Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Meaning of Night

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The Meaning of Night

A Confession

by Michael Cox

The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox X
The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2006, 672 pages
    Oct 2007, 704 pages

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In the acknowledgments for The Meaning of Night, Michael Cox notes that three real places contributed in various ways, to the making of Evenwood, the extremely grand private estate at the heart of this novel. These are Drayton House and Deene Park, both in Northamptonshire and Burghley House. If you have plans to read this book, or have read it, it's worth a few minutes of your time to visit these houses online, to get a sense of what Evenwood would have been like.

Books are an integral part of the intricate plot of The Meaning of Night. Cox says that Lord Tansor's library is "based unashamedly on that of the 2nd Earl Spencer (1758-1834) at Althorp". The 40,000 item book collection that used to be housed at Althrop was purchased from the 5th Earl Spencer by Mrs Enriqueta Augustina Rylands in 1892. It now forms the heart of the library she built in memory of her late husband, John Rylands, now known as the John Rylands University Library of Manchester.

For those of a particularly curious nature, here is a picture of the library at Althorp Castle, where the books were originally housed (if Althorp sounds familiar to you, it is likely to be because it is where "Lady Di", the former Princess of Wales, spent her childhood, and where she is buried.)

When it comes to acknowledging literary and factual sources on which he drew, Cox says that these are too numerous, too scattered and, in many cases, too obvious, to list in full. However, he does direct interested readers to the Victorian Dictionary website, which certainly does appear to be an extremely in-depth and fascinating resource for anyone interested in the Victorian period (which, at the risk of pointing out the obvious, refers to the reign of Queen Victoria, the longest reigning monarch in English history (1837-1901) whose reign coincided with Britain's great age of imperial and industrial expansion.

This article was originally published in October 2006, and has been updated for the October 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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