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.
“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.”
A spectre is haunting Latvia — the spectre of organised crime. Illegal border crossings, drug trafficking, money laundering, vehicle theft, human trafficking, and corruption are just some of the issues which Latvian law enforcement has to deal with.
“It is painfully obvious that the modus vivendi that has been reached between state and political institutions and organized crime is causing a permanent deformation of the democratic system.”
Stephen Basdeo The Following was a lecture delivered by Stephen Basdeo at Richmond: The American International University on Wednesday 18 November 2020 to students in GEP4180: Organised Crime in Popular Culture. Although […]
“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!”
“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.
“…his head was fixed in a hole resembling those of the stocks. The priests leant forward to Whisper the last consolation of man in the malefactor’s ears, and, all being ready, the executioner pulled a string which let the fatal axe loose. Down—down the newly greased grooves it fell, quick as the eyes can wink.”
“A few remarks on that abominable traffic, the SLAVE TRADE, which, to the disgrace of Europe, has not yet ceased to exist, although the efforts of England have been so long directed to its abolition.”
“Emulative of the character of Robin Hood”: The Highwayman Thomas Rainford in the “Second Series” of The Mysteries of London (1844–48) | Stephen Basdeo
Here is a post I wrote on Reynolds’s highwaymen Thomas Rainford, alias Mr Hatfield, who is one of the most fascinating characters in the Second Series of The Mysteries of London.
Dr Rebecca Nesvet takes a look at a long, and unjustly, forgotten French Gothic mystery novel by Eugene Sue. Set in Paris, in the novel crime, revolution, and the lives of black lesbians collided.
“When the morning appointed for his execution arrived the keeper went to take him out of his cell when he was surprised to find him almost expiring through loss of blood, having cut his left arm above the elbow, and near the wrist, with a razor; but he missed an artery … when he was taken to the place of execution he was perfectly sensible, though so very weak, as to be unable to join in devotion with the clergyman who attended him. He was executed at York, August 6th, 1759, and his body was hung in chains in Knaresborough Forest.”
“He may cheat cards or snatch purses. He may forge a cheque or a will. He may beg with a painted ulcer, or float a commercial bubble. He may scheme for title and fortune by means of a worldly marriage, or pocket his hostess’s spoons. He may prey on the government as smuggler and illicit distiller, or turn counterfeit utterer. He may play quack, levy blackmail, crack a safe, or even rob on the highway.”
“Where the old Abbey stands, on the common hard by,
“His gibbet is now to be seen;
“His irons you still from the road may espy;
“The traveller beholds them, and thinks with a sigh
“Of poor Mary, the Maid of the Inn.”
In 1817 the press, politicians, and the public had Robert Southey in their sights; a play, written nearly 2 decades previously and containing “problematic” ideas, was unearthed. A media storm ensued. But instead of pandering to the media mob Southey refused to apologise and, what is more, called out his critics’ hypocrisy.
“Whether the Robin Hood traditions are wholly fact or fiction is a matter of little moment … I prefer to take him as I find him, and I find him, according to the best traditions, a most picturesque figure moving amid noble scenery, and doing deeds of gallantry and kindness. There were so few men in his day who spoke words of ruth to the poor, who were superior to base temptations … so we will hold fast to Robin Hood, and his merry men, and his Maid Marion, and his bravery and mercy.”
The Basdeo family has a sordid murder-suicide among its Victorian ancestors. Even worse, insanity was thought “to run in the blood”….
“Something more goes to the composition of a fine murder than two blockheads to kill and be killed—a knife—a purse—and a dark lane. Design, gentlemen, grouping, light and shade, poetry and sentiment, are now deemed indispensable to attempts of this nature.”
I recently got hold of a “Commonplace Book” which dates from 1859. Commonplace books have been a feature of home life since at least the 1600s. Most often women—though not exclusively women—would compile various poems, drawings, or copy out “advice columns” from books and newspapers into these books for keeping later on.
There stood train, its three classes, first, second, and third. “Good Heavens!” I exclaimed, and are not men equal? Have not these cursed distinctions of rank been yet levelled by the roar of the speeding steam? But I, for one, will never give in to aristocratic institutions. So saying, I got into the coupée of a first-class carriage…
A thin shawl was drawn over her shoulders; her dress was ragged and worn, her face deathly pale…In her pocket was found the remnant of the crust, and a copy of verses printed on red paper.
“My father would smash everythin’ he could reach and knocked my mother round awful so I ran away.”
It would have fallen to the lot of a poorly paid Victorian governess to practice playing Robin Hood with children in the nursery.