Monday, 10 June 2019

Being Mr Wickham

I'm thrilled to finally announce my super secret project. On 15th September Bath's fabulous Jane Austen Festival will host the premier of Being Mr Wickham, my theatrical writing debut, starring Adrian Lukis (who else!?) as Jane Austen's quintessential rogue. 

Mr Wickham may be a little older, but is he any wiser?

"Written off as a rake and reviled as a rogue, join George Wickham on the eve of his sixtieth birthday to discover his version of some very famous literary events. From childhood games at Pemberley to a run-in with Lord Byron, via marriage to Lydia and just a little bit of matchmaking for Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, Mr Wickham is ready to set the record straight."

The performance will be followed by a Q&A with Adrian and me. 

This is an absolute dream come true moment for me - I'm still pinching myself!

Tickets go on sale soon, but I couldn't keep it to myself a moment longer!

You can also catch the show as the finale to Stamford Georgian Festival on 29th September. Click here to book!

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Dear Jane

It's my pleasure to welcome Allie Cresswell, who's visiting the salon to consider the matter of history in the works of Jane Austen.


---oOo---

Jane Austen’s novels are loved today, in part, for the sense of history they evoke; those elegant drawing rooms and the graceful life-style of Regency ladies within them - such a far cry from our stressed and utilitarian, tech-driven world. The courtly, restrained attentions of well-dressed gentlemen - the suppressed passion of a clasped waist or a kissed hand, or even the meaningful glance across a crowded ballroom, is so much more romantic than the sex-obsessed world of today.
The erudite conversation; wots nt 2 luv?  
And yet when Jane Austen wrote her novels they were not historical, they were contemporary. She described the times in which she lived; her comments - on behaviour, morals and manners - were on her own here and now.
In fact there is little actual history in any of her books. With one notable exception she makes no reference to politics, real-life figures or tangible events and so it is practically impossible to place her novels in any exact time frame. Persuasionis the exception. Captain Wentworth mentions the year in which he took his first captaincy and Admiral Croft brings the news of Napoleon’s escape from Elba. It is hard to know why she tended to avoid real-life references; perhaps she thought them irrelevant or thought she could not mention them without making comment which might alienate some readers. More likely, politics and world affairs were considered no business for women’s minds, a state of affairs upon which, we can be sure, Miss Austen would, privately, have had much to say.
There is no clue as to when the events in Emma take place but as I set about writing the stories of Mrs Bates, her daughtersand granddaughter in my Highbury Trilogy I felt I needed to place them accurately in time. Lieutenant - later Captain - Weston is active in the militia in the first two books of the trilogy; what conflicts at home and abroad might he have been embroiled in? Well, of course, it depends upon exactlywhen we’re talking about. Angus Fairfax (Jane’s father) enlists as a surgeon; where might he have been posted? It begs the same question. Placing the books in world and British history posed further questions - about social history, for instance; In Mrs Bates of Highbury Mrs Bates is widowed and finds herself penniless. How much - or, how little - money did a person need in 1780s England to survive? The answer, I discovered, was around £50. The Other Miss Batesis set in Brighton - what was it like there, in 1781? I found that it was in the very infancy of its popularity, the health-giving effects of sea-bathing (and seawater drinking) having only just been identified. It would be some years before the Prince Regent made the place into the hub of fashionable society that it would later become.  In Dear JaneFrank Churchill, denied university by his clinging aunt, sets out on a Grand Tour. But my timeline had brought me to around 1814 when the Napoleonic war was still being fought. Travel to Europe would have been impossible so poor Frank has to make do with the Scottish highlands and islands instead.
Jane Austen’s books do seem to take place in something of a bubble; the outside world barely impinges. The drawing rooms and shrubberies, card-parties and country dances are their own world, albeit imbued with exacting standards of behaviour and clearly-defined strata of social hierarchy. At the time at which she was writing their mores would have been well understood and perhaps needed no explanation. To us, however, two hundred years later, they need placing in some wider context and to me, it seemed important to get the details right. Not just because there will inevitably be readers who will be offended by historical inaccuracies and in a hurry to point them out to me, but for the integrity of the books themselves. Any jarring inaccuracies would spoil the illusion which fiction creates. At the same time I had to be true to Miss Austen’s world and to her characters; to tamper with them would have been out of the question. They, for me, provide history of equal importance to any real-world events which may have been taking place just off-stage and I was determined to reflect and incorporate them with the same faithfulness. How successful was I? Well, you, dear reader, must be the judge.
Giveaway
To be in with a chance of winning a copy of Dear Jane, simply click on the link below!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/908009304/
About the Author
Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil.

She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.

She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners. Most recently she has been working on her Highbury trilogy, books inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma.

She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters and two grandsons, is married to Tim and lives in Cumbria, NW England.

You can contact her via her website at www.allie-cresswell.com or find her on Facebook.

About the Book
The final instalment of the Highbury trilogy, Dear Jane narrates the history of Jane Fairfax, recounting the events hinted at but never actually described in Jane Austen’s Emma.

Orphaned Jane seems likely to be brought up in parochial Highbury until adoption by her papa’s old friend Colonel Campbell opens to her all the excitement and opportunities of London. The velvet path of her early years is finite, however and tarnished by the knowledge that she must earn her own independence one day.

Frank Weston is also transplanted from Highbury, adopted as heir to the wealthy Churchills and taken to their drear and inhospitable Yorkshire estate. The glimmer of the prize which will one day be his is all but obliterated by the stony path he must walk to claim it.

Their paths meet at Weymouth, and readers of Emma will be familiar with the finale of Jane and Frank’s story. Dear Jane pulls back the veil which Jane Austen drew over their early lives, their meeting in Weymouth and the agony of their secret engagement.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Jane Austen at Gunnersbury Park

Join me for a wonderful night in London!


Jane Austen and the King of Bling, Gunnersbury Park, 4th June 2019
7pm-9pm
£10 (including a glass of wine)

This lively talk delves into the sometimes shocking, always scandalous, private life of ‘the first gentleman of England’. It suggests why Austen boldly declared she ‘hated’ this monarch even after she was his honoured guest at London’s most prestigious address. The other side to this saucy Sovereign was a man who championed Jane Austen and her works which secured the Regent his very own dedication from the author he adored.

To book, click here!

Monday, 29 April 2019

The Scandal of George III’s Court - Paperback Release



It's no secret that I love a good scandal, so I'm thrilled to announce that my latest non-fiction release, The Scandal of George III's Court, is available in paperback now. You can but it from Pen & Sword at the link below, or your favourite bookseller!




Buy the paperback from Pen & Sword 

From Windsor to Weymouth, the shadow of scandal was never too far from the walls of the House of Hanover. Did a fearsome duke really commit murder or a royal mistress sell commissions to the highest bidders, and what was the truth behind George III's supposed secret marriage to a pretty Quaker?

With everything from illegitimate children to illegal marriages, dead valets and equerries sneaking about the palace by candlelight, these eyebrow-raising tales from the reign of George III prove that the highest of births is no guarantee of good behaviour. Prepare to meet some shocking ladies, some shameless gentlemen and some politicians who really should know better.

So tighten your stays, hoist up your breeches and prepare for a gallop through some of the most shocking royal scandals from the court of George III's court. You'll never look at a king in the same way again...

Buy it now from Amazon

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

The Ghost Garden

I am so excited to announce the release in paperback and ebook of The Ghost Garden, a brand new, 1920’s-set ghost story written by me and Eleanor Harkstead. The Ghost Garden is the first book in our new series, The de Chastelaine Chronicles, and we hope you enjoy it!

You can hear more about the book and how it came to be in the latest episode of our podcast, Gin & Gentlemen!

The Ghost Garden
Within the tangled vines of a forgotten garden, can a blossoming new love overcome an ancient evil that threatens both the living and the dead?

After losing her brother in the trenches of the Great War, Cecily James is a prisoner of Whitmore Hall, the respected but remote boys’ school where her brutish husband reigns as headmaster. With its forsaken walled garden, a hauntingly tragic past, and midnight footsteps heard from an unoccupied clocktower, it is a place where the dead are rumored to walk. 

Whitmore Hall is a place filled with mysteries and as a ghost garden emerges from the sun-bleached soil, long-buried secrets cry out to be told. 

When new teacher Raf de Chastelaine blunders into an impromptu seance, Cecily finds an unlikely and eccentric ally. In a world of discipline and respectability, barefoot Raf is unlike any teacher Cecily has ever met. With his tales of the Carpathian mountains and a love of midnight gardening, he shakes Whitmore Hall to its foundations. Could there be more to Raf than meets the eye? And as he and Cecily realise that their feelings run deeper than friendship, dare they dream of a world beyond Whitmore Hall?

As Cecily and Raf team up to unite long-dead lovers and do battle with an ancient evil that has long haunted Whitmore Hall, Cecily finds her chance of happiness threatened by her tyrannical husband. But is the controlling headmaster acting of his own free will, or is he the puppet of a malevolent power from beyond the grave?





Tuesday, 2 April 2019

The Burford Family and Non-Conformism

It's a pleasure to welcome back Alison Botterill, with a tale of non-conformism...
---oOo---

STEPHEN WILLIAMS (c.1711-1797), THE BURFORD FAMILY AND NON-CONFORMISM

Stephen Williams, a little-known,but significant member of the Strict Baptist church at Little Prescott Street, Goodman’s Fields, Whitechapel, was a prosperous glover, linen draper and textile printer with businesses in Stratford, Essex and in the City of London.    It is assumed that he was born in Wiltshire but the precise place or date of his birth are unknown.  His Freedom of the City of London papers of 1741 give his father’s name as Enoch Williams of Charlton Horethorne, yeoman (deceased).  In 1746 Stephen married Catherine Mason in Godstone, Surrey, but none of their four children, all baptised at St Mary Woolnoth Church in the City of London, survived him. 
In 1738 he “gave account of his dealings with God” and following his baptism he was accepted into full membership of the church at Little Prescott Street.  The subscription records for LPS show that between 1757 and his death in 1797, he contributed 10 guineas annually, which constituted over half of each year’s total contributions.   In 1756, he accepted the call to become a Deacon of the church and his name appears regularly in the minute books as one of those required to oversee and discipline unruly members, including Thomas Burford ‘of the Bank’ whose misdemeanours have already been described, courtesy of Madame Gilflurt.   
Stephen Williams was influential in the appointment of two of the ministers at LPS, the first being Samuel Burford [c. 1726-1768], then Minister at Lyme Regis and a relative of Williams’ brother-in-law and business partner, John Burford.  The minute books show that James Fall had been proposed to take the deceased Samuel Wilson’s place, but in an election held in 1753, votes against his appointment narrowly outnumbered those in favour by four.  The minutes show that Stephen Williams voted against Mr Fall’s appointment and it is quite possible that Williams had Samuel Burford in mind for the post, Williams’ sister Hannah having married into the Burford family.  However, despite doubts shown by some members of the congregation, which were to lead to James Fall setting up his own church at Little Alie Street, the minutes state that on 27thApril 1755 The Church unanimously chose him [Burford] and thought proper to give him a call.
After Samuel Burford’s untimely death at the age of 42, leaving a wife and eleven children, a provincial minister Abraham Booth was appointed following the recommendations of Stephen Williams and two other Deacons who had travelled to Nottinghamshire to assess his suitability for the role of leader of such a wealthy and educated congregation.    Booth was to build upon the work of Samuel Burford under whose leadership the church had enjoyed considerable prosperity.  Burford was buried at Bunhill Fields and on his headstone was recorded :
His virtues need no stone to show
full well his friends his merits know; 
While living was by all beloved 
by all regretted when removed

The extended Burford family continued to support the church at Little Prescott Street well into the 19thcentury and helped spread the Baptist doctrine to other parts of the country.  In 1782 Edward Burford sought permission to leave the congregation, along with Peter and Ann Anstie, to establish a church at Preston where they had already begun to introduce new and high quality textile printing processes at the Mosney Print Works in Walton-le-Dale.   In 1798 LPS gave leave to Thomas Burford and seven others to form a new church at Mare Street, in Hackney.
Stephen Williams’ religious devotion was not simply limited to his support of the church at Goodman’s Fields.  Among the charitable interests he supported, with both his time and his money, were The Society for Promoting Religious Knowledge Among the Poor, The Baptist College in Rhode Island, Dr Wheelock’s Indian Charity School and The Orphans’ Working School in City Road.   In 1783 became joint treasurer of the London Baptist Education Society and in 1793 he was named as one of the Deputies for the Civil Affairs of Dissenters.    Such philanthropy was made possible through his successful businesses which included the substantial calico-printing works at Stratford, Essex, in what is now known as Burford Road, and a wholesale linen-drapery no.27 Poultry, in the City of London, where he lived for much of his long life.  Plans for Williams’ renovation of the property, drawn up by architect George Dance in 1760, can be seen at the London Metropolitan Archives. 
The death of Stephen Williams, aged 86, was reported in The Gentleman’s Magazine’s Obituaries of Remarkable People in June 1797.    Notwithstanding his  investment of £10,000 in the Government’s Loyalty Loan shortly before his death, his remaining wealth was considerable.   His will (PROB  11/1294) details many family bequests totalling approximately £30,000 with freeholds and leases in the City of London and Stratford, with the calico printing works bequeathed to his Williams and Burford nephews. The strength of his religious convictions is borne out by other bequests, including £2000 to The Particular Baptist Fund in London, £100 to Rev. Abraham Booth, £100 to the Deacons of the Congregation of Protestant Dissenters for use among the poorer members of the church, £200 to the Widows’ Fund for the relief of the widows of poor dissenting ministers, £100 to the Congregational or Independent Fund in London and £200 to the Orphan Charity School, City Road, Islington.
He was buried at Bunhill Fields on 17thJune 1797, at a cost of £5. 5s. 6d, in the vault which already held the remains of his wife and children, who had predeceased him by several years.   

© Alison Botterill & Fiona Duxbury

Monday, 18 March 2019

Gin, Ghosts and a New Website


I'm super excited to make a few announcements today.

The first is to let you know about a new website for my co-written fiction at www.curzonharkstead.co.uk. Though I'll still announce new releases here at the salon, if you want all the tea on the fiction I write with Eleanor, you'll find it there. If you want to keep up to date with my Georgian nonfiction, you're in the right place right now, and www.madamegilflurt.com will still be the place for all my long-18th work.

This leads me nicely into my next announcement, because I'm a smooth sort like that. If you want to keep up with what Eleanor and I are up to, we're now podcasting at https://anchor.fm/gin-and-gentlemen, or your favourite podcastsite - just look for Gin & Gentlemen and enjoy!

Finally, we're super excited to let you know that The Ghost Garden is now available for preorder. Just read on for more information about this ghostly tale.

Within the tangled vines of a forgotten garden, can a blossoming new love overcome an ancient evil that threatens both the living and the dead?

After losing her brother in the trenches of the Great War, Cecily James is a prisoner of Whitmore Hall, the respected but remote boys’ school where her brutish husband reigns as headmaster. With its forsaken walled garden, a hauntingly tragic past, and midnight footsteps heard from an unoccupied clocktower, it is a place where the dead are rumored to walk. 

Whitmore Hall is a place filled with mysteries and as a ghost garden emerges from the sun-bleached soil, long-buried secrets cry out to be told. 

When new teacher Raf de Chastelaine blunders into an impromptu seance, Cecily finds an unlikely and eccentric ally. In a world of discipline and respectability, barefoot Raf is unlike any teacher Cecily has ever met. With his tales of the Carpathian mountains and a love of midnight gardening, he shakes Whitmore Hall to its foundations. Could there be more to Raf than meets the eye? And as he and Cecily realise that their feelings run deeper than friendship, dare they dream of a world beyond Whitmore Hall?

As Cecily and Raf team up to unite long-dead lovers and do battle with an ancient evil that has long haunted Whitmore Hall, Cecily finds her chance of happiness threatened by her tyrannical husband. But is the controlling headmaster acting of his own free will, or is he the puppet of a malevolent power from beyond the grave?