The riots are here!

Dear Charlie,

I have fallen behind on my reading this week, Charlie dearest, but don’t think it’s because Barnaby Rudge has become boring. Quite the contrary – we’ve finally arrived at the riots of ‘eighty! Mobs have formed, Parliament has been swarmed, Catholic churches have been ransacked, and the streets are not quite safe to walk at night! It’s all very exciting, especially since the characters you’ve been painstakingly fleshing out for the past volume are now in the thick of the action in their own ways. I still have more than 300 pages to go, but I’m still a few days ahead of schedule, and if the action keeps up at this pace, I’ll be finished in no time.

I had to admit a complete ignorance of the riots in question, and discovered that they are also known as the No Popery Riots and the Gordon Riots, named after their leader, Lord George Gordon. If you didn’t know he was a real person, people might think you’d stretched the bounds of credulity in creating such an eccentric character and adding him to your plot. And it’s a great plot! I’m happy to learn that your research for the book was both meticulous and exhaustive, and yet the story never comes across as a lecture or encyclopedia entry – your characters weave themselves in and around events so naturally that it’s easy to get caught up in the narrative.

And yes, before you argue, I know that Wikipedia isn’t the most reliable of historical sources, but as a crash course in the causes and course of the Gordon Riots it serves its purpose. In a nutshell, then, I learn that George’s Protestant Association was trying to have the Papists Act of 1778 (which loosened some of the former restrictions on Catholics) repealed. What I find most interesting is that one of the reasons the government had originally put forward the Act was as a means to enable Catholics to join the military, which at that time was stretched pretty thinly because of, among other things, the American War of Independence. (I’m paraphrasing here, forgive me.) This is why I love history – all these little-known connections between historical happenings. I find this especially coincidental, Charlie, since as well as reading your complete works I’m also playing too much Assassin’s Creed III, where I am fighting for the cause of the rebels in the above mentioned War (and yes, this probably does have more than a little to do with the fact that I’m not as far into Barnaby Rudge as I might be – now it’s research…really).

I’m impressed, Charlie; you even put blue cockades on your character’s hats.

This week, then, I will try to spend less time in Boston and more time in Britain, and find out how the  riots progress and how our characters will fare, especially poor Barnaby. There’s still lots of history to come, and many mysteries still in need of unraveling. But I shall remain,

Yours affectionately,

Melissa

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