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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What Made Willoughby a Scoundrel?


Austen’s villains, such as Willoughby, could be considered villains even by our modern-day standards. Willoughby was a man who abandoned girl after girl for want of a richer bride. But what was it that made Willoughby a scoundrel by the standards of Regency society, and resulted in a scandal?


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In Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, Jennifer Kloester writes that it was acceptable for a Regency gentleman to have several affairs before and after marriage, as long as he played the part of a responsible husband and father. “Only a scoundrel…would stoop to seducing a respectable girl of good family and subsequently deserting her and their bastard child. …society perceived his sin not in having fathered an illegitimate infant or having multiple affairs but in his not providing for the child.” (p.48)

So, according to the rules of Regency society, it was just about acceptable for a man to be a libertine, but not to ignore his moral duty, which is what ultimately labelled Willoughby as a scoundrel.


  1. Libertine, lovely word, Anna. Men today and in my youth certainly can't hold their hands up in horror at Willoughby. We all have a little bit of Willoughby in our souls and perhaps our behaviour.

    We can't be too idealistic about these things.

    Have a great day,

    Ps I'm NOT condoning producing illegitimate children all over the place,I mean our impulses leading our heads.
    This is coming out all wrong now Anna.

    What must you think of me? Well I AM responsible, I am just saying the way things are. I've three daughters and a wonderful wife after all.

  2. Just a thought or two Anna. I hope you don't think I mean it's Ok to sleep around. NO, it's not that. What I mean, a little flirting, a twinkle in the eye, a well placed smile and a tiny crumb or two of lust goes a long way and warms up many situations. People can like each other with a twinkle in their eye surely, Anna??

    That's all I meant.

    Oh my GOD!! I've really got myself into it now.

  3. @Tony: Indeed! Libertine is the word used by Willoughby in his confession to Elinor towards the end of the book.

    But yes, by the Regency etiquette, most modern men would certainly count as libertines (and I'm not taking a moral stance here!), hehe!


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