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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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Literary influence

Literary influence

(p.241) 5 Literary influence
French Novels and the Victorians

Juliette Atkinson

British Academy

The dangers posed by French novels were not simply moral: they were also literary. Critics throughout the period compulsively listed any indication that a Victorian novel had been influenced by French novelists. The many writers involved with the sensation fiction of the 1860s challenged the purity (both moral and formal) of English novels. Comparisons between sensation novels and their French antecedents led to a reconsideration of the assumed superiority of English life and culture. Sensation novelists did not always proclaim their French inspirations, but many were keen to identify themselves as followers of Balzac, who had set important precedents for the genre, and whose literary star was rising in England. The boundaries of the English novel were further tested by acts of plagiarism committed by novelists like Braddon and Reade; in challenging critics to untangle the composition of their work, they demonstrated the porous boundaries of domestic literary traditions.

Keywords:   sensation novels, bigamy, adultery, Collins, Sala, Braddon, Charles Reade, Augustus Egg, plagiarism, theatre

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