Just when I thought I was coming to the end of the research I have to do on my new project, something else has turned up to demonstrate just how little I know! I’ve been doing some research into Albert Smith, a popular mid-Victorian writer, and in the course of this paper trail came across a treasure trove of scanned information on Google Books.
Firstly, three novels by Smith, written in the late 1840s: his ‘natural histories’, namely The Flirt, The Gent, and Stuck-Up People. These are short satirical looks at popular stereotypes from the decade, and are therefore vital background reading—not to mention the fact that reading them will give me insights into Smith’s character.
I really struck gold with the second find. A link from Smith’s page took me to a 627 page scan of the Comic Almanack 1844-1853, which is a panoramic look at the humour of the mid 19th century. It features hundreds of illustrations, many by George Cruickshank, and a lot of the comedy remains funny even from the distant perspective of the present day. A cursory scan through has revealed that I simply can’t afford not to study this book. It has the potential to revolutionise my knowledge on the period, and therefore cannot be ignored.
Unfortunately it’s impossible to know everything about any period of history: a writer could spend his entire life studying it without being satisfied. The time always comes to draw a line under research and move on to other things. The real trick is saying ‘enough’, and finding a happy balance.