Rob Breton
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Mysteries and ambiguities
G. W. M. Reynolds and The Mysteries of London
in The penny politics of Victorian popular fiction
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Chapter 4 focuses on G. W. M. Reynolds, a hugely important figure in the development of both the popular press and Chartism. Refusing to accept the commonplace reading of Reynolds as a commercial entrepreneur using a half-baked radicalism to sell copy, the chapter argues that Reynolds was a dedicated radical attempting to maximise the size of his audience by folding into The Mysteries of London (1844–45) the non-radical, the reformist, and liberal. Reynolds’s radicalism continues to be widely questioned simply because the popular is not deemed to be compatible with a genuine radicalism. But Reynolds’s radicalism, his engagement with Chartist positions before he formally took the banner and declared himself a Chartist, becomes clear when measured against a Chartism that itself was filled with ambiguities, incongruities, and differences. The chapter offers a new reading of The Mysteries of London focused on its theme of vengeance by comparing it not to middle-class literature but to Chartist literature.

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