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The Courtesan’s Revenge

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  99 ratings  ·  15 reviews
In a biography of style and energy, Frances Wilson makes use of previously unseen letters, law reports and confidential Government correspondence to reveal the true story of the sexual celebrity who blackmailed the British aristocracy and held even the king to ransom.
Paperback, 384 pages
Published February 2004 by Faber and Faber (first published 2003)
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3.54  · 
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 ·  99 ratings  ·  15 reviews

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May 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
I had relatively high hopes for this book, in part because it came recommended by a friend but also in part because I was genuinely interested to learn about this fascinating subject. I have read various tomes centred on sexuality, yet had no knowledge of courtesans.

The book got off to a relatively good start, painting a picture of regency period England which I had been sadly lacking till then. Unfortunately as the narrative progressed I found myself infuriated and confused by a mish-mash of na
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Interesting and fast-paced romp through the festive streets and well-appointed boudoirs of Regency (early 19th century) England. Harriette Wilson was the most-sought after courtesan of her age, notorious later for her sensationalist "kiss and tell" memoirs which scandalized her era by revealing detailed intricacies of sexual intrigue and the peccadillos of aristocratic lust. Among those who had affairs with Harriette were three Prime Ministers, the brother of another Prime Minister, the brother- ...more
Apr 23, 2012 rated it did not like it
The main character's life its a bit repetitive and boring but the author didn't help to present it in a rather interesting and adventurous mode.

I have read other books about courtesans in the 17th, 18th, 19th century and they are quite entertaining but I am sure Miss Harriette Wilson's life was thrilling too (i think?). Too bad the author didn't do any justice to her biography.

I also found the main character a bit egotistical. I am sure a lot of these women who led this type of "demimonde" lif
Naomi Clifford
Sep 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent and thorough biography of an interesting and important figure. It is well written and the research is exemplary. Harriette Wilson was one of those "one-offs" that we have all met at some point in our lives - egotistical, manipulative, confident, generous, mean-spirited, bitchy. She went into the only profession suitable for her talents and preferences: high-class prostitution. Then she blackmailed all her former clients, threatening to publish details of their relationship. ...more
Mar 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Best paragraph in the book:

"Writing, Harriette found, was regarded as more transgressive than the sale of her body had been. It was unusual for a woman’s name to be attached to a book; novels by lady novelists tended to be anonymous and named attached to a scandal tended to asterixed out after the initial letter. . . But it was not so much what she wrote or the manner in which she wrote it that made Harriette outrageous; it was the mere fact of writing at all. Women who write have long been dist
Jul 28, 2010 rated it liked it
It has taken me quite a while to finish this book. Usually that isn’t a very good sign, it means I’ve not really being all that interested in it, but usually I don’t read non-fiction. Whenever I do it always takes me longer to get through.

This is the story of Harriette Wilson who grew up to become a courtesan in Regency London. The woman whose Memoirs caused a scandal, and raised her quite a bit of cash, as those named began to buy her silence. But as well as that it is a story of how few option
Jan 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history

Although an academic biography bursting with names and dates I did quite enjoy this even though I was in the minority at my library reading group.

Aside from the scholarship Francis Wilson brought to the task, I felt it wasn't overly dry and gave a fascinating portrait of early 19th century England with special emphasis upon the changing values as the century progressed.

I rather adored the Regency romances of Georgette Heyer - my how innocent she made it all seem, while the reality was far more
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
1.5 I don't quite know how the author managed to make the life of a notorious courtesan dull as dish water but she did. The 1.5 is because while I can't say I would ever read it again it wasn't the worst thing I've ever read. Though I have to say I can't recall learning a single thing from this book which is slightly worrisome.

This is just my opinion and I am entitled to it just as you are to yours.
Lauren Albert
The subtitle of this book is misleading--the King plays a very small role in the book and many, many more people are blackmailed. Overall, I found the book growing tedious. I didn't find most of her life that interesting. I think it would have been more interesting, perhaps, to focus on her family in which so many of the women became courtesans.

Janet Rainey
Jul 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Strangely, I had to put this book down even though I was enjoying it. It was just taking me a long time to read and it felt more like a text, almost. Very interesting and full of info but I needed a break from it.
Dec 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
3.5 stars; incredibly well-researched but it felt somewhat unfocused, oddly enough. Really enjoyed the first half about her early life and family background; less so the later section.
Mills College Library
941.07309 W7481 2004
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
I registered a book at!
started well . but i got bored .
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Frances Wilson was educated at Oxford University and lectured on nineteenth- and twentieth-century English literature for fifteen years before becoming a full-time writer. Her books include Literary Seductions: Compulsive Writers and Diverted Readers and The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth: A Life, which won the British Academy Rose Mary Crawshay Prize. She reviews widely in the British press and is ...more
“Revenge writing is a female genre. Men who have been left by women or made cuckolds by rivals either lick their wounds in humiliated silence or start the Trojan Wars. Having no other power or public voice, the betrayed woman reaches for her pen.” 14 likes
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