Blog highlights

Selected blog highlights, does not include book reviews.


Proof we all have Victorian doppelgangers – spooky!

This is supposed to be a fun post, not serious research. However it is based on something that I’m interested in, the idea of the doppelganger (a ghostly double). See my previous post, ‘Rossetti and the doppelgängers’. Every now and then, when looking at Long Victorian photographs and paintings, I see a face that immediately makes me think of another person known to me today. A spooky curiosity. By adding these to the finds of others, I’ve ferreted away an eccentric little collection. Not much point in my showing you people that aren’t publicly known, but here are some folk that you might be aware of, together with their (mostly Victorian) doppelgängers …

Continue reading [March 1, 2017]


Rossetti and the doppelgangers

A topic that I have been interested in for some time is the idea of the doppelgänger. And I’m not the only person to be intrigued by the notion of a mysterious double and what it might mean. Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) was fascinated by the possibility of the doppelgänger, the seeing of which is supposedly a presentiment of death. This inspired some of his art and poetry. Below are his painting and drawing, How They Met Themselves. Medieval lovers in a wood, unexpectedly meeting their doubles, glowing supernaturally …

Continue reading [February 27, 2017]


Old Police Cells Museum & Victorian crime

Reading the novels of Jane Austen one might be forgiven for thinking that hers was a calm and relaxing period in which to live (1775-1817). Far from it. The economy of the country was going through the rapid change of the Industrial Revolution. This brought many opportunities, but also many problems. The population of London doubled from 1801 to 1851 – many other towns and cities also grew rapidly. There was high unemployment (“labour displacement”) and poverty was rampant. Few social safety nets existed …

Continue reading [February 22, 2017]


The peculiar life & times of Flaming June: “The most wonderful painting in existence”

I am going to tell you a story. How one of the world’s most famous paintings came into existence, got lost, was rediscovered but unloved (the frame was thought more valuable than the painting) and rose again to become “The Mona Lisa of the Southern Hemisphere”. It is the peculiar journey of a world renown piece of Pre-Raphaelite art – that will take us from Clapham Common to Puerto Rico, carefully avoiding Andrew Lloyd Webber’s lefty granny. And remarkably, this painting, Flaming June is back in this country, in the London house where she was painted (at least until 2 April 2017) …

Continue reading [February 13, 2017]


Going, going … GONE! When is it acceptable to sell public art?

Going, going … GONE! When is it acceptable to sell public art? It’s happening more frequently than you might think. There was a time when I had assumed that once a work of art had been gifted or bought by a public art gallery, there it would stay (apart from loans and special exhibitions). Later I learned that galleries do sell art works in order to acquire others, thereby developing their collections. That sounds reasonable and responsible. But in the last few years I have noticed a disturbing trend, both in the UK and in the United States, to sell public art for other purposes – to help pay for running costs, for building extensions, to reduce debts and to develop endowments.

This might seem a dry subject, but it’s not so dry when specific paintings that you had hoped to see, turn out to have been flogged off to the highest bidder …

Continue reading [July 20, 2017]


Jane Eyre is a book about ugly people – Casting period dramas

According to this light-hearted article in The Toast, “Jane Eyre is a book fundamentally about ugly people” and a plea is made to cast “ugly and weird-looking in period dramas”:

If I accomplish one thing in my life, let it be the increased acceptability in casting the ugly and the weird-looking in period dramas. We would all be the better for it. Interesting things happen to people with bad bone structure

The piece made me chuckle, but also pause for thought. Does it matter that every leading literary character needs to be glammed up when adapted for TV or film?

It seems everyone has to be glamorous in the TV and movie world, even when the characters have been carefully described physically, such as Marian Halcombe from The Woman in White (twice described as ‘ugly’) and Dracula (with his massive eyebrows, extremely pointed ears, hairy palms and long nails cut to a point) …

Continue post [May 31, 2016]


No.1. Eleven worst couples in literature: Heathcliff and Catherine from Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte). Heathcliff and Cathy from Wuthering Heights topping our list of the worst couples in literature? “Surely not?!” I hear you say. Isn’t Wuthering Heights a famous love story? …

Continue post [May 28, 2016]


No.2. Eleven worst couples in literature: Angel & Tess and Alec & Tess from Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy). It is a remarkable novel, full of interesting things and wonderful writing. And no less than two rotten relationships …

Continue post [May 10, 2016]


No.3. Eleven worst couples in literature: Laura Fairlie and Sir Percival Glyde from The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins). Oh dear – this marriage was spectacularly doomed from the start. The utterly broke Sir Percival Glyde can appear charming and gracious, but he’s actually a fraudster – in false possession of his title and position …

Continue post [April 30, 2016]


No. 4. Eleven worst couples in literature: Madeline Bray and Arthur Gride from Nicholas Nickleby (Charles Dickens). The only reason this marriage doesn’t happen is that Madeline’s father dies one hour before the ceremony is due to begin. But imagine if it had …

Continue post [April 22, 2016]


No. 5.  Eleven worst couples in literature: Bertha and Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë). Clearly not a successful marriage. Bertha is insane, can’t be divorced and has pyromaniac and suicidal tendencies …

Continue post [April 18, 2016]


No. 6. Eleven worst couples in literature: Anna Karenina and Alexei Vronsky from Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy). OK – so your husband is as dull as a potato and Count Vronsky is handsome, charming and passionate. But you’re in Russia and look at the calendar – it’s 1873 …

Continue post [April 15, 2016]


No. 7. Eleven worst couples in literature: Arabella Donn and Jude Fawley from Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy). Wonderful writing, but such a sad tale. Jude was the first adult book I ever read. Bromley Public Library. A strange choice really, especially given the ending! Even so, I could tell there was something magical about it …

Continue post [April 13, 2016]


No. 8. Eleven worst couples in literature: Dorothea and Edward Casaubon from Middlemarch (George Eliot). Another of Eliot’s brilliant portraits of a hopeless pairing. Dorothea (“Dodo”) is a sheltered and intense young woman with a background in English and Swiss Puritanism …

Continue post [April 11, 2016]


No. 9. Eleven worst couples in literature: Lydia and George Wickham from Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen). The marital prognosis on this relationship isn’t good, I fear. Wickham is a compulsive liar, gambler, debtor and idler. He has previously attempted to elope with Darcy’s young sister …

Continue post [April 11, 2016]


No. 10. Eleven worst couples in literature: Rosamund Vincy and Dr Lydgate from Middlemarch (George Eliot). One of the many gems to be found in George Eliot’s Middlemarch is the genius psychological portraits of Dr Tertius Lydgate and Miss Rosamund Vincy (soon Mrs Lydgate) …

Continue post [April 11, 2016]


No. 11. Eleven worst couples in literature: Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen). Charlotte Lucas seems a pleasant young woman. She has a sense of humour and is a close friend of the delightful Elizabeth Bennet. What a shame then that she marries that fawning, conceited, potato and chimney connoisseur, Mr Collins …

Continue post [April 9, 2016]



Advertisements