1st Edition

The Ambivalent Detective in Victorian Sensation Novels Dickens, Braddon, and Collins

By Sarah Yoon Copyright 2024
    172 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Ambivalent Detective in Victorian Sensation Novels studies how the detective as a literary character evolved through the mid-nineteenth century in England, as seen in sensation novels. In contrast to most assumptions about the English detective, Yoon argues that the detective was more often tolerated than admired following the establishment of professional detectives in the London Metropolitan Police Force in 1842. Through studying the historical and literary contexts between the 1840s to the 1860s, Yoon argues that the detective was seen as a suspicious, even mistrusted and disdained, figure who was nonetheless viewed as necessary to combat rising levels of crime. The detective as a literary character responded to the often contradictory values and aspirations of the middle class, representing an independent masculinity and laying claim to scientific authority. This study surveys novels by Charles Dickens, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and Wilkie Collins, alongside lesser-known writers like William Russell, James Redding Ware (pseudonym Andrew Forrester), and William Stephens Hayward. This book contributes to the study of mid-nineteenth-century Victorian culture and connects with broader studies of the detective fiction genre.

    Introduction: The ambivalent detective in Victorian sensation novels

    1 Historical contexts: Police reform, marriage, empire, and the periodical press

    2 Early detectives in Dickens’s Household Words stories and Martin Chuzzlewit

    3 The detective as villain and hero in Dickens’s Bleak House

    4 Detectives of the late 1850s and early 1860s: Russell, Collins, and Wood

    5 Early detectives in Braddon’s The Trail of the Serpent and The Black Band

    6 Between gentleman and detective: Masculine negotiations in Lady Audley’s Secret

    7 Oriental mystique and spying servants in Braddon’s Aurora Floyd

    8 Female detectives: Ware (Forrester), Hayward, and Collins’s The Law and the Lady

    9 From ambivalence to rationality: Detection in Collins’s Armadale and The Moonstone

    10 After sensation novels: Imperial themes and detectives in Dickens’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Doyle’s stories



    Sarah Yoon is a Lecturer at Underwood International College, Yonsei University, in South Korea. She holds an MA in English Literature from Yonsei University. Her research interests include Victorian literature and culture, the environmental humanities, and Korean-English translated novels. Her research has been published by international journals, such as Brontë Studies and Critique. The Ambivalent Detective in Victorian Sensation Novels is her first book.