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Sensationalising Substance Abuse in the Victorian Home
Tamara Wagner

Controversies about the mid-Victorian sensation novel newly brought to the fore clinical conceptualisations of novel reading as an addiction. Yet as novelists capitalised on the sensational potential of substance abuse at home as part of the genre‘s rupture of ideologies of domesticity, they juxtaposed the consumption of sensational material with other emotional and physical dependencies, while reading could be a panacea or cure. M. E. Braddon‘s John Marchmont‘s Legacy (1863) and Wilkie Collins‘s The Law and the Lady (1875) form particularly revealing examples of self-reflexive sensation novels that capitalise on a clinical Gothic of addiction by appropriating discourses that had, ironically, attacked the sensation genre most virulently.

Gothic Studies
Mary Elizabeth Braddon and the Penny Blood
Mark Bennett

This article considers the exploration of Gothic genericity within two of Mary Elizabeth Braddon‘s neglected penny blood fictions. It observes the way in which genericity comes to be associated with the Gothic as the supposedly disruptive influence of popular literatures is countered by Victorian reviewers. These emphasise such texts’ genericity in order to contain their influence and separate them from superior readerships and literature which is held to transcend generic limitations. Braddon‘s bloods explore this implicit association between the Gothic and genericity and suggest that the latter – identified in terms of the Gothic‘s status as an ephemeral commodity in the penny blood genre – actually enhances rather than limits, the Gothic‘s agency.

Gothic Studies
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Theories of nature and nurture in Victorian sensation fiction
Author: Helena Ifill

This book explores the range of ways in which the two leading sensation authors of the 1860s, Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Wilkie Collins, engaged with nineteenth-century ideas about how the personality is formed and the extent to which it can be influenced either by the subject or by others.

Innovative readings of Braddon’s and Collins’s sensation novels – some of them canonical, others less well-known – demonstrate how they reflect, employ, and challenge Victorian theories of heredity, degeneration, willpower, inherent constitution, education, insanity, upbringing and social circumstance. Far from presenting a reductive depiction of ‘nature’ versus ‘nurture’, Braddon and Collins show the creation of character to be a complex interplay of internal and external factors that are as much reliant on chance as on the efforts of the people who try to exert control over an individual’s development. Their works raise challenging questions about responsibility and self-determinism and, as the analyses of these texts reveals, demonstrate an acute awareness that the way in which character formation is understood fundamentally influences the way people (both in fiction and reality) are perceived, judged and treated.

Drawing on material from a variety of genres, including Victorian medical textbooks, scientific and sociological treatises, specialist and popular periodical literature, Creating character shows how sensation authors situated themselves at the intersections of established and developing, conservative and radical, learned and sensationalist thought about how identity could be made and modified.

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Helena Ifill

179 6 Ii Lost for Love There must be a soul lurking in this neglected form—​a soul of wider capabilities than common souls—​a mind that lacked only the light of education … What a glorious thing it would be to illumine the outer darkness in which this poor child lived—​to redeem this imprisoned soul from its bondage—​or, in plain words, to educate Jarred Gurner’s daughter!1 (Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lost for Love, 1874) The previous chapter on Wilkie Collins’s Man and Wife focused on the negative outcome of a bad educational experience, the brutal Geoffrey

in Creating character
Helena Ifill

67 2 Ii John Marchmont’s Legacy The tenderness which is the common attribute of a woman’s nature had not been given to her. She ought to have been a great man. Nature makes these mistakes now and then, and the victim expiates the error.1 (Mary Elizabeth Braddon, John Marchmont’s Legacy [1863]) The previous chapter showed how Wilkie Collins’s Basil and No Name draw on the condition of monomania in order to explore issues of self-​ control, willpower and agency. In No Name especially, Collins asserts that human beings have inherent character traits that will

in Creating character
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Helena Ifill

attributes. The little-studied The Lady Lisle (published in a single volume in 1862, the same year as Braddon made her name with the best-​selling Lady Audley’s Secret) explores, like John Marchmont’s Legacy, the relationship between an individual’s inherent constitution and environmental influences, but makes use of the potential influence of heredity, and its relationship to upbringing and education, to a far greater extent.3 Themes of class, and especially class boundaries, are central to The Lady Lisle, and notions of character formation become crucial to Braddon’s

in Creating character
Sex, sensation and natural selection
Jonathan Smith

. Sensation fiction seemed to contemporaries to have burst on the scene with Wilkie Collins's serialised best-selling thriller, The Woman in White , in 1859–60. Other wildly popular works, like Ellen Wood's East Lynne (1861) and Mary Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret ( 1862 ), followed quickly on Collins's heels, and soon sensation was the rage. While recent scholarship has seen the emergence of sensation fiction as more gradual, and has come to appreciate the ways even realist writers like Eliot appropriated the sensational into their plots, sensation fiction was

in EcoGothic gardens in the long nineteenth century
Sarah Annes Brown

) dies naturally, Glyde pretends that the body is Laura’s and claims her wealth as his inheritance. Laura meanwhile is incarcerated in an asylum, and her claim to be a rich lady rather than a poor lunatic only makes her appear to be more decisively mad. A slightly later sensation novel, Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret (1862), as well as being spectacularly

in A familiar compound ghost
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Helena Ifill

the Westminster Review, G.  W. Child took the opportunity to bring readers up to date with ‘the present position of our knowledge of mental physiology’ (Child, p. 38), and the above passage formed part of his conclusion. Child’s account of each individual as the result of a multitude of pre-​and post-​congenital factors includes many of the determinants that, as we have seen throughout Creating Character, were debated, contested and theorised in a variety of Victorian writing, including sensation fiction. Braddon and Collins explicitly and implicitly engage with

in Creating character
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Helena Ifill

, complementary and conflicting. Sensation fiction was a genre that engaged with current and provocative issues, including many of those that sparked discussions about determinism and character formation in Victorian society, such as class relations, gender roles, the diagnosis and treatment of insanity, educational reform, and the ethos of self-​help. The two leading sensation authors of the 1860s with whose work this book is concerned, Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Wilkie Collins, were both popular and prolific; their widespread appeal meant that readers from all levels of

in Creating character