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A Victory Celebration

'Tis the season to be jolly... so come and join some wonderful authors (and their characters) for an On-Line Virtual Party! Browse through a variety of blogs (hopping forward to the next one on the list) for a veritable feast of entertainment! And, just as with any good party, you'll find a few give-away prizes along the way! A Victory Celebration An extract from my forthcoming novel, Bloodie Bones: A Dan Foster Mystery In the eighteenth century, the war between keepers and poachers could be brutal. In autumn 1796, Bow Street Runner and amateur pugilist Dan Foster has been sent to Barcombe in Somerset to investigate the murder of Lord Oldfield's head gamekeeper. Dan's job is to infiltrate the poaching gang believed to be responsible for the killing and bring them to justice. But Dan has walked into a volatile situation. Lord Oldfield has enclosed Barcombe Wood and deprived the people of their ancient rights to gather food and fuel, sparking

Spotlight on Suffragette Florence Feek (1877 – 1940)

The latest Suffragette Spotlight On looks at the work of Worcestershire campaigner, Florence Feek... On 31 March 1909, thirty suffragettes attempted to get into the House of Commons to speak to Prime Minister Asquith. Nine of them were arrested after a struggle with the police. Amongst them was Florence Eliza Feek of Pershore. Florence was the daughter of Julius Harnworth Feek, who was the minister of the Baptist church at 2 Broad Street for thirty one years until his retirement in 1903. He was also on the Board of Guardians, and a district and parish councillor. The family lived at Myrtle Cottage, Pershore.    Florence was a civil servant who worked in the General Post Office at St Martin Le Grand in London, and was also involved in social work with women and girls. It was that social work, she said, that made her a militant, for it “ confirmed her in the belief that much of it under present economic conditions must fail”. She became a member of the Women’s Social and Political

Harriette Wilson and John Murray: Surviving the Brutal Rejection

In July I wrote a blog about bad reviews and how they have always been an occupational hazard for writers. (July 2014, Dismal Trash: The Time-Honoured Art of the Bad Review ).   This time I’m looking at another literary tradition: the brutal rejection. Harriette Wilson (1786–1845) was the daughter of a clockmaker in Marylebone who went on to carve out a career for herself as a courtesan. Her clients included some of the most rich and famous men in the land, Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, amongst them. Harriette also fancied herself something of a writer. She set about writing her memoirs, but found it a “tiresome” occupation and “a few pages” in grew tired of it. She did not give up her ambition, however. With the encouragement of her friends, she decided to find out if her memoirs were worth publishing. She took her few pages to John Murray, Byron’s publisher.   Harriette approached Murray “in much fear and trembling”. She explained that she had little confidence

Xena Warrior Princess v Patient Griselda: Feisty Heroines in Historical Fiction

I had a wonderful time at the Historical Novel Society Conference in London last weekend (5-7 September 2014). There were some great panels and workshops, and it was lovely to meet old friends and make new ones.    One of the workshops I attended was “Feisty Heroines and Dutiful Wives” which looked at the challenges of writing about women in history when their lives were so often constrained by prevailing custom, ideology and law. The panellists were Jessie Burton ( The Miniaturist ), Kate Forsyth (best-selling author of thirty books including The Wild Girl and Bitter Greens ) and Professor Diana Wallace ( Professor of English Literature at the University of South Wales, The Woman's Historical Novel ) .   It was a topic that interested me because most of my stories have a male leading character. This surprises even me sometimes! After all, my main perspective in history and literature is a feminist one, and my literary giants are Frances Burney, Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlo

The gout sticks to me: two previously unknown letters by William Morris : Part 2

Last week on the blog I published the first part of an article about two previously unknown letters by William Morris. The article originally appeared in the William Morris Society Newsletter in autumn 2013. The letters had been glued into an incomplete set of Morris's  The Earthly Paradise which belonged to Reverend John Pincher Faunthorpe , principal of Whitelands Training College.    In addition to the two Morris letters, Book I of the set    contains a slip of paper dated “Nov 27 th 1883” which reads: “Dear Mr Faunthorpe, Please accept this little gift as a token of gratitude & affection from your Senior Pupils for Language. Kate Stanley. Harriet A Martin.” This paper bears the stamp of “Whitelands Training College, Chelsea”.       A grim sense of humour and kindness of heart : Kate Stanley   Kate Stanley was one of the two signatories of the 1883 note to Rev Faunthorpe “from your Senior Pupils for Language”. This suggests that she herself was, with Ha

The gout sticks to me: two previously unknown letters by William Morris

Back in 2011, I did a blog about one of my most treasured possessions:   three volumes of the eighth, four-volume edition of William Morris’s The Earthly Paradise (Ellis and White , 1880). Apart from being a volume short, they are quite ordinary books and they’re not in particularly good condition. The reason I treasure them is that glued inside them are two hand-written letters by one of my heroes, William Morris.   In that earlier blog, I wondered who had gone to the trouble of pasting in the letters, as well as a newspaper cutting and a slip of paper presenting the books to a Mr Faunthorpe. “Clearly Morris meant something to our scrap collector. Were [Morris’s letters] addressed to him? Why else would he be in possession of them? But then how did he know Morris?”    Last year I took the books into the William Morris Society and they were so interested in these previously unknown Morris letters they suggested that I write an article about them for the Society’s Newsletter. S

Dismal Trash: The Time-Honoured Art of the Bad Review

Every writer knows they run the risk of receiving a bad review. Often the temptation to answer back is strong. The accepted advice is “don’t”, and I think this is wise counsel. Of course it’s hard when reviews seem harsh or unfair, but perhaps there’s some comfort in the realisation that it was ever thus. Spare a thought for the eighteenth and nineteenth-century writers who elicited the following responses from the critics.    The third number of the Edinburgh Review wrote of Madame de Stael’s 1802 novel Delphine , “this dismal trash has nearly dislocated the jaws of every critic amongst us with gaping...as dull as it could have been...The incidents are vulgar; the characters vulgar too.”    Thomas Holcroft’s play The Man of Ten Thousand was described as “miserable trash” in the True Briton on 3 February 1793. The Sun (no, not that one) on 27 January 1796 said it was “too low for comedy...gross and indecorous”, and reported that the audience reacted to the news that there wou