The Fiction Industry

  • R. C. Terry


The Victorian fiction industry is a consequence of population growth, social progress, printing technology, and the visionary drive of many bookmen. The glittering prizes of bestselling novels had begun to be won early in the century by Sir Walter Scott, but Scott in all his glory, noted the Saturday Review in the mid-1870s, was not to be compared with Dickens for popular success. We did it, said the Review in awe, as though eyeing some monster devouring its genius; we made him, we the public, and we helped destroy him.1 The book revolution had by now reached alarming proportions, said another gloomy Saturday reviewer in 1878, and was growing in such ratio that within a generation or two Russell Square would need to be annexed to the British Museum.2 Sir Walter Scott, according to James Payn, observed to a fellow author, ‘You and I came just in the nick of time’.3 Scott foresaw, amongst other changes, the formidable competition of the market place (though he had no reason to fear it at the time). Would he do so well today? Payn asks. In his essay ‘The Literary Calling and its Future’ in the December 1879 issue of Nineteenth Century, Payn concluded that for all the difficulties ‘light literature’ is still a pleasing calling: ‘Its promise is golden, and its prospects are boundless.’4


Printing Technology Book Trade Popular Writer Popular Fiction Monthly Magazine 
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Copyright information

© R. C. Terry 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. C. Terry
    • 1
  1. 1.VictoriaCanada

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