April 13, 2010 True Story Behind Stevenson's "Kidnapped" Is Subject of Book Discussion

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
Public Contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221

No saga of personal hardship so captivated the British public in the 18th century as did the turbulent life of James Annesley, the presumptive heir of five aristocratic titles and scion of the house of Annesley. Kidnapped at 12 by his uncle, “Jemmy” was shipped from Dublin to America in 1728 as an indentured servant. Only after 12 more years did he escape, returning to Ireland to bring his blood rival, the Earl of Anglesea, to justice in one of the epic trials of the century.

This tale was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic “Kidnapped,” and the story is vividly recounted in “Birthright: The True Story That Inspired ‘Kidnapped’” (W.W. Norton, 2010) by A. Roger Ekirch. The author will discuss his work, including the research he did for the book at the Library of Congress, on Thursday, April 15, at noon in the Mary Pickford Theater on the sixth floor of the Library’s Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event, part of the Books & Beyond author series sponsored by the Center for the Book, is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

How, in an age without DNA laboratories or fingerprint records, could a prodigal hope to prove his identity, let alone his legitimacy, after such a long absence—all the while defying accusations of being a “pretender,” the bastard son of a maidservant, plus repeated attempts on his life? Bursting with an improbable cast of characters, from a brave Dublin butcher and a wily Scot to the king of England, “Birthright” evokes the volatile world of Georgian Ireland—complete with its violence, debauchery, ancient rituals and tenacious loyalties.

Drawing on exhaustive research in Ireland, the United Kingdom and America—including an intensive investigation of court transcripts and innumerable, rarely seen legal depositions—Ekirch, a professor of history at Virginia Tech University, resurrects an extraordinary family drama of betrayal and loss, but also resilience, survival and redemption.

“Birthright” is also the subject of a discussion on Facebook. The new Books & Beyond Book Club is available at www.facebook.com/booksandbeyond/. Here readers can discuss books by authors who have appeared or will appear in this series. The site also offers links to webcasts of these events and asks readers to talk about what they have just seen and heard.

The Center for the Book (www.loc.gov/cfbook/) was established by Congress in 1977 "to use the resources and prestige of the Library of Congress to promote books, reading, literacy and libraries." With its many educational programs that reach readers of all ages, through its support of the National Book Festival and through its dynamic state centers in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Center for the Book has developed a nationwide network of organizational partners dedicated to promoting the wonders and benefits of reading. The center also oversees the new Read.gov website, with its exclusive "Exquisite Corpse Adventure" serialized story.


PR 10-078
ISSN 0731-3527