Mrs Musgrave’s stain of madness
Marsh and the female offender
in Richard Marsh, popular fiction and literary culture, 1890–1915
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This chapter ties Richard Marsh’s Mrs Musgrave – And Her Husband (1895) to the anxiety surrounding the degeneration debate. Simultaneously crime novel, detective novel and Gothic fiction, Mrs Musgrave – And Her Husband mobilises the discourses of eugenics and criminal anthropology as they were articulated by figures such as Francis Galton and Cesare Lombroso. The chapter argues that the novel provides a unique contribution to the debate surrounding hereditary criminality by simultaneously and deliberately validating and critiquing the racist and sexist matrix that arguably informed late-nineteenth-century British culture and society. Unlike much other late-nineteenth-century fiction, the novel employs a pattern where racial and sexual discourses are repeatedly set on course only to be derailed, and derailed only to be brought back on track again.

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