Now I understand how Captain Scott felt when he got to the South Pole only to find that Amundsen had been there already and was on his way home. The book I’ve been researching and writing for the past four years just came out. But it doesn't have my name on it.
It’s the writer’s nightmare – that someone else is working on exactly the same subject as you and that their book will come out a few months before yours. (I published my first article touching on this subject in April 1999.) You watch the archives and borrowings of relevant books from the libraries to see if anyone else is taking out the same ones, and it seemed that nobody was: that’s because they’d already had them years before.
It’s by Carol Burnell and it’s called Divided Affections: The Extraordinary Life of Maria Cosway, Celebrity Artist and it’s published by Column House, Lausanne. She has been working on it for, not four, but twelve, years, and it shows. I almost wished I could say it was badly written and sloppily researched, but it’s scrupulously researched, lovingly written and beautifully illustrated. I haven’t finished reading it yet but it’s clearly a tour de force and will be the definitive work on Cosway herself, and leading figures in late 18th century European art and politics - and of course Cosway and Jefferson.
Ah well – you know what they say when you’re thrown by a horse.