Mrs Henry Wood's East Lynne
Introduction by Stevie Davies

East Lynne
Everyman's Library: Dent 1985
For sheer brilliance of narrative, crafty plot-construction and hair-raising subject matter there can be few novels to touch East Lynne. Beneath a cloak of extreme female orthodoxy and submissiveness its author was able to venture into the forbidden recesses of Victorian society, and to get away not only with murder but with intrigue, adultery and lust, with the profane, the lewd and the extraordinary.

All the conventional virtues of the perfect wife and mother are here embodied in a beautiful and unblemished heroine who is lured to her downfall by one of the most superbly malevolent and caddish villains in all Victorian literature. Her disgrace is complete, and Mrs Henry Wood recounts it with relish, endorsing society's retributive and unforgiving judgment in ringing authorial tones. But there is relish, too, in the telling of the tale, and her audience loved it.

East Lynne brought its author sensational fame and success when it first appeared, but it fell out of fashion in the present century. It has now re-emerged for a new generation, to be appreciated as a genuine classic of Victorianism – melodramatic, sentimental, often morally objectionable, but always gripping in its capacity to generate and hold suspense.
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