The Mysteries of London
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The Mysteries of London is a penny dreadful or city mysteries novel begun by George W. M. Reynolds in 1844. Reynolds wrote the first two series of this long-running narrative of life in the seedy underbelly of mid-nineteenth-century London. Thomas Miller wrote the third series and Edward L. Blanchard wrote the fourth series of this immensely popular title.
Michael Angelo in Penny Dreadfuls and Other Victorian Horrors writes:
Reynolds had read Eugène Sue while in Paris and was particularly impressed by his novel Les Mystères de Paris (The Mysteries of Paris). It inspired Reynolds to write and publish a penny part serial, The Mysteries of London (1845), in which he paralleled Sue's tale of vice, depravity, and squalor in the Parisian slums with a sociological story contrasting the vice and degradation of London working-class life with the luxury and debaucheries of the hedonistic upper crust. An early socialist and a Chartist sympathizer, Reynolds had a genuine social conscience, and he contrived to stitch into the pages of his books diatribes against social evils and class inequities. (79)
Instalments were published weekly and contained a single illustration and eight pages of text printed in double columns. The weekly numbers were later bound in cloth covers with a fresh title page and table of contents and offered as complete works of fiction.
Later Victorian editions of The Mysteries of London carried the subtitle: Stories of Life in the Modern Babylon.
After Reynolds quit The Mysteries of London, he began a new title: The Mysteries of the Court of London, which ran from 1848 until 1856.
The closest the stories have to a hero is the character Richard Markham, and the most villainous of the cast of villains is the Resurrection Man, a serial killer.
- Reynolds, George W. M. (1890). The Mysteries of London, Containing Stories of Life in the Modern Babylon. London: The Booksellers.
- Anne Humpherys, Louis James G.W.M. Reynolds: Nineteenth-century Fiction, Politics 2008 - Page 159 "The Resurrection Man is the principal underworld villain of the serial, stalking Richard Markham and robbing, killing and exhuming his way through the text, impossible to destroy until the finale. He is finally killed by his own double, Cranky "