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Lady Worsley’s Whim: by Hallie Rubenhold


I just love non-fiction dramas about sex and adultery and when a scandalous divorce case is thrown in, then it is a book I will have high on my ‘must read' list.

Seymour Fleming, an extremely wealthy 18 year old, marries wealthy but not quite as wealthy Sir Richard Worsley. He spends big money on improvements to Appuldurcombe, their home on the Isle of Wight and becomes a Member of Parliament. Enter Maurice George Bisset a neighbouring landlord. Seymour becomes pregnant by Bisset and Worsley invites him to move in with them. Seymour and Bisset elope to London, leaving her children, jewels and clothes behind. Worsley, determined to ruin them sues Bisset for adultery, believing he cannot lose.

But lose he does.  in a 1782 courtroom battle it comes out that Worsley is a voyeur, encouraging her past and numerous affairs. Witnesses for the prosecution destroy Worsley’s reputation. In one incriminating testimony, Worsley, his wife and Bisset had attended a bath-house and, while Lady Worsley was getting dressed, her husband had encouraged Bisset to climb on his shoulders to watch her through a window. Worsley is awarded damages of one shilling. If this was not drama, then what is? However, this is not eighteenth century pornography and Rubenhold’s book is extremely well researched and elegantly written. I would certainly recommend that you also put it high on your 'must read' list.

Text: Helen Marland

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