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

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

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

Forthcoming: 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, Forthcoming: Winter 2019/20… Now available for pre-order 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 of all,… Continue reading Forthcoming: The Author Who Outsold Dickens

A Chronology of the Other 19th Century

The War of the Worlds

A bit of fun... 1804 – Death of Natty Bumppo (AKA 'Hawkeye') on the American frontier, aged eighty. 1805 – Omegarus, the spirit of the last man born in the far future before humanity becomes sterile, appears to Jean-Baptiste Cousin de Grainvilleis in a cave in Syria with a vision of the end of the world. 1811 –… Continue reading A Chronology of the Other 19th Century

Shark Alley

Copley, Watson and the Shark

THE MEMOIRS OF A PENNY-A-LINER James ‘Jack’ Vincent (1808 – c.1888) was a Chartist novelist and journalist whose name is now as obscure as it was once, briefly, famous, his popular fiction from the first half of the nineteenth century quickly eclipsed by the next generation of literary authors, a generation that seemed to proliferate… Continue reading Shark Alley

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

Writing the Underworld: Ainsworth’s Jack Sheppard and the Newgate Controversy – PART ONE

I. ‘A sort of Hogarthian novel’ By 1838 it was all starting to unravel. Despite the consistent sales of Rookwood (which went to five editions within the first three years of publication), Ainsworth’s aristocratic lifestyle had left his private finances seriously depleted. The death of his estranged wife in early March had also plunged him… Continue reading Writing the Underworld: Ainsworth’s Jack Sheppard and the Newgate Controversy – PART ONE

Writing the Underworld: Ainsworth’s Jack Sheppard and the Newgate Controversy – PART TWO

II. Vagabondiana: Jack Sheppard and Social Exploration (9) With regard to the licentiousness of the underworld of Jack Sheppard, Keith Hollingsworth observes that Ainsworth ‘does not realize how fast times have changed’ (Hollingsworth 138). If we recall the high Victorian analysis of the pompous and patronising J. Hain Friswell, it is immediately apparent that what… Continue reading Writing the Underworld: Ainsworth’s Jack Sheppard and the Newgate Controversy – PART TWO