Last night I told Darling Husband that I’d try to read some of the books already bought before acquiring more. Abiding by that resolution, offered unprompted, without pressure and sincerely meant at the time, hasn’t gone so well today. Yes, indeed, the Book Addict extraordinaire was let out to play!
It was all started by my friend and fellow bookseller, Catherine Hawley, who had the audacity to tweet a link to new releases from a publisher, Victorian Secrets, which I had not come across before. I am a huge fan of Victorian, especially late 19th century, literature so I couldn’t resist taking a look. Victorian Secrets is ana independent publisher with an impressive list of books from and about the 19th century, produced as much as a labour of love as a commercial endeavour, with strong leaning towards otherwise out of print works by Victorian writers a risk of being unduly forgotten: “Mindful that large publishers are interested only in canonical authors, we devote much of our free time to ensuring that important novels aren’t lost to posterity”. A quick glance at Victorian Secret’s catalogue confirms that is not an empty promise.
I chose just one book, a copy of Charlotte Riddell’s Weird Stories which promises also a decent introduction by Emma Liggins. Riddell was close to be being a Victorian publishing sensation. Popular and influential in her time, she published some 56 novels and short story collections as well as editing and co-owning one of the most prestigious literary journals of her day – St James’ Magazine – yet she’s been largely overlooked by readers and publishers alike for the last few decades. Having recently read and enjoyed T G Jackson’s Six Ghost Stories (published some 40 odd years later, but with a retrospective Gothic tone), this seemed a good choice. But I could have chosen several more – Margaret Harkness’s A City Girl, published in 1887 under the pseudonym John Law is tempting. Set in late Victorian London it recounts the experiences of a poor East End seamstress seduced by a middle-class man, and this edition includes not only a scholarly introduction but also the authors correspondence with Friedrich Engels.