Category Archives: Literary

London Pilgrims

Although he was a Frenchman who never learned any English, the illustrator Gustave Doré drew some of the most evocative and enduring images we have of Victorian London. The ones that are most familiar today are those depicting the poverty, … Continue reading

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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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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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A Prey’s-eye Viewpoint

I don’t think I am an especially fussy reader, but I am sometimes mystified by the runaway success of certain books. This is the case with the much-garlanded “H is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald, which has recently topped the … Continue reading

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“Stoner”: A Review

A good deal of media attention has surrounded the recent “rediscovery” of “Stoner: A Novel”, by John Williams, first published in 1965, which languished for a long time out of print. On the back jacket of my copy Julian Barnes is … Continue reading

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The Strange World of Arthur Munby

Like Hugh Shimmin and Henry Mayhew, Arthur Munby was a well-heeled gentleman who liked to observe Victorian society’s lower reaches. But unlike them Munby was not a professional investigator who published his findings, indeed he stipulated that his papers should … Continue reading

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Time & Timelessness

It’s a truism that nothing dates more surely than that which tries to be bang-up-to-the-minute (one only has to think of eighties pop music and fashion!). In literature, the truism applies especially to satire and to works which adopt modish … Continue reading

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