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French Novels and the Victorians$
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Juliette Atkinson

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266090

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266090.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 23 September 2021

The immorality of French novels

The immorality of French novels

(p.141) 3 The immorality of French novels
French Novels and the Victorians

Juliette Atkinson

British Academy

Anxieties about immorality were rarely far from discussion of French novels. However, contemporary notions of ‘immorality’ were far more unstable than has often been suggested. The chapter begins by reconsidering Croker’s infamous 1836 article ‘French Novels’ in the light of its French reception, which indicates that Croker was often in sympathy with, rather than opposed to, French critics. Writers such as Croker hoped that readers would police themselves, but the correspondence between Elizabeth Barrett and Mary Russell Mitford reveals a far more playful understanding of immorality. The pair claimed the notion for themselves, and in doing so developed a sense of their own sophistication. They were not alone in ignoring contemporary warnings: the furore surrounding Dumas fils’sLa Dame aux caméllias and the censorship of its theatrical adaptation demonstrated the inconsistencies of, and limits to, censorship, and hinted at the hypocritical conduct of the Victorian reading public.

Keywords:   censorship, immorality, Croker, Barrett Browning, Mitford, Dumas fils, Dame aux camélias, policing, legislation, Paul de Kock

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