Victorian Sensational Fiction: The Daring Work of Charles Reade

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The murderer was briskly tried, convicted and hanged outside Newgate prison on 6 July Also present were Dickens and Thackeray, who had bought themselves window views. Why had he done it? Courvoisier pleaded it was a crime novel, Jack Sheppard , written by Harrison Ainsworth a close acquaintance of Dickens and Thackeray , which had inspired him to homicide. It triggered a familiar English moral panic.

Such panics bubbled up through the century. The publisher, Henry Vizetelly, who had committed the dire offence against British decency, was sent to prison. The cruel sentence killed the decent old bookman. Hardy despaired of English fiction when his work was publicly burned by a bishop for its offences against the seventh commandment. Wilkie Collins has a prominent place in the Victfict poison cabinet. Things get complicated thereafter.

But it was also, with the high-impact narrative which, again, Collins perfected, a brutal assault on the senses. When Dickens with young Wilkie as his aide-de-camp dumped the mother of his ten children in favour of an year-old professional actress, he was merely behaving like the leader of his pack. The little we know about Wilkie makes one hungry to know more. What we do know could fit inside a Christmas cracker. He was born the son of a distinguished, but second-rate, artist, and named after his godfather, the first-rate David Wilkie.

Collins Sr was a religious crank and straitlaced. But the high art milieu gave Wilkie an open door to the morally relaxed bohemian world. He chose to be buried alongside the classier of his ladies. Despite appalling health about which Lycett is informative Collins had a long and productive career, leaving some 30 novels for us to enjoy.

All are good. Those he wrote between and are better than good. From to he was at home with his father, and while spending much time in athletic sports, in which he excelled, pursued unaided a systematic course of study. In he was elected to a demyship at Magdalen College, Oxford.

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While an undergraduate, he read privately with Robert Lowe, afterwards Viscount Sherbrooke. After obtaining a third class in literis humanioribus he graduated B. He was chosen Vinerian scholar in the same year. In he became bursar, and was re-elected in He was made dean of arts at Magdalen in , when he scared the more sedate members of the university by flaunting about in a green coat and brass buttons. On 1 July he proceeded to the degree of D. In he was chosen vice-president of his college, and duly wrote the Latin record of his year of office.

His suite of five rooms in the college, at 2 New Buildings, was beautifully situated, looking southwards on the cloisters and tower.

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But while he retained his fellowship and his rooms in college till his death, he spent much time, after taking his degree, in London, where he had permanent lodgings in Leicester Square, and he gradually withdrew from university life. He had originally contemplated a legal career. In November he had entered his name at Lincoln's Inn as a law student. His first instructor in law was Samuel Warren [q.

Victorian Sensational Fiction: The Daring Work Of Charles Reade

In he gained the Vinerian fellowship, and on 16 Jan. But his interest in law was evanescent, and he sought more congenial occupation in the study of music and literature. Besides playing the fiddle with exceptional feeling and dexterity, he became a noted connoisseur in regard to the value and structure of Cremona instruments. Finally determining to seek fame as a novelist and dramatist, he began laboriously and systematically to accumulate materials which might be of use in such directions.


He classified and arranged in ledgers extracts and cuttings from an enormous range of books especially of travel , from newspapers and reports of royal commissions. His first incursion into literature was as a dramatist. There followed on 11 Aug.

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  4. It was triumphantly received on its first performance on 20 Nov. Expanded into three acts, it was revived on 6 Nov.

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    The play, which still holds the stage, is brightly written and cleverly constructed. Acting upon her advice, he turned his comedy into a prose narrative, and thus came to realise his true vocation. By 3 Aug. Each volume had an instant and immense success. But Reade was through life of a litigious and somewhat vain disposition, and, convinced that he was receiving inadequate remuneration alike from his plays and his two novels, he embarked on a series of lawsuits, which proved very disastrous to his pecuniary position.

    From Bentley, the publisher of his two novels, he received only 30 l. An action at law resulted in his being mulcted in costs to the amount of l. But his financial disappointments did not blunt his energies.

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