In 1836, John Wilson Croker, having immersed himself in dozens of contemporary French novels, warned his readers that 'she who dares to read a single page of the hundred thousand licentious pages with which the last five years have indundated society, is lost for ever.' It has become common to build an opposition between the attitudes towards fiction held in prudish Victorian England and permissive 19th-century France. The lack of a full-length study of 19th-century
Anglo-French literary relations means, however, that the rejection of French novels has been greatly exaggerated. French Novels and the Victorians sheds new light on these relations by exploring the enormous impact of French fiction on the Victorian reading public. The book considers the many
different ties built between the two countries in the publishing industry, identifying how French novels could be accessed and by whom, as well as who promoted and who resisted the importation of Continental works in England and why.
The book reflects on what 'immorality' meant to both critics and the readers they sought to warn, and how the notion was subjected to scrutiny through censorship debates as well as the fictional representations of readers. It also tackles the contemporary preoccupation with literary influence, and explores how the extensive circulation of French fiction in England affected the concept of a 'national' literature. In addition to highlighting the cultural importance of novelists such as Sand,
Balzac, and Dumas, this book uncovers the networks and mediums that enabled French novels to cross the Channel, and looks at how the concept of 'the French novel' was elaborated, interpreted, and challenged.