The answers were diverse: blackmail, love, the thought of making more (greed), hope of getting married.
I chose lust.
I might be wrong but when I read the biographies of other famous women of the time period (late-Victorian era or Gilded Age) I found a familiar theme: seemingly competent, well-to-do women who had everything going for them, fell for men that were not only rakes but abusive as well. I modeled my plot line on the biography of a couple of them.
The famous French actress, Sarah Bernhardt was a good example. I found a biography written about her in 1921 by a fellow actress. Indeed, the author of the biography, Madam Berton, was the wife of Sarah’s former lover, mentor, and the man that discovered and launched Sarah’s career - Pierre Berton.
Bernhardt’s biographer claims Damala made a game out of demeaning Sarah; criticizing what she wore, how she spoke, even her acting. She would become enraged, he would leave her and wait until she came to him. Indeed, he would state publicly that he “had Sarah on her knees last night, begging for forgiveness.” Hard to believe that a woman as famous as Sarah Bernhardt would allow herself to be treated this way?
Lillie had a number of lovers after her affair with the Prince waned and she became pregnant by a man other than her husband Edward. Although her relationship with the Prince of Wales ended on a sour note because of a prank she pulled on him at a dinner party (she put an ice-cube down his back); Prince Bertie does help her launch a theater production company. When she was finally able to rid herself of Edward through divorce, she started up a relationship with an American socialite named Freddie Gebhard.
Freddie introduced her to racing horses and they became business partners. She seemed to do well for a number of years with Freddie as her partner and then she married a titled Scotsman named Hugo de Bathe. Various biographies claim the marriage was unsuccessful, one claiming he physically abused her.
"Your mother exceedingly regrets you accepted a jeweled cross from Count Seguin de La Salle..she does wish you had refused it...he would have far greater respect for you if you had done so."
Ella Durant was an author and American heiress who was living and socializing with literary figures such as Anne Thackeray Ritchie, Henry James, Oscar Wilde, and Bram Stoker in London during the late 1880s. What would it have been like to have money at her disposal, cavorting around London and managing financial affairs on her own? Wouldn’t she be prey to men who would want to take advantage of her beauty and wealth? And what would be the enticement? I went with lust. The most basic of human instincts. And one that has proven to be the downfall for many famous figures throughout history.
Photo Source: Wikimeida, Winterthur Musuem