The miseries of love: a catalogue of Regency-era dilemmas

One endlessly funny book of the early nineteenth century is The Miseries of Human Life by James Beresford. It was published in 1806, offering a compilation of the ‘petty outrages, minor humiliations, and tiny discomforts that make up everyday human existence’. Whether the fictional authors were bemoaning sitting on a cat, the horrors of an over-buttered sandwich, graffiti on bedroom window panes, missing your mouth when swigging beer or ducks that quack too loudly, they certainly did so with gusto, and according to the Gentleman’s Magazine Beresford ‘acquired very considerable literary celebrity’ as a result.

And so, for your delectation, I have gleaned some of the best Miseries relating to amorous affairs in the Georgian era.

1. When you can’t get the attention of the pretty waitress/barmaid




2. Losing out to a rival (and looking jolly silly into the bargain)




3. Being continually interrupted by the servant when you are declaring your love



4. Other people defacing window-panes with the names of people they fancy (now usurped by scrawls on public toilet doors)



5. Clumsy flirting leaving you both splattered with mud**



** Definition of ‘beau-trap’ from Grose’s Dictionary (1811): ‘A loose stone in a pavement, under which water lodges, and on being trod upon, squirts it up, to the great damage of white stockings; also a sharper neatly dressed, lying in wait for raw country squires, or ignorant fops.’


6. When the local interfering gossip figures out who you fancy



7. When you spend ages getting excited for a social event because the girl you like is also going, and then she doesn’t even turn up



8. Getting stuck in the middle of an arguing couple




9a & b. Being entirely unable to seduce a woman because of your sloppy-looking neckcloth, or dodgy hairdo




10. When you have a cold and kissing the ladies becomes an altogether more troublesome business 


Prints courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library


3 thoughts on “The miseries of love: a catalogue of Regency-era dilemmas

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  1. Is it passe to say “nothing has changed”? The reasons to not meddle with married couple’s quarrels was particularly AMUSING!

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