The Opium Eaters – A Work in Progress

If anyone was wondering, this is what I'm currently writing. This project grew out of a panel I spoke on at The Bradford Literature Festival in 2019... THE OPIUM EATERS: High Literature and the Art of Addiction (Morton Books) When the brilliant Oxford drop-out and freelance journalist Thomas De Quincey published his seminal article ‘Confessions of… Continue reading The Opium Eaters – A Work in Progress

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Extract of a piece I wrote for Wordsworth Editions just before Christmas on The Picture of Dorian Gray... ...As a narcissist and living work of art, in Nietzschean terms Dorian is an ‘Apollonian’ figure and Hallward also paints him as Adonis, Narcissus, Paris, and Antinous. Against nature, he has the cold edge of the purely aesthetic;… Continue reading The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Gothic Life of Edgar Allan Poe

Extract from my Halloween Blog for Wordsworth Editions Desperate for money, Poe accepted another assistant editorship at Burton's Gentleman's Magazine in Philadelphia (who had given Pym a rotten review), again for $10 a week. Disheartened by his novel’s reception and aware that his theories of art did not lend themselves to long narratives, Poe returned to short… Continue reading The Gothic Life of Edgar Allan Poe

The Turn of the Screw, The Innocents and The Haunting of Bly Manor

Extract from a contextual review for Wordsworth Editions, originally entitled ‘Based on the Writings of Henry James’: The Turn of the Screw, The Innocents and The Haunting of Bly Manor'. The Innocents (UK, 1961) is a scary film based on a scary book. Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw was first published as a… Continue reading The Turn of the Screw, The Innocents and The Haunting of Bly Manor

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

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

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