Taken from D P Varma’s introduction to the Folio Society edition of Francis Lathom’s Midnight Bell.
Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, 24 October 1798, travelling with her parents from Sittingbourne and staying overnight at The Bull and George, Darttord:
"… father is now reading The Midnight Bell, which he has got from the library, and mother is sitting by the fire."
The Banffshire Journal commenting on Francis Lathom, who made the area his home for much of his life:
"He was somewhat of a mystery to the people of Fyvie in all his ways, his work and his actings." It is reported that he was very peculiar in his dress – "he didna wear the clothes of hearabouts". – he put on parti-coloured garments with grace and elegance in the manner of a play actor. He developed a taste of whisky which "he drank a little too freely and a little too often".
The Critical Review on Lathom’s first novel The Castle of Ollada (1795)
Another haunted castle ! Surely the misses themselves must be tired of so many stories of ghosts and murders, – though to the misses the ghosts of this novel present perhaps the most harmless part of the dramatis personnae. The heroine who could basely elope from her father’s house with a young peasant whom she had only twice seen, and to whom she had barely spoken, is a personage of a far more pernicious nature. Although the heroine of a romance is always sure to know ‘the true baron’ upon insinct, young ladies cannot be recommended to follow such an example.
Lathom makes a habit of allowing his heroines to elope soon after a first introduction, Lauretta does much the same in the Midnight Bell.
A reviewer of Lathom’s 1802 novel Astonishment!!!
We must confess that this production deserves its title, since the want of probability in various parts excites our astonishment at the author.
Lathom, in his introduction to Romance of the Hebrides (1809), making excuse for his return to Gothic ghosts and imagery:
One of the first duties of the novelist is to preserve a consistency in the scenes which he draws, to the manners and opinions of the age in which he feigns them to have existence. The period at which the following tale is supposed to have taken place, is about the middle of the thirteenth century, and the theatre of action is principally the Scottish Isles, a country at that time obstinatley devoted to that gloomy, and error – inspiring superstition, which still survives amongst its inferior inhabitants.
However the growth of reason may have taught us to smile at the false ideas, and ignorant belief of past times, it would not be more unnatural to describe Lapland without its reindeers, Muscovy without snowclad mountains, the Swiss peasant without his moonlight dances on the green, or the wild American without his bow, his quiver and his Obi charm, than to delineate the Scottish character at that remote period without its faith in mantology."