Tuesday, September 10, 2013


(I wonder what would happen if I could interview my redoubtable great-grandmother …)

Dr Muriel Maitland King settles herself and smooths the pale grey silk over her knees. “So, we meet at last.” She indicates a spindly-legged chair and I sit down nervously.

“You have been very – elusive, but I’m beginning to see you more clearly,” I say.

Muriel’s eyebrows rise. “Absurd! I could not have been difficult to find. I was – and I quote from one of the quality newspapers – ‘one of the most interesting personalities in London’.  Why have you been looking for me?”

“I want to write a novel about you.  I would like to find out more about you and your life. ”

Muriel frowns. “That would not be appropriate. My life is private, and nothing to do with you.”

“That’s not quite true,” I say.  “You were my great-grandmother. You were also a doctor – or so you claimed …”

“Claimed? Claimed? All London attended my clinics. My lectures were famous in England and America. My books were read by thousands.”  Muriel leans forward and glares. “The Princess Christian herself summoned me to Cumberland Lodge to ask my advice!”

“The Princess Christian being Queen Victoria’s daughter – yes I know, I found the newspaper reports - in the quality papers of course.  You certainly made a significant impression on the London of your day. Wouldn’t you like the world to know more about you?”  Muriel’s eyes glitter and – do I detect a smirk beginning to appear on her face?  I press on. “Think of the interest from people in the world of today, the 21st century, the world of your many descendants – my world?”

“Do you think so?” she says thoughtfully.  (Aha, gotcha!) “And you propose to write about me in a novel?”

“I would really like to write your biography, but two centuries on it is almost impossible to find enough information about you that I haven’t found already, and what I have is patchy.  So, I will have to fill in the gaps from my imagination, in what we today call faction, which is a novel based on facts but with fiction mixed in.”

“And what makes you the person to write this – faction?”

Good question, and I choose my words carefully.  “I have researched your life and feel I not only know you but that we have much in common. The generations that have come between us – your children, their children and grandchildren – have carried some of your genes and I can recognise those, in them and in me.  I find that very interesting and, at times, alarming.  And if I am successful you could become even more famous than you were in your time.”

Muriel nods graciously. “Perhaps,” she says, “it would be appropriate. Very well, you have my permission.”
(I wish - oh how I wish!)

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