Category: History

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.

When the Upper Classes Commit Crime: Eugene Aram (1704–59)

“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.”

Rise of the Rogues

“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.”

Remarks on Robin Hood by Robert Blatchford | Stephen Basdeo

“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.”