Author Archives

Stephen Basdeo

Stephen Basdeo is a historian and writer based in Leeds, UK.

[REVIEW] “Robin Hood in Outlaw/ed Spaces” (2015)

Robin Hood scholars consistently publish excellent new peer-reviewed research in edited volumes, and the latest offering from editors Valerie Johnson and Lesley Coote is no exception to this. This new book entitled Robin Hood in Outlaw/ed Spaces: Media, Performance, and Other New Directions contains essays written by a number of different scholars on varying topics. There truly is something for Robin Hood scholars and medievalists of any calling, whether they work in the field of medieval studies, nineteenth-century literature, or twentieth-century culture, and this review only picks up on a couple of the highlights from the collection.

Mary Contrary

Stephen Basdeo UPDATE 23/05/2021: I shall now be moderating all comments prior to people being able to post them. In the Communist Manifesto (1848) Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote that, in […]

“Servile Historians” (1869) | Samuel Kydd

The strongest sympathy was manifested by the men of Saxon origin for Robin Hood, whom they looked upon as their chieftain and defender,—“I would rather die,” said an old woman to him one day—I would rather die than not do all I might to save thee; for who fed and clothed me and mine but thou and Little John.”

Eugene Sue’s Epic Socialist Novel “The Mysteries of the People” (1848): “The Iron Collar” and “The Silver Cross” | Stephen Basdeo

“this carpenter of Nazareth has an audacity that passes all bounds; he respects nothing, nothing; yesterday ’twas the law, authority, he attacked in their representatives; to-day ‘tis the rich against whom he excites the dregs of the populace. Has he not dared to pronounce these execrable words: ‘It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

The Revolutionary Life of Eugene Sue (Part I) | Stephen Basdeo

It was in the early evening of 26 January 1804 (5 Pluviôse in the Year XII of the French Republic) that several eminent people from French high society were gathered at number 160 Rue Neuve de Luxembourg. Among them was Jean Baptise-François Legros, the Auditor of the Public Treasury. The French military commander Eugène Rose de Beauharnais, who was adopted son of First Consul of the French Republic, Napoleon Bonaparte, was there as well. Also in attendance was Beauharnais’s mother and Napoleon’s wife Josephine Bonaparte—later in this same year, 1804, Napoleon would crown himself Emperor of the French and Josephine would be granted the title of empress. These luminaries of French political and military life were gathered to witness the birth of a child: a novelist who went on to achieve astounding heights of fame in the French literary world–Eugene Sue.

The Comic History of the Peasants’ Revolt | Gilbert Abbot a Beckett

“Ah!” said the bookseller, after a pause; “nothing now succeeds unless it’s in the comic line. We have comic Latin grammars, and comic Greek grammars; indeed, I don’t know but what English grammar, too, is a comedy altogether. All our tragedies are made into comedies by the way they are performed; and no work sells without comic illustrations to it. I have brought out several new comic works, which have been very successful. For instance, The Comic Wealth of Nations; The Comic Parliamentary Speeches; The Comic Report of the Poor-Law Commissioners, with an Appendix containing the Comic Dietary Scale; and the Comic Distresses of the Industrious Population. I even propose to bring out a Comic Whole Duty of Man. All these books sell well: they do admirably for the nurseries of the children of the aristocracy. In fact they are as good as manuals and text-books.”

“Mysteries of the People” (1848): Eugene Sue’s Epic Socialist Novel | Stephen Basdeo

“It graphically traces the special features of class-rule as they have succeeded one another from epoch to epoch, together with the special character of the struggle between the contending classes. The “Law,” “Order,” “Patriotism,” “Religion,” “Family,” etc., etc., that each successive tyrant class, despite its change of form, fraudulently sought refuge in to justify its criminal existence whenever threatened; the varying economic causes of the oppression of the toilers; the mistakes incurred by these in their struggles for redress; the varying fortunes of the conflict;—all these social dramas are therein reproduced in a majestic series of “novels” covering leading and successive episodes in the history of the race—an inestimable gift, above all to our own generation, above all to the American working class.”

M.P. Shiel’s “The Purple Cloud” (1901) | Stephen Basdeo

“The empires of civilization have crumbled like sandcastles in a horror of anarchy. Thousands upon thousands of unburied dead, anticipating the more deliberate doom that comes and smokes, and rides and comes and comes, and does not fail, encumber the streets of London, Manchester, Liverpool … the fields lie waste, wanton crowds carouse in our churches, universities, palaces, banks, hospitals … in several towns the police seem to have disappeared.”

The Forest Rebel | Stephen Basdeo

Almost all western societies hold in reverence two “anonymous” figures: the worker and “the unknown soldier.” Ernst Jünger would have us venerate a third figure: The Forest Rebel. The Forest Rebel has been present in nearly every society and is a symbol of resistance to tyranny.

Pierce Egan’s “Robin Hood” and the Victorian “Standard English Novels” Literary Canon | Stephen Basdeo

This post examines the creation of the Victorian “Standard English Novels” series. This is because we have a strange situation in Robin Hood scholarship. Minor and unimportant works of authors like Thomas Love Peacock receive too much attention and their importance in the legend’s history is overemphasised. Meanwhile the works of major Victorian authors, who were considered “canonical” and as one of the “masters of English novels” in their day, receive very little critical attention.

Pandemic in Vienna | G.W.M. Reynolds

“Those black spots indicated a condition of putrid decomposition;—the tongue grew also black, and swelled so as nearly to suffocate the victim —lolling out of his parched mouth, and between his livid lips, and experiencing a thirst so burning that no beverage, however sharp or acid, could assuage that agonizing sensation:—large gouts of thick black blood were expectorated;—the breath exhaled an odour so nauseating that it was pestilence itself;—and violent pains crowned the infernal torments which the wretched patient thus endured.”

Margaret Catchpole (1762-1819) | G.W.M. Reynolds

“In due time she was brought to trial before the same judge who had before condemned her. The law was imperative. Any person who, suffering a commuted sentence, broke prison, was doomed to undergo the original penalty. This was death; and Margaret, who again pleaded guilty, was again condemned to die!”

The Assassin | G.W.M. Reynolds

“Quick as thought he raised the pistol, and fired it point blank at his opponent. M. Durantal uttered one single cry and fell down dead. At that moment a violent rustling of the boughs was heard close by…”

This story originally appeared in “The London Journal” in 1845.