by Mary Jo Putney
A rake is usually portrayed as a man whose physical attributes can only be outdone by his prowess in the bedroom and his charm with the ladies. The ladies want him and the gentlemen want to be him. Of course, usually some of those same gentlemen end up envying him for those attributes mentioned above, and others would prefer to get rid of him when their wives or mistresses share their admiration.
Nevertheless, to qualify as a rake a gentleman must have other skills. He must not care what others think or say about him, his wit must be as incomparably sharp as his sense of fashion and his superb knowledge of cattle. A rake is a risk-taker, and that often leads to gambling, horse races, and dueling. Adulation and emulation is also part of his daily life and the ton's young bucks usually flutter around him like bees around a flower. Womanizing, gambling, dueling, racing, drinking, and making the rounds make up the life of a rake. Visiting the right bedrooms, keeping the right mistress, and having enough pounds to finance this lifestyle is a 'must.'
These gentlemen usually begin following this life style early in life while they wait for their fathers, uncles, grandfathers, or nearest relatives to die off so they can inherit a title, or marry and live off allowances from their families until the title comes along.
But what happens if after years of "raking" and sowing wild oats there is no title, no wife, and no fortune? What happens when all those great expectations promised by society or family are dashed? What happens to a rake after years pass and there is nothing but more women, more duels, more gambling, and more drink? Then he becomes Reginald Davenport, the "Despair of the Davenports," a thirty-nine year old wastrel, The Rake.
Davenport was a complicated man, one who could act with both heroism and villainy, though he was neither hero nor villain. A man who, while not old, was certainly not young; who had the recklessness to create problems for himself, and the honesty to admit when he had done so. [...] he was fair and compassionate in his dealing with those around him.
He was also very much alone.There are many versions of the rake -- the much admired and reformed womanizer or the charmer is the most popular version. With Reginal Davenport, the author explores the intimate, personal reasoning behind such a life, as well as how society's influence encouraged and created the rake. After having read many a version of this popular character as a hero or anti-hero, to date Reginald Davenport is the most complete, complex version of a rake I have encountered, placing him firmly on my list of memorable characters.