A message from the author:
London, 1794. Revolution creeps across the channel, coffee houses seethe with gossip and the City is full of upstarts, émigrés and speculators. But even in unruly times, daughters need husbands. For four City men, the question is how to get them.
The daughters. Motherless Alathea, whose charms are grown disturbing, uses the whole of London exactly as she pleases. Harriet, Georgiana, Marianne and Everina are cosseted at home, but home is not always a safe place. As Claude Belladroit, piano-master, remarks, what’s the point of locking the shutters when danger comes through the front door?
In the shadow of Tyburn gibbet, Vittorio Cantabile, exile and instrument-maker, also has a daughter. Born with a deformity her father cannot forgive, Annie is far from cosseted. In her father’s workshop, resentments are fashioned as well as pianofortes, and dreams are smashed without mercy.
Fathers and daughters; mothers and daughters; husbands and wives; girls and boys; the pursued and the pursuing. Whether in gilded drawing room or dusty workshop, when a city is infected with sedition, everything is reflected through a distorting prism of jealousy, revenge and sexual devilry.
This piece of music, Les Barricades Mysterieuse composed by Francois Couperin (1668-1773)will be familiar to many – or perhaps more accurately to few, since few people now go to church, and fewer still to a church with music. Anyhow, Les Barricades will be familiar to many of the few who DO go to church since it’s a favourite to fill the moments when people are shuffling up to communion. My favourite recording is by Angela Hewitt, but that recording is under copyright. So here’s a free offering, played on the harpsichord, and why not!
There is no photographic evidence, thank goodness. I’m not a fan of the camera. Without a camera, I can pretend I really did look as I imagined I looked. So – at a large Sedition gathering on Saturday evening (a book event no less) in a capacious North Yorkshire barn, I wore black velvet and lace and looked, I hope, the picture of metropolitan authordom. Whatever – since the audience was huddled in sheepskin and goosedown (boiler breakdown meant the temp was lower than expected) I certainly stood out. I read; people questioned; we discussed; we agreed; we disagreed; I read some more. There was wine. I enjoyed myself. My girls enjoyed themselves. Thank you, North Yorkshire, for true Yorkshire hospitality. And to the very nice lady who thought the sex scenes should have been longer, I say only this: when you summon a man to tune your piano, you don’t, unless you’re really really lucky, get a concert.
Monsieur Belladroit suggests an easy air from Handel’s Water Music. Mrs. Frogmorton is not impressed … Sedition, p54.
Annie chose this music well – so tantalising – and it really annoys her father. If you’re reading Sedition (Virago) this is from p26:
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) Capriccio in C (Hob. XVII: 4) played by Wilhelm Backhaus
We talked, we had lunch, we talked some more. Sometimes an author’s life is pretty much perfect.