Regency Impudence: Joseph Hume

“I see precisely how it is! You are very like my father, Salford! ..the only time  when either of you remembers what you are is when some impudent fellow don’t treat you with respect!”

— Sylvester: or The Wicked Uncle, by Georgette Heyer

Impudence is a powerful force of conflict in Regency-themed literature. The setting of these stories is profoundly concerned with status, and the orderly categorization of the individual within a deeply stratified society. The impudent character bucks the rules, and zounds! the reader is hooked.

The term impudence used to refer to conduct that was immodest. This was during the medieval period. With the rise of the middle class in nineteenth century Britain, the term came to mean behavior that challenged landed class privilege at all levels–political, cultural, social, eliciting dismay, but more often amusement.

Dashed good fun to flout those who are just a little high in the instep.

In the Regency-era political arena, much of the impudence on display can be attributed to Joseph Hume (1777-1855). Made wealthy from a technique to keep gunpowder dry, he purchased a Tory seat, only for that session of Parliament to dissolve.  Chagrined, he “ratted” upon his return, and became a Radical MP.

Joseph Hume, “a burly man with a massive head and virtually no neck.” by John Whitehead Walton

His achievements, which were many, attempted to force retrenchment upon the government’s purse. His biographical entry in History of Parliament states he was “willfully perverse..largely impervious to the ridicule and abuse which he largely attracted from his political adversaries.”

This was impudence indeed, but that was not the half of it.

“..very very noisy, very violent … and on many points unintelligible, but quite satisfied with himself.”

— John Gladstone, Tory MP (letter to George Canning, Feb. 1822)

He was proud of his conduct, and that was the crux of his impudence. This unrepentant quality of character excited Maria Edgeworth’s considerable disgust. In her Letters she thought him most impudent for attacking ‘all things and all persons,’ but more particularly because he refused to heed all advice to moderate his good opinion of himself.

Tories detested him. His natural allies, the Whigs, were at times delighted and incensed by him. Sir Henry Brougham wrote to a colleague that Hume makes a ‘stupid ass’ of himself in parliamentary proceedings, inducing most to either fall asleep or walk out with his interminable demands for an accounting of even the most minute of government expenditures.

The fact he went about the thing with an air of superiority was Too Much.

“…his stupid vanity … His kind patronage of Archy [Hamilton] is only laughable, but to see him splitting on that rock (of egotism and vanity) is rather provoking. What right has he to talk of the Whigs never coming to his support on … reform?”

The Creevey Papers (1822)

There were many who tried to reform society at the political level. There were not many who did it as impudently as Hume, as two occasions demonstrate. One concerned an investigation he launched into profiteering at the Crown’s stationary office. The other was the buying and selling of Greek bonds on the taxpayer’s dime.

He admitted to having done both.

In the case of the first charge, he compounded his impudence by admitting his perfidy in writing, on the very stationary in question. As to the second charge, his corruptible speculation resulted in a personal financial loss, for which he demanded the poor Greeks compensate him.

“Could he, in the incipient stages of his existence, have looked forward to the brazen celebrity which he now obtained, we might almost wonder that he could have the impudence to be born.”

— Anecdotes of Impudence, Charles Tilt (publisher) 1827

‘If Hume should be returned for Middlesex, he of course will forget that he owes his seat to me twice over,” said moderate Whig George Byng, here bearing a most impudent Hume on his back.

 

 

Regency Fashion: the Gentleman’s Town Dress

False Colours“His coat of dark blue superfine was the very latest made by Evelyn for Weston..his stockinette pantaloons were knitted in the newest and most delicate dove-colour: his cambric shirt was modestly austere, with no ruffle, but three plain buttons…his hat, set at an angle on his glowing locks, had a tall and tapering crown, smoothly brushed, and very different from the low, shaggy beaver to which Fimber had taken instant exception.”

This is the town dress of the Regency gentleman as described by author Georgette Heyer in  False Colours (1963).

The superfine fabric is exactly as it sounds–wool that is smooth, almost silky to the touch. The more narrow the fibers of the wool, the more “super” its grade. Today, superfine wool suits of the highest grade sell well into the thousands of dollars.

Tom Ford: James Bond collection, Fall 2015

From designer Tom Ford’s James   Bond collection, Fall 2015

Stockinette is “an elastic knitted fabric used especially in making undergarments, bandages, and babies’ clothes–a fine-knit, soft, elastic weave.” Heyer’s hero, the handsome, blond Kit Fancot, wore pantaloons made of this material as he strolled through London, impersonating his fashionable elder brother, Lord Denville, the stockinette fabric clinging to his shapely legs in ways that I shall leave to your imagination.

stockinette pantaloons

          skin-tight, “a la hussarde”

Cambric is also known as batiste, a soft, airy cotton that makes marvelous baby sheets and blankets. Whenever I hear cambric mentioned, I think of the Little House books. You knew Ma or the girls were sewing something very special if it was made of cambric:

“They made four new petticoats….around the bottom of the fine cambric one, Laura had sewed with careful, tiny stitches the six yards of knitted lace that she had given Mary for Christmas.”

Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1941)

If Fimber, or any other Regency-era valet, turns his nose up at an article of a gentleman’s dress, you can be sure it must be very unfashionable indeed. Kit’s hat was discarded for his brother’s not because it was made of beaver, but that was shaggy, with a low crown. Acceptable for a diplomat, which Kit was, but not at all the thing for his noble brother.

close-up of a beaver hat--the crown shaggy in texture

close-up of a beaver hat–the crown shaggy in texture

Next post: what Kit wore to a fancy evening party, when he:

“..realized that he had been imperfectly coached: he had no idea which of them was the lady to whom he was supposed to have offered his hand.”

Adelaide – A Regency Marriage

"Other men might envy Sir Nugent; they could not despise him, for his pedigree was impeccable, his fortune exceeded sixty thousand pounds a year." Sylvester, Heyer

Other men might envy Sir Nugent; they could not despise him, for his pedigree was impeccable, his fortune exceeded sixty thousand pounds a year.”

In Maria’s estimation, marriage served only to increase Adelaide’s extravagance.

“..(Adelaide) has wedded a man so wealthy, that Mexico and Peru seem to be at his command; so much the worse, perhaps, for her, for she is naturally extravagant, and will think his riches inexhaustible.”

— “Letter from a Young Married Lady to her Sister in the Country,” La Belle Assemblée, August, 1818

Surely Heyer’s Ianthe was based on Adelaide, and the preposterous Sir Nugent Fotherby on the man who could bail out entire nations–the Honorable Frederic Cleveland.

Nine years older than his teenage bride, Cleveland owned over thirty “blood” horses, possessed an extensive country estate and funds enough to support the staggeringly expensive habits of a sporting Corinthian:

“..he is fond as ever of his dogs and horses; he is a modern charioteer, a great encourager of pugilism,…most admirable skill in horseflesh.”

Maria marveled to her sister over the fashionable couple’s two (!) separate boxes at the Opera and the immense sums Adelaide pays for milliners’ wares–a continual stream of pelisses, bonnets, bronze half-dresses and furbelows–only to discard them almost at once. She doesn’t ask the price of the trimmings sent “enough for ten months at least,” only that the bills be sent to her husband, who had already proven himself indulgent on the matter of the “vulgar” white bridal dress.

Indeed, Adelaide thinks nothing of throwing down an expensive cashmere shawl for her lap dog or Cleveland’s pointers to rest upon.

Called by its French name "cachemire" in the Magazine, this draped shawl forms part of a walking dress ensemble. -- La Belle Assemblée, May, 1818

Called by its French name “cachemire” in the Magazine, this draped shawl forms part of a walking dress ensemble. — La Belle Assemblée, May, 1818

After observing this increased profligacy, even dashing aunt Lady Worthington was moved to reprove her niece:

“..Lose not your hours, my dear Adelaide, in fashionable follies: do not act like too many votaries of dissipation, as if youth and life were eternal.”

 

 

Regency Servants: Nurse Nanny

Downton Abbey, like many great British family sagas, features a wicked nanny. Did you see the austere portrait of Queen Mary in the servants’ quarters downstairs?

That was Wicked Nanny’s cue.

Eddy and Bertie's younger brother, Prince John, pictured with Nanny Bill

Eddy and Bertie’s younger brother, Prince John, pictured with Nanny Bill

Mary of Teck’s trials with nannies were recorded by her oldest son, the abdicating Edward VIII. According to him, one had been dismissed for insolence, another for abuse. Both boys were allegedly pinched to make them cry so that a return trip to the nursery was necessary. Little Bertie might have been starved. All were reported by an assistant, the undernurse, Nanny Bill.

In Downton Abbey, Nanny West got sacked for calling Sybil’s daughter a “wicked little cross-breed.”  Her role was rather brief. I suspect she was a device to set up the viewer’s sympathy for her successor, who very well may do something really naughty.

Nannies during the Regency used to be called nurses. They had enormous influence over their young charges in the nursery. Happy was the family who could trust such a servant, and having found one they might retain her to stay on for future generations.

Nurses figured largely in the literature of the time. They might be intimate confidantes, mentors, or providers of safe refuge for their former charges, now grown up yet fleeing to them in times of adversity.

Indeed, one might have a mother but ’tis better to have a nurse:

Save the child–give it a truer mother, the domestic nurse, who possesses the equanimity of humble station, whose self-interest is more vigilant and attentive, and (such is the providence of nature) whose attachment often grows more maternal than that of the mother herself. — The Belfast Monthly Magazine, July, 1811

Worries over the nurse’s abilities seemed minor:

A child that is much danced about, and much talked to, by a very lively nurse, has many more ideas than one that is kept by a silent and indolent person. A nurse should be able to talk nonsense in abundance, but then she should know when to stop. — “On the Progressive Development of the Faculties of Children,” by Elizabeth Hamilton as printed in The Lady’s Magazine 1802

The Wet Nurse, by Marguerite Gerard

The Wet Nurse, by Marguerite Gerard

My favorite nurse from the Regency is featured in Heyer’s Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle. Even when she is not in the scene, Nurse’s absence is rendered quite acute.

The following passage finds the pompous dandy, Sir Nugent Fotherby, attempting to placate his stepson’s demands. He has just sawed off one of the buttons from his elegant coat:

‘No need to cry, dear boy! Here’s your button!’

The sobs ceased abruptly; Edmund emerged from the blanket, tearstained but joyful. ‘Button, Button,’ he cried, stretching out his arms. Sir Nugent put the button into his hand.

There was a moment’s silence, while Edmund, staring at this trophy, realized to the full Sir Nugent’s perfidy. To blinding disappointment was added just rage. His eyes blazing through his tears he hurled the button from him, and casting himself face downward gave way to his emotions….

Fortunately, the noise of his lamentations reached Phoebe’s ears. She came quickly into the cabin, and upon being assured by Sir Nugent that so far from bullying his son-in-law, he had ruined one of his coats to provide him with the button he so insistently demanded…

(Phoebe) said contemptuously, ‘I should have thought you must have known better! He means his nurse, of course!’

The Real Regency Reader

Reading was an important pastime in the Regency. With more leisure came more time. And more reading.

In Heyer’s Cotillion, the heroine has had more than enough leisure time at her guardian’s dreary country house, with nothing but her governess’s bookshelf to entertain–and educate her. She elicits the aid of the hero, who, if he can be persuaded to enter into a pretend engagement with her, will take her to London. There she might have the opportunity to bring the dilatory Mr. Westruther up to scratch.

This is the copy I have--from 1968--the hair is a little That Girl, don't you think?

This is the copy I have–from 1968–the hair is a little That Girl, don’t you think?

“No, dash it!” protested Mr. Standen. “Not if you’re engaged to me, Kit!”

She became intent on smoothing the wrinkles from her gloves. Her colour considerably heightened, she said: “No. Only–If there did happen to be some gentleman who–who wished to marry me, do you think he would be deterred by that, Freddy?”

“Be a curst rum touch if he wasn’t, ” replied Freddy unequivocally.

“Yes, but–If he had a partiality for me, and found I had become engaged to Another,” said Kitty, drawing on a knowledge of life culled from the pages of such novels as graced Miss Fishguard’s bookshelf, “he might be wrought upon by jealousy.”

“Who?” demanded Freddy, out of his depth.

“Anyone!” said Kitty.

“But there ain’t anyone!” argued Freddy.

“No,” agreed Kitty, damped. “It was just a passing thought, and not of the least consequence! I shall seek a situation.”

What you read during the Regency was generally held to be informative of your character. In the case of Jane Austen’s novels, you might recall the sensible Anne Elliott in Persuasion enjoys prose and views Mr. Benwick’s inordinate fondness for poetry with a little alarm. Her father, on the other hand, “never took up any book but the Baronetage.”

Then again, too much reliance shouldn’t be placed on a person’s reading selections as a guide to their makeup. This next series of posts is intended to illustrate how diverse a real Regency book can be, and its reader as well. For instance, a novel might deliver a moral tale better than a collection of the vicar’s sermons from Harrow-on-Gate. Also, females thought to be flighty because of their penchant for Gothic tales suddenly reveal themselves to have a will of iron.

Just ask the Honorable Frederick Standen.

The Real Regency Rake: His Servants

We’ve already discussed Mytton’s agent, that long-suffering fellow from Oswestry, who tried in vain to stay his master’s impulsive spending. Wily merchants, like the pheasant dealer who stocked birds for Mytton’s heronry, learned to bypass Mr. Longueville and apply directly to the baronet for payment. Mytton had a reputation for honoring his debts on the spot, in their entirety. Unfortunately for his agent, he would send the applicant to Oswestry with his invoice in hand upon which was written simply: “Right” and signed “John Mytton.”

John Mytton had several grooms with designated occupations. One had the unlikely name of Tinkler–his “home stud” groom. Tinkler’s job was to oversee his master’s race horse breeding operations. Nimrod reports this employee was of the “old sort,” a “careful nurser of young racing stock.” Mytton was quite in charity with this thinking, not wanting his young stock to be raced too soon. Unfortunately, when other horsemen pushed their young colts and fillies to the track early, Mytton’s stock hadn’t a chance.  “Too fond of green meat,” they said of the groom, and the master.

Valets, as you might have guessed, must needs have their work judged by the turnout of their employer. In Arabella , Heyer gives us an unforgettable image of the posh hero’s body-servant Mr. Painswick (and that name is rather glorious in its setting, you can be sure):

Thank heavens for that little grocery in Staines!

Thank heavens for that little grocery in Staines!

“Your boots, Sir! You will never use a jack!”

“Certainly not,” said Mr. Beaumaris. “Some menial shall pull them off for me.”

Mr. Painswick gave a groan. “With greasy hands, Sir!  And only I know what it means to get a thumb-mark off your Hessians!”

Mytton, in contrast to the elegant Mr. Beaumaris, is a rake. He cares not what society thinks of the state of his Hessians. Which is why he elevated a stable-boy to the rank of valet. It was perhaps an unlucky thing for the boy, who was with Mytton when his four-in-hand, by mistake, turned down a closed road and crashed into a barrier. The valet, riding in the coach with his master, suffered serious injuries. Mytton, as was usually case, came out without a scratch.

In the midst of so much carelessness in Mytton’s service, some fraud was bound to occur. Nimrod was astonished to see a favored servant of Mytton’s roaming aimlessly in Shrewsbury.

“I have left Mr. Mytton’s service,” said the man.

“How so?” observed I, with surprise, knowing him to have been a favourite servant.

Apparently said employee had been induced to change the veterinarian’s bill (is that so wrong?) to pocket the extra change from Mytton’s ever-ready and generous hand. And so he might have gotten away with it but for our man Longueville who discovered the discrepancy. It was Nimrod who interceded for the servant, having always demonstrated good character during his service with a Shrewsbury clergyman. Mytton, in typical fashion, forgave his servant and kicked him back in the servants’ hall with an order to put on his livery.

crash

The Regency Rake: Endurance

Endurance is a particular quality generally associated with rakes. If this brings to mind a certain activity, you may also be aware that one doesn’t have to read above one Regency romance a year to understand the significance of this attribute. However, in polite circles, a rake’s endurance is assessed by his performance in the, er, field.

Hunting field, that is.

Fox covert in Scotland - The copyright on this image is owned by Richard Webb and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license

Fox covert in Scotland – The copyright on this image is owned by Richard Webb and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license

In those days, various groups hunted all throughout England–many more than at present, I daresay. Hunts were organized around the leadership of a well-known figure in the district, or locality–usually a member of the gentry or aristocracy. The range of a hunt might cover hundreds (or more) acres and the terrain could be decidedly rugged. A gentleman’s consequence could be made or broken, given his performance in the field.

“Your father tells me, Miss Marlowe, that you are a notable horsewoman.”

“Does he?” she responded. “Well, he told us you showed him the way with the Heythrop.”

He glanced down quickly at her, but decided, after an instant, that this remark sprang from inanity. “I imagine that I need not tell you that I did no such thing!”

“Oh, no! I am very sure you did not.”

To show anyone the way with a celebrated hunt like the Heythrop (side note: this is the current Prime Minister’s hunt) was high praise indeed. Miss Marlowe in Sylvester, or, The Wicked Uncle, piqued the Duke of Salford when she averred over his ability of riding to hounds.

Heyer at her most clever.

Even as intrepid a heroine as Miss Marlowe would agree there was no more bruising rider than John Mytton. It was said his abilities were known in every county–particularly his endurance. Hunting was the sport that taxed a rider for jumping various obstacles and “often in weather not fit for man nor beast.” In addition to hunting with his own pack, he would hunt with other packs throughout Shropshire.

“During the period of Sir Bellingham Graham hunting Shropshire, (Mytton) performed several gallant feats in the field. Whilst suffering severely from the effects of a fall, and with his right arm in a sling, he rode his favourite hunter, Baronet, over the park paling of the late Lord Berwick..to the astonishment of the whole field–Sir Bellingham himself exclaiming, “Well done, Neck or Nothing; you are not a bad one to breed from.” — Life of Mytton, Nimrod

And now we come full circle.

Lord Derby's Meet

Regency Brothers – The Soldier

Richard, the second oldest brother, was a military man for most of his adult life.

“Well, to own the truth, I’ve never cared for military life above half,” confided Endymion. “But the thing is, Cousin Alverstoke will very likely cut off my allowance, if I sell out, and then, you know, we shall find ourselves obliged to bite on the bridle. Should you object to being a trifle cucumberish? Though I daresay if I took up farming, or breeding horses, or something of that nature, we should find ourselves full of juice.”

another old cover of a marvelous Regency

another old cover of a marvelous Regency

I?” she exclaimed. “Oh, no, indeed! Why, I’ve been cucumberish, as you call it, all my life! But for you it is a different matter! You must not ruin yourself for my sake.”

“It won’t be as bad as that,” he assured her. “My fortune ain’t handsome, but I wasn’t born without a shirt. And if I was to sell out, my cousin couldn’t have me sent abroad.”

“But could he do so now?” she asked anxiously. “Harry says the Life Guards never go abroad, except in time of war.”

Frederica by Georgette Heyer

Endymion was the cousin and heir to the Marquis of Alverstoke, the elegant peer who amused us earlier with his sally about a Baluchistan hound in Regency Dogs. His heir is a young man who feels he is ill-used, despite having a commission in the army purchased for him.

Richard Martin’s family could never hope to have the money to purchase a commission for him. Moreover, he was not well-placed to become a member of the romantic Life Guards Heyer wrote much about:

With white crests and horses’ manes flying, the Life Guards came up at full gallop and crashed upon the cuirassiers in flank. The earth seemed to shudder beneath the shock. The Hyde Park soldiers never drew rein, but swept the cuirassiers from the bank, and across the hollow road in the irresistible impetus of their charge.

An Infamous Army: A Novel of Love, War, Wellington and Waterloo by Georgette Heyer

Richard settled in the enlisted ranks of the First Foot Guards. His regiment was not as prestigious as the Life, but it performed with the greatest distinction in the Peninsular War, as reported in the Grenadier Guards website:

Sir John Moore - "you know I always wished to die this way."

Sir John Moore – “you know I always wished to die this way.”

In the autumn and winter of 1808 they took part in Sir John Moore’s classic march and counter-march against Napoleon in Northern Spain and, when under the terrible hardships encountered on the retreat across the wild Galician mountains the tattered, footsore troops, tested almost beyond endurance, showed signs of collapse, the 1st Foot Guards, with their splendid marching discipline, lost fewer men by sickness and desertion than any other unit in the Army.

Subsequently they took part in the battle of Corunna and when Sir John Moore fell mortally wounded in the hour of victory it was men of the 1st Foot Guards who bore him, dying, from the field.

The Grenadiers got their name when they defeated the Grenadiers of the French Imperial Guard, the best and brightest of Napoleon’s troops, flung as a last-ditch effort into the fray at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Back in England, Richard retired and published a volume of poetry and some pamphlets. His only daughter made what was considered a brilliant marriage, bringing the Keeper of Printed Books of the British Museum up to scratch.

We don’t know much beyond that, besides John’s bitter account that Richard was always applying to him for money.

This must have come as a severe disappointment. When he was in the army, Richard had risen through the ranks to become Quartermaster Sargeant, a non-commissioned officer. It was largely a ceremonious position, but John was confounded as to why his brother had been appointed to watch over the Government’s assets when he could scarcely keep track of his own.

Physician to the Regency

Georgette Heyer's Cotillion

I love these old covers. This one is from the 70s, I think.

“Ermine or chincilla with blue, Meg! Sables never show to advantage!”

By the time this point was fully argued, news was brought to Lady Legerwood that the doctor had arrived, whereupon, after hurriedly commending Kitty to her daughter’s care, she hurried away, bent on convincing the worthy physician that certain unfavorable symptoms, which had manifested themselves during the night, made it advisable for him to call in Sir Henry Halford, to prescribe for Edmund.

As the family doctor, a rising man, was at daggers-drawn with the eel-backed baronet, it did not seem probable that she would be seen again for some appreciable time.

——— Cotillion, by Georgette Heyer

Sir Henry Halford (1766 – 1844), was considered the foremost physician to the ton during the Regency.

He was born Henry Vaughan but changed his name by an Act of Parliament to Halford, anticipating a substantial inheritance from the original Halford family.

Sir Henry Halford (looking over the voucher list for Almack's, I'll warrant)

Sir Henry Halford (looking over the voucher list for Almack’s, I’ll warrant)

It was his connections and smooth manners that recommended him and not his skill as a practitioner. It didn’t hurt that he was also married to Elizabeth, the daughter of John St John, 12th Baron St John of Bletsoe. He managed to snag a position as doctor to the Royal Family and was on hand to take custody of the 4th vertebra of Charles I, which still bore marks of the ax.

Ms. Heyer knew her character well. Contemporaries called the good doctor that “eel-backed baronet in consequence of his deep and oft-repeated bows.”

Regency Cicisbeo

love that 60's cover!

When Hero “Kitten” Wantage enters the ballroom at Almack’s on the arm of Lord George Wrotham, a man who is decidedly not her husband, Miss Milborne finds this circumstance positively lowering.

You see, George was her beau.  Yet he was on the arm of a married woman.

 “The dreadful suspicion that the passion her admirers declared themselves to feel for her was nothing more than an evanescent emotion, soon recovered from, could not be stifled, and made Miss Milborne wretched indeed.  She waited for George to come across the room to her side, which he would surely do as soon as another man relieved him of the charge of Hero.  Hero was led on to the floor by Marmaduke Fakenham to dance the waltz; George strolled away to exchange greetings with a group of his friends.  Miss Milborne, too mortified to remember that she had refused to receive him when he had called to pay her a morning visit, could only suppose that his passion for her had burnt itself out…

‘I observe,’ said Mrs. Milborne on the way home, ‘that our little friend (Hero) has lost no time in acquiring a cicisbeo!  Well!  I wish her joy of young Wrotham!  He seemed to me to be quite epris in that direction….’

Friday’s Child, Georgette Heyer

What is a cicisbeo?

They are sometimes called cavalier servente.  That is, a gallant servant.

The Archetype of a Cavalier

Hmmm.  I quite like the boots.  Are they expensive?

The first usage of the term cicisbeo was found in some correspondence from the British ambassador’s wife during her travels.  In 1749, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu wrote to Lady Pomfret (which is also the term for a species of fish) of an unknown lady and her escort, an abbot from Genoa.  He was both witty and learned “in a very ugly form.”  Not quite the compliment one initially expects but there is much worse to come:

“I hear (he is) declared her cicisbeo in all forms, poor man!  He must be in the same situation with Mr. Southcote, when my Lady Townshend figured him in the body of old Cleveland, like Van Trump, lost in an ocean neither side nor bottom!”

Good heavens.  I daresay her ladyship of Pomfret was confounded by the ambiguous nature of this correspondence.  I know I was.

After some study, I divined the following meaning:  cicisbeo is the male attendant of a female who stands in the place of her husband.  The man of the cloth was considered more than just the unknown lady’s acquaintance.  And Southcote was apparently Lady Townshend’s man while in public, hence the term “in the body” of her living husband, the second duke of Cleveland.

Leaving aside further speculation on that particular emphasis on body, we can also deduce that this occupation was rather frustrating.  For the man.

Indeed, what can be more pointless or exhausting than being lost in a body of water that has no bottom or end?

I find it ironic that the romantic poet Byron should hate the notion of the cicisbeo.  Yet apparently he had experience in the matter.  He was cicisbeo to an Italian contessa.

This is an excerpt on the matter from his poem Beppo.

Besides, within the Alps, to every woman, ( Although, God knows, it is a grievous sin, )

‘Tis, I may say, permitted to have two men; I can’t tell who first brought the custom in,

But “Cavalier Serventes” are quite common, And no one notices nor cares a pin;

And we may call this ( not to say the worst ) A second marriage which corrupts the first.

Two men at once.  The very idea!  Dashed bad ton, you may be sure.