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'09 Authors Insider Tips

Everything About Epublishing
by Angela James
Digital Publishing & Print
Common Myths of Epublishing
Ebook Formats and Devices

by Louisa Burton
Compelling Characters
Point of View, Part I
Point of View, Part II
Learning to Love Conflict
Story Structure
Keep ‘em Guessing
Keep it Simple
Keep Your Writing Real
The Importance of Pacing

Literary Streetwalker
by M. Christian
New World of Publishing
To Blog Or Not To Blog
Meeting & Making Friends
Thinking Beyond Sex
Selling Books
Walking the Line
e-book, e-publisher, e-fun
Still More E-book Fun

Shameless Self-Promotion
by Donna George Storey
Our Journey Begins
Pitches and Bios
Websites, Blogs & Readers
Publicists, Press Kits and...
Viva the Internet
Adventures in Cyberspace
Promoting In the Flesh
Make Your Own Movie
Bigger is Better
Looking Back, Planning Ahead

Two Girls Kissing
by Amie M. Evans
Questions to Ask Yourself...
Tough All Over

The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
Practice Makes Prefect
5 Books for Fiction Authors
Poetry In Motions
Six Serving Men
Ashley Lister is Anal
Stealing Ideas
Celebrating Poetry

2009 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister

Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
A Year of Living Shamelessly
Adultery, Exhibitionism ...
John Updike Made Me Do It ...
Story Soup: Forbidden ...
Lessons from Amazon
Naked Lunches ...
Erotic Alchemy
Secrets of Seduction
Are You a “Real” Writer?
Don’t Fondle My Sentence

Cracking Foxy
with Robert Buckley
The Passionate Taphophile
Havens on Earth
A Knight Without Armor
Magic Carpet Rides
Getting Hammered
Keep It Quiet
Hang Around for a Spell

Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
Worked Up About Why
Worked Up About Why, Part II
All Worked Up About Porn
The Catholic Church
Purity Movement
The National Crisis
The Future
About Homosexuality
Public Indiscretions

Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin
Premature Ejaculation
Auctioning Off What?

Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Who's Who Around the Table
Ritual Sex
Mixed Legacy
The Spectrum of Consent
Drawing the Line
Marriage without the Hype
The Distracting Smirk
Innocent Guns
Gardens of Earthly Delights

Provocative Interviews

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
Anneke Jacob
D L King
Kristina Lloyd
Lisabet Sarai
Mitzi Szereto
Portia Da Costa
Shanna Germain
Sommer Marsden
Susan DiPlacido

Guest Appearances

Marketing a Self-Published Novel
by Jeanne Ainslie

Lady in Red:
An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce

by Hallie Rubenhold

Book Review by Rob Hardy


The Book of Love

When four years ago Hallie Rubenhold wrote The Covent Garden Ladies, about a catalogue of prostitutes in eighteenth century London, she threw light on a lively and rollicking trade.  Now, in The Lady in Red: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce (St. Martin’s Press) she has told a story of the unraveling of one particular Georgian marriage, a tale full of gossip, media hype, legal shenanigans, and erotic naughtiness.  In other words, she has a story that shows how little times have changed in two centuries, but she has also illuminated the social rules and expectations of that distant time.  The public, from the aristocracy to the servants, were all fascinated with the break-up of the marriage of Sir Richard and Lady Seymour Worsley, and they laughed at its ridiculous elements, and they disparaged one partner or the other.  Readers of Rubenhold’s detailed and gripping book will be just as amazed and absorbed.

Sir Richard’s father was an alcoholic and a rustic who embarrassed his family, but he insisted on an education for his son, including getting him on the grand tour of Europe.  When the son returned in 1772, at age 21, he disgusted people with his affectation of wisdom, but he may well have been trying to make up for his bumbling father.  He was so ready to be accepted as an adult that he returned with the intention of marrying in five months time, and so he did.  His choice was the seventeen-year-old Seymour Fleming (that peculiar first name for a lady had descended on her from the last name of relatives, the Dukes of Somerset), and all knew the match had advantages for both.  It was a classic aristocratic matchmaking: she would get his title and he would get her fortune.  His friend the historian Edward Gibbon explained that Sir Richard was compelled by “love and ₤80,000”.

The happy couple, married in 1775, were, according to the scandal sheets of the day, enamored of each other when they were courting, but such affection did not last.  Although they conceived a son three months after the marriage, and might have counted on his birth to cement their union, there was no restoration of “the fondness that had first reigned between them.”  Having dutifully produced an heir, Sir Richard went on to other interests, chief of which was his political life.  He was strongly Tory, and always supported George III; he did this because it helped promote his own wealth and it might have gotten him a peerage.  He was apparently ardent in his duties as governmental advisor.  His experience on the grand tour had made him interested in antiquities, and he hobnobbed with others of the same interest.  Lady Seymour later divulged that he had an inability to perform in the bedroom, and she became interested in her own social set, including George Bisset, a neighbor and Sir Richard’s friend.  Bisset and Sir Richard remained friends even though Sir Richard knew of Bisset’s affair with his wife; he even encouraged it.  Rubenhold writes, “The situation provided him with the vicarious sexual thrill of observing another man adore his spouse; of watching a lustful interloper covet and enjoy his possession.”  Bisset became a lodger at their house.  There was a visit to the baths in Maidstone when Sir Richard invited Bisset to climb upon his shoulders so that Bisset might enjoy a peep through a high window at Lady Seymour at her bath.  This was a prank that all three enjoyed, and they left the bath together, laughing.

In our day, perhaps the trio might have tried polyamory.  In theirs, the growing disaffection between the married couple led Bisset and Lady Seymour to elope in 1781.  Sir Richard was furious, and determined that he would have the full justice due to him.  It may have been that Lady Seymour thought that she could regain some of her fortune by separation or divorce, but this was never the case; any property the wife had belonged not to her but to the husband.  Sir Richard expected, since his former friend Bisset had made off with his wife, that he would easily win in a trial against Bisset for “criminal conversation” or as it came to be known, “crim. con.”  This was just a matter of property; Bisset had damaged and taken the property of Sir Richard, and would have to pay.  Sir Richard took him to court, and while he might not have expected to get the full ₤20,000 which was the nominal penalty he sought, he surely expected to get a big chunk of it and to get full vengeance by ruining Bisset financially.  After all, it was a simple case of adultery.

To Sir Richard’s dismay, the simple case was not so simple.  Yes, Bisset had made off with his wife.  But Bisset’s lawyers had an unexpected defense: Sir Richard could not have lost very much because Lady Seymour was not very much of a wife.  It is not known how much Lady Seymour was in on the planning of this defense, but the worse she looked, the less revenge Sir Richard could take.  She did not herself take part in the trial; she was nothing but property, and as Rubenhold archly notes, “No one asked a horse how it felt to be stolen or enquired of a statue why it was broken.”  But there was testimony from others that Lady Seymour had taken plenty of lovers, and some (like Bisset) had been welcomed by Sir Richard.  What really sealed Bisset’s case was that there was a servant in the baths when Bisset was peeping at Lady Seymour.  Forgetting that such servant observers even existed was the privilege of the aristocrats, but Sir Richard was far from the only aristocrat who had his legal fate decided by servant testimony.

After that servant had taken the stand, Sir Richard was a ruined man.  The print-sellers delighted in the public clamor for cartoons showing the impotent and behorned (horns were the symbol of the cuckold) Sir Richard hoisting Bisset up for a view, and such cartoons might show also a view of Lady Seymour on display.  There was a “brachygrapher” taking notes at the trial, and 48 hours after the verdict, a transcript was available which sold like mad.  Even General George Washington included it in his list of supplies he needed from England.  To the further amusement of all high and low, the Worsleys squabbled in public, not face to face, but in the press.  An Epistle from Lady Worsley to Sir Richard Worsley was a sixteen page poem, in the voice of the lady but written by some anonymous scribe.  It detailed Sir Richard’s bedroom incompetence and his meanness.  The poem was praised by none other than Doctor Johnson.  Sir Richard thereupon himself wrote a poem The Answer of Sir Richard Worsley to the Epistle of Lady Worsley, with his own version of how she had wronged him.  There were, in addition, The Memoirs of Sir Finical Whimsy and His Lady, The Genuine Anecdotes and Amorous Adventures of Sir Richard Easy and Lady Wagtail, The Devil Divorced, and The Whore, all of which kept the couple’s bickering in the thoughts of an eager public.

Bisset eventually left Lady Seymour, married another, and wound up with some honor.  Lady Seymour removed herself to Paris, where she was entangled in the French Revolution.  Upon the death of Sir Richard, she was able to marry and seems to have done so happily.  Sir Richard also escaped to the continent, and pursued antiquarian studies, hoping to make his name famous in that sphere instead of infamous as a cuckold.  It didn’t work; he even asked for a monument in his church upon his death, and well-meaning admirers erected a sarcophagus to impart some of the gravity with which they felt he should be regarded.  But the congregation sniggered because it reminded them of his adventure with a bathtub, and the sniggering went on until 1904, when the tub was dragged to the rear of the church and hidden by a pipe organ.  Hallie Rubenhold has rendered a splendid sad and funny tale.  As a historian, she has given a well-referenced guide to the mores and atmosphere of the times, and as a storyteller she has made a compelling and entertaining book that is hard to put down.

Rob Hardy
November 2009

Lady in Red: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce
(St. Martin's Press, July 2009; ISBN-10: 0312359942)
Available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

© 2009 Rob Hardy. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

About the Reviewer
Rob Hardy is a psychiatrist who lives in Columbus, Mississippi, with his wife, two terriers, five cats, and goldfish.

He reviews nonfiction for The Times of Acadiana, but has been reviewing books as a hobby for years before that.
WebBio: Rob Hardy

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'09 Movie Reviews

Blame It On Savanna
Review by Byrdman

Cry Wolf
Review by Spooky

Review by Spooky

Heaven or Hell
Review by Oranje

House of Wicked
Review by Diesel

The Office: An XXX Parody
Review by Spooky

This Ain't The Partridge Family
Review by Spooky

'09 Book Reviews


A Slip of the Lip (ebook)
Review by Jean Roberta

Best Women's Erotica '09
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Bottoms Up
Review by Ashley Lister

Enchanted Again
Review by Victoria Blisse

Review by Kathleen Bradean

Girls on Top
Review by Ashley Lister

In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed
Review by Ashley Lister

Libidacoria (Poetry)
Review by Ashley Lister

Licks & Promises
Review by Ashley Lister

Like a Thorn (ebook)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Mile High Club
Review by Ashley Lister

Nexus Confessions: Vol 5
Review by Victoria Blisse

Nexus Confessions 6
Review by Victoria Blisse

Oysters & Chocolate
Review by Kristina Wright

Playing with Fire
Review by Ashley Lister

Sexy Little Numbers Vol 1
Review by Ashley Lister

Up for Grabs
Review by Lisabet Sarai


A 21st Century Courtesan
Review by Donna G. Storey

The Ages of Lulu
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Amanda’s Young Men
Review by Kristina Wright

As She's Told
Review by Ashley Lister

Bedding Down
Review by Victoria Blisse

Review by Ashley Lister

Brushes & Painted Dolls
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Cassandras Chateau
Review by Ashley Lister

The Edge of Impropriety
Review by Kristina Wright

Review by Kathleen Bradean

Free Pass
Review by Ashley Lister

The Gift of Shame
Review by Victoria Blisse

Kiss It Better
Review by Ashley Lister

The Melinoe Project
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Mortal Engines & The ...
Review by Ashley Lister

The New Rakes
Review by Ashley Lister

Ninety Days of Genevieve
Review by Victoria Blisse

Obsession: An Erotic Tale
Review by Kristina Wright

Sarah's Education
Review by Ashley Lister

Seduce Me
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Lesbian Erotica

Lesbian Cowboys
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Night's Kiss
Review by Jean Roberta

Where the Girls Are
Review by Jean Roberta

Gay Erotica

Animal Attraction 2
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Boys in Heat
Review by Vincent Diamond

Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Low Road
Review by Jean Roberta

Personal Demons
Review by Jean Roberta

Ready to Serve
Review by Vincent Diamond

The Secret Tunnel
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Review by Kathleen Bradean

Review by Vincent Diamond


Best Sex Writing '09
Review by Kristina Wright

The Big Penis Book
Review by Rob Hardy

Erotic Encounters
Review by Rob Hardy

The Forbidden Apple
Review by Rob Hardy

Hollywood’s Censor
Review by Rob Hardy

Lady in Red
Review by Rob Hardy

Licentious Gotham: Erotic...
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Live Nude Elf
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Live Nude Girl
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The Other Side of Desire
Review by Rob Hardy

Scripts 4 Play
Review by Ashley Lister