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

‘Beaks, buzgloaks, and knucks in quod’: Romance, Realism, and the Language of the Nineteenth Century Underworld

It was the London-Irish Regency sporting journalist Pierce Egan who first made the flash the fashion - the linguistically deviant slang anti-language of the Daffy Clubs, the Fancy, the street-folk, and the criminal underworld, which he had acquired ringside and used to great effect in his coverage of illegal bare-knuckle boxing matches for the Weekly… Continue reading ‘Beaks, buzgloaks, and knucks in quod’: Romance, Realism, and the Language of the Nineteenth Century Underworld

Life in London from Egan to Dickens: Regency Innocence versus Victorian Experience

Fleet Prison

If you do not want to dwell with evil-doers, do not live in London (1) I. Innocence: Pierce Egan’s Life in London. When the Victorians wanted to attack an author, they would invariably draw comparisons with the Regency writer Pierce Egan (1772 – 1849).  John Forster, for instance, in a damning Examiner review of W.H.… Continue reading Life in London from Egan to Dickens: Regency Innocence versus Victorian Experience

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