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Still Joining Up The Sparkling Dots

The quotations below encapsulate many of the reasons I chose the novel form for the Berkeley Series.

There is no doubt that fiction makes a better job of the truth.

Doris Lessing

Nothing factual that I write or say will be as truthful as my fiction.

Nadine Gordimer

Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man. The biography of the man himself cannot be written.

Mark Twain

Like many rich men, he thought in anecdotes; like many simple women, she thought in terms of biography.

Anita Brookner

Biography lends to death a new terror.

Oscar Wilde

Discretion is not the better part of biography.

Lytton Strachey

I had to do the book because there was an unauthorised biography which didn't tell it like it was.

Cilla Black

Just how difficult it is to write biography can be reckoned by anybody who sits down and considers just how many people know the real truth about his or her love affairs.

Rebecca West

One good anecdote is worth a volume of biography.

William Ellery Channing

People think that because a novel's invented, it isn't true. Exactly the reverse is the case. Biography and memoirs can never be wholly true, since they cannot include every conceivable circumstance of what happened. The novel can do that.

Anthony Powell

There is no psychology; there is only biography and autobiography.

Thomas Szasz

There is properly no history, only biography.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Biography is the only true history.

Thomas Carlyle

I can find my biography in every fable that I read.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Almost any biographer, if he respects facts, can give us much more than another fact to add to our collection. He can give us the creative fact; the fertile fact; the fact that suggests and engenders.

Virginia Woolf

When THE WOLF AND THE LAMB was a Work in Progress, I described it as a biographical novel, a recognised genre in those days. Several months after publication, the tag was changed to 'novelised biography'. This doesn't fit under a ready-made heading, but more accurately describes what's going on. To me, and it seems to readers, 'biographical novel' is opaque,  whereas 'novelised biography' sparks curiosity. Who? When? Where? How? Why?
   The subtle shift in emphasis has aroused a more focused interest.
    Why not just write a biography? It might have been easier! A novelist, whilst using imagination to reconstruct events and decide what hinges upon what, cannot muse upon a timeline. A story demands positive chronology and, because it is about real people, that deserves to be as faithful as can be made.
    Firstly, I chose the novel form because the story begged to live in 3-D. It needed to be a product of the social, cultural, economic, religious and political conflict of the times. The late Georgian era was one of dynamic change to landscape and livelihood and the beginning of a revolution that is still going on. Then there was Bonaparte, the Corsican Monster, on the doorstep. I wanted to make a psychological journey into Mary Cole's life and try to discover how it was for her, how she forced the locks of the oubliette that was the female universe, whilst keeping the reputation lost to her ambitious sisters. There is no doubt that she identified with many of Mary Wollstonecraft's beliefs, but never resorted to aggressive, or even assertive, feminism.
   The second reason, and this is bound up with #1, is because I can tell you what appears to be true, but it may not convey the truth about this remarkable lady. Yes, mine is a personal reconstruction and it's possible that there are places I've joined up the dots wrongly. But from ranging wide and delving deep into research documents, trawling through thousands and thousands of records, checking and cross-referencing, this is how I believe it happened. It proves nothing if not the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction.
   As a young novelist, I rifled through less well-known figures of history in a bid to find a subject that snagged attention but hadn't been tackled. On an arts course based in Bath, a visit to Berkeley Castle brought the quest to an end. There, in the drawing-room, flanking one side of the fireplace wall, was the Hoppner painting above. It brought a tingle to the nape. I knew that woman. In spite of her Jane Austen clothes, Mary Cole struck me as modern, a woman whose strength of character shone through her beauty. There is in her a wistfulness, a touch of injury and a resolve not to be defeated by circumstance. She had plenty of confidence, instilled by a mother who saw status as an accident of birth, and a father who strove to provide an education for his daughters, albeit modest, in a local academy.
   They were all women of destiny.
   The sisters, Ann and Susan, made themselves available among the aristocracy and eventually married well, emigrating to the New World where they daily played out their roles among prosperous merchant bankers and the founders of the American Constitution. Mary, the youngest, was demure, and from the moment the feckless Lord Berkeley spotted her sitting in a bow window in Gloucester with her needlework, he hounded her from every hiding-place, finally resorting to kidnap.
   She consorted with all the movers and shakers of her day, including royalty, some of whom were antagonistic and some who genuinely loved her.
   Her story has been with me for thirty years. I do hope readers will enjoy it, but whatever they make of it, this is my magnum opus. Into Book Three, the story is still evolving and there are more scintillating dots to join up which cast a trenchant light upon the earlier decades and present a whole new tier of consequences. One thing is certain, old enemies die hard and scandal has a life of its own.
   It is a fascinating journey which has enriched my life beyond telling.

A Berkeley Castle window through which Mary might have looked out upon her beloved Vale

On The Edge Of Unbeing


A Poem for the Feast of Pentecost

They don't know what comes next.

They are trembling,

assembled together for comfort,

confused, bereft, vulnerable,

exposed to hostile forces,

on the edge of unbeing.

They've nothing to bless themselves with

and their manifesto looks dumb

without a party leader.

Where are they to go from here?

It was safe in his company,

despite the witchhunt.

The suffering had a purpose.

They trusted what he was about,

dimly grasping that the 'whited sepulchre'

must be blasted to shards.

To Regain Paradise by dint of law

and the redistribution of wealth

was both illusion and travesty

that cost blood anyway.

He had come to weigh himself

in the balance,

the fulcrum of those scales

unhinged by Adam for all time,

without some Mighty Advocate

intervene with a case

of special pleading and turn the tables

on the wealth-and-muscle hungry,

those with intellectual pretensions

and stiff-necked arrogance.

But why abandon his own,

just when the tide seems

to be turning? The corporate

wounds, defiantly repairing, are now

incorporeal. His mother, the chamber

of his incarnation, the only shrine

and single point of focus, holding it

all together: they could scavenge

with their eyes of dust until eternity,

the vision fumed with nostalgia.

But hark! This rushing wind fans

embers into conflagration.

He's here! In cloistered space!

Mary's haloed head peers heavenward

and hands are linked in concord.

Atomic Courage! Immortal Inspiration!

Babel rased to debris! Love reigns!

No power on earth can quench

Shekhinah's fire! Go, tell the world

and dare to live as if...

From JERICHO ROSE, Songs from the Wilderness (Collection in preparation.)

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Not By The Wayside

New Eve Publishing 2011  Available here

A children's play about Mary Jones, a Welsh girl of Georgian times who saved for six long years and walked 25 miles barefoot to obtain a rare copy of the Bible in Welsh. Her amazing story saw the British & Foreign Bible Society launched in 1804. This edition launched to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

This is a one-act/4 scenes play for 8-11 years and has been successfully performed in the UK and New Zealand. It runs for approximately 30 minutes and is especially designed as a children's presentation within an act of worship.

The play can also be read as a story.


Narrator (1)

It was autumn of the year 1792. Across the Channel, Revolution was rife and King Louis XVI had only months to live. In Britain, John Wesley was at rest in his grave after a lifetime of service to his Lord. His zeal for the gospel had fired all parts of the country and had helped to stem a crisis of the kind in France. Everywhere, chapels were springing up. The Methodist mission hall in the village of Llanfihangel in North Wales was well-attended and one of its most enthusiastic worshippers was a young girl of eight. Her name was Mary and she was the daughter of Jacob Jones, an ailing cottage weaver, and his wife, Molly, who made ends meet with a patch of land and their loom and spinning wheel. Mary loved nothing better than to sing the Lord's praise and to listen to the spellbinding tales of olden times from the Bible.

One evening, after a bright and blustery day, when folk had deserted the market in Abergynolwyn and gone home to supper...

Mistaken Vintage!


Fire And Wine

A poem for the Feast of Pentecost

And then it happened...

We hung around for safety

above ground level

the clamouring souls outside

a packed embolus

fain clutching our feet

as if they craved live contact

with celebrity

and sought a fragment of him

we could not furnish

that desert instant

the Word became illumined

sparks ran among the

stubble of our deadlocked heart

bursting occlusion

We recalled the phrase

God is a consuming fire

We had thought it meant

wrath; titanic sacrifice

on our part, not his

Holocausts were done!

The quality of mercy

much spoken of was

now eternally unstrained

its current flowing

This was the God of

Shadrach and his noble breed

passing through furnace

defying wild destruction

unseared and annealed

It was the God of

Moses and the burning bush

bridling lakes of fire

of brimstone and Gehenna

passionate in peace

Divine transfusion

filling us with sentience!

We rose up as one

the livid fear doused and gone

We had to tell it!

So high on rapture

we gave the false impression

the wine of Bacchus

irrigated our parched veins

Mistaken vintage!