Thursday, April 23, 2015

A-Z: T is for Trials

It's the A-Z Challenge challenge again and today I'm posting for the letter T.  My choice of penny dreadfuls in an interesting one.  As I mentioned, the penny dreadfuls were often written about real-life crimes and were often embellished to drive the public into a reading frenzy.  One source of these works comes from a publication called The New Newgate Calendar which published stories based on the hottest crimes and trials.  It's subtitle was Remarkable Lives of Trials of Notorious Criminals.  Past and Present.  Below is a few images of the original versions I found.


"The New Newgate Calendar - Trials"

The Newgate Calendar, the original publication started in the late 1700's as an account of notorious characters, and their infamous stories which let to their inevitable incarceration at Newgate prison.   From the Hathi Trust Digital Library, here is the The New Newgate Calendar synopsis:  "The new Newgate calendar : being interesting memoirs of notorious characters, who have been convicted of outrages on the laws of England, during the eighteenth century, brought down to the present time ... With occasional essays on crimes and punishments, original anecdotes and observations on particular cases; the speeches, confessions, and last exclamations of sufferers, to which is added a correct account of the various modes of punishment of criminals in different parts of the world / By Andrew Knapp and William Baldwin, attorneys at law."

Where can I get a copy of The New Newgate Calendar ?

Thankfully there were a a couple of versions of The New Newgate Calendar available online. I found this one, Beau Langley, Scholar and Libertine here and The Murder of Maria Marten in the Red Barn at Polstead here.

It's fascinating how the illustrations sensationalize these crimes, isn't it?  

Mina Burrows

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A-Z: S is for Sexton Blake

Today's letter for the A-Z Challenge is S for Sexton Blake.  Like many pieces of literature, sometimes the characters outlast the stories.  Take Sherlock Holmes for instance, there have been countless detective stories created from his original character.  He's been a household name for over a century, but he's not the only one from this era.  Like Sherlock Holmes, Sexton Blake was a famous fictional detective and he was created during the penny dreadful Victorian era.  Sexton Blake was extremely popular and since then, his character has also been reinvented in numerous works.

"About Sexton Blake"

Sexton Blake first appeared in the Half Penny Marvel in 1983, a publication created by Alfred Harmsworth.  The character detective was dubbed the "poor man's Sherlock Holmes" and grew so wildly popular that the character grew into a veritable comic icon.  There were thousands of versions stemming from the original which continued well into the 1970's.  Beside penny dreadfuls, he appeared in dime novels, slicks, novels, movies, plays, radio shows, TV shows, and comic books. The first penny dreadful was called "The Missing Millionaire" and was written by Harry Blyth.  If you're interested in learning more about this fictional character, visit ReoCities and the ComicVine.  Unfortunately, there were no original copies of the penny dreadful version.  There were, however, dozens of authored variations about this character on Amazon.  

Are you familiar with this English legend?  I had heard of him, but never knew he was so popular or that he originated from the penny dreadful era.

Mina Burrows

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A-Z Challenge: Q for FAQ & the letter R is for Risen from the Dead

The A-Z Challenge continues with the letter Q & R! For the letter Q I'm posting a few important facts and questions about penny dreadfuls. For the letter R, I'm featuring the penny dreadful, Risen from the Dead or The Medical Student.

Q is for Penny Dreadful FAQ's

There were few penny dreadfuls I could find for this letter. I did find The Divorced Queen (published in 1868) but beyond that, nothing more. In doing my research, I discovered some interesting facts about penny dreadfuls.

* Many penny dreadfuls did not last throughout time due to their poor quality paper know as cheap pulp paper.

* Its been stated repeatedly that the penny dreadfuls were low quality writing from hack writers.  Knowing how much the industry has changed in recent years, do you believe that statement is true?

* Plagiarism found a happy home during the penny dreadful years. Publisher Edward Lloyd, for example, created titles such as Oliver Twiss and Nickelas Nicklebery based on Dicken's classics. I wonder what Dickens thought about that?

"Risen from the Dead or The Medical Doctor"

Now this penny dreadful sounds wonderfully wicked,doesn't it. From the first glance, it reads like a zombie story straight out of the Victorian era.  I regret to inform you that I was unable to find anything about this serial.  Drat!  Boy did I want to read it!  Still, I enjoyed the illustration since it left much to my imagination which is why I chose to feature it. I also researched information about Boys Weekly Reader, but alas my search gave me squat.  During this era there were far too many publications using the name "Boy" which probably caused much brand confusion. Back then, there were publications such as Boys Library, The Wild Boys of London, Boys Own Paper and the list goes on... I suspect they did that on purpose to gain more readers. Think about it...competing publications could look like other best-selling penny dreadfuls, feature a similar story and header line and countless readers would probably purchase a leaflet for a penny, right? It didn't cost the reader more that a penny, right?  Right! Yeah, that's certainly a strategy.   As far as this one here, the story might not be memorable because it was a bad as the paper it was printed on. Who knows? It still looks interesting though.

That's my Q & and R.  How's everyone's week so far?

Mina Burrows

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A-Z: O is for the The Castle of Otranto & P is for The String of Pearls

The letters I'm posting for today is O & P for the A-Z Challenge. O was not easy so I decided on the The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, published in 1784.  And for P, I've decided to feature one of my favorites, The String of Pearls.

"The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole"

Although this one is not a true penny dreadful, The Castle of Otranto, an original Gothic novel, fueled many of the great Gothic horror stories such as Dracula and Frankenstein.  In addition to these classics, it also lead to many Gothic penny dreadfuls in the 19th century.  According to the British Library, the story is about "Manfred, the prince of Otranto, who is keen to secure the castle for his descendants in the face of a mysterious curse. The novel begins with the death of Manfred’s son, Conrad, who is crushed to death by an enormous helmet on the morning of his wedding to the beautiful princess Isabella. Faced with the extinction of his line, Manfred vows to divorce his wife and marry the terrified Isabella himself."  The novel was responsible for creating some of the many Gothic horror supernatural elements we us today such as, "secret passages, clanging trapdoors, hidden identities and vulnerable heroines fleeing from men with evil intent."   

Where can I get a copy of The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole?

Get your free e-copy of The Castle of Otranto via Gutenberg.  Wahoo!  I love Free shit!

"The String of Pearls"

Edward Lloyd's The People's Periodical and Family Library, first published The String of Pearls penny dreadful serial in 1847.  The famous tale, also known as Sweeney Todd, the Barber on Fleet Street (a.k.a. The Demon Barber) had two authors linked to the writing, James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest.  For those that aren't familiar with the Demon Barber's story, its about a bitter barber who slits the throats of his patrons and robs them of their personal property.  The remains of the dead customers are then put into a pie by Margery Lovett as depicted in the illustrations below.  The story is a love story and is quite more involved than that description I gave you.  I've read the book and reviewed it here and also had the chance to see Tim Burton's musical version featuring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Alan Rickman.  I found both the original penny dreadful and the movie exceptional!

Where can I get a copy of The String of Pearls?

A copy of the The String of Pearls can be found at ManyBooks here.

Have you had a chance to read either one of these creepy classics?  I haven't read The Castle of Otranto yet, but it's on my must-read TBR list!

Mina Burrows

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A-Z: N is for Charles Peace or the The Adventures of a Notorious Burglar

I'm back with the letter N for the A-Z Challenge! The penny dreadful I'm highlighting for N is the Charles Peace or the The Adventures of a Notorious Burglar.

"Charles Peace or The Adventures of a Notorious Burglar"

Charles Peace or the Adventures of a Notorious Burglar was another penny dreadful ripped from the headlines. The story was based on Charles Peace, a real-life infamous burglar and murderer. He had a history of thievery and later his crimes turned more sinister when he stalked a neighbor's wife and eventually killed the neighbor. After his arrest, the police reports about the criminal's exploits were published with elaborate illustrations, prompting more public intrigue. In 1879, the penny dreadful was published as serial for two years. The information I found about this penny dreadful was from John Adcock's Yesterday's Papers. In the archive, you can view some of the original illustrations and writings as well as a more thorough back story about the notorious Mr. Peace and of course, the penny dreadful.

Where can I get a copy of Charles Peace or the The Adventures of a Notorious Burglar?

It's amazing there aren't more e-book versions of this story.  Unfortunately, I could only find a hard copy of the book from Google Books here.

Mina Burrows

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A to Z Challenge: M is for The Miser's Daughter

Today's A-Z Challenge letter is M and the penny dreadful I'm featuring is The Miser's Daughter by William Harrison Ainsworth.

"The Miser's Daughter "
Ainsworth's The Miser's Daughter had illustrations from George Cruikshank and was published in 3 volumes by Cunningham and Mortimer, London in 1842. Later it was published as a novel in 1872. This penny dreadful is a "historical romance about a young man pursuing the daughter of a miserly rich man during the 18th century." When the novel was published, Ainsworth dedicated it to his three daughters: Fanny, Emily Mary and Blanche. It's too adorable that he wrote a romance novel and dedicated to his daughters, huh? Anyway, I found this really cool copy of the book to embed in my post. Feel free to scan the pages.

The Miser's Daughter by William Harrison Ainsworth?

Google books has a Free e-copy. Woot! I couldn't believe it, but I found one. Yay!

Mina Burrows

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A-Z: L is for The Wild Boys of London

The A-Z Challenge continues on with the letter L and the penny dreadful of choice is the Wild Boys of London!  Published as children's literature by Newsagents Publishing Company, The Wild Boys of London; or, the Children of the Night had quite a history.


"The Wild Boys of London; or, the Children of the Night"

The Wild Boys of London, was a controversial serial about a gang of young criminals, which according to the British Library featured salacious and inappropriate tales and illustrations for its boy readership.  But don't my word for it.  Here is a sample of one of the versions featuring a topless female being whipped. The Wild Boys of London's author was unknown, but there were several created linked to it such as Edwin J. Brett the founder of Newsagents Publishing Company.  The British Library mentioned The Wild Boys of London was "first published as a serial" and then later a novel like many penny dreadfuls during this time.  This one, however, once released as a novel, "became one of the most notorious books of the age."  The public grew outraged over the disturbing writing and the later British law intervened, prosecuting those who tried to sell it under the Obscene Publication Act

Where can I get a copy of The Wild Boys of London; or, the Children of the Night?

Unfortunately, I was unable to find an ebook or printed version of the penny dreadful.  It could be because of all the litigation The Wild Boys of London received.  Who knows?  Some of the printed material and images are available online via the British Library and if you click on the images you can read a page or two of the original versions.

Mina Burrows