Maligning Mr Leach – the gaps are where the mysteries lie

Someone asked me the other day if the biography I'm working on will contain any fictional elements. Um, no. If it did it, wouldn't it be a work of historical fiction, and not a biography? And yet, I do confess, the temptation to create fiction - to fill in the gaps - is strong. Occasionally within the text of my manuscript I offer some brief conjecture.  But I'm careful to make it very clear that conjecture and guess-work (albeit educated guess-work) is all that it is.  However sometimes my conjecture [...]

Bombay Anna by Susan Morgan

You've likely never heard of Bombay Anna.  But I bet you have heard of Mrs Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of the King of Siam. If you've ever seen the movie or stage version of the King and I, you've seen Mrs Anna. Mrs Anna, however, was far more than a figment of Rodgers' and Hammerstein's imaginations. Anna was born in 1831, a poor, mixed-race army brat in India. There she married an English soldier, Private Thomas Leon Owens, and with him had four children.  Between 1853 and 1857 [...]

2018-03-21T14:55:43+11:00September 23rd, 2014|Book Review|0 Comments

Visiting Bridgerule, Dreaming of the Past

Bridgerule Millhouse Thanks to every TV and cinema adaptation of Pride and Prejudice it isn’t hard for a modern reader to imagine the quiet corner of England that Elizabeth Macarthur left behind. Elizabeth Veale, as she was then, was born in 1766 and raised in the very English village of Bridgerule, on the border of Cornwall and Devon.   Rolling green hills, flowering hedgerows, majestic trees surrounding an ancient church, picturesque gardens beside quaint little cottages — the location ticks every English stereotype on the bonnet drama list. And [...]

Stories in the Archives – the tragedy of triplets

A very kind person (although no one I know) has transcribed the Births, Burials and Marriages registers of the church of St Bridget's in Bridgerule (a tiny English farming village in North Devon).  They're all available online.  Marvellous.  So I was browsing through them the other day, as you do, and a story leaped out at me. St Bridget's, Bridgerule. Photo: Michelle Scott Tucker. Mary Folly was baptised in February 1712. Baby Mary's parents, Richard Folly and Lucy Cole subsequently married in May 1712.   They went on to [...]

2018-03-21T14:56:18+11:00July 14th, 2014|Work in Progress|0 Comments

Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer

Biographer Richard Holmes wrote a book about writing books - specifically, biographies. "This exhilarating book, part biography, part autobiography...shows the biographer as sleuth and huntsman, tracking his subjects through space and time." - Observer On the face of it Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer describes how Holmes retraced, on foot, a journey made through France by his subject Robert Louis Stevenson.  What Footsteps really describes, though, is how the biographer's journey both captured and failed to capture the subject. Footsteps is a book worth reading and having myself just [...]


Elizabeth Veale, as she was then, was born in 1766 and raised in the English village of Bridgerule, on the border of Cornwall and Devon in England’s southwest. The time I spent in Elizabeth Macarthur's birthplace was absolutely the highlight of my trip to England.  But, as I always seem to find, the place mattered far less than the people. The spritely octogenarian, Mr Bowden, who showed me through St Bridget's church and then rang the bells for me.  That's him holding the enormous key to the church! Rose Hitchings, [...]

2018-03-21T14:56:19+11:00July 8th, 2014|Elizabeth Macarthur, Life|13 Comments
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