In February 1782, England opened their newspapers to read the details of Sir Richard Worsley vs. George Maurice Bisset, a Criminal Conversation trial in which the aggrieved Sir Richard attempted to sue his wife’s lover for an astronomical £20,000 in damages. In the course of the proceedings, the Worsleys’ scandalous sexual arrangements, voyeuristic tendencies and bed-hopping antics were laid bare. The trial’s verdict shocked society, but not as much as the unrepentant behaviour of Lady Worsley who since her elopement with Captain Bisset, defied all social convention by publicly flaunting her sexual conquests and mercilessly baiting her husband in the press.
Lady Worsley’s Whim is the story of a marriage between two opposing personalities; a stoic, art-collecting empiricist and a passionate romantic. Their tale is driven by the consequences of a terrible error of judgement made at a bath house on a summer’s afternoon. The aftermath of this ‘whim’ altered their lives, throwing them both onto paths of obsession, revenge, financial ruin, foreign adventure and revolution. For over two hundred years, their story lay buried in long forgotten newspapers, overlooked pamphlets, yellowing satires and uncatalogued letters. No other author, either past or present, has ever told it before. Impeccably researched, and written with great flair, this book presents a rarely seen picture of aristocratic life in the Georgian era.