Katherine Cecil Thurston's novel, John Chilcote, MP (London: Blackwood, 1904), very quickly became "the novel of the season" across the English-speaking world, but the status and meaning of this popularity was not at all clear to contemporary readers and critics. This essay traces the reception of John Chilcote, MP and argues that its uncertain literary status is far from extraordinary in this period. The reception of the novel was transnational and thoroughly mediated, involving a set of negotiations between critics, readers and publishers about what kind of novel it was, and thus how it should be valued. These negotiations trouble any assumption of a clear-cut divide between the literary and the popular at the turn of the twentieth century, and suggest the ways in which reception and reading history can trouble literary-historical accounts of literary popularity and cultural hierarchy. This reception indicates a literary field, in the first decade of the twentieth century, in which a divide between high and low literature was often asserted by critics, but thoroughly blurred by the practices of publishers, the press, readers, and authors themselves.


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pp. 330-350
Launched on MUSE
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