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The Vinegar Letters-bookcover

By: Martin Donaghy

The Vinegar Letters

Pages: 256 Ratings:
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It is the mid-1820s and the great city of Glasgow, beneath its Presbyterian shell, is buzzing with gentlemen’s clubs, rivalries and gossip. At the centre of genteel society, which is known as The Quality, presides the wealthy wit, John Kingan Esquire. Having amassed a considerable fortune from trade, Kingan now looks forward to a retirement of good cheer in the best of company. However, his cosy plans are thwarted when he becomes the object of a campaign of revenge, mounted by a ruthless, Evangelical banker, Robert Watson. And what was the substance of this revenge? A series of anonymous and slanderous letters whose authorship Watson attributes to Kingan and Kingan to Watson.

Their implacable feud exacts a gruelling toll. It drags in a cast of characters from the upper and lower ranks of society. Many rue the day they became involved. For one, his involvement proves fatal. The affair, however, enthrals the Glasgow public.

The Vinegar Letters is an historical novel that apart from giving a lively account of one of the most famous scandals of the era, also introduces the reader to the fascinating customs, mores, and political shenanigans of a time of great social change.

After a public health career in Peru, Spain and Scotland, Martin Donaghy became a volunteer with the Govan Stones, a community heritage project in Glasgow. A lifelong history afficionado, he learned there of the Vinegar Letters, a famous early 19th century scandal which embroiled the city. Fascinated by the conflict in mores, personality and class at a time of social and political unrest, he wrote this novel based on accounts of the affair.


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