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It was brought to my attention that I haven't posted for a while. The reason is that the black dog of depression has had its jaws at my ankles for some time; just when I think I've kicked him away he latches on again! Anyway, hopefully onwards. I've had yet another crisis on 'the novel' and am thinking of scrapping the 35,000 words of my second draft and starting all over again, albeit incorporating sections from both first and second drafts. Isn't that the way it's done? Well, I have to say, I've never felt writing to be this hard before. Maybe it's a sign that I'm becoming more critical of my own writing that will serve it well if I can roll with it, no matter how frustrating that process is. Or it might not be. Whatever. I've been dipping in and out of Francis Wheen's Strange Days Indeed, which I heartily recommend for Wheen's sharp sense of the absurd, which works well when talking about world leaders and their various mental illnesses. I've also returned back to Tristram Hunt's biog of Engels, yet despite his assurances to the contrary, I've not yet been treated to a fuller Mary Burns than all the other biographies, although Grace Carlton at least seemed more interested in her biography of him. Over the weekend I also bought my first copy of Thomas Paine's Rights of Man and Other Political Writings, including Common Sense. Along with Shelley, Byron and Rousseau it was a text well known and well recited by the working class Radicals of Victorian Manchester. So, that's it for now, not an altogether enlightening post, but it's all I can manage for now until I find something more interesting to say.

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Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

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