Wednesday, 22 November 2017

A Free Event!

Do come along to the wonderful Marsden Mechanics Hall and attend this free event - meet kings, queens and even a couple of saucy soldiers!

Northern Writers Reading: Catherine Curzon

4th December, 7.30pm-8.30pm

A historian of the long-18th century,  Catherine Curzon will read from selections of her historical fiction and non-fiction, including 18th century thrillers, some true royal scandal, and a World War One Trench Romance.


Donations Welcome in Support of Friends of Marsden Library

Catherine will be signing and selling copies of her books at the end.

Marsden Mechanics Hall, Peel Street 
Marsden, West YorkshireHD7 6BW United Kingdom

Saturday, 18 November 2017

The Jane Austen Birthday Ball

It's Jane Austen's 242nd Birthday and in this 200th Anniversary year, you are invited to a rather special party!

The Mayor and Mayoress of Winchester and The Hampshire Regency Dancers welcome you to a 'Grand Jane Austen Birthday Ball' in the Guildhall's stately King Charles suite. Join in some easy dances of the time which will be 'called' and walked through beforehand to live music. Learn to flirt with your fan and come as your favourite Jane Austen character.  You are encouraged to come in Regency costume (which can be hired locally) or Black Tie. Your ticket includes a reception drink, the ball and a variety of delicious canap├ęs and of course, a piece of birthday cake! A cash bar will be provided for all other beverages.

7pm start time (reception) and ball begins at 7.30pm, finishing at 11.30pm.

There is a break from the dancing between 9pm and 10pm.

December 16th 2017 at 19:30 
SO23 9GH


Contact Information:Tel: (01962) 840 500 

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Experiments on the Poor

I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Lucienne Boyce to the salon, with a tale of bodysnatching!


“I cannot give you an adequate idea of the wretchedness of an hospital…Everything appeared to be conducted for the accommodation of the medical men and their pupils, who came to make experiments on the poor, for the benefit of the rich.” The Wrongs of Woman: or, Maria, A Fragment, Mary Wollstonecraft 

In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, body snatching – the taking of human corpses for sale to medical institutions – was a deeply distressing experience for relatives of the deceased. It was also regarded with horror by the living when they contemplated the fate of their own mortal remains. And as the quote from Mary Wollstonecraft’s The Wrongs of Woman: or Maria, a Fragment above suggests, it was an activity that disproportionately affected poor people. 

Body snatching came about with the expansion of medical education and research which created a demand for human cadavers on which to practise and experiment. It was a demand that could not be met by honest means. Since the Murder Act 1752, a judge could order dissection as part of the sentence for capitally convicted criminals, and their body would be given to surgeons for use in lectures or for experimentation. Unfortunately, this system did not produce a large enough supply. So a new and illicit trade sprang up: body snatching. 

Whether a body ended up on the slab by judicial or extra-legal means, it was more likely to be that of a poor person. The majority of those who were hanged were poor. But it was not only the bodies of the criminalised poor which were appropriated by the surgeons. Surgeon J F South (1797–1882) recalled in his memoirs that the surgeons’ “principal source of supply was the London churchyards, and some of the cheap private burial grounds in the poorer parts of London.” 

The bodies of the poor were particularly vulnerable to body snatchers, also known as resurrection men, because they were often buried in flimsy coffins which were easy to break open. The destitute poor might also be buried in a mass grave, which was covered with only a thin layer of soil until it was full – easy to access. Unscrupulous staff in workhouses sold corpses, which not only brought them a profit but saved the poor law rate-payers the cost of a funeral. The bodies of poor patients who died in hospital might also come under the surgeon’s dissecting knife. And officialdom had no scruples about helping itself to the bodies of the poor. In the 1820s the Home Secretary admitted he had given bodies from prisons and naval and military hospitals for dissection. 

In addition, the poor were unable to afford to take steps to protect their remains. The better off could afford high-quality coffins. Some commissioned metal coffins, or coffins lined with lead, soldered shut, provided with locks and bars, or designed with no external hinges or screws. They could afford to pay for night-watchmen to stand guard in graveyards. Their freshly dug graves might be covered by huge stone slabs which were left in place until the cadaver had decomposed to a point where it was no longer of use to the surgeons. Some graveyards had mort safes, which were heavy iron cages lowered over graves and left while the corpse decayed. Some people went to enormous lengths to protect their relatives’ graves: one man planted a mine in his daughter’s coffin. Others installed man traps or spring guns. 

The medical profession encouraged the trade by their collusion with the body snatchers. Surgeons did not deal directly with the body snatchers themselves: their transactions were carried out by assistants. But they made a great deal of money from their lucrative medical schools. They also used their influence to protect the men who robbed graves for their benefit. Astley Cooper appealed to the Home Secretary on behalf of arrested body snatcher Joseph Naples, and also provided funds to body snatchers and their families while they were in prison. In 1825 Astley Cooper purchased two bodies from a graveyard in Bath so that he could practise on them before he operated on the King.

In 1828 surgeons protested when a doctor was charged with possession when bodies were discovered in Liverpool. And, though the prevailing image of resurrection men is that they were low, coarse, hard-drinking criminals, grave robbers were often young gentlemen – medical students. In one Bristol incident, shots were fired when six medical students were caught digging up a corpse. Their defence argued it would harm their future careers if a charge of conspiracy was brought against them and that charge was dropped; they got off with a fine.

But the poor did fight back. Even when human dissection was sanctioned by the state, the relatives of the hanged protested against it. In London, riots at the Tyburn gallows were frequent as friends of the victims of England’s Bloody Code – the penal system which made over 200 offences capital – struggled with the surgeons’ agents when they attempted to claim the corpse. In 1724 a battle for the thief and gaol-breaker Jack Shepherd’s corpse had to be broken up by the militia. One of the reasons for moving executions from Tyburn to Newgate was the frequency of these protests. 

There were also riots aimed directly against surgeons. In 1801 in Wych Street in London a mob attacked a house where it was rumoured that surgeons were dissecting corpses – human remains were found in the cellars. In Bristol in 1761 a collier’s son was dissected in the Infirmary. When his father opened the coffin and discovered that his son’s head was missing he went to the surgeon’s home and threatened him until the head was restored. In Cambridge in 1830 two arrested body snatchers were attacked by a furious crowd while being escorted to prison.

But the poor could not withstand the might of the state. When the Anatomy Act of 1832 was passed with the aim of ending the ghastly trade, its provisions had the effect of making the bodies of the destitute poor available to the surgeons. Unless a relative could be found to claim their body, or they had expressed their wish not to be dissected either in writing or verbally before two witnesses, people in possession of their corpse, such as the master of a workhouse, could supply it for dissection. There was no need to waste money on a decent burial. 

The surgeons had always argued, not without reason, that medical skills and knowledge could only progress if human corpses were made available for dissection. However, in their quest for medical and personal advancement, they callously disregarded the feelings of the poor. And as Vic Gattrell noted in The Hanging Tree, “there was no scientific justification” for exposing remains, such as skeletons and internal organs, to the gaze of a curious public. 

Southey lambasted the surgeons for their hypocrisy in his 1798 poem The Surgeon’s Warning. A dying surgeon is terrified by the thought that his remains might end up on the dissection slab. He leaves detailed – and costly – instructions for the protection of his corpse: a lead coffin soldered shut, armed watchmen, his coffin to be locked inside the church. 

He has reason to be afraid.  
“And my Prentices now will surely come
And carve me bone from bone,
And I who have rifled the dead man’s grave

Shall never have rest in my own.”  

About the Author
LucienneLucienne Boyce is a Bristol-based author who writes historical fiction and non-fiction. She has published three historical novels set in the eighteenth century, and a history of the suffragette movement in Bristol and the west country. The first novel in the Dan Foster Mystery series, Bloodie Bones, was winner of the Historical Novel Society Indie Award 2016.

Twitter: @LucienneWrite

Buy the Books

Monday, 6 November 2017

Painted Ladies: Friday Late at the Painted Hall

Find out more and book your place!

The Painted Hall, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
17th November, 2017 at 7:00pm

Be seduced by the drama of the Painted Hall at this late event for all the senses.

After dark, the Painted Hall becomes the court of baroque Queens and Goddesses, a theatre of rivalry where art and life are one and the same. Get to know the women in this baroque masterpiece and enter a world of feminine intrigue and power politics.

Featuring life drawing, live music, and performance - become a courtly artist or printmaker, be shocked by the intricacies of eighteenth-century perfume, and dance surrounded by paintings of power play.

18+ only. Bar running through the evening.


  • Sketch the rivalry between Queen Mary and her sister Anne in a theatrical life drawing experience staged by London Drawing.
  • Explore the art of perfume-making in the eighteenth century and create your very own scent with The Perfume Mistress.
  • Print your favourite female character with artist Anna Alcock from Inky Cuttlefish Studios and take home a baroque masterpiece of your own.
  • Listen to a live performance from talented singer-songwriter Lilith Ai with poignant tales of modern city life from a female perspective.
  • Hit the dancefloor against the dramatic backdrop of the Painted Hall to sounds from DJ Marcia Carr.
  • Music curated by Beatroots.

Tickets: £12 (£10 concessions)

Monday, 30 October 2017

Queens of Georgian Britain

Queens of Georgian Britain is released today in the UK and I don't think I could be happier!

Huge thanks to all my friends, readers and those who have encouraged, cajoled and knocked me along. You're all marvellous!

Queens of Georgian Britain

Once upon a time there were four kings called George who, thanks to a quirk of fate, ruled Great Britain for over a century. Hailing from Germany, these occasionally mad, bad and infamous sovereigns presided over a land in turmoil. Yet what of the remarkable women who were crowned alongside them?

From the forgotten princess locked in a tower to an illustrious regent, a devoted consort and a notorious party girl, the queens of Georgian Britain lived lives of scandal, romance and turbulent drama. Whether dipping into politics or carousing on the shores of Italy, Caroline of Ansbach, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Caroline of Brunswick refused to fade into the background.

Queens of Georgian Britain offers a chance to step back in time and meet the women who ruled alongside the Georgian monarchs, not forgetting Sophia Dorothea of Celle, the passionate princess who never made it as far as the throne. From lonely childhoods to glittering palaces, via family feuds, smallpox, strapping soldiers and plenty of scheming, these are the queens who shaped an era.

Queens of Georgian Britain is available now!

Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

An Evening with Jane Austen at Godmersham

Our Autumn mini-tour of An Evening with Jane Austen is drawing to a close and we have had an absolutely marvellous time. Just one date remains and tickets are selling fast, so be sure not to miss out!

With a cast headed by Adrian Lukis, better known to some as the roguish Mr Wickham, An Evening with Jane Austen cannot wait to call at stunning Godmersham Park. Godmersham was once the home of Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Knight, and is closed to the public, so this event is a unique opportunity to see inside the house.
Our show at Godmersham will mark the launch of the new £10 note featuring Miss Austen, and we are thrilled to return to Godmersham with a brand new production for 2017!
An Evening with Jane Austen, Godmersham Park, 29th October 2017
Historian and author, Catherine Curzon, introduces a magical evening with Austen’s most memorable characters in the evocative surroundings of Godmersham Park. With Caroline Langrishe and Adrian Lukis, alongside period musical entertainment from Rosie Lomas and Camilla Pay. 

Monday, 2 October 2017

Lady Manners and Mr Lawrence

It's a pleasure to welcome LL Diamond, author of Particular Intentions, for a glimpse into the world of Sir Thomas Lawrence, one of my absolute favourites!


Since publishing Particular Attachments, I’ve received a lot of compliments on the cover, so I thought it would be fun to “expose” my cover so to speak. I only use a part of the painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence, but my Georgiana Darcy in the story has dark brown hair and blue eyes—vastly different than the subject’s. . . well, grey hair. I love the filmy detailing on her white gown and contrasting blue waist, grey gloves, and pink rose. The detailed fleshiness of her hand that is holding the rose is what initially caught my eye in this lovely portrait. If I am careful and very methodical I can draw hands (when I have time to practice), but they are very difficult. You never think of hands as tricking the eye, but the eye doesn’t always interpret the angles correctly when an artist tries to draw them. Checking each and every angle is a necessity if I want it to look as it should, so I find a well-drawn or well-painted hand will draw my attention, as it did on the cover for The Earl’s Conquest as well. I did hope to use more of the background of the painting, but it didn’t look quite right when cropped—particularly with the unusual colouring of the peacock’s tail.

Now that the entire painting is exposed. Who painted it? And who is the lady depicted? Let’s start with the artist.

Sir Thomas Lawrence
(13 April 1769 – 7 January 1830)

Born in Bristol, Thomas Lawrence showed his talent at an early age, drawing pastel likenesses for fashionable people in his father’s tavern for a guinea or a guinea and a half a piece and eventually, supporting his family with his earnings by the age of ten.

At the age of 18, Lawrence travelled to London and became a student of the Royal Academy. He began to exhibit his work soon after and word of his talent spread so rapidly that he was made an associate of the Royal Academy in 1791. Upon the death of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Lawrence became the Painter-in-Ordinary to George III. While the previous generation was more restrained and smooth, Lawrence used thickly applied paint on clothing, boldly contrasted colours, and highlights that almost shimmer from the canvas. These qualities marvelled the fashionable set and earned him the commissions of many of society. He was knighted in 1815 and became president of the Royal Academy in 1820, holding that office until his death in 1830.

Lawrence was never married, though he was linked romantically with the Duchess of Devonshire, Sarah Siddons and both of her daughters, Caroline of Brunswick, and may have kept Isabella Wolff as his mistress.

As an artist, Lawrence was highly successful, however, his spending habits kept him in debt, though no one particularly knew what he spent his money on since it was said he didn’t bet on cards or horses, and never became intoxicated with his friends. He claimed to enjoy reading Jane Austen (I like him all the more for it!). Despite his lack of vices, it was estimated by his bankers that he owed twenty thousand pounds in 1807. He did have an impressive collection of artwork that was sold upon his death.

Now, who is the lady in the painting? Her name is Catharine Grey.

Catharine Grey, Lady Manners
(1766? – 1852) 

Catharine Rebecca Grey was born and raised in Ireland and later became the wife of Tory politician William Manners, who became a Baronet and later Lord Huntingtower. She wrote and published two books of poetry: Poems by Lady Manners (1793) and Review of Poetry: Ancient and Modern, A Poem by Lady M**** (1799).

In the painting, Lady Manners is depicted as the goddess Juno, which is symbolised by the peacock behind her; however, Lady Manners didn’t actually like the painting at all and it is claimed she “rejected” the work. Lawrence hoped to sell the portrait in 1794 at the Royal Academy, but no one purchased it and it remained in his possession until after his death.


Paula R. Backscheider. Eighteenth-Century Women Poets and Their Poetry: Inventing Agency, Inventing Genre. 28 Nov 2005. JHU Press. Pg. 407.,_Lady_Manners,_Lady_Manners,_by_Thomas_Lawrence.jpg

About the Book
She swore would never marry!

Georgiana Darcy is a lady with a secret! The last thing she wants is to return to London, but what else can she do when her brother and his wife make plans to spend the Christmas season in town. When Lizzy’s youngest sister, Lydia, joins them, Georgiana gains a confidante, but will Lydia’s outgoing nature cause problems when Lord Sele, son of a family friend reappears in Georgiana’s life?

As an insufferable boy, Lord Sele vowed he would marry Georgiana, but was his return from Ireland a coincidence or was his sole purpose to pursue her? He admits to desiring friendship, but Lydia is determined his desire is Georgiana and she will stop at nothing to see her best friend happily settled.

What is Georgiana to do when faced with the society she has managed to avoid for her entire adult life as well as the one man determined to change her mind about marriage? Will she be able to overcome her fears despite the spectre from the past that seems to be haunting her? Will she be forced to tell her secret and choose happiness or will someone from her past ruin everything?

About the Author
L.L. Diamond is more commonly known as Leslie to her friends and Mom to her three kids. A native of Louisiana, she has spent the majority of her life living within an hour of New Orleans until she vowed to follow her husband to the ends of the earth as a military wife. Louisiana, Mississippi, California, Texas, New Mexico, Nebraska, and now England have all been called home along the way. 

After watching Sense and Sensibility with her mother, Leslie became a fan of Jane Austen, reading her collected works over the next few years. Pride and Prejudice stood out as a favorite and has dominated her writing since finding Jane Austen Fan Fiction. 

Aside from mother and writer, Leslie considers herself a perpetual student. She has degrees in biology and studio art, but will devour any subject of interest simply for the knowledge. As an artist, her concentration is in graphic design, but watercolor is her medium of choice with one of her watercolors featured on the cover of her second book, A Matter of Chance. She is a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Leslie also plays flute and piano, but much like Elizabeth Bennet, she is always in need of practice! 

Leslie’s books include Rain and Retribution, A Matter of Chance, An Unwavering Trust, The Earl’s ConquestParticular Intentions and Particular Attachments.