Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Austen Alumni at the National

Last year I was lucky enough see The Seagull at Chichester not once but twice. This marvellous production took my breath away and is without a doubt the finest play I have ever seen, with a cast and staging to die for. The Seagull is coming to the National Theatre this summer with Platonov and Ivanov as part of the Young Chekhov season. Among the cast are plenty of Austen alumni including the wonderful Adrian Lukis (who teated me to wine and whitebait during my Chichester Chekhov pilgrimage), Anna Chancellor and Peter Egan.

Don't miss the remarkable trilogy.


The Chichester Festival Theatre productions
YOUNG CHEKHOV Olivier Theatre
Previews from 14 July, press day 3 August, booking until 3 September with further performances to be announced. 

The YOUNG CHEKHOV trilogy opened to overwhelming acclaim at Chichester Festival
Theatre last year. The company now come to the National, offering a unique chance to explore the birth of a revolutionary dramatic voice. The production is directed by Jonathan Kent, with set designs by Tom Pye, costumes by Emma Ryott, lighting by Mark Henderson, music by Jonathan Dove, sound by Paul Groothuis and fight direction by Paul Benzing. Performed by one ensemble of actors, each play can be seen as a single performance over different days or as a thrilling all-day theatrical experience. Cast includes Emma Amos, Pip Carter, Anna Chancellor, Jonathan Coy, Mark Donald, Peter Egan, Col Farrell, Beverley Klein, Adrian Lukis, Des McAleer, James McArdle, Mark Penfold, Nina Sosanya, Geoffrey Streatfeild, Sarah Twomey, David Verrey, Olivia Vinall and Jade Williams. 

David Hare has written over thirty original plays, including The Power of Yes, Gethsemane, Stuff Happens, The Permanent Way (a co-production with Out of Joint), Amy’s View, Skylight, The Secret Rapture, The Absence of War, Murmuring Judges, Racing Demon, Pravda (written with Howard Brenton) and Plenty for the National Theatre. His other work includes South Downs (Chichester Festival Theatre and West End), The Judas Kiss (Hampstead and West End) and The Moderate Soprano (Hampstead). His adaptations include Behind the Beautiful Forevers and The House of Bernarda Alba at the NT, The Blue Room (Donmar and Broadway) and The Master Builder (The Old Vic).

Jonathan Kent’s productions for the NT include Emperor and Galilean, Oedipus and The False Servant.  Previous productions at Chichester Festival Theatre include Gypsy (also West End) A Month in the Country, Sweeney Todd and Private Lives (also West End). As joint artistic director, with Ian McDiarmid, of the Almeida Theatre for over ten years, his productions included Ivanov, The Tempest, Medea (also West End and Broadway), Richard II and Coriolanus (Almeida at Gainsborough Studios), Phèdre, Britannicus and Plenty (Almeida at the Albery Theatre) and Lulu, Platonov and King Lear (Almeida at King’s Cross).  In 2008 he directed Marguerite, The Sea and The Country Wife at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket.

Schoolteacher Mikhail Platonov has a problem – he’s irresistible to women. Set in the blazing heat of a rural summer, this freewheeling comedy is a cry of youthful defiance against the compromises of middle age. Previews from 14 July, press day 30 July. 

Nikolai Ivanov is only 35, a radical and a romantic, but already he’s feeling that he’s thrown his life away. Determined not to become a small-town Hamlet, he hopes one last desperate romance may save him from a society rotten with anti-Semitism and drink. This electric play is powered both by hilarious satire and passionate self-disgust. Previews from 19 July, press day 30 July.

The Seagull

On a summer’s day in a makeshift theatre by a lake, Konstantin’s cutting-edge new play is performed, changing the lives of everyone involved forever. Chekhov’s masterly meditation on how the old take revenge on the young is both comic and tragic, and marks the birth of the modern stage. Previews from 23 July, press day 3 August. 

Monday, 27 June 2016

The Long Weekend

Once in a while, one is lucky enough to find a book that is quite simply breathtaking; it pulls you into another world and keeps you there, immersed in a time long-since gone. Adrian Tinniswood's magnificent, The Long Weekend, is one such book. It is a definitive and unique work on life in the English country house between the wars and I really can't recommend it enough. Everyone should read this stunning work!

The Long Weekend 
Life in the English Country House Between the Wars 
Adrian Tinniswood 

Published 2nd June 2016 | Jonathan Cape | £25 | Hardback | eBook also available 

The definitive social history of England’s stately homes, by the acclaimed social and architectural historian Adrian Tinniswood. 

Containing over 60 illustrations. 

There is nothing quite as beautiful as an English country house in the summer. And there has never been a summer quite like that Indian summer between the two world wars, a period of gentle decline in which the sun set slowly on the British Empire and the shadows lengthened on the lawns of a thousand stately homes. 

Real life in the country house during the 1920s and 1930s was not always so sunny. By turns opulent and ordinary, noble and vicious, its shadows were darker. In The Long Weekend, Adrian Tinniswood uncovers the truth about a world half-forgotten, draped in myth and hidden behind stiff upper lips and film-star smiles. 

Drawing on hundreds of memoirs, on unpublished letters and diaries, on the eye-witness testimonies of belted earls and unhappy heiresses and bullying butlers, The Long Weekend gives a voice to the people who inhabited this world. 

In a definitive social history which combines anecdote and narrative with scholarship, it brings the stately homes of England to life, giving readers an insight into the guilt and the gingerbread, and showing how the image of the country house was carefully protected by its occupants above and below stairs, and how the reality was so much more interesting than the dream. 

Adrian Tinniswood is the author of fourteen books of social and architectural history. A Senior Research Fellow at the University of Buckingham and a Visiting Fellow in Heritage and History at Bath Spa University, he has worked for and with the National Trust at local, regional and national level for more than thirty years. In 2013 he was awarded an OBE for services to heritage. 

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet

It's my pleasure to host Caitlin Williams today to celebrate the release of The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet. Don't miss the giveaway beneath Caitlin's fabulous and scandalous post and please join me in wishing Caitlin a very happy birthday for today too!


“I am proud to say that I have a very good eye at an Adultress,” 
Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra on 12 May 1801
Did you hear the rumor that Fitzwilliam Darcy, one of Austen’s most principled and honorable heroes, was once involved in an outrageous scandal during his lifetime? Well, not actually Austen’s fictitious character himself, but the man that one scholar believes was the inspiration for Austen’s beloved character, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire. Dr. Susan Law asserts that Austen’s wildly popular hero was based on the intense, charming and somewhat controversial, 1st Earl of Morley, John Parker.  
Dr. Susan Law
Dr. Susan Law
Dr. Susan Law, who has spent a lot of time during recent years investigating scandals from long ago throughout England, says that Jane Austen spent time at the Earl's home in Saltram House in Plymouth, Devon, during a period when she wrote “Pride and Prejudice,” in the early 1800s. The Earl's second wife, Francis, was also known to be a very close friend of Jane Austen.
Earl of Morley, John Parker and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy (images courtesy of National Portrait gallery and BBC)                            (Image via National Portrait Gallery)
Earl of Morley, John Parker and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy
(images courtesy of National Portrait gallery and BBC)
However, before he became acquainted with Francis, the brooding and handsome, 1st Earl of Morley, John Parker, was embroiled in a sordid sex scandal that led to a divorce for his first marriage. The Earl of Morley sued his first wife, Lady Augusta Fane, for adultery after she eloped with a family friend, after finding out he had three illegitimate sons by his married mistress, Dr. Law’s book reveals.
Saltram House, where Austen stayed when she wrote parts of Pride & Prejudice
Saltram House, where Austen stayed when
she wrote parts of Pride & Prejudice
His divorce became widely circulated amongst the press and led to a media frenzy, making it likely that Jane Austen was well aware of the scandal. "The original adultery is generally believed to have been behind the adultery plot in Mansfield Park,” claims Dr. Law, a journalist and historian, who spent five years researching her book,  Through the Keyhole: Sex, Scandal and the Secret Life of the Country House, which involved the process of unearthing old letters, diaries and newspapers, including many hours spent in archives reading material on John Parker, the 1st Earl of Morley.

John Parker, 1st Earl of Morley                     Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, BBC
John Parker, 1st Earl of Morley                     Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, BBC

Dr. Law says “We don't have the concrete evidence, but I have discovered there were a lot of rumors about at the time and it is a convincing argument. There is a massive intriguing web around it.” For Austen fans, it’s almost scandalous to think that her most famous and proper hero may be based on a man formerly involved in such an outrageous scandal during his lifetime.
"It is clear that Jane Austen had very close links with the family. She sent Frances one of the first editions of Emma - when she only had 12 printed, states Susan Law. It is also known that Jane Austen's brother, Henry, was also a university friend of the Earl of Morley. They were contemporaries and he then become a banker to his regiment and later the domestic chaplain to the Earl of Morley's family. Even though we can’t say with 100% certainty that Ms. Austen based Mr. Darcy’s character on the 1st Earl of Morley, isn’t it fun imagining the possibilities?
Jane Austen

Yet, Jane Austen herself was no stranger to scandal; after all, her lifetime took place during an era that became known as the Age of Scandal. Even as clergymen were preaching about the virtues of fidelity and morality, citizens of the Regency era were well aware that adulterous relationships were taking place throughout the country, including amongst the royals, the peers and peeresses of the realm, admirals as famous as Lord Nelson himself, society hostesses, and politicians. Was it any wonder that even Parliament became concerned about these behaviors and passed several laws in an attempt to curtail the amount of scandals erupting throughout England?

From the very first volume of The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet, Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves facing the threat of a looming scandal. Due to both of their hasty actions, rumors are swirling throughout the ton regarding both of them, leaving them to speculate about what can be done to maintain both of their reputations? However, once it becomes clear that a scandal may be inevitable, they find themselves forced to make a life-altering decision. What becomes of their young lives once this decision is made provides the backdrop for this coming-of-age story, told through four poignant volumes filled with delicious tension, youthful indiscretions and a love story that will leave any Pride and Prejudice fan longing for more… Can the threat of a scandal lead anyone to everlasting happiness?

I want to say thank you to everyone who followed Caitlin Williams’ first blog tour! It’s been amazing reading each and every comment from her readers and it’s been a thrill for me to support such a mesmerizing and romantic story that takes us back to Darcy and Elizabeth’s earlier years. However, today, I also wanted to wish Caitlin Williams a very “Happy Birthday” and encourage her to relax and savor the hard work and achievement that she’s been part of for the last several months. When she said “Yes” to a blog tour, I had no idea I would have the honor of working with such a gracious, kind and humble person. Whatever is coming your way in the future, I will ardently support and admire you! With fond regards, Claudine 

Fullerton, Susannah, Jane Austen and Adultery

“The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet”

About the Book
The very worst has happened. Mr Bennet has died, leaving his wife and five young daughters bereft. The family estate, Longbourn, is now lost, entailed away and fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Bennet is to go two hundred miles away to live with strangers. George Darcy, repaying a debt of gratitude, has offered to take her to Pemberley, to live under the mantle of his care and be raised alongside his own daughter, Georgiana.

But on the day she is to leave Longbourn forever, young Elizabeth, grieving and confused, runs off into the Hertfordshire countryside. Fitzwilliam Darcy gives chase, telling his father he will have her back in an hour or two. Luck and fate, however, are not on his side and capturing Elizabeth Bennet turns out not only to be more difficult than he could ever have imagined, but events conspire to turn her little adventure into his worst nightmare.

The prideful man and the girl prejudiced against him, meet much earlier in this rethinking of Jane Austen’s masterpiece. Elizabeth grows up under the ever-watchful eye of Mr Darcy, from fifteen to twenty-one.  She errs and falters, there are stumbles and trips, but could this ‘disobedient little hellion’ one day become mistress of Pemberley and the keeper of his heart?

Meet the Author
Caitlin Williams lives in Kent, England, with her family. She fell in love with all things Regency as a teenager, but particularly admires the work of Jane Austen and the way she masterfully combines humour and romance, while weaving them through such wonderful stories and characters.

Pride and Prejudice is Caitlin’s favourite novel and she finds Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet so deliciously entertaining that she likes to borrow them from Ms Austen and enjoys the challenge of putting them in different places and situations. 

Her debut novel, Ardently, was written as a hobby, usually with her laptop balanced on the kitchen worktop, typing with one hand, a glass of wine in the other, while she also attempted to cook dinner and keep her children from killing each other. The success of Ardently was as much a surprise to her, as it was to anyone else, and she has been thrilled and genuinely thankful for the positive responses and reviews it generated.

Her second novel, The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet, is a portrait of a much younger Elizabeth, who is thrown into an extraordinary set of circumstances due to the premature death of Mr Bennet, and she hopes you all enjoy it very much.

June 13/ My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post/“Happy Birthday Fanny Burney & The Coming Of Age Of Elizabeth Bennet” & Giveaway
June 14/ So Little Time... / Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 15/ Just Jane 1813/An Exclusive Interview with Caitlin Williams
June 16/ Pemberley to Milton/Book Review & Giveaway
June 17/ Margie's Must Reads/ Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 18/ The Calico Critic/Book Review & Giveaway
June 19/ Babblings of a Bookworm/“The Education of a Young Lady” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 20/ Half Agony, Half Hope/Book Review
June 21/ More Agreeably Engaged/ Book Review & Giveaway
June 22/ My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice /Book Excerpt & Giveaway
June 23/ Liz's Reading Life / “A Nod and A Wink to Austen” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 24/ Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review
June 25/ Laughing With Lizzie/ “The Young Master” Guest Post & Giveaway
June 26/ A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life/ “A Most Scandalous” Guest Post

Written content of this post copyright © Caitlin Williams, 2016.


Saturday, 25 June 2016

The Salon's Third Birthday!

FragonardOn 28th June, the salon celebrates its third anniversary and what a wonderful three years it has been. 

My book, Life in the Georgian Court, is out on 30th June and to each and every one of you, thank you for visiting my site and being a part of this whirlwind three years. During that time I have signed a book contract, worked with an actor I have admired for twenty years, started an online novel and made some marvellous friends. You have truly helped to make a dream come true and for that, I am more thankful than I can ever say.

Don't miss my latest project, The Dead London Chronicles. Taking the chapbook approach, a free chapter is published each week at the website or you can download the collected ebook volumes absolutely free every month from Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords and a range of other ebook retailers.

I'm just wrapping up my second book of royal tales, for release in March 2017... have a glorious Georgian day!


Friday, 24 June 2016

‘On This Day in 1816’: The Bicentenary of Frankenstein’s Composition

‘On This Day in 1816’: The Bicentenary of Frankenstein’s Composition

A public reading of Romantic poetry and prose to be held at the Keats-Shelley House, Rome, on Saturday 23rd July 2016 (start time 18:30).

The same event will also be held at King’s Manor, University of York on Thursday 14th July 2016 (start time 19:00).

In May 1816, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Godwin and Claire Clairmont moved to Geneva where they would live near Lord Byron and his physician-companion, Dr John William Polidori. Over the next few weeks, this group of young intellectuals spent almost all their time together, sailing on Lake Geneva by day and reading and conversing in the evenings. One night in late May or early June, a ghost-story writing competition began. Inspired by this, the 18-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Mary Shelley) conceived what is now one of the most iconic tales in English literature. Frankenstein was published anonymously nineteen months later.

On the wet afternoon of 24 July 1816, Mary notes in her journal, ‘write my story’: this is her first reference to the composition of Frankenstein. Percy Shelley was also writing his poem ‘Mont Blanc’ on this day. Both authors were inspired by their visits to Chamonix and the Mer De Glace, subjects of awe for many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century travellers. These shared experiences and subsequent discussions resulted in descriptions of the landscape in individual journal entries and letters that are strikingly similar. For example, the immensity of the mountains produce a similar image of alienation: ‘The summits of the highest were hid in Clouds but they sometimes peeped out into the blue sky higher one would think than the safety of God would permit’ (Mary); ‘They pierce the clouds like things not belonging to this earth’ (Percy). Even scenes that lack grandeur still induce feelings of admiration: ‘there is som[e]thing so divine in all this scenery that you love & admire it even where its features are less magnificent than usual’ (Mary); ‘there is a grandeur in the very shapes and colours which could not fail to impress, even on a smaller scale’ (Percy). These shared impressions would become the basis for ‘Mont Blanc’ and also the pivotal scene in Frankenstein in which Victor encounters his creation for the first time since his ‘birth’.

This event at the Keats-Shelley House in 2016 celebrates the bicentenary of the composition of the Romantic period’s most famous novel, and this fruitful period of creativity for both Shelleys in 1816. The event will take place almost exactly 200 years later to the day that Mary Shelley began writing. The evening will include a reading of the preface and the introduction to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the most famous scene in the novel when the creature awakens (‘It was on a dreary night of November, that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils’), and excerpts from Percy Shelley’s ‘Mont Blanc’. Two scholars (Anna Mercer and David Higgins) will give short talks on the Shelleys’ collaborative literary relationship, and 1816 as ‘the Year Without a Summer’.

The event will also take place on 14 July 2016 at the King’s Manor, University of York, in collaboration with the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies (CECS) at York, and the University of Leeds. The York event will provide an alternative venue for those who want to attend the event but who cannot travel to Rome. Both events are public ticketed events. We hope to produce an invigorating atmosphere that will allow attendees to consider the history of Frankenstein during this exciting bicentenary month. The events are supported by the British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS), the British Society for Eighteenth Century Studies (BSECS), CECS at York, the FR Leavis Fund at York, and the Keats-Shelley House.

The talk by Anna Mercer will focus on her research as a PhD candidate at the University of York. Her thesis considers the Shelleys’ collaborative literary relationship and seeks to provide an unprejudiced study of both authors and their influence on each other. Frankenstein is now understood as a crucial example of collaborative writing from the Romantic period, as Percy Shelley edited Mary’s manuscript draft. Percy’s alterations and corrections were not an imposing corruption of his wife’s writing; instead, the way the Shelleys worked together in 1816 can be understood and analysed as an example of reciprocal creativity. As Neil Fraistat observed at the launch of the Shelley-Godwin archive in 2013, Frankenstein was part of ‘a two-way collaboration […] this wasn’t just about him supervising her’. The Frankenstein scholar Charles E. Robinson has identified the possibility of the Shelleys ‘at work on the [Frankenstein] Notebooks at the same time, possibly sitting side by side and using the same pen and ink to draft the novel and at the same time to enter corrections’. This event will present to the public a reading of the work of both authors, including the preface and the introduction to the novel: the former written by Percy and published in 1818, and the latter written retrospectively in 1831 by Mary. These extracts provide the notorious details of the Shelleys’ experiences in Geneva in 1816 that stirred Mary Shelley to give life to her ‘hideous progeny’. The event therefore looks to celebrate such a moment of literary inspiration and invites readers to learn more about the history of the novel’s author(s).

David Higgins’s talk will draw on his research on Romantic writing and environmental catastrophe. Cultural historians have recently explored how the eruption of the Indonesian volcano Mount Tambora in 1815 caused severe disruption to the global climate and, in particular, the ‘Year Without A Summer’ of 1816 (e.g. Wood 2014). However, what has not been properly investigated is the extent to which Byron, Mary Shelley, and Percy Shelley were responding as a creative community to the unusual environmental conditions. The grim summer of 1816 heightened their apprehension of the sublimity of the Alpine landscape and led them to contemplate the frightening power of the natural world. This talk will bring together ‘Mont Blanc’, Frankenstein, History of a Six Weeks’ Tour, and ‘Darkness’ to examine the shared ways in which they address the problem of dwelling with environmental catastrophe.


The Rome event is on the Keats-Shelley House website here:

To buy tickets (€10 each) for the event in Rome on 23rd July 2016, please email: info@ksh.roma.it

The York event is on the CECS website here:

It is free to attend at York on 14th July 2016 but you must register on eventbrite. 

Refreshments will be served at both events.

For enquiries please contact Anna Mercer (anna.mercer@york.ac.uk)

Event Team:

  • Anna Mercer, University of York (speaker and main organiser)
  • David Higgins, University of Leeds (speaker and co-organiser)
  • Lucy Hodgetts and Duncan Robertson, University of York (readers and co-organisers)

Thursday, 23 June 2016

The Kraken Returns

Last week the salon was visited by the legendary Kraken, and what a popular visitor he was! Today we welcome another tale of this legendary sea creature, from the news of 1776.



AS there are still some people who doubt the existence of the Kraken, notwithstanding the testimony of the ingenious Bishop Pontoppidan, in his Natural History of Norway, I inclose you an authentic Description  upon the subject, which I doubt not will convince the most incredulous. If any one will enquire after Robert Jamieson, he will be found to be a man of unblemished reputation; and every one who is acquainted with the customs of the Western Isles must know that the Officers, before whom it was sworn, are of such weight there, as to preclude all idea of their having been wilfully deceived.

I am your obedient servant,


At Rothesay, in the island of Bute, the 22nd day of April, 1775 years:

A sea monster
Which day, in the presence of Mr John Blain, Commissary of the Isles, three of the Isles compeared Robert Jamieson, this island, a person of good fame and reputation, who being solemnly sworn and examined upon oath, deposes That he was Commander of the buss called the Janet, of Port Glasgow, while she was employed in the British White Herring Fishery last season; that the vessel being under sail at noon, on or about the 9th or 10th of August, 1774, ten or twelve leagues westward from that part of Rossshire, which lies between Row-Stoir of Assynt and Loch-Ninver, and the deponent being then in the cabin, one of his men called him up, to look at an island which had just made its appearance in the sea; that the deponent came upon deck accordingly, and saw the object distant from the vessel about three miles, or little more, in the east north-east direction from him, and between the vessel and the Continent; that he joined In opinion with his crew, which consisted of nine men besides himself, that it was an island, which he computed to be about a mile and a half in length, rising in the middle to the height of thirty feet or thereby above the surface of the water, and, as he imagined, it tapered considerably towards each end, but that he could not possibly form any estimate of its breadth across; that it remained in view, and apparent without motion, during the space of about five or six minutes, after which it sank down slowly, until it was entirely hid from view; that afterwards it rose and sunk alternately two different times, and, on every view the deponent had of it, the like inactive form was presented as at first, and its continuance on the surface was about five or six minutes each time; that its rising and sinking was always slow and gradual and occasional no whirpool, or other extraordinary commotion in the sea, so far as the deponent could perceive: and further deposes, That the space which intervened from the first time he saw it until its last disappearance, might be about twenty four minutes, it having remained below the service about three minutes between the first and second appearance, and pretty much the same space between the second and third; that the day was clear, and the wind blew moderately from west north-west; that immediately after it disappeared from his view for the last time, he saw on the surface of the water and number of objects representing a regiment or considerable assemblage of men, all in white, nearer to him by a mile and a half, as he thought, than where the supposed island appeared to have been; and in a little time they went off to the south-east in a confused fighting-like manner, resembling the quick motions of streamers or Aurora-Borealis; that there was not any island in the neighbourhood, nor any land nearer than the Row-Stoir abovementioned; and deposes, That the herrings and sundry other sorts of white fish, were remarkably plentiful, and of the best quality, in Loch Ninver, soon after the period before deposed to; and he, the deponent, made up a considerable part of his cargo in that Loch; that when he was a boy, he saw from the south-end of Bute, an appearance between that and Arran, resembling an island newly cast up in the sea, which, according to the idea he has of it, was longer than the one he saw last August; and he has heard different people affirm, that they have seen such an object between Bute and Arran. 

Plate ca. 1544 depicting various sea monsters; compiled from the Carta Marina.
The Carta Marina, 1544
Being interrogated, if he had ever heard of a fish called the Kraken, and whether he thinks those new islands might not have been fish of that kind, deposes, That he had never heard of the Kraken till lately, and cannot take upon him determine whether it was Kraken he saw; that the appearances excited the idea and belief at the time they were really Islands; that when the deponent and his crew saw the supposed Islands first before mentioned, there was a vessel could the Peggy, of Port Glasgow, William Hunter, master, in company, and about a mile distant from them; that he understood from Mr. Hunter, and his crew, that he had not observed the island, though, in order to direct their attention towards it, the deponent caused his colours to be hoisted, and even sent out a boat, manned with five people, to enquire of Capt. Hunter what he and his crew, which consisted of six men, thought that the appearance, but it had sunk down for the last time before the boat reached the Peggy. 

All which is truth, as shall Answer to God.


JOHN BLAIN, Commissary


Note: I lately met with one of the men who was on board the Janet with Robert Jamieson, in August 1774, and, upon my questioning him, he concurred with the said Jamieson in every particular, as to the several appearances of the supposed island.

JOHN BLAIN, Commissary.
Rothesay, August 10, 1775.

[Query, Whether the above appearance might not be a sinking island of ice from the North?]

From the General Evening Post (London, England), January 6, 1776 - January 9, 1776; Issue 6560. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.



Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Gothic Horror and Georgian Dublin

Caroline Barry's novel, The Dolocher, is a wonderful read set in the streets of Dublin. A darker than dark Gothic thriller, I don't want to give anything away but don't miss this book and don't miss Caroline guest post today!


Gothic Horror and Georgian Dublin
Georgian Dublin was a glittering, lively city full of rakes and rascals, eccentrics, scholars, actors, vagabonds and rogues.  The streets bristled with hawkers selling a variety of wares.  
Food came in wooden barrels, there was ‘pease pudding’, ‘oysters’ and ‘Bulrudderie cakes’ and a fresh supply of ‘whey’ should that take your fancy.  You could buy clogs from the travelling cobblers; crockery was carried in a large wooden crate by a two man team and if you wanted a change of coat or jacket there was the second-hand-clothes merchants who carried their stock on a pole on their back.  
The wealthy or middling classes had an array of new shops to venture into, including Jones Periwig shop, you can still see the painted sign advertising it’s wigs on Dawson Street.  Jones’ shop used to keep a supply of bears out in the yard and would regularly kill a bear for it’s grease since it was considered the best substance for keeping curls firm and lustrous.  
For entertainment there were the many theatres, Smock Alley and the Crow Street Theatre where Spranger Barry and the eighteenth century superstar actor Garrick performed, and of course Neale’s music hall on Fishamble Street where famously Handle’s Messiah was first produced.  
There’s a rumour that an Irishman Richard Daly invented the word ‘quiz’.  He ran Smock Alley theatre and supposedly for a bet said that he would invent a word that would be used throughout the capital within forty-eight hours.  He then got a team of actors to paint the word ‘quiz’ on walls around the city and within two days the word was the talk of the town.  It has been argued that ‘quiz’ had already been in use at the time to denote an eccentric, if that is the case and staying with this early meaning of the word there were many ‘quizzical’ inhabitants in Dublin during the seventeen hundreds.
The most striking stories are jaw dropping.  Sometimes they are slight stories, humorously told but struck through with a shivering streak of savagery.  Take for example nick-names.  There was a man who shot his friend Kelly, and another who killed his coachman.  The first got the nickname of ‘Killkelly,’ the second became known as ‘Killcoachy.’ And the black humour continues.  There were three brothers, seemingly of noble birth, all of them famous for deficiencies in their character.  The first brother was a notorious fighter, he would cause a row wherever he went, the second was frequently flung into prison, the third had been disabled from his ‘buckish’ behaviour and they became universally known as ‘Hellgate,’ ‘Newgate,’ and ‘Cripplegate.’ 
Aristocratic men were frequently flung out of the second story window of Daly’s gaming club on College Green, in fact the gambling fever took hold of not only the ascendancy but the lower orders.
I was surprised to learn there were lotteries in Dublin in the seventeen hundreds.  There’s a very interesting story that I can’t quiet shake, it may be apocryphal, but a bit of me wonders if it is true.  The lottery shops were painted bright gaudy colours; the interiors were fitted with mirrors reflecting dazzling glass chandeliers festooned with ribbons.  The décor was especially designed to entice you inside. A scheme was devised where you could ‘insure’ a number for a shilling and each day in the lottery-hall on Capel Street the wheel was turned and a number called.  The story goes that a young blind girl who begged on Sackville Street and had attracted attention because she was so polite and clean and ‘mannerly.’  She had a little basket full of articles covered with a net and made more money than an ordinary beggar.  One night she dreamed of a number, certain it was a premonition she became convinced that she would make her fortune by it.  She ‘insured’ her number over and over until everything she had was gone and she could no longer ‘play.’  On the day that she could no longer take part in the lottery her number came up.  The story goes that she ‘groped her way to the Royal Canal, and threw herself into it.’
I gathered all these stories and many more when I was researching for my gothic novel The Dolocher.  The dazzling Georgian fashions in clothes, architecture and manners have a curiously modern tinge to them.  The current twitter culture seems beautifully reflected in the noisy debating environs of the eighteenth century coffee shop.  Modern open and relaxed attitudes to sexual expression can be found in the jelly and molly houses of the eighteenth century underworld.  But scratch the surface of any culture and you find the gothic.  
Eighteenth century crime in Dublin was exactly like that of London and as a result the prisons were notoriously overcrowded.  We had a debtor’s prison in Dublin called The Black Dog, and it was in the Black Dog prison that the Dolocher ghost story begins.  
The prison was an infamous ‘sink of vice,’ the keeper a vicious psychopath who on one occasion broke the leg of an inmate and left him down in the cellar.  The cellar frequently flooded; the cot beds were known to float on the swelling water of the Liffey.  The poor man with the broken leg took weeks to die and it took a committee on his behalf quite some time to bring a case against the keeper and have him and a number of his turn-key cohorts sacked from their jobs.
It was in this prison that a man called Olocher was incarcerated.  He had been found guilty of the rape and murder of a young girl and was due to be executed.  The night before he was due to be hanged he killed himself.  A week later one of his guards was found at the foot of some steps outside of the prison, he had taken a stroke and was paralysed down one side of his body.  When the guard regained his speech he told everyone that he had been attacked by a demon.  It had come at him from the shadows, from Olocher’s cell.  It was Olocher’s demon, half-beast-half-man, and a legend was born.

The Dolocher terrorised Dublin for a whole winter and fascinated by the tale I was inspired to write a gothic novel reimagining those events that took place many years ago.    
Written content of this post copyright © Caroline Barry, 2016.