Jack Sheppard, the Newgate novel
in The penny politics of Victorian popular fiction
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This chapter expands on Chapter 1 by looking at the way the Newgate novel emerged out of Newgate calendars. The focus of the chapter, however, is on William Ainsworth Harrison’s Jack Sheppard (1839–40). The chapter examines the way that the novel was read in relation to the craze it initiated. It examines the reasons why authorities understood the novel as subversive, as potentially lending force to Chartism and radical politics. Unlike the dominant criticism that tends to separate out and isolate the fully recognised cultural confrontations in the novel, the chapter locates radical energies and direct political content in it. Though the novel also includes conservative content, the amenability to radicalism demonstrates yet again that there was an understood market for radical politics.

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