Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Teen Mom: Bess

If Bess Hervey was born into a normal middle-class family, she may have had the luxury of marrying in her twenties.  The average age for a woman to marry was about 25, but many well-to-do families rushed their daughters into marriage.  Bess was one of the unlucky girls who found herself married with a lack of maturity to handle her new life changes.  The new Mrs. Foster was also especially fertile and found herself at the age of 17 already with a baby.  Reading her notes from the period makes one feel as if they are watching an episode of MTV's Teen Mom, there is such an abundance of whining one has to wonder where the cheese is!

First, she whimpered about her new home in Dunleer being a "Dungeon."
Momma Hervey (Lady Bristol) wrote back to tell her to appreciate what she had and if it was so bad to do something about it! She recommended picking out some new wallpaper.

When Frederick was born Bess wrote again to her mother describing the horrors of labor.
Lady Bristol, having gone through the ordeal of labor seven times over, once again had little sympathy for the over-dramatization of the process and asked Bess to reflect more on the joys of motherhood rather than complain about the toils of the labor.

After a month of laying in, Bess was re-released to the world and all she could do was roll her eyes at it.  First she remarked on how she found all babies "much alike" and then bemoaned how her son was "dependent" on her.  Not being a mother myself, I noticed two-month-olds tend to do that.  One has to wonder how much mothering Bess was actually doing seeing as she had a wet nurse. 

It wasn't only Bess' son which bored her but now Dublin seemed just as odious as Dunleer.  While many contemporary accounts rave about Dublin's ability to be a thoroughly diverting metropolis Bess wrote, "je m'ennuie à la mort" [I am bored to death].  Besides finding the city "dirty" and "dull" she found the women "ill educated & indelicate."  But perhaps Bess' real beef with Dublin was the fact that her flirting wasn't reciprocated.  According to Bess the men were "too much engrossed by Politicks to engage much in society..."

Season 2
Lady Bristol was quick to tell Bess to stop complaining

When Bess was three months pregnant with her son, Augustus she had enough of her boring life and ran away.  She then met up with a Mr. Churchill and attempted absconding to Scotland with him.  One has to wonder if Bess was so bored by Dublin if Scotland would have been much better? In any case she never would reach the amusements of Scotland for her husband caught her in York.

The year was now 1782 and Bess was staying in Bath with her sister, Mary.  Both ladies were poor, separated from their husbands, and ostracized from public (I bet Dunleer wasn't looking too bad anymore!).  It was here where Bess was to be introduced to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire who befriended the two fallen women.  However, Bess only too easily left her sister in the dust when the Devonshires invited her to accompany them out of Bath. Bess' sob story of her lost children had pulled on their heartstrings more than Mary's, whose child had been allowed to stay with her after the separation.

The truth of the matter is, Bess only really experienced being a "teen mom," for by the time she was in her twenties her husband had custody of her two sons, whom she wouldn't see for another fourteen years.  Her other children (Caroline and Clifford) were illegitimate offspring of the Duke and were also raised more by others than by Bess.  Bess would find that she appreciated being a mother only when the ability was taken away from her.


  1. I find that I have little patience for someone of Bess' temperment.

  2. @Comtesse - that is a very mild and 18th centuryesque way of putting it. I admire you for your restraint!

  3. Any one who consistently whines about being "bored," that is, an adult, quickly loses my sympathy. I agree with the Comtesse.

  4. I have a little sympathy for Bess. Perhaps if she hadn't married so early, she might've had time to grow up a bit and become more appreciative of what was good and stable in life.

    Besides, giving birth sounds a horrible experience and should my time ever come, I plan on asking for drugs quite shamelessly.

  5. Had this post not been about Bess, and worded differently, I think the girl in question could have earned a lot of sympathy.

    Not playing the devil's advocate or something, just playing a game of thought with myself :)

  6. I know, I am very unfair in my judgements. I even felt a little bad about it too! However I had Lady Bristol's chidings to make me not feel as guilty about it.

    But as Tulip put it, had she not been married so prematurely things may have turned out much more differently for Bess and her not so appealing personality!
    (just like on Teen Mom!)

  7. :P

    Oh, I forgot to thank you for the wonderful portrait of Bess' Mama - it's stunning! *DL's to hard drive*

    P.S. He - the CAPTCHA word is "Besse"...

  8. Is there a book of Bess' diary?

    I guess this takes the place of the Tart of the Week! Great post, really enjoyed it.

  9. Love the History, that is exactly why im so drawn to the old furniture, i just feel the magical history behind it, LOVE YOUR BLOG, so glad to of found you, A NEW follower , im hooked Ill be back.

  10. She may have matured had she not been married so young. Then again, some people just never grow up. She looks rather spoiled in that picture though. I doubt I'd be able to spend much time in the same room.

  11. It would intrigue me to know if Bess was a complainer prior to her getting married. From all I've read about her, she was quite a schemer and all the schemers I know tend to be very difficult to satisfy.

  12. @The Duchess, Bess actually kept a total of (if my memory serves me well) 49 diaries. All written with publication in mind, of course.

    @Karryann, So happy you found us! I look forward to seeing you around!

    @nightsmusic & Mindi, It is hard to be a fair judge when it comes to Bess and her ways!

  13. I might be more benevolent did I not have a 21yo DD2 who, sans childred (thank tptb) has quite the same attitude about most things. I don't want to be in the same room with her either half the time...

    And I didn't just say that out loud. Really!

  14. I do not like her, I believe in code of honor between friends. And she is not the first or the last who got merried in the very early age.

  15. So it seems she was always a snot. I wondered what had gotten her kicked out of her house. She kind of reminds me of Scarlett O'Hara, but without the resolve and the later introspection.