I’ve just finished reading the above book by Linda Stratmann. It was something that caught my eye in one of those discount book shops because it was the sort of thing I like to both read and write about myself – a quirky, interesting tale about a quirky, interesting person – with a mysterious murder thrown in!
It’s about William Whitely, a Victorian businessman who virtually invented the concept of the department store. He started out as a draper who quickly became successful because he could undercut his rivals; then with his profits he kept adding to the range of things he sold, buying up neighbouring shops until he owned virtually a whole street in London where you could get pretty much anything you needed.
He was a clever, if not entirely trustworthy self-publicist, and to back up his claim that there was nothing he couldn’t provide or obtain for his customers he used to tell some rather unlikely stories. One was that as a prank or bet someone asked him to provide them with a second-hand coffin, which he duly did.
What really prompted this posting was a comment I liked by the local paper regarding the veracity of the coffin story, which it described as “…a silly cock-and-bull tale meant to glorify Mr W. The concocter, (who tells the tale out of his own head, and evidently has enough wood to make another…)