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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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10 Jul

Chapter XV

Bannockburn
It was strange to think that a domestic withdrawing room, even one as ostentatiously furnished as Lady Blessington’s, was the acknowledged centre of all that was considered brilliant in literature and art in those days. But it was, and to be seen there was worth a thousand copies shifted in a week. Ainsworth seemed quite comfortable in this new environment, although his stentorian Lancashire accent was as foreign there as my own by then fluent Cockney. I had long ago shed my original country voice, but that which had replaced it was just as coarse to the collective ear of the present company. But Ainsworth was a lawyer, and from money, albeit new money, and he understood the...
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3 Jul

Chapter XIV

Bannockburn
Years passed. And so, as they say, I grew to manhood. By the early part of next decade, I was quite the man about town, and as in love with the city as is any Londoner who was not born there but came in from the provinces. I was in the prime of my life, and fancied that I cut quite a dash. I dressed well, and like Cruikshank I was a bit of a dandy. My dramatic blue eyes and wild black hair, which I wore rather long and romantic, were always popular with the ladies. Affairs tended to be brief, which suited me perfectly well. This was mostly on account of my moods, which were better...
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29 May

Chapter IX

Chapter 9 - Pirates
I had thus far avoided the tap room for it was intimidating to me, full of rough men and rougher women. I had no experience of such places beyond reading of them in picaresque novels. I was well out of my depths and I knew it. Although I had fooled Scott and Ainsworth by strongly implying that I was fully grown in our correspondence, there was no faking adulthood in the real world, the universe outside the text. My father, meanwhile, had a Methodist’s disdain for the drink, although it was practical rather than evangelical, as even though our cause was futile he tried to save as much money as he could towards our debts. ‘I might at...
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22 May

Chapter VIII

Chapter 8 Prison
I was barely fourteen years old when my father and I were arrested for the crime of destitution. The long walk to London had enfeebled us to the point of near insensibility, and that we found my uncle’s house at all was close to miraculous, just as inebriates often seem to be guided safely to their beds by angels, having subsequently no memory of the journey. There our luck had ended. We were received at the side entrance like particularly poor applicants for a vacancy below stairs. A vinegar-lipped housekeeper bade us wait for the master in the kitchen, but it was not my uncle who came but the traps. We were carried to the Sponging-house immediately,...
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