Latest updates

DNB entry for Mary Ann

Thursday, 9 June 2022

When GEORGE CANNING IS MY SON was published I tried to get various papers and journals to take an interest in her story, with no success, but I struck gold when I contacted the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. By good fortune they happened to be looking for both eighteenth century actresses and family members of politicians, so she scored on both counts. She and her husband George Canning…

George Canning Is My Son -- crowdfunders praised

Sunday, 30 May 2021

George Canning Is My Son has received brief but favourable notice in the latest issue of Theatre Notebook, the journal of the Society for Theatre Research. As well as praising the book, the reviewer acknowledges the contribution of all of you who contributed to the crowdfunding, and praises your "generosity in showing a way forward for enterprising authors'.

Many thanks to all, and good wishes,…

Link for book launch on Thursday 18 March

Monday, 15 March 2021

I hear that more and more of the books supporters are receiving their copies in the post.

Here is the link for the electronic Zoom launch party on Thursday evening.  There will be readings from Mary Ann's letter and an extract from the play based on her life, as well as a discussion of the book. I hope to see as many of the book's supporters as possible. 

Topic: George Canning Is My Son -…

Book launch

Monday, 8 March 2021

As the publication date for George Canning Is My Son approaches we are planning a book launch -- inevitably via Zoom. There will be readings from Mary Ann's letter, and a discussion of the book and the implications of the story.  The appearance of George Canning Is My Son is a big deal for me, of course, and I hope it is of some significance for all its supporters, but it is more important still for…

Snapping the chain

Friday, 22 January 2021

After two months' work Mary Ann drew her account of her life to a close: "I know not that I have any thing more to say," she wrote, "— but my heart lingers on the momentous subject, and clings to it, as a sort of link of the chain that binds us to each other — and I fear to snap it rudely, lest it never shoud close again."  I feel something of the same, because after more than twenty-five years I…

Preparing for print

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

I see that Unbound now describe the status of George Canning Is My Son as "Preparing for print". I am expecting to receive the final proofs in a few days, so perhaps it really is true and the project is nearing its conclusion after all these years. Phew.

The last six weeks have been taken up with preparing the index. I started out not knowing what I was doing, but by the end I had begun to feel…

A wish fulfilled after 228 years

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Today (10 November 2020) a statue of Mary Wollstonecraft is to be unveiled on Newington Green in London. See:

When Mary Ann Hunn read A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792, the year of its publication, she wrote to her son: "Have you read the vindication of the rights of Woman? – I have spent some delightfull hours in its Society…

Cover story

Friday, 24 July 2020

Work on GEORGE CANNING IS MY SON may have been held up by the pandemic but progress is being made and the book is due to appear in March next year.  I have just sent the text back to the editor with my latest lot of corrections -- mainly small changes to the wording (deleting adverbs, removing repetition) but also dealing with one or two factual errors.

The designers at Unbound have been at work…

Publication delayed + 1915 film "Jane Shore"

Monday, 20 April 2020

I've been told by Unbound that the publication date for George Canning Is My Son has been pushed back to March 2021.  This is, of course, due to the disruption caused by the current epidemic. Disappointing but clearly understandable.  

To sugar the pill, let me draw attention to a treat available from the British Film Institute, in the form of Will Barker's 1915 film  Jane Shore, which is based…

11 April 1770 and 1820

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

"On the Eleventh of April you were Born," wrote Mary Ann to George, "the delight, the blessing of my fond Heart — and the mingled source of pride and agony to your Fathers."  

Of all the events of Mary Ann's life the birth, 250 years ago, of this favourite child was the most momentous -- or so she would have us believe.  For her, the bond that Nature forged between mother and child was sacred.…

The influenza pandemic of 1788

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Mary Ann was in Lancaster in the summer of 1788 when the epidemic caught up with her. The night before she fell ill she had been playing Lady Randolph in John Home's tragedy Randolph.

The influenza of 1788 was sometimes known as the Russian disease from the early accounts of the devastation it caused in the Ukrainian city of Kherson.  As it moved westwards newspapers told of distinguished sufferers…

The Long Letter -- a play based on Mary Ann's story

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

A couple of days ago I sent the text of George Canning Is My Son to Unbound so that the editing process can begin.  I don't know how much will have to be done and how long it will take, but I'm told the provisional publication date is before the end of 2020.  We'll see.  But supporters who so kindly showed faith and subscribed to the book are that much closer to getting it in their hands.


Publishing by subscription

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Many thanks to all who have subscribed to George Canning Is My Son and helped it to reach its funding target.  It is hoped to bring it out before the end of 2020, which happens to be George's 250th anniversary year.

When George Canning was born his parents had a house at the eastern end of Queen Anne Street. It was not the fashionable, more expensive end, but still they were living beyond their…

Parliamentary language

Friday, 11 October 2019

There are detectable signs that towards the end of his life George Canning softened in his attitude towards his mother.  At the same time his public conduct became fiercer, and his temper was described as 'volcanic'.  This resulted in sharp confrontations in parliament, of which the most famous occurred in 1823.  

Having begun his parliamentary career by abandoning his radical and reformist beliefs…

October 1792: Mary Ann and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

Monday, 30 September 2019

In a talk on Sunday 13 October I shall be discussing Mary Ann's life from the perspective of Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of WomanDetails of the talk are available here.

October 1792 was a low-point in Mary Ann's life.  Her husband refused to maintain her, she had given up her career, she had eight children to support, and was living with her aged mother in Somerstown, just…

George Canning and Boris Johnson

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

People are drawing comparisons between George Canning and Boris Johnson, partly because of the possibility that Johnson will displace Canning as the country's shortest serving prime minister. (See for example the front page of today's Daily Mirror.) There are other points of similarity.  Both made a name for themselves as schoolboys at Eton, for example. In parliament Canning was highly controversial…

Talk about Mary Ann, Hackney 13 October

Sunday, 22 September 2019

This may be of interest to Londoners who like lavish teas and stimulating conversation on a Sunday afternoon.  At  2pm on Sunday 13 October I shall be giving a talk on Mary Ann for "Bluestocking Teas" in the Crypt at St Peter de Beauvoir, Northchurch Terrace, N1 4DA (seven minutes walk from Haggerston Overground Station).  Tickets for the tea cost £20 and can be bought from…

Such a Capital Actor

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

In 1827 there was a new and controversial prime minister, George Canning.  More than half a century earlier his mother, Mary Ann, had appeared at Drury Lane Theatre.  A month after Canning took office, and two months after Mary Ann's death, a London newspaper, The Age, published a copy of a play-bill from her 1774 benefit night, along with the following explanation:  "Many of our readers are not probably…

Mary Ann Hunn - Always something new

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

The National Portrait Gallery in London has recently acquired a political cartoon from 1820 in which a devilish George Canning, his face alive with malice, envy and ambition, is shown with bellows labelled "Mother Hunn" fanning the flames beneath the three witches' cauldron, the three witches being (I think) Lords Castlereagh, Liverpool and Sidmouth.  The King and the Duke of York look on, while the…

Publication date: March 2021
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