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Showing posts from July, 2014

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. So I decided to se…

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 would be a repeat p…

Spotlight On...Ellen W Pitman (c1857 - ?)

At midnight on Friday 8 October 1909, Nurse Ellen Pitman of Southleigh Road (also known as Leigh Road South), Clifton boarded the train from Bristol to Newcastle. She was on her way to take part in protests against the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George, who was due to speak in Newcastle the next day.

Nurse Pitman may have been sporting a bruise on her face. She had spent the evening protesting about Bristol North MP Augustine Birrell's visit to the city to speak in St James Parish Hall. Nurse Pitman and the other suffragettes had struggled unsuccessfully against the police barricade to get into the meeting, and as Birrell was leaving she ran towards his car to remind him of women’s demand for the vote. Someone in the car opened the door, which struck her in the face. 
The event, however, is shrouded in obscurity. A rumour started that the intention had been to throw corrosives at Mr Birrell, and Lillian Dove-Willcox of the Bristol WSPU had to write a letter of denial to the…