlem:opuscule
Titel:The Scandalous Lady W: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal and Divorce
Författare:Hallie Rubenhold (Författare)
Info:Vintage Books (2015), 320 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek
Betyg:
Taggar:history

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The Lady in Red: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce av Hallie Rubenhold (2008)

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This book mostly focused on the trial and the fall out from the trial. It was not bad just not what I was looking for. I did very much enjoy the info provided abour how widespread and openly infidelity was practiced at that time. ( )
  LoisSusan | Dec 10, 2020 |
A fun romp through 18-century England and a very good history of how the upper class viewed marriage and divorce. The trials of this couple didn't make me very sympathetic to either, but it did provide a vivid window into how they and their social class lived their lives. A good history focused on the social aspects of this period. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Jun 21, 2018 |
In 1775, a shallow young baronet married an eighteen year old lady with far more money than looks or learning. They lived tolerably well together for a few years, until at last Lady Seymour Dorothy Fleming Worsley ran away with their mutual friend, Maurice Bisset. The lovers hoped Sir Richard Worsley would initiate divorce proceedings against Lady Worsley so they could marry each other, but Sir Worsley was far too angry to do so. Instead, he sued for separation and further, sued Bisset for a prodigious sum of 20,000 pounds for committing criminal conversation with his wife. Criminal conversation, or "crim con," was basically showing, not that sex necessarily took place, but that there was a possibility of it. The man who "damaged" the husband's "property" by having sex with the wife could be sued for whatever the union--and the wife--was considered an appropriate number. Unfortunately for Sir Worsley, his wife refused to let him financially ruin her lover. She gave the defense a list of her former lovers and flirtations, and had each testify on the stand that she had numerous affairs before she ever ran off with Bisset, and had even been treated for an STI. She ruined her own reputation to such an extent that although the jury found in Sir Worsley's favor, the settlement was placed not at the ruinous 20,000 pounds Sir Worsley demanded, but at a single shilling.

A single shilling!

Sir Worsley was understandably wrathful that he'd dragged his private life into the public eye just to get a single shilling, so he refused to let Lady Worsley have her clothing and jewels (worth nearly 10,000 pounds themselves). Her linen and adornments were her only form of wealth, as women weren't allowed to have property, so this was a serious blow to Lady Worsley. In revenge, she published a sixteen page poem attacking his honor and masculinity, claiming that she'd been forced to take lovers because he was too impotent to perform his marital duties. The pamphlet spread throughout England, was repeatedly reprinted, and caused such a scandalous outcry that Sir Worsley gave in and returned her clothes to her.

Their battle was not yet done. Instead of hiding away in shame that her adultery had been discovered, Lady Worsley became even more of a social butterfly, hanging with the Prince of Wales and his fast, fashionable set. She had a brass plate affixed to the inn she'd hidden in with her lover, proclaiming that it was the place she'd gotten her freedom. She wore breeches(!) to ride horseback astride (!) and got drunk in public. She ran up large debts which, as he was technically still her husband, Sir Worsley was obliged to pay.

First Sir Worsley, then Lady Worsley left England for other, more liberal climes. Sir Worsley toured the Ottoman Empire, amassing an amazing collection of art that he acquired only semi-legally. He tried to buy a pleasure slave but was thwarted by the high prices--he did manage to buy a small black boy, who he beat mercilessly (even by the standards of his contemporaries) and eventually discarded or sold. He became the ambassador to Italy, but lost his position and a fortune in artwork when Napoleon conquered the area. Meanwhile, Lady Worsley lived in France for several years, falling in with the Chevalier de Saint Georges and then barely surviving the revolution. She was perpetually in debt, but eventually Sir Worsley died of a stroke and she got back the fortune she'd brought to their unhappy marriage. Only in her 40s at this point, she immediately married her current paramour, a man in his 20s, and lived happily with him for thirteen years before expiring and leaving her fortune and estate to him and her illegitimate daughter Charlotte (born sometime after her sojourn in France).


It's a fascinating tale, and Rubenhold tells it well. She provides a great deal of legal and historical context, without ever getting bogged down into pedantry. Because I never understand all the allusions and jokes in satirical cartoons of the era, I really appreciated her style of explaining and describing them without losing the humor. Overall, a readable tale that skates that delicate line between gossip and history. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Interesting view of high society in the 18th Century in England. An outraged husband sues the man who has eloped with his wife. The suit is for the ruinous sum of L20,000 but the jury awards only a shilling. His wife had counterattacked by giving the defense names of her previous lovers and letting the attorney assert that her husband had been complicit in the loss of his wife's virtue.
  ritaer | Dec 18, 2013 |
There is a scene in Hallie Rubenhold’s fabulous biography of a divorce scandal that will stay with the reader for ages. During Christmas and New Year 1778-79 young Seymour, Lady Worsley, accompanied by two unmarried female friends, trashed Harewood House in Yorkshire throwing ‘the gentlemen’s cloaths out of the windows particularly their breeches thinking them ... unnecessary’. They went on to wreck havoc in a local inn and then called at a neighbour’s country house and ‘broke open his library, threw all his books about, and ... took away a pocket book full of Bank Notes’. Such an outbreak is still shocking but it is disturbing now from the suspicion that what was going on here was frustration and misery of women trapped in an antithetical age.

Lady Worsley's story was perhaps inevitable as she was married to a dull, pedantic husband and so she eloped with a lover, her ‘Scoundrel Paramour’, and Sir Richard sued him for criminal conversation. The action was not a success as Lady Worsley came up with a version of events as clever as anything done by Houdini. The lives of the participants after such a scandal – the newspapers and caricaturists delighted in every lurid detail – were fascinating and disturbing. Seymour became a free-thinking woman of pleasure desperate for money (she had originally been a wealthy heiress but her husband controlled her money during his life) while Sir Richard became a manic collector and truly and nastily misanthropic. Neither are really pleasant human beings, but as Jane Austen said of Queen Caroline, “Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman and because I hate her Husband." This is a fascinating book, fizzing with research and stories and as gripping now as when amazed people queued to hear what was being revealed in the King’s Bench.
  Sarahursula | May 4, 2013 |
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In February 1782, England opened its newspapers to read the details of Sir Richard and Lady Worsleys' scandalous sexual arrangements, voyeuristic tendencies, and bed-hopping antics. This lively true history presents a rarely seen picture of aristocratic life in the Georgian era.

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