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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
Rosalind Crone

expertise of its author, Thomas Peckett Prest, to strike a special chord with his audiences.5 But, a brief exploration of the genre in which it was originally launched suggests that, although successful, the story was not all that exceptional. Instead, it serves as a useful example of that great quantity of violent (hence the name ‘penny bloods’) and sometimes titillating cheap instalment fiction which flooded popular print culture between 1830 and 1860. Very little scholarly attention has focused on the role of cheap fiction in popular culture during the early Victorian

in Violent Victorians
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Sweeney Todd and the bloods
Rob Breton

Penny bloods did not appear overnight. They came about when a variety of romantic formulas were mixed together by enterprising men in what might be called the absolute realism of early nineteenth-century history. A messy bricolage of inflated Newgate storytelling, ‘low-life’ and highwayman adventure narratives, gothic fiction, and any other affective discourse that indulges in depictions of frustrated love, madness, violent villainy, and so forth were merged together just as an urban working class was hardening into a semi-self-conscious class; though it can be

in The penny politics of Victorian popular fiction
Author: Rob Breton

The book explores the relationship between early Victorian popular fiction and radical politics – the way Newgate calendars and novels, penny bloods and crime or ‘low’ literature could intermittently express radical or even Chartist arguments about the need for working-class agency and empowerment. Offering new readings of Jack Sheppard, Sweeney Todd, The Mysteries of London and many other novels and short stories from the 1830s and 1840s, primarily emerging out of London, the book compares the popular to the radical canon, and specifically to a great deal of contemporaneous Chartist fiction. It finds that popular writers and editors attempted to attract a politicised working-class audience by including material that was not only a clear cultural confrontation, a challenge to polite society and middle-class taste, but also a political confrontation that asserted the value of working-class decision making. Understanding Chartism, Victorian Britain’s first nationwide attempt to bring in democracy and challenge the established political order, as a complex, shifting, and internally inconsistent movement, The penny politics of Victorian popular fiction offers a new way to look at the way popular fiction reused or repurposed Chartist and radical narratives. Radicalism and popular culture were in fact both engaged in intricate attempts to capitalise on a constituency of audiences understood to have multiple and expansive aesthetic and political tastes. The book makes clear why and how a popular press would invest in the political and social issues that were finding expression in a popular political movement.

Wagner the Wehr-wolf, Sweeney Todd and the limits of human responsibility
Joseph Crawford

This chapter explores the relationship between early nineteenth-century werewolf fiction and the changing legal codes that governed the circumstances under which a criminal might be found ‘not guilty by virtue of insanity’. Before the institution of the McNaghten rules, criminal responsibility could be evaded only if the criminal ‘doth not know what he is doing, no more than an infant, than a brute or a wild beast’. This chapter argues that the werewolves that appear in the fiction of the period, who are often outlaws or madmen or both, function as symbolic representations of the pre-McNaghten criminal lunatic whose threatening otherness is manifested in their bestial nature, and whose proper home is in the forested wilderness. The serial killers of the early penny bloods, conversely, speak to the new anxieties created by the post-McNaghten popularisation of notions of ‘moral insanity’, according to which the criminal lunatic may look and behave exactly like everyone else, enabling them to prey with impunity upon the inhabitants of the new cities of the 1830s and 1840s.

in In the company of wolves
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Rob Breton

on or taking advantage of the popularity of the radical or Chartist narrative. I do not deny that popular literature can be conservative or liberal-reformist in its messages, that it also took pages out of conservative and liberal playbooks, but I am focused on the way it looked to narratives ‘from below’ (which in this case might be better said to be ‘from the side of’) to capture a bigger part of the market. To be clear, I do not read the penny blood, Newgate calendars and novels, or melodramatic crime narratives as inciting revolution or promoting the Charter

in The penny politics of Victorian popular fiction
G. W. M. Reynolds and The Mysteries of London
Rob Breton

, absorbing the radical and romantic elements of his culture.’ 5 Though in some sense the novel’s politics conform to the conventions of the genres it employs, genre never hems the politics in. Genre theorists, as Kerri Andrews summarises, ‘argue that some degree of modification, some degree of evolution, is both inevitable and inherent within systems of genre’. 6 Beside the outrageously romantic, gothic, and melodramatic is explicit political content. The ‘penny blood’ material does not simply make the politics ‘more attractive’, as Ernest Jones has it, 7 making the

in The penny politics of Victorian popular fiction
Rosalind Crone

the blood-and-murder, ghost and goblin journals. Smith captured an important moment in the nineteenth century. The year 1850 marked the point when several different genres of literature, traditional and new, collided in the marketplace, their publishers and printers fiercely competing for the scarce pennies of the partially and newly literate lower orders. At this point, each form, namely the broadside, the penny blood and the weekly newspaper, seemed to command a more or less equal share of the market. And, crucially, each form was equally promiscuous, borrowing

in Violent Victorians
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1870 – the civilising moment?
Rosalind Crone

course of the 1860s, many of the entertainments described in its chapters went through some sort of change so that after 1870 most did not exist in their original form. For instance, the working classes deserted the popular theatres in favour of the new, bright music halls, the repertoire of which contained much less graphic violence than the bloody melodramas. The penny bloods disappeared; the cheap fiction purchased by most labourers in the late nineteenth century was characterised by watered-down rags to riches stories with little gore or other titillation. As

in Violent Victorians
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Coping with change, expressing resistance
Rosalind Crone

industrialisation was felt at every level of society, and particularly by those who formed the audiences for violent melodramas, graphic broadsides, Sunday newspapers and penny bloods. London’s skilled tradesmen and artisans, a large group situated at the higher end of what came to be described as the lower classes, perhaps experienced the greatest degree of upheaval as a result of industrialisation. Indeed, the nature of change that these men and their families were subjected to demonstrates the peculiar character of industrialisation in the metropolis. During the eighteenth

in Violent Victorians