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2 Oct

Chapter XXII

I searched for my family for months, but found not a trace. I had Grove hire agents to investigate; that, too, was all to no good purpose. Even in those days it was estimated that there were already almost two million people living in London, and anyone not wishing to be found could effortlessly disappear into the labyrinth, as Freddie had done, evidently dragging my family along with him into the shadows. When I returned my attention to the literary life, I discovered that I was no longer welcome at most Society functions. ‘The thing of it is, Jack,’ Ainsworth tried to explain, ‘is that it’s very bad form to get all possessive about another chap’s wife like that.’ He...
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4 Sep

Chapter XXI

Making life on the ship a deal more complicated than it had been, women and children had now boarded. The presence of more civilians at least made my position more tenable and less isolated, but the young families in particular made my heart ache for my own. I had managed thus far to not dwell upon this lack by immersing myself in the company of military men by day, while tapping the admiral and then writing at night, so as to have something halfway decent to dispatch to the Chronicle before we sailed. Thus far all these activities and attendant mental states (observer, reporter, and drunk) had served as albeit very different distractions from a loneliness upon...
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14 Aug

Chapter XX

Dickens had not changed much. In common with MacBeth he was possessed of a vaulting ambition, and although by nature still taciturn, he remained remarkably confident in his own talent. I envied his self-assurance. However well I was doing, I never felt the like, and was confident only in the coming of the next personal catastrophe. I learned later that he was not so different regarding many areas of his life, only he hid it better than I; but in his own faith in his abilities as a writer he was always supremely secure, and with good reason. He really was quite brilliant. I suppose I should have viewed him as a rival, but I was doing...
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7 Aug

Chapter XIX

Britannia
It was decided that Spike Island, a fortified islet within the lower harbour of some hundred acres and, according to our political masters, of great strategic significance, would serve Lakeman and Granger as a most efficacious pitch for a war game. Fort Westmoreland, a star fort built in the previous century, provided a square, while the beaches of the small, green skerry might be assaulted and defended. The location was also far enough away from the town for the discharge of blank cartridges to cause no inconvenience to the local civilian population, while also ensuring that the battle might be conducted with as much martial authenticity as possible. The fort was both garrison and convict depot. I...
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31 Jul

Chapter XVIII

Already being in possession of a husband and a good fortune, and what with the fashionable summer season drawing to a close, Mrs. Garwood decided that what she was most in want of was culture, in the form of a personal tutor, an expert, she said, in literary history and composition, someone, in fact, very much like me. Now, never let it be said that I do not know an invitation when I hear one. Her husband was happy to consent, and I was engaged, on two hundred pounds a year no less, to minister to all of Mrs. Garwood’s creative needs, of which she apparently had many. In light of recent events, which were polarised and extreme,...
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24 Jul

Chapter XVII

Money
In the long summer of 1834, I became the success story of the season, at least in literary terms, leaving poor old Ainsworth behind in the end, for his family soon spoiled his fun. But I was yet young, and unblessed by either wife or children as far as I knew. I would like to claim that it was the quality of my work that caused my star to rise so far and so fast, but the truth, at least in part, was that the public enthusiasm for Ainsworth and myself was more of an indication of the state of English letters in those days, in particular the yawning void left by Walter Scott, who had died...
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17 Apr

Chapter III

Chapter 3 - Mermaids
To the main, I preferred the company of the lower ranks to that of their officers, although in truth I fit no better with the former than the latter. Like the ship, I was an awkward hybrid: too educated to feel comfortable with most working men, yet lacking the breeding to move freely among the so-called upper classes, despite wasting several years in a foolish and ultimately disastrous attempt to do so when I was young. I had more recently come to understand that my place in the world was with my family. I rather liked Lakeman, the condottiere. He was of my kind, although he would likely not have admitted this, being considerably richer than I (though...
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