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This collection of essays seeks to question the security of our assumptions about the fin de siècle by exploring the fiction of Richard Marsh, an important but neglected professional author. Richard Bernard Heldmann (1857–1915) began his literary career as a writer of boys’ fiction, but, following a prison sentence for fraud, reinvented himself as ‘Richard Marsh’ in 1888. Marsh was a prolific and popular author of middlebrow genre fiction including Gothic, crime, humour, romance and adventure, whose bestselling Gothic novel The Beetle: A Mystery (1897) outsold Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Building on a burgeoning interest in Marsh’s writing, this collection of essays examines a broad array of Marsh’s genre fictions through the lens of cutting-edge critical theory, including print culture, New Historicism, disability studies, genre theory, New Economic Criticism, gender theory, postcolonial studies, thing theory, psychoanalysis, object relations theory and art history, producing innovative readings not only of Marsh but of the fin-de-siècle period. Marsh emerges here as a versatile contributor to the literary and journalistic culture of his time whose stories of shape-shifting monsters, daring but morally dubious heroes, lip-reading female detectives and objects that come to life helped to shape the genres of fiction with which we are familiar today. Marsh’s fictions reflect contemporary themes and anxieties while often offering unexpected, subversive and even counter-hegemonic takes on dominant narratives of gender, criminality, race and class, unsettling our perceptions of the fin de siècle.

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Robert H. MacDonald

understand. It was particularly in evidence in the popular fiction of the day, and here, perhaps, it had its most powerful effect of all. Fiction creates its own reality, and tempts the reader to enter an imagined world: if the fictions of History were compelling, pinning Deeds of Glory on real, historical figures, the adventures of invented characters might be yet more seductive, for using the same plot

in The language of empire
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Victoria Margree, Daniel Orrells and Minna Vuohelainen

compared to leading writers of sensation and Gothic fiction such as Wilkie Collins and Edgar Allan Poe. However, Marsh was a victim of his own success within the capitalist literary system he helped to fuel. His short stories and novels were produced to satisfy an 1 Richard Marsh, popular fiction and literary culture ever-increasing audience that throve upon topicality and continually demanded new pleasures and satisfactions. While Marsh’s work helped to create the familiar collection of leitmotifs recycled in today’s neoVictorian landscape, such middlebrow writing was

in Richard Marsh, popular fiction and literary culture, 1890–1915
Detection, deviance and disability in Richard Marsh’s Judith Lee stories
Minna Vuohelainen

indicative of genre instability and hybridity in the popular fictions of the period. Lee is a new liminal heroine attractive not only to Marsh who, as Johan Höglund and Victoria Margree posit in their chapters in this volume, struggled to side fully with the judicial system, but also to the supposedly conventional mainstream readership of magazines such as the Strand who eagerly consumed her adventures in the 1910s. Lee’s popularity points to a middlebrow fascination with transgression and a growing acceptance of the independent woman in an era often seen as conservative

in Richard Marsh, popular fiction and literary culture, 1890–1915
Populism, New Humour and the male clerk in Marsh’s Sam Briggs adventures
Mackenzie Bartlett

poke fun at contemporary institutions, fashions and manners, even as he reinforces these conventions. These contradictory yet parallel impulses are typical of what Johan Höglund calls the ‘discursive discord’ that characterises much of Marsh’s popular fiction; as he explains, ‘the fiction of Richard Marsh often disturbs the very discourses it relies on, allowing dissonant voices to surface’.24 Laughter, itself a highly disruptive phenomenon, helps to facilitate these ‘dissonant voices’ in Marsh’s comic fiction. While the jokes in his stories often hinge on common

in Richard Marsh, popular fiction and literary culture, 1890–1915
The Datchet Diamonds
Victoria Margree

speculation reveals much about both the culture of the late Victorian period and the forms of popular fiction that were there taking shape. By the 1890s stock market speculation had assumed an evocative presence in the popular imagination as ‘a marker of modernity’ and an ‘embodiment … of lateVictorian capitalism itself’, and it signalled both the dynamism and the perilousness of fin-de-siècle life.1 The figurative associations of speculation extended to make of it ‘a synecdoche for an unstable financial system propelled by chance and, by extension, for speculative society

in Richard Marsh, popular fiction and literary culture, 1890–1915
Situating The Beetle within the fin-de-siècle fiction of Gothic Egypt
Ailise Bulfin

’, the other lost on a ‘missionary expedition into Central Africa’ (p. 256). Expanding on Kucich’s general observation on the prominence of religion in Victorian fiction, it should be noted that religious themes were especially prevalent in 1890s popular fiction, as evidenced by the enormous sales of works such as Marie Corelli’s The Sorrows of Satan (1895), Hall Caine’s The Christian (1897) and the sentimental fiction of the Scottish Kailyard school. The Beetle’s cynical, open-ended account of the inefficacy of Christian prayer and the agency of an invasive pagan cult

in Richard Marsh, popular fiction and literary culture, 1890–1915
Diamonds and curious collectables in the fin-de-siècle fiction of Richard Marsh
Jessica Allsop

, however, Marsh’s significant and complex depictions of material things have been largely overlooked.2 Throughout his popular fiction Marsh repeatedly deploys unusually unstable, metamorphosing material items in narratives that explore fin-de-siècle anxieties, particularly the decline of Empire and the negative effects of global trade. This chapter will discuss Marsh’s interest in curious objects in his fin-desiècle diamond fictions, in which these fashionable symbols of wealth and imperial speculation take on a degree of problematic and even 208 Diamonds and curious

in Richard Marsh, popular fiction and literary culture, 1890–1915
Marsh and the female offender
Johan Höglund

understanding of its narrative, and of the society this narrative seeks to describe, as divided and unresolved. Thus, the novel charts the discordance of the ideologies and discourses that structured late Victorian society, revealing that these ideologies and discourses were at the same time constructive in the sense that both social and domestic policy relied on them, and destructive since they helped generate the very deviance that threatened these same policies. Notes  1 See M. Vuohelainen, ‘The Popular Fiction of Richard Marsh: Literary Production, Genre, Audience

in Richard Marsh, popular fiction and literary culture, 1890–1915
Daniel Orrells

contribute to the reformation of the canon of 1890s decadent writers by 191 Richard Marsh and object relations arguing that the middlebrow Richard Marsh was very much a product of the aesthetics and decadence espoused by Thomas De Quincey, Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde, and a significant transmitter of aesthetic discourse into the popular fiction of the period. Marsh had engaged with the debate over the value of art in his earliest writings, including his final novel as Bernard Heldmann, Daintree (1883), his very first as ‘Richard Marsh’, The Devil’s Diamond (1893), the

in Richard Marsh, popular fiction and literary culture, 1890–1915