So another new live journal account – a scary blank canvas – and what to do with it – why even bother to write glowing prose destined only to vanish unread into the ether? For don’t fool yourself, this isn’t to be the latest internet publishing sensation. Yet sensation could be what it is all about.

But that was never my intention. No, this account is to remain a repository for all the pickings from my butterfly mind – links and ideas and resources from a lifetime of random forays into Victoriana, sensationalism, history, archaeology, gothic and whatever else disturbs my worried brain.

 So Why_Lydia – and there was supposed to be a question mark at the end on the title – but a question mark is an invalid character – and there are quite a few of those around these days. But Why_Lydia? – and is that question addressed to Lydia or of her? It serves to highlight that, at the heart of my project lies my mission impossible, to restore the good name of Lydia Gwilt – Lydia Gwilt the flame-haired temptress, the bigamist, laudanum addict and husband-poisoner; anti-heroine of Wilkie Collins’ Armadale. A woman without defence, but at the same time a character with an enduring capacity to attract, to fascinate and to bewitch. Who is to say that she wouldn’t be equally as successful now if she set out to ensnare any of us? So, to defend the indefensible, to discern how Collins can make us feel so much affection for or a certain attraction to Miss Gwilt, despite all her heinous crimes; an attraction of which Lady Audley can only dream.

 “Her malicious intrigues fuel the plot of this gripping melodrama: a tale of confused identities, inherited curses, romantic rivalries, espionage, money – and murder. The character of Lydia Gwilt horrified contemporary critics, with one reviewer describing her as ‘One of the most hardened female villains whose devices and desires have ever blackened fiction’. She remains among the most enigmatic and fascinating women in nineteenth-century literature and the dark heart of this most sensational of Victorian ‘sensation novels’.”

 So along the journey I hope we’ll often bump into Lydia, her crimes, her excusers. But at the same time, assuming I persevere with this adventure, there should be many excursions and diversions along the route. I have a thousand scattered dog-eared papers, dusty scraps, faint remembrances that will benefit from being drawn together in this one spot. Whether it’s the ghostly rattling of chains under Otranto’s castle, the drug fuelled dreams and prophesies of Anna Kingsford, the haunted confusion of Celine and Julie or the occasional adulation of Emilie Autumn or other musicians from the weird bin, I hope to collect it all within these walls and document it for my own convenience, if not for that of others.