Monday, 7 March 2011


I have been looking through some old letters of Kathleen’s- I have any number, and they make wonderful reading; perhaps I will publish them some day!

However, the letter that made me sit up was dated 1994:

I have looked over my novel about Furness during the Popish Plot- which is firmly based on truth. It was too long and too remote from London to be tempting to publishers when the last recession hit us- though Bodley Head said it was the best thing I had done. …
Then during these last weeks, the story has suddenly become incredibly topical- …for the background  we have:

  • a King called Charles, with a complicated marital and family life
  • a society of the rich and famous who produce a new scandal with every edition of the newspapers
  • a government that has been in office for 18 years and is not only stale but starting to smell
  • an opposition that is playing the cards of integrity, decency and social conscience but has some background material that would make the usual whoring and grafting sound like the biography of Florence Nightingale
  • an established religion that for the time has run out of steam, and numbers of cults that are boiling with enthusiasm- some for good, some for evil, both inside and outside Christianity
  • and a large number of “alternative” Englands that are barely suspected to exist by “official” England- some just want to be allowed to live, some would like to smash everything in their way-
It’s 1678, but change the clothes and it could be today. So, now- if ever- it might find a reckless publisher.

Well, it didn’t. Not then.

And Kathleen became less capable of mustering her resources to approach publishers; in the same letter she writes about teaching herself to read, write and type again after her stroke.

Bodley Head had been bought up and ceased to trade in their former way, and so it lay for a further 16 years, until it came to me in two “for life” carrier bags.

Is it still as relevant today as in 1994, given that we have recently had a change of government? I think so, but you will have to judge for yourselves: buy a copy today, and treat yourself to a good read.

My neighbour, a self confessed reluctant reader only bought a copy from me to be polite, but phoned me up a week later and cursed me for depriving him of his sleep- he had been up every night until three o’clock to finish it!

1 comment:

  1. Mike (editor) has just pointed out another "scary correspondence". He wrote the following before he read the letter from which I quoted above:

    A time much like our own. Hardship up and down the country. People turned out of their homes; others living rich beyond the dreams of the dispossessed. Science struggling with superstition; religious hatred sending groups into hiding; rumour feeding constant fear of plots and threats. Terrorist packmen roam the remote parts of the country. Celebrity and Royalty parade in a public sexual carnival.