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The Reception of Eugène Sue in Britain 1838-1860


Berry Palmer Chevasco

Mysterymania examines the reception in Britain of the French author Eugène Sue from 1838 to 1860 with the aim of furthering understanding of the intellectual and cultural dialogue between France and Britain and the effect of that dialogue on British fiction during the Victorian period. Sue’s novels were widely read throughout the western world during the 1840s, especially amongst the newly literate of the poor and working classes. His success with these new readers helped to feed the controversies of the period surrounding the influence of fiction on public morality. The study of Sue’s reception in Britain offers insight into these controversies as well as adding to the awareness of the concerns of an important period in the history of English literature. Because of his widespread success, Sue’s effect on popular culture and fiction is easily recognized. Mysterymania explores the more problematic relationship of Sue’s fiction with contemporary British works which now form part of the established canon. Particular attention is paid to the relationship Sue’s novels bear to some of the most studied figures of English literature, notably Dickens and Thackeray. Mysterymania seeks to advance the appreciation of a nineteenth-century author whose works were significant to his time but whose importance has been largely ignored since.
Contents: ‘Roi du Roman Feuilleton’: life and works of Eugène Sue – ‘The moral epidemic’: critical response to Sue in the British press 1838-1857 – ‘Mysterymania’: an historical examination of the effect of G.W.M. Reynolds’s The Mysteries of London and Les Mystères de Paris – Response to Sue’s fiction in the papers and works of key Victorian authors, Dickens, Thackeray, Elizabeth Gaskell, Disraeli, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot and Charles Kingsley – ’Social problem novels’ and the poor fallen woman: Sue’s legacy on Victorian English fiction.