'Skittles' and the Marquis - A Victorian Love Affair

A budding front-bench politician and his mistress ... not a tract for our times but an 1860s relationship recovered and reconstructed from love letters by the politician's biographer, Patrick Jackson.

When I wrote recently a biography of Lord Hartington, the nineteenth-century Liberal politician, I referred only briefly to his love affair with the courtesan Catherine Walters ('Skittles'). The book was intended mainly as a political biography and at the time I was writing it the existing accounts of the affair were based largely on gossip and guesswork.

The recent donation to the Chatsworth archives of over 200 letters from Hartington to Skittles has changed the situation, and I am grateful to the Duke of Devonshire for allowing me to quote from the correspondence, which provides a valuable insight into mid-Victorian social life, as well as an almost day by day account of an unexpectedly intense personal relationship.

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