“Many among us fancy that they have a good general idea of what is English literature. They think of Tennyson and Dickens as the most popular of our living authors. It is a fond delusion, from which they should be aroused. The works of Mr. Pierce Egan are sold by the half million.”
The Urban Mysteries: Organised Crime in Victorian Popular Literature | Stephen Basdeo
Stephen Basdeo The Following was a lecture delivered by Stephen Basdeo at Richmond: The American International University on Wednesday 18 November 2020 to students in GEP4180: Organised Crime in Popular Culture. Although […]
Jack Harkaway: The Victorian Harry Potter
The Victorians in many ways were just like us: they enjoyed a good scandal whenever it was reported in the press, they liked both trashy and high-brow entertainment, and like today, they had their popular heroes adored by both adults and children. Let me introduce you to the Harry Potter of the late-Victorian era: Mr Jack Harkaway.
Pierce Egan’s “Robin Hood Ballads” (1840)
Pierce Egan’s “Robin Hood” was an early Victorian bestseller. In the first edition, Egan also appended a collection of Robin Hood ballads alongside his novel, for which he provided the illustrations.
E. L. Blanchard’s “The Mysteries of London” (1849-50)
After G W M Reynolds and Thomas Miller decided to stop writing Victorian crime novel “The Mysteries of London”, E. L. Blanchard took up the narrative with a brand new story with original characters.
Thomas Miller’s “The Mysteries of London; or, Lights and Shadows of London Life” (1849)
The Robin Hood novelist Thomas Miller was chosen by George Vickers to continue writing “The Mysteries of London” in 1849.
George Emmett’s “Robin Hood and the Archers of Merrie Sherwood” (1868-69)
This post sheds light upon another Robin Hood serial written by George Emmett entitled Robin Hood and the Archers of Merrie Sherwood which was serialised between 1868 and 1869.
Pernicious Trash? “The Prince of Archers, or, The Boyhood Days of Robin Hood”(1883)
In the late-Victorian period The Edinburgh Review wrote that ‘There is now before us such a veritable mountain of pernicious trash, mostly in paper covers, and “Price One Penny”; so-called novelettes, tales, stories of adventure, mystery and crime; pictures of school life hideously unlike reality; exploits of robbers, cut-throats, prostitutes, and rogues, that, but for its actual presence, it would seem incredible’.
Radical Robin Hood: “Little John and Will Scarlet” (1865)
In 1865 the penny dreadul “Little John and Will Scarlet” appeared, full of ideas of democracy and egalitarianism.
Pierce Egan the Younger (1814-1880): Biography of a Penny Dreadful Author | Stephen Basdeo
My own research has brought to light further information on the life of penny dreadful author Pierce Egan the Younger (1814-1880), who has only recieved very brief attention in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Historic Yorkshire Criminals: William Knipe’s “Criminal Chronology” (1867)
In 1867 William Knipe authored “The Criminal Chronology of York Castle” – the most comprehensive survey of crime in Yorkshire from the medieval period to the Victorian era.
Judging Robin Hood: Negotiating Outlawry in Nineteenth-Century Texts
Abstract. Robin Hood needs no introduction. He is the noble outlaw who steals from the rich to give to the poor, living a merry life in Sherwood Forest. Yet people often forget that Robin Hood was a criminal. Indeed, Robin Hood Studies are often seen as a class apart from traditional legal and criminal histories, perhaps because of their ‘popular’ nature. Undoubtedly, by the nineteenth century, Robin Hood emerged as a national hero, partly due to his glorification by Romantic-era writers such as Sir Walter Scott. Yet as my paper will show, there was always uneasiness in some Robin Hood texts between judging Robin’s good deeds on the one hand, and his criminality on the other. Writers explained this in various ways. Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe (1819) disapproved overall of Robin’s outlawry, but concluded that his actions were necessary for the safeguarding of the nation. Thomas Love Peacock in Maid Marian (1822) gave Robin an a detailed backstory, explaining that he was outlawed only because he was guilty of resisting oppressive Forest Laws, and hence there was justification for his criminal career. Pierce Egan, in Robin Hood and Little John (1840), chose not to portray Robin as an outlaw at all, but as a radical political fighter. Yet in these texts also, other outlaws who are not part of Robin’s band are depicted as murderous brutes. My paper thus argues that these moral judgments (and sometimes the absence of any type of judgment) upon Robin Hood’s outlawry were a way of separating one of England’s foremost national heroes, who was ultimately a criminal, from the ‘criminal class,’ a notion which gained currency during the nineteenth century and held that there was a certain underclass in society which was responsible for the majority of crime.
Maid Marian in Victorian Penny Dreadfuls: A Proto-Feminist?
A paper read at Chethams Library, Manchester – 20 May 2016.
The Newgate Calendar | Stephen Basdeo
The lives of murderers, ravishers, thieves, highwaymen, burglars, forgers, Pirates, and Street Robbers adorned the pages of “The Newgate Calendar”.
Edgworth Bess, a Prostitute (fl. 1723-24)
Jack Sheppard’s lover and 18th-century sex worker.
The Victorian Underworld
This is the text of a public talk given at Abbey House Museum, Kirkstall, Leeds on 1 March 2015 to complement their Crime and Punishment Exhibition.
Radical Ideas in the Penny Serials of Pierce Egan the Younger (1814-1880)
The penny dreadful author that you’ve never heard of…
Christmas in Newgate Gaol
In 1863 a reporter decided to experience what it was like to spend Christmas Day amongst the felons in Newgate.
Jack Sheppard (1702-1724)
16 Nov 1724 Jack Sheppard was executed. Here is a brief overview of his life and legend.
Dick Turpin (1705-1739)
Dick Turpin (1705-1739) is perhaps the most famous highwayman in English history after Robin Hood. He is remembered today as a heavily romanticised noble, gallant figure, having allegedly rode his horse from London to York in one day upon his trusty horse, Black Bess, the real Dick Turpin, as you would expect, was a wholly different man. This post gives a brief overview of his life and the legend which grew around him.
Penny Dreadful Illustrations: Edward the Black Prince (1854)
Pierce Egan the Younger (1814-1880) was like the George R. R. Martin of his day. He loved the medieval period,
Eugene Sue’s “The Mysteries of Paris” (1843)
Eugene Sue’s “The Mysteries of Paris” marked the emergence of a new genre: the urban gothic.
Penny Dreadful PDFs: The New Newgate Calendar (1863) | Stephen Basdeo
Here are the scans I’ve recently completed of the penny dreadfuls in my collection so far.
The New Newgate Calendar
In the penny dreadful version of The New Newgate Calendar, scenes of the most sensational and sexual type were included for publication – torture scenes, nudity, and flagellation – and sparked a moral panic amongst middle-class press commentators.