This book was provided to me by Thistle Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Burglar Caught by a Skeleton And Other Singular Tales from the Victorian Press by Jeremy Clay
HOLIDAYMAKER FIGHTS OFF AFRICAN LION IN WELSH HOTEL ROOM
MAN SWALLOWS MOUSE AND DIES
WIFE DRIVEN MAD BY HUSBAND TICKLING FEET
PALLBEARER KILLED BY COFFIN IN GRAVEYARD
LIBERALS EAT DOG
From the newspaper archives of the British Library, Jeremy Clay has unearthed the long-lost stories that enthralled and appalled Victorian Britain.
Within these pages are the riotous farces and tragedies of 19th-century life, a time when life was hard, pleasures short-lived, and gloating over other people’s misfortune a thoroughly acceptable form of entertainment.
Deliciously appalling and deliriously funny, The Burglar Caught by a Skeleton will have you, one way or another, in tears. . . (via Goodreads)
Why was I interested in this book?
One of my favorite things about the digital age is scanned historical newspapers. Sure, they’re primary sources, but of course with a twist. The press is never neutral and what’s reported is only a subset of what’s really going on. In the cracks are stories like “The Burglar Caught By a Skeleton.”
Jeremy Clay does a great job gathering up a selection of the skrewiest Victorian news stories. Think that dumb bets are the invention of the Tide Pod generation? Not so! An “election enthusiast” in 1892 probably died after losing a bet and swallowing a live turtle. And I can only imagine that Aymard traveling from Thoissey to Lyon along the Saone on an ice flow, making pancakes along the way, would be a YouTube sensation. Details may change but many things don’t. Still, I’m not sure I’ve read anything lately that left me so often speechless.
The articles are sorted into categories, each with a brief preface by Clay to get you in the mood.
What Didn’t Work
The only thing to note: this is a dip-in book. Sit down intending to read it straight through and you’ll come away in a muddle. Better to read a couple articles a day and leisurely enjoy them. Most are quite short. In fact, and this is no fault of our editor, many of the newspaper writers ended their stories abruptly, leaving me to exclaim, “…but I have questions!”
The stories in The Burglar Caught by a Skeleton are sensational, often funny and often gruesome. Occasionally both. I consider it a fun, light read and entertaining glimpse into the Victorian era.
Publishing info, my copy: PDF/Kindle, Thistle Publishing, May 21, 2018
Acquired: date, place