The Comfortable Courtesan
The Comfortable Courtesan
Volume 1

The Comfortable Courtesan Cover

Madame Clorinda Cathcart is a very exclusive courtesan in Regency London, very comfortably situated, with a wide circle of acquaintance. Besides her more obvious attributes and activities, she is always ready to listen to her circle’s problems and to devize stratagems to solve them. Sometimes these lead to unanticipated further problems…

You might like to read the Chronology & Reading Order for these books & also the notes for this book: The Comfortable Courtesan: Allusions & References. Or view all books in the The Comfortable Courtesan series.

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Read Chapter 1 ...

Apologia for my temerity in writing this memoir

Written on the flyleaf of the first volume, apparently at a later date.

I shall not say how, and why, at the age of 15 I became the mistress of the Earl of Craven, because I never had the kind of opportunities that Harriette Wilson wast’d.

However, I enjoy’d the patronage of a number of generous suitors, and in particular, at the age of 27 I fell in with a wealthy Northern ironmaster, whose sound financial advice even more than his generosity ensur’d me the means for comfortable living without the need for writing scandal-monging memoirs, indeed enabling me to support a number of charitable enterprises.

This narrative sets out to encourage a rational and prudent approach to the profession of harlotry and to dispel the notion that a fallen woman is bound to die in the gutter, pennyless and poxt, afore her 30th year.

Some maxims for the comfortable courtesan

Men love giving advice, and, should you ask ‘em for it and then listen attentively (or at least with the plausible appearance of attention) they will find you a person of acute judgement and good sense. Certain gentlemen that at first barely notic’d my existence found me curiously alluring once I had askt ‘em to explain the rules of the new card game or what were the points of excellence of their racehorse. However, always endeavour to seek advice that will be of use to you: Mr F‑ the ironmaster’s prudent counsel on money (and indeed, was I call’d upon to manage an ironworks, think I might make a good fist of that) was of quite infinite value to me, but Mr P‑, the dramatick critic that writes under the style Aristarchus, render’d me capable of introducing my hitherto untutor’d thoughts most knowledgeably into any conversation on the theatre, while that not’d dandy, the quondam Honble G- R‑, elevat’d to Viscount R- on his father’s death, had the happyest effects on my notions of dress and good style.

‘Tis ever advizable to remain on good terms with other women. Is there anything more agreeable than a cozy teaparty with women friends, with the really good china and the excellent tea from one’s friend with Hon Company connexions? A chance to relax and gossip and talk over the new fashions &C: also to exchange intelligence of material importance as to who looks about for a new mistress, who has vicious tastes, who is unbearably miserly. If some woman is being spoke of as your rival, you should always manifest great friendship towards her, whether or not she reciprocates. When talking of her, remark on her merits and how you wish you had such fine eyes or so melodious a singing voice or a figure to match hers. ‘Twill give you the reputation of a beautifully generous and amiable nature; and should she slight you, will merely look spitefull and envious.

As the author of that delightfull work Pride and Prejudice has the happy phrase, ‘tis a truth universally acknowledg’d, that clergymen have a positive mania for endeavouring to save the souls of members of the frail sisterhood, most particular the well-known and expensive ones. I can testify to having receiv’d such attentions from almost every kind of man of the cloth, from travelling Methodist preachers and meek stammering curates to an archbishop. I find an affecting tearfullness, and the application of a fine cambric handkerchief, along with references as to being the sole support of one’s aging mother and an invalid sister with numerous children and a scoundrel deserting husband, and the means of educating one’s brothers and nephews with a view to placing ‘em in respectable situations, to answer extreme well.

Poets, however apparently attractive, are not advizable. Any initial renown you acquire from their besott’d lyrics to your charms will be completely overturn’d the day they take a jealous fit and publish a satire on your hideous features, deform’d figure, foul smell, and evil character. Also, I have never yet known a poet with money.

Goes without saying that in a trade such as mine, one performs the rites of Venus in a pleasing and pleasurable fashion. However, what a woman may do outside the boudoir is equally if not more important: in the case of my dear Mr F‑, I was able to provide him with assistance in mastering social niceties and the vagaries of style. I was also able to provide him with valuable introductions among my connexion, and indeed, so taken was Lord R- with Mr F- (Milord being quite as passionate about inland navigation as about the lye of his cravat) that he even introduc’d him to his own tailor.