Catherine Curzon is the writer behind the personae Madame Gilflurt, whose online “salon” I attend on a frequent basis. Her blog, A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life; Glorious Georgian dispatches from the Long Eighteenth Century, reminds me of an eighteenth century broadsheet; it’s newsy, lively, highly entertaining and always instructive. Madame writes concisely about people, fashion, places, and events of the day — the details that bring the past to life. Or she features salon guests, such as novelist Alicia Rasley, to share some titillating bit of 18th century life. Rasley’s topic, posted today, is about masquerades – a favorite subject of mine. I sometimes use Madame’s posts as writing prompts to explore my own fictional characters and settings.
I wanted to know more about Catherine’s writing process. For instance, how did she come up with her persona, the ginbag Madame Gilflurt? How does she know so much about the “long eighteenth century?” Is her blogging an end in itself or is there a novel forthcoming? Madame was kind enough to give me some insight. Catherine Curzon, a.k.a. Madame Gilflurt, says:
Ever since I can remember, my life has been full of tall tales. Throughout childhood
I sat at my granddad’s knee in his cottage on the edge of Sherwood Forest and
listened with relish to tales of outlaws and highwayman, of willow the wisps in the
trees and, somewhat improbably as I later realised, the full-blooded tale of Lord
Byron’s ghost who, he claimed, haunted the rural pub in whose beer garden we
passed many happy weekend afternoons.
Those stories have never left me and whether bawdy, bloodcurdling of just plain
silly, my granddad’s tall tales made an indelible mark on my life. Add to that a
fateful children’s toy brought for me during a pre-school shopping trip and you
have the makings of who I have since become. As a child my sister and I loved
paper cutout dolls and we made our own though my sister was always the more
artistic of the two so imagine my delight when we were both treated to a Marie
Antoinette paper cutout doll set, featuring the iconic queen and a whole host of
bewigged flunkies. I fell in love with everything about the queen and her retainers
from the fine clothes to the powdered hair, the glittering jewels and, best of all, my
granddad’s spirited retelling of the gruesome fate that befell her.
My love affair with Marie Antoinette gradually began to expand and grow, as
these things do, and before too long I was nursing a fascination with the long
18th century. Growing up where I did, I was lucky enough to pay regular visits to
Chatsworth, Haddon and Hardwick and in each of these places I would picture my
fine ladies and dashing fellows, filling the houses with a thousand childish stories of
my own making. Eventually I began to tell stories of my own though these weren’t
period pieces, unless you count a novel I wrote set in 1957, but all the time the
glorious Georgians were nagging at me.
For all the love and support of my colonial gentleman , he is not quite as fascinated
with Georgian history as I and after several years of marriage, it became achingly
apparent that I really needed an outlet for the 18th century stories that were
clogging up my brain and, so, A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life was born.
My approach to blog writing is very disciplined and, since I publish a new tale every
single day, it has to be. I gather notes, inspiration and stories from everywhere and
keep them logged in a spreadsheet by date then, every so often, I dive right in. I
take myself off to my favourite coffee shop, where my order of a sparkling water and
pot of tea is ready before I even ask for it, sit at my computer and absorb myself in
the world of the Georgians. In the space of a few dedicated hours and with a steady
supply of tea and music, I might write a dozen first draft posts. I’ll then hone them
over the coming days, sure to keep a few scheduled and ready to go at any one time.
If I get to my blog and see one or two posts there, then it’s time to buckle down and
really get to it; I love sharing stories of the Georgian era so it’s really no chore.
When I started blogging I really thought that it might be fun for a couple of months
and hoped, if I was lucky, that a few dozen people might visit the site and perhaps
lose a couple of minutes there. Instead I’ve been blessed to meet readers, writers
and history enthusiasts from all over the world. Over the year and a bit that I’ve
been publishing the site I’ve featured guest posts from some favourite authors, read
advance copies of their work and even advised on the state of French roads in 1792!
All of this has been an enormous boost of confidence as I work at my own latest
novel, The Mistress of Blackstairs, in the determination that, unlike my three
unpublished non-historical works, it will not go unread by all but a few trusted
friends! I am on the second draft of Blackstairs right now and the coffee shop is the
same, as is the tea and water, the music and concentration. The only difference is
that this is fiction, just like those stories granddad used to tell me of Lord Byron’s
restless ghost and a pub in Blidworth Bottoms!
Glorious Georgian ginbag, gossip and gadabout Catherine Curzon, aka Madame
Gilflurt, is the author of A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life. When not setting
quill to paper, she can usually be found gadding about the tea shops and gaming
rooms of the capital or hosting intimate gatherings at her tottering abode. In