When you first begin to read Lady Worsley's Whim you may have to stop and recheck to the book jacket to confirm that it is indeed Non-fiction. Hallie Rubenhold, author of the acclaimed, The Covent Garden Ladies, elegantly writes her biography of both Sir Richard and Lady Worsley in a way which reads like a novel. Given the entertaining antics of the Worsleys and Rubenhol's skills with the pen, I read this biography in record time. I honestly could not put it down!
In an era that valued attractiveness above all other feminine attributes, no one ever raved about Seymour Dorothy Flemming's beauty. No poet ever sang in praises of her prettiness, no gossipy matron ever remarked on her fine figure and in the many printed paragraphs which appeared during her life, at no point did any writer mention her comely features. Although she was not plain, her blue, almond-shaped eyes and mousy hair were considered distinctly ordinary. She had inherited her small stature and later her predisposition to plumpness from her mother, Jane Colman. From her father, Sir John Flemming, she had inherited an enormous fortune.So begins the story of "a girl called Seymour." If you may recall, Seymour was a tart of the week in May. Like many women of the time she was married at a young age and soon disappointed by her marital situation. This led Seymour to wander into the arms of quite a few men. Strangely enough, Sir Richard did nothing to deter her from doing so. In fact, it would appear he encouraged her infidelities for his own voyeuristic pleasures. He even invited one lover, George Bisset to live with them which is strikingly similar to the menage a trois between the Devonshires and Lady Bess Foster. However, when Lady Worsley decided to elope with Bisset and live a separate life with her lover, Sir Richard was outraged and pressed crim. con. charges against Bisset. However, Sir Richard never expected Lady Worsley to dampen her reputation further by actually inviting her lovers to testify at the trial in order to reveal her husband as a pimp and cuckold.
Rubenhold is not only successful in her style of writing but also in bringing an understanding to both individuals and their situations. She presents new, never-revealed information and makes some valuable assertions into the lives of the mismatched couple. I was delighted to find that there were no slow points in this biography and that Rubenhold's ability in storytelling made the chain of events easy to follow and understand. Other points in this book even had me laughing out loud. Even after the height of the couple's notoriety when they went their separate ways, Rubenhold can still keep your interest in their activities.
If biographies bore you and have deterred you from learning your 18th century gossip, Lady Worsley's Whim will be the right fit for you. If you love biographies or 18th century scandals you will also find this to be a delightful read and a breath of fresh air. Do check it out and get the juiciest of gossip on this tart and her husband's unique story.