Ophelia's recent and forthcoming features, interviews, events and other news.
Ophelia features in a short film made by Nestlé to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Kit-Kat chocolate bar:
The film was shot at Simpsons on the Strand, which stands on the site of the Fountain Tavern, one of the Kit-Cat Clubís meeting places.
The link between the famous confectionery and the original 17th-18th century Kit-Cat Club has been confirmed once and for all, thanks to collector extraordinaire, Joe Dickinson. Mr Dickinsonís collection of Kit-Kat memorabilia includes this original chocolate box lid, supposedly showing Christopher Catling and his shop at the Cat & Fiddle:
Will Russell, a musician specialising in Restoration music, leads the recording of a new version of 'The Judgment of Paris' by Daniel Purcell (the operatic competition organised by Halifax, Tonson and Congreve in 1701) for the Resonus Classicus label. Download it here.
News reaches London of the 'Kit-Cat Club Restoration' - a club founded in the autumn of 2012 in the San Francisco Bay Area by Stephen Whitehead, a classical musician and collector of Tonson original editions, pictured in full costume below. Read more about this enthusiastic homage to the London Kit-Cats here.
23 April 2013
News reaches us of a remarkable survival: another (undoubtedly genuine) Kit-Cat toasting glass! It is in the Harding Collection of the Christ Church Picture Gallery, Oxford (Ophelia's old college, by happy coincidence) and has only recently been put on display. The glass is engraved with two verses, the first to Mrs Dunch, and the 2nd to "Harriott D" and dated 25 June 1724, so believed to refer to Edmund Dunch's second daughter Harriet, who would have been about 20 years old at this date. It is signed, mysteriously, "H--y H--y" -- Anyone with any thoughts on who this could be, please do email Ophelia via the contact page of this site. The catalogue entry for the glass is as follows:
'A colourless two-piece wine glass'. The trumpet bowl, enclosing an air
tear, with a tapering drawn stem is supported on a folded conical foot.
The base of the foot has a pontil mark. The bowl is engraved in
diamond-point with two verses. The first reads:
Fair Dunch's Eyes such
Radiant glances dart
As warm ye coldest bosom
Those heavenly orbs must
needs attract ye heart
Where Churchill's sweetness
Softens Godfry's fire.
The second inscription, added later, reads as follows:
Dear Harriot D-
Look on the fairest Glass that's
fill'd the most,
And Harriott you will find the
Look on her eyes if you their
Light can bear
And love himself, you'll find
sits toasting there -
It is signed 'H---y H---y' and dated 'June ye 25th. 1724'
English c. 1700-20 / Height: 18.3cm / W. G. Harding gift.
15 April 2013
Ophelia appears on the 2nd episode of a BBC2 documentary series 'Fit to Rule', presented by Lucy Worsley, which explores how the physical and mental health of our past monarchs has shaped the history of the nation.
22 October 2012
Ophelia will be hosting a 6-week evening course on The Art of the Essay at the suitably relaxed Idler Academy in West London, concerned with the literary history and criticism of the essay form, but with a view to learning how to write essays oneself. Adam Mars-Jones will be joining the 5th discussion to share his experience as an essayist. This is the first such course in the UK, so book now!
2nd-3rd July 2011
Ophelia will be speaking at a conference on The Literary Essay in English hosted by Queen Mary (UCL) and sponsored by the London Review of Books. Other contributors include Dame Gillian Beer, Geoff Dyer, Hermione Lee, Andrew O'Hagan, Adam Phillips and Karl Miller. Book online.
5th May 2011
The launch of an exciting new publishing imprint devoted to the essay, Notting Hill Editions, includes an original online Essay Library selected by Ophelia. The Library currently comprises a list of 100 great essays, from any country and century, though all available in English, each recommended by Ophelia to readers in a summary of exactly 100 words -- making the Library much more than simply an online anthology. Each entry is also indexed in multiple ways so that the Library's collection -- which will expand -- is easily searchable by theme, genre, date, author, etc. Go to www.nottinghilleditions.com (after 5 May) and click on The Essay Library.
See mention of this project in The Sunday Times piece by Valerie Grove on The Return of the Essay (1 May 2011).
15th December 2010
Ophelia is excited to inform any fans of The Kit-Cat Club that the first known drinking glass to have survived from the Kit-Cat toasting rituals appears to have been discovered and is to be sold at auction at Bonhams, New Bond Street, on this date. It is inscribed '29 June 1716 - To Mrs Walpole' which must refer to Robert Walpole's wife, and a previously unrecorded meeting of the Club. The find is still in the process of being examined, and has not yet been allocated a lot number or estimated value. It appears that the foot of the glass has been broken and replaced with wood. Interested buyers should contact Simon Cottle at Bonham's for further information.
Readers and researchers may also be interested to learn that a 'Kit-Cat Club Decanter' was sold at auction by Bonhams on 19 May 2010 (sale 17813 lot 38). This glass decanter was also an important new discovery, and its engravings include nine men sitting around a dining table set with pies, and the words 'Jacob Tonson - P', 'The Kitcat', 'The Toasts' and 'This United Us'. It is Dresden glassware, probably engraved in London c.1715 as a presentation peice for Jacob Tonson. An article about it can be seen here.
20th October 2010
Ophelia will be speaking at Kensington Palace about the relationship of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, and Queen Anne, starting 6pm. Book now!
25th March 2010
Ophelia speaks alongside Jeremy Lewis on The Pleasures and Perils of Writing a Group Biography at a Biographers Club lunch, held at the Savile Club.
15th March 2010
Ophelia speaks at a conference entitled Greatness, Gossip and Ghosts: The History of a Country House, at Cumberland Lodge.
9th March 2010 - AMENDMENT: This event has been postponed until Winter 2010
Ophelia speaks about the Kit-Cat Club at a literary lunch at Petworth House, West Sussex.
21st January 2010
Ophelia speaks about the Kit-Cat Club to a private audience at the Oxford and Cambridge Club, London.
1st November 2009
Books: The Essential Insider's Guide, eds. Mark Strand and Robert Kahn, is published in the City Secrets series, with Ophelia contributing an essay that recommends two little known books on 19th century America. Fellow contributors include Jane Smiley, Robert Pinsky and Jonathan Burnham. A portion of the proceeds are to be donated to First Book, providing books to children from low-incomefamilies.
2nd October 2009
Ophelia joins fellow historical biographer Kate Williams to discuss their work at the Henley Literary Festival.
28th September 2009
Ophelia convenes the Writing a Biography MRes/MA module at the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters (CELL).
21st May 2009
Ophelia speaks at a reception to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of Marlborough House by Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, in 1709. The event is hosted by the Commonwealth Secretary-General at Marlborough House, Pall Mall, and is by invitation only.
28th December 2008
The Kit-Cat Club is selected by David Robson in The Sunday Telegraph as one of the 'quirky delights' of the past literary year.
25th October 2008
Ophelia appears on BBC Parliament's books programme, Booktalk to discuss The Kit-Cat Club.
2nd October 2008
Ophelia is interviewed about her latest book, The Kit-Cat Club, on Australia's national radio arts programme, Late Night Live (ABC Radio). To listen to this interview, click here.
14th September 2008
The Sunday Telegraph's Stella Magazine features an article by Ophelia about the pitfalls of choosing the names of her children: 'The Name Game'.
26th August 2008
BBC History Magazine features an article by Ophelia about the Kit-Cat Club's founder Jacob Tonson and how he hosted the first publishers' expense account dinners on record. It appears in the 'All Our Yesterdays' section.
14th July 2008
29th April 2008
BBC Radio 4, Start the Week. 9-9:45am - Ophelia discusses the Kit-Cat Club with Andrew Marr
Vice Magazine - Interview with Ophelia for the History Issue - 'History on Repeat Forever and Ever', Vice Magazine, Vol. 6, no.5, pp.59-6.