chapter  8
Shocking readers
The genres of Victorian popular fiction, the classes and the book markets
ByRalf Schneider
Pages 13

This chapter argues that the social stratification of British society in the nineteenth century on the one hand, and the literature of the period on the other, were intertwined in variegated and changing ways. This popular literature was a highly complex phenomenon shaped by a set of aesthetic, ideological, economic and material factors that generally affected the book market, book production, audiences and authors in the nineteenth century. The chapter examines that variety of popular literature was synonymous with literature written for the working classes and sold cheaply at the beginning of the century, and that, as the novel became both more attractive and thus, popular to readers from all classes. Popular literature of the nineteenth century continued doing what much popular writing had done since the Early Modern period: it provided shocking stories of crime and mystery, and punishment.