The Victorian Novelists: Who were they?

  • John Sutherland


awareness of Victorian fiction as an industry is uncommon, even at the level of parenthesis or historical backing to scholarly discussion of canonical texts. And generalizations about ‘the Victorian novel’ (which are common enough) are often hobbled by their being restricted in range of reference to the dozen writers designated as ‘major’ by the New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature—writers whose extraordinary literary distinction renders them necessarily unrepresentative. Despite fifty years of intense, academically-sponsored research into the form, we still make do with only the sketchiest sense of the infrastructure of Victorian fiction—how the bulk of it was produced; who originated, reproduced, distributed and consumed the product. For most critics, commentators and readers, the Victorian novel is something that appears quite magically on the library shelf, or in the ‘Literary Classics’ section of the bookshop, found, as it were, under the gooseberry bush, the fruit of Dickens’s ‘genius’ or George Eliot’s ‘moral sensibility’ or Thackeray’s ‘satire’ or Henry James’s ‘art’.


Book Trade British Library Victorian Period Library Shelf Fiction Title 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. 1.
    This project is being undertaken by a team of scholars, under the general editorship of D. F. McKenzie. Simon Eliot’s Some Patterns and Trends in British Publishing, 1800–1919 (London, 1994) supersedes some of my comments here.Google Scholar

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© John Sutherland 1995

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  • John Sutherland

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