“Conscience is no more than the dead speaking to us” ― Jim Carroll
In the days of yore, handsome young gentlemen of breeding couldn’t just swipe on elitesingles.com to get a date. They had to do it the old fashioned way by say, stealing the mistress of a Grand Duke. I can’t in good conscience recommend stealing anything from a Grand Duke, as obviously there is a lot of ego involved, since just being a regular Duke was considered insufficiently uplifting. Consider asking for a “Grand” prefix on your next job title. See how it works for you. You might even get a mistress out of it. Sadly, you’ll then have to worry about some younger, bolder creature successfully courting her affections. And these things never end well. In our high technology world, we have to worry about the specter of hackers stealing the Ashley Madison client database. In the 17th Century, you were more likely to be concerned that a spurned mistress might up and haunt you. Consider the cautionary example of the brash and ill-fated Caisho Burroughs.
In the early 17th Century, King Charles I of England sent attendant and court official Sir John Burroughs as an ambassadorial envoy to the court of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand. Sir John took his eldest son Caisho with him on a tour of Italy as he made his way to his new posting, electing to leave young Caisho in Florence to work on improving his command of the Italian language. Caisho, evidently overcome by the romance of Florentine life, made the ill-advised choice of falling madly in love with the Florentine Grand Duke’s mistress, who reciprocated his affections. It doesn’t take much imagination to see where this is going. Ducal street cred tends to suffer when they get out-suaved by English adolescents, or so I’m told, having little personal experience with either British youth or Italian aristocrats. The amorous affair of Caisho and the Duke’s courtesan was apparently the subject of much gossip. A little too much, in point of fact.
Whilst residing in the Tuscan capital, young Burroughs fell passionately in love with a beautiful courtesan, a mistress of the Grand Duke. At last their intimacy became so notorious that it came to the Grand Duke’s ears, and he, it is alleged, grew so jealous that he formed the design of having Caisho assassinated. Warned by some of the English residents in Florence of the fate awaiting him, the young man hastily left the city, without even acquainting his mistress of his intended departure. When the Grand Duke found himself balked of his anticipated vengeance on his rival, he vented his spite on his mistress, “in most reproachful language,” and she, on her side, “resenting the sudden departure of her gallant, of whom she was most passionately enamored, killed herself” (Ingram, 1884, p299-300).
It’s like Romeo and Juliet, but in this case, Romeo got out of Dodge. By the time his heartbroken paramour had offed herself, Caisho was happily ensconced in his London lodgings, free from the threat of angry Italian dukes and no doubt impressing the ladies with his skill in speaking Italian. Of course, she wasn’t about to go quietly. Mere death doesn’t necessarily mitigate the fury of a woman scorned by multiple lovers. Immediately upon her death, Caisho (who was considered one of the most beautiful men in England, but proud and bloodthirsty) began to experience visitations by her apparition, complete with castigations and dire predictions of his ultimate fate.
At the same moment that she expired, she did appear to Caisho, at his lodgings in London; Colonel Remes was then in bed with him, who saw her as well as he; giving him an account of her resentments of his ingratitude to her, in leaving her so suddenly, and exposing her to the fury of the Duke, not omitting her own tragical exit, adding withal, that he should be slain in a duel, which accordingly happened; and thus she appeared to him frequently, even when his younger brother (who afterwards was Sir John) was in bed with him. As often as she did appear, he would cry out with great shrieking, and trembling of his body, as anguish of mind, saying, O God! here she comes, she comes, and at this rate she appeared till he was killed; she appeared to him the morning before he was killed (Aubrey, 1857, p75).
The English, no less impressed than the Italians with the sordid details of Caisho’s romantic exploits in Tuscany, and now aware that the spurned and phantom mistress was tormenting him to add a little extra spice to the story, considered this a popular topic of discussion. Eventually, it came to the attention of King Charles I who demanded an investigation.
The story was so common, that King Charles I sent for Caisho Burroughs’ father, whom he examined as to the truth of the matter; who did, together with Colonel Remes, aver the matter of fact to be true, so that the King thought it worth his while to send to Florence to enquire at what time this unhappy lady killed herself: it was found to be the same minute that she first appeared to Caisho, being a-bed with Colonel Remes. This relation I had from my worthy friend Mr. Morsoif, who had it from Sir John’s own mouth, brother of Caisho: He had also the same account from his own father, who was intimately acquainted with old Sir John Burroughs and both his sons, and says, as often as Caisho related this, he wept bitterly” (Classical Journal, 1825, p226-227).
Caisho Burroughs was indeed eventually killed in a duel, presumably, given his past track record, by the cuckolded husband of a new mistress. This is really the kind of thing they invented dueling for. Now, I’m not saying you should turn down the opportunity to get yourself a mistress, just pointing out that there might be a tiny bit more at stake than heartbreak or divorce. As Lord Byron, the noted expert on romance and mistresses once said, “A mistress never is nor can be a friend. While you agree, you are lovers; and when it is over, anything but friends”.
Aubrey, John, 1626-1697. Miscellanies Upon Various Subjects. 4th ed. London: J. R. Smith, 1857.
Ingram, John Henry, 1842-1916. The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain. London: W.H. Allen & co., 1884.
“Observations on Hades”. The Classical Journal v31. [S.l.: s.n.], 1825.