Monday, 12 August 2013

A ' killer' novel

"Exclude from your library all books that have no Albany connections.  Buy only such books as were written here, planned here, written elsewhere by men who once lived here or peopled with characters who had chambers here by writers who owned no part of Albany.  With the touch of Albany as sole criterion, and still you will own a not unrepresentative collection of English literature since the end of the eighteenth century.

It began, this relationship between Albany and literature,  almost in that moment when the mansion house became what everywhere else in Britain (but never in Albany) would be called a block of flats.  And it began with a sensation which, after the fashion of sensations, has since slithered off the front page of knowledge into the graveyard of footnote obscurity.  One of the most famous of all habitués of Albany's forerunner, Melbourne House, was killed, (or was said to have been killed) by a novel.  In 1806, a clerk at the Bank of England, Thomas Surr, published a bestseller, Winter in London.  In it he caricatured the Duchess of Devonshire so successfully that when she read the book the shock of self-recognition hastened her death."

'Albany'  J.E. Morpurgo in The Book of Westminster  ed.  Ian Norrie


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