Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Pedestrianism - long-distance endurance walking - was a popular entertainment, or perhaps we shuould say a sport, during the Victorian period. See here for an example or two. A reader, however, alerts me to his new book 'King of the Peds' which tackles this very subject - well worth a look?
Thursday, 13 November 2008
I see that a whole month has passed by, without me adding anything to this blog. Alas!
Here then, for nothing, gratis, is the first chapter of a book that I have considered writing for some time ... humorous steampunk, as it were ... now and then, I have spent ages deciding whether to proceed with it, or abandon it entirely ... your comments, whether adoring or dismissive, appreciated ... as indeed would be suggestions for Chapter 2 ... send me your feedback, send it to your friends ... ah, just read it ...
Prince Albeit stood upon the pier and looked out to sea, admiring the bleak grandeur of the Channel. The noise and the glittering gas-lights of Brightown lay behind him and the scene seemed to provoke his fancy. How easy it would be, he thought to himself, to remove his medals, the epaulettes, the cherished ceremonial sword! How easy to dive headlong into the churning waves and make a bid for freedom! Why, he might be upon the outskirts of Paris in twenty four hours or so; and then in his favourite whore-house by the Seine within the blink of an eye.
Or drown ignominiously, somewhere near Hove.
‘Oh, cruel fate!’ he ejaculated to himself, startling a nearby sea-gull.
The channel crossing, Albeit reflected, had been done before; it was not impossible. Captain Thrupp, The Irish Nautilist, had managed it years ago, aided only by a tin of bear’s grease and a prevailing wind. But, then, Captain Thrupp had not been engaged to The Empress. Captain Thrupp, though a remarkable individual in his own way, had not been forced to contemplate a lifetime of conjugal subjection and slavery, to a woman whose very name struck terror into the hearts of all her subjects. If he had – thought Albeit, in gloomy contemplation – he might have simply drowned himself and had done with it.
Albeit sighed once more. He was no Captain Thrupp, and he knew it. He lacked the famous Captain’s courage, stamina and – so rumour had it – extravagantly webbed toes. He would have to master himself, screw his courage to the sticking point, and marry The Empress – there was nothing else for it. Damnation! Cursing his black thoughts – blacker than the blackest hole in Dunstable – Albeit sighed yet again and watched the solitary sea-gull, now on the wing, swoop glumly above the briny sea.
It was, he concluded, no way to begin his stag-night.
‘What am I to do, Paratapparam?’ he said at last, turning to his sole companion upon the pier. ‘I won’t last a blasted week.’
Albeit addressed the question to his valet – a short, swarthy, foreign-looking individual who stood two paces behind him, dressed in a very plain black suit and bowler hat. Albeit knew his polysyllabic manservant well and placed a good deal of trust in him. He was a good man in a tight scrape, a devil with a dagger or pistol, and, for all his tainted foreign blood – half Chinese, half Burmese, half Maltese, half Portuguese – ferociously loyal and worth two of any Englishman. Indeed, the worthy native had sworn a blood oath never to leave his master’s side and – although it had initially created some slight awkwardness in hotels and first class railway carriages – it was an oath which the Prince never had cause to regret. Albeit, therefore, looked at the valet with hope in his eyes.
Paratapparam frowned. Then his face brightened. He reached inside his coat pocket, pulled out a large hunting knife, and, with a knowing wink, mimed drawing the blade slowly across his own throat.
‘Oh, for pity’s sake, man!’ exclaimed Albeit, ‘that’s your answer to everything!’
‘Well,’ said the Prince, with resignation heavy in his voice, ‘then there is nothing else for it. I suppose one had best enjoy one’s last night of freedom.’
Paratapparam reluctantly sheathed his blade and nodded. Thus, as the solitary sea-gull looked down at them with an expression remarkably like contempt, the two men made their way back down the pier.
The brightly-lit signs of the hotels along the sea-front were all aglow with gas-jets which fluttered in the breeze. Only a handful of dour couples strolled arm in arm along the windswept promenade, sampling the air with that grim determination peculiar to the English at play. Albeit toyed with the idea of simply returning to his hotel. For he had taken a good suite of rooms in the Royal Grand Imperial – or possibly at its fierce rival, the Imperial Royal Grand – it did not much matter. But, on reflection, he resolved to quit the promenade and walk through the network of narrow old lanes that joined the sea-front and High Street. Known as The Alleys, it was a rough, disreputable district; a place where the men were men and women were, for the most part, women – except, it was said, in a certain low tavern by the railway, where few questions were asked.
Albeit made his way through the darkened streets, clasping his sword to his side – for it had a awkward tendency to nick the ankles of passing strangers – until he came to a particular frowsy-looking public-house, from which issued sounds of revelry and merriment. He glanced at his valet.
‘At least the night is still young, eh, old friend?’
Paratapparam scowled, his eyes as black as sea-coal, his brow furrowed into dark corrugated trenches, as if the accumulated misery of a life-time was etched upon his face.
‘Frankly, old chap,’ exclaimed the prince, ‘if you won’t enter into the spirit of the thing, I don’t know why you came.’
‘Because, Sahib,’ replied the ever-loyal quarter-breed, in guttural tones, ‘I have pledged you my undying allegiance and protection. Surely, you recall the debt of honour incurred by my grandfather, over a drunken game of baccarat in the port of Naples? Surely you recollect that your ancestor won that wager; and now, however repulsive and uncongenial may be the circumstances, whatever mortal agonies I might suffer, my fate – my doom – is tethered to your own.’
‘You’re not a the glass is half-full sort of fellow, are you, old man?’ said the Prince, absent-mindedly, as he opened the door.
The inside of the low tavern stank of liquor; the air was wreathed in tobacco smoke; the floor carpeted in sawdust; the walls papered the sweat. In short, little thought had been given to the décor. For the tavern was the haunt of thieves and whores, magsmen and prigs, rum-bubbers and cloak-twichers, cadgers and badgers. It was a den famed far and wide as the worst cradle of infamy and immorality in all Brightown; a place which even Her Majesty’s Police dared not visit, except in daylight, and, even then, only in the company of a very large dog.
Prince Albeit walked over to the bar.
‘The usual, your lordship?’ said the barman.
‘I rather fancy a change,’ mused the Prince. ‘What do you recommend?’
The barman sighed.
‘We’ve got hot gin; cold gin; gin and water; hot gin and water; gin and bitters; jiggered gin; gin jiggers, and gin-punch.’
‘You know the landlord don’t hold with it. Confuses the customer. Now what’ll you have, my Lord?’
‘My dear fellow,’ said Prince Albeit, gallantly conceding the point, ‘a quart of your finest jiggered gin, and the same for my friend here.’
‘You know, my Lord,’ protested loyal Paratapparam, ‘my faith forbids the consumption of intoxicating liquor.’
‘Oh dear,’ said Prince Albeit, contemplating the two quarts of gin placed before him. ‘Must have slipped my mind. Well, bottoms up, old man, eh?’
‘If you say so, Sahib,’ said Albeit’s trusty henchman, ‘I will take your word for it.’
‘Good chap,’ replied Prince Albeit, as he drained the first quart, and began the second. ‘Barman – another!’
Paratapparam sat down at the bar, besides his master. His infallible native instincts, honed by boyhood years of hunting tigers in the mountainous foothills of Sarkatatan (a district whose tiger population is notoriously disinclined to be hunted) told him it would be a long night.
* * * * *
It was four in the morning and the pub had all but emptied. The landlord dismissed the barman, then surveyed the premises and took a tally of the night’s profits and loss. The latter amounted to three commemorative silver tankards; seven bar stools and a signed lithograph of the Lord Chancellor. The landlord sighed. He had often wondered whether he should widen his clientele beyond thieves, prigs and magsmen; but he was obliged to reflect that an earlier trial – an ill-judged attempt to attract beggars and vagrants – had done little to increase his takings; and so – yet again – he checked his restless ambition. It was some consolation, however, that he retained one regular patron of considerable standing and seemingly limitless purse.
‘And so I said to him after the damned lecture, “Poppycock!”’ exclaimed the drunken Prince to his loyal heathen companion, for the third time in succession, thumping his fist upon the bar. ‘What did the fellow mean by such arrant nonsense? Never sat through such ridiculous talk! No more of ’em? I’ve got one in every room of my damn house!’
‘Sahib,’ said the valet, choosing his words carefully, ‘might I venture that – whilst you are right in saying that a dado is the finishing of wood running along the lower part of the walls of a room, made to represent a continuous pedestal – Mr. Derwin may possibly have been adverting to the infamously extinct bird belonging to the family Columbidæ, formerly inhabiting the tropical island of Mauritius …’
‘Spare me your native jibber-jabber, man,’ interrupted the Prince, whose drunken mood now bordered upon the surly. ‘I know a fool when I meet one.’
Paratapparam, however, had no opportunity to reply. For, at that very moment, if not sooner, the door of the tavern burst open and a young woman dashed into the room. In truth, she was little more than a girl, though her lips pouted deep red; her bosom hefted with a bouncing handsome feminity and her eyes hinted at wild unchecked passions, barely contained by the manifold restrictions of a patriarchal culture and an impossibly tight corset.
‘Thank God!’ she exclaimed, breathless, catching sight of the Prince. ‘Sir, I see from your dress that you are a gentleman …’
‘Forgive me, I am told that a good tight fit is the fashion,’ said the Prince, coughing, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. Nonetheless, he suddenly felt a lively interest in the distressed young woman.
‘You misunderstand me, sir. I mean to say, that you are a man of honour. Please, you must help me!’
‘My dear girl,’ said the Prince, courteously, coming unsteadily to his feet and effecting a small bow, which occasioned a distinct sensation of vertigo. ‘Of course, I shall offer whatever assistance I can.’
‘Thank the Lord!’ she continued. ‘For I am being pursued by one of the most brutal rogues in the Empire; a man who has not scrupled to use the most desparate measures to remove all obstacles to his depraved and vicious schemes; a man who will not hesitate to have his confederates put an end to my life or yours ...’
‘Let me just stop you there. My dear girl, when I said “offer” …’
‘Sahib,’ interjected Paratapparam urgently, ‘I fear there is no time for prevarication. I hear footsteps on the cobbles.’
The Prince turned to face his valet. He knew that the worthy native’s organs of audition had been honed to an acute pitch, during a fortnight spent trapping silver-eared bats in the mountain caves of Guzulstan; he did not doubt him for a moment.
‘Are you quite sure?’
‘A half dozen men, Sahib,’ – here Paratapparam paused for reflection – ‘unless, of course, they are scions of the notorious Molipolanopoli tribe of the Northern Ganges – a people so confident of victory in war, that they propel themselves into battle solely on their right foot, just to make things interesting.’ Paratapparam shrugged. ‘In any case, it is no more twelve, no fewer than six – unless, of course –.’
‘D**n your algebra, man!’ interject the Prince. ‘What shall we do?’
‘Do, Sahib?’ said the trusty valet, unsheathing his knife. ‘You need ask? If those feet are the feet of villains – whether singly or in pairs – then let us stand and fight them together, and, if we must die, we shall die like brothers! If this be our fate, then …’
But the door to the landlord’s parlour, and thence to the back alley, was already open.
Prince Albeit had vanished.
Paratapparam sighed, grabbed the young woman’s arm, and hurried after him.
Wednesday, 10 September 2008
a. Munby visits North Woolwich Gardens
b. Munby assesses the appearance of housemaids
c. Munby observes May-Day celebrations
d. Munby observes one female acrobat and another
e. Munby walks through Newgate Market
f. Munby on City waitresses
Monday, 8 September 2008
a. Munby on 'Ethiopian Serenaders'
b. Munby sees two giantesses, and the Siamese Twins
c. Munby talks to 'trotter-scrapers'
d. Munby sees vagrants in St. James's park
e. Munby sees a female practioner of pedestrianism
f. Munby in the snow
g. Munby on the remains of Doctors' Commons
h. Munby visits the old Borough coaching inns
Sunday, 7 September 2008
a. Munby and pornographic photography
b. Munby visits the Albert Saloon Music Hall
c. Munby buys a Valentine
d. Munby meets a female crossing-sweep
a. Munby on pornographic photography
b. Munby on the Albert Saloon Music Hall
c. Munby buys a Valentine card
d. Munby meets a female crossing-sweep
Friday, 5 September 2008
a. Munby meeting a lady clerk
b. common people at the Crystal Palace
c. Munby on the Haymarket, 4am
d. Munby on Evan's Supper Rooms
e. Munby on the Tooley Street fire
Wednesday, 3 September 2008
Useful things come up whilst writing a novel. My current effort (will it be published? I know not) involved re-reading the Diary of Arthur Munby, which I had thought I had digitised extensively for www.victorianlondon.org but, on second inspection, I realise I left loads of fascinating things out. I think the Munby material went online in the early days, when I was fairly clueless about content. In any case, I now feel myself bound to remedy this situation, and I have a little list. Some things will be fairly straight additions to the site, eg. a brief entry on the Cosmpolite Club which had never previously come on the radar.
The first entry, however, was going to be Caldwell's Dancing-Rooms ... I had gathered Munby's two comments, then a couple of pieces from the Times which throw an interesting light on his comments about it being 'respectable' (in comparison with the infamous Holborn Casino or Argyll Rooms, agreed to be haunt of prostitutes and 'fast' young men).* I was about to create an index entry for Caldwell's (convinced I'd never heard of it) when I find I already have one, pointing to J.Ewing Ritchie's Night Side of London. You can read the whole thing on the Caldwell's page.
What does this prove? First, that J.Ewing Ritchie is the pontificating prig I always suspected him of being (I'd trust Arthur Munby over him any day); second, that I have forgotten a good deal of what's actually on www.victorianlondon.org; third, that I do need it as my electronic brain, so the whole mad project was a good idea all along.
More Munby-ing to follow, as and when.
After much delay (novel-writing), I can devote a smidgen of time to www.victorianlondon.org. The first effort is a digitisation of Lights and Shadows of London Life, a collection of London journalism of the writer James Payn (1830-98) engagingly described by one of his contemporaries as 'tall, thin, and rather angular, he had a sharp high voice, ... a kindly twinkle behind his spectacles ... a brilliant and amusing raconteur'. As with all 'London' writers of the period, he was published by Dickens, befriended by the great man, and the writing reflects a debt to Dickens's non-fiction accounts of the city. The first section of the book, however, is a spoof - a returning Australian is introduced to the entertainments and amusements of 1860s London by dissolute young rakes. But, for all its humour, even this includes fascinating accounts of how people viewed Frith's The Railway Station and a visit to Cremorne Gardens (unnamed, but it can be nowhere else). In fact, Payn's eye for detail is where he triumphs. Even though he tackles some conventional stock subjects (eg. inconveniences of travelling by bus), he includes information, for the modern reader at least, that isn't found elsewhere. The account of an 1860s hanging is notable; and I was fascinated to discover him decrying ostentation in funeral ceremonies - I hadn't realised the Victorians were turning their backs on such things as early as the 1860s ... anyway, enjoy!
Tuesday, 1 July 2008
Two useful sites recently mentioned on the Victoria list.
First, is the Victorian Plays Project
"A digital archive of selected plays from T.H. Lacy's Acting Edition of Victorian Plays (1848-1873)" which allows you to read lots of fascinating stuff and a get a real feel for the sort of thing popular on the Victorian stage. A full text search isn't available but you can browse by keywords and, for instance, place names.
Second is The Nineteenth Century Serials Edition (beta),
which contains the full text of six journals, adding to the ever-burgeoning amount of Victorian periodicals available (in the UK, at least) to search online. They want feedback on the site, which I haven't yet had a chance to use ... so get stuck in!
A favourite activity of mine is discovering - by chance - long-lost Victorian buildings, that have long since disappeared. One such, mentioned to me in passing by an email correspondent, is the Craig telescope, a gigantic device that was constructed on Wandsworth Common in the 1850s. Reminiscent of something from 'War of the Worlds', it should delight anyone fascinated by Victorian engineering or the 'steampunk' aesthetic. There's a great little site on it here and I've added most of a Times article here.
Monday, 2 June 2008
Monday, 5 May 2008
At last, after a marathon effort, and with the generous assistance of Mr. Dick Collins as co-editor, I present the world with an online edition of the first series of G.W.M. Reynolds's The Mysteries of London. A classic - arguably the classic - 'penny dreadful', or 'penny blood' (the latter phrase I think more common parlance at the time), it's well worth delving into (although reading the whole thing is something of a challenge, I confess, albeit an enjoyable one). A TV producer made the trite comment a year or two ago that 'if Dickens were alive today, he'd be writing soap opera'; this is plainly falsified by reading the likes of Mysteries which, unlike Dickens, share all the clichés of the modern soap form - cliffhanger endings, seemingly endless ongoing plot lines, characters who are not what they seem, and sex and violence, and more sex (well, relatively speaking). Published weekly, the Mysteries and its contemporaries were the popular serial fiction of the day - made for the working class, outselling respectable middle class authors by the thousands. So, steep yourself in penny blood ...
Saturday, 3 May 2008
If you missed all the press releases and newspaper articles, you might like to know that the Old Bailey Online has now loaded the contents of all trials from the Victorian Period onto its website (and a bit of extra 'contextual' stuff besides). Here's a nice one which shows what happens when you wander into side-streets with ladies of the night. Again, as always, it's the details that fascinate - who knew that mid-Victorian police stations employed "lady searchers" for more intimate inquiries into stolen goods?
40. MARY WEBSTER , stealing 1 watch, value 6l.; the goods of Thomas Maw, from his person. MR. HORRIDGE conducted the Prosecution.
THOMAS MAW . On 4th Nov. I was crossing from Cornhill to Princes-street, by the Bank, and the prisoner met me, walked by my side, and asked where I was going—I said I was going home—she asked me if I would go with her to any house—I told her I would not—I walked a little way up Coleman-street, and she proposed that I should go up a court with her on the left hand side, which I was fool enough to do, I am sorry to say—I had my left hand through her pocket hole, and she drew me closer to her, and then made a hard scream, and ran off, and I found my watch was gone—I pursued her as hard as I could—as I came out of the court I was met by a man in black, who stopped me, and asked me a question—I followed the prisoner, and saw her go into a fore court, inside some iron railings—she came out again in half a minute, and I took her into Coleman-street, and gave her in custody of a policeman.
Cross-examined by MR. COOPER. Q. How long were you with her before you went up the court? A. Not above five minutes, and not above two or three minutes in the court—she did not ask me for anything—I was to go up there for nothing—I did not take her to be a person of that description—I am married, and have a family—this is the first time I have done this—this (produced) is my watch, but the handle is off—it was fastened to this chain and to this black ribbon, which was round my neck—she did not say, "You rascal, give me a sovereign, or I will have your watch"—I told the man who stopped me of my loss—he is not here—I suppose he was an accomplice—I have never seen him since—I have not tried to look after him.
MR. HORRIDGE. Q. Did she give you time to give her any money? A. Not at all; she snatched the watch suddenly, and made a scream—when I gave her into custody, she said she had never seen me before, and did not know me at all.
FREDERICK STEPHENS (City policeman, 142). On Saturday, 4th Nov., I took the prisoner from the custody of Maw—I took her to the station—she refused to give her name and address.
Cross-examined. Q. Did not she say that she took the watch because the man did not give her some money? A. I never heard her say anything to that effect; she said that he refused to give her some drink, but nothing else—she did not say that he would neither give her drink or money, or that she held his watch till he did—she denied having the watch.
SUSAN GILL . I am searcher at Moor-lane police station. On Saturday, 4th Nov., I searched the prisoner—she resisted me—I succeeded in searching her, but did not succeed in finding anything, except 2s.—I sent for a medical man, and was present when he found a watch upon her.
THOMAS LLYOND . I am a surgeon, of No. 5, New Basinghall-street. On 4th Nov. I went to Moor-lane station to search the prisoner's person, and found this watch in her vagina.
GUILTY .* Aged 30.—Recommended to mercy by the Jury, on account of the conduct of the Prosecutor.— Confined Nine Months.
Friday, 4 April 2008
As always, accounts of 'Police News' in the popular press provide fascinating insight into the manners and mores of Victorian society. The limits placed on women in the period are always interesting, and it's here we find out that smoking was one area where the battle lines were drawn, as late as the 1890s (St. Pancras station, opened in 1868, contained a ladies smoking room, I believe, although some considered it scandalous). For an interesting history of society and smoking, including some nice stuff on the Victorians, see 'Giveup.ca'.
Saturday, 8 March 2008
Regular readers will know my next novel is The Mesmerist's Apprentice, the second adventure for Sarah Tanner. It starts with a 'horse-meat riot' and - needless to say, via a complicated series of twists and turns - leads our determined heroine into the clutches of a dubious physician, who allegedly achieves his success through the practice of mesmerism. Throw in the re-appearance of her erstwhile lover, Arthur DeSalle, now married, and she's in for a difficult time ... bet you won't guess the ending, either ...
The book is pre-order-able at Amazon and you can read the first chapter here.
No appearances planned as yet, with the exception of the Paris Book Fair, where you'll find me with my French publisher, Editions 10/18, promoting Le Jardins des Derniers Plaisirs ...
Thursday, 28 February 2008
I am fascinated to have just stumbled across one Ida Craddock on the web; a Victorian 'sexual mystic' who believed in straightforward advice on sexual matters. A sample of her wisdom:
Well, I think that the very first thing for you to bear in mind is that, inasmuch as Nature has so arranged sex that the man is always ready (as a rule) for intercourse, whereas the woman is not, it is most unwise for the man to precipitate matters by exhibiting desire for genital contact when the woman is not yet aroused. You should remember that that organ of which you are, justly, so proud, is not possessed by a woman, and that she is utterly ignorant of its functions, practically, until she has experienced sexual contact; and that it is, to her who is not desirous of such contact, something of a monstrosity. Even when a woman has already had pleasurable experience of genital contact, she requires each time to be aroused amorously, before that organ, in its state of activity, can become attractive. For a man to exhibit, to even an experienced wife, his organ ready for action when she herself is not amorously aroused, is, as a rule, not sexually attractive to her; on the contrary, it is often sexually repulsive, and at times out and out disgusting to her. Every woman of experience knows that, when she is ready, she can cause the man to become sexually active fast enough.
It is remarkable that, for all its quaint language, this still seems a case of plain-speaking, some hundred years on. I'm not sure any UK writers were quite so frank; but I'm no expert ... if anyone would like to correct me, please write in!
Friday, 22 February 2008
Victorian slang is of particular interest to this novelist ... I'm always trying to reproduce accurate language that isn't a simple 'Cockney' pastiche; and doesn't sound odd to modern ears either. It's actually rather difficult - especially with words now considered entirely American that are good Victorian London English ("Station-house" for "police station" is one that always comes to mind). A pleasure, then, to find a Times article citing a lecture critical of 1850s slang. Much of it is familar, but I've never come across "make tracks" as a Victorian-ism ... or the likes of "walks his chalks". Enjoy the full article here
Thursday, 14 February 2008
A new addition comes from All the Year Round, 1877, Learning to Cook with the Poor, a Mayhew-esque, slightly satirical look at the food of the poor and how they scraped by. An anonymous piece (although perhaps a scholar can advise on that score) you may find it interesting, not least all about 'faggots', 'chitterlings', 'reeds' and other odd cuts and combinations of meat that I would rather avoid. To read the article, click here.
Friday, 1 February 2008
You know things are getting bad when a council starts closing down it's public libraries.
Walthamstow (a London borough) did just that to the St. James Street public library last year - without any public consultation, or even warning.
An modest oasis for learning and culture in a deprived area, it was cut on the budget grounds. This, from a city that can afford to host the 2012 Olympic games costing millions.
The residents feel so strongly about this, that they started their own 'free library' every weekend outside the disused building; they've got a petition going; they've had support from the Children's Laureate, Michael Rosen.
And what have the council done? Not much. An empty building sits there, its books already unceremoniously removed. In fact Walstamstow doesn't have a great record at the moment - it's cutting back on support for the William Morris Museum as well.
If you'd like to let Walthamstow know what message such cuts give out, then here's how to complain.
The short version is ... an email to
If you feel really keen, put "FORMAL COMPLAINT" as your subject.
Will the council do the right thing and change their mind? I hope so. If you believe in public libraries, whether you live in London or not, let them know your thoughts.
Tuesday, 29 January 2008
Woo-hoo! It's here ... access to the British Library's all-singing all-dancing archive of 19th century newspapers, including the likes of Reynolds' Newspaper and the Illustrated Police News. The BL website is here but I regret you have to be a member of a FE or HE institution in the UK to get automatic access (if you belong to a UK institution and don't have it yet, get your library to sort it out!). I hope, like the Times archive, the average punter will have a shot at access via their local public library, but I don't know if that's going to be the case.
What did I look at, given access to this marvellous resource? Why, crime of course ... it's my job. The first thing that struck me was a reference to a "troublesome, mischievous woman" who, probably through a combination of drink and mental health issues, kept returning to the Police Courts in London (magistrates' courts). What made her famous was the endless aliases she adopted at each court ... want to read a bit about her? Read on ...
A DRUNKEN "ACTRESS" - Mabel St. John, alias Tot Fay, Maude Rothschild, Violet Bell, Lilly Sinclair, Maud Levant, Mabel Grey, Violet Durant, Lilly Cohen, Violet St. John, Lilian Rothschild, Amy Violet, Lilian Ross, Florence le Grande, Blanch Herbert, and many others: but whose real name is Amy Anderson, from the Seven-dials, and who is well-known at the police-court in Bow-street and Marylebone, was again charged with being drunk and disorderly in Cork-street at ten o'clock last night. The prisoner on this occasion was described as an "actress," of Besborough-gardens. She wore a cream-coloured costume and a black bonnet with a large "bob" of ribbons in front of it, a curtain ring for an ornament, and in her hand she carried an empty purse, and she did all she could to draw a few tears of repentance as she very meekly entered the dock. Police-constable 243 C said that he was called to a disturbance in the street. The prisoner was in a drunken state, and was surrounded by twenty or thirty people, who were laughing and jeering at her, and from what he could ascertain it appeared that she owed a cabman 7s. 6d., and has refused to pay him. As she persistently declined to "move on" he took her to the station. Mr. Mansfield: What have you to say? Prisoner (crying): Sir, I had been with a lady friend of mine, and was going home quietly, when a wretched cabman stopped me and asked for money. It is about eight months since I engaged him as my driver, and really I had forgotten the little affair. I certainly owe him something, but it is very hard upon a lady like me (more crying) to be stopped and asked for a cab fare in the streets. I was walking away with a gentleman when a rude policeman came up and seized me. It is a long time now, sir, since I was last in trouble. The constable states that a crowd collected. Of course this conspicuous dress of mine caused people to assemble, and I found that my progress was impeded. Really, I have been locked up for nothing. (More crying.) I am entirely innocent, I assure you, on my word of honour. Mr. Mansfield: How often has this woman been here? Sergeant Vine (the gaoler): She has been continually charged here, and at Bow-street and Westminster. Brewer, the assistant gaoler, produced a long record of her convictions in this court, where were to be numbered by dozens, and said that she only came out of prison on Friday, having undergone a sentence of two months from the Westminster police-court for assaulting a gentleman in the streets. Prisoner: Oh, dear me, I have been taken for nothing again. It's an awful shame (more crying) that an innocent young lady like me (more laughter in court) should be forced into trouble like this. I really come from a good family (more laughter), and my dear mamma will be deeply shocked when she hears of this. (More laughter.) Mr. Mansfield (sternly): I have not forgotten that some time ago you were concerned in a conspiracy with some others to obtain money from a young gentlemen, by charging him with an unnatural offence. Your confederates were properly punished, but, unfortunately, you were not included in the indictment. You will have to pay 40s., or go back to your old quarters for a month. Reynolds Newspaper, December 4, 1887
A nice addition to the Topography links (left) is the website of the London Parks and Gardens Trust, which includes some detailed walking guides. I've had a read through the Islington one (as I know the area quite well) and it seems a good tour ... enjoy!
Wednesday, 16 January 2008
Further to my blog below, my piece on Sweeney Todd has appeared in Time Out this week ... you can read the article here. My research thanks must go to the editor of the OUP edition (Robert L. Mack) for his informative introduction, to the estimable Dick Collins, editor of the Wordsworth edition, likewise, and to Judith Flanders, author, amongst other things, of the marvellous 'Victorian House'.