The Hollow

What byways led you from life,

Citizen of a noonday Empire

Your home a gentle county of green

And beyond the roll of downs, the wild blue sea?


The patriarch, whose fatal temper only luck spared you,

The brain fever that took your sister,

That shut away your cousin thrice or more?

You yourself so respectable as to appear

In hat, waist-coated, cuffed, the lawman’s clerk.


Perhaps you feared that all could fall away, like clothes.

This small, quiet place whose lanes you daily walked

Where – you said – you were wont to spend your coin on strangers’ children

But your generous fame hadn’t spread so far.


Your guarded hours, you wrote and copied;

Messages taken, errands run.

Deserving, but a poor prospect withal.

Maybe of all men’s you were never your own.


By chance you were here that late August day

When it came to you: your whole life long

Scratching for pennies, nib to paper

And your love denied

(She had almost sent you under, once)


When suddenly you were not alone –

Beyond your will, then.

Pert and pretty, palmed your money and would not,

Not even walk with you, this bold pauper’s child.


The scent of hops

Hardly a breeze

Rage.  Resentment?  A moment’s power.

Her crying drowned your last dry threads of reason.


“Without consideration why,” you struck.

Bound for hell, did you linger in your victory,

Or was it mere expedience:

What respectable creature (you) would be so savage?


You said you could have passed for butcher

Yet you denied cleaving, disjointing, flinging away.

Only her blood and your journal found you out.

Was it then just railing at your lot

That bade you write: “24th – killed a girl. It was fine and hot.”


The Common Love of Good

The Common Love of Good

Thank you to all those who have been following the blog. The first section of the book – everything blogged since Christmas – is still available from the ‘Common Love of Good’ page here. The entire novel is available now from Amazon for £1.19. Proceeds to Coram (the Foundling Hospital), for reasons obvious to readers!


MILTON:                              What a pretty new bonnet, m’Lady.

LADY DELAHAYE:              Why thank you. I have had one made just the same for baby Charlotte. Don’t you think she will look the  sweetest little thing in it?

MILTON:                              Oh yes, m’Lady, I’m sure. (significant look between her and RADLEY)

LADY DELAHAYE:              You might order the carriage now, Thomas, and see that Charlotte is ready, Louisa. I shall manage my mantle perfectly well. (She exits.)

MILTON/RADLEY:             Yes, m’Lady. (They move downstage.)

RADLEY:                               Make sure she ain’t wearing that ‘at when we take ‘er.

MILTON:                              Why not? It’ll fetch us a penny or two.

RADLEY:                               And get us noticed. We don’t want nothing fancy, no fuss, just the ransom.

MILTON:                              We’ll get it. They won’t want the scandal. But we’ll have to take her silver rings. She won’t quiet without.

RADLEY:                               Take ‘em then. And if she don’t quiet, they’ll be the last fancy goods she ever ‘as.         


Excerpt from “The Baby-Snatchers, or: The Rewards of Virtue and the Penalties of Vice”.

Day One of the Delahaye Trial

Louisa Milton sat rigid in her seat as though a lady born, and with that sad-eyed countenance of which readers of popular novels are familiar. One is reminded that the most innocent aspect may conceal the most terrible crimes. Her only reaction throughout the day’s proceedings was at the late entrance of a certain gentleman to the public gallery. Upon seeing him, she seemed to start a little and cast her eyes down again before he could look at her. She kept them down for the rest of the session, with only the briefest glance now and then at the witness giving testimony. Rarely can the court have had such hush from an expectant crowd. We can assure the reader of a daily update.

Pall Mall Gazette, 15th July, 1862

Dangers of the Home

All that is known of Radley is that he was brought up from a small child by a couple who found him on the doorstep of the parish church, somewhere along the boundaries of Shropshire and Staffordshire.  According to those who knew him at the time, he lived an honest life from foundling to farm boy to footman.  Was it a case of bad blood finally coming out?  Or did his recent promotion to the position of valet go to his head?  We suggest that these are questions of some importance to those with servants and children….

The Illustrated London News, 4th June, 1862    


For the story so far, see ‘The Common Love of Good‘…