Filed under English literature

How to Create a Perfect Wife

How to Create a Perfect Wife

This is an intriguing book by Wendy Moore, a journalist and author who I’d never heard of. The story fills in a lot of gaps in my historical knowledge, especially featuring the poet Thomas Day who I knew from his famous abolitionist poem The Dying Negro and his book on child centred education. He was … Continue reading

A Captive Owl

This is from Kilvert’s Diary, told to him by a Miss Child: She and her sister stranded in London at night went to London Bridge hotel (having missed the last train) with little money and no luggage except the owl in a basket. The owl hooted all night in spite of their putting it up … Continue reading

Child Prodigies

Child Prodigies

James Ferguson grew up in rural Scotland in the early 18th century. Like most families, the Fergusons could not support their children so sent them to work at an early age. James became a shepherd but spent his days making models of mills, spinning wheels and any other mechanisms he saw. At night he lay … Continue reading

Ghosts of Wigan Pier

Ghosts of Wigan Pier

This is from the i paper by Dean Kirby. I was surprised to see the image of Orwell’s son. The 1930s seem so much further away than living history. Orwell is also important today with the rise in alternative readings of Britain’s colonial past.  When George Orwell was writing The Road to Wigan Pier – … Continue reading

Norfolk Witches

Norfolk Witches

This is from The Norfolk Broads published 1903  by William Dutt, as described by the rector of Rockland: He assured me that even now there were men and women in Rockland and its neighbourhood who sought the aid of “wise women” and “cunning men” when a child was lost; who would not allow their relatives … Continue reading

On Translation 

When the news broke on Wednesday & twitter fell silent I turned to John Berger’s ‘Confabulations ‘ on translating into other languages: “We read and reread the words of the original text in order to penetrate through them, to reach, to touch the vision or experience which prompted them. We then gather up what we … Continue reading

Writing Non Fiction

Writing Non Fiction

Writing fiction or non fiction requires the ability to get inside a story, and inside the heads of characters. But non fiction has to go further – it has to be checkable, you need to protect yourself from challenges. But the process of research and writing can change you for the better. I am a … Continue reading

Art and History Uniting Communities

Art and History Uniting Communities

In the midst of despair at the divisiveness and hostility between many Britons, I offer some thoughts from our Georgian past. This is one of my favourite quotes, so apologies to anyone who has read it before. It comes from Highways & Byways in Somerset by Edward Hutton, on the importance of the city of … Continue reading

Executions on Newcastle Moor

Newcastle had a temporary gallows built on the Town Moor, near the barracks of This is a list of the people who were despatched there. It is a varied and pretty comprehensive list of the types of crime that were designated capital offences at the time. It is also interesting how few there were for … Continue reading