Friday, May 30, 2008

Tart of the Week: Lady Worsley

Not only did Lady Worsley have great taste in shoes, she also knew who to take fashion tips from. She was clever enough to have Reynolds paint her in the trend the Duchess of Devonshire invented; a riding habit in the style of her husband's regiment colors. Because this scandalous lady conveniently immortalized herself in this bold fashion statement we now have a perfect image of what the dress looked like.

But enough of that flattery, let's move on to the dirt. Not much is actually known of Lady Worsley, but much is rumored of her. Dorothy Seymour (or Seymour Dorothy I've seen as well*) was flirtatious and vivacious and rumors surfaced that she had no less than 27 lovers. She also became close friends with our former tart, Grace Dalrymple Elliot. Her biggest scandal derived from her stay with her husband, Sir Richard at the Coxheath military camps. The same place the fashion she graces in her Reynolds portrait began. While she was bathing one night, her husband tapped on the door and informed her he was going to hoist a Captain Bissett up to the window to look at her naked. Yet, Sir Richard acted shocked an insulted when he found out Bissett had met up with Lady Worsley for a week and "carnally knew her" in those nights. He had also bet Lord Deerhurst that he wouldn't be able to sleep with her. Well, money should have been put down on that bet because Sir Richard came home at 4am one night to find Deerhurst leaving Lady Worsley's chambers (I have feeling Richard wasn't that interested in women as he was money, wink wink). A trial against Bissett promptly followed. Seeing as the dim-witted Sir Richard had basically prostituted his wife, he was awarded a shameful 1 shilling for damages.

London society erupted with the story, satirical prints were in abundance, and the transcript for the trial was so popular it ran 7 printings in the first year of publication. Here is a juicy tidbit:
Q. Do you remember whether Sir Richard Worsley had an opportunity at any time of observing the intimacy and attention your Lordship paid to Lady Worsley ? And your Lordship will mention the particular time. — He found me in her dressing room, adjacent to her bedchamber, at four o'clock in the morning.
Q. How was Lady Worsley dressed at that time ? — I don't particularly recollect.

Q. In a dress, or undress ? — I don't remember; I made no observation upon it. Sir Richard expressed his astonishment at finding me there at that hour.
Q. Do you recollect his expression ? — He said "Deerhurst! How came you here?" And after that I went to my bed-room.
Q. How long did your Lordship continue there, after that ? — To the best of my recollection, three or four days afterwards.
Q. Do you recollect whether, after that, you were permitted to attend Lady Worsley out upon parties ? — I was.

A divorce swiftly followed, leaving the former Lady Worsley to carnally do as she pleased. It also left her with an STD from the Marquis of Graham. Oh Seymour, I thought everyone knew not to sleep with that peer!

*Since I've written this I have been in contact with Lady Worsley's biographer, Hayley Rubenhold, who has informed me that her name was most definitely Seymour.

6/11/08- Also check out the book review for Lady Worsley's Whim


  1. we need fabulous outfits like hers! and shoes ofcourse

  2. lady Seymour was not a tart she never took money her husband ask and she said yes.