The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson Vol. 1, Hariette Wilson
The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson Vol. 1
Hariette Wilson
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Harriette Wilson was the author of The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson: Written by Herself (1825). Wilson was a famed British Regency courtesan who became the mistress of William, Lord Craven, at the age of 15. Later in her career, she went on to have formal relationship arrangements with Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, and other significant politicians. "I shall not say why and how I became, at the age of fifteen, the mistress of the Earl of Craven. Whether it was love, or the severity of my father, the depravity of my own heart, or the winning arts of the noble lord, which induced me to leave my paternal roof and place myself under his protection, does not now much signify; or, if it does, I am not in the humour to gratify curiosity in this matter."

The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson

Written by
Herself

Volume One


Note regarding Harriette Wilson

Harriette Wilson, the daughter of John and Amelia Dubochet, was born in London on February 22, 1786. Her birth is recorded in the Parish Register of St. George, Hanover Square, and her father’s name appears in the List of Rate Payers (1786) as residing at 2 Carrington Street, Mayfair. The house still exists, and its external structure seems to have been unaltered since the time it was built.

In old peerage volumes Dubochet, whose daughter Sophia married the second Lord Berwick, is vaguely described as M. Dubochet of Switzerland, but there is good reason for assuming that he was a clockmaker. The article on Harriette Wilson in the Dictionary of National Biography states that she was born about 1789, that her father kept a small shop in Mayfair, and that she flourished between the years 1810 and 1825. There can be no question, however, that she was on terms of intimacy, about 1805, with the sixth Duke of Argyle, and that in the following year she became the mistress of John, afterwards Viscount, Ponsonby, a handsome man of whom George IV. was jealous on account of Lady Conyngham. Ponsonby succeeded as Baron on November 5, 1806, and, as related in the Memoirs, he met Harriette a few weeks before his father’s death.

The Memoirs were first published in 1825 by John Joseph Stockdale, who issued them in paper cover parts, and so great was the demand that a barrier had to be erected in Stockdale’s shop to regulate the crowd that came to buy. Thirty editions are said to have been sold in one year, and the work was also pirated by T. Douglas, E. Thomas, and others. The present edition is reprinted from the original paper cover parts.

The Duke of Wellington, the Marquis of Worcester, Lord Alvanley, “Poodle” Byng, Beau Brummell, “King” Allen, Lord Yarmouth (Thackeray’s Marquis of Steyne), and the third Duke of Leinster, were among the numerous men of rank and fashion who came to Harriette’s house, and what is really valuable in her book is the almost photographic fidelity with which she reproduces the conversations and traits of her visitors. She observed the men of her “salon” as only a clever woman can, and, because of this, the Memoirs are lifted from worthlessness and form a most interesting addition to the society chronicles of the time. Sir Walter Scott in his Journal, December 9, 1825, writes as follows about the Memoirs and Harriette:

“…there is some good retailing of conversations, in which the style of the speaker, so far as known to me, is exactly imitated…. Some one asked Lord A — y, himself very sorrily handled from time to time, if Harriette Wilson had been pretty correct on the whole. ‘Why, faith,’ he replied, ‘I believe so….’” “I think,” proceeds Sir Walter, “I once supped in her company more than twenty years since at Mat Lewis’s, where the company, as the Duke said to Lucio, chanced to be ‘fairer than honest.’ She was far from beautiful… but a smart saucy girl, with good eyes and dark hair, and the manners of a wild schoolboy.”

After 1825 very little is known of Harriette Wilson beyond the fact that she lived abroad and married a Colonel Rochfort, with whom she resided for a time at 111 Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré, Paris.

E.N.


Chapter I

I shall not say why and how I became, at the age of fifteen, the mistress of the Earl of Craven. Whether it was love, or the severity of my father, the depravity of my own heart, or the winning arts of the noble lord, which induced me to leave my paternal roof and place myself under his protection, does not now much signify; or, if it does, I am not in the humour to gratify curiosity in this matter.

I resided on the Marine Parade at Brighton, and I remember that Lord Craven used to draw cocoa trees, and his fellows as he called them, on the best vellum paper for my amusement. “Here stood the enemy,” he would say, “and here, my love, are my fellows. There the cocoa trees, &c.” It was, in fact, a dead bore. All these cocoa trees and fellows, at past eleven o’clock at night, could have no peculiar interest for a child like myself, so lately in the habit of retiring early to rest. One night, I recollect, I fell asleep; and, as I often dream, I said yawning, and half awake, “O Lord! O Lord! Craven has got me into the West Indies again.” In short I soon found that I had made but a bad speculation, by going from my father to Lord Craven. I was even more afraid of the latter than I had been of the former. Not that there was any particular harm in the man beyond his cocoa trees; but we never suited nor understood each other.

I was not depraved enough to determine immediately on a new choice, and yet I often thought about it. How indeed could I do otherwise, when the Honourable Frederick Lamb was my constant visitor, and talked to me of nothing else? However, in justice to myself, I must declare that the idea of the possibility of deceiving Lord Craven while I was under his roof, never once entered into my head. Frederick was then very handsome, and certainly tried with all his soul and with all his strength, to convince me that constancy to Lord Craven was the greatest nonsense in the world. I firmly believe that Frederick Lamb sincerely loved me, and deeply regretted that he had no fortune to invite me to share with him.

Lord Melbourne, his father, was a good man. Not one of your stiff-laced, moralising fathers, who preach chastity and forbearance to their children. Quite the contrary, he congratulated his son on the lucky circumstance of his friend Craven having such a fine girl with him.

“No such thing,” answered Frederick Lamb, “I am unsuccessful there. Harriette will have nothing at all to do with me.”

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