Charlotte Dunne-Knightley (1817 – 1864)

As the proprietor of Charlotte’s Harlots (No Tonker Too Large), a well-known house of ill repute in Manchester, Charlotte Dunne-Knightley was well on her way to becoming the most notorious madam in the northwest of England. However, after becoming bored with her chosen employment she decided to try her hand at a different profession.

She chose to become a writer specialising in bedtime stories for children. She had a good idea of what children might like to hear at night, although she often did not know when to stop. She knew that children liked to hear vaguely scary stories so she wrote a volume of short tales aimed at giving readers goose bumps. This book appealed to adults and quickly became a much sought after tome. Once they read it to their children it became notorious.

Many parents found that their children simply could not sleep after hearing these stories. Some were found screaming uncontrollably and staring at shadows in their bedrooms. Some could not stop mumbling about monsters and refused to come out from under the sheets. Some would not even enter their bedrooms or go anywhere near the servants. Others would not open their eyes in the morning for fear of what they might see. Charlotte Dunne-Knightley was single-handedly responsible for the birth of the science of child psychology.

Due to the reaction to her stories her publisher withdrew her book. Madam Dunne-Knightley went back to running her brothel. She took some time to write her autobiography, Charlotte’s Second Coming, before finally losing a long-running battle with syphilis.

Her volume of bedtime stories included the following tales:

• Severely Psychopathic Susan the Nanny – a story about an unbalanced young lady who takes employment looking after the children of Lord and Lady Terwatt, cooks them, and serves them up with applesauce to the unsuspecting parents.

• Toughen Up, Princess! – tells the story of Princess Stephanie, who follows her father, the King, on Christmas Day to give food and drinks to the poor people of the realm. She struggles to keep up and dies of exposure in the snow. The little princess was just too soft and girly.

• Eliza and Ezekiel Get the Plague – a delightful story of how two children die a horrible, lingering death when they stow away on a ship bound for the Caribbean. They get infested with fleas off the rats. Serves the little bastards right for not behaving.

• The Monsters in the Cupboard – a story about how little George Worley finds out that his cupboard is a doorway to another world full of wonder and good things to eat. He also finds out that there is a bloody great lion in there, and that he cannot outrun it after stuffing his face with lollies. He almost gets back and leaves scratch marks on the door as he is dragged back to his death. His ghost makes scratching sounds on the doors of cupboards of children’s bedrooms as he searches for a way back.

• And finally there was the self-explanatory The Little Girl Who Was Eaten by the Shadows in the Bedroom, from which the follow classic excerpt is taken:

‘Ullo Jasmine, it’s your time to die!’ said the shadow.

‘Piss off,’ said Jemima, ‘Mother and father told me that you really don’t exist.’

The shadow then bit off Jemima’s leg below the knee. In her final moments of terror Jemima thought, ‘Jeez, mum and dad are lying bastards. And they are going to kill me when they see the bloodstains on these clean white sheets!’

About George Fripley
I am a writer who enjoys writing humour, satire, poetry and sometimes a bit of philosophy. I live in Perth, Western Australia and occasionally get a poem or article published. It's all good fun! I have two books available for unwary readers, Grudges, Rumours and Drama Queens- The Civil Servant's Manual (This contains all that anybody could ever want to know about why government runs so slowly) and More Gravy Please! - the Politician's Handbook. (available through Amazon)

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