Wednesday 31 March 2010

Cremorne Gardens

Friday, April 9, 2010, 13:00 - 13:45
FREE but please book in advance: 020 7001 9844

I've been asked to speak on the subject of Cremorne Pleasure Gardens at the Museum of London next week - the background setting to my fourth book The Last Pleasure Garden (pub. 2006). Part of the revamped Victorian section of the museum (opening in May) will feature a recreation of a pleasure garden - hence the renewed interest.

    Pleasure gardens were - for the most part - built on the borders of London in the 17th/18th century (Marylebone and Islington were popular areas) to provide a range of outdoor amusements. The astonishingly long-lived Vauxhall Gardens (1661-1859) is the most famous - but it had a rival in Cremorne Gardens (1836-77) across the river in Chelsea.
     Cremorne had something of a split personality. By day, it was a respectable park / theme-park, with fun-fair shows and amusements (American-style bowling alleys, a maze, a fortune-telling 'hermit' ... I'll spare you the full list). By night, however, it was (so moralists claimed) a notorious den of vice. A typical Cremorne bill of fare can be seen on the right of this blog. If you would like to know more, then come to my talk, where we will discuss, in passing, the Beckwith Frogs; the Italian Salamander; De Groot, the Flying Man (& his terrible demise) and the unfortunate end of Cremorne itself.

London Blogs

There are many excellent London blogs and one feature I'm introducing (at the moment on the left-hand-column) is links to any particular items that catch my eye when I'm reading through the 'blogosphere'. First to feature - the man who (inadvertently, through Twitter feed) alerted me to the Thames Tunnel walk a couple of week ago, and enabled me to get a ticket, where others struggled - the excellent Ian Mansfield ... see his site for all sorts of good stuff (and left for a link to his recent item on London toll-gates).

Friday 26 March 2010

Victorian Places (2)

Ok, not much interest in my quiz (ahem) but here's the answer ... the astonishingly brilliant Google Analytics (no, I have no business relationship with our Google overlords; all hail!). It's a tool for webmasters to measure website hits. I started running it a few days ago, and the list yesterday was the top 50 cities from which people look at I guess professional web people have had this stuff for ages, but for the likes of me, it's astonishingly detailed ... and a reminder that nothing on the web is truly anonymous.

The mapping function, although only at country/US state level (I think) is brilliant too. I now know that - in the last five days - Wyoming is the US state least interested in Victorian London

whereas New Yorkers are (relatively) fascinated by Victorian history:

even if the resulting image looks unfortunately like a missile strike on New York state. Here's to you, Manhattan. (And yes, I know I'm ignoring the differential in their population; let me dream!).

The figures are still quite low - I have about 1500 visitors a day, so it will take a while to get the full pictutre, but I'm already spending too much time on this ... I'm not the first to point this out, but the internet is brilliant.

Thursday 25 March 2010

Stucco for the Fairer Sex

There are certain figures in Victorian London who crop up, on the boundaries of one's consciousness, with strange frequency. One such is the criminal beautician Madame Rachel, who I've already noted on the website, being chastised in Punch:-

To what kind of beings is it possible the subjoined advertisement, from the Morning Post, addressed?-
BEAUTIFUL WOMEN. - MADAME RACHEL begs to inform her lady patronesses, the nobility, and aristocracy generally, that she has opened her ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTION list for the supply of her Costly Arabian Preparations for the restoration and preservation of female loveliness, which have obtained for her the patronage of royalty - these being manufactured entirely by MADAME RACHEL, who has no agents, and cannot be obtained from any other source. Terms as usual, 20 guineas per annum, which includes every requisite for a most recherché toilet, and two attendances by MADAME RACHEL, viz. one drawing-room and one state ball.
To advertise cosmetics as being costly instead of cheap, if the advertisement were addressed to rational creatures, would be to adopt a style of puff about as judicious as the cry of unsavoury fish. Soft indeed must be that sex to which the costliness of any article could be a recommendation of it. The softness which can accept Arabian Preparations, manufactured entirely by MADAME RACHEL, as Arabian in any other sense than that in which they may possibly be associated with a Mosaic Arab seems quite waxy. The female loveliness which these preparations may be supposed calculated to restore and preserve, appears indeed to be, as it were, that of the ladies in the hairdressers' windows, bright and brilliant with their glass eyes - radiant in red and white wax. Imagination pictures MADAME RACHEL'S patronesses as having been fashioned out of that plastic material, and animated with a faint life by a disciple of FRANKENSTEIN. What real lady would be allured by such a phrase as "a most recherché toilet?"
In another advertisement MADAME RACHEL describes herself as "the Enamellist." This notification is, like the foregoing, headed "Beautiful Women." Accordingly, we must suppose that beautiful women of a sort are the subjects of MADAME RACHEL'S enamelling processes; and what sort of women can that be, but an artificial one? Pretty women, indeed, they probably are. Fancy an enamelled object of affection! The nearest thing to it well imaginable is, perhaps, a whited sepulchre.
She's a fascinating figure and it's marvellous to hear from one of this blog's erudite readers that she has written a book devoted to Madame Rachels' career. Here's author Helen Rappaport to tell you more:

There was a time, during the 1860s to 1880s when everyone in Britain - and even beyond – knew the name Madame Rachel. But somehow, her story, like many others in Victorian history, rapidly disappeared into the footnotes of history and was forgotten, known only to a few avid Victorianists who have picked up on her via an interest in the sensation novel, in which she was satirized.

My new book Beautiful For Ever: Madame Rachel of Bond Street, Cosmetician, Con-artist and Blackmailer (published by Long Barn Books) is very much in the Victorian true-crime genre, featuring a reconstruction of Rachel’s notorious career – from fish fryer in Clare Market, to dealer in hair restoratives at Bow Street, to the legendary Madame Rachel of 47a New Bond Street – a woman whose exotic premises welcomed fashionable ladies into Madame’s very own ‘Temple of Renovation’, where she promised to transform her clients’ fading complexions and make them ‘Beautiful For Ever’.
Within the walls of no. 47a Madame offered a range of absurdly overpriced concoctions, all with suitably exotic names, the ingredients of which she claimed to import from far flung Araby, Circassia and Armenia. Such was the desperation of some of her vain and gullible high society clients that she succeeded in fleecing them of all their money. And when the money ran out, Madame Rachel took their jewels. For many years she got away with it by preying on the terror of exposure all her clients shared, at a time when the use of cosmetics was greatly frowned upon and when most of them were in fact spending their husbands’ money (before the days of the Married Women’s Property Act).
But in the end the law caught up with Rachel: in 1869 after a mistrial and retrial the previous year and a long tortuous appeal she finally was sent down for five years for fraud. Prison, however, did not deter her and she was soon back at her old tricks on her release on a ticket of leave in 1872. Another high profile trial in the Central Criminal Court in 1878 brought a second 5-year sentence, which she did not survive. Madame Rachel aka Sarah Rachel Levison or Leverson died in Woking Invalid Convict Prison in 1880. But her name lived on in the many enduring allusions to her in the Victorian press and literature. Mary Elizabeth Braddon had begun the trend, alluding to her in Lady Audley’s Secret in 1862, followed by Wilkie Collins, who based the character of Maria Oldershaw in Armadale on Madame Rachel that was published soon after; L. T. Meade did likewise with Sorceress of the Strand in 1902. For many years after her death, Madame Rachel’s face powder was widely on sale and he techniques for ‘enamelling ladies’ faces’ were constantly referred to.
The cover of my book might look chintzy but it is deliberately subversive: a very dark story lurks within. Rachel was one of the most intimidating and intriguing Victorian women criminals I have ever encountered and I was utterly gripped researching and writing her story. There is very little reliable secondary source material on Madame Rachel; this book has been written almost entirely from contemporary accounts in the Victorian press, magazine and journals, and from transcripts of the court cases. It was a joy to get back to the real story.

Learn more at

Victorian Places?

QUIZ - what does the following ranking show? Why is London at the top, and Kokomo (as in 'Key Largo, Montego, baby why don't we go ...') above Paris. Ah, mes amis, the shame of it.

It's a frivolous answer, as random lists go, so don't think too hard. It relates to the last few days, since I discovered something pretty amazing on the Internet, which I should have discovered ages ago.

There is a prize ... if you're on Twitter, twitter the answer with tag @victorianlondon and the first correct answer gets a free copy of London Dust, my first novel (that's if you want a copy, of course - I won't lit-spam your home without some encouragement). If no-one twitters - and it's quite likely - then answers in comments below will suffice!

Here's the list:-

1. London
2. Dublin
3. New York
4. Manchester
5. unknown
6. Birmingham
7. Sydney
8. Melbourne
9. Glasgow
10. Bristol
11. Edinburgh
12. Wembley
13. Belfast
14. Leeds
15. Sheffield
16. Brisbane
17. Los Angeles
18. Reading
19. Cambridge
20. Nottingham
21. Luton
22. Oakland
23. Auckland
24. Oxford
25. Newcastle upon Tyne
26. Kokomo
27. Paris
28. Liverpool
29. Salisbury
30. Blackwood
31. Chicago
32. Milton Keynes
33. Toronto
34. Cardiff
35. Salford
36. Edgbaston
37. York
38. Perth
39. Sale
40. Basildon
41. Madrid
42. Leicester
43. Virginia Beach
44. Boone
45. Coventry
46. Moscow
47. Rotherham
48. San Francisco
49. Chatham
50. Wolverhampton

Monday 22 March 2010

The Chapel Street Gang

A gang fight on the streets of North London; a 12-year-old girl shot in the cross-fire.


No. 1897.

Following two previous posts on teen crime and hooligans, here's the Chapel Street Gang in Victorian Islington:-

At CLERKENWELL, JOHN GOODEY, aged 17, a beer bottler, MICHAEL REED, 16, a capsule-maker WILLIAM SPIERS, 16, a bookbinder, and GEORGE ROBERT ROBSON, 17, a van-guard, were brought up and charged on remand before Mr. Horace Smith at Clerkenwell with riotous conduct and with disturbing the public peace at Margaret-street, Clerkenwell. Goodey and Robson were further charged with causing the death of Margaret Jane Smith, aged 12, by shooting her in the head of the 3rd inst. ELIZA WALTERS, aged 15, a factory girl, and JAMES BEAUMONT, 15, a machine boy, who were arrested and brought before the magistrate after the other prisoners were charged, were also charged on remand with riotous conduct and with being concerned in causing the death of the girl. Mr. Ricketts, solicitor, defended Spiers. Mr. Byron prosecuted on behalf of the Treasury, and said that the facts of the case disclosed a most extraordinary state of affairs in Clerkenwell, especially in the neighbourhood of Margaret-street. For some months past the streets in this part of London had been infested by two opposing gangs of young roughs, known as the "Chapel-street gang" and the "Lion gang." Since last Christmas there had been three pitched battles between these gangs, the lads fighting with sticks, belts, &c. Sometimes there would be girls in the gangs. Some of the boys in the Chapel-street faction were known to have possessed pistols and revolvers, which they fired at doors and other objects after the fights were over. On June 3, after the third fight, Robson, who was known as "Baker," fired a revolver in the direction of some of the lads in the "Lion gang." The unfortunate girl Smith, the daughter of a cabdriver, who was crossing Margaret-street at the moment, was shot in the head and died soon afterwards. The prisoner Eliza Walters, who was standing near Robson, cried out, "Fire, Baker," just before the shot was fired. The lad Spiers, when arrested, had a document in his possession, written in pencil, which was apparently a form of challenge to his gang from the "Lion gang." Fights had taken place between the girls of the opposing factions as well as between the boys. Alfred Smith, a van-guard of Wilmington-street, Clerkenwell, said he knew the deceased girl Smith, but was no relation of hers. He saw the shot fired, and heard Walters say, "Fire, Baker." Some of the lads in Robson's gang also cried out "Fire" before the girl was shot. He say a boy named Steadman, a member of the other gang, some distance down Margaret-street at the time. The "Lion gang" were in the habit of congregating outside the Lion and Lamb publichouse, in Margaret-street. Beaumont was a spy who used to bring intelligence to his comrades of the movements of the other gang. Cross-examined, the witness said he was a member of the "Lion gang," but had never taken any part in the fights. Further questioned, he said he only fought with his fists - "any one who interfered with him, he had a whack at 'em back." He did not see Spiers in Margaret-street when the girl Smith was shot. The prisoners were again remanded.

Times, 18 June, 1897

Dr. Danford Thomas held an inquiry on Saturday at St. Pancras into the death of Margaret Jane Smith . . . Alfred Smith, carman, deposed that while he was in Margaret-street, Clerkenwell, at nine on Thursday night, he noticed a gang of boys and girls - about 20 altogether - behaving in a very disorderly manner. A greengrocer's boy, named Joseph Steadman, was wheeling a barrow along the street when a lad named Mark quarrelled and fought with him. A girl shouted to a lad, "Baker, fire," and then the witness say Baker fire a revolver in the direction of the combatants. Witness's belief was that the shot was meant for Stedman. As soon as Baker fired witness saw the deceased girl fall. She was crossing the road between two gangs of boys.
Inspector Briggs said there were two gangs at feud. At Christmas the police arrested 28 of the lads, on some of whom revolvers were found. The fights between the gangs were renewed on Thursday night. The real name of the lad known as "Baker" was Robson. He knew that he carried a revolver. One of the gangs belonged to Chapel-street, and the other to Margaret-street, Clerkenwell. Whenever one of the former came across one of the latter a fight ensued. Most of the Chapel-street, gang carried revolvers. They discharged them when they entered Margaret-street to denote their approach. The fights generally originated in quarrels about girls.

The Morning Post, June 7, 1897

At CLERKENWELL, WALTHER SALINGER, 20, merchant, a native of Germany, residing in Newington-green-road, was charged, before Mr. Horace Smith with the murder of Charles Cooper on June 15, by shooting him with a revolver in Pentonville-road. Mr. Frayling prosecuted on behalf of the Treasury; the prisoner was defended by Mr. Biron. Since Salinger was taken into custody, Cooper has succumbed to the injury he received. Evidence at the first hearing of the case was given by a coffee-stall keeper named Buck, who said that Cooper and several companions interfered with a woman who was drinking coffee at his stall. He remonstrated with them, when they threw several cups and saucers at him. the prisoner rebuked the men for their behaviour, when Cooper made a blow at him. Salinger then took a revolver from his pocket and shot his assailant in the abdomen. Mr. Frayling remarked that the prisoner was a respectable man, whereas Cooper was a man of bad character, and had been frequently convicted in that Court. Salinger received a blow before he shot Cooper, and in reply to the charge that prisoner stated that one of his assailants had an open knife in his hand and that he presented the revolver with a view of frightening them. The Treasury proposed to prefer a charge of murder against Salinger. Mr. Horace Smith questioned whether the facts as related by the Treasury solicitor warranted a charge of murder being preferred against the prisoner. Mr. Biron asked the Treasury solicitor to consider seriously before he perferred a charge of wilful murder against Salinger, especially having regard to the evidence given before the coroner. At the inquest the suggestion of murder was at once put aside and the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter against the prisoner. After further discussion, Mr. Frayling said he would prefer a charge of manslaughter against Salinger. George Buck, the coffee-stall keeper, was recalled, and subjected to a long cross-examination by Mr. Biron. The witness said that he was pelted with cake, cups, and saucers by the deceased and his companions. After he had been thoroughly abused, Salinger took his part. The deceased aimed a terrific blow at Salinger, who stepped back and pulled a revolver from his pocket. One of the friends of the deceased at the same time flourished an open knife, and shouted, "I'll have a go." The deceased was a member of the "Chapel-street gang," who were a constant source of annoyance to him and other people. Mr. Biron - When the deceased was aiming a blow, did he look violent? The witness - He looked like murdering the prisoner. These gangs over-turn oyster-stalls and attack individuals. They would kick your brains out if they had the chance. They would think nothing of robbing you, and leaving you for dead. Walter Schroeder, deputy coroner, produced a sworn statement made by the prisoner at the inquest, in which the prisoner declared that he had been in this country since October last studying English, and was supplied with money from his father, who resided in Germany. He was attacked by Cooper, who struck him in the eye, and he took a revolver from his pocket to frighten his assailant. The weapon went off accidentally. The prisoner's father is a paper merchant in Berlin. A record of the convictions against the deceased man was handed to the magistrate. The accused was remanded, bail being allowed.

Times, July 1, 1898

George Bliss, 22, described as a member of the Chapel-street gang, was committed for trial on a charge of stabbing Police-constable Stevens, 210 G, behind the right ear on 24th July. James Day, 19, labourer, of Rodney-street, Clerkenwell, was charged with being disorderly. - Police Constable Powell, 415 G, said at midnight on Friday he saw the Prisoner and a number of other lads fighting with sticks and belts in Pentonville-road. He dispersed them, and secured the Prisoner, who had in his hand a heavy buckle-ended belt. It appeared that Prisoner was a member of a gang of lads who arranged to meet another gang in the neighbourhood for the purpose of settling with sticks and belts a grievance which had arisen between them. - Mr. Horace Smith: Yes, I wish I had both gangs here. I must do what I can to stop this kind of thing. The prisoner will be fined 40s., in default a month's imprisonment.

The Standard, August 1, 1898

At CLERKENWELL, HENRY BROWN, 26, WILLIAM SEWELL, 23, and JOHN PHILO, 25, described as costermongers, were charged with assaulting Sophia Willsher. Mr. Ricketts prosecuted. The complainant is a fruit-seller, having a stall in Chapel-street, Clerkenwell, and for some time past she has been annoyed by the defendants. On Tuesday afternoon Philo walked up to the complainant and used offensive language to her. He was joined by the other two defendants, who also abused the complainant. Philo afterwards stooped down and getting his shoulders underneath the complainant's stall overturned it, shooting grapes, cherries, greengages, and other fruits to the value of £6 into the roadway. The other defendants stood by laughing. She seized Philo, when he kicked her in the stomach, and Brown struck her a heavy blow in the chest. Philo ran off, but she gave Brown into custody. He became violent, and Sewell made a determined attempt to rescue him. Sewell afterwards ran up to the complainant and dealt her two vicious blows in the face. almost rendering her unconscious. She gave him into custody. Mr. Ricketts added that the defendants were in the habit of levying blackmail on the complainant. They intimidated her, and for some time past Mrs. Willsher had paid Brown 5s. a week in other that he should not annoy her. Replying to the magistrate, police-constable 42 N R said the complainant was a most respectable, hard-working woman. The defendants were violent men and members of the Chapel-street gang. There was a long record of convictions against Philo, and alo convictions against the other defendants. Mr. Brow sent Philo to gaol for six months, and ordered the other two defendants to pay 40s. each or to go to gaol for one month.

Times, July 27, 1899

Sunday 14 March 2010

Read all about it!

Proof that crime has always sold papers:

JAMES KENDRICK, 25, pleaded "Guilty" to a charge of obtaining 1d. by false pretences. On the evening of December 6 the prisoner was selling newspapers in the street shouting "Another horrible murder and mutilation; Jack the Ripper at work again." The prosecutor bought from him a number of the Sun, and looked for an account of the murder, but was unable to find it. He pointed out to the prisoner that there was nothing of the kind in the paper, and the prisoner thereupon took off his coat and offered to fight him. The prosecutor called a constable and gave the prisoner into custody. On the way to the police-station the prisoner threatened him and said he would "act Phoenix Park on him when he got out." The prisoner said he was intoxicated at the time, and "no doubt exceeded the news." Several previous convictions for larceny were proved against him, and it appeared that he had been liberated from prison only two days when he committed this offence. He was sentenced to 21 days imprisonment, with hard labour.
The Times, 21 January, 1890

Friday 5 March 2010

Thomas Barry, Showman

I've mentioned the case of Thomas Barry before here but there's a much fuller account of his court appearance which I've just posted to the site. If you've wondered what fun was available on the Whitechapel-road on a Saturday night, read below. A great insight into the Victorian entrepreneur. Bear in mind Jack the Ripper's last murder was in November 1888 ... a mere three months before Mr. Barry was prosecuted for using 'representations' of the murders to draw people into his sideshow (I think we're talking about drawings, rather than wax-works, although I may be wrong).

Thomas Barry, a showman, was indicted at the Central Criminal Court, on Tuesday, before the Recorder, upon the charge of creating a nuisance by exhibiting figures illustrating a show, and thereby causing idle people to assemble and remain in the Queen's highway. Mr. Poland, Q.C., and Mr. Gore prosecuted for the Whitechapel District Board of Works, and Mr. Purcell defended.
    Mr. Poland, in opening the case, said that the defendant was the proprietor of a show at 106 and 107, Whitechapel-road, and the inhabitants thereabouts had complained of the nuisance caused by the show. I had been the custom of the defendant to exhibit outside the place representations of the Whitechapel murders of "Jack the Ripper", various fat people and dwarfs, and all kinds of monstrosities. There was a waxworks inside, and boxing and other performances went on. The price of admission was a penny. Noises were made outside to attract audiences, and large crowds assembled, obstructing the thoroughfare, and causing, he contended, a nuisance.
    A number of witnesses were then called in support of the case for the prosecution. It was stated that a piece called Maria Martin was played, and also Cartouche, the French Jack Sheppard. Each show lasted about twenty minutes to half-an-hour, and the shows followed each other in succession as audiences were collected. There was shouting when an audience was being gathered, and then large crowds were attracted. The showman outside called out that there was a "bearded woman" to be seen inside, and that this woman was caught by Buffalo Bill, and, having long hair and a beard, she represented "half a gorilla and half a woman." There was an imitation policeman in wax outside. There was a fat French woman exhibited inside, and it was stated that she weighed 39st. 11lb., and measured 8ft. around her shoulders, and one of her garments was exhibited outside to show its size. The announcement was also made that there was a "female champion boxer" who boxed three rounds with a tall soldier.
    Police-constable 28 J.R. proved that as many as 200 people had assembled outside the show premises at one time. The pictures that attracted most attention were those relating to the Whitechapel murders, exhibited at shop No.106. One picture showed six women lying down injured and covered in blood, and with their clothes disturbed.
    Police-inspector Cudmore stated that many known thieves loitered among the crowd and gathered outside the premises, and a large number of persons were arrested near the spot for pocket-picking and larceny.
    Henry Tate, in the employ of Mr. Hunt, a cheese-monger of 108 and 109 Whitechapel-road stated that the shop, No.107, was principally used as a "ghost show." Various pieces were played there, including Sweeney Todd. The showman outside kept calling out till the "house" was filled and performers in stage dress appeared every time they wanted to "draw the house full."
    Mr. Poland read a petition, signed by a number of residents in the neighbourhood, which had been presented to the Whitechapel District Board, complaining of the show as an injury to trade and a nuisance to the inhabitants.
    Mr. Purcell put in a counter-petition, signed by forty-three other inhabitants of the locality, saying that the show was not the least nuisance to them.
    Further evidence was given in support of the prosecution by a number of inhabitants living close to the defendant's premises. It was stated that trade had fallen off in consequence of the crowds that gathered.
    Mr. Johnson, a vestryman, said that in connection with the show there had been a barrel-organ grinding, a fog-horn blowing, and a gong being beaten. The organ, however, was done away with about four months ago.
    Mr. Purcell, for the defence, said that the business carried out by the defendant was not one that contravened the law at all. The pictures with reference to the Whitechapel murders were removed a long time ago. He contended that the defendant had not conducted his legitimate business in such a way as to make him amenable to the law. The defendant did not want people to stare outside, but to go into the show, and the roughs and pickpockets who gathered outside were as much a nuisance to him as to his neighbours.
    Witnesses were next called for the defence, being persons living in the neighbourhood, who stated that the defendants business was not a nuisance to them. It was stated that, besides stalls along the road, there was in the thoroughfare a seal and crocodile show under canvas, a cocoanut-shying stand, kinfe-ringing stands, shooting galleries, men drawing teeth and selling corn-plaisters, and these caused equally large crowds to assemble.
    The defendant was called as a witness on his own behalf. He said that for the two shops he paid £245 a year rent. As far as possible he had diminished the noise made to attract people, and he wished to carry on his business with as little annoyance to others as possible.
    In answer to Mr. Poland, the defendant said he could not carry on his business if he discontinued having a showman at the door to call out. He could do without pictures, but it was necessary to show the performers to attract the public.
    After a long consideration, the jury returned a verdict of guilty. Mr. Poland said that there was a similar case against a man named Lindley arising in the same neighbourhood. The defendant Lindley said that he would plead guilty.
    Mr. Poland then suggested that both defendants should be allowed to go no their own recognisances to come up for judgment if called upon, and if the inhabitants of the locality were satisfied that there was no further nuisance no more would be heard of the matter. The only object of the prosecution was to stop a nuisance.
    The Recorder adopted this course and the defendants were discharged on entering into their own recognisances in the sum of £100 each to come up for judgment if called upon.
The Era, February 9, 1889

Thursday 4 March 2010

Dickens on stage


Charles Dickens and Hans Christian Andersen feature in a new play at the Hampstead Theatre, entitled Andersen's English. Here's a Youtube trailer:

And here's the website ... the show opens in April.



This is a rare publishing-industry post, as I try to keep this blog fairly Victorian. Nonetheless, I have a question for published novelists and book people out there ...

What's a reasonable rate for ebook royalties?

My original contracts with [a certain publisher] had a nice theoretical 50% (although they never actually published anything electronically).

Now, when they might actually publish books as ebooks, with the emergence of the Kindle et al., they want to reduce to 15%.

This is more about curiosity than cash because my books are not massive sellers; and I'm no longer with [a certain publisher] so they won't be promoting me in any serious way; and I'm not trying to work out any kind of negotiating position (I don't really have the leverage - it will be take it or leave it). Really, I'm just plain curious.

The standard rate for paperback royalties is around 7%+ ... is there a standard rate emerging for ebooks?

Monday 1 March 2010

Alice in Wonderland


The BFI pick a cunning moment to publicise their restoration of the original almost Victorian (1903) Alice in Wonderland. I quote:

"Alice in Wonderland (1903), the first-ever film version of Lewis Carroll's tale, has recently been restored by the BFI National Archive and premiered at a celebration of the history of the classic story at the British Library.

Made just 37 years after the novel's publication and eight years after the birth of cinema, the first film adaptation was directed by Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow, and was based on Sir John Tenniel's original illustrations. Hepworth cast his wife as the Red Queen, and he himself appears as the Frog Footman. His production secretary May Clark played Alice, and even the family cat and dog got in on the act. The cat played the Cheshire Cat, and the dog would go on to become the first authentic British film star (canine or otherwise) to have his name in the credit of a film when he headlined the pioneering chase film Rescued By Rover in 1905."
Read the full story here.