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By Clare Clarke (auth.)

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Extra resources for Late Victorian Crime Fiction in the Shadows of Sherlock

Sample text

When he sets out to investigate, he decides firstly just to get a look at Mr Hyde, believing that ‘if he could once but set eyes on him [Hyde] ... the mystery would lighten and perhaps roll away altogether’ (13). Therefore, he elects to undertake some of the investigative practices of surveillance commonly associated with the detective genre. He decides to ‘haunt the door’ of Hyde’s property ‘by all lights and at all hours’ in order to see the man and take note of his habits and demeanour (14).

Pike – one of the first historians of crime – observed that during the 1870s, in comparison to previous decades, ‘the sense of security is almost everywhere diffused’ (480). Official statistics seemed also to support this claim. There was a particularly dramatic fall in the estimated numbers of the ‘criminal classes at large’ between 1870 and the late 1880s, from almost 78,000 in 1869 and 1870 to 31,000 in 1889 and 1890 (Wiener 216). One consequence of this new sense of security about street crime was that suspicion and surveillance turned inward from the unruly lower classes to ‘persons and scenes of apparent respectability’ (Wiener 244).

Concerns emerged that there might be many crimes not coming to light: sexual crimes, murders, and crimes like poisoning, identity theft and blackmail, that were hidden by – and in fact depended upon – the appearance of respectability. As one pamphlet writer of the late 1880s 22 Late Victorian Crime Fiction in the Shadows of Sherlock speculated, ‘murders nowadays are very easy of concealment, and probably ... more frequent than anybody has hitherto believed. 6 These concerns, however, were not merely a matter of perception.

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