Duel at Chalk Farm Tavern: A Regency Tragedy

Duel from Mysteries of the Court of London

Guest post for Geri Walton's Blog: Unique Histories from the 18th and 19th Centuries... On the night of Friday, February 16, 1821, two men faced each other across the field of honour, a wooded knoll beyond the Chalk Farm Tavern near Primrose Hill, to the north of a great chase that had yet to become… Continue reading Duel at Chalk Farm Tavern: A Regency Tragedy

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Finding Jack Vincent

A London Street Scene

As a child growing up in the 1970s, I possessed a passion for morbid nineteenth century popular literature. I had inherited this trait from my mother, a Catholic turned Spiritualist with a taste for gothic film and fiction. I was thus always dimly aware of the name ‘Jack Vincent’ through the cheap paperback anthologies of… Continue reading Finding Jack Vincent

William Harrison Ainsworth: A Contextual Chronology

1805 – William Harrison Ainsworth born in Manchester, February 4, the first child of Thomas Ainsworth, solicitor, and Ann Harrison. 1806 – Birth of brother, Thomas Gilbert Ainsworth, October 4 (destined for a long life of mental illness). 1807 – British slave trade abolished by Act of Parliament. 1812 – Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. 1814… Continue reading William Harrison Ainsworth: A Contextual Chronology

‘A Wrappage of Traditions’: Scott, Ainsworth and Nineteenth Century Narratives of British National Identity

THE ENGLISH think they know who they are.  It is nowadays often remarked that the English have lost their collective sense of national identity, while devolved government has strengthened that of the Welsh, the Northern Irish and, especially, the Scots.  ‘Being English,’ begins the preface to Jeremy Paxman’s excellent study The English: A Portrait of… Continue reading ‘A Wrappage of Traditions’: Scott, Ainsworth and Nineteenth Century Narratives of British National Identity

‘The Enchanter of the North’: A Profile of Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832)

Sir Walter Scott was a Scottish poet, novelist, editor, critic and antiquarian. The ‘Enchanter of the North’ (as he was often known in his own day) was born in the College Wynd, Edinburgh in August 1771, the ninth child of Anne Rutherford and Walter Scott, solicitor, a strict Calvinist with whom Scott would later clash… Continue reading ‘The Enchanter of the North’: A Profile of Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832)

William Harrison Ainsworth: The Life and Adventures of the Lancashire Novelist

Introduction: The Victorian Critical Heritage The years have not been kind to the memory of the Manchester-born Victorian author William Harrison Ainsworth (1805 – 1882), a prolific English novelist once held in such high regard that many of his contemporaries viewed him as a natural successor to Sir Walter Scott. Ainsworth’s romances were hugely popular… Continue reading William Harrison Ainsworth: The Life and Adventures of the Lancashire Novelist

The Book of Stone: Ainsworth’s Gothic History of England

In 1840 William Harrison Ainsworth, the author of the infamous Jack Sheppard, emerged from the storm of the ‘Newgate Controversy’ with his critical reputation in tatters and his public popularity soaring. Outraged at being included in the ‘Newgate School,’ Dickens had quickly dissociated himself from his close friend Ainsworth and it was commonly believed that… Continue reading The Book of Stone: Ainsworth’s Gothic History of England

The ‘Design of Romance’: Rookwood, Scott and the Gothic

In a preface added to Rookwood for the edition of 1849, Ainsworth describes in some detail the construction of his famous romance (1). Like his first novel Sir John Chiverton (1826, written in collaboration with J.P. Aston), the inspiration for Rookwood came initially from the gothic charge which the author associated with an ancient building:… Continue reading The ‘Design of Romance’: Rookwood, Scott and the Gothic