Monday 5 May 2008

The Mysteries of London

The Mysteries of LondonTHE MYSTERIES OF LONDON

At last, after a marathon effort, and with the generous assistance of Mr. Dick Collins as co-editor, I present the world with an online edition of the first series of G.W.M. Reynolds's The Mysteries of London. A classic - arguably the classic - 'penny dreadful', or 'penny blood' (the latter phrase I think more common parlance at the time), it's well worth delving into (although reading the whole thing is something of a challenge, I confess, albeit an enjoyable one). A TV producer made the trite comment a year or two ago that 'if Dickens were alive today, he'd be writing soap opera'; this is plainly falsified by reading the likes of Mysteries which, unlike Dickens, share all the clich├ęs of the modern soap form - cliffhanger endings, seemingly endless ongoing plot lines, characters who are not what they seem, and sex and violence, and more sex (well, relatively speaking). Published weekly, the Mysteries and its contemporaries were the popular serial fiction of the day - made for the working class, outselling respectable middle class authors by the thousands. So, steep yourself in penny blood ...


  1. Lee,

    Just to say thanks to you and your colleague for this. It's very useful for researchers and the intro is good. I also strongly agree with the comment on your blog that the notion (much-repeated I'm afraid) that Dickens would have been writing soap operas if he were around today is fatuous nonsense (promulgated I suspect by people who haven't bothered to read anything by him).

    By the way, if you haven't already come across it, Berry Chevasco's 'Mysterymania' is worth checking out - good research on the reception of Sue in Britain mid-19th century.

    All the best,
    John Edmondson

  2. Many thanks for this - good to know all the effort on Mysteries (and how!) is appreciated ... thanks for the book tip! I have passed on your comments to Mr. Collins, my partner-in-crime.

    best wishes,


    1. Hello Lee. I am anxious to contact Dick Collins as I have some new primary source evidence on Reynolds’s early life that he has almost certainly not seen. Dave Dixon

  3. Hi Lee,
    I would like to add my thanks also. It's great to have this massive penny dread online. You should know it's appreciated.
    John Adcock

  4. Thanks for the penny dreadful site. A great source for reference and entertainment. I have no idea when I'll get the time to read it all, but it's saved as a favourite and that's the important thing!

    As to the Dickens idea of writing for soaps. I think many people get the impression that because Dickens was involved with the serialization of his novels through weekly magazines, that somehow this cheapened his writing skills. But it seems no different than well known writers of today serializing their work in the Sunday papers.