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The Novelty of NewspapersVictorian Fiction After the Invention of the News$
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Matthew Rubery

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195369267

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195369267.001.0001

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The Personal Advertisements

The Personal Advertisements

Advertisements, Agony Columns, and Sensation Novels of the 1860s

(p.47) 2 The Personal Advertisements
The Novelty of Newspapers

Matthew Rubery (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter looks at the reading communities formed through the personal advertisements on the newspaper's front page. Its second column came to be known in the late 19th century as the “agony column” for its emphasis on personal distress, ranging from pathetic tales of runaway husbands to plaintive cries for attention from lonely hearts. Such heartfelt pleas did not escape the attention of the school of sensation novelists, who were quick to capitalize on the criminal possibilities of the most interactive section of the newspaper through an improbable number of phony marriage announcements, misreported obituaries, and unanswered missing-persons inquiries among their fictional narratives. Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White, Ellen Wood's East Lynne, and Mary Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret illustrate how the newspaper could be used to begin a second life. The misuse of advertisements in these novels taps into the at-once stimulating and disturbing implications of anonymity in modern life brought within everyone's reach through the daily press. Audiences were not just reading about other people's lives in the newspaper. They were using the newspaper to change their own.

Keywords:   sensation, Bary Raddon, Wilkie Collins, Ellen Wood, advertisement, agony column, news, personal, adultery

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