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Chapter I

[1] ‘2 bore’ was the largest caliber shoulder rifle ever manufactured, and was used mostly by the British in Africa and India for hunting big game. The rifle was loaded with black powder, and was known for its discharge of thick smoke and excessive recoil. ‘The recoil was so terrific,’ wrote Sir Samuel White Baker of a similar weapon, ‘that I spun around like a weathercock in a hurricane.’


Chapter III

[2] The poet and critic Richard Hengist Horne (1802 – 1884) was then a sub-editor of Dickens’ Household Words. He was the author of the influential collection of critical essays A New Spirit of the Age (1844), in which Dickens was praised at the expense of several of his popular rivals, including Jack and his old friend William Harrison Ainsworth. John Forster (1812 – 1876) was Dickens’ best friend and later biographer. At this point in time he was the editor of the Examiner, in which he had frequently attacked Jack’s writing as socially dangerous.


 Chapter IV

[3] Scott’s epic poem Marmion; A Tale of Flodden Field was published by Archibald Constable in 1808. Jack is referring to Canto II: XXXIII.


Chapter VII

[4] James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784 – 1859) was a radical English poet and journalist, and a close friend of Hazlitt, Keats, and Shelley. He was the editor of the Examiner between 1808 and 1817, the Reflector (1810 – 1811), and the Indicator (1819 – 1821). The character of Harold Skimpole in Dickens’ Bleak House is rather uncharitably based upon him.

[5] Alongside his rival Mrs. Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Gregory ‘Monk’ Lewis (1775 – 1818) was the most influential gothic writer of his age, best known for The Monk: A Romance (1796). William Beckford (1760 – 1844) was the author of the gothic novel Vathek (1786); Dr. Nathan Drake (1766 – 1836) wrote gothic tales in the journal Literary Hours from 1798 to 1804; and Francis Lathom (1777 – 1832) was a novelist and dramatist from Norwich whose gothic romance The Midnight Bell (1798) is cited by name in Jane Austen’s satire of the form, Northanger Abbey. ‘The Conclave of Corpses’ (AKA ‘The Monk of Horror’) was an anonymous plagiarism of Lewis that appeared in the chapbook Tales of the Crypt in 1798. The Midnight Groan; or The Spectre of the Chapel: Involving An Exposure of the Horrible Secrets of the Nocturnal Assembly was another anonymous chapbook published by T & R Hughes in 1808. ‘The Dance of the Dead’ (c.1810), also unsigned, was equally inspired by Lewis, and taken from a Silesian folk tale not a million miles from the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Scott’s ‘Narrative of a Fatal Event’ appeared in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine III (12), (March 1818), under the signature of ‘Tweedside.’ ‘Extracts from Gosschen’s Diary’ was written by John Wilson and published in Blackwood’s III (17), (August 1818). Daniel Keyte Sandford’s ‘A Night in the Catacombs’ appeared in Blackwood’s IV (19), (October 1818). ‘The Vampyre’ was published in the April 1819 issue of the New Monthly Magazine as ‘A Tale by Lord Byron,’ but it was actually the work of his personal physician, John Polidori; and Hunt’s ‘A Tale for a Chimney Corner’ appeared in the Indicator in 1819. I have not been able to identify ‘The Early Grave,’ but I suspect that Jack is thinking of John Galt’s ‘The Buried Alive,’ in which case his memory is playing him false, as this story was not published in Blackwood’s until October 1821.

[6] John Gibson Lockhart (1794 – 1854) was a Scots advocate and writer, known in his early career at Blackwood’s for his savage attacks of the so-called ‘Cockney School of Poetry,’ in which he included Leigh Hunt, William Hazlitt, Coleridge, and Keats. He is most remembered today for his seven volume biography of his father-in-law, Sir Walter Scott. ‘Wet with the blood of the Cockneys’ was how fellow writer William Maginn described Lockhart in Blackwood’s X (9), (February 1821), in response to the duel in which the liberal editor and publisher John Scott was killed. Jack’s summary of the duel and Jonathan Henry Christie’s subsequent acquittal matches contemporary accounts.


Chapter XII

[7] The All Max was a ‘Flash Ken’ (or low drinking house) in East Smithfield, its name a mockery of the high citadel of the Regency social season, Almack’s Assembly Rooms of St. James’s.


Chapter XIII

[8] Harriette Wilson née Dubouche (1786 – 1845) was a Regency courtesan whose scandalous memoirs appeared in 1825. Harriette requested a payment of £200 from each of her lovers if they wished to remain anonymous. When her publisher contacted Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, His Grace replied (so legend has it, in blood red ink), ‘Publish, and be damned!’ Victorian literary critics tended to denounce these memoirs as obscene, and they were frequently evoked in critiques of contemporary popular authors as a comparative example of rank filth from a more primitive age (often conflated with Egan’s Life in London).

[9] When Cruikshank died it was discovered that he had fathered eleven illegitimate children with a former servant, Adelaide Attree, who lived close to the family home in North London.

[10] Isaac ‘Ikey’ Solomon (c.1787 – 1850), sometimes mis-called ‘Solomons’ in the broadsheets of the time, was a highly successful and flamboyant criminal. Because of his profession and ethnicity (he was an East End Jew), he was almost certainly the model for the character of Fagin in Dickens’ Oliver Twist.

[11] This is a reference to the notorious ‘Gill’s Hill Tragedy’ of 1823, in which the boxing promoter John Thurtell (and his accomplices Joseph Hunt and William Probert) brutally murdered the solicitor William Weare over a gambling debt. Thurtell was the son of a former mayor of Norwich, and a regular at the Fancy. George Borrow records meeting him in the early-1820s in his memoir Lavengro (1851), and he also appears as ‘Tom Turtle’ in ‘The Fight’ (1822) by William Hazlitt. Egan interviewed Thurtell in prison and subsequently wrote two broadsheet accounts of the case.


Chapter XVI

[12] Seton travelled under the rank of Major, and is referred to by that title in contemporary documentation, but his promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel, although not published in the Gazette until January 16, had taken effect from the previous November. Seton was the replacement for Lieutenant-Colonel John Fordyce, the previous commander of the 74th, who was killed in action in Africa. It would seem that modesty prevented Seton from assuming his new rank before he arrived at his Cape command. In the original manuscript Jack refers to Seton variously as both ‘Major’ and ‘Colonel,’ but to avoid confusion I have standardised the references to Major.

[13] The Basuto (Sotho or Basotho) Nation was formed of ancient Bantu clans united through the diplomatic and strategic acumen of King Moshoeshoe I (c.1786 – 1870). Threatened by Zulu expansion and European migration throughout the 19th century, the Basuto fought the British in three colonial wars between 1834 and 1853. Moshoeshoe finally accepted peace terms from Sir George Cathcart, Sir Harry Smith’s successor as commander of British Armed Forces at the Cape, after the inconclusive Battle of Berea in December 1852. Lakeman is here referring to three embarrassing British defeats in South Africa, although citing Somerset’s failure at the Battles of Burns Hill and Hobbes Drift in April 1847 (which, like Jack, I take to be his implication) is rather slanted given that Somerset went on to win a decisive victory at the Battle of Guanga in June. It is surprising, in fact, that none of the British officers present during this discussion raised the latter point. The ‘Warden Line’ (named after Major Henry Douglas Warden) was the uneasy border established between the British territories of the Orange and Vaal Rivers and the Basuto Nation in 1851. As the British had drawn up this border, it naturally favoured them, claiming the fertile Caledon River Valley. The cold war again became hot, and British forces were defeated by Moshoeshoe at the battle of Viervoet on June 30, 1851. Somerset and Smith were still skirmishing with this elusive and clever enemy at the time of this conversation, and the Birkenhead was indeed carrying reinforcements.


Chapter XVIII

[14] Although few close to him knew the truth, Dickens’ father, John, had gone to the Marshalsea in February, 1824, owing £40.10/, his mother and younger siblings following in April. Just twelve years old, Dickens was taken out of school and sent to work at Warren’s Blacking Warehouse, a factory owned by a maternal relative. John Dickens was released after three months, but the family remained poor and Charles was forced to continue working at the factory. Despite concealing his origins, they constantly surface in Dickens’ fiction. He sent Mr. Pickwick to the Fleet debtors’ prison, in an uncharacteristically bleak section of the otherwise essentially comic novel, Mr. Micawber to the Marshalsea, and his alter ego, David Copperfield, to ‘Murdstone and Grinby’s Wine Warehouse.’ Little Dorritt (1857) returns to the Marshalsea, and the novel is predominantly set in the prison; the protagonist of the title, Amy Dorritt, is born there, just as Jack’s sister, Sarah, was widely presumed to have been by other inmates.


Chapter XIX

[15] John Mitchel (1815 – 1875) was an Irish nationalist and political journalist. He was charged under the new Treason Felony Act of 1848 for ‘seditious libels’ and sentenced to be transported for fourteen years. He was subsequently moved from the penal colony at Bermuda (where Jack places him) to Van Diemen’s Land (modern-day Tasmania), from which he escaped to New York in 1853. He there established the radical Irish nationalist newspaper The Citizen, and in 1854 published his Jail Journal documenting his period as a prisoner of the British, including his time at Spike Island.


Chapter XXII

[16] The ‘Nimrod Club series’ was The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, inaugurated when the publishers Chapman & Hall approached Dickens in the spring of 1836 with a view to him providing the text for a serial about a gentlemen’s sporting club based around Robert Seymour’s humorous illustrations. Seymour, down on his luck and in need of a hit, had in mind a monthly illustrated serial specifically modelled on Egan’s Life in London, which still remained the benchmark for such writing, as can be seen immediately from the original subtitle: Containing a Faithful Record of the Perambulations, Perils, Travels, Adventures, and Sporting Transactions of the Corresponding Members. Dickens and Seymour did not see eye-to-eye on the direction of the project, and the notoriously sensitive, near-bankrupt artist committed suicide after revising the illustrations for the second issue (Dickens had rejected the originals).

[17] Ainsworth and Cruikshank publicly supported these unlicensed theatrical adaptations of their work, whereas Dickens, in general, loathed it when it happened to him. Forster relates the following anecdote in his Life of Dickens: ‘I was with him at a representation of his Oliver Twist the following month [December 1838] at the Surrey Theatre, when in the middle of the first scene he laid himself down upon the floor in a corner of the box and never rose from it until the drop-scene fell.

[18] This article appeared in the Athenaeum Journal of English and Foreign Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, 626 (October 26, 1839). As this is effectively an editorial within a literary review, it is possible that the author may indeed have been, as Jack conjectures, Charles Wentworth Dilke, the editor from 1830 to 1846.

[19] The so-called ‘Bedchamber crisis’ arose when the Whig Prime Minister Lord Melbourne resigned in May, 1839, and Queen Victoria invited Robert Peel to form a minority government. Peel notionally accepted, but only on the condition that Victoria dismissed several of her personal attendants, or ‘Ladies of the Bedchamber,’ on the grounds that they were married or otherwise related to prominent Whig politicians and that, he argued, a monarch should not be seen to favour a party in opposition. Victoria refused, and Peel did not form a government. Melbourne was persuaded to remain Prime Minister until he was defeated by Peel in the general election of 1841, after which the Whig Ladies of the Bedchamber were quietly replaced by Conservatives.

[20] The poet and journalist Samuel Laman Blanchard (1804 – 1845) was then the editor of George Cruikshank’s Omnibus, before moving to the Examiner in 1841; like Ainsworth and Jack, his literary reputation has not endured, despite his contemporary popularity. The Church of England clergyman Richard Harris Barham (1788 –1845) was a novelist and humorous poet who wrote under the pseudonym ‘Thomas Ingoldsby.’ He is best known for The Ingoldsby Legends – a series of mock-medieval ballads and ghost stories that appeared first in Bentley’s Miscellany and later in the New Monthly Magazine, originally illustrated by John Leech and George Cruikshank. The wit of Barham’s verse and its lively anapaestic structure anticipates the work of W.S. Gilbert later in the century.


Chapter XXIII

[21] ‘Condition of England’ (or ‘Industrial’) novels collectively represented an attempt to address, or at least explore, working class life during the Industrial Revolution. The ‘Condition of England question’ was originally posed by Thomas Carlyle in the first chapter of Chartism (1839), which begins: ‘A feeling very generally exists that the disposition and condition of the Working Classes is a rather ominous matter at present; that something ought to be said, something ought to be done, in regard to it.’ Examples of the literary form in print when Jack was considering his lecture included Coningsby, or The New Generation (1844), and Sybil, or The Two Nations (1845), both by Benjamin Disraeli; Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life (1848); Shirley (1849) by Charlotte Brontë; and Alton Locke: Tailor and Poet (1850) by Charles Kingsley. Dickens’ Hard Times was not published until 1854.

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