The Vast Memory of Love

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Bosse, author of THE WAR LORD and thirteen other novels, vividly re-creates eighteenth century London life in the story of Ned Carleton, a country boy come to town. Ned gets a position as postilion to the Earl of Sandwich but is discharged when he denies a false accusation of stealing. Unable to find honest work after he cripples a hand while trying to rescue a woman from a burning house, he turns to crime, trains a stray sheep dog to be his accomplice, and becomes the notorious Dog Cull. But his path keeps crossing that of Sandwich, who belongs to the infamous Hell-Fire Club, a group of aristocrats who stage black masses and indulge in sexual orgies. One of Sandwich’s girls escapes and becomes involved in several sensational trials. Desperately needing money to save Clare, the woman he loves, from a life of sordid poverty, Ned spies on the hated Earl of Sandwich, discovers his obscene practices, and attempts to blackmail him, only to end up in the condemned hole at Newgate.

It is a bitter irony that the depraved aristocrats consider themselves the defenders of law and order and look with contempt on commoners who dare consider themselves their equals. Ned is saved by Magistrate Henry Fielding, who not only wrote TOM JONES and other novels but established the Bow-Street runners, the progenitors of Scotland Yard. Excerpts form Fielding’s journal constitute part of the narrative; other historical characters besides him and Sandwich are poet Charles Churchill and political radical John Wilkes. THE VAST MEMORY OF LOVE is a compelling story as well as a colorful picture of high life in London and Bath and the sinister London underworld of the 1750’s.