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83 2, Mudie's Marketplace Guinevere L. Griest. Mudie's Circulating Library and the Victorian Novel. Bloomington, Indiana: University of Indiana Press, Î970. $8.95· prior to the appearance of this book, many writers dealing with fiction of the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had only touched on the mighty influence exerted by the Mudie Circulating Library chain upon theme and form of the Victorian novel. Much of the material pertaining to the subject of Mudie and his library, which by the 1890*s had become as well-known a British institution as Big Ben or Punch. has lain deeply embedded in the files of journals, familiar and obscure, and among other, larger looming concerns in memoirs, biographies, and general publishing histories. Miss Griest has ably - and interestingly - synthesized this vast quantity of material into a coherent, readable book, as her notes and bibliography indicate. I have one slight caveat about the method of documentation in her books she cites certain references in her notes which are not also included in her bibliography , e.g., p. 238, n. 9; p. 240, n. 21. Although she gives reasons for her selectiveness, I should think a complete bibliography of her sources more convenient. Otherwise, Miss Griest's book is splendid in every way. She tells carefully and readably the story of how young Charles Edward Mudie began modestly in 1842 with his circulating library, how the threedecker novel grew in popularity from Scott's Kenilworth. how the circulating library and this publishing format merged their identities , and how Mudie and his great competitor W. H. Smith combined, ultimately, to forswear these institutional hallmarks in the early 1890's. Moving from an introductory chapter establishing the background for circulating libraries, Miss Griest takes us through subsequent discussions about Charles Edward Mudie's personality, as it shaped his thoughts about what a good novel should be and how to secure saleable fiction, moreso than any other sort of reading fare, of a proper moral cast. Mudie's shrewd methods of advertising, his ready and large orders of new works, and service of speedy delivery all served to turn the later part of the century into an age of fiction, most particularly into an age of the triple-decker novel.* The increasing abundance of novels is interesting because, as Miss Griest reminds us, poetry maintained its position as a more respectable genre. But many a novelist hoped to create a significant prose epic to compete with verse contenders. At times a novelist could run afoul of Mudie, and the consequent catastrophe might mean near ruin for a potential reputation, particularly if the writer was a mere aspirant rather than an established lion. Doubtless the classic case of potential ill repute is that of young *For interesting studies of the three-decker, sees Charles E. Lauterbach and Edward S. Lauterbach, "The Nineteenth Century ThreeVolume Novel," PBSA, LI (Fourth Quarter 1957), 263-302, and Royal A. Gettmann, A Victorian Publisher (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, i960), Ch. VIII, The Lauterbachs· essay gives many statistical tables and both sources provide extensive documentation. 84 George Meredith, who was convinced that The Ordeal of Richard Feverel fell flat because of Mudie's charges of immorality in the book - charges which have not subsequently been substantiated. Two later examples of famous novels that incurred Mudie's displeasure and small endorsement are George Moore's A Modern Lover (1883) and A Mummer's Wife (1885), and about Moore and Mudie more will be said below. Technical aspects of triple-decker publication are clearly detailed in these pages, and the gripe in which many writers felt themselves held by the "Procrustean Bed" of the form is carefully treated. How thoroughly attuned some writers were to the methods of producing the three-decker comes through in the laments of Mary Elizabeth Braddon, former sensation-novelist now turned (by the 1880·s) grand dame of letters, who unyieldingly clung to the fast departing form. After Sons of Fire (I896), she finally capitulated to the newer, shorter type of novel, and her novels continued to appear as single volumes until her death in 1915· Another novelist who began by mixing sensationalism with the romantic elements of Guy...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 83-85
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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