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Harriette Wilson’s Memoirs omit both time and place; there are no addresses given, no locations described, no elections, diseases, or wars. “Dates make ladies nervous and stories dry,” she wrote.
It has taken me quite a while to finish this book. Usually that isn’t a very good sign, it means I’ve not really being all that interested in it, but usually I don’t read non-fiction. Whenever I do it always takes me longer to get through.
This is the story of Harriette Wilson who grew up to become a courtesan in Regency London. The woman whose Memoirs caused a scandal, and raised her quite a bit of cash, as those named began to buy her silence. But as well as that it is a story of how few options there were available to women at that time. It was a case of be married or be damned. Harriette seems to have chosen the damned option. It was her book that led to the, now famous, if incorrect line by Wellington, “publish and be damned”.
There is a lot of detail in this biog. Wilson often quotes from Harriette’s own Memoirs, while at the same time pointing out that Harriette cared little for the facts. She was more interested in getting the truth across. And of course for ensuring that she got her money. After all once her days of glory were over what other option did she have?
There is a lot of information in this book. Actually a huge amount, and it is all presented in a very readable manner. It isn’t unputdownable though. Still recommended though.