I'd like to tell you a little bit about the subject of a major biography I'm working on at the minute. Regular readers will recognise her: Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon has cropped up cheerfully throughout my career. Now I have a chance to explore just what an unusual and influential woman she was. The portrait below, by Emily Osborn, does her no particular favours, but I think you get a sense of her strength of spirit. She called herself 'wild', 'one of the cracked people of the world', on a life-long quest for truth, beauty and most of all, for justice.
But what really sets her story apart is love. She was at the centre of an adoring and eclectic circle of friends, including George Eliot, the Brownings, John Chapman, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, Lizzie Siddal, Gertrude Jekyll, Dr Elizabeth Blackwell, Millicent Fawcett - and so on and so on. All of them described Barbara as warm-hearted - 'lion-hearted', even; boundlessly generous, and kind.
Those were her celebrity friends; countless working-class people had Barbara to thank for education, physical well-being, financial and moral support. Barbara was a phenomenon; the most modern woman of the Victorian age, and I cannot wait to tell her story.
Soon after my return in October, a documentary about Mary Seacole is due to be aired by ITV. I spent a morning filming with the incomparable Alison Hammond and am much looking forward to the result. I'll let you know the date on Twitter.
And finally, Captain Oates sends his love. He has spent lockdown doing an awful lot of thinking, and is therefore having a(nother) quick snooze, otherwise he'd be here at our desk as usual. Sweet dreams.