I mentioned The Victorian Sensation Novel in a previous post on Wilkie Collins. You can read that here. I thought I would write a little bit more about Sensation Novels, what makes a Sensation Novel, some good examples of Sensation Novels and why I love reading them.
The Sensation Novel was made popular during the Victorian era (1837 – 1901) and was founded through the writing of three novels: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, East Lynne by Ellen Wood, and Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.
The Sensation Novel genre was seen as short-lived but very catalystic to a shift in Victorian literature. It only really gained popularity from the year of 1855 and only lasted for around 35 years before drifting into the background and being forgotten about. The genre was incredibly different from typical Victorian literature which focused on society, morals, the public vs private lives of people, love and marriage are central themes. Sensation Novels tend to focus more on murder, bigamy, adultery, poisoning, rivalry, villains, disasters, the supernatural… Essentially, the Sensation Novel filled in the voids that the very tame and standardised Victorian novels left open, but were well-placed within a society where newspapers were reporting of murders, disasters, bigamy quite frequently in the London underworld. Almost to fill a craving for the unknown, the unspoken about and the mysterious, as well as a form of escapsism from an otherwise mundane society.
Sensation Novels were devised to be shocking, gripping and thrilling with fast-paced storylines, over-the-top characters often with a mystery at its core. Though I love Sensation Novels, they weren’t always popular and many saw them as directly in conflict with the moral standards of Victorian society and unacceptable reading material, especially for women who were deemed more delicate and impressionable. Despite this, it seemed people were eager to read about scandal and sensation and a lust for drama was fed directly by the Victorian Sensation Novel.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
East Lynne by Ellen Wood
Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
No Name by Wilkie Collins
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
Armadale by Wilkie Collins
Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
Jezebel’s Daughter by Wilkie Collins
A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott
Have you read any Sensation Novels? What are your favourites? If you have any recommendations then let me know.
Thanks for reading!
Love, Zoë xx