Susan's recent blog about 18th C riding habits elicited some comments about the subject of the portrait she posted: Lady Worsley, who was at the center of a famous scandal in 1782. I blogged on this subject a while ago, but it's such a funny scandal, I couldn't resist returning to it.
It was in all the newspapers and written up in pamphlets and zestfuly caricatured in satirical prints.
It seemed simple enough. Sir Richard Worsley had sued Captain Bissett for "criminal conversation"* with his wife. In times when divorce was insanely expensive, requiring an Act of Parliament, this was a common way for a cuckolded husband to get revenge. In this case, though, it was one of those "What was he thinking?" incidents.
“The court heard that while [Sir Richard] Worsley was quartered in the military camp at Cox’s Heath, Lady Worsley had often used the nearby bathhouse at Maidstone. On one occasion her husband had tapped on the bathhouse door, saying ‘[Captain] Bissett is going to get up to look at you.’ Hoist Bissett up to the window Worsley duly did, for him to gaze on her nakedness.”
Worsley ended up with a one shilling reward from a disgusted court, and his wife became Society's big joke. Horace Walpole, a great gossip and letter writer (about whom I've also blogged) wrote to his friends that "'thirty-four young men of the first quality had enjoyed her favours.'" And one of them, the Marquis of Graham, had given her the clap.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.