FAH – DENG Distinguished Lecture Series – “Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and French Sensation Fiction” by Dr. Terry Hale


30 Oct 2015





“It’s like a scene in a [French?] novel – it’s like nothing in real life.”

Wilkie Collins, No Name (1862), Pt. V, Ch. I.


“I feel like the hero of a French novel; I am falling in love with my aunt.”

M. E. Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret (1862), Pt I, Ch. VII.


“Is this the plot of a French novel?”

M. E. Braddon, Only a Clod (1865), Ch. XXV.


Literary genres do not emerge overnight, nor do they arise in cultural isolation. This is particularly true of popular genres such as the Gothic novel, which flourished from around 1764 to the early 1820s. Indeed, in recent years scholars have increasingly seen the English Gothic novel as the product as a complex series of interactions between British and French writers. The present paper extends this methodology to British sensation fiction of the early 1860s, arguing that writers such as Wilkie Collins, author of such seminal Victorian novels as The Woman in White (1860) and No Name (1862), and M. E. Braddon, who sprang to fame with the publication of such popular bestsellers as Lady Audley’s Secret (1862) and Eleanor’s Victory (1863), were not only as knowledgeable about contemporary French fiction as they were about English writing but they also made extensive use of French themes, ideas and plots in their own work so creating complex patterns of intertextuality that we can only now begin to unravel


All are welcome




Department of English