Popinjay Stairs

Popinjay Stairs

by Geoffrey Trease
Publisher: Vanguard Press
Hardcover, 176 pages
Not in stock

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The purses, the rings, the watches—any highwayman would take these, but why should common villains be interested in the well-worn leather case belonging to Mr Samuel Pepys, Secretary to the Office of Lord High Admiral of England?

At first Denzil was grateful only for the chance that brought him to the aid of the red-haired girl, admired from afar in the tavern they had all so lately left. It ill-behooved a lowly Second-lieutenant, lately paid off from his frigate, to curry favour with her distinguished companion. But before long Denzil was to find himself embarked on a highly dubious, even illegal, enterprise for this same small man in the flowered waistcoat, whose incorruptible honesty was a by-word in the beleaguered Navy.

Why was the loot given to the known criminal, Hooker—with one exception? Who was the man addressed as "Colonel"? What was his connection with the rising young playwright, Nicholas Arden, whom nobody seemed to have met? Here is a headlong tale of blackmail and treachery, with a spirited heroine ready for any adventure.

Jacket design by Shirley Tourret

from the dust jacket

Author's Note:

It is not quite possible to say, in the time-honoured formula, 'all characters in this novel are fictitious, for, apart from the brief appearances of King Charles II and his courtiers, and Mr Downes, the theatre-prompter, one great liberty has been taken by involving Samuel Pepys in an imaginary adventure. Readers, however, who have studied the facts of Pepys's life will know that most of the incidents were at one time or another closely paralleled in reality. He was held up by highwaymen, he was falsely accused of selling naval secrets abroad (indeed, he got as far as being imprisoned in the Tower), he did wage war on dishonest contractors, and he did have to defend himself against an unscrupulous adventurer, Colonel Scott, who very much resembled 'Rackerby'. So, too, the difficult position of women playwrights is illustrated by the actual experience of Aphra Behn (1640-89) who had to battle against the very prejudices encountered by Deb.

Similarly, every effort has been made to depict London as it really was about 1673. 'Popinjay Stairs' alone are invented—there was a Popinjay Alley, with an alehouse, just as Falcon Stairs, Magpie Alley, Dorset Stairs, and the other features mentioned did really exist. And the 'shooting' of the arches under London Bridge was truly a risky business attempted only by the bolder watermen.

G. T.

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