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Victoria’s Sensations


Wilkie Collins’s Armadale is one of the Sensation Novels of the Victorian era, full of the kind of 19th-century drama that, especially at the time, had readers on the edges of their seats. Some of the shocking plot developments that made this novel so much of the time were: the character of Lydia Gwilt, a red-headed villainess addicted to laudanum who poisons her husband (and has an unbecoming surname, besides), the “ripped from the headlines” approach that Collins uses to reference newspaper scandals, and the shiny new technologies of the penny post and the telegraph.

Armadale followed the success of Collins’s Woman in White, a fantastically popular effort that set the stage for the sensation novel and the recurring topic of bigamy. He followed Armadale with The Moonstone in 1868, a stellar detective novel, the first roman-policier in English, which T.S. Eliot called “the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels.” Collins himself defied Victorian conventions of propriety by living with one mistress and maintaining another elsewhere. A student of Dickens and contemporary of Thackeray, Collins had his own inimitable voice and style.

The plot of Armadale spans two generations and is somewhat complex, involving two characters named Allan Armadale. For help with the plot (and spoilers!), try this site. It also has great scans of various book editions.

Download the e-book from NYPL.

Place a hold on the book from NYPL.

Download the e-book for free from Project Gutenberg.

Read reviews of other Wilkie Collins novels from “The Classics Circuit” held online last year.

For those seeking Victorian-style sensation, but perhaps leaning toward lighter fare, there are several new paperback romance titles hinging off of steampunk. One is Gail Carriger’s Soulless: A Novel of Vampires, Werewolves, and Parasols; another is Katie McAllister’s Steamed.

For more, check out Publishers Weekly’s list called Romancing the Recession.

For more, read: Alien Nation: Nineteenth-Century Gothic Fictions and English Nationality (New Cultural Studies) by Cannon Schmitt.


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Victoria’s Sensations

Interesting review. I watched The Woman in White while in Dublin and found it to be a very entertaining story. I will definately look up some of the books noted as it will be a good segue from the lecures from the Teaching Company on Victorian England that I just finished. Thanks! Victoria

Hi Victoria! I'm glad you

Hi Victoria! I'm glad you enjoyed The Woman in White, it's one I haven't had a chance to read yet, but I'm sure I'll like it since I enjoyed The Moonstone and Armadale. --Jenny

you must!

read the Woman in white- run, do not walk!

wilkie collins and dickens

Wilkie Collins wasn't exactly a student of Dickens. Rather, they were friends, collaborators (on "No Thoroughfare" and "The Perils of Certain English Prisoners," as well as in the play _The Frozen Deep_, which Collins wrote and performed in alongside Dickens), and competitors (_The Woman in White_ was serialized right after _A Tale of Two Cities_ and oversold it by a lot, becoming what we'd now call a media virus). Thanks for blogging on Wilkie! Martha Stoddard Holmes author _Fictions of Affliction: Physical Disability and Victorian Culture_ (includes a chapter on Collins and several sections on Dickens)

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