I wouldn’t have relished the job of wrapping George IV’s Christmas presents if they were like this. Trying to wrap a giraffe — now that would be a real nightmare before Christmas!
Yet this is precisely what the Pasha of Egypt gave England’s monarch (though not I think at Christmas), commemorated in the above cartoon. And the PDF of my novelette, ‘The Beast in the Palace’, inspired by this and other such satirical drawings from the time, is my penultimate Christmas Eve Blogvent Calendar gift to you, dear reader.
Another strong influence on the story is Sheridan Le Fanu’s masterpiece ‘Schalken the Painter’, beautifully filmed as a BBC Christmas ghost story by Leslie Megahy in 1979: as if an eerie Play for Today had a love-child with John Berger’s Ways of Seeing. I wanted to do for Regency and Georgian cartoonists what Le Fanu did for Dutch Old Masters. A key difference is that my story doesn’t relate its events to the life of any of the artists involved or their work. It does however touch on the theme of the Spectre Bridegroom or Demon Lover, relating it to one of my thematic obsessions: the World Turned Upside Down. The tale first appeared in the excellent horror fiction magazine Black Static #68, and later in my collection Last Stop Wellsbourne. So if you enjoy this free story, why not buy one of these publications?
In the mean time, click on the image below for your free PDF of ‘The Beast in the Palace’ and tune in on Christmas Day for the final part of ‘The Cutty Wren’!