J.S Le Fanu & The Golden Age of the Ghost Story

Extract from new post for the Wordsworth Editions Blog… As the nights grow longer and colder and we move inexorably towards Halloween, the readerly mind turns naturally towards the ghost story. And while pumpkins are carved and displayed as an invitation to trick-or-treaters, let us not forget that their original purpose was to ward off the evil… Continue reading J.S Le Fanu & The Golden Age of the Ghost Story

The Time Machine

Extract from new post for the Wordsworth Editions Blog… There’s an elegant simplicity to the structure of The Time Machine, developed perfectly in a mere 35,000 words; like several of Wells’ iconic ‘scientific romances’, it is more novella than novel. In a tight framing narrative, an old friend of an unnamed, 40-year-old inventor referred to only as… Continue reading The Time Machine

The Island of Dr Moreau

New post for the Wordsworth Editions Blog… Although Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) sent shockwaves through the Victorian scientific and religious establishments (until then unproblematically linked), the book’s conclusion is remarkably optimistic: …from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production… Continue reading The Island of Dr Moreau

Vanity Fair

New post for the Wordsworth Editions Blog… Sometime between 1845 and 1846, the literary journalist William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863) drafted a few short pieces entitled Pen and Pencil Sketches of English Society (illustrated by himself), which he hoped would constitute the opening chapters of an as yet unspecified longer work. ‘The truth forces itself upon me,’ he… Continue reading Vanity Fair

Treasure Island

Extract of a piece originally written for the Wordsworth Editions Blog... ...Although a recognised essayist and travel writer, Treasure Island was Stevenson’s first novel, discounting some unfinished juvenilia which he had burned. This was in the hope of making his craft pay, because, as he later wrote in ‘My First Book’: By that time I… Continue reading Treasure Island

Huckleberry Finn

Extract of a piece originally published by Wordsworth Editions… ...Although a much more complex novel than Tom Sawyer, the story of Huckleberry Finn is deceptively simple. Huck and Jim drift down the Mississippi Valley through Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee, ending up in Arkansas where Tom Sawyer re-joins the narrative having been left behind in St. Petersburg… Continue reading Huckleberry Finn

Tom Sawyer

Extract from a post originally published by Wordsworth Editions… ...Children’s literature was already an established genre on both sides of the Atlantic, the so-called ‘First Golden Age of Children’s Fiction’ heralded by the English translation of Johann David Wyss’ The Swiss Family Robinson (1812). Wyss had written the book for his sons to deliver Christian moral lessons… Continue reading Tom Sawyer

Moby Dick

Extract from an article originally published by Wordsworth Editions… The Whale (renamed Moby-Dick at the last minute) was birthed after an 18-month labour including a substantial rewrite that saw Melville sailing so close to the wind that he was still editing proofs when the novel went to print in the autumn of 1851. Although the original plan… Continue reading Moby Dick

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