19th Century English “Yellow Fiction”


James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Robert B. Parker, Danielle Steele, Dan Brown, Margaret Maron, Clive Cussler, Connie Willis, Jim Butcher, etc.

All these authors write popular fiction that is high selling and fun to read. But will they (and thousands others) last and stand the test of time? What similar work did people read 130 years ago?

In some of the English classics we see references to the popular fiction of the day. Now you can peruse over 2300 titles from 19th century England in an online database from Emory University. Yes, you’ll find some that are now classics. But there are other titles that have been long lost and forgotten.

To find them, go to the Emory University Library home page. Then type “yellowbacks” in the search bar in the middle of the screen. You’ll get a list of entries. Take it from there.

Yellowbacks are similar to our mass market paperbacks today. They have that name because of a yellow glaze used on the covers.

The Warden by Anthony TrollopeAs an example, there are 18 titles by Anthony Trollope, including The Warden. There are also 5 titles by Thomas Trollope. I haven’t studied historical British literature. I don’t know who Thomas Trollope was. Was he related to Anthony? His titles all have an Italian flavor (like La Beata: a Tuscan Romeo and Juliet).

Since most of these books are in public domain, Emery has many of them available for download. (But of course, when I tried to do this while on break at work, the site gave me an error message and wouldn’t go to the title I wanted to download. I’ll have to play with it more later.)

Popular fiction has been around a long time. Some of it even stands the test of time.

One Comment

  1. Comment by Aravis:

    How interesting! I’ll have to explore.