Hereditary ghosts: tales from The Night Side of Nature, 1848

  Catherine Crowe (1790-1872) was a noted Victorian author of fiction and folklore, with a strong interest in spiritual matters and the supernatural.  Her 1848 book The Night Side of Nature; Or, Ghosts and Ghost Seers is a massive collection of stories and anecdotes on the subject of ghosts and weird phenomena, and was wildly…

Nightmares, Ghosts and Ghouls: a spooky October on the blog

Happy 1st of October to all of our readers!  This month, we’ll be digging into the dusty digital vaults of the British Library Labs, in order to bring you some of the finest in obscure and forgotten spooky fiction, folklore, poetry, and pictures.  And believe me, there’s tons to be getting with – the Victorians…

Insult of the Week: he talked mere drivel

The preacher in residence at St. Hilda’s  Church in Donegal, Mr. Vivian, gets a poor review from Charlotte Riddell in her 1888 novel The Nun’s Curse.  Although his good qualities are many, and he does excellent work with the sinful and/or suffering members of his parish, his preaching abilities are, frankly, nil. Unlearned, unlettered, uncultured…

Image Collection of the Week: A Fleet of Sailing Ships

Today’s image collection comes in honour of that most solemn and dignified of annual celebrations: Talk Like A Pirate Day. And what better source of swashbuckling quotes is there than Robert Louis Stevenson’s formative pirate novel Treasure Island?  Not only has this work given us such celebrated tropes as “Shiver my timbers!”, “Yo-ho-ho and a…

Insult of the Week: Fops

From one gendered insult to another: this week we’re looking at literary fops, or gentlemen that are – in some way or another – a bit too concerned with manners of dress, elegance and fashion. Our featured image (by the wonderful C. E. Brock) comes from John Galt’s 1821 novel The Annals of the Parish…

How One Author’s Bankruptcy Changed the History of the English Novel Forever

In the teens of the 19th century, Walter Scott was enjoying a wave of financial success as a novel-writer that was perhaps unprecedented in the history of literature.  His series of historical novels, published under the pseudonym “The Author of Waverley”, were selling in huge numbers, and his fans were legion, including – among others…

Works in Progress: our collection

This year’s IASIL conference was fascinating and thought-provoking, as well as being a whole lot of fun, and I think we’re all still processing the excellent feedback we received!  Many things to think about! One specific request we received was for there to be a list of the works that we’ve analysed so far.  Which…

Nursing mothers: an image collection

In honour of World Breastfeeding Week 2016 (a day late – but better late than never!), here is a small collection of vintage public-domain images of women nursing their babies, from the British Library Labs and Internet Archive images collections. ix An honourable mention must also go to Gillray’s 1796 “The Fashionable Mamma“, which I…

Insult of the Week: may his head rot off

In chapter 15 of Bleak House, the narrator Esther Summerson and her guardian Mr. Jarndcye encounter Mr. Gridley, a passionate man from Shropshire, who is embroiled in a labyrinthine court case that has permanently soured his view of the legal system.  Although Esther (who is herself a ward in Chancery) and Mr. Jarndyce have not,…