Historical TMI

This post was originally posted on the now-defunct Romancing the Past blog back in 2011, but on re-reading it I decided it was timely enough (for Risky Regencies values of timeliness) to bear recycling!

It has occurred to me that, should I happen to meet certain historical figures in the afterlife, our conversations might prove a bit awkward.

It’s the TMI factor, you see. What do you say to a man when you’ve seen the love letters he sent to his wife in the early days of their marriage? Letters which contain such revealing passages as:

“Come soon; I warn you, if you delay, you will find me ill. Fatigue and your absence are too much. You are coming, aren’t you? You are going to be here beside me, in my arms, on my breast, on my mouth? Take wing and come, come! A kiss on your heart, and one much lower down, much lower!”

Well, all right, then. Good to know this guy–we’ll call him General X–could be so generous and amorous when his passions were engaged.

And then there’s General Y. A more circumspect soul, he left us no correspondence allowing us to deduce just what he planned to do to his woman of the moment next time he got her into bed. And when one of his brothers was being a bit too scandalous in his womanizing, General Y complained in a letter to another brother that he wished their errant sibling was “castrated, or that he would like other people attend to his business & perform too. It is lamentable to see Talents & character & advantages such as he possesses thrown away upon Whoring.”

Though don’t let that fool you into thinking General Y was any kind of model of chastity. Among other things, he had at least two mistresses in common with General X, one of whom was generous enough to the salacious curiosity of posterity to publicly state that Y was better in bed.

Napoleon

And who are our amorous generals? X is Napoleon and Y is Wellington–and speaking as someone who’s read stacks of biographies of both, it’s amazing how much of their personalities and voices come through in those two brief quotes above.

Wellington

Do you know any good historical TMI? And would you prefer Napoleon or Wellington as a lover? (I’m on Team Wellington all the way–he’s much better-looking by my tastes, I like cool-headed, reserved, snarky personalities like his, and on the whole I prefer my Secret Historical Boyfriends to NOT try to take over the world. Though, really, if I were going to have my pick of ANY military man of the era, I’d have to consider Michel Ney and Eugene de Beauharnais too.)

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10 Responses to Historical TMI

  1. Elena Greene says:

    I love this, Susanna! And I’m with you. That whole world-domination thing is a real put-off for me. I like what I have read about Ney, don’t know as much as perhaps I should about Eugene de Beauharnais.

    Something I definitely like about historical TMI is that it can disprove the claims of those who, for whatever reason, like to claim that the Regency was a period when many fairly common sexual practices were unknown or even that respectable married couples didn’t enjoy sex.

    I remember reading an account of a noble couple who were advised to refrain from sexual relations for medical reasons (it was believed that a period of abstinence would improve fertility) and how they both found it a trial and were eager to resume.

    • susanna says:

      Ney and Eugene were both brave as can be, highly competent overall, and seem to have been better husbands and fathers than the general run of powerful men. And Ney at least looks pretty sexy in his portraits. 🙂

      Totally with you on how historical TMI proves that our generation wasn’t the first to discover non-vanilla sex!

  2. Isobel Carr says:

    I’m absolutely Team Wellington, but then I’m a height whore and a sucker for a distinctive nose (and I’d tower over the Corsican).

    I adore historical TMI. There’s absolutely thrilling stuff in memoirs and journals and correspondence of the day. I’d like to clone myself so I could spend oodles of time perusing historical documents in dusty collections.

  3. Rose Lerner says:

    Oh, Wellington, definitely. That nose! Although let’s be real, I’d probably choose one of the more dashing Rothschild brothers over either…or maybe a threesome with Blucher and Gneisenau!

    • susanna says:

      It’s such a great nose, isn’t it? Really, Wellington is a perfect historical example of That British Guy I Always Go For–lean, lanky (though he probably wasn’t quite tall enough for that adjective–I believe he was around 5’9″ or 5’10”), long-nosed, and elegant-featured. (For modern examples of Susanna’s British Type, see her two favorite Toms–Hiddleston and Mison.)

  4. Definitely Wellington. I like my men tall, dark and preferably non-megalomaniacal.

    And I would give anything to have the time and access to all of those wonderful letters and journals. I find it quite amusing that each generation seems to believe they invented sex !

  5. ki pha says:

    Right on! I’m definitely for Wellington too. I mean come on, he’s our hero for the Regency era. And maybe because I know quite a few about the Duke too.

  6. HJ says:

    I had to find out who was the woman who preferred Wellington, and discovered that Wellington seduced two of Napoleon’s mistresses!

    “The two mistresses were Josephina Grassini, a beautiful opera singer, and Josephine Weimer, an actress, both of whom had been Napoleon’s mistresses several years before Waterloo. He treated the latter very well, once pushing forty thousand francs down her cleavage (as historian Andrew Roberts points out, ‘presumably in notes’). Weimer compared the Iron Duke and the Petit Corporal in bed, saying that ‘Monsieur le Duc etait de beaucoup plus fort’ (‘The duke was much the stronger’).”

    Is it just coincidence that the website put the following quotation from Wellington at the battle of Waterloo in the next column right next to this? — “Hard pounding this, gentlemen; let’s see who will pound longest.”

    http://qi.com/infocloud/the-duke-of-wellington

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