Duel at Chalk Farm Tavern

On the night of Friday, February 16, 1821, two men faced each other across the field of honour, a wooded knoll beyond the Chalk Farm Tavern near Primrose Hill, to the north of a great chase that had yet to become Regent’s Park. This had been the scene of many duels; there were no neighbouring houses, just open fields ...

Read More

The Lays of Ancient Rome

On August 24, 79AD, Hell came to the Gulf of Naples. Vesuvius erupted and a searing pyroclastic cloud scorched, choked and buried the prosperous provincial Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum under thousands of tons of blistering ash and boiling mud. To the witnesses and victims it must have felt like the apocalypse.

Read More

A Very Popular Murder

Like his popular predecessors, ‘Jack the Ripper’ was not, therefore, simply a murderer, he was a hyper-real media event, and, apparently, he still is. So how did this lunatic become the Elvis of murder? The continuing obsession with Jack the Ripper is all about genre, setting, and the lack of a third act.

Read More

The Lancashire Novelist

The years have not been kind to the memory of the Manchester-born Victorian author William Harrison Ainsworth, 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 in the 1830s and 40s ...

Read More

A Gothic Chronology

In Jane Austen’s satire of the fashion for gothic romance, Northanger Abbey, Isabella Thorpe enthusiastically recommends seven ‘horrid novels’ to Catherine Morland. For many years these were believed by literary scholars to have been inventions of the author. There were actually all real books – see if you can find them in this list …

Read More

The Man Who Wasn't Dickens

‘If  “Mr G.W. Reynolds” be the Mr. Reynolds who is the author of the Mysteries of London, and who took the chair for a mob in Trafalgar Square before they set forth on a window-breaking expedition,’ wrote Charles Dickens in 1849, ‘I hold his to be a name with which no lady’s, and no gentleman’s, should be associated.'

Read More

The Gothic Revival

It was the British, always out of step with their European neighbours, that laid the foundations of a cultural re-evaluation which would later spread to the continent ... the ‘Gothic polity’ therefore represented free institutions and was opposed to tyranny and privilege.

Read More

Pugin

We might almost view Pugin as a prophet, a Blakean figure with some unusual ideas about the relationship between moral and aesthetic value which he not only believed with a passion, but succeeded in convincing the Victorians.

Read More

Work in Progress

Enter a world of gin spinners, sneaksmen and Covent Garden nuns, where bare-knuckled boxers slog it out for dozens of rounds, children are worth more dead than alive, and the Thames holds more bodies than the Ganges. This is the Modern Babylon, a place of brutal poverty, violent crime, drugs, pornography and prostitution ...

Read More