top of page


A look at the reputation of rakes

Rakes: the most or least sought after of gentlemen?

Despite their popularity in historical romances, rakes were the least popular men of the Georgian era, not likely to be invited to balls or parties of any kind, let alone allowed over the threshold of a respectable household.

The curious aspect about rakes was their reputations were not always as lovers, which is how we see them cast in historical romances. To earn this undesirable moniker of RAKE, only needed only to be unmarried after 30.

Regardless if a gentleman wanted to be married or not, his key into society with a rich social life, party-filled schedule, mixed-company dinners, and reputation as a virile man (and possibly a renowned lover) was marriage.

Only through marriage could his reputation win favour, and only by then having a large brood of children could he prove himself a desirable and virile man.

The unmarried gentlemen over 30 were often blackballed by society, even if they were staid with no rakish tendencies. One earned the reputation merely by remaining a bachelor.

Interestingly, not only do we see in historical romances the desirable young lovers thought of as rakes, but we also see the over 30 bachelors who are thought of as respectable but unreachable--the Darcies of the lit world. Neither is true of the era. In the era, a "rake" was an unmarried gentleman over 30, who was then blackballed by society, and anyone below 30 who behaved admonishingly or who we often think of as rakish would, too, be blackballed, never allowed to attend social events, much less to have access to young ladies for seduction or love.

Either way we look at it, rakes would never be mingling with the young ladies, at least not once known. There were, of course, those like Mr Wickham, who were rakes but not known as such to society, and so able to get up to mischief for quite some time before being discovered for the blackguards they are.

bottom of page