Making the Case for the Professionals
Samuel Warren was an important and popular literary figure in the nineteenth century, an author whose reputation as a fiction writer briefly rivalled that of Dickens. His popularity was short-lived: as C. R. B. Dunlop observes, ‘Warren’s reputation was at its height during the 1840s and 1850s, after which it began to decline.’1 Dunlop goes on to suggest that Warren was regarded by his successors as a member of an earlier generation of writers whose work was no longer relevant. This attitude seems to have survived into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as Warren has received little attention from either literary critics or cultural historians. His name appears in passing in histories of the legal profession, reflecting his role as a barrister and Queen’s Counsel and acknowledging his literary contributions to the development of the legal profession as it now exists, but the mass of his literary output lies disregarded on dusty library shelves.2 The body of his work incorporates fact and fiction, short stories, articles, book reviews, novels, and legal texts, and the subject matter is varied, as Warren made clear in the title of his collected essays, Miscellanies Critical, Imaginative, and Juridical.3 Much of his work focuses on legal, frequently criminal, matters and questions of evidence, but Warren has found no place in the canon of criminography. Yet I suggest that, in the context of the development of crime fiction and the emergence of the detective figure, Warren’s writing plays a key role.
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