A History of Lost Sensations 1

A History of Lost Sensations 1

Here’s a modern urban and domestic soundscape: – Unsilenced motorcycle exhausts, burglar alarms, lorry reversing beepers, pings and buzzes from your mobile, other people’s ring tones, humming of fridges, music from builders’ radios, clang of scaffolding poles being loaded and unloaded, rasp of garden strimmers, creak of cooling radiators, rip of opening Velcro, rumble of trains on bridges, drone of microlights, chimes of ice cream […]

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The Retrospective Destinator

The Retrospective Destinator

The Retrospective Destinator   If you follow the link you will find an audio file of The Advertising Copywriter’s Tale (Part One). It takes about fifteen minutes to listen to. The story concerns two men who advertise themselves as follows: ‘Retrospective destinators – Messrs Hancock and Breeze offer a discreet service as makers and menders of damaged or incomplete reputations.’ The idea was suggested by […]

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Joseph Paxton and the Crossley Family – A Tenuous Link, but a Personal One

Joseph Paxton and the Crossley Family – A Tenuous Link, but a Personal One

The photograph at the head of this blog is of the ‘peach cases’ at Somerleyton Hall in Suffolk, which I visited last week. They were commissioned in the 1840s by Samuel Morton Peto, the railway entrepreneur, and designed by Joseph Paxton, then head gardener at Chatsworth House and future architect of the Crystal Palace. One of the wonders of the age, the Crystal Palace outlived […]

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The Waltz

The Waltz

One of the Mr Blackwood  proof readers queried both the appearance of the waltz and the use of dance cards in The Corporal’s Tale, which is set in the year of Waterloo. After further research I replied to her as follows: You’ll be pleased to know that I’ve incorporated all your amendments – bar one. And that, of course, is the waltz. I thought you […]

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A Napoleonic Postscript

A Napoleonic Postscript

Although Mr Blackwood’s Fabularium is set in 1851, some of the stories are set in earlier periods. One of them is The Corporal’s Tale. Corporal Costello is a veteran of the Peninsula War and Waterloo. He was also in the army of occupation in Paris, which is where the events of his tale take place. I found this very hard to research. It took me […]

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Thoughts on a Rainy Day

Thoughts on a Rainy Day

To escape Storm Freya I went to the Russell Cotes Museum in Bournemouth today. Both the house and its contents are an enormous splurge of Victorian bad taste. I couldn’t help noticing the buckets in the conservatory (see photo). Fair enough, I suppose, the wind and rain being so fierce, but I did wonder how watertight most Victorian conservatories were. According the memoirs of Hector […]

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There and back : A tale of two pilgrimages

There and back : A tale of two pilgrimages

Those of you who know the Canterbury Tales will know that Chaucer originally intended each of the thirty-odd pilgrims to tell two tales on the outward journey and two on the return, making one hundred twenty tales in all. Either Chaucer died before completing the scheme or at some stage thought better of it and would have substituted a more modest commitment had he lived […]

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Pluckley

Pluckley

The mad wives, however, were delayed by an unscheduled stop at Pluckley. The train came to a halt between white clapboarded buildings, beyond which the rooks rose in a great clamour from the trees by the gravel pits. From our tub we could see porters assembling a goods train in the siding, a fly waiting in the station yard, its owner fast asleep on the […]

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A Victorian Canterbury Tales

A Victorian Canterbury Tales

Mr Blackwood’s Fabularium is a Victorian version of the Canterbury Tales in which the members of a Canterbury temperance society go on an excursion to the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. The shrine they go to worship at – the Crystal Palace, filled with the technological marvels of the age – is a thoroughly secular one, but like Chaucer’s pilgrims, they set off in […]

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Jane Eyre – A Victorian Shocker

Jane Eyre – A Victorian Shocker

The third story in Mr Blackwood’s Fabularium, ‘Miss Biddlecombe’s Proprieties’, describes what happens when sea bathing and a clandestine copy of Jane Eyre are introduced into a respectable young ladies’ boarding school. (You’ll have to read the story to find out what actually happens!) What is hard for us to imagine today is how shocking the Victorian reading public found Jane Eyre once its female […]

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