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Sunday, 31 October 2010

Tom and Jerry

The original ‘Tom’ and ‘Jerry’ were a smash hit during the reign of George IV. These famous fictional characters were created by sports journalist Pierce Egan (1772-1849). Tom and Jerry’s colourful exploits were celebrated in books, songs and on the stage.

Egan, a Londoner of Irish origin, was a prolific author. Pierce’s first claim to fame was Boxiana (1812), a series on pugilism (prize-fighting). The first monthly instalment of Life in London, priced at one shilling and illustrated by George and Robert Cruikshank, was published by Sherwood, Neely & Jones on 15 July 1821.
You can find out more about Tom and Jerry’s rollicking adventures and the way they took society by storm in my latest feature for Jane Austen's Regency World.
Images: Engravings by George and Robert Cruikshank from author’s copy of the 1869 reprint of Life in London, Pierce Egan, (John Camden Hotten, Piccadilly, 1869.
1. Tom and Jerry pay a shilling to see the exhibition at the Royal Academy. Jane Austen went to picture exhibitions at Spring Gardens and Pall Mall in 1813.
2. Peep O’ Day Boys. A Street Row. The author losing his ‘reader’ (pocket-book), Tom and Jerry showing fight and Logic floored. Pierce Egan is the figure under attack on the left having his pocket picked.

Friday, 29 October 2010

The Children History Forgot

I am very pleased and excited to announce my book on child workers, 'The Children History Forgot', has been accepted by Robert Hale and is now going through the production stages!

The book was originally titled 'Stolen Childhoods', but we belatedly discovered there is another book with a very similar title by another author (with a different historical slant) due out next year.

'The Children History Forgot' will tell the stories of young workers (children and teenagers) during late Georgian and Victorian times in many different industries - from cotton manufacture to candle-making.
I will post an update on my blog as soon as publication date is confirmed.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

A new Victoriana site

If you are interested in Victoriana, there's a new website crammed with images and articles from the Victorian world, including features on working life, history and fashion. Do check it out - an image gallery is planned from which you can download images for greeting cards, etc.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

An unexpected treat!

I was in Oxford at the weekend, and wandered into the Bodleian library as they always have interesting exhibitions on. By sheer good fortune, there was a one-day Jane Austen Exhibition. The exhibition was to help launch the Jane Austen Fiction Manuscripts Digital Edition. On show was the manuscript of her short stories and plays (Volume the First) written when Jane was a teenager, and Cassandra’s fair copy of ‘Sanditon’. There was also a set of Austen first editions owned by her brother Edward Knight. I was absolutely thrilled to see them - especially ‘Volume the First’ – somehow seeing Jane’s handwriting close up makes one feel closer to the author.

© Author’s photos of Jane Austen’s ‘Volume the First’ on display at the Bodleian, and the title page of Edward Knight’s copy of ‘Sense and Sensibility, also on display.

Friday, 22 October 2010

The Story of England

I have been greatly frustrated with my TV viewing recently as I kept missing Michael Wood's Story of England, but I caught up with episode 5 last night, which dealt with the industrial revolution. There was some very nice footage of Foxton Locks for canal fans.
I was fascinated by the item on hosiery trade in Leicester and the visit to the Framework Knitting museum, as this was the first time I have seen one of these machines in action. Wood used witness statements from the Framework Knitters Select Committee of 1844, when the trade was in an acute state of depression, to bring the workers' story to life. The select committee discovered children learned the trade from an early age; five and six year olds worked at stitching gloves or chevening (embroidering) stockings. They began learning how to use the stocking-frame when they were about nine or a little older. The story of Britain's child workers is the subject of my forthcoming book, and I hope to have some news for you soon.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

A Flash of Brilliance

The weather was beautiful here last Sunday, so we had a walk along the old Chester Canal at Beeston (now the Shropshire Union Canal). I have long wanted to explore this section of the canal, as I wrote about the locks at Beeston in my exploration of the county’s canal network in Regency Cheshire. The locks kept sinking because there was quicksand under their foundations, and famous engineer Thomas Telford was called in to solve this knotty problem. He rebuilt the locks in cast iron, so they were less affected by the vagaries of the weather.

This was a really memorable walk for me because I saw a kingfisher for the very first time – a flash of blue and gold swooping along the canal – I was thrilled!
I hope to have some exciting news about my next book soon, so watch this space!
Image: Beeston Iron Locks © Sue and Nigel Wilkes

Monday, 4 October 2010

Burns and Bruce

We’ve just returned from a lovely holiday in Galloway. We always enjoy exploring Dumfries, which is closely associated with two of the most iconic figures in Scottish history: Robert Burns and Robert the Bruce (the subject of my latest feature for Aquila children’s magazine).

It was here that Robert the Bruce slew the Red Comyn before the high altar of Greyfriars kirk in 1306, very close to the spot where Burns’s statue now gazes down on the town.

We were lucky enough to get a guided tour inside Dumfries’s Theatre Royal as part of a special ‘open doors’ day for historic sites in Galloway. Burns was a keen supporter of the theatre, and I believe the outside of the building is still pretty much as it was in his day.

Photos: Statue of Robert Burns, and the Theatre Royal, Dumfries. © Sue and Nigel Wilkes.