G. W. M. Reynolds

Anne Humpherys

in Victorian Literature

ISBN: 9780199799558
Published online March 2011 | | DOI:
G. W. M. Reynolds

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George William Macarthur Reynolds (b. 1814–d. 1879) was at his death labeled “the most popular writer of our time” by the Bookseller in its short obituary. This popularity rested on two achievements: first, the mammoth twelve-volume series of “mysteries” novels, The Mysteries of London (1846–1848) and The Mysteries of the Court of London (1848–1855), and, second, his involvement with Chartist politics, which led in 1850 to his founding and editing the radical Sunday newspaper Reynolds’s Newspaper, which lasted in some form until 1962. The Mysteries novels were also constantly in print in a variety of cheap formats for most of the 19th century. Reynolds was a controversial figure both among working-class radicals, who doubted his commitment, and among the middle-class literary establishment, which abhorred his popular sensationalist novels. Dickens was probably referring to him as the “draggled fringe on the Red Cap, Pander to the basest passions of the lowest natures—whose existence is a national reproach” in the opening number of Household Words in 1850. Sometime shortly after 1860, Reynolds essentially stopped writing and editing. But the influence of his mysteries series continued, especially in the United States, India, and other countries. His novels fell out of print in the early 20th century; he himself became relatively unknown among historians and literary critics. This neglect lasted until the second half of the 20th century, at which point a number of scholars began to analyze Reynolds’s importance in 19th-century popular literature, politics, and the periodical press, a development that gathered force in the first decade of the 21st century.

Article.  5803 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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