Alan Ayckbourn has just produced his 75th play. Seventy five plays! How can anyone be so prolific, it beggars belief. And how many of Mister Ayckbourn’s seventy-five plays have I seen? Three maybe four. The man is a history of theatre all to himself. Anyone using his life and work on ‘Mastermind’ would have sunk without trace.
Have you heard of an author by the name of Georgette Heyer? I must admit, like the jockey who was the author of over forty novels and whose name I have forgotten, I hadn’t heard of her, but a biography has just been published informing me that Ms. Heyer (Politically Correct there you see?) published, that is she had published 55 novels still in demand and selling millions! We all know about lady authors who reputedly produce book after book. Sometimes I think after the first few best sellers they become a brand name for a factory. I think Agony Christie wrote all her books. No one else could possibly write like Ms Christie but take Barbara Cartland for example who evidently produced a number of romantic novels clearly plagiarising Ms. Heyer’s early success and just as clearly, Ms. Heyer was horrified and had this to say, “I would have borne it better if Miss Cartland had not been so common-minded, so salacious and so illiterate” Oh, boy! She went on to say that the novel she wrote aged 19 which Ms. Cartland had plagiarised “had more style, more of what it takes, than this offal which Cartland has written at the age of 46.” Ms. Heyer, according to her biographer, was not a nice lady at all. If the plagiarism was so obvious how come there was no action taken for breach of copyright? These days a shit-hot lawyer would pounce without a second thought.
Still on the subject of books I have just finished reading “The Lancashire Witches” by Harrison Ainsworth, another nineteenth century writer and another prolific one. A friend and associate of all the famous and literary names of his day; Disraeli, Bulwer-Lytton, Coleridge, Thackeray, Carlyle, Southy, the Count D’Orsey, Dickens. His first novel “Rookwood” went through three editions earned him a fortune and made him famous. As a schoolboy (Manchester Grammar) in the basement of the family home he was producing plays he had written, and he wrote articles, short stories, etcetera for various magazines, but it was his Gothic novels that hit the bullseye. ‘The Lancashire Witches’ is the only one I have read and it truly is a Gothic novel to out-Gothic them all, and a massive one – 716 pages, the writing as florid as Mister Marion Crawford. No typewriter to make life easier and, even more so, no computer, just everything written out by hand. Can you imagine the work that entails and that was only one novel of many? It was the same of course for all writers of the period. Think of the thousands and thousands of words Dickens produced and the Russians with their massive tomes.
The interesting thing about ‘The Lancashire Witches’ is that he writes of them as if their witchcraft really did exist, that they were in the thrall of Satan, even to the extent of being able to fly on their broomsticks – in one instance two people fly on a hazel switch! Naturally King James features heavily. No story of The Pendle witches, the witch hunts, the tortures, the burning at the stake, can be told ignoring the baleful influence of that strange superstitious man. Isn’t it weird that his influence is felt to this very day with the production of the King James Bible?