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The Courtesan's Revenge: The Life of Harriette Wilson, the Woman Who Blackmailed the King Hardcover – September 4, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 404 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (September 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571205046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571205042
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,070,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Frances Wilson is the author of Literary Seductions, which was praised by Alain de Botton as 'psychologically rich and wise', and The Courtesan's Revenge, which was described as "a wonderful biography ... Witty and sharp' by Jane Ridley in the Spectator. She lives in London with her daughter. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Harriette Wilson (1786-1845) was among last of the great courtesans and became one of the most notorious when, foiled in collecting annuities that had been promised to her by several gentlemen in her retirement, she published her "Memoirs" with the intention of blackmailing virtually every man who had visited her boudoir. The lawsuits sent her publisher, John Joseph Stockdale, to debtors' prison. But Harriette Wilson's "Memoirs" were a sensation that thrilled the reading public and caused panic at the highest levels of British government. Wilson was blackmailing King George IV and his royal mistress Lady Conyngham, among a long list of powerful personalities. Author Frances Wilson presents a meticulous and lively account of Harriette Wilson's colorful life, from her birth into a tradesman's family in Mayfair, through her reign over England's demi-monde and seduction of its grande-monde, when she cost £50 (over $3000 today) for just an introduction, to her eventual retirement and publication of her "Memoirs" in 1825, through the last years of her life.

For all that she wrote about herself, Harriette Wilson is a perplexing character. Born before the anti-sex fervor of the 19th century posited chastity as the primarily requirement of femininity and women with any carnal appetite came to be feared, Harriette Wilson valued her freedom above all else. She might have had an aristocratic marriage, but she didn't have the temperament for it. "Constancy and convention in relationships were anathemas to her." That's refreshing. But was Harriette's personality bigger than her talents? She reminds me of Mae West: saucy, bold, flirtatious, and completely convinced that she is the most fascinating and sexiest woman around. So certain is she of her allure that force of will makes it so.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Chippindale on August 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
The author has really done justice to this biography, resisting I am sure the temptation to `sex' the book up, which would have been totally wrong and also unnecessary. This is a wickedly funny biography, a story of a woman, whose name many people will never have heard. It is the life story of Harriette Wilson, who became one of the most famous and most sought after courtesans in the whole of England.

Harriette's beauty was a rare sight to behold when many women, even of a young age were disfigured with pox marks or the loss of their teeth and any of the other multitude of diseases prevalent at the time. But apart from being beautiful she was intelligent and funny. The author has managed to draw from a multitude of sources, which have enabled her to distinguish fact from fiction. Although having said that, Harriette led such an extraordinary life that at times the book reads more like a novel than a biography.

Harriette Wilson had a sensational and at the same time scandalous life. She was nobody's fool and when her former lovers, some of the most important men in Regency London, including the King himself and no less than four prime minister turned against her, Harriette knew exactly how to take her revenge upon them.
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By J. Rich on January 30, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This adds more to my research on the Duke of Wellington. It is a good resource for first hand information.
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