Date of Original Version
Abstract or Table of Contents
“Sensation novels,” a kind of novel characterized by scandal and mystery, emerged in the 1860s to entertain and shock Victorian audiences. In many cases, the novels contain incidents of murder or theft that must be solved and dealt with throughout the novel, and in other cases, the shocking acts are more concerned with actions or behaviors of certain main characters, including deception and adultery. While these crimes and transgressions are often found in a sensation novel, the question of what defines the term “sensation novel” itself remains only vaguely answered. It is unclear when the term “sensation novel” was first applied, as sources differ in this, but it seems that the genre existed mostly between 1860‐1880.1 Ellen Wood was one of the best‐known novelists in this genre in her day, but she was by no means the only writer of sensation novels. Others, including Wilkie Collins (The Woman in White, 1859), Mary Elizabeth Braddon (Lady Audley’s Secret, 1862), Charles Reade (Griffith Gaunt, 1866), also wrote primarily in this genre, and other wellknown writers from the nineteenth century, like Dickens, dabbled in what came to be known as sensation fiction, especially in the unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood . In the early 1860s, critics generally dismissed and condemned them, though by 1864, the term appears to have been widely used and understood by critics and audiences alike.2 Neglected after the 1880s, “sensation novels” have been gradually recovered by literary and cultural critics over the past 30 years.