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Varieties of Women's Sensation Fiction, 1855-1890


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With estimated lifetime sales of sixteen million books worldwide, a large personal fortune earned by writing and a devoted public following, Ellen Wood was one of a group of highly successful Victorian writers working at the time of Charles Dickens, William Thackeray and George Eliot. In contrast to these authors however, the work of Wood and her colleagues is almost completely unknown today.

Wood was among a number of women writers who wrote the kind of novels that made murder, incest, bigamy and madness part of the daily diet of respectable middle class women. Sensation novels were extremely popular, but were seen as a corrupting influence by the authorities and were regularly lambasted for their literary style and melodramatic plots. After their initial popularity, these novels fell into relative obscurity and were rarely considered in studies of Victorian literature.

In recent years however, this body of fiction has started to come back into the frame in academic studies of the Victorian novel. If the sensation novels are cut out of the picture it is impossible to gain a true image of what the novel meant to the Victorians, not only the reading public but also in terms of the cross-influences between writers.

This new set from Pickering & Chatto supplies the resource texts required for further study in a modern critical edition. Complete novels are reprinted with annotations and an introduction to each novel. The set features one volume focused exclusively on the sensation debate, with impassioned articles by literary critics, psychologists and the clergy, helping the reader to view the novels in context. This edition requires a place on the shelves of any library seriously concerned with Victorian studies and women's writing.


- Texts reprinted in full, re-set and annotated

- General Introduction and Introduction to each novel

- Bibliography of sensation novels c.1855-1890

Bibliographical information:

Varieties of Women's Sensation Fiction, 1855-1890. General editor, Andrew Maunder. Consulting editor, Sally Mitchell. 6 vols. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2004.

- Vol. 1. Sensationalism and the Sensation Debate. Edited by Andrew Maunder

- Vol. 2. Domestic Sensationalism. Florence Marryat, Love's conflict (1865). Edited by Andrew Maunder

- Vol. 3. Gothic Sensationalism. Ellen Wood, St Martin's eve (1866). Edited by Lyn Pykett

- Vol. 4. Sensation With a Purpose. Felicia Skene, Hidden depths (1866). Edited by Lillian Nayder. Erotic sensationalism. Rhoda Broughton, Cometh Up as a Flower (1867). Edited by Tamar Heller

- Vol. 5. Sensation and Detection. Mary Cecil Hay, Old Myddelton's money (1874). Edited by Mark Knight

- Vol. 6. Newspaper Sensationalism. Dora Russell, Beneath the Wave (1878). Edited by Graham Law

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