So I have started doing the research for book 4 and came across this in ‘Travels through Germany’ by Baron Riesbeck, published here in 1787:
‘One of the principle ladies whom I am acquainted with, keeps a hall full of cats, and two or three maids to attend them. She converses half the day long with them, often serves them herself with coffee and sugar and dresses them according to her fancy differently everyday.’
I’d love to use this, and it is exactly the sort of slight anecdote which sparks the imagination. The only problem is, if I do I think everyone will think I have just stolen it from Gormenghast. I love Peake, and though I have a nasty habit of forgetting a lot of what I read, that initial chapter in the Hall of Bright Carvings is as clear as if I had lived through it, I used to dream of the Countess and her cats, and, of course, for years I was pretty sure I was Fushia. They are such wonderful books, the language is remarkable and the world magical, yet concrete.
Book 4 will be set in one of the minor principalities of the Holy Roman Empire, a corrupt court, forests, hangers on, musicians, mistresses, titles, gambling… I thought at first I should worry about the book getting too ‘Prisoner of Zenda’, now I think the danger is channeling Peake. There is something so seductive about that image though, the woman ignoring the world around her to serve her cats coffee.