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

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

The Rise of the Gothic Novel

New post for Wordsworth Editions Blog... During the Renaissance, ‘gothic’ was a label for all things barbarous. To European Humanist intellectuals, there were two epochs of cultural excellence in human history: the Classical and their own. These were separated by a terrible period of ignorance and brutality – the Dark and Middle Ages – brought… Continue reading The Rise of the Gothic Novel

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

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

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