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

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

Dracula (BBC 2020) Review

The last of the big three BBC winter schedule Victorian fantasy dramas dropped this week, with the epic three-part miniseries Dracula written by Sherlock and Dr Who team Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat which concluded last night. And I have to say, I think the Beeb left the best until last. Following the reimagining of… Continue reading Dracula (BBC 2020) Review

A Christmas Carol 2019 – Review

My latest for the Wordsworth Blog... Well, here we are again. With the festive season comes a slew of costume dramas and literary adaptations from the BBC, most prominent among them new versions of A Christmas Carol and Dracula, hot on the heels of The War of the Worlds. This winter, dark Victorian fantasy rules,… Continue reading A Christmas Carol 2019 – Review

Goblin Stories and Haunted Men: Dickens’ Other Christmas Books

My latest for the Wordsworth Blog, on the stories that followed A Christmas Carol... As the fairy lights go up and we max out our credit cards, I think we can all agree that Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Consuming it in some form is as much of a tradition as… Continue reading Goblin Stories and Haunted Men: Dickens’ Other Christmas Books

M.R. James and the Perfect Christmas Ghost Story

My latest for the Wordsworth Blog, on M.R. James and writing the perfect Christmas ghost story... ‘There must be something ghostly in the air of Christmas,’ wrote Jerome K. Jerome in the introduction to his darkly comic collection Told After Supper (1891), ‘something about the close, muggy atmosphere that draws up the ghosts, like the… Continue reading M.R. James and the Perfect Christmas Ghost Story

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

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