From Steven Neil, the author of THE MEREST LOSS

A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.

Researching the historical timeline

I write a historical timeline for the whole novel before I start drafting. This gives me a clear picture of the political setting and the major events but also locates the development of music, theatre, and art; invaluable elements for creating an authentic fictional world. The timeline for The Merest Loss spanned 1836-1873 but here is an excerpt.




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The Merest Loss: TIMELINE excerpt 1836-1846

1836 King William IV, monarch. Viscount Melbourne, Prime Minister. Charles Darwin returns to Falmouth on HMS Beagle. Battle of the Alamo.  Charles Dickens publishes Pickwick Papers. Robert SchumannFantasie in C  Gaetano DonizettiBelisario Honoré de BalzacLe Lys Dans la vallée (“The Lily of the Valley”)

Jean-Baptiste-Camille CorotDiana Surprised By Actaeon Tom Olliver meets Harriet Howard, then Elizabeth Ann Harryet.

1837 Queen Victoria becomes monarch. Euston Station opens. The fourth legislature of the July Monarchy in France. Hector BerliozGrande Messe des Morts

1838 Anti-Corn Law League founded. London and Birmingham’s railway opens. Felix Mendelssohn – String Quartets Op. 44, No. 3 in D Major and No. 5 in E-Flat Major Hector BerliozBenvenuto Cellini Robert Smith SurteesJorrocks’ Jaunts and Jollities Jem Mason and Harriet Howard meet.

1839 Chartists riot in Birmingham. Bradshaw’s first national railway timetable published. Felix MendelssohnPiano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 49 Frédéric ChopinPiano Sonata No. 2 “Funeral March” Giuseppe Verdi‘s first opera, Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio, opens at La Scala, Milan. Honoré de Balzac Béatrix Charles DickensNicholas Nickleby Edgar Allan PoeThe Fall of the House of Usher Jem Mason wins the first Grand National on Lottery.

1840 Queen Victoria marries her cousin, Prince Albert. Adolphe Thiers becomes the French Prime Minister. Remains of Napoleon are brought back to France and buried at Les Invalides in Paris. February 11Gaetano Donizetti‘s opera La Fille du Regiment premieres in Paris. William Makepeace ThackerayCatherine Victor HugoLes Rayons et Les Ombres      Louis Napoleon imprisoned near Reims, France after the failed coup attempt.

1841 Robert Peel becomes Prime Minister. Adolphe AdamGiselle (ballet) Gaetano DonizettiAdelia Edgar Allan Poe– “The Murders in the Rue MorgueDion BoucicaultLondon Assurance

Gustave CourbetSelf-portrait with black dog

Jem Mason and Harriet Howard living at 277 Oxford Street, London.

1842 Riots against the Corn Laws and in favour of the Chartists. Tom Olliver wins the Grand National on Gaylad. Frédéric ChopinPolonaise for Piano in A flat major, B 147/Op. 53 “Heroic” Felix MendelssohnSymphony No. 3 (“Scottish”) Giuseppe VerdiNabucco, March 9 at La Scala, Milan  Honoré de BalzacThe Black Sheep  George SandUn hiver à Majorque (“A Winter in Majorca”) Harriet Howard has a son Martin.

1843 SS Great Britain launched. Engels and Marx meet in France. Tom Olliver wins his second Grand National on Vanguard. Frédéric ChopinImpromptu No. 3 in G-flat major, opus 51; Ballade No. 4 in F minor, opus 52  November 13Gaetano Donizetti‘s final opera Dom Sébastien is premiered at the Paris Opera. Victor HugoLes Burgraves Robert Smith SurteesHandley Cross Harriet Howard comes under the guardianship of Capt. Francis Mountjoy Martin, Life Guards. She is provided with a trust fund and residence (Rockingham House, London) by Mountjoy Martin.

1844 Charles Dickens publishes Martin Chuzzlewit. Thackeray publishes The Luck of Barry Lyndon. Felix Mendelssohn Midsummer Night’s Dream incidental music (including the Wedding March) Alexandre Dumas The Count of Monte Cristo&The Three Musketeers

1845 Irish potato famine. Bizet writes Carmen. Robert SchumannPiano Concerto in A minor Robert Smith SurteesHillingdon Hall Tom Olliver and Jem Mason regular visitors to Paris to ride in French steeplechases 1845-55.

1846 Lord John Russell becomes Prime Minister. The seventh legislature of the July Monarchy in France. Hector BerliozLa damnation de Faust  Frederic ChopinPolonaise-Fantaisie

Jean-Léon GérômeYoung Greeks at a Cockfight

Louis Napoleon escapes from prison and arrives in London. Harriet Howard meets Louis Napoleon in London. Harriet Howard moves to 9 Berkeley Square, London.

© Steven Neil

THE MEREST LOSS is available in paperback and eBook in the UK, US, France, Canada, and Australia.

Follow Steven Neil on for information on how to purchase the paperback through an independent bookseller in the UK.


Steven has a BSc in Economics from the London School of Economics, a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the Open University and an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. He has been a bookmaker’s clerk, bloodstock agent, racehorse breeder and management consultant amongst other professions in his varied career. He is married and lives in rural Northamptonshire, England. The Merest Loss is his debut novel.



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