10th Anniversary

Today, October 8th, is the tenth anniversary of Charlotte Lamb's death.

Looking back at her diaries, I am once more struck by how universal the writer's processes and dilemmas are. What I feel, as a fellow novelist, to be my own personal struggle with the raw material out of which a novel or other piece of writing is born, is in fact a struggle shared by most, if not all writers.

So, on March 3rd 1972, in a fairly typical entry, Charlotte Lamb notes:
Went to Romford to shop. Got some good books at the market bookstall. 

After lunch, I thought about writing another novel but came up against a brick wall. I cannot decide on direction. What sort of book do I want to write? Do I want to write another fictional historical novel? Or a biography? Or a biographical novel? 

I go round in circles. And in the meantime I write nothing. 

Although lately the words have begun to bubble up in my mind again as they do when I am ready to write. So far I have used them to write poetry. What I want is to find a subject which makes my sense of excitement come into play.
That image she uses, 'lately the words have begun to bubble up in my mind again as they do when I am ready to write', is a striking description of the drive to create narrative, to tell a story, which is rarely some idyllic moment of inspiration from the Muse, but more often experienced as a cruel pressure, or at the very least a restlessness, a desire to kick the world away and concentrate solely on the work.

Here, Lamb is searching for a subject. Something that will bring her 'sense of excitement ... into play'. She found it three days later, making notes on a long historical novel about Mary Fitton, one of the candidates for the unnamed 'Dark Lady' of Shakespeare's sonnets.

That novel, not to be published until 1979, under the pseudonym Sheila Lancaster, was eventually entitled Dark Sweet Wanton and was - in many people's opinion - one of her finest works.


  1. Hi Jane, I really like reading the diary entries. I grew up reading Charlotte Lamb's books and probably have at least 80% of them still (in storage). The thing that impresses me is if you look at her back then work from a today's perspective, she was always way out there in her views and thoughts. Her stories were always very strong. I think she was amazing and very hard-working to achieve what she did. Many thanks Jane for keeping this blog going - I really enjoy it.

  2. Belated hugs for a very sad anniversary, Jane.


  3. Thanks Tracey, thanks Suzanne.

    Reminds me that I must keep blogging here on my mother's behalf.

  4. I agree with Tracey - I believe your mum was so ahead of her time that if her novels were printed today they would still be "up there". Caroline xx

  5. Hugs to you on a sorrowful anniversay -- but what a wonderful way to keep her memory alive!


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