Oh, the grand old Duke of York, He had ten thousand men; He marched them up to the top of the hill, And he marched them down again.
And when they were up, they were up, And when they were down, they were down, And when they were only half-way up, They were neither up nor down.
The duke in question was possibly Frederick, second son of George the Third (1763–1827), and rather a good man to have on hand if you were a soldier. He was responsible for the administrative overhaul of the British Army that was instrumental in defeating Napoleon on the Spanish Peninsula and Waterloo.
The nineteenth century saw the first mass market for books and concomitantly the first serious bestsellers. Dickens and Twain, of course, made quite nice livings by writing, thanks very much, and Harriet Beecher Stowe had more than her fifteen minutes of fame. But however well these people did, the kind of DaVinci Code phenomenon never really hit the Victorian century.
That is, not until 1894 when George du Maurier came out of nowhere with the game changing novel Trilby. And, no doubt to the fury of a generation of would-be scribblers, he wasn’t even a proper writer.
Du Maurier was born in Paris of Anglo-French stock (his grandmother was Regency courtesan Mary Anne Clarke, on whom more next time) and for the better part of his life was chiefly known – well known, in fact – as an illustrator.