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Palgrave Macmillan

Postal Plots in British Fiction, 1840-1898

Readdressing Correspondence in Victorian Culture

ISBN 9781137323804
Publication Date July 2013
Formats Ebook (PDF) Ebook (EPUB) Hardcover 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Series Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture

By 1840, the epistolary novel was dead. Letters in Victorian fiction, however, were unmistakably alive. By examining a variety of works from authors including Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle, Postal Plots addresses why. It explores how Victorian postal reforms encouraged the lower and middle classes to read and write, allowed them some social and political agency, and led many to literature. The writers born of postal reforms increased stratification between Victorian novelists, already struggling to define themselves as literary professionals. The reform-inspired readers threatened the novelists' development by flouting distinctions between high and low literature. Letters in Victorian novels thus become markers of the novelists' concerns about the hierarchies and mediocrities that threatened Victorian fiction's artistic progress and social contribution. Postal Plots explores Victorian literary professionals' conflict between their support for liberal ideals in the literary marketplace and their fear that they would be unable to bring those changes to pass.

Laura Rotunno is Associate Professor of English at Penn State Altoona, USA, where she is also the Honors Program Coordinator. She has published in Victorian Literature and Culture and Victorian Periodicals Review. Her research interests include professionalization and education as it developed throughout the Victorian period.


1. Correspondence Culture
2. Mr. Micawber, Letter-Writing Manuals, and Charles Dickens's Literary Professionals
3. Feminized Correspondence, the Unknown Public, and the Egalitarian Professional of Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White
4. From Postmarks to Literary Professionalism in Anthony Trollope's John Caldigate
5. Telegraphing Literature in Arthur Conan Doyle's The Sign of Four
Conclusion: Undelivered


''Postal Plots sheds light on the significance of letters in Victorian fiction by firmly rooting them in social contexts and offering a range of stimulating close readings.'' - The Review of English Studies
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