Victorian readers, real and fictional, often claimed to throw immoral French novels into the fire, but their engagement with French literature was far more complex than such acts suggest. This book strives to bring clarity to the ongoing critical debate regarding the insularity and prudishness of nineteenth-century readers. The socio-historical context of Anglo-French relations, like attitudes to foreign literature, moved between attraction and distrust; politicians worked to strengthen an ‘entente cordiale’ and tourists rushed across the Channel, but there was also a wariness of French radicalism and imperial ambitions. The book explores reactions to the contemporary French fiction that circulated in England between 1830 and 1870, drawing on reviews, letters, novels, and bibliographical data to do so. It aims to challenge preconceptions about Victorian Gallophobia, reflect on complex contemporary notions of immorality, and argue that French literature was not simply ‘received’ but emerged through complex transnational networks.
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