Category Archives: Historical

My Beloved Silvestra

I recently blogged about Herman Melville’s character “Bartleby the Scrivener” as being one of Gothic horror. Having re-read Thomas Mann’s short story, “Mario and the Magician”, I find his portrayal of Cipolla the Conjurer similarly unsettling, and I think it … Continue reading

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An Unholy Street

When I lived in London I worked for some time in an office overlooking the Aldwych, off the Strand. I did not know then, as I watched the traffic thunder relentlessly by from an upper-floor window, that this had once … Continue reading

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A Christmas Harlequinade

You may have been to a pantomime over the festive season and had your nerves shattered by the children’s shouting (Oh yes it is…oh no it isn’t…etc.). Then again, perhaps you got into the spirit of the occasion and shouted … Continue reading

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The Groundsel Man

Keeping singing and fancy-birds was very popular in mid-Victorian London. People of all classes shared their front-parlours with caged live birds, such as canaries or linnets or bullfinches. They may also have kept stuffed specimens, perched on idealised undergrowth beneath … Continue reading

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Bartleby the Apparition

Certain figures from nineteenth century gothic horror fiction are still very much part of mainstream culture. One thinks of Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula the vampire, and Doctor Jekyll’s murderous alter-ego Mr Hyde. Less well-known, but more unsettling in my opinion, is … Continue reading

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The Tattered Chandelier

Some years ago, before its restoration, I visited the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras on one of those Heritage Open Days that offer the public special access to buildings normally closed to them. At the time of my visit … Continue reading

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We Come From Where?

Researching family history through the written record can only get you so far, and the results may contain hidden defects. In my family, we have long puzzled over the presence, on my father’s side, of persons with an unusually brown skin … Continue reading

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A Sentimental Journey

I was passing through Liverpool lately and thought I would take a sentimental journey (after the title of one of his solo albums) into the city’s South End to look at the two houses Ringo Starr lived in before the Beatles … Continue reading

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Sambourne House

My cultured friend and I recently visited Sambourne House, a West London terraced home preserved pretty much as it was in the 1890s, complete with its original contents and furnishings. We have all trailed around aristocratic country mansions, but what is … Continue reading

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At the Landing Stage

I have written previously about the journalist Hugh Shimmin, who was such a vivid observer of Liverpool’s mid-Victorian low-life, and such a committed activist for improved social conditions in the town. Having been granted permission to reproduce the following portrait … Continue reading

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