Abstract

This article provides a critical and bibliographical discussion of J. M. Barrie’s neglected first book, Better Dead, published by Swan Sonnenschein, Lowrey & Co. in 1887. Drawing on previously unexamined evidence in the Sonnenschein archive, it shows how this shilling novel was marketed and sold to its readers at railway bookstalls, and argues that the content and style of the story was conditioned by its form. Examining the many references and allusions in the story, it proposes that the work is best understood as a satire on contemporary political, social and literary themes. The article also shows how, contrary to all published accounts, the author actually earned a small amount of money from a work which, in spite of his efforts, refused to stay dead.

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