Forgers and fiction : how forgery developed the novel, 1846-79
This thesis argues that real-life forgery cases significantly shaped the form of Victorian fiction. Forgeries of bills of exchange, wills, parish registers or other documents were depicted in at least one hundred novels between 1846 and 1879. Many of these portrayals were inspired by celebrated real-life forgery cases. Forgeries are fictions, and Victorian fiction's representations of forgery were often self-reflexive. Chapter one establishes the historical, legal and literary contexts for forgery in the Victorian period. Chapter two demonstrates how real-life forgers prompted Victorian fiction to explore its ambivalences about various conceptions of realist representation. Chapter three shows how real-life forgers enabled Victorian fiction to develop the genre of sensationalism. Chapter four investigates how real-life forgers influenced fiction's questioning of its epistemological status in Victorian culture. The final chapter argues that the Tichborne Claimant case of 1872-74 was a forgery case in all but name, and that it took representations of forgery in fiction away from issues of writing (and into those of the body); in consequence, forgery's importance to the Victorian novel decreased. The thesis considers the forgery cases of the Rev. Dr. William Bailey, John Sadleir, Henry Savery, Thomas Powell, Thomas Provis, Lady Ricketts, William Roupell, the Tichborne Claimant and Thomas Griffiths Wainewright. At least one novel by each of the following authors is discussed in some detail: Bulwer-Lytton, Collins, Dickens, Gaskell, Richard Harris, G. P. R. James, John Lang, Le Fanu, Reade, Emma Robinson, Thackeray, Trollope and Wood. The thesis concludes that, by the mid-1850s, representations of forgery began to exhibit Victorian fiction's confidence in its form rather than its anxiety about it; and that the reasons for this development related not only to the cultural production and consumption of Victorian fiction between 1846 and 1879, but also to the nature of the influential real-life forgery cases themselves.