Mary Barton

New entry for the Wordsworth Editions Blog... In 1848, Europe was experiencing the greatest upheaval since Napoleon. The year had begun with a revolution in the Two Sicilies; by February, the French had declared another republic and Marx and Engels had published the Communist Manifesto. By March, there were barricades in Berlin, riots in Sweden,… Continue reading Mary Barton

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

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

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

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

Ainsworth’s Guy Fawkes: Tragic Hero, Catholic Martyr

Guy Fawkes mask

Remember, remember the fifth of November Gunpowder, treason and plot. I see no reason, why gunpowder treason Should ever be forgot. Nowadays, the image of Guy Fawkes – the man who tried to blow up Parliament on November 5, 1605, assassinating James I so a popular revolt could install a Catholic monarch – has become… Continue reading Ainsworth’s Guy Fawkes: Tragic Hero, Catholic Martyr

A Romance of Pendle Forest: The Lancashire Witches by W.H. Ainsworth (Part One)

Barbara Steele

The Lancashire Novelist Largely because of a popular fascination with the occult, The Lancashire Witches is the only one of Ainsworth’s novels to have remained consistently in print to this day, often shelved alongside the work of Dennis Wheatley and Montague Summers (both of whom it undoubtedly influenced). The novel is also one of the… Continue reading A Romance of Pendle Forest: The Lancashire Witches by W.H. Ainsworth (Part One)

A Romance of Pendle Forest: The Lancashire Witches by W.H. Ainsworth (Part Two)

Barabara Steele

The Mark of Satan The heart of all good witchcraft stories is the compact with the Devil, the model for which is concisely provided by the Inquisitors Sprenger and Kramer in their Malleus Maleficarum: Now the method of profession is twofold. One is a solemn ceremony, like a solemn vow. The other is private, and… Continue reading A Romance of Pendle Forest: The Lancashire Witches by W.H. Ainsworth (Part Two)

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