WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Lombard Fever

One of my favorite words is “ennui.” It’s the requisite Regency novel term to use when describing the impetus behind the rakish hero suddenly noticing the different, thinking-for-herself, heroine.

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, by Richard Westall, 1813, National Portrait Gallery.

It’s the requisite Regency novel term to use when describing the impetus behind the stifled heroine plotting to break free of her societal restraints in small fashion, usually catching the eye of the aforementioned rake in the process.

Sweets to the Sweet by Edmund Blair Leighton, public domain.

Ennui means a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement (according to the oracle Google). I also enjoy its synonyms: lassitude, languor, lethargy, listlessness.

Nymphs Listening to the Songs of Orpheus by Charles Francois Jalabert, 1853, Walters Art Museum.

As it seems the majority of substitutes must start with an “L,” it’s only fitting the slang equivalent does as well.

Lombard Fever

Sick of the lombard fever; i.e. of the idles.

A portrait of Lord Granville Leveson-Gower, later 1st Earl Granville , at the time of his mission to Saint Petersburg, c. 1804–1809, by Thomas Lawrence.

This gentleman with the vacant eyes, the future 1st Earl Granville, was said to be as boring as he looked. Historian David Wetzel, in A Duel of Giants, writes Granville “was a drab figure, the original stuffed-shirt – starch outside, sawdust within.” Which goes a long way to explaining why the original, original stuffed shirt, one William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire (or Notorious DoD, if you prefer), favored the man with the hand of his daughter, Lady Harriet. Granville was likely a man after Devonshire’s own heart: both men were renowned for their infamous affaires de cœur – Devonshire with Lady Elizabeth Foster (his wife’s best friend) and Granville with his future wife’s own aunt, Henrietta, Countess of Bessborough.

The Hostage by Edmund Blair Leighton, 1912, public domain

In modern parlance, rather than labeling tedium as ‘ennui,’ or even the far less glamorous ‘boredom,’ we would issue instead a flurry of memes emblazoned with the byline ‘I just can’t.’ And this poor lady below is perhaps the can’t-ious of all just can’ts.

Contemplation by Félix Armand Heullant, 1905, Düsseldorfer Auktionshaus.


  • Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
  • If you’re a war history fan, and I am (thanks, dad!), David Wetzel wrote a fantastic book about Bismark, Napoleon III, and the origins of the Franco-Prussian War, called A Duel of Giants. He traces the roots of the conflict throughout European History.
  • I would look up a source to give you for my information on Granville and Devonshire, but what I’ve written is simply information I’ve picked up along life’s road. And really, the men are not worth the effort.