Lady Worsley’s Whim: An 18th-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce

Written by Hallie Rubenhold
Review by Doug Kemp

In the latter part of the 18th century, British society was enthralled and scandalised by the long-running and very public divorce battle between the wealthy Lord Richard Worsley and his heiress wife, Lady Seymour, who could count Georgia, the Duchess of Devonshire amongst her friends in the haut ton. Lady Worsley eloped with her lover George Bisset and the enraged cuckolded husband brought a charge for crippling damages against Bisset, as was not uncommon in those days. Society was shocked at learning through Bisset’s defence that Worsley had not only appeared to assist and observe the lovers in their extramarital affair, but had also tacitly consented to Lady Worsley’s previous infidelities with a number of other members of the aristocracy. Lord Worsley was humiliated and the battle raged between the two parties in the print and pamphlet press.

The story is expertly narrated so that it is as entertaining to read as work of literary fiction than history. It provides a superb insight into the sexual mores and conventions of the times. A most enjoyable read and well-written book.