I recently purchased a bounty of books from the wonderful Emily Hendrickson who is selling off some of her collection of research books. I have purchased MANY of them (Kalen, how many have you purchased?) and I refuse to tell you, my husband, or anybody how much I’ve spent! That’s between me and the IRS.
Of of the treasures I purchased is The Silver Fork Society: Fashionable Life and Literature from 1814 to 1840 by Alison Adburgham (Constable and Co, 1983). The term Silver Fork Society was given to the literature in the Regency that emphasized the glitter, elegance, and frivolity of the aristocratic classes. Like Lady Caroline Lamb’s Glenarvon, they were often written by those belonging to that society or on its fringes.
Another of the Silver Fork novelists was Marguerite, Countess of Blessington. What fascinated me about Marguerite was that her own life read like a novel. She was born the daughter of a drunken Irish squireen who sold her in marriage at age fifteen to a Captain Farmer, a violent and abusive man from whom she managed to escape after a few years. She returned to her parents, who did not want her, and accepted the “protection” of a Captain Jenkins, who took her home to live with his wife and sister. She blossomed both in beauty and in education in Jenkins’ home and it was there that she met an Irish earl, Lord Blessington. Blessington paid Jenkins ten thousand pounds to compensate for the years of care of Marguerite and he set about marrying her. Luckily, no divorce needed to be arranged from the abusive Capt. Farmer. He, drunk, fell to his death from a window in King’s Bench prison. Marguerite became the Countess of Blessington and, although she was never accepted by the highest rungs of society, she and her husband lived an extravagant lifestyle surrounded by the leading men in literary and political circles. They embarked on a grand tour during which Marguerite was befriended by Byron. After her husband’s death, Marguerite turned to writing in order to make money. She wrote a memoir of Byron, Conversations with Lord Byron, and a novel, The Repealers, and she edited annuals, such as The Book of Beauty and The Keepsake.
In our novels, we would probably make certain there was a happily ever after and Marguerite’s life was not quite so easy, but I thought it was interesting that a real-life woman of the Regency could rise so far above her scandalous youth.
Last night I watched the MTV Movie Awards, a show I would normally skip, but the movie 300 was up for Best Movie, Best Performance (Gerard Butler), Best Breakthrough Performance (Lena Heady) and Best Fight scene (Gerard Butler). Johnny Depp and Pirates of the Caribbean won best movie and best performance, but Gerry won for Best Fight Scene! Way to go Gerry!!
Did you know the story of Lady Blessington? (I didn’t)
Do you know any other real life Regency heroines whose lives are like a novel?
And did you see Gerry win his MTV award??
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