French Novels and the Victorians

ISBN : 9780197266090

Juliette Atkinson
350 ページ
156 x 234 mm

In 1836, John Wilson Croker, having immersed himself in dozens of contemporary French novels, warned his readers that 'she who dares to read a single page of the hundred thousand licentious pages with which the last five years have indundated society, is lost for ever.' It has become common to build an opposition between the attitudes towards fiction held in prudish Victorian England and permissive 19th-century France. The lack of a full-length study of 19th-century Anglo-French literary relations means, however, that the rejection of French novels has been greatly exaggerated. French Novels and the Victorians sheds new light on these relations by exploring the enormous impact of French fiction on the Victorian reading public. The book considers the many different ties built between the two countries in the publishing industry, identifying how French novels could be accessed and by whom, as well as who promoted and who resisted the importation of Continental works in England and why. The book reflects on what 'immorality' meant to both critics and the readers they sought to warn, and how the notion was subjected to scrutiny through censorship debates as well as the fictional representations of readers. It also tackles the contemporary preoccupation with literary influence, and explores how the extensive circulation of French fiction in England affected the concept of a 'national' literature. In addition to highlighting the cultural importance of novelists such as Sand, Balzac, and Dumas, this book uncovers the networks and mediums that enabled French novels to cross the Channel, and looks at how the concept of 'the French novel' was elaborated, interpreted, and challenged.


PART I: Disseminating French novels
1: Obtaining French novels
2: Literary Networks
PART II: The dangers of French novels
3: The immorality of French novels
4: Fictional readers
PART III: National literary identities
5: Literary influence
6: Cultural competition


Juliette Atkinson was born in Paris, and grew up in both France and England. She did her BA(Hons) at UCL, and went to Oxford to study the MSt Literature 1900-Present. In 2008, she completed a PhD on Victorian life-writing at UCL (funded by a UCL Research Scholarship), and between 2009 and 2012 she was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow. She is now a lecturer in the English department as UCL, where she specialises in the literature of the long 19th century. Her book Victorian Biography Reconsidered (OUP) was published in 2010, and she has written the introduction and notes for The Mill on the Floss and edited Silas Marner, both for Oxford World's Classics.