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ROBERT STEPHEN PARRY


Historical Fiction

Home Belle Époque Georgian & Victorian Tudor & Elizabethan About Other Pages
Home Belle Époque Georgian & Victorian Tudor & Elizabethan About Other Pages
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JOHANNA

Johanna Woolveston is a leading character in the Georgian-era comedy novel Wildish – a Story Concerning Different Kinds of Love. Married to Admiralty employee Sam Woolveston, and mother of two children, she is in love with the main protagonist of the novel, the poet and wig-maker to the Toffs of London society, a certain Mr Wildish.

Calm, beautiful and intelligent, her presence is both disturbing and enlightening for Wildish, while also being an ever-present force of stability and sobriety in the lives of those nearest to her – qualities that are severely tested, however, as time goes by.

My portrait of her on the cover is inspired to a large extent by the 18th-century French artist François Boucher.

oval, head and shoulders image of Johanna from the cover of the novel 'Wildish'

DEBORAH

Deborah is central to the Gothic novel The Hours Before. Sophisticated and worldly, she is an amalgam of several Belle-Epoque beauties that dominated the social scene in cities such as London, Paris and Vienna during the fabulously decadent period at the turn of the twentieth century (also known as the Fin de Siècle).

oval image head and shoulders of Deborah from the cover of the novel 'The Hours Before'

Deborah has many additional qualities to that of her sex-appeal, however, notably being extremely intelligent and blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view), with acute psychic abilities.

My portrait of her on the cover, very much in the extravagant fashions of the times, is designed to give the appearance of someone in an old sepia-tone photograph. Here is a brief video of how the cover itself was put together.

SOPHIE

One of the 19th century’s most infamous courtesans, Sophie Dawes, Baronne (Baroness) de Feuchères, is central to the epistolary novel The Testament of Sophie Dawes. She grew up in Regency England amid extreme poverty, with no prospects whatsoever - and so her subsequent rise to the state of becoming within a few short years mistress to one of France’s richest noblemen must rate as one of the most astonishing rags-to-riches stories ever.  

 

There are few portraits of Sophie that have survived, and most of them are not particularly flattering. The one shown here is a miniature and shows her as a young woman. She certainly must have had something special, however. I believe she was an extraordinarily clever individual - someone who, against all the odds, became one of life’s most natural and audacious of Toffs. She has almost certainly been unjustly maligned by history - as I hope the story demonstrates.

oval image, head and shoulders, of Sophie from the book cover to 'The Testament of Sophie Dawes'

DAPHNE

Daphne, Lady Bowlend, is the heroine of my Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite inspired novel The Arrow Chest. Her life in 19th century England has many parallels with that of the Tudor Queen Anne Boleyn over 300 years earlier - for, like her, Daphne, despite her immense privileges, finds herself in an increasingly precarious position as wife to a powerful and wealthy industrialist - and one, moreover, in want of a male heir.




We see her in the novel as a good-looking and intelligent thirty-something - the cover showing an imaginary portrait of her as the Greek nymph Daphne, beloved of Apollo. But all is not well. Her involvement with the painter Amos Roselli leads to further complications as the story unfolds.

oval image head and shoulders of Daphne from the cover of the novel The Arrow Chest

Goths and Toffs

The Principal Characters in each of my Novels

ELIZABETH

Queen Elizabeth I of England needs little introduction to history buffs - being also, of course, the ultimate ‘Toff’ (though the term didn’t exist back then). One of two surviving daughters of Henry VIII, she appears as a young woman (the Lady Elizabeth or Princess Elizabeth according to your point of view) in the novel Virgin and the Crab where we follow her perilous journey of survival during the reign of her half-sister Mary.

She takes centre stage again in the fictional memoir Elizabeth – the Virgin Queen and the Men who Loved Her - a short and compact book blending fact and fiction and which includes brief biographical sketches and fictional vignettes of each of the principal men in her long and spectacular reign.

The covers to the two novels show portraits of Elizabeth, firstly as a young woman in ‘Virgin and the Crab’ (not shown here) and then as a more mature, stately person in ‘Elizabeth – the Virgin Queen.’

oval, head and shoulders image of Elizabeth Tudor as Queen

Rather like in the world of dance, it is the female characters who tend to be the centre of attention in my stories - the gentlemen, though no less important, supplying the supportive role. So here they are, ladies first, among my dearly beloved Goths and Toffs, listed by first name in alphabetical order.

JOHN

It would be impossible to describe John Dee in just a few words. He spans the Elizabethan era as an intellectual colossus - not only serving as confidant to the Queen for much of her life but also a man sought after and consulted by just about anybody who was anybody at the world of Elizabethan science and exploration. Merchants, seafarers, crowned heads of Europe, all vied for his services, which ranged from navigation and geography, to botany, medicine, astronomy and the occult.

oval image, head and shoulders, of Elizabethan man Dee

As a young man, he is a central character in the novel Virgin and the Crab and, along with a number of other devoted Elizabethan gentlemen, also puts in an appearance in the fictional memoir Elizabeth – the Virgin Queen and the Men who Loved Her. The portrait here, the only surviving likeness painted in his lifetime, shows him in his 60s.

UNNAMED GENTLEMAN

In the novel The Testament of Sophie Dawes the principal male character - and although he is the author of the journal which makes up the bulk of the story - remains unnamed throughout. A bachelor in his fortieth year, and well connected socially, he is employed at the beginning of the novel at the Queen’s island residence of Osborne - having been called in to collate documents belonging to the late Prince Regent.

For a portrait, I found a suitably neutral, quietly fashionable well-groomed Victorian gent in tophat. He seems quite an observant and intelligent sort of chap, just like the keeper of the journal. And he seems about right in terms of age, too. There is a similarity in appearance to the Prince Regent, of course - because that’s what set the trend at the time.

image of Victorian gent in tophat

AMOS

Amos Roselli is a painter living in 1870s Victorian London, one of the many hopeful and ambitious young men inspired by Gothic revivalism and the Pre-Raphaelite movement in art that flourished at this time. Dark and debonair in a rather unconventional, bohemian sort of way, he is the central character in the novel The Arrow Chest and is in love with a former friend and model Daphne.


At the start of the novel, Daphne has faded somewhat from his life - she having married an extremely wealthy baron by the name of Oliver Bowlend. They do meet again, however - and it is this encounter and the establishing of the subsequent love-triangle with Bowlend that occupies his immediate future.

For a suitable image, I always thought the self-portrait by Arthur Hughes, shown here, to be an excellent representation.


oval image, head and shoulders, of Amos from the novel 'The Arrow Chest'

HERMAN

Herman (or Manny) Grace is very much the traditional Gothic ‘hero’ in the novel The Hours Before – a thoroughly decent English gentleman of the late Victorian era, but with a reckless and roguish streak. He is, by profession, a stage magician but is called upon to experience an occult world of a very different and sinister kind as the story unfolds.

He is fair haired, with moustache, slightly unkempt - and so, when making the video trailer for the book, I had no hesitation in choosing a portrait of the photographer, Christian Franzen painted by Joaquin Sorolla, dating from 1901 - exactly the correct period in terms of European fashion, as well.

oval image, head and shoulders, of Edwardian man with moustache

THE GENTLEMEN

When it comes to the male characters, there is only one that I have done a portrait of, and that was for the cover of the novel ‘ Wildish.’ I always had a good idea of what the others looked like, of course, and so here by way of accompaniment to the biographical information are suitable images from the world of art and portraiture, each taken from the relevant period of history.

MATTHEW

Mr Wildish, who lives in the  chaotic, outrageous world of 18th century Georgian England is a bundle of contradictions. Irish by birth, and having trained in his youth as a barber surgeon, he has managed by his late twenties to have become a wigmaker in London. Single and an aspiring poet, his main preoccupation when we first encounter him is simply that of enjoying life to the full – a condition which is about to alter drastically with the onset of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 - and also the sudden realisation of his burning passion for Johanna, the wife of his best friend.

 head and shoulders image of Georgian man from cover of 'Wildish'

Matthew is the only one of my male characters that I have done a portrait of – and this currently graces the cover of the novel Wildish - a Story Concerning Different Kinds of Love. I wanted to show a young, slightly foppish and typical Georgian young man with full lustrous hair – and not, therefore, in need of a wig himself as yet.

He is loosely based on a 1770s portrait by Thomas Gainsborough of his nephew.

Definitions …

Goth = derived from the literary term ‘Gothic’ signifying one who identifies with all that is dark and mysterious in the arts and fashion. Victorian in style or appearance. A dramatic, often ill-fated character in a Victorian-Gothic novel or play.

Toff = possibly derived from the derogatory term ‘toffee-nosed.’ Stylish and opulently dressed person of the upper class or nobility, or one who aspires to such through manners or life-style. A well-to-do character in a Georgian or Victorian novel or play.

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