29 Jan 2014

THE GAOL: THE STORY OF NEWGATE, LONDON'S MOST NOTORIOUS PRISON.

THE GAOL: THE STORY OF NEWGATE, LONDON'S MOST NOTORIOUS PRISON by KELLY GROVIER.

Source: A Christmas present.

For over 800 years Newgate was the grimy axle around which British society slowly twisted.

Immortalised by Charles Dickens. This was where such legendary outlaws as Robin Hood and Captain Kidd met their fates, where the rapier-wielding playwrights Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe sharpened their quills, and where flamboyant highwaymen like Claude Duval and James Maclaine made legions of women swoon.

By piecing together the lives of forgotten figures as well as re-examining the prison's links with more famous individuals from Dick Whittington to Daniel Defoe, this thrilling history goes in search of a ghostly place, erased by time, which has inspired more poems and plays, paintings and novels, than any other structure in British history.
...... Outer back cover

FIRST SENTENCE {Preface}: If you walk east from Trafalgar Square towards the City of London, as the theatre restaurants of Covent Garden give way to the Law Courts of the Strand and barrister chambers of Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill, there is a turning on the left, one hundred yards from the western facade of St Paul's Cathedral, that you might overlook amid the flurry of briefcases and cabs and pinstripe suits.

MEMORABLE MOMENT{Page 82}: "His lordship was conveyed to Tyburn in his own landau," remembered William Hickey, the famous memoirist, "dressed in a superb suit of white and silver, being the clothes in which he  was married, his reason for wearing which was that they had been the first step towards ruin, and should attend his exit." 

MY THOUGHTS: Beginning with lots of fascinating titbits about the history of the jail itself, of how some of the surrounding streets came to be named as they were and how some of today's common terms ('Pulling your leg'/'Left in the lurch') have there origins in the lingo of convicted felons. The Gaol started well but ended with the rather less interesting and somewhat laborious detailing of  some of the many infamous criminals who were incarcerated there. 

Overall an interesting and informative read even if it isn't exactly ground-breaking stuff. Ideal for the amateur historian and budding historical writers amongst us (I feel the book provides some great resource material). The writing is perfectly pitched so that it is neither too academic nor as if written for a school essay but why oh why the minute print and, even worse, the italic small print?


Copyright: Tracy Terry @ Pen and Paper. All original content on http://pettywitter.blogspot.co.uk/ is created by the website owner, including but not limited to text, design, code, images, photographs and videos are considered to be the Intellectual Property of the website owner, whether copyrighted or not, and are protected by DMCA Protection Services using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act Title 17 Chapter 512 (c)(3). Reproduction or re-publication of this content is prohibited without permission. In addition I would also urge that if you are reading this on any other page you contact the original blog owner/reviewer.

15 comments:

Cherie Reich said...

It does sound like an interesting book--historically speaking. Thanks for the review!

And I hate really tiny print! That's one reason why I love ebooks. I can change the font and make the print bigger, so I don't have to strain to read it.

Literary Feline said...

As I get older, smaller print is my enemy.

This sounds very interesting. I enjoy reading books like this now and then. History is so fascinating! And it's interesting to see how much things have changed over time--or haven't, depending.

Kelly said...

This sounds like one I'd thoroughly enjoy!! I'll have to see if it's available on Kindle. That way I can avoid the "small print" issue. The books I'm reading now have small print and, at close to 1000 pages each, it makes for slow going!

carol said...

Sounds really interesting. The prison has been in so many books I've read over the years.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

I'm glad it was well researched. I do enjoy those kind of books. I would hate the font as well though.

Suko said...

I'd have a difficult time reading the small print as well. The book sounds good, though. Tracy, thanks as usual for your tidy summary and review.

Stephanie@Fairday's Blog said...

This sounds like an interesting read. I am sure I would learn a lot! :)

Alexia561 said...

Sounds like an interesting read, even with the tiny font! As I get older, the print seems to get smaller and smaller. *L*

Brian Joseph said...

This sounds like a very interesting history. In addition to the story of prison this old being intriguing in and of itself, I think that the fact that this place is the subject os so much fiction and legends make the facts even more worthwhile to explore.

Claudine G. said...

I did find the name 'Newgate' slightly familiar. This will be an interesting read for me though I share your pain on small italic fonts.

Barbara Fisher said...

I think I will have to give this a miss or find a copy with large print! It does sound interesting, but my poor old eyes can't cope with small print these days. Have a great weekend.Barbara

ashok said...

sounds a great read

Naida said...

This does sound interesting. A few of the historicals I've read have had Newgate in the setting.

Nikki-ann said...

I know the more words one a page the less it will cost to print, but I do hate it when publishers insist on really small print. It's often put me off reading a book.

Betty Manousos said...

another brilliant review, tracy! this sounds like an interesting read, one i'd thoroughly enjoy, even with the tiny italic fonts. love the vintage-style cover too!

big hugs~
xx