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

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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

‘The Phantom Steed’: The Outlaw Narrative of Rookwood

Tom Mix as Dick Turpin

During the fourth book of Ainsworth’s gothic novel Rookwood (1834), in a chapter entitled ‘The Phantom Steed,’ the highwayman Dick Turpin becomes aware of a ghostly horseman riding by his side in the midnight mist during his fabled ride to York. Book IV is in fact called ‘The Ride to York,’ and is the dramatic… Continue reading ‘The Phantom Steed’: The Outlaw Narrative of Rookwood

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