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.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs