Lady Audley’s Secret

New entry for the Wordsworth Editions Blog... When the category of ‘Sensation Fiction’ was first applied as a genre label in the Literary Budget periodical of November 1861, it coined a term for a new species of narrative that was at once innovative, soon-to-be hugely influential, and at the same time the next logical step… Continue reading Lady Audley’s Secret

Moll Flanders

New entry for the Wordsworth Editions Blog... Like its famous predecessor, Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders is a story of survival. But instead of being shipwrecked on an uninhabited island ‘near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque’, the novel’s protagonist arguably has a more insurmountable problem, that of being born a poor… Continue reading Moll Flanders

Mary Barton

New entry for the Wordsworth Editions Blog... In 1848, Europe was experiencing the greatest upheaval since Napoleon. The year had begun with a revolution in the Two Sicilies; by February, the French had declared another republic and Marx and Engels had published the Communist Manifesto. By March, there were barricades in Berlin, riots in Sweden,… Continue reading Mary Barton

The Other Brontë Girl

New entry for the Wordsworth Editions Blog... In her introduction to the 1914 edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, the author and critic May Sinclair reminded her fellow Modernists how radical Anne Brontë’s second and final novel had been. When Anne depicted her protagonist, Helen Huntingdon, slamming her bedroom door in her abusive husband’s… Continue reading The Other Brontë Girl

Northanger Abbey

New entry for the Wordsworth Editions Blog... Often taken to be a spoof of the gothic writings of Mrs Radcliffe, particularly The Mysteries of Udolpho, Jane Austen’s first (and oddly final) novel is in fact much sneakier than that. It is a novel about novels; that fledgling and modern artform that was to become the… Continue reading Northanger Abbey

The Rise of the Gothic Novel

New post for Wordsworth Editions Blog... During the Renaissance, ‘gothic’ was a label for all things barbarous. To European Humanist intellectuals, there were two epochs of cultural excellence in human history: the Classical and their own. These were separated by a terrible period of ignorance and brutality – the Dark and Middle Ages – brought… Continue reading The Rise of the Gothic Novel

Old St. Paul’s: A Tale of the Plague and the Fire

Recommended reading for the self isolating... As soon as the epic serial, The Tower of London concluded at the end of 1840, its author, the flamboyant ‘Lancashire Novelist’ William Harrison Ainsworth, threw an enormous celebratory party and promptly began the next serial, Old St. Paul’s, A Tale of the Plague and the Fire, the first… Continue reading Old St. Paul’s: A Tale of the Plague and the Fire

How the ‘Newgate Controversy’ Destroyed Dickens’ Greatest Rival

Guest post I wrote recently for History Hit on The Author Who Outsold Dickens As a child growing up in Regency Manchester, William Harrison Ainsworth had his head filled with tales of highwaymen by his father. His favourite was Dick Turpin. Expected to join the family law firm, the young Ainsworth was already writing poems,… Continue reading How the ‘Newgate Controversy’ Destroyed Dickens’ Greatest Rival

The Birkenhead Poems

As a companion post to 'The Victorian Titanic', here are the two commemorative poems by Francis Hastings Doyle and Rudyard Kipling celebrating the heroes of the Birkenhead, lost off Danger point, February 26, 1852... ‘The Loss of the Birkenhead’ by Sir Francis Hastings Doyle, 2nd Baronet, Professor of Poetry, Oxford (Supposed to be told by… Continue reading The Birkenhead Poems

The Victorian Titanic: The Last Voyage of the HMS Birkenhead

On the 168th anniversary of the wreck of Her Majesty's Troopship Birkenhead, which I once wrote a novel about and am now planning a history of, here's the true story... In the winter 1851, Her Majesty’s Troopship Birkenhead laid at anchor at Portsmouth, awaiting orders. A world away, the British Empire was fighting its third… Continue reading The Victorian Titanic: The Last Voyage of the HMS Birkenhead