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East Lynne was the first and most successful of Mrs. Henry Wood's (née Ellen Price, 1814--1887) novels. It was serialized in New Monthly Magazine January 1860 -- August 1861. Robert Bentley published East Lynne in book form in 1861, paying Mrs. Wood over £600 and initially printing 2,750 copies. By 1895, Bentley's firm had printed over 400,000 copies of the novel. East Lynne was first staged in Brooklyn on 26 January 1866, and by March, three competing adaptations ran in New York theatres, including the extremely successful version written for actress Lucille Western by Clifford W. Tailleur. Nine different versions were performed 1866 -- 1899, with performances by Mrs. Conway, Ida Vernon, Sophie Miles, Modjesta, Josephine Cameron, and Mary Pickford
East Lynne is a typical sensation novel using the conventional devices of bigamy, secrets, disguises, detection, and dramatic reversals. The heroine, Isabel Vane, is the orphaned and penniless daughter of an Earl, who marries country lawyer, Mr. Archibald Carlyle, and bears him three children. She runs off to France with the villain, Frank Levison, and bears him an illegitimate child. In a train wreck, Isabel is horribly disfigured and her baby dies. Thinking Isabel dead, Archibald marries Barbara Hare, daughter of a neighboring judge. Isabel returns to England in disguise as a governess to her own children. After her son William dies of consumption, Isabel's identity is revealed, and she dies. In major subplot, Barbara Hare's brother is wrongfully accused of murder, and Archibald and Barbara bring the muderer, Frank Levison, to justice.
Elliot, Jeanne B. "A Lady to the End: The Case of Isabel Vane." Victorian Studies 19 (1976): 329-344.
Fahnestock, Jeanne. "Bigamy: The Rise and Fall of a Convention". Nineteenth Century Fiction 36:1 (June 1981): 47-71.
Hughes, Winnifred. The Maniac in the Cellar: Sensation Novels of the 1860s. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980.
Sergaent, Adeline. Women Novelists of Queen Victoria's Reign. London, Hurst and Blackett, 1897.
Showalter, Elain. A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Bronte to Lessing. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977.
Wood, Charles W. Memorials of Mrs. Henry Wood. London: Bentley, 1894.
Wood, Mrs. Henry. East Lynne. Intro. by Sally Mitchell. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1984.
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