Search This Blog

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Out Now!

I'm very pleased to announce that Vignettes is now available in paperback! It's available exclusively from Amazon - here in the UK, and here in the USA. I do hope you enjoy reading it!

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Happy Christmas!

On the left is my latest acquisition - a lovely morning dress fashion plate from La Belle AssemblĂ©e for December 1812. 

I hope to have some exciting news for you early next year. 

Here's wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

Monday, 16 December 2019

A Visit to Blaise Castle

Blaise Castle
"Blaize Castle!" cried Catherine. "What is that?"
"The finest place in England—worth going fifty miles at any time to see."
"What, is it really a castle, an old castle?"
"The oldest in the kingdom."
"But is it like what one reads of?"
"Exactly—the very same."
"But now really—are there towers and long galleries?"
"By dozens."
"Then I should like to see it..."

In Northanger Abbey, Catherine Morland, who loves 'horrid' novels, longs to explore the wonders of Blaize (Blaise) Castle and 'all the happiness which its walls could supply—the happiness of a progress through a long suite of lofty rooms, exhibiting the remains of magnificent furniture, though now for many years deserted—the happiness of being stopped in their way along narrow, winding vaults, by a low, grated door; or even of having their lamp, their only lamp, extinguished by a sudden gust of wind, and of being left in total darkness.' 

Blaise Castle House Museum
However, she was completely misled by that sad 'rattle' John Thorpe. Far from being an 'old' castle, the Gothic edifice they planned to visit was only about thirty years old when Jane Austen was composing her novel.

The Castle, built in 1766 by estate owner Thomas Farr, was described as 'paltry' in size, but a 'very pleasing object' by Charles Heath in 1819 (Historical and Descriptive Accounts... of Chepstow, 6th edition).

Farr's manor house was replaced in the early 1790s with a beautiful neoclassical house (now Blaise Castle House Museum) designed by William Paty for new owner John Scandrett Harford (the elder).

Humphry Repton's view from the House.

Nash's Dairy.
Humphry Repton designed the picturesque views and park for the house, and John Nash added a charming Orangery and thatched Dairy (1804).

 Sadly, the Orangery was looking somewhat neglected when we visited earlier this year.

Blaise Hamlet, a wonderful collection of cottages also designed by John Nash, is just a couple of minutes' walk from the Museum.

 The houses, built in 1812 by George Repton, one of Humphry's sons, are now cared for by the National Trust.

One of Nash's cottages at Blaise Hamlet. 

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

A Review of Vignettes!

The September/October edition of Jane Austen's Regency World has this fantastic review of Vignettes! A big "Thank You" to reviewer Jocelyn Bury! The magazine also includes my article
Caroline of Brunswick.
on marriage and divorce in Austen's day, plus an exclusive look behind the scenes of the new TV adaptation of Sanditon, Jane Austen's last unfinished novel.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Free Preview of Vignettes!

Illustration for S. Richardson's 'Pamela'. 
A reminder that you can enjoy a free preview of my new Amazon Kindle e-book Vignettes here!  Click on the link to read a free sample and discover the wonderful literary world of Jane Austen. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

VIGNETTES - My New E-book!

I'm very pleased to announce that I've just published a new book on Amazon Kindle: 'Vignettes: Literary Lives in the Age of Austen'.

Here's a copy of the blurb:

'Jane Austen lived in a ground-breaking era for English Literature. This was the age of William Wordsworth, Percy and Mary Shelley, John Keats, and others. Austen herself drew inspiration from the writers who came before her, like Doctor Johnson, Thomson and Cowper. She faced stiff competition from the rival novelists of her day like Ann Radcliffe, Mary Brunton, Fanny Burney and Walter Scott.
Away from the novelists’ world, writers like Mary Wollstonecraft argued passionately for women’s rights, and Parson Malthus, Robert Owen and Thomas Bernard discussed how best to deal with the poor.

Anna Laetitia Barbauld.
Based on the author’s previously published articles in Jane Austen's Regency World magazine, this lively exploration of Austen’s times also looks at popular literature. How did our tradition of Christmas ‘annuals’ begin? Were female novel-readers really the ‘slaves of vice’? Find out more in 'Vignettes'. '

Statue of Dr Johnson, Lichfield.
The book also discusses the career of poet Robert Burns, writer Robert Southey, and publisher Rudolph Ackermann. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I've enjoyed researching the stories of all these wonderful writers over the years!

Friday, 22 March 2019

New Peterloo Exhibition!

Please march over to my history blog for a preview of the People's History Museum's new exhibition on the Peterloo massacre.

Image: Mrs Mabbott's dress, on loan from Manchester Art Gallery, copyright People's History Museum.