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

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

Man of La Manchester

It's been a long time coming, but my new biography of the 'Lancashire Novelist' William Harrison Ainsworth, The Author Who Outsold Dickens is published in hardback today from Pen & Sword Books. Here's the Prologue... On the evening of Thursday, 15 September 1881, the man they called the ‘Lancashire Novelist’ attended a mayoral banquet in his… Continue reading Man of La Manchester

London Labour and the London Poor

New post for the Wordsworth Blog The sums involved in printer George Woodfall’s chancery suit against Henry Mayhew that killed off London Labour and the London Poor mid-flow were trivial. He made several attempts to arrive at a settlement, but Mayhew ignored him. This was a common pattern of behaviour in Mayhew’s life, going back… Continue reading London Labour and the London Poor

Traveller in the Poor Man’s Country

New post for the Wordsworth Blog As the freelance journalist is never off the clock, William Thackeray was, like friend and rival Charles Dickens, a born people watcher. In a short piece for Punch entitled ‘Waiting at the Station’ written in March 1850, Thackeray thus turns the everyday experience of killing time at Fenchurch Street… Continue reading Traveller in the Poor Man’s Country

G.W.M. Reynolds & Me

A new post for the G.W.M. Reynolds Society... As a child, I possessed a morbid passion for nineteenth century gothic literature. I had inherited this trait from my mother, a Catholic turned Spiritualist with a taste for true crime and horror film and fiction. My parents had me late in life and my grandparents were… Continue reading G.W.M. Reynolds & Me

The Author Who Outsold Dickens

THE AUTHOR WHO OUTSOLD DICKENS: The Life and Work of W.H. Ainsworth By Stephen Carver Published by Pen & Sword History, January 2020 Now available from Pen & Sword here William Harrison Ainsworth (1805 – 1882) is probably the most successful 19th Century writer that most people haven’t heard of. Journalist, essayist, poet and, most… Continue reading The Author Who Outsold Dickens

The City’s Sacred Victim

An extract from my new book, The 19th Century Underworld, published by Pen & Sword Books... The Ratcliffe Highway was an ancient road running east out of the City to Limehouse, dating back to at least Roman times, close to the new London Docks and forming the unofficial Wapping boundary. Cutting its way through Tower… Continue reading The City’s Sacred Victim

Looking into Hell: Kipling and the Great War

Guest post for Wordsworth Editions... During a visit in the winter of 1918, Rider Haggard – who believed in reincarnation – asked Rudyard Kipling if he thought the earth was one of the hells. His old friend replied that he did not think this, he was certain of it (qtd. in Wilson: 1994, 306). And… Continue reading Looking into Hell: Kipling and the Great War