Touched by history
My history anyway, but it brought a tear to my eye. Around sixty years ago my father started researching an early Victorian ‘incident’ that he discovered while investigating his family tree. He came across a set of documents at the Public Record Office – as it was then – in Chancery Lane, and spent the next twenty years or so, on and off, following up this research. Eventually, he wrote a historical novel based on it. In spite of many attempts, the novel was never published, and after a while, he lost interest in the case.
After his death, and while going through his papers, I came across a draft of the novel, several drafts actually, and wondered whether I should try publishing it. I decided against; it had more than a few faults – of which my father was probably aware – and so I decided to allow it to rest in peace.
However, the incident remained, and casting around for something to do after I had finished my last project, I decided to get the original documents out of what is now the National Archives at Kew, and see whether a factual narrative, rather than fiction, might be more appropriate. I am amazed at the extraordinary story that is unfolding; I’m not sure that there is enough for a book but I will pursue the material and write it up. My father deserves that at least, since he discovered it all.
Today I visited Kew, and spent some time looking at the documents trying to decipher some of the Victorian handwriting, most of it not nice copperplate but appalling scrawl; how much time they must have spent trying just to read their correspondence! Then I noticed a scrap of paper torn from a notebook to make a marker; it had some handwriting on it, part of a list of something, and I recognized my father’s handwriting… It must have been there for the best part of fifty years or more, and it is quite likely that I am the first person since my father to request those particular documents.
There is a report in the press today that David Cameron tried to get Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily ‘Hate’ Mail, fired over his editorial stance on the EU referendum.
The Daily Mail is, for want of a better term, a 'newspaper', and Dacre is, apparently, its editor. Let me declare an interest: I hold the Mail, and those responsible for the xenophobic drivel that serves for its content, in the deepest contempt. Any mention of the ‘Mail’ on the radio in discussion programmes usually engenders knowing chuckles; which particular brand of ‘Little England’ are they trolling out today?
But the Prime Minister tried to get Dacre fired because of his editorial position? Was Cameron completely, stark staring mad? It is said that every country deserves its press; so folks, we deserve the Sun, the Daily Telegraph and, yes, the Daily Mail. But we cherish our democracy and our freedom, and that freedom includes the right of our newspapers, if they choose, to cater to ignorance, prejudice, xenophobia and small-mindedness in their readership. It has to be like that; we must have freedom of the press. Anything else is just unacceptable.
And with that principle firmly in mind, the Prime Minister of this country apparently lobbied the owner(s) of the Mail to remove the editor. Cameron, along with his decision to hold a referendum on Europe, is in danger of going down in history as one of the stupidest Prime Ministers we have ever had.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs