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A Lady and a Publisher

A Lady and a Publisher

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A sweet Regency short story featuring a widowed heroine and a working hero.

Main Tropes:

  • Sweet/clean
  • Class Difference
  • Widow

Synopsis

A sweet Regency romance across the tracks

Silas Wickman is a printer in Regency London - a printer of some success, and has no time for dalliances - especially not dalliances above his station. Gladys Foster is a genteel widow struggling financially. Her only hope of new income is her late husband's manuscript - and the publisher who is too captivated by her not to accept it...

Intro Into Chapter 1

‘How do you bear this?’ Joshua Wickman managed to say after he finished glutting down the coffee to douse the flames in his throat.

 

‘It’s an acquired taste’, Silas shrugged, watching his brother’s struggles, not without some amusement. ‘I dine here practically every day’.

 

The Norris Street Coffee House in Haymarket became his favorite haunt back when he still was a scrawny printer’s apprentice. Back then, of course, the attraction lay not so much in the newfangled ready-dressed Indian curries that the establishment served as in the fact that it was relatively cheap. Years passed; now Silas was a man who forged his own modest success with a prosperous workshop in St. Paul’s Churchyard. Nonetheless, old habits died hard.

 

Or, maybe, he really just acquired the taste for the Indian pilaws.

 

‘I’ll take your word for it,’ Joshua replied. ‘How is the business going? Any new geniuses lining up on your doorstep?’

 

‘Plenty of people who think themselves geniuses. Though I did acquire one good poet’.

 

‘Poet! Do people really read them?’

 

Joshua didn’t; Silas knew that. The pride of the family, his older brother had married into a dynasty of brewers, and he and his wife were shoulders-deep in trade and child-rearing. Not exactly the sort of environment that allowed for literary contemplation.

 

‘Apparently, or I wouldn’t have been paying them’.

 

‘What sort of poet is he?’

 

‘A Dissenter. An abolitionist. A man against bull-baiting, even’.

 

‘Sounds like a dangerous man’.

 

‘Mr. Bulwer is the opposite of a dangerous man, and you would’ve known that if you had a chance to read any of his letters. He is an industrialist from the Midlands. As rational a man as you are’.

 

‘An industrialist and a poet?’

 

‘Why not? I’ve known a banker who wrote scandalous narratives about country girls seduced by rakes. Under a pen name, of course’.

 

‘I’m worried about you, Silas’.

 

‘What, is it because I’m not married yet?’ Silas pretended not to know what his brother was talking about. Not that it was a complete deflection, either - Joshua did sometimes insist that his younger brother’s continued bachelor life was an unnatural state of affairs.

 

‘No. Well, not just because of that. I know you think me a bumbling clod, but I know about the riots in Birmingham, and what the loyalists did to the Dissenters there’.

 

‘That was years ago, and Mr. Bulwer didn’t live there even then!’

 

‘Things only got worse since then, Silas. Or do you think that the war with France made tempers sweeter? People are looking for Jacobins under their beds’.

 

‘The Dissenters aren’t Jacobins. They’re God-fearing subjects of the King, just like you and me’.

 

‘Your Mr. Bulwer might be, if he wants the country to be deprived of one of its main income sources’.

 

‘I didn’t know bull-baiting was so crucial to our economy’.

 

‘This isn’t a joking matter’. Joshua’s stare was heavy. ‘You know I mean his abolitionism’.

 

‘I thought you said once that Wilberforce spoke sense?’

 

‘I mean the way it’s likely to be perceived if any government agent would happen to buy a Bulwer tome from your bookshop’.

 

‘Who would bother?’

 

Silas’ nonchalance was, in part, an affected one. He knew the latest scandals of the literary world, and the latest attempts of Pitt’s government to regulate it. He only hoped that Joshua himself wasn’t well-versed enough in the topic to contradict him.

 

Of course, this hope was to be dashed to pieces. If that wasn’t the example of his usual luck, he didn’t know what was.

 

‘Someone bothered with Mr. Johnson. He ended up jailed for six months, and people thought him lucky’.

 

‘He was stocking the Wakefield pamphlet’, Silas protested. ‘That was pure sedition. The author claimed that, with the state of the country being as rotten as it is, he won’t lift a finger to aid its defense even should the French disembark, for God’s sake!’

 

‘How can you be so sure that your Bulwer would never write anything of the kind?’

 

‘If he does, I won’t publish it’.

 

‘Why do you even want to publish him in the first place? You’re playing with fire, Silas’.

 

‘Because he is a good poet’.

 

‘Is that the only reason?’

 

Joshua knew him too well.

 

‘No. There’s also the very simple fact that controversy sells, brother. Why do you think Johnson, since we’re talking about him, agreed to publish the manifesto of that virago Wollstonecraft all those years ago? He knew it would sell like hot cakes. And so it did’.

 

‘I hope you know what you’re doing, Silas’.

 

‘Of course I do. I always do’. Silas smiled, his tongue still burning pleasantly from the curry.

 

There were certain benefits to playing with fire.

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