Wilde words: The aesthetics of crime and the play of genre in E. W. Hornung's Raffles stories

Lee O'Brien*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


E. W. Hornung's Raffles stories bring together several key nineteenth-century cultural currents, including major changes in emerging genres and the nature of the fin-de-siècle marketplace. They were a great success as popular entertainment, but they also deserve sustained critical attention because of the quality of the writing at a less ephemeral level than the merely escapist. Ludic, allusive and metafictive, the stories benefit by being read with and against influential nineteenth-century texts—in particular Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray—in terms of their revisionist interplay with the idea of the aesthetic “hero” and a subversive relationship to aestheticism. My analysis is written within, and indebted to, the changing nature of Victorian studies, in which popular fiction is being recognized as fundamental to the range and cultural significance of the literature of the nineteenth century. Neglected or “minor” writers were significant agents of change and experimentation within a period that thrived on the buying power (and seemingly insatiable textual appetite) of ordinary readers and on the more rarefied energies of experimentation and hybrid forms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)654-669
Number of pages16
JournalEnglish Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2015


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