‘Nothing but a Newspaper’

The Contested Space of Serial Fiction in the 1840s Press
  • Graham Law
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


This essay focuses on the serialization of novels in British newspapers around the 1840s, describing the journals and writings concerned, and offering reasons for the rise and decline of the practice. Right from the start, as the epigraph taken from the Weekly Dispatch of 1841 suggests, the columns in newspapers given over to instalment fiction were contested space. Conflicts concerning the role of the newspaper novel include not only those between publisher and publisher, but also those between editor and author or reader, and are thus both external and internal. Internal disputes will be demonstrated by the tensions concerning the relative status of information and entertainment material across a wide range of journals. The most sustained instances will be found in two successful Liberal weeklies, the Sunday Times and Illustrated London News (ILN). As shown in detail in Table 1, both of these carried serials virtually throughout the decade, though with a degree of irregularity. External contests will be shown firstly in the exploitation of serial fiction in the ideological and circulation battles between the Radical Dispatch and its Conservative rival the Era, and secondly through the strategies employed by unstamped popular papers like Lloyd’s Penny Sunday Times in mimicking ‘legitimate’ bourgeois publications like the Sunday Times itself. The skirmishing over the space of serial fiction should thus be understood, as the comments in the Dispatch suggest, as part of a larger battle over the redefinition of the newspaper as a news miscellany. This battle occurs in the context of the broadening social readership of the press after the 1832 Reform Bill and at the time of the Chartist demands for a proletarian franchise. As such the serial fiction battles of the 1840s can be seen as a rehearsal of the debate over the New Journalism later in the century.


Conservative Rival Sunday Time Historical Romance Newspaper Market Weekly Newspaper 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Graham Law

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations