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1. A year later, in 1902, the U.S. film company Biograph produced a near-exact copy of The Countryman, entitled Uncle Josh at the Moving Pictures Show. Both films are held at the British Film Institute (London) and the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Surviving copies of Countryman are unfortunately incomplete, so the film's climactic ending is no longer extant.

2. For other examples, see Max Nordau's Degeneration, a best-selling 1895 book that blames “a severe mental epidemic … [a] black death of degeneration and hysteria” (537), in part, on modern literature. Likewise, the 1897 Westminster Review article “Crime in Current Literature” bemoans literature's apparent turn to the criminal: “What is chiefly to be deplored is the extraordinary rapid increase of that class of fictional literature whose specialty is the detective story,” which is “certain, sooner or later, to be disastrous to the community” (A.C. 435–36).

3. Felski, Jameson, and Rothstein, among others, have described the difficulty of finding a satisfying definition for “modernity,” but Singer offers a valuable summary of the term's complex meanings in the late-nineteenth-century epistemological moment (Melodrama). The definition of “modern life” that I use here—a society understood to be faster, more dangerous, more nerve-racking, more image-centric, and more consumerist than that which preceded it—does not pinpoint “modernity” as a thing in itself, but captures how the late-Victorians use the term to describe their circumstances.

4. See Knelman or Zedner for more on historical female criminals of the period.

5. See D. A. Miller's pioneering study The Novel and the Police (1988), or books by Greenslade, Jann, Leps, Rothfield, Thomas, and Thoms. More recent work by Grass and Joyce, and in Haslam and Wright's collection, has attempted to move beyond this model.

6. I do not mean to suggest that these are mutually exclusive. Goodlad argues, for example, that John Stuart Mill (ahead of his time in “Civilization”) theorized consumerism as a new form of discipline: “Mill's ‘postmodernist’ move was not only to foresee the reign of representation in a commodity culture, but also to articulate its impact on the individual as a ‘mass of influences’” (30). What I am suggesting is that narratives of female criminality present consumption as a means of independent agency opposed to forms of discipline.

7. In my discussions of both fiction and film, I will distinguish between narrative series and serial narratives. A series is a multipart narrative with recurring characters and formulas wherein each episode has a self-contained plot and the episodes need not be read in order. Serials, by contrast, are multipart narratives that trace one long plot through multiple episodes over a length of time. Serial novels were popular in the early and mid-Victorian period, but Hughes and Lund argue that late-nineteenth-century fiction “jarred with the fundamental dynamics of serial literature,” contributing to its decline (230). As the serial waned, the series became increasingly popular following the emergence of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories in 1891. The series format as employed by Conan Doyle had a profound influence on film and other twentieth-century narrative forms.

8. An 1890 article from Blackwood's, “Crime in Fiction,” argued that crime fiction “steadily demoralises the palate for anything milder and more delicately flavoured: the habitual dram-drinker will have his stimulants stronger and stronger” (173). See Wiltse for more on detective series as addicting.

9. See, for example, “The Cinema and Hypnotic Suggestion.” Chapter 3 expands on this topic.

10. The first politically motivated dynamite attack in Britain occurred in 1881, and before the end of the century there would be nearly one hundred more. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first English use of terrorist in its modern sense (i.e., “a member of a clandestine or expatriate organization aiming to coerce an established government by acts of violence against it or its subjects”) was in 1866, and this new meaning came into general use as Russian radicals began aggressively using terrorist tactics against the oppressive czarist regime in the 1870s and 1880s. See chapter 5 for more on Russian nihilism. See Houen (Terrorism) for more on definitions of terrorism (7).

11. My understanding of New Women is particularly indebted to work by Ledger (New), Mangum, Nelson, Nord, Parsons, Showalter, Vicinus, and Walkowitz (City). See also articles in Richardson and Willis's collection.

12. It is debatable whether the proliferation of shopgirl positions represents an expansion of opportunity for women in the consumer sphere or women's heightened oppression in the consumer sphere. The figure of the shopgirl was often represented as an icon of modern female freedom in public, as I discuss with respect to James's novel in chapter 4, but real shopgirls suffered from exploitative working conditions, long hours, and low pay. Sanders provides a useful discussion of this contradictory figure. For more on women and consumerism in this era, see Bowlby, Felski, Andrew Miller, Parsons, Rappaport, Showalter, Walkowitz (City), or Whitlock (Crime). For more on consumer culture, see Birken or Richards.

13. The 1882 Married Women's Property Act was especially landmark. See Rappaport for a detailed discussion of this act.

14. Recent feminist critics such as Bartsky and Bordo have theorized how, in image-saturated cultures, the outward representation of traits deemed “feminine” becomes a more important designator of gender-role fidelity than behaviors or activities. Feminists since Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar have recognized the danger of this focus on image: anorexia nervosa is perhaps the most trenchant example of how “femininity” can become a disease. For anorexics, perceived control over body and image provides a sense of near-magical power, just as we see with fictional female criminals.

15. This quotation famously echoes a passage from Chapter 47 of Dickens's 1848 novel Dombey and Son—”Oh for a good spirit who would take the housetops off … and show a Christian people what dark shapes issue from amidst their homes”—but while Dickens uses this image to advocate self-knowledge and self-awareness, Conan Doyle transforms it into an argument for external authority over and intervention into the home. Dickens's narrator wants to remove roofs to let in light, “rousing some who never have looked out upon the world of human life around them,” such as Mr. Dombey, “to a knowledge of their own relation to it” (702). Holmes wants to remove roofs to enhance his own vision and knowledge, not that of the people inside them.

16. Aslami has described a split between historians who locate “the emergence of a new idea of the state in the late nineteenth century, foreshadowing the welfare state that took form during the 1940s,” and those who argue that the “late-nineteenth-century state merely continued the interventionist work of Benthamite and mid-century centralizing reforms” (59). Both groups, however, identify a range of late-century developments as key to the history of the interventionist state, and Aslami also identifies a growing discursive tendency at this time to “infuse” the abstraction of the state “with thoughts, feelings, and capacities on the order of a liberal individual” (60).

17. According to the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857, “cruelty” alone was not sufficient grounds for a wife to leave her husband. This changed with the 1878 act. See Surridge for more on Victorian wife battery.

18. It wasn't only liberals, in the traditional sense, who objected to legal interventionism: the prominent socialist Ernest Belfort Bax opposed legislation protecting wives and children from violent husbands (Boos and Boos 5). Most socialists disagreed with Bax, however.

19. Lombroso authored the first major work of criminology, L'Uomo delinquente, in Italy in 1876; it was not translated into English until 1911, but Ellis's 1890 study The Criminal brought Lombroso's ideas into English discourse. Lombroso also wrote with William Ferrero the first major study of female criminality, La Donna delinquente (1893), published in England as The Female Offender in 1895. Charles Goring's The English Convict, released in 1913, put to rest this early, anthropological strain of criminology.

20. See Leps or Thomas for more on the simultaneous rise of criminology and crime fiction.

21. Hargrave Adam likewise elaborated a biological-determinist position on prostitution, claiming many prostitutes are drawn by “sexual mania” or the love of “fine raiment” (36). Real late-Victorian prostitutes, of course, had very few economic options; many were orphans and virtually all were working class (Walkowitz, Prostitution).


1. Joyce, for example, notes, “From Holmes's perspective … all of London is potentially knowable” and “totalizable” (Capital 151). Also see Accardo, Arata (Fictions), Jann, Kestner, Rothfield, or Thomas.

2. Belsey and Jann both argue that Conan Doyle's women characters present an obstacle to Holmes's logic and rationality, since they do not always behave in predictable ways. My argument pertains to women's visibility and image, but since scientific rationality depends on objective observation, my claims are in some ways congruent with theirs.

3. See, for example, Christ and Jordan, Armstrong (Fiction), or Meisel.

4. My analysis focuses on the short stories that appeared in the first three collections, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, and The Return of Sherlock Holmes, all of which were published in the Strand from 1891 to 1904. (Some of the stories from The Return also appeared in the U.S. magazine Collier's.) I occasionally make reference to the earlier Sherlock Holmes novels, A Study in Scarlet (1887) and The Sign of Four (1890).

5. The two early novels, A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four, were initially published with few illustrations, and did not sell well. After the huge success of the Strand stories, the novels were reissued with rich illustration.

6. Other such publications included Ludgate Monthly (1891–1901), Pearson's Magazine (1896–1939), Harmsworth's Magazine (1898–1933), and the Royal Magazine (1898–1939).

7. For more on Victorian magazine culture and publishing, see Brake, Law, or Fraser, Green, and Johnston.

8. The Illustrated London News and Punch employed heavily illustrated layouts from mid-century, but not in the context of telling stories.

9. As Wakeman describes, in the mid-1880s, wood block printing was effectively made obsolete by a range of new photomechanical technologies in visual reproduction.

10. According to Orel, “a Holmes story by itself could raise … circulation by more than 100,000 copies” (5).

11. See Popple for more on the x-ray as a form of popular amusement in Britain. See Crary's Suspensions and Techniques for more on nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century visual innovation.

12. Benjamin claims photography “is no less significant for criminology than the invention of the printing press is for literature,” and notes detective fiction's debt to it: “The detective story came into being when this most decisive of all conquests of a person's incognito had been accomplished” (Charles 48). Gunning writes that photography “provides the ultimate means of tying identity to a specific and unique body. In this way the process of criminal identification represents a new aspect of the disciplining of the body which typifies modernity” (“Tracing” 20).

13. “Golden Pince-Nez” also has a female killer, but the murder turns out to have been accidental.

14. See Leps for more on this topic: “If the theoretical ambitions of [Holmes's system] are vast, its actual state of elaboration leads to the identification of individuals as representative types—results homologous to those of criminology” (194).

15. For more on turn-of-the-century degeneration theory, see Chamberlin and Gilman, Greenslade, Hurley, Ledger (“In Darkest”), or Pick. Nordau's Degeneration was a popular crossover work in this field.

16. Conan Doyle was an anti-immigration activist, and his political opinions appear to inform his depiction of Beppo. Glover notes that Conan Doyle was a supporter and member of the British Brothers' League, “a locally based successor to the APIDA [Association for Preventing the Immigration of Destitute Aliens]” which “held its first major public meeting in Mile End in January 1902” (25).

17. Arata argues in Fictions of Loss that the genre of detective fiction is inherently unsuited to addressing crime as a systemic problem, and that it always individualizes deviance. The character of the elite master criminal, according to Joyce, serves to deny crime's rootedness in socioeconomic conditions (“Sexual” 503).

18. Conan Doyle borrows this phrasing from Stevenson's The New Arabian Nights, which describes a character's face as “a sort of danger signal” (244). New Arabian Nights also has a character named Beppo, again illustrating Conan Doyle's debt to Stevenson (see chapter 5).

19. Longhurst (58) and Thomas (Detective 227) discuss the significance of an Irish name, Moriarty, for the character that most completely embodies the “criminal type.” Conan Doyle had an ambivalent relationship with his own Irish background. Born and raised in Scotland, he rejected Catholicism, and his political views on Ireland were not progressive. He was opposed to Home Rule until 1912, when it became a foregone conclusion (Stashower 322). He also lobbied to curtail immigration, including Irish immigration.

20. With respect to anthropological theory and African colonization, Stocking claims that when “the juggernaut of European expansion began its final push into the darker regions of the world,” in “the last quarter of the nineteenth century,” “evolutionary anthropology provided a portion of the ideological motive power” (273). See Otis for more on Conan Doyle and imperialism. With respect to turn-of-the-century racial anthropology's role in the Holocaust, see Kuklick (78), Greenslade (11, 255), or Stocking (292).

21. Holmes and Watson's domestic arrangements at Baker Street house a man-to-man bond that could be viewed as loving and homoerotic, connecting them to the “homosexual panic” of the 1890s. This cultural controversy surrounding New Hellenism and male homosexual desire reached its apex in Oscar Wilde's 1895 trial. Conan Doyle often invokes Wildean rhetoric in characterizing Holmes's aestheticist qualities, and Holmes's masculinity is less orthodox and more queer than most critics acknowledge. For more on this topic, see Arata (Fictions), Barolsky, Rothfield, or Wiltse.

22. See Surridge for a discussion of domestic abuse in this story.

23. English social scientists believed Celtic races were more “primitive” than Anglo-Saxons, and consequently less able to restrict their emotions. See Urry or Stocking.

24. According to Pound's history of the Strand, Paget was chosen by the art editor rather than the author. Conan Doyle's letters indicate that the two had no communication about the illustrations, at least in the first series that included “Scandal in Bohemia,” though he was pleased when he saw them (42).

25. Flora Millar, in “Noble Bachelor,” is in some ways parallel to Adler: she is a chorus girl with an aristocratic lover, who is accused but found to be innocent of doing away with her lover's new wife.

26. In “The Naval Treaty,” Holmes states “out of my last fifty-three cases my name has only appeared in four, and the police have had all the credit in forty-nine” (231).

27. See, for example, “Second Stain,” “Abbey Grange,” or “Charles August Milverton.” Morris also explores this topic, but comes to a rather different conclusion than mine: “in explaining the women's motives and in making the women [killers] sympathetic, there is a latent advocacy of violence and law-breaking” in the texts (5).

28. Conan Doyle was a member of England's Divorce Law Reform Union, serving as its president for ten years. Some critics have viewed his activism in this area as an outgrowth of his own unhappy marriage to an ill wife, but Stashower argues: “His concern over this issue … rested with obtaining equal divorce rights for women, since the current system gave an unfair bias toward the husband. Conan Doyle's convictions on this issue probably owed more to his mother's unhappy circumstances than to his own” (210).

29. Surridge offers a fuller discussion of the Holmes series in the context of Victorian debates about domestic abuse. As a child, Conan Doyle himself had been the victim of arbitrary and painful paternal invective, and critics such as Accardo read the prevalence of abusive and otherwise failed fathers in the Holmes stories as an imprint of his psychological trauma from his alcoholic father (58).

30. These three stories might profitably be considered in the context of the “Revolting Daughters Controversy,” a debate in the 1890s periodical press about how much freedom young, unmarried daughters living at home should be allowed to exercise. See Nelson for selections from this debate.

31. Articles by Hall and Hennessy and Mohan also attribute Conan Doyle's persistent focus on this plot to the cultural reverberations of the Married Women's Property Acts of 1870–82. Their readings of how the stories portray women and property are at odds, however. Hall argues, “Holmes seems to be battling an older order's reactionary and regressive attempt to return to an era in which male control of property could not be questioned” (296), while Hennessy and Mohan maintain that “Holmes is in collusion with a ‘band’ of patriarchs implicated in suppressing that which poses an economic and sexual threat to patriarchal gender relations” (333). I view Holmes as supportive of antipatriarchal interventionist reform, while simultaneously balking at the prospect of women's enhanced public power.

32. See Andrew Miller for an interesting discussion of this parallel in The Eustace Diamonds.

33. As Stocking describes, there was a widespread nineteenth-century belief that high degrees of degeneracy were to be found among European settlers of the West Indies, since living in a hot climate could supposedly produce a degenerative racial effect over generations. See Favor for a close examination of Conan Doyle's depiction of foreign women.

34. It was quite rare for Victorian murderesses to use guns (Knelman 8), so Conan Doyle depicts the avenger as particularly outré, even among murderesses.


1. While these two theories of vision are opposite, they are not mutually exclusive. Sontag argues that cameras “define reality in the two ways essential to the workings of an advanced industrial society: as a spectacle (for masses) and as an object of surveillance (for rulers)” (178).

2. Elizabeth Thomasina Meade was born in Ireland, but after moving to London wrote approximately 280 books and countless magazine stories under the name L. T. Meade. In a reading of one of her slum novels for girls, The Princess of the Gutter (1896), Koven claims Meade “denounced” sensational fiction (217), but she herself published scores of sensational stories in addition to girls' fiction. Like other of Meade's crime series, The Sorceress is co-credited to “Robert Eustace,” a name that Slung identifies as the pseudonym for Dr. Eustace Robert Barton, who “served as a medical/scientific collaborator to a varied group of authors” (70). According to Greene, “It is generally concluded that Meade did the actual writing, while Eustace supplied the scientific gimmicks and gadgets” (ix).

3. Meade was the editor of Atalanta magazine for girls from 1887–93, and a member of the Pioneer Club. Rappaport considers the Pioneer Club the most feminist, progressive, and politically active of the late-Victorian clubs for women (91). Koven notes that Meade “actively supported” the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, founded in 1884, which positions her squarely within the interventionist strain of feminism discussed in chapter 1. This is apparent in books such as A Girl of the People, a slum novel that depicts a young heroine who challenges an abusive and alcoholic father. Besides girls' stories and crime fiction, Meade authored many light feminist works, such as “A Young Blue-Stocking” (Ludgate Monthly, 1892), about a woman torn between attending Girton College and marrying her sweetheart. Meade's novel A Sweet Girl Graduate (1891) left its mark on popular feminism: newspaper accounts of early-twentieth-century suffrage demonstrations often refer to suffragists in academic gowns as “sweet girl graduates” (Tickner 166).

4. Sources from the period refer to Madame Rachel by various names, including Madame Sarah Rachel (“Central Criminal Court, Sept. 21”), but most court reports call her Sarah Rachel Leverson. According to Wyndham, she was born Sarah Russell, married a man named Levison, and added the “Rachel” on her own (241–42). Some official sources spell her last name Levison, some Leverson. The correct spelling of her last name is unknown, since she herself could not read or write. Willis claims that the name of Madame Sara in Meade's series is “perhaps a deliberate reference to New Woman writer Sarah Grand, who used the title Madame” (“Female” 64). Such a resonance may be in play here, but in light of her occupation, shop, and so on, Madame Sara's name and title allude most directly to Madame Rachel.

5. In 1862, Rachel appealed to the Court of the Exchequer to obtain payment from a client, Mrs. Carnegie, who had neglected to pay her bill after engaging Rachel to remove a scar from her bosom so she could wear a low-cut dress. Then, in 1878, Rachel was sued by a Mrs. Pearce for fraud; Mrs. Pearce was a young Italian newlywed, twenty-three years old, who had sought skin treatment from Rachel. Readers of “The Blood-Red Cross,” the second story in The Sorceress, would have recognized Sara's victim, Antonia Ripley, as an amalgam of Carnegie and Pearce. Ripley is a young Italian bride, like Pearce, who wants a mole removed from her bosom so she can wear a low-cut dress, like Carnegie. On the Carnegie case, see “Court of Exchequer, June 19.” On the Pearce case, see “A Curious Tale.”

6. Rachel died October 1880 in Knap-hill Prison, Woking. The Times obituary lists her age as sixty (“The Late Madame Rachel”), though she had often declared herself much older than this as a means of promoting her age-defying products (Boase 324).

7. Willis discusses The Sorceress and The Brotherhood in “The Female Moriarty,” and Halloran compares The Sorceress and the Holmes series in a 2002 article. Neither piece discusses Madame Rachel.

8. Rachel was again convicted of fraud in 1878, in the case instigated by Mrs. Pearce that I discuss in note 5, but the 1868 case garnered far more publicity since it occurred in the heyday of Rachel's commercial success and advertising saturation. Only five articles about Rachel's 1878 trial ran in the Times, for example, compared to fifty for the 1868 trial. Because the 1868 case was most influential in determining her cultural legacy, it is the focus of my analysis.

9. The street ballad is printed in Curiosities of Street Literature (1871). For allusions, see Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret (1862), Serjeant Ballantine's Some Experiences of a Barrister's Life (1882), Montague Williams's Leaves of a Life (1890), and London in the Sixties (with a Few Digressions) by “One of the Old Brigade” (1908). Collins based Mother Oldershaw of Armadale (1866) on Madame Rachel, and according to Whitlock, Charlotte Yonge's Love and Life (1880) also has a character based on her. Rachel's story was dramatized in Hay's Beautiful For Ever: A Farce in One Act (1868), and Jones's Beautiful For Ever: A Play for Women (1978). In 1870, Arthur Lloyd published a popular song about Rachel and Borrodaile, “Mrs. Mary Tucker Sparrowtail; Or, Beautiful For Ever.”

10. Unless otherwise noted, quotations from the 1868 trial and from surrounding press coverage are taken from The Extraordinary Life and Trial of Madame Rachel (1868), a compilation of trial transcripts, editorials, letters to editors, and coverage of the case from various newspapers and periodicals. I read this book at the British Library, but it is available elsewhere in the United States and Britain.

11. The British Library has a copy of this manual.

12. In Srebnick's discussion of the infamous U.S. case of Madame Restell, she notes, “French-sounding pseudonyms were common for abortionists” (100). Note, too, ubiquitous ads for “Madame Frain's Famous Female Mixture” in late-Victorian periodicals, such as Ludgate Monthly in 1893. During the nineteenth century, an extensive market developed for abortifacients disguised as patent medicines, which depended upon the expansion of forums for broad advertising in the periodical press. Knelman writes that following investigative reports by the Pall Mall Gazette and the British Medical Journal in the late 1860s, advertisements for abortifacients were banned from the London dailies, but “were still accepted in the popular weeklies” (168). In the 1890s, the medical journal The Lancet claimed that in a week's worth of British periodicals, one hundred publications contained advertisements for abortifacients (Riddle 235). Intriguing as this evidence is, it does not verify Rachel's involvement in extracosmetic activities; it is certainly possible that such gossip arose as a reaction against her legitimate success as a businesswoman. Reports that Rachel practiced mesmerism and witchery sometimes accompany rumors about procuration and abortion, casting doubt on all such accusations. The resonance of the abortion rumors lingers in Meade's portrayal of Rachel, but it is not clear whether this is because of Collins's influence or because of reports existing independently of his novel.

13. For more on these developments, see Bowlby, Ledger (New), Parsons, Rappaport, Showalter, or Walkowitz (City).

14. See, for example, Bartsky or Bordo. Similarly, the work of feminist film critics Mulvey and Doane suggests how modernity—characterized by the emergence of cinema as well as consumerism—furthers women's habituation to spectacularity as a specifically gendered form of discipline.

15. Consider Conan Doyle's depiction of Moriarty: “the man had hereditary tendencies of the most diabolical kind. A criminal strain ran in his blood” (“Final Problem” 252). This echoes the theories of criminologists such as Ellis, who wrote: “Both crime and drink are the morbid manifestations of organic defects which for the most part precede birth” (Criminal 144).

16. Here Lombroso, Ellis, and Nordau foreshadow the concerns of eugenicists like Karl Pearson. From a eugenic point of view, an organism that hides a “defect,” “disorder,” degeneracy, or old age to increase its chance of reproducing is hurting the race. Cosmetics are thus antieugenic, since they have the potential to dissemble “natural” instincts that eugenicists like Pearson believed were present in the sex selection process.

17. Meade was not alone among fin de siècle feminists in associating feminism with imperial capitalism; Sarah Grand, as Jusová has recently argued, undertook a similar task. The New Woman, for some writers, became an embodiment of imperial dominance, a strategy that countered the argument that the New Woman posed a degenerative threat to the strength of the nation.

18. Undoubtedly, Rachel's decorative choices were intended to bolster customers' belief in the authentically exotic origins of her products. In an advertisement in the Times, for example, Rachel writes: “All articles bearing the above name are spurious and dangerous unless they have the Royal Arabian Signet attached” (5 February 1866, 15).

19. See Madame Rachel's inventory list in Beautiful For Ever! (vi–viii).

20. The Chambers's Journal joked about Rachel's products' origins, asking, “why should there not be a Putney Bloom, a Turham Green Preservative Balm, or even a Camden Town Preparation for the Chin?” (Corson 339).

21. After her 1868 conviction, Rachel was forced to sell her belongings, and advertisements for the sale indicate that she furnished her home in a manner that emphasized Britain's imperial power, like her products' names. A notice for “Madame Rachel's Sale” in the Times refers to “the splendid contents” of her residence, including rare Indian, Japanese, and Chinese furniture, and “a very valuable and magnificent pair of incense burners, on costly carved ebony stands, formerly the property of the King of Delhi” (10 March 1869, 16).

22. See Ellis on the lack of female genius in mathematical or scientific spheres (Man 366).

23. Morrison claimed, for example: “The care and nurture of children has been [women's] lot in life for untold centuries; the duties of maternity have perpetually kept alive a certain number of unselfish instincts; these instincts have become part and parcel of women's natural inheritance … [and] acquired the power of a hereditary characteristic” (152).

24. Knelman notes that about 48 percent of Victorian women accused of murder used poison (8). See Ruddick for an account of the 1876 poisoning of Charles Bravo, for which his wife, Florence, was tried but not convicted.

25. Maybrick claimed not only that she used arsenic as a complexion aid, but that her husband James used it “as a tonic—it was considered a sexual stimulant,” which accounted for the presence of the poison in his body. She testified that he had asked her to give him arsenic (Knelman 118).

26. The Forster Act of 1870 established universal public education in Britain.


1. For exemplary work in the field of early film studies, see Elsaesser and Barker's volume, which focuses on formal analysis of early film, or Charney and Schwartz's volume, which focuses on cultural and historical analysis.

2. Daly and Sanders have recently interwoven analysis of turn-of-the-century British literature and film, Daly focusing on Boer War films and Kipling's “Mrs Bathurst” and Sanders focusing on the figure of the shopgirl.

3. Hansen considers early U.S. cinema in relation to Habermas's theories of the public sphere and Negt and Kluge's theories of the “proletarian public sphere.” Hiley, establishing that the early British film audience was demonstrably working class at least until World War I, follows Hansen in arguing that “the British cinema auditorium was indeed a proletarian public sphere, in which the context of performance was determined by the interplay between its working class audience and the screened image. Much of the meaning of a film was indeed created within the auditorium, not simply by the accompanying music and sound effects, but more importantly by the reaction of the audience” (“British Cinema” 164). This audience “encouraged a communal style of performance. There was a great deal of talking” (162), contradicting “middle class virtues of individual spectatorship and concentrated attention” that many filmmakers would soon work to inculcate (166).

4. For British filmmakers' response to this state of affairs, see Furniss (“Where Are the English Films?” or “English—By the Americans”), or a 1909 interview with George Howard Cricks, who opined: “At the present time the English output of film pictures is certainly not more than one tenth of the world's production. Well, British industry is not going to take that sitting down…. the English people in the long run prefer British sentiment and feeling in the pictures they pay to see in our theatres” (“The Future” 12).

5. See The Bioscope, 16 June 1910, 11, and The Film Censor, 26 June 1912, 2.

6. Due to the relative paucity of its output, critics have paid less attention to the early British industry than, for example, the U.S. film industry. Most work in this area has aimed to uncover a national cinematic tradition: see the first two volumes of Low's venerable history of British film as well as Barnes, Murphy, and Burton and Porter. Chanan takes a different approach in his fascinating Marxian-materialist study.

7. This film is held in the National Film Archive (NFA) at the British Film Institute (BFI) on the “Biograph Compilation #5” reel. The NFA catalog identifies the film as a scene from a longer film, no longer extant, called Women and Wine. Duel to the Death is listed in the third edition of Gifford's catalog of British film (an index of every film ever known to have been made in Britain). Most films discussed in this chapter, unless otherwise indicated, were viewed at the British Film Institute, but some exist in multiple locations. The International Film Archive Database (FIAF) is an excellent resource for locating archival holdings of early film.

8. Duel to the Death was directed by William Dickson, an associate of Thomas Edison and a key figure in early film. While working in the United States, he produced what was perhaps the first censored film: his 1894 Kinetoscope film Carmenchita was banned in New Jersey for revealing a dancer's ankles in an erotic “butterfly dance.” (Kinetoscope films preceded cinema by a few years; they are viewed through an individual “peepshow” device rather than projected on screen.) After returning to his homeland Britain in 1897, Dickson became the chief cameraman for British Mutoscope and Biograph.

9. This film is available at the BFI.

10. Rabinovitz and Stamp have argued that in the United States, pre-film consumer culture primed female spectators for cinema: “the visual spectacle offered by the array of products on display in department stores and shop windows provided woman-oriented ‘domains for looking’ that formed an important precursor to film viewing at the turn of the century” (Stamp 18).

11. See especially “In Your Face” and “Tracing.”

12. The film is available at the Library of Congress as well as the BFI.

13. My chapter will focus on films that have survived and can be viewed, but all too many films from this period are no longer extant. Contemporary film periodicals give us a sense of what these missing films were like, so I will occasionally use such journals to provide contextual detail.

14. This quotation is from Film House Record, 15 October 1910, 243. For another contemporary review, see Bioscope, 17 November 1910, 32.

15. Film House Record, 29 October 1910, 252.

16. The Cinema, 12 March 1913, 75.

17. The Cinema, 22 January 1913, 73.

18. This film is held in the BFI. Its canister indicates that it is “incomplete,” though it is not apparent in comparing the film to contemporary descriptions that a section is missing.

19. While unnamed in the film, Dora's sweetheart is identified as “Dick Charteris” in Bioscope's description of the film (9 May 1912, xix).

20. C. L. Pirkis's Detective Loveday Brooke similarly exploits her invisibility by dressing, for example, as a female servant (see my article “Trouble with She-Dicks”). Other relevant female detectives for comparison include L. T. Meade's “The Bloodhound” (part of Brotherhood of the Seven Kings, 1898) and The Detections of Miss Cusack (1899–1901); Emma Orczy's Lady Molly of Scotland Yard (1910); Clarence Rook's Miss Van Snoop (1898); and George Sims's Dorcas Dene (1897–98).

21. It was not until 1913 or so that middle-class audiences regularly attended the British cinema, in contrast to early film's broader appeal elsewhere. Middle-class cinema attendance increased with the establishment of permanent, dedicated movie palaces, which attracted a different clientele than the penny storefronts that dominated film exhibition prior to World War I. See Burrows, Chanan, or Field for more on this topic.

22. See, for example, Daring Daylight Burglary (Sheffield Photograph Co., 1903) or Stop Thief (Williamson, 1901).

23. The Cinema, 19 February 1913, 70.

24. The film is held at the BFI.

25. The film is held at the BFI.

26. Film catalogs identify the tenants as Irish; perhaps this information was given through other means than the film itself (see note 53). The film was made by British Gaumont, and is now held in the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

27. B & C was the British film company most “deeply rooted” in magazine mass-culture, according to Turvey, and was most likely to make films of “nonstandard morality” (69, 73). Its Exploits of Three-Fingered Kate was highly influential. Its series format is obviously a descendant of magazine crime series, but became extremely popular in filmmaking too. Singer's work on U.S. “serial queen” films convincingly describes the feminist significance of this popular genre, but note that Kate predates it: the first Kate film debuted in 1909, whereas American serial-queen melodrama flourished between 1912 and 1920 (“Female Power” 90). A popular French series called The Queen of Criminals, which began in 1911, also followed Three-Fingered Kate.

28. Nollen mentions a 1901 stage parody of Holmes called Sheerluck Jones (57); this may have inspired the filmmakers.

29. Bioscope, 7 October 1909, 93.

30. Film House Record, 14 May 1910, 98.

31. Film House Record, 29 October 1910, 250.

32. The Pictures, 30 August 1912, 18.

33. The Cinema, October 1912, 19.

34. The Cinema, April 1912, 18.

35. For advertisements, see 20 April, 8 June, 20 July, and 9 November 1912 issues. For “Our Postbag,” see 17 August 1912, 32.

36. The Pictures, 5 October 1912, 10.

37. The Pictures, 6 July 1912, 21.

38. Ivy Martinek, the actress playing Kate, is not really three-fingered, but is quite obviously just holding down two fingers of her right hand.

39. Indeed, in Holmes's first appearance on film—a 1900 U.S. film called Sherlock Holmes Baffled—he is outwitted by a vanishing burglar (Nollen 61). For the next ten years, “straight” adaptations of Holmes were made in the United States, France, and Denmark, but not the United Kingdom. In 1913, when middle-class audiences began to attend the British cinema in greater numbers, the French company Éclair released a set of straight Sherlock Holmes adaptations that had been filmed in Britain, and aggressively promoted the series in British trade journals. Advertisements reclaimed Holmes for Britain: “Taken in England and acted by British Artistes under the supervision of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,” or “All British films, acted by English actors in England, and produced under sole rights of the well-known English writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle” (see Bioscope, 28 August 1913, 680, and 22 May 1913, 558). Appealing to English authenticity and to national pride in Conan Doyle (who was actually born in Scotland), such rhetoric contrasts sharply with Three-Fingered Kate, which ended a year earlier in 1912. Nevertheless, by the end of the series, Éclair had moved production from Britain to the United States; perhaps the series hadn't performed well in Britain after all.

40. This film is held in the BFI as well as the Library of Congress.

41. Though irrelevant to my analysis of the film, I don't want to omit mentioning this film's nonstandard chronology. As in Edwin Porter's famous 1902 film Life of an American Fireman, this film utilizes back-to-back scenes that show the same period of time from two different points of view. The innovation of crosscutting did not yet signify simultaneity of action, hence the gap in continuity. I discuss a similar chronological strategy later in the chapter with regard to Women's Rights.

42. A description of the film in Bioscope (13 January 1910, 57) indicates that the butler's name is James, while the maid is never given a name. The reviewer calls the film, “One of the finest plays we have witnessed for a long time.”

43. A more positive version of the same scenario occurred in the 1911 Hepworth film Rachel's Sin. Here, a man takes the blame for murder when the woman he loves accidentally kills her vicious, drunken husband. In this case, however, she remains faithful to him while he is in jail. As in A Woman's Treachery, the film privileges fidelity in love above fidelity to the law. For a description of this film, which no longer survives, see Bioscope, 9 November 1911, 445.

44. An exception is the 1905 Hepworth film Den of Thieves, which features a housemaid who serves as informant and accomplice to a gang of robbers. She is eventually caught, and agrees to lead the police to the criminals.

45. The film was later retitled The Anarchist's Doom; it is held in the BFI.

46. See Bioscope, 10 July 1913, 145.

47. Militant suffrage agitators were called “suffragettes,” while women using legal means to campaign for the vote were “suffragists.” The Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) was the home of the militant suffragettes, while the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) was the mainstream organization. See Nelson for a collection of contemporary pro- and antisuffrage writings. See Hamer, Tickner, and Stanley for more on the British suffrage campaign. See Haslam for discussion of a prison narrative by Lady Constance Lytton, a member of the WSPU, and for more on suffragettes' experience in the penal system.

48. Gifford titles this film The Lady Barber.

49. An advertisement for the film depicts picketing women whose posters proclaim, “We will not tell our age” as well as “Votes for Women” (Film House Record, 4 March 1911, 387). The film is held at the BFI.

50. See “Insanity or Crime?” for contemporary film periodicals' response.

51. Stott notes that antisuffrage posters were also informed by degeneration theory (Fabrication 202).

52. Chaplin's film is also known as The Busy Day. I viewed it at the BFI and the Library of Congress, but it is available in many film archives.

53. The film is also called Ladies' Skirts Nailed to Fence, but its correct title (Women's Rights) clarifies how audiences understood the subject of the film. In its current state, the film does not make the women's politics explicit, but catalog accounts refer to the women as “suffragettes” and assert that they are discussing enfranchisement. Surviving copies of early films don't relay all of the information that audiences would have received: “exhibition aids” such as lecturers, narrators, printed programs, sound effects, or “even actors speaking dialogue behind the screen” were common (Sopocy 123). Intertitles were rare before 1905, but catalog accounts of Women's Rights indicate that audiences learned through some means that the women are suffragettes.

54. Film House Record, 24 December 1910, 308.

55. See description and review in Bioscope, 17 April 1913, 167, and 15 May 1913, 519.

56. Bioscope, 30 November 1911, 613. Pathé was a French company, but its “animated newspaper” Pathé Animated Gazette was the major producer of British newsreels in this period.

57. Stamp's work on U.S. suffrage films suggests that there was transatlantic cooperation between the British and U.S. campaigns in their use of film. Emmeline Pankhurst, a fixture in the British movement, “guest starred” in a U.S. pro-suffrage film called Eighty Million Women Want–? Stamp notes that suffrage groups were “among the earliest advocacy bodies to exploit moving pictures at a time when the cinema's powers of social commentary were not always appreciated” (154).

58. Davison's death was long presumed to have been suicidal martyrdom, but after reassembling the evidence, Stanley and Morley conclude that “no proof of Emily Davison's motives is possible. She made no written statement about her intentions concerning the Derby act” (165).

59. In 1912, the London City Council put forward a motion to prohibit all “pictorial representation in cinematograph theatres” because of its “demoralizing influence” (Field 29). The move didn't pass, but many such threats emerged in precensorship Britain and many municipalities moved to ban cinemas. Contemporary film periodicals offer much information on this issue: see “Crime on the Pictures,” “Criminal Scenes Censored,” “Cinematograph and Crime,” Geear, “Is Sensational Taste Too Pronounced?,” “Our Opinion,” or Townshend.

60. In the earliest years of film, pictures were often shown in pitch-black rooms except for the light given off by the film itself, unlike theaters today with floor and exit lights. Many exhibitors attempted to overcome this moral limitation of the medium: early trade magazines are full of advertisements for the “Eye-Rest System of Illumination,” the “Angel Cinema,” “Daylight Cinema,” and other lighting systems (see Bioscope, 10 April 1913, 145, and 5 September 1912, 707).

61. Several scholars have considered female spectators of early film in U.S. culture. See Stamp, Rabinovitz, or Cooper, who argues that advocates of film censorship “tacitly agreed to personify the public as a feminine consumer” (121).

62. Benjamin's influential theories of film parallel such arguments: “There came a day when a new and urgent need for stimuli was met by the film. In film, perception in the form of shocks was established as a formal principle” (Charles 132). For more on this topic see Singer (“Modernity”) or Daly.

63. This kind of suspicion of film was particularly virulent in Britain. Perry writes: “the British allowed cinema to develop in a hole-in-the-corner manner with magistrates, in the constant quest for scapegoats for social evils, eagerly attaching blame for petty crime … to the darkened movie halls” (9–10). See “Pictures and Juvenile Crime” for a contemporary contribution to this debate.

64. Hiley and Burrows discuss this topic at length.


1. See Melchiori for an extensive discussion of the genre. Arata (“Secret”) discusses Conrad's novel in the context of dynamite narrative. For examples of dynamite stories, see Tom Greer's A Modern Daedalus (1885), E. Douglas Fawcett's Hartmann the Anarchist: or, The Doom of the Great City (1893), or the texts I discuss in chapter 5.

2. Thomas Hardy's 1881 novel A Laodicean also interweaves modern womanhood with a dynamite plot, correlating these two themes. Its heroine, Paula Power, is “ultra-modern” (17) and has her own telegraph machine and her own gymnasium, “in imitation of those at the new colleges for women” (170). Her uncle, Abner Power, is the novel's dynamiter, as a minor subplot reveals. In his youth Abner associated with a group “whose object was the extermination of tyrants and despots, and the overthrow of established religions” (369). He invented for them a new kind of explosive machine, but soon had “a fit of revulsion” and adopted “a conservative taste in politics” (370). In attempting to destroy his invention, he disfigures his own face. By relating these characters via the surname “Power,” Hardy links late-nineteenth-century feminism with the threat of dynamite technology.

3. Though published in 1907, Conrad's novel looks back to the 1880s and 1890s: it is based on an 1894 event, set in 1886, and in the dedication Conrad dubs it a “simple tale of the nineteenth century.”

4. The Fenians' first organized political offensive in Britain was the Clerkenwell Prison bombing in 1867, but this was a gunpowder bombing, and dynamite soon emerged as a far more destructive technology, thus the major cultural reverberations of the first Fenian dynamiting in 1881.

5. Albert Parsons, a U.S. anarchist tried in the Haymarket affair, called dynamite “the equilibrium … the disseminator of power … the abolition of authority” (qtd. in Sandison, “A World” 158).

6. In an 1888 article in Century Magazine, James described a “kind of high-flown serenity” in The Dynamiter's manner and style (Maixner 307). See Sandison (Robert) for a discussion of how Secret Agent draws on the novel. One of the subplots in The Dynamiter is introduced as “a simple tale,” which is the subtitle of Conrad's novel.

7. While writing The Princess, James wrote to his brother William that he hoped it would be popular; on James's unmet expectations concerning its popularity, see Trilling, Jacobson (44), or Tilley (4). While revising The Secret Agent, Conrad similarly wrote that he hoped it had “an element of popularity in it” (Letters 3:439) and that he “should like it to appear somewhere where it would be read” (Letters 3:326). He was disappointed by its reception, as indicated by a 1908 letter: “Otherwise things are not well with me. The S[ecret] A[gent] may be pronounced by now an honourable failure…. I own that I am cast down. I suppose I am a fool to have expected anything else. I suppose there is something in me that is unsympathetic to the general public” (Letters 4:9).

8. See Sypher, Tilley, or Melchiori.

9. Though not explicitly stated, the embassy is obviously Russian, since its representative is named “Vladimir,” speaks in “guttural Central Asian tones” (69), has “somewhat Oriental phraseology” (208), and “look[s] at Europe from its other end” (209). The embassy is in “Chesham Square,” and the real Russian embassy was in Chesham Place (Guimond and Maynard 4). Trench-Bonett and Guimond and Maynard discuss Conrad's well-known anti-Russian sentiment.

10. Contemporary anarchists believed Bourdin's brother-in-law, H. B. Samuels, was in the pay of state authorities, which may well have been the case (see Nicoll, Oliver, Quail, or W. C. H. for more on this). Conrad's source for this idea, along with the Commonweal article discussed in note 11, may have been Helen and Olivia Rossetti's 1903 autobiographical novel A Girl among the Anarchists, which I discuss in the next chapter. A Girl recounts Bourdin's botched bombing from the perspective of London anarchists: “the Anarchists talked of a very different order of ‘conspiracy.’ … Among the chief mourners was the deceased man's brother…. It was this brother whose conduct had given rise to suspicion among his companions, and ‘spies’ and ‘police plots’ were in every one's mouth” (40–41). The Rossettis are certain that Samuels was behind the bombing, in league with the police, to provoke public outrage against anarchism: “That the whole conspiracy was a got-up affair between [Samuels] and the police was evident” (71). This aspect of the case was not widely reported in the press at the time, so it is reasonable to assume that Conrad was inspired by the Rossettis. Ford Madox Ford, Conrad's close friend, introduced him to Helen and Olivia (see Arata's “Secret,” Mulry, or Newton), and the female protagonist in Conrad's short story “The Informer” is obviously modeled on one or both of them. Internal evidence likewise indicates Conrad's indebtedness. The first page of Secret Agent refers to the Rossettis' anarchist newspaper, the Torch, sold at Verloc's shop, and the description of Bourdin's exploded body in A Girl (39) is similar to Conrad's account (196).

11. In its inaugural February 1885 issue, the Commonweal (the official paper of the Socialist League, edited by William Morris) suggested that Russia—not the Fenians—was behind the January 1885 bombing of the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London, and Westminster Hall, or at least that Russia goaded the Fenians into it. The newspaper's theory, applied to the 1894 bombing of the Greenwich Observatory, may have prompted Conrad's idea for Secret Agent. The Fenians, according to Commonweal, seem to have “someone behind them, who follows up a deliberate aim in these otherwise aimless explosions.” Russia wanted Britain to extradite Peter Kropotkin and other political exiles, thus had reason to act the agent provocateur. I have not seen this allegation regarding the 1885 bombing in other contemporary sources.

12. James does use the terms interchangeably, but Tilley has shown that James received his information about these groups from the London Times, which had its own trouble keeping the groups straight, and which did not explain their motivating ideology (Tilley 23–24). That James's characters don't have a clearly defined revolutionary philosophy could signify a broader cultural ignorance also exemplified by the Times, or could be a way of indicating their confusion and ineptitude.

13. Following World War I, research pertaining to shell-shocked veterans essentially invalidated turn-of-the-century theories of degenerate masculinity (Greenslade 225).

14. See Showalter or Arata (Fictions) for more on the male romance, characterized by all-male or nearly all-male casts of characters and adventurous plots involving male-centered activities like sea voyages and colonial expeditions. LeeAnne Richardson has recently put this genre in dialogue with New Woman fiction, countering a more general critical tendency to view the two late-century genres as oppositional.

15. In this novel, masculine degeneracy is not confined to poor men like Hyacinth. The aristocratic Captain Sholto is “one of those strange beings produced by old societies that have run to seed, corrupt, exhausted civilizations” (352). The Prince Casamassima has “the aspect which, in late-coming members of long-descended races, we qualify to-day as effete” (234).

16. On the basis of this inconsistency, critics such as Greenslade, Stott, and Thomas have claimed that The Secret Agent is disparaging of criminal anthropology and degenerative theory. Conrad does distance himself from the crude understanding of criminality championed by Lombroso, as many of his contemporaries had also done by 1907, but theories of degeneration retained currency long after criminal typology had been debunked, and they remain at work in The Secret Agent's epistemology. Various critics have read the novel in light of the late-Victorian discovery of entropy (Whitworth 43–45), which may be a corollary of this concern. For more on this topic, see Greenslade, Hampson, Houen, Jacobs, Ray, Saveson, Stott (“The Woman”), or Thomas.

17. Conrad's narrator refers to Verloc's “dislike of all kinds of recognized labour” as a “defect which he shared with a large proportion of revolutionary reformers.” “The majority of revolutionists are the enemies of discipline and fatigue mostly” (82). In Heart of Darkness, Conrad expressed his distaste for colonialism by portraying the imperialists as trying to get something for nothing; here, he imagines political radicalism in similar terms, even comparing Ossipon to a marauding Norwegian sailor “bored with the world after a thundering spree” (81).

18. Hyacinth regrets this vow for the rest of the book, ultimately killing himself to escape it; in this way he can be read as a political variation on the conventional nineteenth-century protagonist who repents an early, imprudent marriage or engagement (see Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility or Conan Doyle's “Boscombe Valley Mystery”).

19. Freud was following scientific orthodoxy when in 1905, just before the publication of this novel, he defined a “perversion” as a sexual act not potentially procreative. Krafft-Ebing had made the same claim almost twenty years earlier in his groundbreaking Psychopathia Sexualis, originally published in 1886 (the same year as The Princess). According to Freud in “The Sexual Aberrations,” the first essay from Three Essays on Sexuality: “Perversions are sexual activities which either (a) extend, in an anatomical sense, beyond the regions of the body that are de-signed for sexual union, or (b) linger over the intermediate relations to the sexual object which should normally be traversed rapidly on the path towards the final sexual aim” (16). The “final sexual aim” was male orgasm inside a female body (enabling procreation).

20. Shaffer argues that Secret Agent “appropriates” the discourse of late-Victorian anti-onanism campaigns “as a means of commenting on the perils of anarchism” (453).

21. Most of The Princess's critics take for granted that Lord Frederick was Hyacinth's father (e.g., Graham, McGurl, Scanlan, Sypher, and Tingle), as did contemporary reviewers, but Hyacinth's aristocratic parentage is less certain in the novel. Hyacinth and Pinnie make an active decision to believe that Lord Frederick was his father (167–68), while Vetch is skeptical (75, 77). The book is full of illegitimate children and unfaithful or illegal marriages, casting every character's origins into doubt. Readers of Roderick Hudson know the Princess is illegitimate, though it is not brought up here, and Millicent's paternity is questionable, given her mother's liaisons with the local stove-polisher (94).

22. James's travel memoir A Little Tour in France, published in 1884 (right before The Princess), describes pervasive revolutionary activity in France, which James disapprovingly calls “the red radicalism of France, the revolutions, the barricades, the sinister theories” (168).

23. According to Zedner, there were no female wardens in British prisons until 1883, which means that Bowerbank could not have existed during the period in which this scene is set. She may have existed in 1885, when serial publication of The Princess began, but still would have been quite new. See Onslow for more on Victorian debates about prison “careers” for women.

24. These descriptions tap into late-Victorian theories of antisocial behavior in women, which scientists believed was consistent with a preponderance of masculine traits. That James was attempting social-scientific naturalism in this scene is clear from a December 1884 letter; describing his visit to Millbank to research the scene, he says, “you see I am quite the Naturalist” (Letters 61).

25. Ouida's Princess Napraxine, like the Princess Casamassima, has “cosmopolitan” origins and a marriage of convenience to a wealthy prince (4). She is not active in revolutionary politics, but is associated with nihilism. One character reflects that Princess Napraxine is “indifferent to all political movement,” but “If she be anything, she is that horrible thing a Nihilist, only because Nihilism embodies an endless and irreconcilable discontent, which finds in her some secret corner of vague sympathy” (152). Early in the novel, her husband describes her defusing a nihilist bomb meant to blow up their house: “She took the whole affair up and dropped it into the fountain. She forgot to mention it till the next morning” (13). Later, the princess reflects: “I could have been a revolutionist, I think…. Some day, Russia will be in revolt from one end to another, but the day is not yet, and I doubt much that any good will be done when it comes. The evil lies too deep” (258–59).

26. It is debatable whether Paul's opinions actually shift in the course of the novel or just become more apparent. By the end, we know that he is not trusted at the upper levels of the revolutionary organization, that he has a troublingly Malthusian disregard for individuals, and that he favors more prisons and more capital punishment (views at odds with the revolutionary organization). He also aspires to own a bourgeois home in the suburbs (440).

27. Here, I depart from standard critical skepticism regarding the Princess's radical commitment. See Howe (142) and Morris (156). It is commonplace to attribute the Princess's socialism to nymphomania or romantic ignorance, though she has experienced firsthand the nightmare of naturalized, economically determined institutions of gender oppression. In Roderick Hudson, we learn that it was directly after her marriage that she “launched her mysterious menace” against the world of the prince (443).

28. In the 1909 edition, this is changed to the more telling, “I don't trust women—I don't trust clever women!” (470).

29. The Princess's difficulty in drumming up interest in women's oppression among male socialists reflects the experience of radical late-Victorian women. Many prominent British socialists believed the campaign for women's rights was too “individualist” for socialism (see Pearson's “The Woman Question” and “Woman and Labour,” for example). See Walkowitz (City) for an analysis of such debates within Pearson's Men and Women's Club. E. Belfort Bax, a pioneering socialist who was close with Engels, attacked feminism as a distraction from class politics in works such as The Fraud of Feminism (1913) and The Legal Subjection of Men (1909). See Boos and Boos for more on feminism and antifeminism within British socialism. The friction among British socialists with regard to gender was typical of international socialism, too. According to de la Motte, “although the Second International at its foundation congress in 1889 had adopted a paragraph in its programme stressing that the equality of women was to be a leading principle for all member parties, the conjunction of socialism and feminism was in practice not without its problems. On the one hand, women's issues were often underestimated because of a mechanistic understanding of Marxism resulting in reductionist attitudes about class as well as patriarchal views on gender among labour leaders; and, on the other hand, some women overestimated the immediate importance of their own problems in relation to the class struggle” (34).

30. In an analysis of upper-class Victorian women's charity work in the slums, Koven argues, “Same-sex love … was an important though elusive dimension of [elite women's] gospel of social housekeeping in late Victorian London” (222), which is a relevant context here.

31. Howe is the only other critic who has picked up on this masochistic dynamic (142), but he reads it as “comic” (149). I view it as a serious investigation of class, gender, and power. The Princess's desires were also masochistic in Roderick Hudson. She tells Roderick that the kind of man she wants is a “conqueror” (234), which he is not, and claims she would say to a man who “wished to do me a favour,” “I beg of you with tears in my eyes to interest me. Be a brute, if necessary, to do it; only be something positive and strong—something that in looking at I can forget my detestable self” (187–88). Her wish is granted in The Princess, where she can finally exclaim to her lover Paul, “you are such a brute!” (579).

32. James's preface to The Princess reveals a similar interest in depicting Hyacinth as, to some extent, an unwitting plaything of the gods (37–39).

33. Conrad seems to have believed that Michaelis's and the Professor's views were not, in the end, all that distinct: in an 1885 letter, he wrote, “Socialism must inevitably end in Caesarism” (Letters 1:16).

34. From the launch of the Social Democratic Federation in the early 1880s, socialism steadily expanded its membership and influence in Britain. By 1906, British anarchism was virtually dead (though it would revive again prior to World War I), while socialism had gone mainstream with the Independent Labour Party and then the Labour Party. See Quail for more on anarchism in 1906. See Glasier or Taylor for more on the rise of the ILP. Some early socialists (such as William Morris) had their doubts about the ILP's “socialism,” but the party did absorb many prominent socialists who had previously been revolutionary or antiparliamentarian or both, such as Bruce Glasier and Fred Henderson.

35. See Boos for a discussion of Morris's influence on the garden cities movement.

36. Scanlan notes that “by 1885 bookbinding was itself an anachronism” (385), “a trade on the verge of becoming obsolete” (399). Meissner reads the declining nature of Hyacinth's profession as James's “attack” on William Morris (58), but I would argue that James's critique of consumerism is not incompatible with Morris's.

37. Rather than stressing the drudgery, long hours, and poor pay experienced by shopgirls, James depicts Millicent as reveling in “the wantonness of her full-blown freedom” (95). See Sanders for more on shopgirls. For more on women and department stores, see Birken, Rabinovitz, or Rappaport.

38. This department store rendezvous between Millicent and Captain Sholto echoes a widespread belief of the era that shop labor provided “an environment in which working women might have the opportunity, whether real or imagined, to meet and be courted by men above them in wealth and social station” (Sanders 55).

39. Following Herbert Spencer's work on repression in 1876, Victorian anthropologists theorized that “the repression of immediate impulsive response was the essential mechanism of evolutionary progress” (Stocking 227). The supposed lack of full civility in women, primitives, criminals, and children was accounted for by the belief that they were “governed more by impulse” (229).

40. James is engaging with a contested issue of his day. See Walkowitz (City) on the Miss Cass case.

41. See Lindner for more on Conrad and consumerism.


1. W. J. T. Mitchell argues, for example: “The use of the female image of revolution was … a commonplace in nineteenth-century iconography, Delacroix's bare-breasted Liberty Leading the People being the most familiar example. This was an image that could be conjured with by both radicals and conservatives: Burke caricatured the revolutionaries … as a mob of transvestites and abandoned women” (174).

2. See Trowbridge or Van Alstine.

3. Nineteenth-century literature about Corday includes dramas by C. A. Somerset (1853), William Bayle Bernard (1855), and James Mortimer (1876), fiction by Rose Ellen Hendriks Temple (Charlotte Corday: An Historical Tale, 1846), and poetry by Emma Marie Caillard (Charlotte Corday and Other Poems, 1884). Her popularity as a literary subject makes it particularly surprising that she is never mentioned in A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens's novel of the French Revolution, which was based upon Carlyle's The French Revolution but disregards the section on Corday that I discuss later in the chapter. Weiss describes Corday's appearance in Victorian tableau vivant and staged photography (94).

4. See also Austin Dobson's Four Frenchwomen (1890), Lessons from Women's Lives (1877), Wirt Sikes's Studies of Assassination (1881), and Trowbridge's Daughters of Eve (1912).

5. See Glover for more on the Aliens Act.

6. While large populations of socialists, anarchists, and nihilists lived in London, and many international radical newspapers were based there, these groups were responsible for no major political crimes in late-Victorian Britain. (The exception is the botched 1894 bombing of the Greenwich Observatory, discussed in the last chapter; it was thought to be the work of anarchists, but may well have been caused by an agent provocateur. See note 10, Chapter 4.) The many bombings and assassinations in this period stemmed from other groups, such as the Fenians in the 1880s and 1890s and the suffragettes in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, as Melchiori also discusses, most writers of dynamite narrative evoke the climate surrounding Irish nationalist terror but apply it to a distinct political context (i.e., socialism, anarchism, and other democratic or anticapitalist movements gaining force in Britain).

7. For the whole editorial, see 12 April 1884, 9. For more such examples in the Times, see 14 April 1884, 9; 15 December 1884, 9; or the inflammatory and inaccurate “Parnellism and Crime” series that began on 7 March 1887. The most relevant piece in the series is 10 March 1887, 8.

8. By Order of the Czar, which Hatton would later adapt into a drama published in 1904, features a female revolutionary named Anna Klosstock, a strikingly beautiful Russian Jew who becomes a nihilist after being raped and publicly whipped by a general in the czarist government. Years later, she avenges herself by luring the general to his death, but the novel always depicts her nihilism in terms of personal vengeance rather than political commitment, unlike the other members of the nihilist “Brotherhood” to which she belongs: “Ferrari's devotion to the Brotherhood … had nobler springs than Anna's, who had but one dominant passion, that of revenge” (3:9).

9. Britain's only female assassin in this period was a twenty-five-year-old widowed English nurse named Lucilla Yseult Dudley, who shot Fenian leader O'Donovan Rossa in New York, February 1885. The shooting, which was not fatal, was in retaliation for Fenian dynamite attacks in London, but Dudley was acquitted on the grounds of insanity. In its extensive coverage of the case, the London Times compared Dudley to Charlotte Corday, noting, “It is a case of that very rare order among the crimes committed by women, a crime done on purely public grounds” (4 February 1885, 9).

10. Other late-Victorian stories featuring female revolutionaries include Stepniak's “A Female Nihilist,” originally published in Cornhill Magazine (November 1884) and added to the second edition of Underground Russia (1885); Charles Eden's George Donnington (1885); Philip May's Love, The Reward (1885), discussed later in the chapter; and L. T. Meade's The Siren (1898). Houen (Terrorism) and Melchiori discuss some of these texts. See note 8 for a discussion of Hatton's 1890 novel By Order of the Czar. Vernon Lee's Miss Brown (1884) depicts a femme fatale named Sacha Elaguine who pretends to be a repentant nihilist conspirator as a means of generating sympathy and attention; the novel is harshly critical of aestheticism in general and Wilde's circle in particular, and one might argue that Brown intends Madame Elaguine as a satire of Wilde's nihilist heroine, Vera.

11. See Tilley or Eltis for more on these women. Other famous Russian female nihilists were Maria Kaljushnia, Olga Liubatovich, and Sofia Perovskaya, who plotted to assassinate Czar Alexander II and whom Stepniak profiled, like Vera Zasulich, in Underground Russia.

12. See Ellmann or Powell for more on Wilde's relationships with these actresses, some of whom inspired early poems such as “Madonna Mia” and “The New Helen.”

13. All references to Wilde's letters are from Complete Letters. Wilde did eventually make money on the play; as a “Memorandum of Agreement” held at the Clark Library attests, Marie Prescott offered Wilde “1000 dollars for the exclusive right to produce the play, plus 50 dollars for each performance of the play thereafter.” Prescott mounted a brief New York production and U.S. tour.

14. Rowell argues that lack of funding was the real reason, but Reed claims Wilde would have made money from the performance, and most critics trust contemporaneous sources attributing the cancelation to political sensitivity. Wilde had good reason to believe his sympathetic account of nihilist regicide would alienate British audiences: in 1881, the British government sentenced Johann Most to eighteen months in prison for cheering the czar's assassination in print. See Ellmann or Eltis for more on Vera's cancellation. See Joll, Phillips, or Quail for more on Most.

15. The serfs were not granted ownership of their land when they were granted emancipation, so were heavily in debt to the aristocrats and subject to excessive taxation. Quotations from Vera refer to the Methuen edition, unless otherwise noted. Note that in the stage production of Vera, Wilde did not want the mise-en-scène to be undated: in a letter discussing stage design, he emphasized that “the conspirators are to be modern … It is to be realistic not operatic conspiracy” (151).

16. Singer, for example, reads melodrama as a working-class genre of protest (Melodrama). Daly describes melodrama as “essentially modern” with “roots in the French Revolution and the industrial revolution” (14).

17. Gagnier offers a careful summary of this debate as it stood in 1986 (Idylls 29–31). It has not ceased since then.

18. Guy and Small's Oscar Wilde's Profession argues that because Wilde wrote to make money, his work conforms to the status quo: “the late nineteenth-century literary market was ruthlessly competitive and commercial … professional writers who needed to earn a living with their pen were in no place to resist or even contest those values…. the idea that Wilde was a writer who ‘exploited’ or ‘subverted’ consumer culture, as some recent critics have wanted to argue, makes little sense” (10). I find this unconvincing, and am more inclined to agree with Freedman that the logic of consumer capitalism accounts for its own critique, so that to subvert it does not imply a lack of commercial success: Wilde understood, Freedman argues, that “capitalism is not merely a form of economic organization, but rather a cultural one, an ensemble of attitudes toward and assumptions about the world that often controvert or undercut its own official system of values” (74).

19. See Oliver, Phillips, or W. C. H. for more on late-Victorian anarchism. Marx viewed the anarchists with contempt (Selected Writings 333–38).

20. Contemporary journals provide an excellent overview of the landscape of fin de siècle radicalism in Britain. On anarchism, see Anarchist, Alarm, Liberty, Freedom, or Torch. On state socialism and revolutionary socialism, see Commonweal, Our Corner, Progress, or Social Democrat. On Individualism, see Free Life: Organ of Voluntary Taxation and the Voluntary State, Jus, or New Freewoman: An Individualist Review.

21. Wilde had inherited his mother's tendency toward radical views, and while a student at Oxford, was deeply influenced by John Ruskin's ideas of social reform. Under Ruskin's direction, he even helped build a road in an impoverished district (Ellmann 49). He also participated in emergency relief labor after the flooding of the Thames (Bentley 35), and in 1889, demonstrated in solidarity with the dockworkers' strike (Ellmann 284). See Ellmann for more on Wilde's socialist activities (especially 290–91), and his friendship with the exiled nihilist Stepniak (122).

22. Not all reviews of Vera were poor: the New York Mirror called it “a work that takes rank among the highest order of plays” (Beckson 6).

23. See, for example, selections from the New York Herald's or Spirit of the Times's reviews, reprinted in Reed.

24. Wilde's final, unpublished version of the play—staged in 1883—added a few additional lines to this exchange. Michael tells Vera, “I don't love anyone but you,” and she replies, “That is very wrong of you, Michael, very wrong indeed. You should love everybody” (Reed 6). These lines make Vera a “softer,” more “feminine” heroine, as Marie Prescott requested after reading the original script, but they also stress Vera's sympathy beyond the personal to encompass the public at large.

25. Wilde's use of the epigram, in Vera as in other plays, linguistically enacts a similar move, emptying clichés and received wisdom of their value through unexpected reversals. See Amanda Anderson for more on Wilde's use of the epigram.

26. Vera is in some ways a precursor for Nathalie Haldin, from Conrad's Under Western Eyes (1911): both are beautiful, romanticized heroines with nihilist sympathies, whose brothers are arrested and killed by the czarist regime. Nathalie, however, does not participate in revolutionary violence; instead, at the novel's end, she divides her “compassionate labours between the horrors of overcrowded jails, and the heartrending misery of bereaved homes” (277).

27. Ellmann notes that Wilde adapts this oath from The Catechism of a Revolutionary by Sergey Nechayev and Mikhail Bakunin (122).

28. Stepniak's story “A Female Nihilist” also depicts a Russian female nihilist who “ardently preached against love and advocated celibacy” until she herself fell in love (293).

29. In the early days of the Torch, Olivia and her brother Arthur took most responsibility for the paper, but sources indicate that Arthur was a rather unreliable collaborator (see Soskice 23–24, 27; Garnett 134, 147). Soon “O. and H. Rossetti” were the paper's only acknowledged editors.

30. It is unclear who, exactly, initiated the Torch's removal. Ford Madox Ford, a notoriously unreliable chronicler, says the paper moved out of the house upon Lucy Rossetti's death because she was its stronger parental advocate (Hueffer 121). William Michael Rossetti's Reminiscences supports this view:

my wife and I had thought and talked seriously … about the rather overstrained ideas which dominated our children…. My wife had highly independent opinions of her own, tending towards socialism…. She considered that on the whole it would be a pity to chill our youngsters in their generous enthusiasms…. I was somewhat less inclined than she to allow the children to go to the end of their tether: still, I entered into her general view, and kept my interferences within very narrow limits. (452–53)

Other sources indicate, however, that Lucy opposed the newspaper's domestic presence while William supported it (see Garnett 154–55 and 200; or Soskice 9). Olivia corroborates this view of her father in an unpublished 1958 memoir: “for all his placid demeanor and domestic virtues, William Michael Rossetti was a daring and revolutionary thinker … [which] made him sympathise with the French rebels of the Commune, with the Irish Fenians, with the Boers, with the militant suffragettes, with the Russian nihilists, and tolerate our juvenile enthusiasm for the ‘Chicago Martyrs’ of 1886” (Agresti, Anecdotage 28). Thirlwell's biography also espouses such a depiction (198). Regardless, William's professional situation was likely a factor in the paper's departure. While both parents contributed creative writings to early issues of the Torch, for example, only William's specifies that he is “not a comrade but an outside contributor” (15 Oct. 1891). His Reminiscences reveal that he was careful to avoid creating the appearance of a conflict between his government job and his radical sympathies. He declined, for example, to edit an edition of poems by Francis Adams, an anarchist poet whose work he admired: “At first I assented: but, when it came to the point, I considered that some things in the volume ought not to pass muster through my hands (for after all I was a Government official, whatever else I might be)” (505).

31. See Surette and Tryphonopoulos for more on Olivia Rossetti Agresti's career in fascism and her long friendship and correspondence with Ezra Pound. For examples of tracts she wrote in support of Mussolini and Fascism, see After Mussolini What? (1937) or The Organisation of the Arts and Professions in the Fascist Guild State (with Mario Missiroli). Her sister Helen Rossetti Angeli translated Tomasso Silani's What Is Fascism and Why? into English in 1931. None of these works discuss Jews. See note 36 for more on the Rossettis and Jewishness. For other work by the Rossettis, see Angeli's biographies Pre-Raphaelite Twilight, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, or Shelley and His Friends in Italy, or see Agresti's biographies David Lubin or Giovanni Costa.

32. A journal called The Adult, for example, put forth the case for free love from the 1890s radical perspective; it began publication in 1897 and was edited by George Bedborough and Henry Seymour.

33. In real life, Olivia “united herself” to Antonio Agresti well before their secular Italian wedding ceremony (Oliver 124), providing a context for the favorable depiction of free love.

34. Olivia had extensively researched the French Revolution, and gave a series of lectures on it during her anarchist years. For more on her life and career, see her unpublished memoir Anecdotage of an Interpreter (Agresti) or her obituary (“Signora”). For more on both sisters, see Garnett, Hueffer, Lasner, William Michael Rossetti, Soskice, Thirlwell, or Tryphonopoulos.

35. The Commonweal's account of the January 1885 bombing differs sharply from the Times; see note 11, chapter 4.

36. When the question of who represents the nation arose in late-Victorian discourse, immigration and race were often part of the calculus, and the Rossettis often correlate the threat of anarchism with Jewish immigration into London. In the popular mind-set of the time, anarchist and Jewish immigrants had much in common: both came from the Continent, often after expulsion, and tended to associate with like-minded communities in London. Moreover, Jews were nationless, and anarchists wanted to be nationless. At the time of A Girl's publication, there was widespread public criticism of Britain's lenient immigration policy, which offered refuge not only to political criminals, but to Jews fleeing discrimination and pogroms. The Rossettis interweave these two strains of public anxiety in their anti-Semitic depiction of Jewish anarchist Jacob Myers (45). In so doing, they defy anarchist principle, since anarchism was an internationalist movement that renounced “race” and “nationality” as categories of identity. The Rossettis themselves, in fact, call for the abolishment of “all petty race-hatred and race-pride” in their newspaper the Torch (15 June 1893). A Girl's racist depiction of Jewish anarchists thus emulates popular crime fiction rather than anarchist discourse.

37. See Robert Anderson for discussion of these events, as understood from a contemporary Unionist perspective. Conrad relied heavily on Anderson in writing Secret Agent, but wrote Ireland out of the plot.

38. Page references to the Preface refer to the 1971 edition, while all other references to the text refer to the 1885 edition (which did not include a Preface). It is a matter of debate which author composed the bulk of The Dynamiter. Critics have tended to view the work as Robert's alone, often neglecting to mention Fanny at all. In her preface, however, Fanny stresses her own contribution, claiming that the initial idea was hers (xiv) and that the writing duties were distributed evenly between them. Robert's letters about the novel, meanwhile, take the perspective of sole authorship. Sandison has recently argued that “Apart from ‘The Destroying Angel’ and ‘The Story of the Fair Cuban,’ which are clearly Fanny's work in that they operate in a patently different ‘key,’ Stevenson sustains a narrative discourse of brilliant artificiality that advertises the presence of the author in every graceful line of the ensnaring arabesque” (“A World” 149). This suggests that Fanny wrote the parts narrated by Clara, while Robert wrote the “real” narrator's sections.

39. Sandison claims that The Dynamiter subverts “traditional narrative strategies where certain assumptions about gender are the bed-rock of novelistic practice” (Robert 98), but I believe his argument neglects the extent to which the novel's dedication and conclusion attempt to contain its gender subversion.

40. Sandison argues that the dedication is meant to stave off readers' pique, that it is “anxious” and “disingenuous” (Robert 114). Melchiori proffers a similar interpretation (60). This interpretation would be convenient for my argument, but it is also true that following the January 1885 bombing, Stevenson wrote to his father: “now, to have a dynamiter lynched, and all would be for the best in the best of possible worlds” (Letters 73). In February 1885, he wrote to John Addington Symonds: “Police Officer Cole is the only man that I see to admire. I dedicate [Dynamiter] to him and Cox, in default of other great public characters” (Letters 81). The novelist Grant Allen publicly objected to the dedication in the pages of the Pall Mall Gazette: “I do not at all admire the violent condemnation which Mr. Stevenson deals to a body of misguided Irish patriots, goaded by English injustice and landlord misrule into a mode of retaliation in some respects unworthy of their laudable object. My own fiery indignation would rather have been directed … against the wicked and cruel system which drives brave and resolute men to such desperate means of righting their ill-used country” (Stevenson, Letters 439).

41. It was not only Clara who performed this service; The Dynamiter's satire also targets the gender-bending aesthetic movement. The opening pages of the novel burlesque popular aestheticism's fascination with “the Orient,” and the three central male characters (impoverished aristocrats who frequent the Bohemian Cigar Divan) are caricatures of aesthetes. This parody aligns the narrative with the normative authority of bourgeois domesticity, since in the 1880s aestheticism was often ridiculed for its unorthodox expressions of gender and sexuality, as in Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience (1881).

42. By contrast, Stevenson's South Seas story “The Beach of Falesá” (1892) employs dynamite as an anticolonial literary device. Its narrator discovers—seven years before Kurtz—that a white trader named Case has been using a temple outfitted with ghoulish statues, luminous paint, and aeolian harps to convince the natives of his quasi-divine powers. At the end of the story, the narrator destroys the temple with dynamite fishing bombs, which could be viewed as an attack on imperial tyranny.

43. Nead reads this event as cementing a certain stereotype of feminism and the suffragette movement; while this is no doubt true, my book suggests that there was another stereotype of the feminist at work in mainstream late-Victorian crime narrative, to which Richardson's action was opposed: a popular, image-conscious feminism perfectly compatible with consumerism's emphasis on women's body and appearance.


1. Sabotage isn't the only 1930s film adaptation of a turn-of-the-century crime story to introduce a heterosexual romance where none existed before: Hitchcock's 1935 film version of John Buchan's 1915 novel The 39 Steps and Rouben Mamoulian's 1931 film version of Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novella Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde both insert attractive female temptresses into plots that are almost exclusively male. The films thus curb the unconventional homoerotic sexuality of Buchan's and Stevenson's narratives.

2. See Felski for more on gendered conceptions of modernity (4–5), though she describes a somewhat different configuration than I've identified in the course of this study.

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